Saturday, August 2, 2014

Stones and Sticks

Finally, the workers are all gone, the contractor paid, the gates are locked at night. Our Barndo now enters the next phase-- interior framing and finishing. We have been blessed with rainfall this summer, something we have not had the past few years of the drought. Well, when it rains, some things have to wait.

One of the things that had to wait was our driveways. We had to wait for most of the big heavy trucks to be done before we started putting down rock, or it would just get smashed to the center of the Earth.
Once all the big trucks were done, here came the rain! Two things. First, you cannot move wet dirt or gravel as your tractor will sink. Second, if it rained at the gravel pit, the gravel is full of water, too, and gravel is sold by the ton--- who wants to pay for water?.  For a while we had a cycle of rain, then, just enough time for things to dry, then rain again before the gravel trucks could make it out.

Finally, we had a clear spot and they brought over 100 tons of crushed limestone.  That's a lot of rock! Using his front-end load on his tractor, Dan 'smoofed' the gravel around and built the beginnings of a driveway to the 14' gable end door, and most of a driveway up to our parking area by the west porch.  Remember what your Kubota dealer tells you--- your front end loader does not make your compact tractor a bulldozer (ahem).

Then, on Sunday, July 20, 2014, the skies cleared and the driveway firmed up. "Secure the camper! We're moving today!"

Old Blue (you've heard me talk about the wonder truck often) squared up his fenders and backed up to the RV, squatted down and drug it down the road to the oil field, turned around and headed uphill to our new Barndo! Big Dan backed the trailer up to the door, with young Dan carefully directing. Right before the trailer entered the doorway, a bump in the driveway caused it to lurch left. Immediate stop!

After two or ten times of straightening and backing, the trailer was finally inside! Wow, what a difference. Although I love my son dearly, living in his backyard had gotten old. Neighborhood dogs had built forts under the RV and stored all manner of dog treasures there; everything from sticks and stones, to paper and bones! Major clean up job ahead! Then we can level the ground and he can have a proper yard.

What an improvement being on concrete makes! We moved our refrigerator out of Danny's house into the Barndo - right outside our door! It's the little things that make life go round. Like being able to get something from the freezer (did someone say BlueBell Ice Cream?) or a gallon of milk, without going into someone else's house!



Last Sunday, the guys began framing up the guest suite and got two walls up. In a Barndo, the metal 'perlins' make the walls really thick when you add wood framing. Our window sills will be at least 8 inches deep!

Once all four walls are up, Lonestar Plumbing of Caldwell will be out to install the on-demand tankless water heater and all the pipes on that end of the barn! Then my work really begins as I install the shower, tub and toilet. A real bathroom is on the horizon!
















Hedy does NOT like the pneumatic nail gun sound AT ALL. The first day we started framing, she got into the trailer and climbed up onto the dinette. We could see her through the window. Not sure if she was using the computer to search for help, but anytime we start framing, she either goes in the trailer or runs down the trail to Danny's house.

One of our next projects (in our spare time!), will be to construct a dog/goat alley from Danny's house to our barndo.




Saturday, April 26, 2014

The next breeding season and dog archeology

Three weeks ago, we began synchronizing estrus on two adult goats and five yearlings. This way, we will have a five day window on when they will kid, rather than a haphazard guess. Yesterday, we
separated them into two groups. Z1 and her two yearlings, Two Bits and Caped Crusader, went to the lower pasture with Melonhead.  Great Red Spot (the goat with a false pregnancy), Caligoat, Little Momma (no relation to Big Momma), and #5 are in the Maternity Ward with Jupiter. We should hear the patter of little hooves again in late September!







Not a lot going on the Barndo. More fill dirt was delivered this week and they have been packing it
down in preparation for forming and pouring our porches.  I think the porches are going to really be used and worth the cost. Fifteen feet deep, they'll be perfect in any weather. More than enough room for permanent tables and chairs, even a swing or hammock!








Finally, the dogs have been industrious. We know they range onto the neighbors' property, but they typically stay close to home. A few weeks ago, they began bringing home 'souvenirs' from their travels. One day, Agatha came trotting into the yard, proudly carrying a cow skull. Yep, the whole thing. Hedy brought us turtles, both past tense and still kicking. Even Maddy gets in on the game, toting around cattle scapula and tail vertebrae. This morning, through the camper window I saw Hedy on a beeline for the trailer with yet another cow skull. They brought another large skull which is either a big dog or a mountain lion!




And our dogs have nicknames: Dirty, Sturdy and Flirty.  Agatha is definiately a pigpen type of girl. Hedy is big and strong, immovable. And little Maddy, with the gleam in her almond shaped eyes, well, she's got me under her paw!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring Things




Things are busy at el rancho. In the last week, wildflowers and bluebonnets have exploded onto the scene. The elms are pushing out leaves and the post oaks have grown catkins about six inches long! I love when the soil warms enough for plants to push through and deliver their visual treats for us and their nutritious treats for the goats and donkeys.








All but two does have kidded, so we are surrounded by bouncing, springing. baby goats. They can't help it, they just have to bounce! The oldest kids are now six weeks old and developing some independence from mom.




Today, we decided to move the goats in the Maternity Ward over to the Lower Pasture so they could eat up the rye grass and weeds which are thriving on the fertilizer we put down for the bermuda seed. We will only leave them there for a few days. The bermuda sprouts are so short they won't eat them, so the goat are earning their keep by weeding!  Normally, we move goats between pastures with a bucket of feed; they follow along wherever we lead. This time, we weren't so lucky. The Maternity Ward forage is pretty picked over. Once they left that pasture, they found plenty to eat at hand. nice green stuff, and couldn't care less about some goat chow in a bucket. Some of the kids (feeling a little independent) didn't follow their moms, so then the Dans had to chase down kids and hand them over the fence.

On the house front, we finished installing Danny's entire kitchen! Cabinets, counters, sinks and appliances. What a great feeling! The final outside soffits are going in today. After that is done, Danny will finish up the trim work and painting on his own, because Dan and I will be building our apartment inside the Barndo! Hopefully in the next two weeks they can begin welding steel and installing panels! We have elected to hire electricians and plumbers to do all of the initial work so that we can start living in the Barndo sooner and get out of Danny's backyard!




The big question will how the dogs will respond to living apart. Right  now, they sleep in separate houses, but play in the same yard, I don't know if our girls will come down to Danny's during the day, or if Agatha will come to our house, but I am pretty certain that they will find a way to be together!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Dogs make Life Better

The last few months have flown by in a whirl. Between trying to get work done on Danny's house, getting fences built, and trying to design a barndo, and taking care of the critters. (let's not even talk about real jobs, too!).  I found time to go to Goat Camp at the end of October, and helped cook up some yummy meals for the campers. While I was out in West Texas, Danny fell in love with a puppy at the Brenham Humane Services. A little white 'wolf' with blue eyes.  He named her Agatha.

Agatha when she first came home.
Agatha was found estray hear the highway and was dropped at the shelter. Danny was doing some volunteer work there and realized that this was the perfect dog for him.  So when I came home from Goat Camp, we had a new family member.

What a great thing to have a dog in the family again!

Agatha quickly learned about being a farm dog, crawling under gates, hanging out with goats, and staying out of donkey reach. She reveled in the joy of drinking from a muddy hoofprint, or just chewing on hay and sticker vine. I think she really believes she is a goat!

To solve this identity crises, we realized that she needed a buddy, a canine companion, a partner in grime. Dan and I both wanted a dog, but the thought of training a puppy while living in a camper seemed a bit daunting. But by the middle of December, we knew we needed another pup.

I'd been scrolling through the webpages, full of hopeful faces, wanting fur-ever homes.  Dozens of pitties, and chihuahuas, terriers and poodles. Old dogs, young dogs. Beagles and dachshunds. Some had long hair, others short. Dogs with three legs, or one eye, or chewed ears.  How to choose?

Hedy is the puppy at the top of the frame.
So, one Saturday morning, Danny and I went to Brazos County to look at some possibles I had found on the webpages of the Bryan Animal Shelter and the Aggieland Humane Society. Most of the dog selection factors centered on Agatha, her personality and size. Not too big, not too small. Slightly younger, but not too young. Not aggressive, not yippy, shorter hair. Well, we met many dogs that day, who hopefully became great pets for someone, but didn't seem to be right for El Rancho. After seeing the shelter dogs and marking a couple of possibles, we went to the big box pet stores. At PetSmart, the Aggieland Shelter was holding an adoption event and had a corral of big puppies about three months old. One caught our eye, but we decided to visit Petco first, where a rescue group was displaying dogs for adoption. We returned to PetSmart and looked at the three puppies. A volunteer said they had been fostered in a home since birth and were Black-Mouth Curs.

 The yellow girl seemed to have a little sparkle, so we filled out all the paperwork, gathered up some supplies, including a huge zebra toy, and headed for the farm. Agatha was a little rough at first, but in no time, the two BFFs were ranging around the farm, with a constant ''dog game" in progress. You know the game, where there is much gnashing of teeth, wrestling, chasing and hugging. Agatha began
developing confidence and assumed the mantle of head puppy dog. We named our dog Hedy (that's Hedy, NOT Hedley).



Well, over the winter, the two pups grew and grew, spending all their days together and retreating to their respective homes at night. It's been a cold winter for the Brazos Valley, and kidding started in mid-February. Several ice days, snow storms and downright frigid windstorms had us prepared to do whatever needed for the livestock. On freezing March morning with deep mud, I saw Sister, a pregnant yearling, limping and unable to keep up with the herd. I enlisted Danny's aid and we went to move her from the Big Pasture to the Maternity Ward.

Across the pasture, I spotted something small and white, like a kid. At that time, all the goat kids were still in the Maternity Ward. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a small white dog. I called her over and she came to me, cold, wet and alone. I brought her in the trailer where we dried her off and got her some food. Hmm. No collar, or collar mark. I thought she looked about eight months old, a cute little Parson Russel Terrier mix. We realized she looked just like the dog on a Milkbone box in Danny's house!

We posted 'found dog' notices in five Facebook groups for Burleson County, Brazos County and the Lost Dogs of Texas. Danny took her to Snook Veterinary Clinic, but Dr. Stein found no microchip. Caldwell Veterinary didn't recognize her and posted her pic on their page as well. Left word at the shelters, posted in TexAgs. I entered her info online in all possible places.

Nothing. Eventually we decided that our worst fears were true: someone had 'dumped' this pretty little dog in the country. Now, I could rant for hours about city people who dump all sorts of animals in 'the country' like it's public land or natural habitat, a place where animals can live in harmony. Yes, and where animals can starve or be eaten.

So, little Madeline became the third member of the Severn pack. From the first day, she seemed to blend in with the other two dogs, and they LOVED her. The "dog game" now has infinite combinations and possibilities. We took her to Dr. Stein for a wellness check and shots this week, and the good doc found a spay incision scar! We are dumbfounded that someone would throw away such a perfectly lovely dog, but have assured her that her home with us is secure.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Seventeen Kids in Eighteen Days

Stella!
This is our second year of kidding at el rancho. Last year we were total newbies and learned some valuable lessons. One of the lessons was that we decided we needed a more secure place for the does right before kidding. The other was that we decided to be more deliberate and timely in our breeding.

After buying the second property, we planned for a Maternity Ward. Danny chose to put it near his house and last year he plowed, disked, tilled, improved and fertilized the soil, then planted bahia grass. The area is securely fenced with goat wire and barbed wire, top and bottom, and two sixteen-foot gates. There are water taps and shade. Dan moved three goat huts into the pasture and two of them are enclosed into small private areas. So far, so good.

Well, our breeding program was really broken this year, in part because we didn't get the fencing done sooner. In late summer, all the girls were in the lower pasture and the boys were in the Triangle. Separated by two electric fences. Now, generally, the electric fences work pretty good for interior fencing, especially with an empty field between. However, on September 18, we found the gate between the Triangle and Middle pastures was open! Donkeys? Clever goats?

Well, it didn't matter, any 'damage' was done. We caught Jupiter with Riker (a goat formerly known as Baby), and Billy BA was strutting  around. In my notebook, I wrote down the names of does I suspected of being bred and (in large letters), "We'll know in February."  Most goats are pregnant for 150 days, so if they were bred on September 17, they would be due on February 14-- Valentine's Day!

On September 24, Billy BA had a planned breeding with Big Momma, Khaki, and Little Sister. (That would be February 21). Finally on October 9, Billy and Jupiter AGAIN got through the fences (due date of March 8).  After we finally got our fences erected, Billy BA was with several ladies from November 3 to December 15 ( this give us April 8 - May 15).

The kidding storm is much anticipated. How many  kids will a certain doe have? Will she have enough milk? What color will their eyes be and will they be white or some other color? So, I really thought that Curly and Maggie would be first. I was wrong! Of course, the mystery of 'when' is all covered in the Doe Code of Honor.

Feb 15- Flower had a single chocolate doeling. She developed severe mastitis so the doeling was getting supplemental bottles. Being fed three times a day, she picked up the name 'Stella' for the white star on her dark head. Father? Billy BA.
Big Momma a week before having triplets





Feb 17- Z2 had triplets in the afternoon! Two doelings and one buckling.

Feb 19- Big Momma had triplets! Two bucklings, one doeling. One buckling looks just like Billy BA, so he immediately was named Minime. the other buckling has a red head and cape, and dark brown feet, ergo, Spats. No doubt their dad is Billy BA.

Feb 21- Belle had twins about noon, both white with black heads, one boy, one girl. About 5 p.m., her sister, Doll, kidded and had one huge buckling and one preemie looking buckling. We were unable to save the little guy. Based on eye-color, we see Jupiter's first three kids!

Maggie and Curly, goats-in-waiting
Feb 22-  Curly finally kidded!  This was her first time,so were both nervous. The first kid presented with one leg and a snout. I was unable to get the other leg forward, but Curly managed to have the baby. The second boy arrived smoothly. Their names? Larry and Moe. Again, blue-eyed Jupiter was the papa.

Feb 24- Maggie delivered two doelings and again Jupiter is suspected.


Feb 28- Khaki had one huge single doeling in the large pasture across the street. Did not think she was so close. Fourteen pounds! Wowzers! Khaki was 'due' from the breeding with Billy BA on Feb 21, but this might be correct as that kid was giant! She looked a week old when born!

On Mar 5- Riker had two doelings, parentage unknown. Riker is also a first timer and I was glad to see her cleaning up the kids and making milk. Haven't gotten a good look at her girls yet, but she and Jupiter were always tight, since they were kids last spring.

So, all of these does got pregnant BEFORE the herd went to pasture with Billy BA. Who is left to kid? Fea, Heifer, Z1, maybe Red Spot. I think Fea and Heifer will kid in the next couple of weeks. Z1 and Red Spot will be due in the middle of June.At the end of the kidding storm, we got by accident what we wanted to plan! A short kidding window for a large number of goats.

Who's lookin'?