October 10, 2010
It ain't me!
There was a new stink at Vivian Acres, and this time it was not ALL Jethro. I mean Jethro is beginning to get nice and stinky for the girls next month but this was something new. Poor Jethro and his hormones but that is another blog.
I put the goats to bed as I normally do around sunset and everyone settled in for the nite including me. I awoke at about 4am and heard some commotion coming from the boys barn. With Jetro beginning the rutt sometimes he likes to get a little physical at nite and pushes the other boys around a little and you can hear their horns hitting the side of the barn. This has become normal. No one gets hurt and it is just a goat thing so I don’t pay much attention. But this was unusually loud and kept going. I heard one of the boys scream and I knew something was up. I jumped up, got dressed and ran out to see what was going on. As I approached the barn I began to get some idea. The smell of an unwelcome visitor. The boys were all yelling now so i hurriedly opened the door to the barn. The goats could not have run out of there faster if the place was on fire. The smell of skunk was powerful. The trespasser then leisurely made his exit seemingly unaffected by the incident. He walked out and even brushed my leg on his leisurely exit . He was big! The size of a small dog. I held still as I did not want to also become a victim. I looked down and saw that the skunk was mostly white with only a small strip of black down his back. I then realized this was the same skunk that got my dogs about a month ago so he is a repeat offender. He had somehow gotten under the small space under the barn door. I am so glad the goats had been sheared and their fiber safely stored.
There were several concerns after this. #1 What if the skunk was rabid. He didn’t act rabid. It was still dark and the goats were very excited and there was no way of telling if any of them had been bitten. Hard to catch them and do an exam with a flashlight. When the sun came up and the goats had relaxed some i did see some small marks on them but their location (on their backs) and appearance led mem to believe they were from each other’s horns. My goats have had all their immunizations including their rabies. A quick call to the Vet set my mind at ease. #2 Jethro was the only one sprayed. He has been working for a while getting his own funk going, and I was afraid the skunk smell would interfere with that. This also would mean that we could not use deodorizer. Well we are not planning on breeding until 1 Nov. and the skunk smell is going away on it’s own. #3 The barn stunk like a skunk and the goats would not go in. Well fall cleaning had not been done yet so there was my motivation. I spent the day friday moving all the hay from the barn. I was lucky that when the skunk had sprayed, he only got it on the hay and no further decolorizing was needed. #4 I fixed the bottom of the door to keep the skunk from revisiting. I also plan to submit the skunk to the Fish and Game people for rabies testing if he returns .
Some lessons learned are you need to check the barns to check for ANY areas where unwanted animals can get in. We were lucky. Also “MAKE SURE ALL YOUR ANIMALS ARE UP TO DATE ON THEIR SHOTS!” you just never know.
The offenders cousin
Well it looks that soon Jethro will regain his place as the stinkiest one at Vivian Acres. That is a story for another blog.
October 4, 2010
Jethro Lookin Good
Fall has come to Vivian Acres again. Beautiful fall. Cooler temperatures, leaves changing colors, and the farm has begun some of it’s fall rituals. There is a lot to do before old man winter sets in. One of those is the shearing of the goats. This is the first year that I have decided to take this extra step by doing this for my animals myself. Anogra goats have to be sheared every 6 months. Their hair grows an inch a month and left for longer than that, their fleeces would be a mess. This is also necessary before another ritual can take place and that is the anual date night with the buck. There would be so much hair it could make things more difficult for Jethro to perform his duties. The exception to the rule is the kids that were born this past spring. I intend to let their fleeces grow and I have a woman that will use their soft curls to line her custom made mittens.
I attended a class last spring on shearing. Unfortunately for me all they had was sheep to shear. The class involved a lecture in the morning followed by a demonstration and then they brought in the flock. The idea was for us to chear as many as possible to get some experience. This reinforced my love for goats. The sheep were a lot bigger than my goats and certainly a lot less friendly. There are many differences between sheep and goat anatomy also. Sheep have more bulk than goats and their skin is a lot tighter. The shears run smoothly down their skin. Goats skin is a lot looser. When shearing, you have to be careful not to get the loose folds caught in the clippers then cutting the skin. Unfortunately there were not goats at the class, but there were a couple of master shearers that had experience with goats and we talked about it.
Anyway, the decision was made to shear the goats the first week in October. This is soon enough for breeding and also their fleeces will grow sufficient enough so they will have a fleece to protect them from the Vermont winter.
I knew that Jethro would be the toughest since he is my only intact buck and he would be first.
I began with placing Jethro on his butt. If you take a goat (or a sheep) and place them on their butt with their head between your legs, they will go to sleep, kinda. Then the shearing began. Starting first on the chest then belly being careful to avoid the pizzle (opening for male parts). Then the legs, sides and butt. Before long, Jethro’s thick fleece was all in the bag and Jethro had a new look. A nice clean look, and I had my first goat sheared. I have to admit I was pretty pleased with myself.
The goats are sheared now and fall is steaming along. I have gained another skill to become more self sufficient on the farm. There are so many things to do before winter comes to prepare the animals to help them have an easier winter.
Clearing one of Jethro's front legs
Jethro just chillin
October 3, 2010
It has been a long time since I have blogged. There has also been so much that has happened since then at Vivian Acres it will probably take all winter to catch up.
In brief, since last May we were blessed with a successful kidding season. We had a set of twins Elvis and Priscilla born to Gwen, Pink gave birth to Janis Joplin who is very sweet and had to be hand raised by Georgi and I (Story to follow) Sharon our dairy goat gave birth to twins Axel and Slash. Although they are half dairy, they have beautiful soft fleeces. Momma gave birth to our little Ga Ga and lastly we adopted one more goat from Kirby’s Happy Hoofers a wonderful blue eyed girl named Averil. I will go through and introduce them individually in later blogs.
Vivian Acres has also grown in another way this past summer. I will be introducing later the Pussycat Dolls. These are a group of 34 chickens living on the hill which have begun earning their keep providing us with eggs. In the spring we had housed 19 meat chickens who had no name as a group but they were only here for 6 weeks and then moved into the freezer. There were some real lessons learned there that I will share.
We had a summer of farmers markets, sometimes 3 each week. Man that was a lot of work. They are beginning to wind down now and we had a good time and met a lot of great people and sold some yarn and our goat milk soap. They were a lot of work but in most cases worth it.
Of course our regular residents of Vivian Acres have made it through another summer, mostly without incident. With fall comes shearing (which I have been doing myself this year) and later it will be date night with Jethro (our resident buck) who has already begun making himself pretty for the girls.
I hope to be blogging regularly again as there is so much to tell.
Naked goats on the hill
May 8, 2010
This is Elvis the first of the twins born last thursday. I got too excited and did not tape the second being born. What a beautiful thing this is for us here.
May 7, 2010
Last Saturday, Eva from Seven Days (a local newspaper/website) came to visit Vivian Acres. she was interested in hearing the Vivian Acres story for her Seven Days Blog that is called lost in VT. She spent about 3 hours interviewing Georgi and I and of course the goats for her video that can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-LE0vJmq9s&playnext_from=TL&videos=E9HAfJLPO1g. I know i have not been blogging much lately with the new constructon on the barn and getting ready for the new arrivals but plan to get back into the blogging soon since there is so much to tell. Yesterday we had some new arrivals, Gwen gave birth to TWINS. So we welcomed Elvis and Priscilla to the farm. Mother and babies are doing fine and more pics and the birthing stories to follow. Thanks.
Momma Gwen and her new babies. There were about 15 mins old when this was taken.
March 26, 2010
Finally, Vivian Acres’ yarns are now for sale at vivianacres.com. Go to the farm’s site and follow the links to the store. It really came out well will 70% mohair and 30% columbian wool. The kid’s yarn is also 70% mohair with 30% merino wool. Very soft. If you get a chance check out the new site anyway.
March 12, 2010
The gang enjoying the warm weather
I was outside working yesterday and I heard a familiar sound that has been absent for a few months. The honking of the geese overhead this time though they were heading home after vacationing down south. The warmer days (mid 40s) and the appearance of a chipmonk running through the goat pen which has been looking a little less white every day can mean only one thing. Spring is coming to Vivian Acres. It is not here yet, (nights are still in the low 20s and everyone keeps telling me there will be at least one more winter-like push) but it is coming none the less.
Here in Vermont this time for some means it is time to tap the Maple trees for sugaring but here at Vivian Acres it means it is time of spring cleaning. During the harsh winter it is important that that the goats have a dry warm place to sleep. Inside the barn the goats take care of this themselves to some degree. Goats are very wasteful when it comes to their hay. I have read that they waste about 30% of what is given them to eat, just pulling it out onto the barn floor and once it is trampled they will not eat it. This waste is what is used by many for their buffer from the cold ground. It slowly builds up and with the propper moisture provided by their urine etc this growing layer of hay begins to compost. The heat given off is like a heating blanket for them. I have picked up their droppings, they need the place clean, and each day a new dry layer of hay is added to the pack. Goats do not excrete the amonia in urine as other animals may so there is no smell. Healthy goats do not excrete any diseases this way either. I am still amazed by their cleanliness in that respect. I had last cleaned out the old hay last fall, as many do and just let them just have at it. Then comes spring cleaning!
Entrance to the barn on day 1 of cleaning
Over the winter the barn had accumulated more than 2 feet of hay. I found myself stooping over more and more to keep from hitting my head. The temp inside was nearly 10 degrees warmer at the level of the pack. For 3 days using a pick, pitchfork and a wheelbarrow I removed the hay. With each dig, the steam rose from the pack. The odor was more like what you would get from a pile of wet leaves that has been laying there for a while. The goats were very interested in what was going on. They sat on their hill chewing their cuds watching me travel back and forth from the barn to the compost pile more than 100 times. It was like being on an archeologic dig sort of. I found the ear tag that pink had lost, several misplaced grain bowls and even a glove that one of the goats had pulled from my coat pocket months ago. And still the goats watched.
Eventually I was able to stand straight again in my barn and I reclaimed for the goats what was theirs. I thought they may notice but being goats, they just took it all in stride. I also took a dust brush and dusted the whole barn down as a lot had accumulated.
Last corner of the barn. Yeah!
Spring cleaning is more than just cleaning up a mess. Parasites common to goats like lice and intestinal worms are more dormant in the winter. Lice of course can still live on the goats, just not on our goats. As spring comes, the temps rise and these dormant fiends come back to life. It is important then to pay particular attention to barn cleanliness. They really don’t need all that heat in there anyway. It is also important to keep the barn as dust free as possible. No cobwebs etc. Having electricity running to the barn for heating water buckets and even the light could become a real fire hazard and all it would take is a spark to ignite the dust and then if anyone has seen a pile of hay on fire……… It is wild.
I normally clean the barn every 3-4 weeks or more if needed but am glad I got the spring cleaning out of the way. We also have plenty of good compost for the gardens courtesy of the gang.
Fat Albert enjoying all the new space.