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…

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mopple grows up

Mopple is growing up! I weighed him this morning: 20 pounds! He’s nibbling some hay now and tastes just about everything, including dirt.

I haven’t been doing much with Mopple these past few days as I’m hustling to finish some writing assignments so I can get back to Get Your Goat—due the first of next month.

Mostly we’ve been polishing leading skills and working on indoor manners. As many bottle babies seem to do, he’s house trained himself to some degree: he returns to his crate if he has to pee rather than going in the house proper. So, I let him wander around in the evening while I work at the computer.

We’ve had only two problems. One, he likes to chew electrical cords (as all kids and lambs do), so I’ve put everything up out of his reach. The other thing is pretty unique: he’s determined to sneak up and then hump on my leg. This is a bottle baby first.

For those that don’t know this, like baby males of many animal species (sheep, goats, cattle and llamas to name a few), Mopple was born with a frenulum (a small, elastic piece of tissue) that secures his penis inside of his sheath. He won’t be able to extend his penis until it breaks loose and he’s determined to do this sooner than later. This is why lambs and kids spend so much time play-breeding their moms, sisters and others in their herd or flock and also why goat kids “air hump” (which is a pretty amusing process to observe). Normally Mopple would be assaulting his playmates—not my leg.

Telling him ‘no’ and placing his front feet back on the ground wasn’t getting through, so I asked for suggestions at HFSheep ( Rebecca suggested a squirt gun. A quick spritz from a squirt gun or spray bottle is the traditional means to repel over-enthusiastic goats (because they hate to get wet). Two spritzes and Mopple got the point. Now why didn’t I think of that?

I hope the oppressive heat breaks soon, so I can put Mopple and Edmund (Nubian former bottle baby pictured below) together to see if they can be friends. I can’t imagine why not—Edmund is not a pushy kid—but I need to be out there for a few hours to make certain they get along. It’s about time for Mopple to move out of the house, but not until he has a pal to console him at night. Edmund has been living with The Red Brothers and they treat him like the odd man out, so he’s the logical choice to become Mopple’s buddy.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Really scary Saturday

Background: five or six weeks ago, some lowlife dropped six small puppies at the end of our neighbor’s driveway: three Beagle mixes and three pups that appear to be a cross of Dachshund and Beagle. Our neighbor is diabetic and on disability, so with his own dog to provide for, the puppies were way too much. He easily placed two of the Doxie mixes, then no one seemed to need pups. So, being soft hearted (or maybe soft headed) and despite already being an eight-dog family, last month we agreed to take the last of the Doxie mixes, a charmer our neighbor called Fred.

Fast forward to the present. I’m housetraining Fred, so when indoors and unsupervised, he bunks in a puppy crate alongside Mopple’s crate. As a result, they’ve become good pals. So much so that Fred spends his outside time lounging alongside Mopple’s fence when Mopple is in the outdoor pen.

So on Saturday morning, after feeding animals, milking the goats and depositing Mopple in the pen for the day, John and I headed off to the grocery store for grub.

It was time for Mopple’s bottle when we got home, so I heated his milk and took it out to him. He usually meets me at the gate ravenously (or so he says) hungry. This time he didn’t. As I opened the gate, Fred raced out of the Port-a-Hut. What? How did he get in there? And where is Mopple? I rushed to the Port-a-Hut to see. Fred had cornered him and bitten him several times and Mopple was in shock.

I rushed to the house with Mopple: he had a small nick behind one ear and superficial bites on both shoulders. The injuries weren’t much but his shocky condition scared me—a lot. I gave him Reiki (I’m a Reiki practitioner) and held him on my lap while John dabbed his injuries with emu oil. Gradually over the next few hours he recovered.

Today he was spronking around the yard, good as new but I kept him indoors except for exercise periods lest flies bother his wounds.

And where did Fred get in? The tiniest hole where a goat had bashed the fence. It’s fixed now but I’ll be watching closely when Mopple goes out again. My poor little guy!

This is why dogs, except for LGDs, should never be trusted with sheep and goats. Even though Fred and Mopple are buddies, no doubt when Fred got in the pen, Mopple ran, and to any dog running sheep and goats are prey.

Mopple is okay but what if we hadn’t come home when we did? Never take dogs for granted. Unsupervised dogs, even sweet, household pets that think they are only playing can easily kill or maim a goat or sheep.