Friday, February 8, 2013

The Frets of a Feeble Farmer

Our herd of nine goats - 5 mini-Lamancha does, 1 mini-mancha buck, 1 Nigerian Dwarf doe and 2 Alpine does - has had me hand-wringing worried as of late.

Let me digress a tad. Because of the state of my knees, I can't make the walk to the upper pasture and back, especially in mud season. So I haven't been up to visit my babies in a long while, and it really, really sucks. I miss these sweet faces!

Valentina, Blue & Chardonnay, February 2012

So the daily visitor to Goatlandia for the past 9-months-plus has been Bill, exclusively. And the goaties love their Papa.

The daily love-in/treat shakedown.

In fact, they even know the sound of Billy's truck pulling into the driveway and start bleating to beat the band when they think Pops is home and headed their way with chow. He does right by them and they love him for it. 

Alas, Billy is a dude. 

Now, at the risk of coming across as some sexist Neaderthal, I'll attempt to explain how this hinders him ever so slightly as a goatherd. He takes amazing care of our guy and gals, but as a fella himself, lacks that sixth sense about babies and critters that I feel is inextricably tied to the X chromosome. It's a nurturing/intuition/mothering thing that goes bone-deep. I don't know how to explain it really, but I know when something is a little off with one of my goats (or dogs, or hens), even when they're "fine". It's a skill that I unfortunately have not been able to translate to the world of plants and my garden is living (half-dead) proof. I can also usually tell by one means or another if and when my girls are pregnant. Unfortunately, since I haven't had a face-to-face with my gals in a while, and can only see them from a distance out the window, I have no idea whatsoever who might or might not be pregnant, and I'm worried. In fact, I don't know whether anyone is pregnant so we might be looking at a very dry year.

This past Fall and Winter we finally found a profitable way to use our goat milk in soapmaking. There are a lot of very talented craftspeople and artisanal products made and sold here in Olympia, including a good number of small-batch soaps, but our beautiful, organic goat milk was the ingredient in ours that set us apart. In fact, we sold out of it! And now that we have a product that sells and have begun to build a knowledge base about making and marketing it, we're looking at the possibility of not having our magic ingredient available to us for drinking, cheesemaking, soapmaking or as a protein-rich food for the hogs that we'll soon have. The loss of it would be pretty major for us.

I started wondering if Buckley, our lone buck, did, in fact, have "the goods" or not. Billy and I talked about what our next steps would be if it turned out that Buckley was sterile. Our only viable option would be to cull him. Neither of us were looking forward to that possibility.

Well, a reprieve came in my inbox yesterday in the form of an email from my friend, B. The mini Lamancha does that she bought from us last year, and boarded here for a few weeks this Summer, were both successfully bred by none other than Buckley himself. Fritzen delivered healthy twin girls yesterday, Blackey & Wobble.

Wobble is the tan gal in front, and Blackey is the girl way in back. The mini-Lamancha breed is achieved by crossing a standard Lamancha with a Nigerian Dwarf. Blackey somehow ended up with tons of the Nigerian traits, including her long ears and frosted nose. My more experienced fellow goat ladies tell me that long ears can occur about as often in mini-Mancha kids as blue eyes can, as much as 25% of the time. But this is the first long eared baby mini-Mancha that we've had, out of 10 born. 

B says that her cry is even different sounding - loud and whiny like a Nigerian. Genetics are fascinating!

B's other doe, Oreo, is due any day. :)

Anyway - there is hope yet that at least one of our eight lovely ladies may give us babies and milk this year. I think I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and truck my tushie on up the hill, wonky knee and all, and give my girls a thorough once-over to see who, if anyone, might be in the family way. I think that Bill had pretty much resigned himself to the fact that we wouldn't be milking anybody this year when B's email came. Now he's worried that we could end up with babies and milk times eight!

Aye, chihuahua. 

In the event that rampant fecundity ends up being the way that this all shakes out, this year Bill won't be alone in caring for our girls. I'm getting a brand spankin' new knee next week, and after a month or two (or three) of rehab and therapy, I'll hopefully be able to get right back in the trenches! I suspect that I may actually be the first person on earth who looks forward to mucking out a chicken coop or cleaning birth goo off of a newborn goat, but I do. I totally do. 

Farm chick Chelle will shortly be back in the saddle again. :)


  1. Hooray for new knee and the potential kids! :)

  2. exciting! what a cool and completely different life you have, I love reading about it.