Friday, July 5, 2013

Tragedy and little victories.

This spring and summer has been relatively cool (not many days over 90) and unusually wet.  The guy who is teaching us how to do tomatoes says he's never seen a year like this one - his tomatoes are weeks behind where they should be because the plants don't grow without the sun and heat.  It has been a mixed blessing for us - the forage is holding up, but the warm, moist days are always high parasite days, and we don't have the fencing done that we had planned.  Seems like that's always the way. 

We don't love to lose goats, but we expect to lose a few each year, and normally this helps us retain the strongest individuals as breeding stock.  Losing six goats overnight, though, during a severe storm, well... that was not exactly in the plans.  The thing that hurt the most about it was that one of the two bucks that died in the front field was our new herdsire - Southwest Shaw.  There were trees down all over the area, and we had many limbs down in that field.  We are reasonably sure they ate some of the wilting cherry leaves and died of poisoning.  The body of the second buck we have yet to even find, but he disappeared that night, so we assume we'll find it sooner or later in the woods.  We will continue cutting down cherry trees, but the woods are just full of them.

The batch of doelings that died in the same storm are more of a mystery.  All but one was right next to the metal shelter.  That corner of the field has some cherry trees outside the fence and it is plausible some limbs could have blown in, but our neighbors thought it was lightning.  Apparently, there were many strikes in the area.  I just don't know.  It took out some doelings we planned to sell and also some we planned to keep, so now, we've had to readjust.  This is going to be the year we just don't sell much of anything.  We are keeping anything that is by Shaw, and anything that was exposed to him this Spring (we decided to test breed for some Fall kids).  I have also decided to keep any doelings out of my best producing does.  I need to build up a string of "Plan B" goats.  Otherwise, if we have another event like this storm (Heaven forbid) - we could lose some of our best genetics forever.

Virginia, telling me "It raining, Momma"
This continues to be an incredibly wet year.  The parasite load has to be through the roof, and Chuck isn't able to do moving pens like we used to do because his farm time is so limited.  The worst part of his work schedule is that it changes from day to day.  We can't plan for anything.  I only had weekends off during the school year, and if he had to work the weekend, that left only me - and to be honest, even on the rare days we both had the same day off - we can't do much of anything at the farm with Virginia running wild.  We get about an hour to get stuff done as she naps in the car.  She just turned two on July 2nd, and she is truly a little Firecracker.  She's a one-baby wrecking machine, and is absolute proof tthat humans are closely related to apes (put her at the bottom of anything and she'll have climbed to the top in seconds), but is still just a joy.  She runs me ragged, but is so full of personality she practically sparkles with it.  I cherish every snuggle with her, especially as she sleeps, because I know all too well that her babyhood is coming to an end.

The exccessive rain brings me to the second reason we are behind on the goat work.  Our hay man suggested to Chuck that he grow tomatoes.  I understand that the hay man's son has done quite well with his produce, but I think Chuck has clearly lost his mind this time.  Of course, I know I lost mine long ago (as is evidenced by the fact I am looking forward to my next year with my, ummm, let's just say exuberant ninth and tenth graders!) because I agreed to help him.  The rain has made the field a muddy mess, and I often wonder as my wellie boots stick fast and I rock back and forth, struggling to pull a leg free, if this isn't how woolly mammoths felt when stuck in the LaBrea tar pits.

More rain.  Better than none, I guess.
Planting four thousand or so tomato plants ain't quick work.  Neither is pounding stakes or stringing the dang things.  I'm chief stringer, and I am way behind on my duty.  I have to get the German Johnsons up quick and I'm not even done with the Mountain Prides.  We discovered that the old well does indeed have water in it, but not enough to grow tomatoes.  We have to figure out why it went from the thousand gallons a day the tobacco guys say it used to produce to the 250 or so it produces today.  The hay man said if it was completely dry, we could throw in some crayfish and they'd dig their way to water and reopen the vein.  I guess that's plausible, if more than a little odd sounding.  I've learned to never say never.

Rows of tomatoes, with my "helpers" in the background.
Speaking of never say never, you may remember our three-legged doe, Kitty.  She had a horrendous compound fracture we could never set, and was too close to the hock to pin.  Our local vet said she'd be dead in a month even if we tried to save her.  Kitty had other plans.  Her bone would not stay together or inside the skin, but the skin healed over the bone.  Her leg flopped around as she escaped at a dead three-legged run from Chuck one day to meet Ace, the product of which rendezvous was a set of twins that she raised unassisted.  We gave her the breeding season off last year and let her hang out with her doe kid, and she exerted her freedom of choice earlier this spring when she decided not to allow us to catch her when we weaned bucklings, and then promptly came in heat and chose the one that tickled her fancy to initiate into buckhood.  All other hopeful suitors were met with swinging horns, or, when that was not enough, a bite in the face.  We don't know yet if she caught, but if so, her "baby daddy" will hopefully prove to have as much potential as a good sire as Kitty thinks he has.

Chuck and I finally had a day to work goats together and noticed as we administered the first dose of COWP that Kitty was bearing some weight on her injured leg.  Chuck caught her and found that sure enough, that leg is only bending at the hock now.  He obviously didn't get too carried away testing it, but we saw that she is indeed bearing some weight on it and walking almost normally.  Somehow, that bone has mended itself.  It isn't as good as new of course, but it is so much better than we could have hoped for.  I sure hope we can get another couple of doelings out of her and then allow her to retire and live a life of leisure.  Knowing Kitty, she'll make those decisions for us.

In past years, we've been selling all the doe kids from some of our best does.  That will change in order the implement the "Plan B" I mentioned going forward.  Having plain old "typical" does makes one really appreciate the "amazing" does.  I'll be keeping anything Kitty gives us, as well as any future doelings from the resident grand dame, Marshmallow.  I have more does from which I'll be retaining doelings, but, as explanation, Marshmallow is a ten year old.  She had triplets last year (we kept one doe) and twin bucklings this year.  She is one heck of good mothering old doe but I know her production days may be coming to an end.  Kitty, well, her toughness is the kind of thing Kiko ads could be made on, and she is a parasite resistant good mothering little doe as well.

We've been through some tough events this spring, but seeing Kitty bear weight on that leg yesterday - well, that was priceless.  It is tough for a "glass all the way empty with a hole in it" kinda girl like me to not get caught up with worry over all the loss, but moments like this give even old cynics like me a smile.

Kitty, on the left, with her doe kid from last year. Nature is amazing.