Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It's been forever!

I apologize for not posting anything new for quite awhile. With everything going on here the past two months or so, I haven't engaged in much small ruminant training.

Sadly, I'm learning that though Mopple is a total sweetie, he is not the brightest bulb in the pack. I'm sure he'll learn to pull the wagon with no qualms but agility sheep status is probably beyond him. I have to lock our road gate every day Mopple is in the yard with the other animals because he has no concept of safety around motor vehicles. Last week the UPS truck would've hit him if the nice driver wasn't at the wheel and John nearly backed over him with the tractor. Revving engines doesn’t help. He’s too trusting and has no concept of danger; even when the other sheep and goats scatter, he stands and watches them go. Still, he's such a happy and pretty boy and pulling the wagon will be enough. I'm thinking one of the adult wethers might like to learn agility in his place.

Still, this will remain The Mopple Chronicles. He’s such a sweet, lover boy; he deserves this spotlight.

Another of our animal children in the spotlight is our Nubian buck, Martok, who blogs at the Hobby Farms Online website ( and is featured on Hobby Farms’ free, downloadable “2010 Mondays with Martok calendar”. Download your copy here:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It's been awhile

Sorry I’ve been neglecting my blogs. John is visiting his extended family in Indiana for the holiday and between doing the chores and everyday upkeep and chipping away at Have a Cow and my Hobby Farms assignments, blogging completely slipped my mind.

BUT, here is my big news: I got the go-ahead from Storey to submit a proposal for Feeling Sheepish! To say I’m thrilled is an understatement. I began working on the proposal yesterday and am having the time of my life.

Much as I adore goats, I honestly prefer researching sheep. It’s the history, you see. Goats were domesticated before sheep by perhaps one to two thousand years, but because humans utilized wool even before domestication (they picked shed undercoat out of bushes and such), sheep and humans go way, way back.

And, sheep are just plain interesting creatures. Studying their behavior is fascinating stuff. Take Mopple, who despite being raised with Edmund, still prefers to hang out days with the sheep.

Old Angel, who was fostered on a doe is quite the opposite; she reluctantly spends her nights in the sheep fold (we can’t let her overnight with the goats lest she ingest too much copper from their mineral tubs) but she joins the goats the moment she’s let out for the day. Last month she marched past five rams to hang out by Martok’s buck run when she was in heat. He had a visiting girlfriend and paid her no mind; as you see, she seemed quite depressed.

This proposal gives me an excuse to add items to my sheep ephemera collection too, though I already have a fat photo album of goodies if the book is a go. The picture at the top of this entry is one of my favorites, taken around the turn of the century in Burra, a former mining and pastoral town in South Australia (read about Burra here:,_South_Australia and here: Don’t you wish you knew the story behind this image? I’ve tried to find out, but no luck so far.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Too many irons in the fire

Sorry I haven’t posted lately. It seems as though I’m going a dozen different directions at once these days and apart from ongoing leading lessons for Mopple and all the young goats, none of it has to do with training animals.

I did something stupid this week. With the economy so slow, I decided I’d breed only two of my little ewes this year rather than be overrun with lambs. I noticed old Rebaa (Coates Farm’s Rosy Lolita) in heat and lounging by Ramsgate 2 (that’s our rams’ pasture; Ramsgate is the pen they had when we had just three rams). So, on a whim, I asked John to help me round up Rebaa, Shebaa (Rebaa’s daughter, Wolf Moon Findabar, one of my best ewes), and Maxx (Wolf Moon Fin Bheara [pictured above], our young paint Miniature/Classic Cheviot ram) and put them in a breeding pen.

I hadn’t planned to breed Rebaa again since I thought she would be ten in March (I didn’t breed her due to her age last year either), but she’s such a wonderful producer that I thought why not? We’ll baby her a bit and she’ll be just fine. I asked her to please have two nice ewe lambs and Maxx bred her right away.

Later that evening I dug out her papers to check her age. I thought perhaps she was going to be nine instead of ten. But she’ll be eleven on March 22! I’ve really lost track of passing time. She’s in great shape but we’ll take her directly from the breeding pen to the elder sheep paddock so she gets extra TLC from start to finish.

Rebaa always has twins or triplets and for her past three lambings she’s picked out one for me to raise (the white sheep is Baa Baa Louie, the wethered son I raised in 2008). She looks them over for about an hour, decides which one is mine, then starts gently nudging it away. If I don’t take the hint and remove that lamb (which I didn’t, the first time this happened), she gets tougher until baby is bouncing off the sides of the lambing jug. Why does she do it? I honestly think she knows I love bottle lambs and wants to share. Sheep are amazingly astute!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The sun!

Finally, sunshine! Everything is awfully soggy but we got outdoors and the animals loved it. Here’s an update picture of Mopple I took while he was grazing—not a good one but it shows his new, woolly coat.

The goats were in especially high spirits today. A bunch of does came in heat and lounged around Martok’s pen all day making goo-goo eyes while he blubbered and whooped and strutted. The poor guy’s nose is chapped from peeing on himself so much. It must be a strange life, being a buck goat!

Today I let Bon Bon’s twins, Curzon and Jadzia, out with the others to see if weaning finally took. After the first month’s separation, Bon Bon let them pick up nursing exactly where they let off. Not this time; she was having none of it, so unless they pester her so much this evening that she lets down her resolve, they’re back with Bon Bon and Latifah in the dairy shelter for good.

I shot this picture of Jadzia and one of my little Cheviot wethers (Baaxter) today. Jadzia is doing her “let’s smash our heads together” warm-up dance while a bemused Baaxter thinks, “What is wrong with this loony goat?”

Only seconds after I pressed the shutter, he took a few quick steps back and then charged and whacked her.

She stalked away in a huff, muttering that “stupid sheep don’t play fair, they smash before dancing!”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A peek at Ancon sheep

Since it’s raining buckets yet again today and I’m not spending much time outdoors training sheep and goats, I thought I'd post this sheepy excerpt from my upcoming Storey book, Storey’s Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock. The photo is from Life magazine, 1947.


Ancon Sheep—a Cautionary Tale

“In 1791, so it seems, a Massachusetts farmer named Seth Wright owned a flock of fifteen ewes and a ram of the ordinary kind. These sheep, as sheep are wont to do, were fond of leaping over the stone walls that fenced them in. Once out on their own, they raided Wright’s neighbors’ fields. So, imagine Farmer Wright’s surprise (and delight) when one of his ewes produced a most uncommon ram lamb, long of body and incredibly short of leg. Sheep like this, Wright correctly deduced, could not jump over stone fences

“So, Farmer Wright culled his normal ram, the short-legged ram’s sire, and bred the short-legged ram to his flock of ewes. The first year only two short-legged lambs were born. However, when he began breeding short-legged to short-legged sheep, the animals began to reliably reproduce their kind. And thus the Otter (later to be known as Ancon) breed of sheep was born.

“Charles Darwin considered Ancon sheep a perfect example of macroevolution. In Origin of Species, first published in 1859, he referred to the Ancon thus, 'It is a rare thing for a striking variety to spring as suddenly as this into existence, and it is singular that the peculiarity should be preserved unmixed in the cross or half-breed; but in other respects it is common-place enough and only represents what men do every day with their cattle, poultry, horses and dogs, and what is done by every nursery gardener in rearing plants. Whenever a breeder sees any peculiarity appear amongst his animals which he considers valuable, he carefully preserves the individual that shows it, and by pairing it with other individuals that manifest a tendency towards it, and selecting such of the offspring as have most perfectly inherited it, he succeeds in perpetuating and greatly improving it.'

“But was it an improvement? Ancons were achondroplastic dwarfs, a type of genetic dwarfism characterized by slow limb growth relative to the rest of the skeleton. Their condition was caused by a mutation that results in the failure of the cartilage between their joints to develop. Numerous other abnormalities existed, including abnormal spines and skulls, flabby subscapular (deep shoulder) muscles, loose leg joint articulations, and badly deviated inward forelegs. Adult Ancons were clumsy cripples that could neither run nor jump like other sheep; that they suffered from crippling arthritis is a given. The breed had so many major health problems that it became extinct decades ago.

“So as the adage goes, ‘It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature’. Should cute, mutated dwarfs happen along, it’s wise to choose not to propagate them. There are scores of breeds of small and miniature livestock available for producers and hobbyists to raise. Let’s do our best to raise animals that enjoy good quality of life.”

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More sheepy this 'n that

Here's another tidbit of sheepiana I've collected. It's a tale from Folk Stories from Southern Nigeria, a book published in 1910.

The sheep to the right is Lori Olson's Wooby (Misty Glyn Gwyn ap Nuad), a Miniature Cheviot ram who is living with us until Lori gets another farm. Wooby is a paternal half-brother to our first ram, Abram (Wolf Moon Finvarra), who sired our present ram, Rumbler (Wolf Moon Rumbler) and quite a few of our ewes.

Sheep Tales ~ The Story of Lightning and Thunder

In the olden days the thunder and lightning lived on the earth amongst all the other people, but the king made them live at the far end of the town, as far as possible from other people's houses.

The thunder was an old mother sheep, and the lightning was her son, a ram. Whenever the ram got angry he used to go about and burn houses and knock down trees; he even did damage on the farms, and sometimes killed people. Whenever the lightning did these things, his mother used to call out to him in a very loud voice to stop and not to do any more damage; but the lightning did not care in the least for what his mother said, and when he was in a bad temper used to do a very large amount of damage. At last the people could not stand it any longer, and complained to the king.

So the king made a special order that the sheep (Thunder) and her son, the ram (Lightning), should leave the town and live in the far bush. This did not do much good, as when the ram got angry he still burnt the forest, and the flames sometimes spread to the farms and consumed them.

So the people complained again, and the king banished both the lightning and the thunder from the earth and made them live in the sky, where they could not cause so much destruction. Ever since, when the lightning is angry, he commits damage as before, but you can hear his mother, the thunder, rebuking him and telling him to stop. Sometimes, however, when the mother has gone away some distance from her naughty son, you can still see that he is angry and is doing damage, but his mother's voice cannot be heard.

- Elphinstone Dayrell, Folk Stories From Southern Nigeria (1910)

Friday, October 23, 2009

More famous sheep (please keep 'em coming!)

More Famous Sheep

Private Derby. Swaledale ram mascot of the British 95th Derbyshire Regiment (pictured at the right on a vintage postcard from my sheep ephemera collection)

Russell. Who lived in Frogsbottom Field in Rob Scotton’s charming children’s book, Russell the Sheep

Casserole. Kept by the Kennedy family in the Australian TV program, Neighbours, and Chop, the Kennedy's second sheep, introduced after Casserole's funeral

Lily Lamb. From Disney’s Minnie 'n Me

Timmy. A lamb in the Shaun the Sheep spin-off, Timmy Time (Aardman Animations)

Black Sheep. The black sheep of the family, he is a cousin of Cow and Chicken in the Cow & Chicken cartoons

Hiro Sohma. In the Japanese manga comics and anime series, Fruit Basket, Hiro Sohma is a human boy who morphs into the Zodiac ram

Derek the Sheep and Lenny the Sheep. Of the British comic strip, The Beano

Rammie. Mascot of the Derby County Football (rugby) Club in Derby, England

Mary’s little lamb. Who “followed her to school one day, school one day, schol one day...”

Ship. Imaginary friend and “counting sheep” in the Webcomic, Count Your Sheep

Larry the Lamb. Co-star of the British children’s radio series, Toytown, part of the BBC series, Children’s Hour, broadcast from 1922 through 1964.

Maghatch. The witch mouflon in Gary Kilworth’s heroic fantasy novel, Thunder Oak

Mopple the Whale and the other sheep (Othello, Miss Maple, Maude, Zora, Melmoth, Sir Ritchfield, Heather, Cloud, Ramses, Sarah, Lane, Cordelia, Maise, Willow, Fosco, and the Winter Lamb) in Leonie Swann’s wonderful sheep detective novel, Three Bags Full (published as Glennkill in Europe)

Louise the Lamb. Of the British children’s TV program, Muffin the Mule

Chirin. Sheep protagonist of the sad, 1978 Japanese anime film, Ringing Bell (Sanrio)

Georgina, Gogol, and Hubert. Sheep in the British Children’s BBC animated series, Sheeep (yes, with three e’s) aired in 2000

Sergeant Woolly Pullover, Commodore Fleece Cardigan, Major Legger Mutton, Pilot Fluff Pendleton, Master Sargent Cornelius Cannonfodder, Private Bull Bellwether, Commander Missiles Muttonchop, and Lieutenant Sureshot Shearling. R.A.M.S. in the Barnyard Commandos animated series (1984; Marikami-Wolf-Swenson Productions) and action figures collection (Playmates).

Lammy and his evil twin, Rammy. From the video game, UnJammer Lammy

Rain, rain (and more rain)

I haven’t posted anything for awhile because everything is sodden, my pretty black and white lamb is grimy, and is still not much afoot around here anyway.

It’s cold, supposed to be down in the low 30’s overnight, but since the downpour abated (at least for awhile), I put Mopple and Edmund back out with the old sheep this afternoon. I had them back in their former pen for awhile so they’d stay warmer and dryer inside their Port-a-Hut, as opposed to the more open-air field shelter with the old ones. They have lots of wool already and don’t appear to mind getting wet, considering they voluntarily venture out to graze during the worst of it.

If I can’t do something with Mopple soon, I’ll start posting some sheepy fun stuff I’m collecting for the upcoming Storey sheep book, though it may be off in the distant future for awhile. Well, what the heck—might as well post an item this time too.

For your pleasure…

Famous Sheep

Dolly. The world's first cloned sheep

Bonnie. The first cloned sheep's first lamb

Maltilda. The first Australian cloned sheep

Lambchop. Sheri Lewis's wisecracking sidekick

Mrs. Sheep and Lambs. The sheep in Lambert the Sheepish Lion (Disney Studios)

The Toast of Botswana. One of the world's only two scientifically verified geep (half goat, half sheep)

Lisa. The cute German geep born a few years ago.

Dimitri. Balki's toy sheep (Perfect Strangers)

Shaun the Sheep. Wallace and Grommit's sheepy co-star in A Close Shave (Aardman Animations)

George. Sheepy star of the comic strip, Lost Sheep

Shrek. A famous Merino wether who eluded shearers for six years and grew a 60 pound fleece

Harold. The clever sheep (Monty Python's Flying Circus)

Mouth. Hammerhead Hannigan's bowtie-bedecked sidekick in Darkwing Duck (Disney Studios)

The Serta sheep. Out-of-work spokes-sheep for a major mattress company

Lanolin and Bo. Barnyard pals from the U.S. Acres comic strip

Maa. The Very Old Border Leicester ewe in Babe (Universal Pictures)

Bimbaabaa. The lamb in The Little Drummer Boy (a Bass/Rankin film)

Po and Merry. Sheep in the Stray Sheep cartoons

Mishun H. Sugworth. Also known as Mint Sauce, from the cartoon strip of the same name

Danny. Jeremiah's black lamb in So Dear to My Heart (Disney Studios)

Cardigan. Wilbur's friend in Charlotte's Web 2: Wilbur's Great Adventure (Paramount Studios)

Please let me know if you think of additional famous sheep!
Update: I've been Googling famous sheep tonight and came up with quite a few more names. I'll post them on a supplementary list to follow this one!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The old ones...

Not much afoot here. My neck is bothering me unmercifully (I went to our chiropractor for an adjustment two weeks ago and he put my neck out—it’s a weird story), so I’m not able to be at the computer as much as I’d like to (or for that matter, need to be). I’m nearly finished with the Storey meat goat book update, then will officially start Have a Cow, although I already have about 12,000 words finished, doing some here and there as time permits.

On Sunday, John and Robert, the man we hire to help build fences, put up the dividing fence in the elder sheep pasture, though the gate still needs to be hung. When it is, Edmund and Mopple will move in with the elders. Then the kids (The Red Brothers and Bon Bon’s twins) will have their own paddock and shelter.

Our old ones are Baasha and Dodger. Both are quite arthritic but seem to enjoy their lives and as long as they do, we’ll keep them going.

Baasha is a registered Miniature Cheviot and will be 14 in March. She’s a cutie, my favorite sheep, and mom, grandma, great-grandma, or great-great-grandma to all of our other little sheep. She’s very sweet and gentle—a really stellar little ewe whose sire came from the Brighton flock upon which the Miniature Cheviot breed is based.

We’re not sure how old Dodger is but we’ve had him six years and he was no spring chicken when he moved in. Besides that, he’s a Hampshire wether, a huge meat breed wooly sheep not bred for longevity.

Dodger belonged to a 4-H boy in southern Arkansas who refused to send him to slaughter at the end of the 4-H fair (what a great kid!). Then he and our Wiltshire Horn cross ewe, Angel, performed in “The Witness” (, the musical Passion play held throughout the summer months in Hot Springs, Arkansas. When they needed a retirement home, Anita Messenger of Liberty Ranch knew I wanted some pet sheep, so they came here to live out the rest of their days.

I'm lucky to have such neat sheep!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Now for something completely different...

Maybe Mopple can learn to pack too! I don’t know why not. I ran across the first quote in this series while doing yak research for Storey’s Have a Cow.

I’d heard of Himalayan pack sheep but never any specifics. Sheep aren’t a supple as goats but they’re just as strong and they follow just as well. I can’t imagine a modern wool breed sheep in fleece wearing a pack saddle (ow!) but a hair sheep? Yeah, I do…

Quotes from books in public domain downloaded for free at Google Books (

The yak-cow and hardy mountain sheep are the favourite beasts of burden in the inner ranges. The little yak-cow, whose bushy tail is manufactured in Europe into lace, patiently toils up the steepest gorges with a heavy burden on her back. The sheep, laden with bags of borax, are driven to marts on the outer ranges near the plains, where they are shorn of their wool, and then return to the interior with a load of grain or salt.

- The Imperial Gazetteer of India, Volume VI, W.W. Hunter. London: Trübner & Company, 1886

The principal beast of burden in the Himalayas is the Mountain sheep. It is said to comfortably draw a load of about twenty-five pounds and lives entirely on the herbage on the wayside. It has been known to travel a journey of 1000 miles and be little the worse for wear. Animals of this class were used in the Younghusband expedition in Tibet. It is common in the Himalayas to load sheep high up in the mountains with borax and then drive them down to the plains, shear them and return with loads, shear them and return with loads of grain or salt. They stand the severe cold of the higher ranges of Tibet better than any other animal, and are indispensable to the needs of transit of the people there.

- William James Clarke, Modern Sheep: Breeds and Management. Chicago: American Sheep Breeder Company, 1907

In some parts of India the sheep is even used as a beast of burden, carrying loads of 35 to 40 pounds over rough tracks, and up steep crags, where almost no other animal could be employed.

- Chambers’s Encyclopaedia, Volume VII. New York: Collier, 1887

Friday, October 2, 2009

Sheep lips

We went to Hirschs’, the farm store in Thayer (MO) today to pick up feed. I stayed in the truck, organizing some writing material.

When John came out he said, “They have sheep lips, so I bought some.”

My mouth fell open. “Sheep lips?” I said. “Why would you buy sheep lips?”

Turns out he said SheepLix, as in tubs of sheep minerals in a molasses base as manufactured by the Sweetlix Company.

Most resources say it’s best to provide granulated minerals for sheep and goats but our goats simply won’t eat it. I have partial bags of five or six brands in the feed room right now and I’ve tried several more besides. They poop in the granulated mix holders—I know it has to be a game because there are always berries mingling with the minerals. I’m tired of throwing it out on a daily basis, so we’re going back to lix tubs (which the goats love but we’ve never tried with our sheep before today).

The bad thing (besides adding a lot of sugar to their diets) is that the goats smear it all over themselves. Here is a picture of the beautiful Affinity (UP Affinity) that I shot earlier today. Look at that mug—and you should see how much is smeared along her sides!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Another general update (of sorts)

Tomorrow we’re going to band Mopple as he’s showing increasing interest in the other sheep, especially the ewes, and we don’t want any accidents since he’s (genetically) more than twice their size.

Not much is afoot on the training front as I once again have quite a few writing irons in the fire. I’m working on my corrections for the first pages (preliminary galleys) of Storey’s Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock (figuring out where to cut 20 pages is an interesting venture, especially since I need to add Ouessant sheep to the sheep chapter), finding reference images for the person who is illustrating Get Your Goat, and putting the finishing touches on my January-February Hobby Farms magazine assignments—all at the same time, while nursing a raging three-day (so far) headache.

Bon Bon’s twins, Jadzia and Curzon, appeared to be weaned, so I let them back out of the elder sheep pasture yesterday and moved The Red Brothers back there, thus freeing the round pen for training efforts. About an hour ago I glanced out the window and one was on each side of Bon Bon, nursing. Back to the drawing board with that.

My January-February Hobby Farms article is about water buffalo. The research convinces me once again that they are the perfect small-farm bovine. With that in mind I started a separate water buffalo blog in case anyone is interested. It’s listed under Favorite links to your right.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A vintage postcard—it’s a sheep!

I found this image while cruising through some old CDs and thought I’d share it with you. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy this when I saw it at eBay several years ago but I’m watching for sheep ephemera again and will buy a copy when it resurfaces.

The picture was taken in Cuba in the early 1900's. The hitch is unusual in that it’s a three-up, but also because the animal in the center is a sheep. Maybe someday I can hitch Mopple flanked by The Red Brothers—who knows!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Onward and upward

I weaned Mopple (and Edmund—for the second time at six months old, no less) a few days ago, so we’re ready to start working on basics. He leads but that’s all so far. He has really grown. I noticed this evening that he’s almost as tall as Edmund and I’m sure he’s heavier.

Uzzi is back with Martok again, so I’ll have to haul him out of the buck pen every time I work with him. He was just too mean to The Red Brothers, as in racing across the 60 foot round pen to whack one of them for no particular reason. And he’s happy as a clam to be back with Martok. Goats!

Get Your Goat is finished and it’s off to Storey for copy editing. I’m thrilled that Sarah Guare, who copy edited Storey’s Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock, is doing this one as well. I really enjoyed working with Sarah on our last project!

Now, on to Have a Cow. I hauled my cattle library out to my office today and dug out the fat pile of articles I printed when I put together the table of contents and my sample chapter. This will be fun! (remind me that I said that in a few months, okay?)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My baby!

I’ll post a Mopple update tomorrow. In the meanwhile I want to share these pictures I took of Martok about an hour ago. My sweet, itty baby grew up practically overnight and now he’s a big, bruiser buck!

And right now he’s a big, bruiser buck living by himself since I moved Uzzi over to the round pen to start his harness goat training. I tried putting The Red Brothers in to room with Martok but while he’s okay with them most of the time, he occasionally decides to use one for a punching bag. That’s unacceptable, so they’re in the round pen with Uzzi for the time being. Uzzi is actually nastier to them than Martok is but it’s a larger area than the buck run and they can get away.

Once Mopple is banded (that’s going to happen soon, as he’s becoming seriously amorous and I can’t risk him impregnating my little ewes), Mopple and Edmund can live in the elder sheep pasture and The Reds can have the pen and Port-a-Hut they’re using now. Bon Bon’s children are staying in the elder pasture at the moment as they’re being weaned and The Reds can’t stay with them since The Reds have horns and Bon Bon’s twins are disbudded.

It is SO interesting figuring out who goes where, especially factoring in most goats’ propensity to beat the stuffings out of any goats smaller or weaker than themselves.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

John made a singletree for my wagon shafts

John made a singletree to go with the shafts assembly for my sheep and goat wagon. He also explained how to make the entire assembly. I wrote it down and it’s now part of chapter 10 (Wagons, Ho!) in Get Your Goat. It looks and sounds complicated to me but he says anyone who is reasonably handy with tools can make the whole assembly in half a day, for about $30 in materials.

It’s still raining here and everything is seriously soggy. I’ll have to bathe Mopple before taking pictures again. His pretty white parts are now dingy yellow parts. Funny, dirt and discoloration are much more obvious on Mopple’s coat than the white woollies’ fleeces.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Still not finished

I didn’t make my book deadline and will be pushing hard for the rest of the week. Today’s weather didn’t help. We’ve had power outages and thunderstorms on and off for the past 24 hours, greatly interrupting my writing time.

I shot pictures of the wagon shafts yesterday and here they are. Tonight I asked John to explain, step by step, how he made them. To say I’m mindboggled is a vast understatement, so tomorrow, with the shafts in front of us, he’s going to try again. He says anyone reasonably handy with tools can make these. They are so nice!

Now I have to figure out where I put the singletree from my goat cart so he can put it on the wagon shafts for now. I packed everything when we moved our bedroom after last winter’s ice storm and it’s anybody’s guess which box it’s in. Organization is not a way of life at the Weaver household.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Time flies when you're having fun...

Today John asked me how soon I’ll be weaning Mopple.

“He’s only six weeks old!” I said.

Then I started thinking…hmmm. So I checked and he’ll be 10 weeks old on Tuesday. How can that be? My baby is growing up!

I’m not going to make my book deadline on Tuesday, but it will be a wrap by the end of the week. I have to bite the bullet and stop with these 18 hour days; I’m starting to make serious mistakes.

I started looking for my Resources .doc file this morning at 1AM—and it wasn’t there. Around midnight I cleaned my desktop of stuff I didn’t need anymore and emptied my Recycle bin. Apparently I also grabbed the Resources file by mistake. I had to resurrect it using a copy I saved last week, trying to remember what I’ve added since then. Ha!

John finished the shafts for my wagon today and they are awesome. I’ll shoot pictures tomorrow if it doesn’t rain. Now I’m dying to try it out but I have to finish Get Your Goat before I do. Waaa!

I’ve pretty much decided that I’ll finish The Red Brothers’ basic training this winter, then move Hutch in with Martok and Uzzi with Meegosh for awhile. Uzzi and Meegosh both have strong work ethics and Hutch, not so much. It would be nice to train Uzzi to drive next spring when he's a full two years old. Both pairs, Hutch and Meegosh, Martok and Uzzi, have been together since they were tiny kids. I hate separating them but they will still see each other every day.

For those who don’t know Uzzi, here he is. He’s a 17 month old Nubian wether. This is a favorite photo taken last Christmas that hints at what a character he is.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I’m back! (but not for long)

I’ve been offline since Friday. Our computers wouldn’t hook up with Centurytel, though precisely why, I don’t know.

When the Centurytel repairman crawled under my computer desk to check things out, he said, “I’ll have to remove this screen for a while.” It’s one of several small window screens I place in strategic locations when we have bottle babies in the house. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him it was there to keep a lamb from chewing the cords.

I probably won’t post again between now and next Tuesday. That’s when Get Your Goat is due. I am really burning the midnight oil (literally: it’s 11:48 as I write this). I seem to have hit a wall and I don’t like it!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Happy, happy!

Here’s a tip from someone prone to depression (me) who uses holistic methods to manage the blahs. Get sheep and goats—they’ll make you smile each and every day.

Best, get a goat like Bon Bon, whose smiles and silly antics will make you smile and feel good too. I shot the above picture day before yesterday as she posed with her four-month-old twins, Jadzia and Curzon. The other picture was taken the day the twins were born. Bon Bon loves motherhood—and it shows!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

No normal playground

Many people build elaborate playgrounds for their goats to romp on. However, since I haven’t (yet) convinced John that our goats need one, apart a few wiring spools and overturned fiberglass horse tanks to jump on, they have to amuse themselves. And that they do—in the “hills” and holes out beyond the house.

John wasn’t here the day the septic tank was installed (and I was back in Minnesota minding horses) but up until two years ago he was pretty sure he knew where it was.

During the spring of 2008 he decided he wanted to give it a checkup, so he and Charlene (Charlene is our stinking and ornery vintage Case tractor), decided they’d uncover the lid. So, they dug—and dug and dug.

No septic tank.

John left the piled dirt and holes, intending to come back to the project it in a few days. Days stretched into weeks and then months, until late that fall he gave it another go.

Still no septic tank.

But by then we’d noticed our sheep and goats loved to play on the tailings. King of the hill is a favorite game for sheep and goats of all ages. The silly Boer does climb to the top, plop over on their sides and roll down into the pit; Salem and Shiloh kneel and scrub their faces in the ground. It’s a favorite place for the lambs to stage lambpedes—and what’s more fun than practicing ovine ninja kicks atop mounds of dirt and rock?

So the mini hills and hollows stayed. They remain an ongoing source of amusement as we watch our sheep and goats enjoy them from our living room window.

Would I like a “normal” playground for the sheep and goats? Indeed I would! But until it materializes, the septic tank pit is a decent alternative.

Mopple has a milk goiter

Mopple has developed a small milk goiter. When our first bottle kids developed milk goiters (Salem and Shiloh, today’s 250+ pound behemoths), I thought “Oh no!” But a milk goiter is not a goiter in the usual sense of the word: healthy, well-fed goat kids and hair sheep lambs often develop milk goiters while they’re nursing.

The best discussion of milk goiters I’ve seen is Karin Christensen’s article at Biology of the Goat: (note the good pictures of a Katahdin lamb with pronounced milk goiter on the page). Her explanation, based on the results of a 1988 study appearing in the British Goat Veterinary Society Journal: Milk goiter is part of the maturation of the immune system; it's a common, normal enlargement of the thymus gland.

Another unusually good article about milk goiter is this one at the Fias Co Farm Web site (this site is a best bet for reliable information about goats): Click on Milk Neck Photo Gallery at the bottom—note that number 5 appears to be a Katahdin-Dorper lamb a lot like Mopple.

At four months of age, Bon Bon and Martok’s son, Curzon, has finally outgrown his milk goiter (it was a big one!). His twin, Jadzia, didn’t get one at all. Why some kids and lambs develop them and others don’t remains a mystery.

Speaking of Jadzia and Curzon, Edmund and Mopple have begun chumming with the twins during the day. Here are Curzon (red wether), Mopple and Jadzia (black doeling) in a picture taken earlier today.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A near miss!

I am so glad rams don’t behave like male goats. We have five rams and one buck; tonight I’m thinking one buck is more than enough.

As rut draws near the rams are growing fatter noses and growling at one another quite a bit—and that’s the extent of their rutty behavior. In the meanwhile, Martok (Ozark Jewels General Martok, Nubian buck extraordinaire) is making our Stink-o-Meter spin like an airplane propeller.

Last year he was a yearling. Although he engaged in the usual dubious bucky behaviors like peeing in his face and whooping loudly at the pretty does (and even some of the ewes), his musk glands apparently hadn’t matured. So, he was pretty mild-smelling, all things considered.

They’re mature this year. He makes our previous bucks (all registered Boers) smell like Chanel No.5. The crown of his head is oily-stinky and it reeks to high heaven. The fact that his face is usually drenched with urine adds to the ambiance.

And, like all good bucks who know their mamas love them, he thinks he has to put his scent on me. This usually amounts to vigorous scrubbing with his head (while I try to hold him back and shout, “No! No!”). He doesn’t scrub John; he pees on John’s shoes.

Tonight after feeding I decided to dunk myself in the little plastic wading pool that serves double duty as a watering hole for sheep and goats and a refreshing place for John and me to cool off. I shed my shoes, climbed in, closed my eyes and settled back—ahhhh!

A few minutes later something (intuition?) said, “Open your eyes.” I glanced over my shoulder and—there was Martok twisting his body sideways to deliver a jet of urine in my direction. I set a world record leaping out of the pool!

He seems so disappointed at my lack of appreciation. He’s a former bottle baby and an incredibly sweet guy, but bucks have decidedly strange ideas during rut. He’s only trying to mark me as his property, but I do not want him to do that, no siree!

Monday, August 24, 2009

An update—of sorts

I haven’t done much with Mopple for a week or so as I’m working hard at finishing Get Your Goat! He and Edmund spend the day in the yard or out in the pasture with the other sheep and goats, then go back into their own little area at night.

He’s getting to be a big boy. When anyone opens the door, he and Edmund are right here wanting in the house. Edmund hops up the steps and Mopple leaps directly from the ground into the doorway in a single bound. We let them stay a short while, and then they go out again.

I've noticed that Mopple is growing a soft, woolly undercoat now. If you look closely at the picture above (taken a few hours ago), you can see some of it at his upper shoulders and neck. I wonder if this means we'll have an early winter? It can't come soon enough for me!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Jumping for joy!

Life is Goooood! I just heard from Deb Burns at Storey that I have until September 15 to finish Get Your Goat! I am so relieved. I want to do an especially good job with this book (after all, I want folks to read it and come away as enchanted with goats as I am) and have felt awfully harried these past few days.

The folks at Storey Publishing ( are awesome. I’ve been writing since 1969 and have never worked with a nicer group. I enjoy writing for Hobby Farms magazine ( too, of course, but writing books for Storey is a dream come true.

Many years ago I bought a copy of Cherry Hill’s book, Becoming an Effective Rider. It's a terrific book—great content combined with beautiful design and quality printing. I said to myself, “One day I want to write books just like this one.” Now I do!

I am a slow writer—I wish I was faster but I’m not—and Storey has been wonderful about working with me and flexible deadlines. My editors are always cheerful when I need more time, despite the fact I know they’re probably tearing out their hair. If any of my editors are reading this, thank you, I really appreciate your kindness!

Storey’s Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock will be published in 2010, then Get Your Goat! As soon as I’m finished with Get Your Goat! I’ll be updating Storey’s Guide to Raising Meat Goats (my first book for Storey, written under my pseudonym, Maggie Sayer), then I’ll start writing Have a Cow! That should be fun to write as it isn’t your usual cattle book. Instead, it will cover topics like keeping a household dairy cow (and making yummy things with her milk) and teaching a cow or steer to ride and drive. I’ll also talk about selecting a breed (including alternate ‘cattle’ such as yaks and water buffalo ) and small-scale cattle keeping and the book will be packed with tons of fun stuff too.

Now, back to work on Get Your Goat!—but at a more comfortable pace (hurrah!).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Nokomis' Rules of Karate (as practiced by goats)

Twenty years or ago I worked with a remarkable woman named Audrey Wyman, a.k.a. Nokomis (no-ko-MEES; Ojibwe for “grandmother”).

Audrey almost singlehandedly raised 14 children after her husband left home; went back to college to get her degree so her family wouldn’t have to accept welfare, then taught school on one of the northern Minnesota reservations for many years; and in her late 60’s was still canoeing solo in the Boundary Waters. What an inspiration!

Audrey was also into karate. One day told me something that’s stayed with me lo these many years. These are, she said, the three basic tenets of karate: don’t be where trouble is; if trouble comes, run; and if you can’t run, fight. Tonight Moople and Edmund demonstrated what I’ve come to call "Nokomis’ Rules of Karate" to a T.

Here is Mopple, intent on breeding Edmund, who was not at all amused by his friend’s antics (“Don’t be where trouble is”).

So, he tried to leave trouble behind (“If trouble comes, run”).

And, because Mopple is just so doggoned insistent, he finally said, “Enough of this!” (“If you can’t run, fight”).

Not that it impressed Mopple the tiniest bit.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Remember the saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade” (we’re old hippies, we remember when it was the saying du jour)? We did exactly that this morning.

I got up at 6:30 AM, took bottles to Mopple and Edmund, let Martok and Uzzi (our Nubian buck and his wether friend) out in the yard for walkabout time, then came in to write until time to feed and milk. Shortly after 7 AM the power went out. So I read until feeding time and then did the chores but the power was still out at 9:30 when I put the bottled goat milk in ice water to cool. Since we live in a mobile home and this being mid-August in the Arkansas Ozarks, things were heating up pretty seriously. John suggested we put the dogs in the outdoor dog yard to stay reasonably cool, stop by the post office to see if my paycheck was there, and then go on to Batesville to buy my wagon.

So we did. I fed the guys their second bottle a little early (I’m feeding Mopple 12 ounces of goat milk, four times a day), made sure they had plenty of cool water (I plopped in two Philly Cream Cheese container ice cubes to be sure) and loose hay, and off we went.

It’s 80 miles to Batesville from here (Batesville is the closest decent-size town), so we had plenty of time to chat, then we enjoyed a fine lunch at a Chinese buffet we’d never tried before (mm-mmm, noodles!). Then, off to TSC.

TSC had three wagons in stock: a humongous silver model, a medium-size green one and a smallish red wagon. While red would’ve been nice to match the harness, the wheels on that model were awfully close together, so it didn’t seem stable. The green one is a good size for an adult goat or Mopple-size sheep to pull and the tires are set much farther apart, so that’s the one we chose.

So, John started pulling it toward the front of the store. Wait, I said, they won’t let you take the floor model, we’ll have to take a boxed one and put it together! Sure they will, he replied—just watch. And darned if the cashier didn’t let him have it. She not only let him have it (without charging extra for assembly), she followed him out to the van to help him load it. Who’d have thunk it!

Now I have a wagon (as soon as John makes its shafts) and a harness; it’s just a case of figuring out which goats to train to pull it and then, training them.

By the time we got home at 1:30 PM it was 94 degrees with the humidity really cooking (though mercifully the power was restored and the air conditioner humming), so I’d best wait till tomorrow to work with a goat.

I think Uzzi is the way to go but I’ve never worked with him separate from Martok, so we’ll do some leading refresher training out in the yard (with increasingly smelly Martok back in their paddock) before introducing something new.

An alternative might be Morgan the Sable though he doesn’t ‘do’ heat at all well (he has to pant a lot); he does, however, love attention (and food rewards!) of any kind.

Kes, our Boer herd queen wants to be a working goat (I’m going to lose some of you, I fear, when I admit I learned that via animal communication) and she’s cute, short and very, very blocky and strong, so she’s on the agenda too.

So many goats—so little time!

Friday, August 14, 2009

My harness came today!

John just came home from work with a package from the post office—my new wagon harness came today!

For those of you who don’t know, I entered this picture of Teasel (she’s telling sheep jokes: “Hey, did you hear the one about the six-legged ewe from Albuquerque?”) in the goat photo contest Marna Kazmaier hosted at her Working Goats Website ( It was judged on the number of votes each picture received during the entire month of July. The prize: one of Marna’s neat goat wagon harnesses.

I asked my family and friends to vote and it snowballed until about a million people were voting for Teasel’s picture every day. However, Diane in Kentucky (if you’re reading this, Diane, I’m sorry—I don’t know your last name) had an enormous following too. Our pictures battled it out all month long. As the contest closed, Diane’s cute picture of two packgoat kids crossing a wooden bridge captured 13% of the votes and Teasel, 12%. I didn’t win the harness.

So imagine my surprise when, two days later, Marna e-mailed to tell me an anonymous benefactor purchased a harness for me! I have no idea who it was but I’m very grateful (if you see this, again, thank you very much!).

So, the harness came today and it’s exactly like the prize in the photo contest: red with black trim. And such nice workmanship! Unlike my leather driving harness, it’s lightweight and beautifully stitched—perfect for a goat hitched to a utility wagon.

Tomorrow, book deadline or no, I’m going to take time to try it on one of my goats. Since it’s a standard-size harness and my Boer-Nubian wethers, Salem and Shiloh, are behemoths, I think I’ll fit it to a heretofore untrained goat. I’m thinking Uzzi would like to learn to pull a wagon and eventually, Kes, our Boer herd queen.

And, (yippee!) it’s the perfect size for Mopple when he's all grown up—and won’t red look splendid against his black and white coat!

When my next check comes, we’re off to TSC in Batesville to buy a wagon. I plan to convert one exactly like the setup in the picture below (the picture is compliments of Marna Kazmaier).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Racing toward a deadline

The Red Brothers, Meegosh and Hutch, watch Edmund and Mopple playing in the yard.
I won’t be blogging much for the next two weeks as I enter the home stretch toward my Get Your Goat! book deadline. Somehow I thought it was due on September 15 but it’s due on September 1, so it’s going to be a rush to the finish!

Mopple and Edmund are becoming fast friends. I keep Freddy, the puppy, indoors for several hours every day and let Mopple and Eddy out into the yard. Edmund stays with Mopple now instead of hanging out along the fence with The Red Brothers. He and Mopple have also learned which of the sheep and goats will and won’t butt them so they sometimes hang out with their milder-mannered older and bigger peers.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It's working!

This afternoon Mopple and Edmund were playing together, chasing each other around the pen, up and over the rock pile and back again, taking turns being “it”. They’re bonding. Yay!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Blessed silence

I’m glad to report that Edmund has decided there are worse things in life than living with a lamb (and drinking bottles of milky water at intervals throughout the day). He’s been showing Mopple how tasty their hay is and they’re lying by one another today. Oh, and did I mention that late this afternoon Edmund stopped screaming for The Red Brothers? Bliss!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Unhappy campers (with loud voices)

It’s still very hot and humid but there’s a nice, stiff breeze blowing, so I decided to put Mopple and Edmund together today. It’s working fairly well, though Edmund is a very unhappy camper.

For those who aren’t familiar with goats, Nubians are arguably the most vocal goats on earth and some have astoundingly loud and strident voices. When Edmund was small he sounded like a demented jungle bird (with great lungs). His voice has improved but the boy certainly has volume and he’s in full voice today.

Since moving outdoors, he’s been bunking with two slightly older Nubian wethers named Meegosh and Hutch, collectively known as The Red Brothers. They aren’t biological twins (Hutch’s mom graciously adopted Meegosh and raised him with Hutch) but naturally they are very close. So while they’ve been tolerating Edmund, they tend to treat him as an outsider and I didn’t think they’d mind him leaving.

Not so! Meegosh is shrieking almost as loudly as Edmund, so it’s pretty noisy here today. The up side is that Edmund is so focused on getting back with The Red Brothers that he’s largely ignoring Mopple. Mopple seems to think that's fine.

An odd twist is that when I took Mopple his bottle, Edmund demanded one too. Usually, once bottle kids are weaned they won’t take a bottle again. So, I put a few ounces of milk in a bottle, added ten ounces of water, and gave that to Edmund to keep him occupied while Mopple eats. It’s not an ideal situation but for now it will have to do. I upended a water container in the pen to sit on while I feed these guys, to make certain Edmund doesn’t mob Mopple for his milk. He stopped a few times and eyeballed the milky water with suspicion but he drank it. We’ll see what happens next time…