Friday, February 17, 2012

One Hundred and ONE! Nope, only 4.

As stated in the previous post, we were itching for Dulci to have her babies.  She was HUGE and I was certain she had at least twins and possibly triplets in there.  Sunday,  Jan 29, we did chores and I checked her tendons.  They were undetectable indicating birth was imminent.  We went in and got ready for church.  From inside the house I heard Angel do a funny little "yip yip" type of bark.  Not her normal bark at all.  The same bark she did when Doby was giving birth.  I figured something was going on, but I wanted to finish dressing a little man before I went exploring.  Moments later Husbandman called me from the pasture.  "We have feet."  As in, feet were poking out.  By the time I got there the first was out and she was busy cleaning it off.  We stayed outside the barn peeking over the side walls to watch.  After a little bit, I began to wonder if she really did only have 1 baby.  But then she laid down to labor on the 2nd.  That one came out easily and she immediately worked on the third.  I slipped in to clear the nose of #2 as she was too busy on the 3rd to do so.  Then she was back up and cleaning them off.  I went inside to get the iodine and towels.  When I came back out, Husbandman said it seemed like she was still pushing.  I said she must just be working on the placenta, but when I looked, the upper half of a 4th was hanging from her and she had decided she was done.  There it hung, alive and confused.  I assisted just to break the sack and cause it to fall free from her.  We were amazed.  Four babies, all alive, well-formed and mama dutifully attending to them all.  I dipped the umbilical cords and readied, again, for church. 

When we got home, we separated the babies from Dulci.  We need them able to drink from bottles, and we want at least some of that milk.  The kennel was all ready for them and the kids were anxious to play with their new furry friends.
We have 2 does and 2 bucks in the mix.   Though so tempted to name them Eenie, Meanie, Miney, and Moe, we decided it wouldn't be too nice to name a goat "Meanie".  So instead we named them Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter.  One doe has long, pointy, nigerian dwarf ears while all the rest have tiny lamancha ears, so she's Flopsy.  One is brown while the rest are white so we named him Peter.  Mopsy and Cottontail look very similar, noted merely by 1 large spot on her right shoulder for Mopsy and 2 smaller spots on the same right shoulder for Cottontail. 
Since then, there's been more to distinguish them.  Like Flopsy and Cottontail will suck ferociously and are vigorous enough eaters that the kids have been feeding them for a week.  Peter and Mopsy don't suck.  They gnaw and swallow as milk dribbles into their mouths.  This means I feed them, and it takes a LONG time.  And both at times have had their turns of making me wonder if they would make it.  But between vitamin B injections, Nutri-drench and a lot of patience, they've each managed to hold their own.  And with nibbles here and there on leaves and grass that the kids pick for them, it may only be a couple more weeks that I have to force every drop of milk down their throats.  They won't be show quality, but they are definitely getting used to human cuddling.

Poor Valentino

We used to call Valentino the One-Horn-Wonder. One of his horns was repeatedly knocked off in his struggle to the top of the pecking order in our barnyard.  It has now stopped growing completely. The other curled tightly to his face.  I've heard horror stories of rams' horns causing enormous facial damage so I was watching the growth of this horn.  I thought it was going to clear his eye...

Then, all of a sudden, we noticed it wasn't.  In fact it was preventing his eye from closing.  We decided to deal with it immediately.  After reading how-to's online, we grabbed some tools and got ready.
This is how it was performed by a vet over at The Yeoman Farmer... or so I thought.  Turns out that muzzle action is a crucial difference.  We just had a poor scared ram choking himself.  
 In the end, the winning combination was a muzzling harness (of which we only have 1) around his head, tieing his back legs up and stretched way back, winding his front legs together with the rope from the harness, me laying on top of him holding him still, Husbandman weilding the hacksaw, thick cardboard protecting his eye, ear and face from the blade  and a WHOLE lot of GRIT.  Horns bleed, hence the blood, but they don't have nerves.  Once the horn was removed, I poured iodine over it to clean it and applied ground cayene pepper as a blood stop, all the time protecting his eye.  He doesn't look good, but I assure you, he looks much better now and certainly better than if his eye had been gouged out with his own horn.

Several places online said not to take them to a vet to do it, that a vet will put them under and surgically remove the horn and prevent any further growth.  Doing so would be a huge expense and more stressful to the animal.  The anestetic would take a good deal of time to recover from not to mention the stress and difficulty of transporting an animal.

Hind sight though... I think we should have considered a vet.  Not so much because of what it was, but rather HOW it had to be done.  Because his horn was curled so closely to his face, it was very scary, more so for us than for him, though he didn't exactly appreciate what we were doing to him either.  It might have been a longer recovery time for him (especially since as soon as he was on his feet and given a bucket of grain, he seemed to forget all about it), but I wouldn't want to take my chances again with a hacksaw so close to an eye with only cardboard and the sound of it cutting to know if he was in imminent danger of blindness.  Instead, Husbandman and I were the ones needing to recover.  We were shaky and on edge.  Husbandman barked at Dulci that she needed to have her babies NOW because he needed a baby to hold.  Something about a sweet baby, of any species, that calms the nerves.
Not to belittle Valentino, but here's an example of a nice set of horns.  Of course they belong to a goat and not a ram so they lack the genetic code to curl.
Here he is a day after.  His fur is still stained with iodine and blood.  But he didn't run from us as I was scared he would.  By now, almost 3 weeks later, he looks totally fine... just like a ram with no horns.

Silver Foxes, cuddly ones

Meet Maxwell.  He's our new silver fox buck. He joined the 'stead at the end of January with 2 does we named Mocha and Java.  Silver fox is a rare breed of rabbit that is quite remarkable.  We decided to get a breeding trio after reading about them in Countryside Magazine.  Once a mainstay of meat rabbit breeders, they fell to the wayside in popularity when people decided all meat animals should be white.  When real-feeling synthetic furs hit the market, they took another nose-dive.  But they're being brought back now.  Good mothers.  Calm disposition.  Better flavor though slightly slower growing. Wonderful hides. Large litters.  All to say, if they are what people say they are, we like 'em.   We hopefully bred Cream and Sugar (our full-grown white does) with Maxwell this week so we'll see what they're like mixed with the Californians too.  :-)

Littlest Beekeeper

Meet the littlest beekeeper.  She's great.  The last two inspections, farmer girl and her superhero daddy have worked together.  Is this a good idea?  Oh yes.  Here's why:

First of all, we wouldn't do this if we thought she was in any real danger of getting bad stings.  She's not.  When the bees are stressed, which they have been off and on over the year that we've had them, they get defensive and a bit more prone to stinging.  But she's equipped and ready.  And if they seem a bit testy, she simply steps back.  No one has suffered a sting since I took one to the face last fall handing equipment to Husbandman over the fence with no gear on.

Secondly, Husbandman can do the inspection alone, but he doesn't like to.  Its good to have another set of eyes, or even squishing fingers when we see wax moth larvae or hive beetles.  I don't feel comfortable being out with him by the hives with the boys napping and our 5 yr old watching a movie with instructions to run out and get us if she needs us.  It's incovenient to stop every few minutes to run in and check on them, battling the 4-leggeds at each gate coming and going, making sure my clothes and veil are free of bees before going into the house, etc.  So, with me passing off my veil to my "miny-me", I get to stay where I can keep instant tabs of potential emergencies and Husbandman gets his 2nd set of eyes and fingers.

And boy does she have eyes.  Sharp ones.  She's still learning bees, but once she knows what she's looking for, my guess is she'll spot the queen every time.  She's way better than me.  I quickly glance at the frame for problems and impatiently ask if I can take a break to check on the kids again.

And finally, there's something about bees and bonding.  There's a daddy who treasures his little girl.  And there's a little girl who adores her daddy.  And working the bees is their special activity that they get to do together.  Almost like the bees are working their propolis, fusing their hearts together.

Duck Sitting Take 2

Look hard.  See that pile of scrub that looks like toppled trees that have sat decomposing for 4 years???  Ok, right at the top edge of the shadow caused by the rare tree that wasn't toppled, there's a tiny speck of white.  Ya see it?  That's a duck.  And under her is a nest.  She's been sitting on that nest for 20 days.  Muscovies take 35 days to hatch.

This has been an interesting progression.  Last fall, the 2 remaining hens laid a nest in the bachelor pad and sat on it for about 2 weeks before abandoning it.  Slowly the abandoned eggs disappeared.  We tried in vain to keep the ducks contained within the bachelor pad where the guardian Angel has patrol of 3 of its sides.  No luck.  We finally gave up and moved them all into the south paddock, where the females insisted on going, so the eggs that were being laid in this nest stood a decent chance of being fertilized.  And I must say its nice to not have to physically inface with the drake twice daily feeding and watering Copper.  He's the meanest thing we have here.  Some people are scared of the dog.  Little do they know the duck would just as soon rip the skin off your ankles.

So, here this nest sits.  And a 2nd nest is being laid and intermittenly sat upon.  Its a bit nerve-racking as if something, like the family of racoons that live in the woods immediately beside our house and pasture, were to get into that paddock, there's absolutely nothing there to protect them.  Angel can't go there.  And the ducks don't make noise so Angel may not even notice a prowler way back there in the dark of night.  Even if she did, by the time we'd wake up, get the flashlight and go through the 2 sets of gates to even get into that paddock, the damage would long be done. 

But we've tried everything else.  Complete lack of invovlement is ironically a last ditch effort.  If we don't get babies from them this spring, we're rehoming them to the retention pond where wild muscovies thrive.  If they do manage to breed something of note, we'll just continue to hope the racoons never realize the limited range of the big, barking dog.