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: www.goatbiology.com/milkgoiter.html (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): http://fiascofarm.com/goats/milk_neck.htm. 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.