Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas from el Rancho Asno Blanco

As we near the end of our first year in operation at el Rancho, I feel blessed.

The animals are a constant reminder that simple things have value. The donkeys are always happy to see us, braying a capella  in that mournful longears voice. The sound lets me know my presence is both valuable and wanted. The goats remind me that staying together and working together is both safer and more enjoyable-- it can keep the wolf from the door!

The new kids remind me that when you need to bounce, bounce!
And sometimes you just need a nap.

Some things have been really challenging, like realizing that I can no longer work straight through without a break for several hours, and that sometimes I just need to sit and rest my feet. Bending over to tie ground-level wire  is a no-no, so I bought extra pairs of jeans because the seat of the pair I'm wearing is probably wet and/or dirty. I got a new warshing machine, so that's not a problem at all! I also sit on the ground to trim goat feet, but more importantly I sort the goats so that I can do the ones with the hardest hooves first, before my hand strength gives out. Work smarter, not harder. (I do try to heed my husband's advice!)

Being at el Rancho, 10 - 20 miles from a store, also brings out the Girl Scout in me. Be prepared!  Thus, the back of the car has my 'vet box' containing all types of med, syringes, needles, and tools for the goats and donkeys, as well as ibuprofen for me. There are halters, ropes and head ties, random tools, feed and treats. Extra t-shirts, towels and trash bags. Plus stuff that usually resides in a car! Recently the back seat has held bags of wood shavings for the baby goat house, a few sacks of goat feed, and Christmas presents!

And gloves, lots of gloves. I almost always have on gloves at el Rancho. If my hands don't hurt and I'm doing little things, I wear thin leather gloves (do the goats care that they are kid gloves?). I also have some thick cowhide gloves, Isotoner nylon stretchy gloves, cotton gloves, and Mechanix gloves with knuckle guards. A bad enough rap or twist on the fingers can find that hand out of commission for a day or two, so I am careful.

At the end of the day, some of which are long, it's all worth it. My animals are healthy and content, the family is closer to making the big move to el Rancho, and I am still able to get out in the fresh air and work. Now is a great time to remember those you love and tell them so.

And for heaven's sake, don't forget to hug the donkeys!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A kiddley divey too, wooden shoe?

Our Facebook followers know that things are hoppin' at el Rancho,. some good, some bad.

On Saturday the 8th, we arrived at el Rancho thinking we might have kids. Sadly, we found Red, a young doe bought at Navasota Auction, dead. No apparent trauma, illness or injuries. She was the loudest goat, always looking for attention. On Friday, she had been particularly clingy and, looking back, unloud. We did not do a necropsy, but sent Red to Valhalla on a pyre of yaupon and mesquite. Best I can figure is she ate something, ate too much of something, or just died. With the sale of Stupid, we were now at 16 goats.

On Sunday, the Dans began building a large shelter for the critters, one tall enough for the donkeys. While they drilled and bolted and nailed, I took the goats to the round pen and trimmed feet. It sure is a long row when many of them had feet that had never been trimmed, so I am doing them in stages. In the afternoon, I made a supply run to Bryan and when I returned, the rain was fierce. We left for the house, driving 25 mph most of the way.

On Monday, Danny and I finished roofing the shelter. I noticed Big Momma was aloof and showing some signs of kidding. I went to work for the afternoon and returned closer to dark. I found Big Momma deep in the brush with one kid! They looked fine, so I left her alone for a while. When I returned with towels and feedsacks, a second kid was born and I helped get the goo off his face. It was really getting cold and the ground was saturated from four inches of rain on Sunday. Finally, kid number three slid out and Big Momma and I worked to get them dried off. I finally had to leave and go home, but Big Momma seemed like she was doing a good job.

Tuesday morning about 4:30, I went to check on the kids (it's 30 miles to el rancho). On the way, I spotted Jupiter in the sky, near a sickle moon. When I found the little family in the brush, I noticed that the big buckling had a circle and sickle on his shoulders and back, and, well, he got a name-- Jupiter. The doeling was noticeably smaller and had weak back legs, apparently not uncommon in a multi-birth. She didn't have a strong sucking reflex. I went to work for a while and came back, to find Danny trying to get the doeling to take some colostrum from a bottle. She didn't like the nipples either one of us had, so I tube fed her about 60 ml of warm colostrum and this seemed to perk her right up. We moved the mom and kids to the round pen and prepared the dog house for the kids to lay in .

Magic Goat Hut and goat babies in dog house
On Wednesday morning, I again made the early morning jaunt and found all three kids doing well. Doeling was still shaky on the back legs, but I helped her get up and nurse a couple of times and was thankful I did not have to tube her. I also gave each kid a shot of CD antitoxin and one of Bovi-Sera since I did not know Big Momma's vaccination status and we didn't get hers complete until the 8th. Danny checked later in the day and I also went out at lunch. I weighed the kids by putting them in a cloth grocery sack and a hanging scale. Jupiter came in at 7#, 1 oz; buckling #2 weighed 6#, 2 oz.; and the little doeling barely hit 5# even.

Thursday and Friday, things were much warmer and the kids were starting to hop around. On Saturday after work, Dan built two Magic Goat huts. Each took two sheets of plywood and four 2x4s. They have a slightly sloped roof and about 16 square feet of floor space. Last night we put one in the round pen for Big Momma and one in the Middle Pasture for the goats.

Apparently someone there was miffed and kicked out part of the wall in the larger goat/donkey shelter. Hmmmm. Wonder who?

We ended the week on a high note. The kids each gained two pounds! In five and a half days!

Good Momma.

All the adult goats got their final pneumonia vaccine booster shot today as well.

Fancy got a new toy.

Billy BA's latest love, Fea

And Billy BA is making sure there will be many more baby goats this spring.

Nineteen goats and counting.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Adios, Stupid

On Tuesday, Danny took ole Stupid to the Caldwell Livestock Commission, and on Wednesday some lucky bidder paid $45 and took him home. So, I lost $11 on Stupid (if you consider that I paid $300 for the six pygmies/Nigerians). And I am ecstatic. He was an irritant.

The pygmies were the initial set of goats I bought and Stupid was odd from the beginning. He always seemed to be sniffing and shoving and bothering the other goats and the people. When we arrived at the farm, he would run up, asking for attention and being a PITA. The donkeys never cared for him either.

As the herd grew, Stupid became more isolated and ignored and a bigger PITA every day. When I vaccinated last weekend, I had Stupid removed from the round pen and was amazed by the serenity. This firmed my resolve to get rid of Stupid.

On Tuesday, I went to the farm after work to help Danny put everyone back in the middle pasture. I noted that all the animals seemed happy. 

Today, I got off work early and hopped out to the ranch to check on Big Momma (no kids YET!). I found everyone in the middle of the woods, munching on yaupon and crunching up brown oak leaves. Everyone was happy to see me, including does who had never willingly let me touch them. The brown pygmy ran up to me for pets! 

The does were enjoying climbing all over the stumps that Dan dug up, playing King of the Mountain, a popular goat game. 

Fiona had a look but decided to keep it safe and stay on the ground.

And love is in the air. Billy BA is getting along quite well with the three new does I bought from the VanderMartins, so we will have babies next May for sure!


Sunday, December 2, 2012


Electric cross fencing
Well we are at a spot where we can take a little breather.

We finished perimeter and cross fencing on the 4041 piece. Dan estimates over 1.1 miles of fence, six gates, one solar charger, 10,000 feet of barbed wire. With the cross fencing up, we can manage the livestock and better control vegetation and worms.

We have utilities: water (clean and cold!), electric, and now AT&T 4G service! Plus a fiberglas septic tank and some field lines.

We have livestock: three donkeys and 18 goats. Yep, we have three more. Fred and Gwen, at Rancho Volsas Basias (Guaranteed to have four legs and a tail or double your money back) near Buffalo, sold me three large does, two are 50% registered Boer. Danny and I picked them up on Saturday while Dan put a rebuilt starter in Old Blue and he fired right up!
(Blue is back on staff!).

The three latest additions to the herd

The new gals are open, so Billy has work to do. Hopefully they will be bred by January. None of the pregnant goats have had babies.

We bought some pipe goat panels and have used the 'round pen' a lot. On our first round of vaccinations, we got all the animals in there and worked them in the big pen.

We haven't had time to build or plan a permanent working area, but the Dans came through with improvising a darn good plan.  They disconnected two panels and spread them apart about three feet. Then, they drove in pipes used for  chain linking and hung a three foot gate. Then they took three panels to make a room  off the little gate. Genuis!

We have a working pen! This created an offshoot 'room' where I could put a goat, lock them in, and take care of them.  Our only real problem is Stupid, one of the most ignorant animals I've ever owned. He's a polled pygmy buck whose ambition in life is to irritate all people and animals as much as possible. He is not long for this herd and we think he finally figured out we don't like him. Anyway, we herded the goats to the round pen and then escorted the donks out. We also escorted Stupid out. What a difference! The goats were all instantly calm, munching on hay, snoozing and ruminating. Very pastoral! In my little room I had a box with vaccines, wormer, ropes, and hoof trimmers. (Did you know a Texmati plastic box makes a great sharps container?).  This confirmed a unanimous decision to take Stupid to Navasota Auction next week. The donks did enjoy chasing him when he got annoying with them...

Danny helped me work the animals. First, we opened the little gate and amazingly, a doe just walked right in! I put a rope halter on her and tied her to the rail, gave her shots, wormer and trimmed her feet. Almost too good to be true! (I don't have a goat stand yet, but Dan said he'll build one later!). We turned her back into the round pen and starting working them one after another. The pygmy does were harder to catch, but overall things went great. Danny was a big help, holding horns and helping drive them in the little room. All of these goats were in dire need of hoof trimming. I didn't get all of them trimmed today, but will chip away at it this month. Plus, some needed a little trimming, followed soon by more because they were too overgrown to trim completely today.

Oh, and we are official. We ear tagged 'Baby' with our official Texas scrapies tag. We are herd #TX 25843
Baby gets tag number one!

So, it's intermezzo, which only means we slow down a bit. Up next is building Danny's house, selling our Brazos County house, and fencing the 4057 property.


Who's lookin'?