Category Archives: Educational

Searching for that 1%

My moose all opened up for cooling.

“What you’re looking for is 1% of a moose,” Dave said softly to me as we followed some fresh tracks in the snow, “You’re not going to see 99% of him.” Then slowly bringing his hand up through the air between us, he motioned delicately through the air as if caressing part of the woman he loves, whispering, “You’ll see a leg…”. That example clearly outlined, he shifted his body posture completely to prepare for the next example. He stood up tall, arched his neck and head the way a horse does just before it is going to strike out at you, and brought his hand to his face before placing his index finger down the length of his nose. “You’ll just see the tip of his nose…”, he growled, and his face loomed over me while his body squared off with mine in an aggressive stance. Maintaining that pose, he brought his other hand up to the side of his head, placed his thumb in his ear,  before extending his arm to its limit, whispered, “Or an antler,” and for a brief moment he was a moose. Then, softening, he turned and pointed at a patch of willow brush, his hand tracing a half moon through the air: “Or, you might just see his butt.”

There was a pause in the lesson. I could see he was lost in the memories of various hunting trips past where moments he’d just described had unfolded before him time and time again. This is what makes David a good teacher: not only is he a very experienced man, but also he has a minutely accurate recall of events, and uses them to punctuate his lessons. Suddenly back in the moment, he looked directly at me and his eyes drilled through my mind, riveting the moral of the lesson on the back of my brain: “What you’re not going to see is a whole moose.”

He couldn’t have been more wrong. But the point he was making will stay with me, as will this next lesson. It was the morning of the big day and he was revisiting things he’d said several times before. “I can’t stress this enough Kristeva,” he said. Then, he contextualized the lesson by footnoting the pedigree of this knowledge: “My dad always stressed this to me and so I’m going to stress it to you.” I was struck, once again, by the fact that Dave was referencing his father as he often did when teaching me something, and that his father (Clarence) often referenced to his own father also when teaching me something. This family is steeped in a tradition of oral teaching and thus, a lot of this knowledge must stretch back hundreds of years.

Like his father before him (and I suspect his father before him!), Dave never just says something with his mouth. Instead, his whole body has a role to play in the sharing of information. The more important he deems the information, the more body parts are engaged in the dictum. He leaned towards me and his right shoulder grazed my left one. “The hunt is not over until you’re back in camp,” and his hands became quad bikes moving along imaginary trails and parking in front of the cabin. “And your gun is hung up,” — hands, no longer quad bikes, were daintily gliding through the air as if hanging women’s lingerie rather than a gun-strap!

“I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it… you know, guys on their way back to camp…” his hands came up to squeeze down hard on the imaginary throttle before me, “buzzing home as fast as they can like the hunt is over… you know, just because they’ve turned back towards home.” The look of disgust washed across his face as he pointed to the imaginary hunting camp that ‘those guys’ were rushing back to. He was stressing how we should come home as slowly and attentively as we head out. He implored me regularly to be vigilant at all times, especially when entering a draw or coming up to a meadow. “You can’t move slow enough when hunting,” he insisted. He then went on to describe several different occasions where he’d seen moose, or deer, or whatever it was he was hunting at the time, on the way back to camp when he’d thought the day was over. “One time, I was here,” he said pointing to the meat pole hanging in front of the cabin, “butchering out a moose when I heard a shot go off, right there!” He  butchered and imaginary moose then turned to look towards where the shot had gone off. “I tell you Kristeva,” he  paused and laughed,  recalling the incident, “it scared the living daylights out of me that shot was so close… but I immediately knew it was dad.” His dad had been on his way back to camp on foot and, meters from the camp, seen a big buck deer standing on the other side of the cabin from where Dave was butchering. Dave’s smile disappeared and his stern look returned to his face: “And you know, he made his point.”

Pre-hunt lessons over, we struck out for the day — and it was a glorious one to boot. This was a nice change from the several days of the worst conditions Dave had ever seen in his 42 years of hunting in the area! Yes, I even braved those days (though more for the experience of driving the quad than looking for moose). “The animals will all holed up in this weather,” Dave yelled over the incessant drone of the rain, “But we can break trail!” And break trail we did. For two days solid we climbed hills and plunged through meadows and even very nearly got stuck in a bog that should have been iced over by this time of year. That was the first time I’d ever seen a mole. Dave was ahead of me as we came to the bog. I watched with horror as he entered the meadow ahead of me and his bike broke through the ice before beginning to sink. He increased his throttle until his tires spun and the bike lurched forward out of danger, but as the tires spun, they spat a wee mole out of its shelter and onto the ice. I watched, fascinated, as it scurried across the path in front of me and disappeared a few meters away into another one of its snow-covered tunnels. Though it was not all that cold, the heavy rain and sleet made the going tough. On those days in particular, it was nice to see the smoke from the cabin billowing up to the sky as we crept our way back home. Today was a different story.

Though today was glorious, we were still breaking trail. While we made our way from the cabin at our usual ‘top speed’, me in the lead, I was mindful of all that he had taught me. “I see you’re practicing,” he said, maneuvering his quad beside mine. He smiled as he reached into his breast pocket for his tobacco before rolling a cigarette. Wherever we stopped, impromptu wilderness classrooms were erected and his stories enlivened each new lesson — his smoke breaks became signals that class was in session! This time, instead of waiting to hear what he had to tell me, I took the opportunity to get an answer to a tiny detail from one of his stories that had caught my attention but had  gone unanswered, until now.

“Last year, you told me that when you shoot a moose you always wait for twenty minutes before going after him… Why?”

“Oh, OK. You need to know this.”

He paused, finished rolling the cigarette, lit it, and took one long drag before answering. “If you take off after a moose once you’ve shot it… you’ll be running for miles.” He took another drag on his cigarette and the smoke billowed up around his face as he completed the lesson through his exhalation. “But if you wait…” he said matter-of-factly, “he’ll just go over there and lay down and not get up again.”

One of the bikes started to act up so we headed home a bit early so Dave could take a look at it. I made a sandwich while he fiddled with the bike. “I wanna go out and just give it a test drive before tomorrow,” he said, pointing towards my bike and gesturing that I should ‘start it up’. There was still a lot of hunting time left in the day and he was sure to emphasize that detail before we left. We headed out on the trail we’d been on earlier. “This trail is dated now,” he explained, referring to the fact that we knew when it was cut and that there had been no tracks on it at that time. So, if we cut tracks now, we’d know they were fresh. The bike was running smoothly and it was now time to head home. I took the lead again and puttered quietly along the meadow looking from side to side for that 1% of a moose. My eyes scanned the foreground and plumbed the depths of the forest, but encountered nothing.

We were getting close to camp again and I could feel disappointment rising. Trying to lift my spirits, I reminded myself of David’s lesson to me that was passed down from his father to him, “The hunt is not over until it is over.” I kept repeating it to myself as we crept our way homeward. One might say that the mantra paid off, because as I turned a corner and inched into an open meadow, suddenly, there it was — 99% of a moose. Jesus God, there he is! I got off the quad quickly and quietly, and kept myself small beside the bike hoping the moose wouldn’t notice any change.  He’d obviously not been spooked by the sound of the approaching bike. I reached into my pocket and got two cartridges out and loaded them into my gun. I winced as they clicked into place worried that the unnatural noise might spook the moose (Dave had warned me about that too). The sound of my bolt action got his attention and his head came up from the willow brush he been ruminating over, but it was too late. Now on one knee with the moose’s chest in my sights, I pulled the trigger. The moose flinched, but I wasn’t sure if it was from the sound of the gun or if I’d actually gotten him. “Again!” Dave directed, bringing me back to the task at hand. I reloaded, aimed at the now moving target and fired. This time he stumbled and it was obvious he’d been shot. He disappeared into the bush and it was all I could to not to take off running after him. “You did it hun!” Dave cheered as he grabbed me up into a bear hug before kissing the side of my hat-covered forehead. “Isn’t this exciting?” Indeed it was.

Not one to let an opportunity to prove a point, Dave held forth while waiting out the requisite twenty minutes before tracking him down. “Well, this didn’t quite go as I said it would… but I was right about one thing,” he said, and reached into his pocket for his tobacco pouch: “I told you that you wouldn’t see a whole moose.” Before proceeding with the explanation, he opened up a zig-zag rolling paper and stuffed it full of his tobacco. “Well you didn’t,” he continued, pausing to bring the rolling paper to his lips then lick and seal it. He stuck the freshly made cigarette into the corner of his mouth and held it there with the side of his lips, setting the stage: “You only saw 99% of the moose,” he declared, taking a deep drag on his smoke and savoring both the moment and the smokey flavour. Then, eyes twinkling, he stuck one leg out and pointed at his boot: “His toes were buried in the snow.”

15 Comments

Filed under Animal issues, Educational, Hunting, Moose, personal food sovereignty, Wild game

Hunting lesson one: the ‘possibles’ bag

My pretty in pink possibles bag with my hand-me-down ammo pack and buck knife.

My pretty in pink possibles bag with my hand-me-down ammo pack and buck knife.

Today I went to my hunting partner’s place to catch up over coffee. He and his wife have been away with other friends and family for over a month on a hunt that took them way up north. Their trip was highly successful so when I arrived  in their kitchen today there was not a lot of time to stop for chatting and catching up; they were in full production mode dismantling several massive parts of a moose. It was all laid out on their table in large pieces ready for processing. “Is that the last of it?” I asked, wondering how much longer they would be working at this. “No. That’s just one hind quarter. The rest is still outside.” It was more meat than I’d ever seen sitting in one area. “We still have part of a goat and a sheep to process too.”

One end of the table held an electric meat grinder that was working full time and the other end of the table was the cutting, packing, wrapping station. Somewhere in the middle his grandson was cutting stewing meat and his wife was managing to take the stewing meat, place it in glass jars and pressure can it nearly as fast as they could produce it.  I could see that they were probably going to be at this for the rest of the day and night and offered to stay and help but they declined the offer. I was about to be dispatched on another errand.

Watching these people in action reminded me that the hard part in hunting is not necessarily the actual hunt. Once the animal is dead on the ground is actually when the work begins! “We stayed and helped my daughter cut up her moose but I felt badly because we only helped for one day.” He explained that it would have taken another whole day of several of them working together to finish the job but that was time they couldn’t afford to spend. “I’m supposed to be in too many places at once and I feel like I’m letting everyone down,” he confessed, letting me know he felt badly that we weren’t already out on my hunt (my hunt officially started last week but they couldn’t get back in time).

We talked about the hunt they’d just been on, got caught up on each others’ news, and I tentatively asked if they thought they would have time to do some hunting with me before my tag ran out. “Oh, we’ll be ready to go tomorrow morning.” I felt my mouth gape as I starred out at the sea of flesh before them. Then my mind whirred to little effect as I wondered if I’d be ready to go tomorrow morning. He began to make arrangements for my hunt: “Do you have your LEH?” Check. “Have you got your gun sighted in?” Check. “Do you have ammo?” Check.

So far so good. “Do you have your possibles bag ready?” No. I watched as the grinder came to a halt and production ground to a halt. Having been hunting with them before I knew what this meant but also knew I didn’t have all items that were needed. “OK. Hun,” he said turning to his wife, “Kristeva’s going to need a few things from our packs.” He began listing off the items that would become my ‘possibles’: a decent length of parachute cord, neon pink flagging tape, mag-light flashlight with the battery turned backwards, extra batteries, extra light-bulb, a Bic lighter, two Snickers bars, extra ammunition, a Gerber Exchange-A-Blade Saw with two blades (one for cutting firewood the other for cutting through moose bone), a compass, a scalpel with #22 blades, extra blades, fire starter sticks, and of course, last but not least, my LEH moose tag and hunting license. I wrote down the items that I either had already or would need to buy and his wife rummaged through their gear for the certain specialty items that they would not be caught without but that I wouldn’t be able to buy today, like parachute cord.

“You can ditch your day-pack but you never go anywhere without your possibles bag,” my friend insisted, practically glaring at me through narrowed eyelids as if I’d already committed this hunting faux pas. The possibles bag goes inside my day pack which has all sorts of other necessary goodies. The possibles bag will equipe me–theoretically at least–to be able to deal with ‘anything possible’.

The ‘possibles’ were laid out on the bench for me next to their ‘possibles ‘bags, which were all very utilitarian in color: black, brown, cammo, and dark green. Then my friend headed upstairs to find me my very own possibles bag. “I’m sorry hun, but it’s the only one I have left,” she said quite apologetically as she handed me a pretty little calico pink draw-string bag with little red and blue shooting stars all over it.

I stifled a laugh and said nothing. I was charmed by the metaphor but knew it would be lost on my utilitarian friends (they’re just not that kind of people). I smiled as I accepted my possibles bag and thought, ‘If tiny shooting stars streaking their way across cotton candy pink doesn’t conjure up images of all in life that is possible,’ I don’t know what will!

7 Comments

Filed under Educational, Hunting

City mouse acquires country mouse skills

My first attempts at knowledge transfer

Tami and I pick out the first roosters to be dispatched.

Tami and I pick out the first roosters to be dispatched.

City mouse met country mouse recently over a chicken carcass here at Howling Duck Ranch. I have a city friend who, inspired by my posts about slaughtering turkeys and chickens humanely, was keen to come up for a visit and learn something about taking control of his own food source. He brought his four year old daughter Meah along, and his partner Tami. As we discussed the planned cull, Virgil recalled the scene in Lonesome Dove (the great TV western which I recommend to all my friends and visitors) where Clara’s two girls announce the arrival of visitors to their lonely ranch and blithely ask, ‘Can I kill a pullet for dinner, mama?’ As he relayed the story to me he concluded, “If a ten year old little girl can be excited by it, a 30 yr old man oughta be able to do it, too!”

The day of the slaughter of my meat birds dawned and I got up early, as you have to when there’s so much preparing before and cleaning up after. It was after I’d got the gas heating the water barrel, and were about to select our first two roosters, that Virgil and Tami emerged warily from the house. Virgil walked over with confidence but Tami approached the turkey barn verandah with apparent hesitance. I checked in with them that they really wanted to do this and they both nodded. Tami and I went first to the barn to pick out the first victims. I showed her how to catch a chicken which she mastered adeptly.

Once back outside, I promptly demonstrated the technique of knocking out the bird by whacking its head against something hard, in my case it is a saw-horse, to render the bird unconscious before slitting the jugular. It makes for a more humane dispatch.

Virgil's first attempts at using the chicken plucker.

Virgil's first attempts at using the chicken plucker.

Virgil was keen to try, and quickly mastered the art of swinging the bird overhead but controlling the wings and legs so as to not break any bones unnecessarily as you do this. He was an equally quick student of slitting the jugular and showed no revulsion at doing so. At the sight of running blood Tami excused herself. I later learned that she went back to the house and tried to keep from fainting; a confirmed city slicker would have stayed there, but—to her credit—she overcame her squeamishness and reappeared to help us. “That’s why my tatoo says ‘Mind over matter'” she explained when I told her how impressed with her determination I was.

Showing Tami how to gut and dress the chickens.

Showing Tami how to gut and dress the chickens. The scalder was not hot enough on the first bird so we ended up having to do a bit more hand plucking before gutting the bird.

Meah, Virgil’s not-quite-four-year-old daughter, wisely raised with no illusions or squeamishness about where her food really comes from, was simply thrilled that she was looking at tonight’s dinner. She watched keenly as I demonstrated how to scald, feather-pluck, and gut and dress the birds. She prattled on asking her dad if we were going to eat the chickens for dinner. It was all the more disappointing for little Meah when we realized that by the time the bird was roasted that night, she should be asleep. We promised her cold cuts the next day as Virgil put her to bed.

While dressing out the chickens, Tami showed her knowledge of veterinary assistant work by examining the organs and explaining how they looked healthy and why. In one instance, she was able to show me lesions on the gizzard, possibly due to the bird having eaten something sharp (I have found a nail inside the crop of a turkey).

That evening, over glasses of wine, we honoured our meal, commented on its delicate flavour, and analysed the day’s emotions. Both our visitors felt ready, both in the knowledge and emotions departments, to slaughter their own birds in future.

9 Comments

Filed under Butchering, Chickens, Educational, How to...

Goat butchering day: a graphic photo documentary

Warning: This post contains graphic photos of the butchering process. Do not read any further unless you are genuinely interested in learning how to butcher animals.

Leading Sundown to her meeting with her maker.

Leading Sundown to her meeting with her maker.

Well, I had thought I would have to wait until hunting season was over in order to muster the courage to do in one of my goats; but after butchering the rest of my ‘Jenny Craig’ Cornish Crosses (25) and all of my turkeys (32) this week, I found I was in the mood to keep going. My friend Clarence called last night to see if I wanted to go for breakfast this morning, “A pick up and delivery,” he said, letting me know he would do the driving.  He took me for pancakes at the local diner, and over breakfast we talked about various things, the upcoming moose hunt being one. “You know, I saw a big bull moose on Wednesday on my way home from Williams Lake. He crossed the road in front of me right there at Louis Creek,” hands moving out in front of himself from left to right, “and he had your initials on his ear, my dear.”

While on the subject of meat, I asked him if he’d help me butcher one of my goats,”Why sure. Any time. When do you want to do it?” “Today, after breakfast.” He said he had a few things to attend to first but that he’d be back later in the afternoon. When he dropped me off he called out, “I’ll be back at 2pm to help you out, OK!”

When I asked him if he would mind helping, I imagined that he would do the actual killing part; after all, that was the part that I thought I would have the trouble with. However, when he arrived there was no discussion about whether or not I’d be doing the shooting. “OK my dear, place the bullet right here,” he gestured with his left finger-tip-less hand to her forehead. “You only need one cartridge to do it right and she’ll go down, just-like-that.”

I was surprised by my own matter-of-factness. After all, I’d named and tended to Sundown for nearly five years. But my only concern was that I shoot her well so she wouldn’t suffer–I certainly didn’t want to have to shoot her twice or, god forbid, a few times. She was pretty calm  as I led her to the ‘gallows tree’ but every now and then kicked against the rope that held her. I was a bit concerned that she would kick up a fuss just as I was about to shoot so I got in close, took aim quickly and fired. She went down instantly, “That’s it. It’s all over.” Before I really registered that I’d done it, Clarence was already slitting her throat and she was bleeding out.

We went to work on skinning her front side before hanging her from the tree so we could spill the entrails. He talked me through most of the work–I like that about Clarence: he doesn’t take over and do the job for you. Rather, as a good teacher and mentor he’s happy to watch over his apprentice and even endure a few mistakes. “Oh my, she is fat… I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much fat on an animal I’ve butchered before!” he said, cutting through the beautiful white lard that was between her body and her skin. Indeed she was fat–too fat. I’d been feeding the nursing goats a lot more in order to keep their weight on, and the other goats were clearly taking advantage of the extra grains, hay and forage.

Once we had the goat butchered out, I sawed her in half and split her into two sides until she looked like two minuscule sides of beef. Clarence helped me rinse her off and bag her up, before he left. I then put her in the truck and drove her to the local butcher for hanging. On the way in to the store, I barely got a second look. On the way out, however, I stopped to talk to a friend then as I went to leave a stranger nodded politely at me. “After you,” he said gently motioning to the doorway, looking me up and down, “A bag of blood in your hand, and blood spatter on your pants… I’d hate to think what happened to the guy that cut you off!”

Step one: shoot the goat in the forehead. If you do not know how to do this, or do not have a good understanding of the animal’s anatomy, then get someone experienced to help you. This should be a clean kill so the animal does not suffer needlessly. Although this was my first time, I had Clarence watching over me as I did this. Also, I now have a lot of animal butchering experience and know exactly where to place the bullet.

Get close to the goat with the gun so you don't miss in the event she moves.

Get close to the goat with the gun so you don't miss in the event she moves.

Step two: slit throat being sure to cut through both jugular veins so it bleeds well and completely.

Be sure to slice through both jugular veins on either side of the windpipe to get a good bleed.

Be sure to slice through both jugular veins on either side of the windpipe to get a good bleed.

Step three: slit skin from ankle to anus on either back leg and then slit the skin up the belly to the neck. Begin to skin the goat separating the skin from the meat.

Make a cut through the skin from the ankle to the anus on both hind legs.

Make a cut through the skin from the ankle to the anus on both hind legs.

Carefully separate the skin from the animal leaving the meat with the carcass.

Carefully separate the skin from the animal leaving the meat with the carcass.

Step four: When the skin is off the front of the body, make two cuts in the ankle between the tendon and the bone with your knife. These holes are for slipping a rope through in order to hang the goat. Hang the goat high enough to continue working comfortably.

Cut hole between the tendon and bone of each hind leg then slip a rope through for hanging.

Cut hole between the tendon and bone of each hind leg then slip a rope through for hanging.

Rope threaded through legs for hanging.

Rope threaded through legs for hanging.

Step five: Finish skinning the goat completely and cut the head off the goat.

Once the skin is completely off the animal, you can sever the head away from the carcass.

Once the skin is completely off the animal, you can sever the head away from the carcass.

With a knife or meat saw, remove the head once you get the animal completely skinned.

With a knife or meat saw, remove the head once you get the animal completely skinned.

Step six: Cut the belly open carefully making sure not to cut the intestines. You want to just cut through the skin. When you get to the breast bone you will need a meat saw to finish cutting to the neck.

Carefully cut open the belly of the goat being diligent about not cutting any of the innards.

Carefully cut open the belly of the goat being diligent about not cutting any of the innards.

Step six: Begin to let some of the contents fall out of your way. Take the meat saw and cut through the pelvis. Grab a hold of the rectum with one hand and cut the anus away from the inside of the goat. Do not cut the intestine or rectum! Let the contents spill out of the cavity.

Open the belly up completely being careful not to let the innards begin to fall as the rectum will rip and spill fecal contents throughout the belly cavity.

Open the belly up completely being careful not to let the innards begin to fall as the rectum will rip and spill fecal contents throughout the belly cavity.

With a meat saw (or in my case my knife) cut through the breast bone right up to the neck.

With a meat saw (or in my case my knife) cut through the breast bone right up to the neck.

Cut through the pubic bone and around the anus so it can come free as you pull out the rectum along with the innards.

Cut through the pubic bone and around the anus so it can come free as you pull out the rectum along with the innards.

Step seven: Save the heart and liver. Cut the heart open and bleed it. Wash the liver and heart well and put in cold water until you can refrigerate them.

Cut open the heart and rinse the blood out of it.

Cut open the heart and rinse the blood out of it.

Step eight: Cut the esophagus and trachea away from the neck and throat area.

Esophagus and trachea removal.

Esophagus and trachea removal.

Goat carcass cut into two sides. We are not cutting off the extra fat before taking the meat to the butcher for hanging.

Goat carcass cut into two sides. We are not cutting off the extra fat before taking the meat to the butcher for hanging.

Step nine: With the meat saw, cut the carcass in half from tail to tip. You now have two sides of goat ready for hanging in a meat cooler. Wash them with clean water and hang for several days to cure.

As for how I’ll cook it? I’ll likely follow one of these tasty suggestions from Phelan of a Homesteading Neophyte!

80 Comments

Filed under Butchering, Educational, Food Security, How to..., personal food sovereignty

What’s behind door number two

My new home made barn door!

My new home made barn door!

My red barn which we built five years ago was to have three sliding doors for its three openings, all hanging from the same rail. However, so cute was the final product and so perfect its lines that we felt a rail would spoil the façade; besides, it’s nice to look across from the house and see the hay bales inside the middle opening.

The right hand side was soon filled by a door fortuitously found at the local dump, to contain the goats at night when I decided, after confronting as cougar on our driveway, that they should perhaps have a dormitory for the danger hours, at least.

The third, left hand space served as a garden tool shed until we decided this spring to try goat milking. I ordered a machine, and we built a stanchion inside that room. All it lacked was a door, and now as the chance to have what I had always desired: a barn door made of planks with a ‘z’ support.

Mechanism for hanging the door.

Mechanism for hanging the door.

The project was the more fun because my friend Dave agreed to teach me how to do it properly, just as soon as we were finished clearing the front forty. So it was that as the first of our summer’s heat waves subsided and the last goat fence post was planted and nailed up, that we decamped to the front lawn and awaited Dave, his wife Judy, his home-milled cedar planks, and his tools.

Dave is an exemplary tool-man. Not only does he have one for every job (and I mean every job: he has eight skill-saws, each with different blades and angles, so that he never has to alter one of them), but he also maintains his tools in perfect condition, whiling away the hours after his 15 hour days labouring, with cleaning their motors and sharpening their blades. So he literally “set up shop” for this operation, with power cords and extension leads festooning the ground. He had carefully (and lovingly) selected the best, driest cedar from his drying room for this job. He had thought to use hinges, but when I produced the remaining two meter length of barn door steel railing (left over from my brainwave utilization of the majority of the rail on the new turkey barn), he was delighted. Now he could make the door a respectable width, rather than the cramped door opening of our red barn.

I'm tightening the bolts on the barn door.

I'm tightening the bolts from underneath on the barn door.

As always, Dave was an excellent teacher. When I asked why he didn’t find my requests to learn these ‘manly’ jobs odd, he replied that his parents had raised him and his eight siblings totally alike, “All of us peeled carrots and chopped and stacked wood.” Jobs were there to be done, and a son or daughter should both be equal to the task.

We spend almost a day planing those boards smooth, using various sanders and progressively finer papers. You have to be careful with cedar that you don’t start tearing the fibers away, so sanding with the grain is a must. To make sure the planks didn’t shift or warp, Dave taught me to use his router to make grooves along the edge of each plank to accept a one inch plywood cookie which would dovetail into the next plank’s groove. We glued all this together for extra strength and snugness, then bolted on the beloved ‘Z’ reinforcing frame.

The rail and pulleys took some adjusting until the door was the right distance from the concrete and from the barn wall, and even Dave learnt something when he decided to grind off the ends of the bolts after we had sanded the door—which left an iron filing grey cloud around each bolt, staining the wood. More sanding and a cedar stain covered everything up. Now we have an easily opening barn door, just right for maneuvering a recalcitrant milking goat from pen to stanchion!

5 Comments

Filed under Developing Community, Educational, How to...

Motherhood-it’s not for everyone

Last week we were lucky enough to find reliable farm-sitters and sneak away to my brother’s wedding near Vancouver. This was not an easy task thanks to the fires in our area. We had planned on driving out but when we got to the bottom of ‘The Hill’ the officials were there just closing the road and bringing the pilot car off the mountain. “I could feel the heat from the fire right through the truck!” exclaimed one of the men, looking thrilled to be out of harm’s way.

Under normal circumstances this would not be a problem. If I lived near a city where there were lots of flights to choose from, and normal sized planes that hold a decent number of people, I would not have begun to panic during the hour long return drive home down the valley. But in Bella Coola getting a last minute seat on a flight is not always guaranteed! Here, when they use the ‘big’ plane it holds 19 passengers. Furthermore, although we have a scheduled flight every day, there is no guarantee the plane will get in. Often it is canceled due to heavy clouds, and in this case, I was worried that the smoke beginning to billow off the mountainsides might make it impossible to land. Nevertheless, I refused to believe that I might not make it to my brother’s wedding.

Thankfully, the stars were aligned, we got seats on the flight to Vancouver and managed to arrive in the nick of time (I was part of the wedding party!). That was the good news. The bad news was I didn’t get to stay long and visit anyone after the wedding: a check-in call to our farm-minders  brought news of evacuation alerts, so we had to get on the plane and come back home right away, thanks to the threat of the fires.

During our three days away our farm-sitters noticed that Shiraz was no longer feeding one of her kids. They were observant enough not only to notice this new behaviour from her but also to take control and hold her while the little one fed–the mark of dependability in a babysitter! Now that we are back, things have gotten worse and she is barely feeding any of them.

Goat breeding: If only I’d read the fine print

While researching the reasons why a doe might reject her kids, I came across this site which describes my experience with Shiraz to a T!

Many new producers do not know what to expect from their stock, and some are very unhappy when they discover that goats are not always the easiest animals to manage.

In light of my experience with her thus far (see Oh what a night), I would say that Shiraz qualifies as having achieved ‘not the easiest to manage’ status. The difference between Shiraz and my other mother Fatty-Fat is extreme, and this is the kind of experience the above article describes. My experience is particularly marked in that I only have the two goats, so I don’t have the 10-15% of my herd with this dysfunctional behaviour as the article suggests may be the case, and what producers should allow for. Instead, I have a 50% problem! Thankfully, this translates to only one goat and three kids to care for–I don’t know what I’d do if it were several goats and a full nursery! Perhaps I should have done some more research before launching into goat breeding! The next paragraph in the article unfolds as if reading my thoughts:

The majority of new producers receive a big reality check when their first kidding season arrives if they have not done their research and adjusted their expectations accordingly.

You don’t say. I’m not really sure what I expected, so I don’t really have many expectation adjustments to work through. I do, however, have to figure out how to get these kids fed! I thought it would be easiest if I could trundle down to the local veterinarian’s office (if I had one, that is!) and get milk replacement and a milker/feeder type thing and take over the job myself. This article doesn’t support my wishful thinking:

Some people bottle feed, but I don’t recommend this… I have also had big problems with the milk replacer actually killing the kids. It causes a high percentage of the kids (over 50% in my experience) to develop ulcers which eventually rupture killing the kid.

As luck would have it the vet was going to come the 458 kilometers into town this weekend and I was considering asking her to bring some milk replacer, but thanks to the fires she’s had to cancel her trip! Now out of options, I’ve taken to holding Shiraz between three and four times per day in order to let the little fellows feed: basically whenever I hear them crying.

The key to maintaining some control over her is to hold her tail, this way she is less likely to sit down to evade her kids.

The key to maintaining some control over her is to hold her tail, this way she is less likely to sit down to evade her kids.

This is not an easy task; as you can see, Shiraz is a strong goat! She is also a smart goat and has all sorts of tricks she pulls in order to evade her milking duties. One of the most effective is to sit down while I’m holding her. This is very effective and difficult for me to oppose. I have found that by grabbing hold of her tail she is far less likely to try this one on. Keeping ahead of her is a monumental task. Not only that; it is taking a huge amount of my time. I hold her for about a 1/2 hour each session in order to let all three feed to their tummies’ contentment.

One satisfied, full bellied kid.

One satisfied, full bellied kid.

I’m hoping she will once again accept her kids, though I’m alarmed at how long the article suggests this may take:

Does that are intent on killing the rejected kid(s) require more drastic measures. I generally put a halter on them a couple of times a day and tie them to the fence so their kids can eat. Usually they will eventually accept the kids, but it may take a month or more before they do. You will have to decide whether the time involved is worth it.

Of course the one kid she is rejecting outright is my favourite, Sinbad. So it’s worth it! Oddly, he is the biggest and was her first born. I have checked her bag to make sure it is soft and pliable and giving milk, and there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with any of the kids which can be a reason the doe will reject one or more. When I do hold her and they feed, they do so willingly and with gusto complete with satisfying sound effects, and until satiated. I thought perhaps she feels she doesn’t have enough milk for three. At first I was alarmed with both her and Fatty as they began to lose weight during the first few days after kidding. Again, I checked with my doctor friend who said that this is certainly normal with nursing women. I upped their feed rations and within days brought their weight loss to a halt. Shiraz seems to be holding condition nicely and has a full, heavy bag.

Performing acu-pressure on Shiraz helps her calm down.

Performing acu-pressure on Shiraz helps her calm down.

One of the many things I’ve learned through working with my horse is about horses stress and how to relieve it through acu-pressure points. While I’m holding Shiraz, I use the acu-pressure point just below her nose in order to help calm her down. In horses, this point is the locus of an endorphin release. I have used it on myself and know that it works for humans, therefore, I presume that it will also work for Shiraz. Much to my relief it seems to have some effect.

After some light acu-pressure Shiraz relaxes enough for me to stand up and take only a light grip on her while her kids continue to feed.

After some light acu-pressure Shiraz relaxes enough for me to stand up and take only a light grip on her while her kids continue to feed.

While contemplating my predicament, I have been considering my next year’s breeding program and my diminutive scale farm, and wondering who I should cull. Sundown didn’t get pregnant at all this year so she is on the list of possibles because she may be sterile, though of course this is not for certain. Thanks to Shiraz’s insistence on maintaining the ‘not the easiest to manage’ status, she too has made the list. There is no way I can do all this again with Shiraz if this is the way she’s going to behave each pregnancy, although, much to my chagrin, according to the article this is not usually the case:

In my own operation 10-15% of the does that kid in a year decide to reject at least one of their kids, and the does that did so this year are not the same does that pulled that stunt last year.

My doctor friend and her doctor husband dropped in yesterday to see the farm and I relayed the story to them. He said that he’d had a dog that ate all her pups many years ago and they found out later that it was due to a vitamin deficiency; he suggested this may be the problem with Shiraz. I too had wondered about this but had dismissed the idea because of the conditions in which I’m raising them: she has sweet feed two or three times per day, access to good hay, a mineral lick, free access to a free-form mineral powder suggested to me by the vet, and all the good clean native forest browse she could ever possibly dream of having. These goats are in fact actually quite spoiled.

Upon hearing this, my other doctor friend said that it may be an absorption problem and/or simply a lack of calcium due to the heavy demand that bringing up three kids has on her body, so she suggested that I get some calcium supplements and see what happens. When I asked if I should get liquid calcium she turned to me and laughed: “Just get Tums and crush it in her morning grain.” This doctor friend really should have been a vet! This morning, following my Goat-Doctor’s advice, I got the peppermint flavoured Tums out. Before I had a chance to crush the tablet into her food dish Shiraz snarfed it out of my hand, scoffed it down in seconds flat and immediately snuffled around for more. Either she really likes peppermint flavour or she realizes this is what she is missing. In light of the fact that none of my goats will touch the mint in my garden, I’m suspecting it is the latter!

My guess is that my doctor friend is correct, that having three kids makes her more susceptible to this deficiency than Fatty-Fat who is happy in her new role as mama-goat to twins. I’ll keep up with the calcium tablets, reinstate the morning molasses tea and see if this makes a difference. If anyone has other suggestions, I would welcome them!

…As I write this I reflect that in this whole process I am measuring my own situation. I sympathise with Shiraz. I never wanted children and chose not to have them. When we husband animals we take away their right to choose. After going through this with her I wonder if she too would have chosen not to have kids if she had her druthers!

23 Comments

Filed under Animal issues, Educational, Goats, How to..., Learning to Farm, milking goats

The bloggers’ half-marathon

I began my blog because I complained to a friend that there weren’t enough hours in the day to develop my subsistence lifestyle and to document this for a book as well. She suggested starting my blog, because I could note things down as they happened, accumulating material and in point form to jog my memory for later creativity, and if there was ever a dull moment I  could expatiate at length without worrying about whether the material would fit into my next book. In essence, my blog would be my field notebook (I’m an anthropologist by training, after all). It didn’t really occur to me that strangers could peer over my shoulder, let alone ingratiate themselves into my world and my life through this medium.

But those strangers have turned into sources of inspiration and information, a support group in times of need, advisers, my community (because I don’t actually talk over my fence to my neighbour here about my livelihood, nor does anyone in today’s world, it seems)–and now you, once strangers, are my friends. Our global separation evaporates in virtual space and we come together with our common interests, concerns and passions. I am more than 450 kilometers from the nearest stop light (let alone the nearest Tim Horton’s do-nuts, Dairy Queen, or veterinarian), so this blog has filled the vacuum of expertise around my geographical situation. Early on in all this, I wrote a post called “Conscious, conscientious decision-making” and suddenly I discovered that a fellow traveller ‘Stonehead’, somewhere in Scotland, had “pinged” me, i.e. referenced the post on his own blog.

When I needed goat advice, I got it from one of the top goat veterinarians in the United Kingdom thanks to the efforts and links of Little Ffarm Dairy; when I needed reassurance about my pregnant goats, I got it from a couple of different folks ‘somewhere’ in the United States. Moreover, nobody was patronizing or dismissive. Every response to my blog validated my experience.

As a result, I feel confident to try things; my network of virtual friends and advisers is there to support me. If something goes wrong or I need a question answered, I now have a community of people I can turn to and rely upon. For example, when I read Stonehead’s post “How to Skin a Rabbit” I was validated and informed about the messy business of slaughtering one’s own stock; I also learned about the sometimes virulent response to such declarations from the world at large. When I emulated Stonehead with my own post on how to slaughter turkeys, I was apprehensive about negative responses (death threats, even!); but I forged ahead, because I knew that this information was at that time non-existent in the virtual world, and would be useful as well. In fact, when I came to butcher my own turkeys rather than those of my mentor whom I had described in that post, I found myself resorting to my own post to refresh my memory about the procedure! I’m happy to say that my post was received with gratitude, and today it remains my most popular (my host site gives me that information, too!).

Soon afterwards, I was invited to be a regular writer for another blog Not Dabbling in Normal, one which I had admired from afar. And so it goes…

Then there’s my audience, those of you who check in to see what’s going down at Howling Duck Ranch, perhaps wanting (as a Vancouver friend put it) to live the ‘good life’ vicariously. This audience has gained in numbers steadily over the past ten months of my evolving blog. I know this because my host, WordPress, gives me detailed data. I remember being excited the first time I had a hundred ‘hits’ in  a day. I would analyse their origins, and be excited as the circle of interest expanded from North America to the world: for example, I named one of my goats after a favourite wine, the ‘Shiraz’, then learned from an Iranian that it’s the name of his home town there (I got an invitation to visit!). Now, when I hear news about strife in Iran, I’m concerned for that friend!

This may sound rather adventitious, and I suppose to a degree it is. But maybe it’s because I’m concerned with husbanding the Earth and extracting a subsistence from it that I do feel a genuine kinship with others around our small planet who are attempting to do the same. And I know that your shared interest is what has brought you to my blog.

Why am I waxing so philosophical? Well, July 2009 has yielded 5,000 hits; my biggest month to date. My host site generates all this kind of data, and it becomes quite absorbing reading! Anyway, that’s a milestone, I reckon. I don’t have a name for it–the Demi-Mille, the Blogger’s First Step, the half-Marathon Month–but I feel elated, and grateful. I look forward to expanding my virtual circle. My background is working in community development, and here I am, realizing that I am participating in developing and sustain the community of subsistence lifestylers into which I have been so warmly welcomed. As I hit “Publish” I wonder with excitement what will happen next.

9 Comments

Filed under Developing Community, Educational, Just for fun

Oh what a night

Only minutes old, Shiraz begins to clean her kids.

Only minutes old, Shiraz begins to clean her kids.

Shiraz woke me up last night at 1:30 am screaming bloody murder. Nothing like a goat in distress to get your heart pumping in the wee hours of the morning. I ran out to the barn to see what was the matter only to see her laying in the hay, eyes ablaze, and a baby goat head sticking out of her back end. When I opened the door to let myself in, Shiraz bellowed once more: “Give me some drugs!” It was a la Shirley Maclaine in Terms of Endearment; she was clearly unimpressed with the–so called–miracle of birth.

Before I could run back to the house and get some towels, she popped the first kid out, left it laying in the hay and moved to the other side of the room, leaving the little one to quietly suffocate. I immediately cleared it’s nostrils and mouth while she revisited her Shirley Maclaine impersonation. After number one was breathing but before number two was out, I ran to the house and bellowed to my husband, “Shiraz is in labour and screaming her head off, bring towels. QUICKLY!” and tore back to the barn just in time to catch number two. Again, Shiraz ignored the wet little ‘bundle of joy’ and crossed again to another corner of the room. “Good lord, she’s got three kids too!”

While she worked on producing kid number three, I worked on getting number two breathing. My husband arrived on the scene just in time to witness number three being born and Shiraz immediately turning around to head butt it several times. We got it away from her and got its face and airways cleaned up and then gave it back to her to finish the job herself. I now realize that Fatty-fat probably produced three live kids but didn’t have the support staff that Shiraz did in order to deal with all three of them at once. After witnessing Shiraz head butt kid number three as soon as it hit the ground, I was concerned that she do the  majority of the cleaning work herself hoping it would help with the mother-kid bonding.

It was soon apparent that Shiraz was exhibiting classic ‘borderline personality’ behaviour–the ‘I hate you, don’t leave me’ repertoire. She would butt them away if they tried to nurse, and then grunt softly and lick them for a few seconds as if to apologize. I was hoping that this was just her wanting to ‘get the business of birth’ over with before bonding with the kids, but it was not to be. After expelling and eating her placenta, every time one of her kids tried to nurse, she head butted them out of the way. A couple of times the kids were actually lifted up by her horns and catapulted across the room she was so adamant about keeping them away.

“Honey, I think we have a problem.” We got the others out of the room. Fatty-fat and co, along with Sundown were all sharing the room in the barn. I don’t have the capacity to give everyone their own birthing space and I can now see that you need it. As it happens, Fatty-fat’s crew were very happy to move into one of the little houses in the paddock and Sundown just manages to stay out of the way. Once they were gone, I tried intervening but she would have nothing to do with them beyond cleaning.

So, I spent the day making frantic comments on Little Ffarm Dairy’s blog–thank you Jo!–and wrestling with Shiraz trying to force her to accept her babies. There was a few moments when I considered ‘mothering her on’ to Fatty-fat, but quickly discarded the idea. I knew it would be better for everyone if I could just get Shiraz to accept her kids. It took some time and there were words exchanged (on both sides).

Having horns on my goats does have some advantages--I have an easy way of controlling her head.

Having horns on my goats does have some advantages--I have a nice sturdy handle with which to control her head.

Here I'm helping the kid find the nipple while controlling Shiraz's head.

Here I'm helping the kid find the nipple while controlling Shiraz's head.

I have been at it since 2:30 am but have just witnessed her let them suckle all on her own accord. It has taken a lot of time and patience–not to mention a few bribes: molasses tea, fresh comfrey leaves, a bowl of sweetfeed, and her favourite, salmonberry bushes hand cut from the forest–but it was worth it. I have just witnessed her let her kids feed on her own accord for the first time today!

Nothing wrong with this little fella's lungs!

Nothing wrong with this little fella's lungs!

The wail that came from this little tike cracked me right up and let me know he's good and healthy!

The wail that came from this little tike cracked me right up and let me know he's good and healthy!

12 Comments

Filed under Animal issues, Educational, Goats, How to...

Imprint training with goats

Snuggling up nose to nose lets baby boy goat get accustomed to my smell.

Snuggling up nose to nose lets baby boy goat get accustomed to my smell.

Many years ago I was lucky enough to attend a seminar that Dr. Robert M. Miller, DMV put on in Palmerston North, New Zealand. His presentation was on his ‘Imprint Training’ with new born foals and mules. (He has a penchant for breeding, training, and riding mules.) He discovered, through his many years as working as a large animal vet (specializing in horses) that there was a significant difference between horses who he met and had to treat as adults, and the behaviours of the horses who he had assisted in their births or been attending and handling soon thereafter. He realized that the horses who he’d handled at birth treated him as if he was part of the herd instead of an outsider. Often, when he showed up on the farm he’d been called out to, any of the horses that he’d treated at birth would come running over the fields to greet him. After much reflection as to why some horses were treating him so differently (like a family member), Dr. Miller put the pieces of this puzzle together and realized that what they all had in common was that he’d been present at their births. At the dawning of that discovery, he decided to begin experimenting with newborn foals in a purposeful way. He began to manipulate the newborns foals as he would while working with them as a vet: sticking his fingers in the ears, nasal passage, under the tail and in the anus as if taking a temperature, and so on. With a track record of success behind him, he developed his ‘imprinting’ technique and applied it to his own breeding program.

He showed us videos of the animals he had worked with since birth and the connection he shared with them was palpable. If you are interested in horses (or handling any animals for that matter) I would recommend you get his book, Imprint Training of New Born Foals published by Western Horseman (1991). Although it is a book about horses, I have used many of his techniques with my dogs and am now using it with my goats! I can tell you that after only knowing my newborn goat kids for 24 hours, they are already imprinted on me and will happily come up to me when I enter the barn and are relaxed about me handling them all over.

Immediate Postpartum Procedure

1. Beginning: To begin the imprint training, wait until the goat has finished giving birth and is licking the kids. Because Dr. Miller works with horses, not to mention is a very experienced vet, he is much more confident than I am about when to begin the imprint training. In his book, he suggests beginning right away before the mare has even had a chance to lick and clean off the foal. I would rather let nature take its course a bit and wait until the goat has cleaned the kids up on her own.

I like to let the goat do all the cleaning up of the mucous from the kids. I think this is extremely special bonding time for mama and kids.

I like to let the goat do all the cleaning up of the mucous from the kids. I think this is an extremely special bonding time for mama and kids.

2. Dry rubbing: Once the kids are more or less licked clean (at least the head and neck) you can begin to dry their bodies with a towel. You want to then start touching the head and neck area and get them familiar with your scent. Don’t push the mother away if she too wants to attend to the kid. When you are doing this, the kid might kick and fuss, but be gentle and persistent.

Here I'm working on desensitizing the little fellow's ears to my touch. This takes time and patients as goats don't really like their ears being touched either.

Here I'm working on desensitizing the little fellow's ears to my touch. This takes time and patients as goats don't really like their ears being touched either.

3. Stimulate them into habituation: You cannot overdo the amount of stimuli through gentle touch but you can under-do it. If you let the animal avoid your contact and let them escape your touch, you will fix that behaviour in their minds. Keep touching them until they relax and allow the contact. The idea is for the animal to learn about frustration and then submission in a soft, safe manner. This will make them easier to handle when they are full grown adults. The relaxed acceptance of your touch shows what Dr. Miller calls ‘habituation’, and many would call ‘submission’.

NOTE: This is particularly important with horses as they grow into much larger animals that goats and your relationship is more dependent upon their behaviour!

While I'm working on the imprinting technique, I never push away Fatty-fat if she wants to touch her kid. She is completely comfortable with me working with her baby and is actually quite curious about what I'm doing.

While I'm working on the imprinting technique, I never push away Fatty-fat if she wants to touch her kid. She is completely comfortable with me working with her baby and is actually quite curious about what I'm doing. As you can see, I'm gently placing my finger in the cleft of his hooves.

4. Desensitizing: Do not rush the imprint training! Rub their head, nose, ears, down their whole bodies, and under their tails. Touch and massage each part of them-ears, nose, tail, etc–until they relax and accept your touch. Miller advises that this will usually require from 30-100 repetitions in foals, I found it to be quite a bit easier with my goat kids. It did take persistence, but it only took about 10-20 repetitions and the ears were the most difficult body part to desensitize. Now I can sit, absentmindedly rubbing their ears, while they easily accept my touch and even fall asleep while I’m doing it; they don’t even flinch when I hold their tails or touch underneath them (goats hate having their tails touched!).

Here I am desensitizing his tail. This is especially important for goats as they hate having their tails touched.

Here I am desensitizing his tail. This is especially important for goats as they hate having their tails touched.

5. The particulars: One of the key points underpinning the imprint training is to make the animal easier to handle as an adult. You have to imagine that one day you may need to give it a needle, or the vet may need to clean out its ear canal, or insert a thermometer in its rectum. In order to make the ‘Vet’s dream animal’ you have to work on it. Once the animal is used to being touched all over, then you can start inserting your finger in its mouth, nasal passages, ear canal, and rectum. Do not do the rectum first and then move to the mouth or ear! Instead, be sure to work form the head down.

Time to work with the little girl goat.

Time to work with the little girl goat.

Eventually, she is so relaxed with my touch I can begin entertaining myself and having some fun with her!

Eventually, she is so relaxed with my touch I can begin entertaining myself and having some fun with her!

6. The extremities: Now you can work on the less sensitive areas. Make sure you handle the feet, legs, groin and belly areas. As above, you want to massage and manipulate the areas until the animal relaxes and receives your touch easily. With goats, it is important that they are accustomed to you handling their feet because they will need regular hoof trimming (not unlike horses’ hooves).

NOTE: Let the mother bond with the baby while you also work with her baby. Do the above work in segments leaving the family time in between bouts of your touching so they can relax together and let the babies feed. This doesn’t (and shouldn’t) have to be rushed. You can pick up where you left off hours or even days later.

The next day:

Only 26 hours old and they already know me and accept my handling with ease and aplomb. I will continue to manipulate and touch them on a daily basis as they grow over the next few weeks in order to reinforce the learning.

Already, little girl goat is accustomed to my touch. I can massage her ears and instead of pulling away as she originally did, she accepts the massage and falls asleep.

Already, little girl goat is accustomed to my touch. I can massage her ears and instead of pulling away as she originally did, she accepts the massage and falls asleep.

Miller’s work:

His work with the foals is much more comprehensive than I’ve outlined above and for very good reasons. Horse handling is an art unto itself and requires much more diligence than my needs with my goats are. Please consult his book and lifetime’s work if you are interested in this imprint training idea, or wish to try it with your horse or other animals. I am not claiming to be an expert on this subject; I have simply adapted some of his techniques to suit my farm work and the animals I work with. Miller will take you through complete horse training from the foal to the adult, well-mannered horse!

11 Comments

Filed under Animal issues, Educational, Goats, How to..., Learning to Farm

Retained afterbirth?

Well, it has now been more than 24 hours that Fatty-fat has not expelled all of the afterbirth. I’ve tried massaging her belly to get her uterus to shrink down some more. I’ve also hung a wet towel from the cords of the afterbirth itself which has managed to bring some more of it out but not all. I retied it this morning at 4 am (the 24 hour mark) but it still persists.

This much of her afterbirth is still attached to her this morning, 24 hours after giving birth to triplets.

This much of her afterbirth is still attached to her this morning, 24 hours after giving birth to triplets.

I tried gently (EVER SO GENTLY!) tugging on it but it won’t come that easily and I’m scared it will break off inside and I’ll have nothing left to tie the towel to. I’m going to call the vet this morning and see what he or she (depending on whose on call) says. I’m fairly certain the placenta was delivered as there was quite a mass of stuff on the ground with the kids yesterday when I found her that looked like this:

A picture of a goat placenta.

A picture of a goat placenta.

But then what is this still attached to inside her? And, is it worrisome?

On a lighter note, here are some photos of the kids:

Enjoying hanging out with mama and kids.

Enjoying hanging out with mama and kids.

Fatty's little boy.

Fatty's little boy.

I love just being with them. You can see the towel tied to Fatty's afterbirth hanging from her back end.

I love just being with them. You can see the towel tied to Fatty's afterbirth hanging from her back end.

SPECIAL NOTE: I likely need not have tied the towel to the afterbirth. In fact, I was later advised (by one of the top goat specialists in England–thank-you Dreda!!) that this might encourage infection. The towel did help pull at bit of the afterbirth out and then dropped off of its own accord before this advice came in. I didn’t ever retie it on. Instead, I sprayed the cord with Betadine solution from the pharmacy (10% povidone-iodine topical solution, 1% available iodine). The next day the rest of the afterbirth dried right up. She leaked bloody mucus for a few days but is a very contented mum. Upon reflection, I probably need not have worried about her at all, but then that is the confidence gained with experience; something I didn’t have!

8 Comments

Filed under Animal issues, Educational, Goats, How to...