My spring kidding season is over, I think. This year’s score is: bucks 5, does 0. It is definitely a buck year.
This is also a year of mostly single births. I don’t really mind as I hate selling the kids. This is more complicated now since the local internet classified site closed down.
Another reason I don’t mind a buck year is that I no longer keep any new herd members. Kidding season used to be a time to look over the kids and decide on one or two to keep. Now I know all of them are for sale.
Why would I stop adding to my herd? There are several reasons. Top of the list is my age and that my girls have no place to go if I am no longer able to care for them.
My High Reaches herd has been with me for over 45 years now. All of my herd members were born here. They are like family.
A second reason is the amount of work my herd entails. Younger people don’t get it. The work, even if the amount stays the same, gets harder each passing year over the age of sixty.
A third reason is being tired. Dairy stock requires care at least twice a day every day all year round. I no longer have anyone to spell me for even a single milking and haven’t for a number of years now.
Younger people don’t get this part either. As a person gets older, they need less food. This isn’t because children grow up and move out. It’s because our bodies slow down. I no longer need a refrigerator full of milk and cheese.
For those goat owners with growing herds a buck year is a problem. The main market for those bucks is the meat market.
For me such a year is par for the course.
Read more about raising goats in Dora’s Story and get a free ebook now.
Kidding seasons here are difficult anymore. Few, if any, kidding dates are definite. So March and April are spent waiting for kids to arrive.
With only fourteen does, having kidding dates should be simple. When a doe I want bred comes into season, Augustus gets to visit.
Pest, one of two wethers, took care of that idea last fall. He found he could open Augustus’ gate. This was fun.
There is a spring hook on the latch. One time was my fault as I was in a hurry and forgot to latch it. Another was sort of my fault as I was going to let everyone out to pasture in a half hour and didn’t latch it.
Then there was the board that fell off. Augustus is a big buck, around 200 pounds. He still managed to squeeze through that foot high hole.
So now I am watching my does. Which ones are bred? Some have become obvious with their bulging sides and swelling udders. Others are maybes. Some still cycle and are definitely not bred.
Pamela has had a buck kid. She is a happy mother goat most of the time. Wet weather has kept the herd in so she has lots of company. The kid is now old enough to be out with the herd.
Agate should be next. Of course she is past her due date which I had carefully written down. Of course she looks like any time. I check her over every milking time, but am still waiting for kids to arrive.
Valerie is supposed to be due after Agate. She is now looking like she may have her kids before Agate. And that leaves Spring and Rose to watch and wonder if and when.
This waiting for kids to arrive was not supposed to happen this year. I replaced the gate posts that had rotted off. I fixed the fences. I thought I fixed the buck pen.
The good part is seeing pretty, healthy kids. Maybe next season I can have all the due dates written down.
Kidding season can be chaotic especially for first time goat owners as in “Capri Capers“.
There were no doves when we moved here. Now the morning dove breakfast crowd is ready and waiting every morning.
One of the black walnut trees back from the bird feeder has two big horizontal branches. The doves line the branches basking in the early morning sun and watching for food service to arrive.
Doves are ground birds with feet like chickens, made for walking more than perching. The doves moved in after the pastures were cleared out of most of the brush that had moved in.
The bird feeder with its broad tray area is perfect for doves as they can land and walk around sampling the various offerings. Their favorites are the sunflower seeds and the milo.
At least there is supposed to be room. During the winter the morning dove breakfast crowd fills the feeder until they seem to stand on top of one another.
During the spring and summer the crowd thins as the males get more belligerent. The numbers stay high as the doves are busy raising young doves.
Mammals are known for feeding their young with milk. The pigeon family also feeds their young on a type of milk produced in their crops. This seems to influence their seed choice.
Corn is not favored. Over the winter the blue jays eat the corn. All summer the corn is left in the bowl. The doves toss it around searching for and eating the milo. This mix is a hen scratch containing both.
The morning dove breakfast crowd may start by gorging at the bird feeder. They later scatter into flocks feeding other places.
When I go walking out along the creek, there will be a whirr of wings as a flock will take off. If I walk up the ravine behind the house, the same whirr greets me. It is hard to sneak up on a flock.
The best way to see these birds is to get up early enough to see the morning dove breakfast crowd.
How old is my barn? We’re not sure. The original part of the house was built around 1910, so it is an old barn.
Like the house, the barn has been renovated numerous times. Like the house, these renovations were cobbled together.
The original part has piled rocks as a foundation. The walls had no braces, only frames held together with upright oak boards. Oak is one tough wood.
There was a lean to section. Originally it was probably used for the tractor and other equipment. One of the renovations was to put in a cement floor with trough along the outer side and wall it in. Water pipes were included.
The water pipes are long gone. The doors where hay was dumped out into a hay trough are still there. The cement is still there. Evidently it was used for dairy cows.
Hogs were moved in later and hog doors were cut into the outer wall. Those are still there too. The goats open the hooks regularly although the doors no longer really open.
The oldest section of the barn has a wood floor about a foot up off the ground. Pieces of the floor boards are missing as is one side of the barn used in a house renovation to put barn wood on the walls. The wall is now plywood and roofing tin. Plywood covers the floor holes.
At first we planned to tear the thing down and replace it with a new one. Such plans are easily put off for one reason or another. The new barn was never built.
There is no point in building that new barn now. The last of my herd is slowly dwindling as my adults will live out their lives here until they die. The youngest, High Reaches Valerie, is now three.
The old barn is still standing. It is getting shaky and, if the next people here want to raise livestock, they will have to build that new one. In the meantime I’m hoping this one outlasts my goats.
Old farms have old buildings like the old house Hazel Whitmore moves into in “Old Promises“.
Seven inches of snow just melted. Temperatures were below zero. Still, gardening season is here again.
In some ways the season never ends. Seed catalogs and orders occupy January. I grow mostly the same vegetables, same varieties every year. However, there are so many other things in the catalogs, something new is added possibly for only that year or maybe a permanent addition.
February begins gardening season for me. My raised bed is again operational. It’s full of dirt waiting to grow vegetables.
Isn’t February too cold?
The plastic draped over the raised bed turns it into an unheated greenhouse. The air inside on a sunny day reaches summer temperatures. The rocks hold the heat for some of the night.
Spinach is supposed to go in about Valentine’s Day here in the Ozarks. I’m not too enthusiastic about working outside in snow and cold. I waited.
Now the ground is clear. The sky has been clear for a few days. My spinach seeds are planted.
This year I’m trying a new variety, Noble, is addition to the Bloomsdale Longstanding. The bed is eight feet long and I put in a double four foot row of each.
Spinach likes cool to cold temperatures. If it isn’t started early here in the Ozarks, it bolts as soon as it comes up. And the seeds will germinate in forty degrees.
My next challenge will be keeping the rows watered. The plastic does a great job protecting the raised bed, but it is difficult to open up. I keep the plastic tied down because of the wind.
Snow peas and sugar snap peas go in next week. Greens go in the next week. Potatoes go in in mid March. Tomato and pepper seeds get started in the house the end of March. Gardening season is heating up.
As usual, I’m not ready. The pea trellises aren’t up yet. The tomato cages aren’t up. The weeds are up. I’ll just pretend I am ready and go from there.
Winters in the Ozarks have been mild for several years. This year left my goats in snowy weather and below zero cold.
This was normal when we lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Preparations for bone-chilling cold were done all year. Old blankets were piled. Baling twine was ready.
When the snow fell, the barn doors were closed. The barn walls were thick as was the bedding. Shivering goats had blankets draped over them and tied on.
Such cold is rare in the Ozarks. Snow is never waist deep and never stays for six months. The pile of blankets got packed away.
Instead a pile of sweatshirts was kept in the barn. These were from local thrift stores. The arms are cut short. The front has an elongated half moon cut out. The arms have holes for tiny legs and the cuff cut short for kids.
The pile sat on the shelf unused. There were a few days when my goats ended up with snowy weather. The temperatures were in the upper twenties. The weather warmed up in a few days.
This year the forecast warned about a polar vortex headed down bringing snow and cold. Augustus was moved into a hastily set up pen inside the barn. The doors were draped with sheets and blankets to cut the wind.
A total of seven inches of snow fell. The goats were locked in the barn for almost a week.
Bored goats find ways to amuse themselves. They are starving to death. The hay trough is full. They argue with each other. They huddle up overnight.
Water is carried to the barn several times a day. It sits ignored, if the temperatures are warm enough to leave it. Water is demanded after evening grain.
Finally the sun comes out and the barn door is opened up. Heads stick out. One by one the goats come out to bask by the barn.
Goats in snowy weather are a lot of work. Then comes the clean up.
I read a wide variety of books over the year mostly from the stacks and bookshelves in my house. “The Soul of an Octopus” by Sy Montgomery was exception, a review I ran across that sounded interesting.
I grew up near the Pacific Ocean and collected shells, studied about shells so the word octopus in the title caught my attention immediately. The subtitle indicating this was more than about the octopus, but about consciousness in all creatures intrigued me.
So many people grow up considering octopuses (that is the correct plural) monsters in a class with bats and snakes. After all, they are so alien with their eight legs, lack of a skeleton and constantly changing colors and shapes. They make wonderful monsters in sea tales.
What I wasn’t prepared for is how really alien the truth about octopuses is. “The Soul of an Octopus” reveals them to be highly intelligent.
Science has long dismissed other creatures as having no real consciousness, inferior intelligence and lacking real emotions. Anyone who has raised livestock knows this is false. However, having empirical observations and proof are two different things.
Long ago my family had a cat, Chief Grey Foot, with a sense of humor. She would tease my mother’s Irish Setter Sam and race away with Sam in hot pursuit. Chief would stop, letting Sam roar by, climb the fence and sit there laughing at the dog now frantically looking for her. How do you prove a sense of humor in a lab?
How do you prove intelligence? My high school gave all students an IQ test at the beginning of the year. It was well known that students in inner cities scored much lower on these tests than those of us in the suburbs.
A group devised an IQ test using vocabulary familiar to those in the inner city. This reversed the results. The IQ test was biased toward those with a certain vocabulary.
How do you test intelligence for a creature far different than a person? A large octopus with a head the size of a watermelon can squeeze through a hole the size of an orange. It sees only black and white with its eyes and colors with its skin. It tastes with the suction cups on its arms. An octopus’ reality is the ocean, not land.
Reading “The Soul of an Octopus” has made me rethink both “The Carduan Chronicles” and the Planet Autumn series I am working on. How do I, a human, put myself into the consciousness and reality of alien creatures?
Challenge your long held beliefs about consciousness and read “The Soul of an Octopus” by Sy Montgomery.
Almost a year ago there was a big ball of animated buff-colored fluff. This grew into a proud standard cochin rooster.
Those familiar with chickens or chicken catalogues know cochins as these eight inch tall bantams. They have lots of feathers making them look fluffy. There is little tail so their ends are rather rounded. They have feathers down their legs and fans of feathers over their feet.
The color pattern I really liked was like a barred rock chicken: black and white stripes. The bantams were on display at a county fair.
Bantams don’t do well in my hen house. Chickens are mean to each other. The top hen pecks the other hens. Each pecks on the hens below her.
The poor hen at the bottom is picked on by everyone. This is a pecking order. And bantams, being small, are at the bottom.
Thumbing through a chicken catalog many years ago I found cochins came in standard or big size too. I ordered some chicks.
Standard cochins are much bigger than even Buff Orpingtons in looks. Pick one up and much of the size is fluff.
These are gentle birds. They look like fluff balls on fluff balls to me as they walk around.
The last of my last cochins had died of old age. I ordered chicks last spring. Normally I order pullets when I have a flock rooster, but standard cochins only come straight run which means males and females are mixed.
Extra roosters are called dinner. Too many roosters harass the hens so they don’t lay many eggs. And this little buff standard cochin rooster was called dinner.
Somehow I never got around to having that chicken dinner. The rooster grew up. He is gorgeous.
The flock Arcana rooster is not impressed and tries to chase him. There was a pile of buff feathers near the coop the other day.
Mr. Pantaloons, my proud standard cochin rooster, took it in stride. After all, he is twice the size of his angry rival. They have an uneasy truce for now.
Having new goat kids in the barn is fun. They do grow up fast so taking cute goat kid pictures is important.
Getting such pictures during the winter is a challenge in my barn. The open doors are covered making the interior dark even when the lights are on.
Another challenge to getting those cute goat kid pictures is getting the kids to stand still and look at the camera long enough to take the picture. Nine out of ten pictures has some blurring in it, usually ears.
Yet another challenge is the size of the kids. They are around a foot tall. I may not be tall, but I am taller than that so it’s easy to look down on the kid for a picture when stooping down gives a better angle.
The goat kid finds a goat keeper holding a camera on his level irresistible. Face shots are cute when the face isn’t bigger than the frame. Lenses take better pictures when they don’t have stuff smeared on them.
I solve the darkness problem by setting the ISO up to 500 or taking the kid outside. That ploy brings the mother goat into play as she is not thrilled with anyone fooling with her precious babies. She places the kid on her far side away from the camera.
Sleeping kids are easy to get pictures of in dark places. And these can be cute goat kid pictures.
Outside in the sunlight or under bright overcast skies is the best for getting those cute pictures. Kids do stand still for a few seconds now and then. They do get busy and forget to walk up to the camera. Even mother goats get careless at times and forget to block the kid from the camera.
The key to taking cute goat kid pictures is patience and having the camera with you whenever you go out to see the new kids.
Test your goat knowledge working puzzles in “Goat Games”.
Weather is a battle between fall and winter. Days are growing steadily shorter. Then the November kids arrive to brighten up the season.
My first fall goat kids were accidents. The buck escaped in June. Nubians come in season all year.
I had always arranged for March and April kids as spring was moving in and the weather was warm enough to avoid popsicle kids. My does seem to prefer kidding about dawn. Newborn wet kids don’t do well in temperatures in the twenties or lower.
The weather has changed. Falls are a mixture of warm and cold times. Some of my does seem to prefer having their kids in the fall.
And I have a couple of wethers who love to open the buck’s door. They have a knack for knowing when I neglect to latch the spring hook holding the bar in place.
Something I’ve noticed as more November kids arrive over the years is that the kids seem bigger and livelier than the spring kids. Perhaps this is because the does have been eating well all through their pregnancies.
Winter fare is mostly hay. The grass is like standing hay in the field. The acorns and persimmons are gone or too dirty to tempt my finicky eaters.
My does bred for March and April live on such fare. In addition they use some of what they eat to keep warm. The result seems to be smaller kids.
Once the November kids arrive the herd seems happier too. As the herd numbers dwindle, they like having those extra herd members.
Winter weather does keep the herd inside more often. However the kids have several places to go where the adult does have difficulty going. And the barn has more room with fewer goats occupying it.
This year two does were bred for November. The first November kids to arrive were a buck and doe pair. I’m waiting on the others.
Harriet has a wild time when her goats kid in “Capri Capers”.
I have two folders of goat registration papers. One is thin and slowly growing thinner. But goats grow old.
The thicker folder is filled with papers of goats who have died. These papers go back over the forty-six years I have had Nubian dairy goats. I rarely look through these papers.
On occasion I need to look up a pedigree and sort through these old papers. I read each name and try to pull up memories of each goat. It’s easier to pull those memories up if I look through my pictures of goats from the past.
Even seeing the pictures often doesn’t trigger memories unless there was something special about that goat. High Reaches Jennifer was my very first goat. I wrote about her in “For Love of Goats”. High Reaches Miss Patience was standing far up the ravine, much farther than I thought the goats ever went, by a fallen tree with her triplets.
High Reaches Isabelle went down with a bottle jaw from anemia from worms and had to be drenched with our special fortified liquids. She was five months pregnant and I pulled quadruplets. All of them survived. She lived for years after that.
More often I am so involved with the day to day of goat care, I don’t stop to remember. But goats grow old and make me remember.
High Reaches Daisy’s Trina has been in my herd for many years. She has grown from a rambunctious kid to a mature doe and is now thin. She was never a herd boss, but is now the bottom goat lagging behind the herd as they go out and come in.
Goats grow old and so do people. How many times do we think about the people of the past? They too disappear into memory snapshots.
Those goats now in my herd are the last. As these goats grow old and die, my thin folder will empty. And I will be left with my thick folder and memories.
Hazel Whitmore’s class does a class project writing about the soldiers who died in various wars, many of them almost forgotten, in “Old Promises”.
All of us are living under tyranny – the tyranny of time. It’s inflexible rule is there every day, but seems more onerous than ever on the day the clocks change.
Clocks are necessary. I refer you to the book “Longitude” by Dava Sobel for why. One example is the fleet of victorious warships returning to port running aground and most of the sailors drowning because they lacked a reliable clock.
And clocks do rule so many people. Those who work must be there on time and can’t leave until the clock releases them. When I retired from teaching, I thought I had escaped living under tyranny as I took off my wrist watch and set it aside.
But time doesn’t live inside a watch.
If you are in agriculture, time rules with an iron hand. You must plant on time, harvest on time or lose your crop. If you have livestock, breeding, weaning, milking and more must be done on time. These are done by the seasons and time of day which is the manifestation of time.
Our time is created by the rotation of the Earth. Part of the time we have day. Part of the time we have night. Because the Earth is tilted, the lengths of these change with the seasons.
And that brings us back to clocks. Someone came up with the idea that moving the clocks up an hour in the spring and back an hour in the fall would save energy. So daylight savings time came into being.
It doesn’t work. Instead it creates havoc for those whose days are ruled by the sun. My goats expect me at a certain time in the morning. They don’t read clocks. I must either be out of sync with the clock ruled world or face the battle of changing my goat’s timing.
It’s worse in the fall. Darkness now comes an hour earlier. Chores must begin an hour earlier. I must get done in town an hour earlier.
Living under tyranny when only time is the problem can be adjusted to. One useful thing Congress can do is stop the madness of moving the clocks twice a year.
Dora’s Story was written with a time line and only worked once the timeline was completed.
Before the internet and blogging, people like Sue Hubbell wrote columns for newspapers. “On This Hilltop” is mostly from those newspaper columns.
Writing a newspaper column really helps a writer learn to focus on a topic, edit the piece down to meet a word count and choose topics to interest a wide variety of other people. I know because I too wrote a newspaper column for a few years and later rewrote and added to those columns and put “Exploring the Ozark Hills” together.
“On This Hilltop” was written in the 1970s and reflects the times. That is part of the book’s appeal and a good reason to read it. This was the beginning of both the women’s movement and the environmental movement.
One of the final pieces is called “Factory Women” and discusses how the coming of factories to the rural South changed so much for women. They were the ones getting that weekly paycheck. They learned to take pride in themselves and become a voice to be reckoned with instead of little more than a shadow of their husbands.
City people haven’t changed much since then. They are often a source of amusement to rural people.
The Hubbells were beekeepers. Bees are interesting creatures and figure in several of the columns. It’s strange to think that they could set up an outyard – a set of beehives away from home – for a mere gallon of honey a year.
“On This Hilltop” does have several pieces I, as a former city girl, can truly relate to. I do remember going back to the city after several years in rural Arkansas and finding the city to be another world, one in which I no longer fit. And like Sue Hubbell, I was so very glad to return to my rural home, goats and chickens.
I love to write. If I didn’t, I would have stopped long ago. Unfortunately, writing persistence doesn’t always pay off, usually doesn’t in fact.
Millions of books are published every year. Most of them are read by a handful of people and disappear. Even those published by the publishing companies can meet this fate. It is far more common for self published books like mine.
Lots of websites, books, blogs and more offer to help writers avoid this fate. After all, one of the goals of writing persistence is for other people to read the resulting books.
First you need a website. Then you need an email list and a newsletter and advertising and more books written and book reviews and a social media presence and on and on and on. This takes time and money.
Rural Missouri is like many rural places in the country. Internet service is not very good and expensive for the poor quality substitute offered. The other option is public access spots in town.
Making the trip to town means losing a day to get needed chores and repairs done at home. Since I milk, I must go during the day so time is even more limited.
The only parts of these recommendations I can manage are the website, Pinterest, Goodreads and more books. The rest is faith that my writing persistence will eventually pay off; that people will notice my books and try them out.
So far I have 14 books completed and self published. Each has sold a dozen or so. Each is offered in print and as an ebook. Dr. Rintz, my companion author, has five serious botany books sharing my website. All are available only in print.
My writing persistence continues as I slog through “The Carduan Chronicles” which will end up as two books, one being the arrival of the Carduans and the second the beginnings of their colony.
For November I am reviving a project from years ago that I kept telling myself I would get back to and somehow never did. It is a series of six books about the Planet Autumn and very science oriented. “Prelude To Autumn”, the first book is in full rewrite now. The second book “Mounzz of Autumn” is slated for a draft in November.
For 2020 I completed two books. The science book called “The City Water Project” and the picture book called “Waiting For Fairies”. My 2021 plans are for “The Carduan Chronicles: Arrival”, “Prelude to Autumn”, Mounzz of Autumn”, “The Chemistry Project” and another illustrated book of which maybe three will get done.
And I’m still holding onto the wish that my writing persistence will pay off soon.
There are plenty of old gate posts around here. Many were put in twenty years ago. They were pieces of old telephone poles.
Over the last few years these posts have gotten wobbly. I could sway them back and forth with one hand.
Digging post holes in the Ozarks is not easy. Post hole diggers are only a way to remove dirt and gravel already knocked loose with a bar and sledge hammer. They aren’t even very good for that if the gravel is actually small rocks.
Arguing the way down two feet was only a matter of persistence twenty years ago. Now it is only sheer determination that makes the holes go down. Each one takes two days or more now.
So gates were argued with, lifted and moved inches at a time. Steel posts were driven down next to the posts and tied together to try to pull the gate posts up again.
The old gate posts kept getting worse. The pasture gate post was a source of nightmares as Augustus stood on the gate looking over at the does in the hill pasture.
Then one end of the clothes line fell over.
It was time to get serious.
An unlucky young man came by looking for work. He was game to dig a couple of post holes. And he did dig two: the clothes line pole and the pasture gate.
He was well paid, but it wasn’t enough to entice him to dig the third post hole. So I tackled it as that gate had fallen over and was now propped up to appear to be there.
Old gate posts rot off in two ways. The pasture gate post disintegrated into wood chips easy to remove with the post hole diggers.
The clothes pole and the other post rotted off at ground level, but left solid post down the center to be laboriously dug out by hand.
Once the aches and pains subside, the joy of having working posts and a standing clothes line will make it seem worthwhile.
For 25 years we kept our place looking good. You can see it in “My Ozark Home“.
I read nature essays and find lonely landscapes described as empty, vast wastelands. The writer is alone.
Most mornings I go out walking across empty fields. I am alone. I would never describe the fields as empty or lonely. They teem with life.
What about a desert? Even the driest desert has occupants.
My fields are crowded with grass and various wildflowers commonly called weeds. The sweet everlasting plants are widely spaced, yet are not lonely. Insects visit. The breeze slips through the branches. An occasional turtle or armadillo wanders by.
Even the hills reaching up from the pastures aren’t lonely. Standing underneath I listen to the wind whispering through the leaves. A few asters still bloom attracting insects. Spiders skitter across fallen leaves. Acorns drop bashing through the leaves and thunking onto the ground. Squirrels crash through the leaves.
Those lonely landscapes are only lonely for the person standing there alone.
Most people are surrounded by other people now. When they aren’t, they are jabbering on their phones with others. Being out of communication with others is traumatic for many now.
When people do go out into those lonely landscapes, they seem to take their security devices with them. Music blares drowning out the wind, birds and insects. Sending selfies to friends and asking for their approval and opinions keeps them from looking and thinking about where they are.
Those empty of people fields filled with natural sounds are not lonely for me. I enjoy being away from the hustle and bustle of the house and barn. I am comfortable with my own thoughts. My walks are over too soon.
Those lonely landscapes are only lonely for people who find being alone disturbing. It is their own sense of loneliness being projected onto the landscape. That is a shame. Being alone with your thoughts is how you find out who you are because you have no one but you to explore it.
Haiku is one way to describe landscapes. Find them in “My Ozark Home.”
Fall has arrived in the Ozarks along with cold nights and a smelly buck. Augustus is more interested in the does than his breakfast. Another part of the endless goat year.
People like to have a place to start the year. It’s an excuse to leave mistakes behind and try again.
For dairy goats the year never ends, only cycles through the seasons. Fall is breeding season.
My herd is smaller now, only fourteen does. Three are aged and retired. Four will continue to be milked over the winter. Two will have kids in November. That leaves five does to be bred in October.
Fall breeding season might be a good time to begin the dairy goat year. But there is no real break. Milking continues every day. Goat care continues. Barn cleaning is necessary before winter. The endless goat year marches on.
The last few years a couple of does have had their kids in late fall to early winter. In the Ozarks Nubians breed all year.
The first time I expected frozen kids and lots of trouble. The kids were fine and livened up dull winter months. And the milk was welcome in the early spring when the other milkers began to falter.
Before these kids, all my kids were born in March and April. Perhaps that made spring feel like the beginning of a new year.
But it wasn’t. Milking, chores, barn cleaning, hoof trimming continued the same way as before the kids. The endless goat year rolled on through into summer.
Since I am the only one caring for my goats, I am always here for milking. This gets frustrating as I can go no where unless the trip fits between morning and evening chores. The days blur one into another making an endless goat year for me.
As my herd dwindles, that year may sometime in the future come to an end. After forty-six years of routine, that is a bit liberating and frightening.
Kidding season can be daunting for a new goat owner as Harriet found out in “Capri Capers.”
Turkeys were gleaning grass seed in the pastures. They are staying up in the woods now that acorn season has arrived.
Unlike cows, goats can eat lots of acorns with no problems. Like deer goats love acorns.
Most mornings now I milk, put up the milk, then walk out with the goats. They had been going out to eat grass seeds.
We marched out to the end of the south pasture. They fanned out. I walked back in.
Acorn season has changed the routine. The goats are still eager to get out to the south pasture. They charge up the hill into the woods leaving me to fend for myself.
I wanted pictures of the five little wethers as I do need to sell them and don’t want to go to the sale barn in the middle of the crowds of people who may or may not wear masks and probably ignore social distancing. I took a couple of pictures in the pasture and then went up into the woods.
The herd was there, heads down, snuffling through the fallen leaves. There were scrapes in some places where the turkeys had been doing much the same.
I took a few more pictures trying to fill out the herd so I can change the pictures in the My Goat gallery. The pictures are mostly of goats with their heads buried in leaves.
There must not be a lot of acorns on the ground yet. The herd took off across the pasture toward another hill. They were soon back to snuffling through the leaves.
In the evening it’s easy to tell acorn season is here. The goats look big, almost bloated. They have this satisfied attitude.
That holds until I open the milk room door. Cool weather, buck musk and acorns seem to make every goat especially hungry.
Find out more about raising goats in the novel “Dora’s Story.”
When chickens are confined within a yard, finding chicken eggs is easy. They are normally all in the provided nests.
As soon as chickens are allowed to range, finding chicken eggs becomes challenging. For some of my hens the provided nest boxes are no longer the nests of choice.
At first I tried keeping the hens in the chicken yard until late in the afternoon. I assumed most of the hens would lay early in the day.
My hens did not lay early in the day. They preferred the afternoon.
Even those that would lay early, but wanted to lay somewhere other than the nest boxes, waited until after I opened the gate. There would be a mad dash for the favored nesting spot of each hen.
One barred rock hen hung around in the hen house waiting for me to open the door to go in with the feed bucket. She streaked out and dashed to the open barn door. In the middle of milking she would begin cackling and fly down from the hay bale where she had her nest.
That is one way to liven up milking time.
The hens won. I let them out after I finish morning milking. In the afternoon I start finding chicken eggs.
Some hens do still lay in the regular nest boxes so I check there first. The next stop is on that high hay bale. Luckily there is a ladder stored next to the hay.
Lately that spot is abandoned by most of the hens that did lay there. They’ve moved into the hay trough in the goat barn.
One hen has found a gap between hay bales on the floor. Some hens don’t bother with nests at all.
One morning I let the hens out. A speckled Sussex came out of the gate, squatted near my feet, popped out an egg and took off. Another egg was left near the goat water bucket.
The chicken yard is an expanse of dirt and gravel. The eggs are so much better if the hens have access to grass and other greens. The challenge is finding chicken eggs laid by hens running loose invariably leaves some out for the raccoons.
Raising chickens is a popular rural and, now, suburban pastime. Hazel didn’t start out a country girl. Find out why she became one in “Broken Promises.”
Chickens are a great homestead addition. They have so many advantages. My flock is composed of many breeds. This year an Easter Egger is a surprise pet chicken.
I like my chickens friendly, but don’t try to make pets of them. These can become nuisances quickly.
Instead I choose calm, friendly breeds like Buff Orpingtons, Speckled Sussex and standard Cochins. Barred Rocks and New Hampshires are active chickens, but usually easy going.
Then there are the Arcanas and Easter Eggers. Blue, green and pink eggs are fun to collect. The pullets and hens are wild.
If such a hen is scratching in the dirt and I walk by, she panics and flees squawking loudly. When I spread scratch feed in the evening calling the flock in for the night, I have to stand far from the gate before these hens will come in. Better yet, I leave the coop so they can enter.
This year is different. I have kept four Easter Egger pullets. Three of them are convinced I am a monster and flee at my approach. The fourth is a surprise pet chicken.
This pullet follows me around at times. She likes joining me in the milk room during milking. She eats oats out of my hand. I can even pick her up, but she isn’t thrilled.
Speckled Sussex hens are friendly. They come racing over to see me. I can pick them up or stroke their backs.
This behavior isn’t so much pet like as calculating. I mean food. They are voracious little things. They come over as much to see if I have some tidbit for them as to see me.
My surprise pet chicken does look for food. Goats are messy eaters and she likes cleaning up dropped feed. She likes getting special tidbits.
But this pullet seems to like my company as well. She hangs around places where I’m working and clucks to me. After a time she takes off to hang out with the flock.
This pullet is my kind of pet. She likes my company, but doesn’t stay underfoot.
In “Mistaken Promises” Hazel raises Buff Orpington pullets as a way to become more of a country girl and belong to the local 4-H Club.
One section of my garden is turning white and humming with visitors. The garlic chives pollinators are holding their annual convention.
Years ago my father gave me a ten inch pot of garlic chives. He had several rows of it in his garden. He would cut off a row and feed it to his goats every week.
I knew what chives were, or so I thought. They were this kitchen herb used to flavor eggs and other such dishes. Except those are onion chives.
Garlic chives can be used as a kitchen herb much as the other is. The leaves of the garlic chives are flat and have a more peppery taste.
Potted plants and I don’t do well together. I tend to forget to water or overwater, both of which lead to dead plants. The garlic chives moved into the garden in a nice two foot square area.
In August the plants put up their flowering stalks and the garlic chives pollinators moved in. The flowers made seeds. The garlic chives spread and now cover an eight foot by ten foot area.
The flowers are in umbels or bouquets. The visitors include bees both native and honeybees, bumblebees of at least two kinds, four or more kinds of wasps, flies, beetles, several kinds of butterflies and an occasional hummingbird.
My garden never seems to lack pollinators. They enjoy the squash, peppers, tomatoes, okra and flowers. I enjoy the harvest.
But the bounty found by the garlic chives pollinators attracts many more kinds and numbers. They are so busy with the flowers I can walk along the paths around the patch to look at and photograph them.
Much as I like seeing the flowers and insects, my patch is large enough. After the flowers are done blooming, before the seeds are set, I will cut off the flower stalks for an arm’s length into the patch from all sides tossing the stalks into the patch. The new plants will fill in between the old ones and not spread further out.