Thursday, September 19, 2013

The livestock go for a stroll.....

Fancy our huge donkey
Yesterday, I came home from work and a neighbor hustled to the door, panting that they needed help with the donkeys. Fearing the worst,I looked for my vet kit and he said, No! They are loose! Two neighbors and my son had been chasing the donks through the ten acres of brush we have yet to fence.

Molly and Fiona, awaiting dinner

Well, someone (ahem) managed to open the gate to our lower pasture and all the girl goats and girl donkeys were roaming the countryside. Goats are easy-- shake a little feed in their direction and they're yours. Donkeys, well, a little more challenging

My three jennys have had very little training in any consistent manner. They do loves hugs, the dears, and will allow brushing, hoof picking, and haltering. I eventually want to teach them to lead and pack, maybe even ride Fancy. But right now, their main job is discouraging predators like coyotes and bobcats from eating the baby goats, and, boy, do the jennys love baby goats!

Anyway, I hightail it to the barn for halters and leads and returned to find my grown son with his arms around Fancy, the largest donkey (super large standard). Reaching around I get the halter on her and a lead rope. She is not happy. Thinking like a donk, I realize that the neighbors are what is spooking her. One of the neighbors had also caught a donkey, Fiona, and had haltered her-- but the halter was upside down, with the throatlatch over her eyes! Oh, boy.  (Note: Sadly I had no camera handy...)

Fancy had some glue on her hooves (that's donkey-speak for "I ain't movin'"), but I took the time to allow her to decide to be led and I did not allow the neighbors to whoop and wave their hands (obviously not familiar with equines at all). Eventually, I got Fancy ambling over the field towards the pasture gate. Fiona, blinded by the halter, came reluctantly behind us, praying, I'm sure, for release from the blinders.

We get to the gate opened wide and Fancy calmly walks in, followed by Fiona. The third jenny? Well, that's Miss Molly, who is the mother of the other two. Being a bit older and some wiser, she came with the other two, unhaltered, and had a little grin, her lower lip trembling. Maybe a clue to who opened the gate? Nonetheless, all three were safely returned the goat herd, excited over their adventure.

There was no danger of the donkeys reaching a road or danger, thank goodness. Good lessons all around. Although they do not have good lead manners yet, the donkeys do trust me, and trust and patience won the day.
In other news, Danny has a functional bathroom in his house, we still need rain, and we got a water well on the 4041 property.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Goats, Worms, and things that go bump in the night

Doll-- taking a break from the kids
We've been living at El Rancho for about six weeks, and I feel like this is where I am meant to be at this time in my life. My goats bring joy each day as they mob me during feeding. Each one has its own needs and complaints, and each is entertaining for different reasons. Before owning goats, I had heard and seen some goats with personalities and quirks, but assumed that was the exception. Well, goat dynamics are endlessly fascinating.

First, you have the 'pet' goats, like Doll and Maggie, who spent a lot of time being handled when young. They seek ME out, mugging for the camera, begging for pets.  But then others, of similar genetics and environment, are stand-offish. This describes Belle perfectly. She is Doll's sister and while she will be 'okay' with being handled or touched, she'd rather not.

The Dans socializing with kids and youngsters
As a management decision, we have decided that handling and working the 'pet' goats is far easier than are the wild goats. Last weekend while trimming hooves, I was able to trim Maggie without tying her up or having someone hold her.  That's definitely what we want more of in our does! Our billies are mostly tame, too, which is really nice. We got lucky with buying Billy BA because he is very mild-mannered with people and enjoys a scratch behinds the horns as well as any goat. Jupiter and Melonhead are also mostly friendly so hopefully this means more friendly goats are on the way for our next kidding season. (I think Flower and Great Red Spot might kid in October; we'll see.)

On Thursday, I attended a Goat Pest Management Seminar in Prairie View and learned a lot more about worms and how to live with them. The International Goat Research Center is located on campus and the staff and Cooperative Extension Agents put on a wonderful day for the attendees, which included dairy, meat and pet goat enthusiasts, one from as far away as Fort Worth. A lot of networking and 'see you next workshop' went on, and I felt like part of the goat family, a nice feeling.

When it comes to internal parasites in goats, Heamonchus contortus is the bad actor, a killer, known commonly as the barber pole worm for obvious reasons. The bad news is that all anthelmintics (dewormers for those just checking in), lose their effectiveness over time and there are very few new products in the pipeline. So, management practices must be properly utilized in order to maintain the safety of the herd. Dr. Niki Whitley from
North Carolina A&T State University was the guest lecturer and she kept us focused for hours. After lunch, we learned some lab techniques we can do ourselves on the farm in order to accurately assess the worm load on a specific goat. Like Dr. Whitley told us, you might have 20% of the goats shedding 80% of the worm eggs, so culling may be in order. I also finally understood the refugia concept and have a better handle on what to do at El Rancho for MY herd.

On another note, we have finally found a plumber for Danny's house--- after trying about eight. All the plumbers are backed up and booked up, but Holman  Quality Plumbing is coming through for us! Having the washer and dryer on site will save me hours each Saturday at the laundromat. The Dans are finishing the wiring in the house today, so once the plumbing is done, and some sheetrock is up, we can finish the bathroom and get started on the kitchen.

For Dan and I, the wait to move into 'our' spot seems like forever. The big holdup is getting a well dug, which is currently another two to four month wait. With the demand for water wells in Texas skyrocketing, many new drillers are around, but we decided to wait for a really experienced driller from our area. Like I mentioned before, without water, you're nothin'!

On Friday, I met with Steve Gonzalez from Premiere Environmental Designs. He is a Registered Sanitarian and will design the drain field for our conventional non-aerobic on-site sewer system. Looks like things will be great and we won't have to move parking or driveways! Steve is a great guy and seemed to have a good sense of humor. At the bottom of his business card, it says,

Crapper Mapper.

And that's a wrap.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Close Quarters Cooking and Goat Sorting

Here is my new kitchen!  Prior to moving in, I thought my cooking would be severely hampered by the small workspace, but with a little ingenuity and a few workarounds, things are going well. I think we got a great trailer. All of the appliances and plumbing work and the cabinets are well-made with real oak doors. Finding where to keep everything is a work in progress, but we have adjusted our habits quickly-- washing dishes immediately after use is definitely the way to go!

I brought my large crock pot with me and it is stored under the seat of one of the benches at the dinette, I use it about once a week and cook beans, soup, or carne guisada. It's a six quart cooker, so I always have some left to freeze for later.  The crock pot is really nice because it doesn't heat up the trailer like the midget oven or stove top does. I have one small counter space area and do most of my chopping and mixing there, but also use the dinette table for that. Of course,  the dinette table is also the place where we compute! So there's is a bit of shifting while doing anything. I feel very fortunate that Danny's house has electricity as I have hooked up my full-size refrigerator in his 'living room'. This allows us to have a big freezer and a place to put extra milk and Gatorade. Outside, I have my trusty gas grill, which produces all types of yummy stuff.

Does exploring their 'new' pasture

Today, we did the monthly 'goat shuffle' a couple of days early. In July, we put Billy BA in the middle pasture with some of the open 'girls.' To do that, we put the does with kids and the doelings not old enough to breed yet in the Triangle with the donkeys. In the lower pasture, we put the young bucks and wethers. Well, that didn't last long as Melonhead and Doll's boys braved the electric fence to get back to 'momma'. (Geeesh. If you are so big you have to lay on the ground to nurse, it's time to give up the milk!)

Crying for Momma
So we had a little goat rodeo today. Danny got all of the goats in the two connected round pens, then we segregated all nine of the boys from the girls. The boys got CL vaccine boosters, fly spray and a hoof trim before we all about passed out from the heat. Danny led all the boys to the Triangle with a bucket of feed, and I brought up the rear, driving the slow pokes. Dan had to carry Brownknee to the Triangle cuz he did NOT want to go! We got them all penned up and are now listening to Melon, Spot and Brownknee whine about missing mommy.

The three donkeys took over the Middle Pasture, and all the does and kids are relaxing in the lower pasture. July and August are tough on the goats and donkeys due to the forage not growing as fast. And donkeys eat a lot! This will be their first time without any goats in their pasture in several months, so I figure they can  use the break. It will also allow us to feed them separately from the goats.

If BA got his job done, we should have baby goats in December!  Great Red Spot and Flower had been with him earlier, so they may kid out in October.  In October or November (we haven't decided yet), we will set up all the eligible girls with one of the bucks.  Jupiter should be raring to go by then... he's got the beard for it!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Living in a Trailer (or a New Slant on Life)

We finally live at El Rancho full-time. A little sooner than expected.

I had planned to have the house ready for viewing in April, but the sign didn't go in the front yard til the end of May. Throughout the spring, I took advice from a realtor friend about sprucing things up and about leaving some things be. Watching home selling shows a few years ago actually helped!

And speaking of realtors, I interviewed three before signing a contract and strongly recommend it to anyone selling their house. I liked two of the three and finally chose the agent who I already knew. Of the others, one didn't seem that interested, but the other ran a close second to Trish, and ended up being a key player in the sale anyway.

A month behind schedule, we finally got the house listed on a Thursday night and they started showing on Friday. Saturday, we had an indication that a contract was coming from the first couple to see the house and they were preapproved! Their agent was the third one I interviewed-- she knew the couple had been looking for a place like ours a few months before without luck and so she gave them a call. The inspection created no surprises, we already had a survey, and we were off to the races. We closed (which is real estate talk for 'we got the money, honey') just 32 days after listing the house. That meant we had to be out of the house!

So May was very busy. Between moving and storing all of our stuff, we had to make sure there was a septic system at Danny's house, that he had a semi-finished room to live in, that Dan and I had a travel trailer to live in..... and the house was clean and the grass didn't die in the heat-- truly nerve-wracking! And buying a travel trailer is crazy-- some are junk and some are mansions, and some are cheaper to buy new rather than used! I finally bought a 29 foot Coachmen Cascade, 2003 model, from a part-time dealer in Caldwell. It boasts a queen-size bed in the front with a door, a big slide for the dinette and 'sofa', and a separate bathroom in the rear with a four-foot tub and a big closet.

We have been in the trailer for about three weeks and are settling in. After about a week, I noticed we were listing to port. Dan got some big jacks and tie-downs and leveled the beast, but now, after the rain, it is down in the stern. We'll go out in a couple of days to get her on an even keel.

The hardest thing to adapt to has been personal space. We replaced the mattress with a new one, but trailers use shorter mattresses, so we have to kind of crawl into bed from the door because the end of the bed nearly touches the wall. No way to get dressed in there or in the bathroom, so the living/dining/kitchen is also the changing area. There is no washer and dryer out here until Danny's plumbing is finished, so I have gone each week to the Harvey Washbanger's, where you can eat, drink and do laundry. I've split my grocery shopping between HEB in Brazos County and Slovacek's in Snook.

To save space, we each bought a Kindle, which has proven to be a good thing. We don't have any TV stations, so our usual entertainment is building on Danny's house, planning our barndo, and watching the goats. I must say that goat dynamics are a lot more interesting than I thought they would be. Such personalities! I'll hold those thoughts for next time.

Saturday, July 6, 2013


Over the past two years, I have become more water conscious as I have spent time at El Rancho.
Water, without which life on Earth cannot exist. Our bodies are about 60% water and water covers 71% of the Earth's surface, yet less than 3% of water on Earth is freshwater, and a lot of that is frozen. Most Americans have access to clean, fresh municipal water, so sometimes water doesn't seem so exciting, unless of course you live in a Texas town that is running out of water (Seventeen cities and towns are at critical water stages right now).

When we bought the first 19 acres of land, we were waterless-- no municipal, no well, no stock tank. In 2011, like most of Texas, we were in Stage 4 drought, thoughtfully labelled "exceptional" by the NOAA (I think they should have called it hellatious) and we could  hear trees cracking in the wind, which sucked the moisture right our of them. That was the year of horrible wildfires, including the destruction of the Lost Pines of Bastrop, Texas. This all happened before we had our livestock, and, in fact, delayed out entry into animal husbandry... what would they drink? Or eat? Definitely a brown summer.

While we built the perimeter fence, we drank pallets of water, sometimes working for ten minutes and resting for twenty. Finding someone to drill a water well or even get on a waiting list at that time was nearly impossible as everyone needed water, water, more water! When we brought our donkeys home in 2012, we first bought a used polypropylene container, which holds over 200 gallons. We trucked water from Brazos County. Then we bought more land with a well and trucked it a few hundred feet, later advancing to hundreds of feet of water hose. The friction in the water hoses slowed the flow down to a trickle, but it sure beat the heck out of toting water!

A couple of weeks ago, we rented a ride-on trenching machine and laid out water lines to all the established pastures, even going across the road and stubbing it off for the new pastures. So our water only had to travel through 25 or 50 feet of hose to a water tank. Finally, this week I splurged and bought $10 automatic water fillers for each pasture... Now we only need to ensure that the tank looks full and clean. I think of our water journey and realize how hard it was for folks in early Texas. If you didn't have a spring, you dug a well (by hand), or toted water from a river or stream that was maybe clean.

I am grateful for the good, tasty water in our well. So much better than muni water in Brazos County.  (That water has a lot of sodium in it, which makes washing soap off really difficult). The animals seem to like it, too, sucking up clean, cool mouthfuls.

Next on my water list is getting my own well drilled. Dan and I have already decided on a spot for the barndominium, so next is the well. Hopefully, we will tap into water like Danny has at his well. To increase our water security, we are considering running a line from one well to the other. Then, if one well goes down, we could tie in the other house to the other well.

On another note, Billy BA is busy in the middle pasture with the girls. We will be expecting kids in early December. This is Baby, a young doe who will be having her first kids this year. She was the first 'baby' goat we had at the place, bought as an afterthought at the Navasota auction. Although she wasn't born here, she has eartag number 00001. With her blue eyes and Billy's dark red cape, they are certain to have nice looking, stout kids!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Busy, Busy

Poor blog. Neglected for four months with nary an update. Well, it's been really busy, with some exciting things going on!  Since our last episode:

  • Danny has built most of his house with help from the folks and a fellow Marine
  • Tank,Spot and BrownKnee all got wethered.
  • Jupiter grew a beard.
  • Z2 had her baby, but it didn't make it.
  • Fea and Z1 each had twins which are huge! 
  • Dan and I got our house ready for sale, with loads of help from Danny--- couldn't have done it without him!
  • Got an oral offer on our house the first day it was listed.
  • Tried to wean Melonhead, but hes a momma's boy and suffers the electric fence to get near Khaki.
  • Dug trenches and laid water lines to the house and all of the pastures. No more toting water
  • Bought a 29 foot travel trailer to live in next to Danny's house
  • Got burgled a week before we planned to move out. Lost my tablet and mini-laptop! Plus the welder, Dan's laptop and lots of tools
  • SweetTea, the little Lamancha doeling, disappeared and we fear the worst. 
  • Bought a 12 x 18 metal storage building to hold farm stuff.
  • Closed on the sale of our house 32 days after listing it for sale.
  • Used a vet recommended wormer and lost a young doe within minutes. Life is fragile.
  • Finally, it's breeding season. Billy BA and his sidekick Quiz are pastured with some of the ladies. When August comes, we'll give the big guy a rest until October. Then, Jupiter and Melonhead might get a shot at doing a buck's work!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Kidding and Selling

 photo ffb79fcf-cd25-40f4-a7e1-251159e1b69b_zps24290447.jpgWe've been a bit busy on el Rancho the past two weeks. As expected, Doublestuff kidded on Valentine's Day and Oreo followed on February 15th. Double did indeed have three kids, all bucklings, but one didn't make it. Oreo had a buckling and a doeling. I was there when Oreo kidded and all was uneventful Cute, cute, cute! Kids are so entertaining to watch!

I had already decided that the pygmy girls would be leaving after kidding. Between getting my house ready to sell, helping D3 build his house, and, oh, yeah, my full-time job, I don't have time right now to acquire a new pygmy buck and keep the pygmy girls separated from the big bucks. So, when the kids turned a week old, I posted all six on Craigslist, offering bottle babies, or three-in-one packages of mom and two babies. Wow! my phone and email were on fire! I started meeting the potential owners on Saturday and sold all six to the first two buyers.

On February 26, I went out to el Rancho after work to check on Doll who was confined in the kidding pens with Oreo. To my surprise, Khaki, who was in the Middle Pastures with the does, was about to kid! I tried to sneak her out, but Big Momma barged through with her kids, too. While I was trying to sort things out, Dan, my knight in denim, showed up and helped get goats where they belonged, brought loads of hay to everyone, and delivered about 15 gallons of water to the kidding pen.

Khaki took a while getting ready and finally lay down -- not in the hay-filled goat hut I had prepared, but in the middle of the round pen! Eventually, I saw a hoof, a big hoof, and realized the other leg was malpositioned. Going in, I was able to push the baby back and pull the other leg forward. Wow, two big hooves. Big kid with a big head. Good thing I was there because it took me gently pulling and Khaki mightily pushing to bring that ten pounder into the world. Twenty minutes later, his seven and a half pound sister slid into the world uneventfully. photo da13bd26-2e12-4ef3-8a9a-da3ddd07e113_zps24131aa0.jpg

Khaki stepped up as a great mom, cleaning up the kids, making sure they nursed and cuddling up in the hut. The next day, the two kids were bouncing and charming...

On Saturday, DoubleStuff and her boys were picked up by their new owners while I was out-of-town for work. And Doll? Well, maybe she's waiting for the caprine midwife (me) to come home. Or perhaps she just wanted some pampering!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Boil, you darn kettle!

Well, the maternity ward at Asno Blanco is full. Today, Double stuff started zoning into nanny hood. She's usually pretty elusive, but today allowed me to walk up and give her all manner of pets and hugs. She's locked into the round pen with her own goat hut, food and water.

I really thought that Khaki would kid a couple of weeks ago, and now Doll and Belle are boasting huge udders. Sigh.

So, they may all kid at the same time, which has some advantages. The donkeys seem ready for goat tending duties and I trust them with the little ones.
 photo 49ebfce3-22ec-4ec7-952a-480bad619af2_zps23ca6c00.jpg
Right now, this is the youngest goat, sharing some chow with the Jenny's. Soon, after the kettle boils, we will have younger kids!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Intermittant Kidding, wethers on the way

The last month has been busy. Immediately after my last post, I ordered business cards online. A lot goes into the look and feel of a card--- color, fonts, placement, graphics and information. I used a cute little pic of After-You as my good luck charm.

Sadly, a few days after I sold him, he died of quick-acting pnuemonia. As a rancher, I know that animals will die, but it was a bit hard anyway. He was too young for a pneumonia vaccine, but I'll always wonder if there was something I missed. He was a cute little fellow and I'm glad he's on the front of our cards.

Jupiter and Sister have been growing at a prodigious rate. I can barely pick that buckling up! He is a lot more social than the doeling. If you enter his pasture, he will run up to be picked up. A true goat puppy, gently pawing at your feet to remind you that he is there. He's definitely the 'adventure' goat so far, curious and fearless. He's got a protective streak as well, guarding Sister when she wants to nap. She's more shy about getting picked up.

The donkeys are quite taken with the goat-puppies and provide good protection. Surprisingly, Fiona has turned out to be the donk most intrigued. When the kids are tired and lying down, she will hover nearby, keeping the grown goats away. I love watching her tiptoe over them, carefully placing her hooves on dirt, not fur. I've also watched delivered well-placed kicks to errant adult goats, reminding them of who is in charge.

So, last week I anticipated more kids from Khaki and the pygmies, Oreo and Doublestuff. As usual, I was wrong! But they are sure to kid this week while I'm gone. Maybe.

All three have good udders right now. Khaki is arranging the kids in their tight quarters, murmuring to them in nanny-speak. Oreo is wider than she is tall, and we might rename DoubleStuff to include a treble portion. Only time will tell. We have two pens set up for mommas and babies. I am hoping that the Cookie twins will bunk together, but you can never tell which does will be jealous or will steal kids.

I'm hoping to have a lot of bucklings v. doelings. I plan to keep the doelings from good mommas (mothering is a heritable trait), but sell all the wethers and other doelings. In March, Doll (multi-colored) and Belle (red) will deliver the first kids sired by Billy BA. He's currently relegated to the Triangle with Z1, ZeeZee, Fea and the wethers. That way, he won't bully the pregnant does or prevent them from eating feed. The three does with Billy should kid in May or June.

Then there's Freakazoid, the screaming La Mancha. She is pregnant and should kid by May. I hope the father is not Stupid.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Look! A baby goat!

The past two weeks have been pretty hectic. Big Momma has tried mightily to provide for three kids, but we ended up supplementing the smaller one with two bottles a day. Since we don't live at El Rancho (yet), we could either bring the baby home and let him stay in the backyard alone; bring a 'mini-herd' to the backyard, consisting of Big Momma, all three kids, and a wether; or leave the kid at the ranch and take the bottle to him. Since someone goes to the ranch most days, we elected to take bottles to the kid.

What a sweet buckling. Big Momma and the kids would line up at the gate, ready to move to another pasture where I was serving grain and milk. The buckling began to thrive and we began to look at our options again. On Thursday, luck sent a buyer our way, a woman whose teenage daughter wanted a pet-- either a pig or a goat! We talked on the phone and I realized that she was aware of thrice daily feedings for a while, when he would need shots, etc. She lives 30 miles away from College Station and the ranch is 30 miles beyond College Station, so we decided to meet up at Tractor Supply on Saturday.
"After You"-- sold!

Danny rode with me from the farm to TSC, holding the soft buckling in his lap. We parked next to the buyers and made introductions, including the goat. He was an instant hit, making cute baby goat noises and snuggling his new owners. While standing there, a woman walked over.

"Is that a baby goat?" she asked. "Is it for sale? Do you have more? Do you have a card?"

For a moment, I was speechless. Someone was approaching me, asking to buy a goat! I told her I was out of cards, but wrote down my number and email address, telling her I hoped to have more kids for sale soon, and what type of goat was she looking for? (Note to self--- print some business cards).

Today, the whole family went to the ranch to check on the critters and throw some hay. Dan moved a round bale closer to the Triangle Pasture and I noticed one of the pygmy does looked closer to kidding (well, maybe). Half-hearted attempts to catch her for a physical exam failed, but Danny and I are going out tomorrow to work on the Middle Pasture, so we'll check then.

On the way home, we called in an order for burgers at Koppe Bridge Bar & Grill. It was early for dinner and we were the only customers, so I struck up a conversation with the barmaid. Naturally, the talk turned to goats and I learned she wanted to buy a pygmy goat (!!).  Well, I says, I have two pygmy does, ready to pop within the next few weeks! I'm out of cards, but could I drop one off for you in a couple of days? (Second note-- Business Cards!)
Dubble-Stuft   a pregnant pygmy

So, a potential buyer lined up before the kids hit the ground. The Dans wanted to know how I knew the girl wanted a goat, how the conversation turned to goats, but my pathetic explanation didn't satisfy their curiosity. What can I say? It's the gift of gab.

The farm needs to turn a profit, and selling goats is how that happens. I can always take goats to a livestock auction, but the price is uncertain, but costs are low at $6 per goat plus gas. I can also sell goats as pets, or as 4H projects (wethers), or as breeding stock, or as cabrito. There is also a buckling market for Muslim holidays. I feel that I will find my niche, which will probably include two or three of the markets. Now, for those business cards...

Who's lookin'?