The Epic Goat Saga ~ Part 2

Goats are both wonderful and ridiculous creatures. Not only are they extremely intelligent and playful, but they are also as randy as pubescent teenagers. It is due to this fact that we have had some major goat difficulties in the past couple of years. Here is the second  notable issue to date:

Georgina

Georgina

2) Last year, when it came time for the nannies to become pregnant again, we found ourselves in a predicament; we did not have any males that were old enough to do the job. So we decided to hire a stud buck. This is an uncastrated, male goat that is hired out to farms needing more baby goats. Of course, I was super excited about having more baby goats and slightly fearful of another male coming into the picture. When he arrived, he looked like an attractive goat; black and white markings, not large in stature, didn’t look particularly strong, but didn’t seem aggressive either. He was put in with the nannies and we waited.

We came to realize relatively quickly that Weird Willy was not the buck for us. Yes, that is what we named him. Why you might ask? Well, firstly because he made the most ridiculous noises, high-pitched squeals and asthmatic snifflings. His intelligence was constantly in question, especially after he got his horns stuck in our fence, and stayed their silently for hours. He also had the tendency to stand in one spot for the entire day and stare at you, even when he wasn’t stuck in something. Totally creepy. (Unfortunately, I have no photos of him, we liked him that much).

George and Momma playing with Rex

But the biggest issue of all was the fact that he showed no interest in the nanny goats. Not only that, but he became extremely anxious whenever in close proximity to the nanny goats and would literally cry out and run away, seeking refuge in the corner of stall. Now this was not the best trait for a goat hired to reproduce and, despite our constant encouragement, we were at a loss.

A few days before we were going to give Weird Willy back to his owner, we moved the younger kids into the field next to the one the billies and nannies were in, and Weird Willy got a sniff of one of the little girl kids. Not only was he excited to see the little female, he was obsessed! He tried to push through the fence, spit on her, paw at her, it was just obscene. It was then that we realized the truth: Weird Willy was not afraid of females, he just preferred younger ones.

The name fit.

goat3

 

See Epic Goat Saga ~ Part 3

The Epic Goat Saga ~ Part 1

goatieGoats are both wonderful and ridiculous creatures. Not only are they extremely intelligent and playful, but they are also as randy as pubescent teenagers. It is due to this fact that we have had some major goat difficulties in the past couple of years. Here are the most notable issues to date:

1) After our first round of kids were born last spring, we had a fairly impressive looking flock of goats. We had an even mix of male and female kids and they got along just fine, until they became a couple months old. To give you some background on this story,we have a couple different breeds of goats due to the fact that we didn’t buy them all at once;  a few of them were rescues and others were purchased. Most of them are mixes of some kind (Nubian, Alpine, Boer mixes). When we first started our goat adventures on our pre -off-the-grid two acre property, our second goat purchase was a brother and sister pair, George and Georgina.IMG_0502 DSCN1151 DSCN1187

They were always very sweet with each other and got along nicely with the other nanny goats. Unfortunately, they became a bit too friendly with each other and created an incest child, who we named George Junior. Thankfully he was without any physical disabilities. However, it became clear with time that his neuro-chemistry was predisposed towards incest, similar to his parents.  When he reached what appeared to be sexual maturity (which is not more than 4 months old) he assembled what I liked to call “The Goatie Gang.” It was comprised of four horny, male, goat kiddies. As soon as the flock was let out in the morning they began their patrol of the nannies. This consisted of jumping, snorting, and spitting in the general direction of the nannies. I won’t go into a further description of this goat-sexual- harassment, but let me leave you with a warning: if possible, avoid ever witnessing a sexually-aroused, male goat. Their physical reaction to females is the most unattractive and repulsive thing you will ever see.

ANYWAYS

this is a normal thing for male goats who are having hormones rush through them for the first time. The disturbing thing about the whole situation was that George Junior seemed to have singled out his mother as his prime concern. Now, this put us in a tough situation. Do we separate mother and son to avoid injuries, discomfort and the continuation of the incestuous behaviour, even though he still needs milk from his mom? Or do we leave them together because the kid still needs milk from his mom, and run the risk of creating deformed kids? In the end, the mom toughed it out for a little while longer until we thought it was safe to separate them. He stayed the rest of the time in a separate field with his dad, still acting like the big guy around town, even though he had lost his posse.

George

See Epic Goat Saga ~ Part 2

A Shady, Sheepy Business…

From my past experiences, I assumed that  sheep were low maintenance and relatively easy to keep happy. When I was younger , we had a pretty impressive amount of sheep, all of which were normal and easy-going. Lambing time with that particular group was low stress: every single one of the ewes had twins, but none of them had birthing issues and they would take excellent care of their lambs once they were born. When my parents decided to find more sheep once again, I was naïve, thinking that we would have a repeat of our last experience.sheepy

That was not the case.

We purchased the sheep from a very nice lady in the Cariboo. They are French Rambouillet sheep who have extremely thick wool. We now plan on using this wool as insulation for the cabins we are building. Initially we got seven ewes which we named Monday through Sunday. They were all pregnant when we purchased them so we had no idea what kind of ram they had been bred with. Their pregnancies were tumultuous at best; the brooding ewes nailed their fellow ewes up against the wall and didn’t allow them to rest when they were clearly uncomfortable. They also didn’t seem to want anything to do with us unless we had grain for them. When lambing began, we knew there was something that wasn’t quite right. The lambs were huge and would get stuck during birth. My mom, being the champion that she is, pulled each and every one of them out, which is highly abnormal. The moments just after birth are extremely important for lambs. It is imperative that they drink from their mother directly after birth in order to ingest crucial nutrients and immunity factors. For most lambs, this is an instinct they are born with and do not need to be shown. But, for some reason, these lambs believed that other limbs were much more interesting than a teat. We were on constant lamb watch to make sure they received the right amount of milk and continued to drink consistently. Exhausting.XMAS 2012 022

As they grew and they moved past the period of time where sickness or death were true possibilities, it became clear that these lambs had bigger issues than a lack of instinct; two of them had major physical disabilities.Their ligaments were not strong enough to maintain the integrity of their legs. Instead of standing on their hooves, they were walking on the equivalent of our wrists. To them, it seemed normal, but they were much slower than their fellow lambs and they tripped themselves up all the time. After doing some research we concluded that all the aforementioned issues could be the result of inbreeding that we, unfortunately, had no control over.

Now, the problem with naming your animals is that they become your friends. You develop a connection with your animals, a connection you can’t disregard. In the farming world, if you have an animal that has a problem like that, you kill it. It is no good for breeding and it takes time that full-time farmers don’t have.

Well, we are not those kind of farmers.

My mom and dad fashioned splints for the two lambs out of an old brace my Nana used when she broke her arm, and duct tape. It was amazing seeing the lambs walk properly for the first time and the joy they felt as they discovered what it is like to be able to run and jump. Within months, they had both made a full recovery and now walk with only the slightest bit of swagger.

One of these lambs ended up having an even harder card dealt to her shortly after her rehabilitation began. Her mother ate something poisonous in our field and my mom found her dead when she was putting them in one night. This little lamb was now weak and alone and still in need of her mother’s milk. As I previously described, the other ewes showed animosity to each other and lambs that weren’t their own. Not one of them offered to take in the orphan. They kicked her and alienated her without a second thought. There is absolutely nothing worse than seeing ten sheep in one corner of a pen and one little lamb on the other end crying its lungs out. Once again, it was all hands on deck to keep a little one alive.

Thankfully our goats had just had a round of kids and one of our Nubian crosses had way too much milk. So my mom and I would milk the goat and feed it to the little orphan lamb, who we had now given the name Angelina. She knew that the bottle was not her mother and she refused to drink more than a quarter of what she should be drinking. My brother and I decided to test a theory: Perhaps if she was drinking from another sheep she would be more willing to drink, even if she knew it wasn’t her mother. My mom thought this was ridiculous because catching and getting a sheep to stay still is near impossible. However, there is this magical thing called grain…

We enticed a different ewe each morning and night with a bowl of grain. While her head was down,we put a halter on her. Since Ian is pretty good with women, I gave him that job; he found that calling them sensual pet names and singing bad renditions of pop tunes seemed to help the process( no exaggeration, it actually seemed to help).  Once she was focused on the grain, I got Angelina and shoved her face by the ewe’s teat. The first time we tried this method, it was amazing how fast she drank and how fast her tail wriggled ( you know a lamb is drinking when their tail wriggles furiously). Sometimes she would stop, realize that it was all a ruse and run away, only to be grabbed once more, with one hand on her face and a gloved hand tickling her bum (ewes rub their lamb’s butt with their faces to stimulate drinking and since I was not willing to do that, a gloved hand would have to do). This would last until the ewe figured out A) there was not food left or B) a stranger was taking her milk, at which point she would start reeling about and plowing Ian into walls. Since it was more successful than the bottle, we continued this process for weeks. Angelina grew stronger and more independent as the time passed and, after her splints came off, she was able to play with the other lambs without an issue.

The picture below was taken on a weekend when I had come home from university. I was sitting in the field with my camera, relaxing and playing with the new born kids, who are always more interested in playing with me than lambs are. Angelina was eating alongside the other sheep and looked up at me. Without breaking her gaze, she looked at me for at least a minute, not moving in the slightest. She didn’t even flinch when I reached down, picked up my camera, and took this picture. AngelinaI have no doubt that she remembers all the times I man-handled her and forced her to do things she may not have wanted to do. Does she know how hard we worked to keep her alive? I don’t know. But by demonstrating this sense of awareness that I have never seen in a sheep, I am sure that she feels as happy as I do that we took the time.

A letter of complaint

Dear Molly,
I feel as if this feud of ours really must come to an end. I know that I scratch your back on that place you really don’t like and I head butt you occasionally, but I really don’t see how that gives you reason to whack me with your head repeatedly and grunt at me whenever I come into view! As my very first nanny goat, I hold you in the highest regard and I know you must feel extremely put out by the fact that you just had another set of twins. But seriously, these bruises just aren’t necessary. So please, can we lay down our weapons (or horns, in your case) and call a truce? I promise to make a strong effort not to touch your head or chase you around the field, even if you are being a grump. My thighs and back would be ever so grateful.

Sincerely,
Your ownerEvil Molly

Solar solar solar!

My dad is the fix-it man. If anyone in my family or friend group needs something, he is going to figure out a way to help you out. Real life examples:

Dad I need taps put on the bottom of these shoes. Can you do that?

Dad I need to get an antique carriage from Chilliwack to Vancouver to be used in an opera. Can you do that?

Dad I am doing a gig in Stanley Park on the edge of the ocean, in the rain, without any power source and I need a sound system to be powered. Can you do that?

Yes, yes and yes. Even if I just talk to him about an idea that I think might be cool but don’t directly ask him if he could do it, he will still find a way to do it. I swear I am not super demanding. Promise. evsolar2evsolar

ANYWAYS

as a performer who gigs all around Vancouver, I have been asked to perform pretty much everywhere (proposals in the park, marathons on the edge of the road,singing out of the back of trucks) and power supply is always in question. My dad used to do sales for a company called BigBelly solar (solar-powered trash compactors, can be seen… well, pretty much everywhere now). He had limited knowledge of solar power and panels before going into this job but, after being there for almost 6 years, he knows his stuff. Essentially, he fashioned a solar cell for my singing partner and I to take to our gigs so that we were in fact entirely self-sustainable performers!

We now have 2 properties run on solar power, with back up generators used if absolutely needed. My dad and other specialists who have helped us along the way have now set up our largest solar accomplishment yet: A 24 panel solar system that can support 6,000 watts of power. Long cry from our one panel gig rescue.  december and eva birthday 033

A Childhood with Chickens

As a child, my life revolved around my chickens. I was raised on large properties that always had an abundance of chickens. Up until kindergarten when I made human friends, the chickens were my best-buds. I named them all after we purchased them as chicks and created games to play with them, my favorite being the ” let’s let a chicken go in a field and see how long it takes me to catch it” (the proper way to pick up a chicken and my party trick, seen below). I would wriggle through the chicken door of the chicken coop in order to spend more time with them after my parents locked them up for the evening. As I got taller, this became harder and harder and my hair, which I hated to brush, became more and more disgusting, filled with feathers and who knows what else. As a petulant ragamuffin, I refused to have my hair brushed, so my mom decided to chop my hair off. Thus, I had an extremely attractive bowl cut for most of my childhood. (I think she now feels guilty for this act and gets pretty angry if I get my hair cut shorter than my shoulders). Little did I know that my parents were actually operating an organic chicken operation and that the chickens were not “going on vacation” when they all disappeared one day.Unfortunately I learned this fact the hard way when I returned home from grade 1 one day to find all my precious chickens stripped and hung from our 3 bay garage. I accused my dad of “gunning my chickens” and shut myself in my room.

Now, my parents use our chickens in different ways. We only have chickens for their eggs and very rarely use them for meat, unless it is absolutely necessary. An example of a situation when it is “absolutely necessary” is when we had 7 roosters and cock fighting ensued. Messy business.

The chickens we buy are heritage breeds and are not found in mainstream chicken farms. My mom wanted to find chickens with genes that had not been affected by any outside modifications and with their beaks still intact ( some chicken farmers remove beaks to avoid violence between chickens). We are now raising and breeding them ourselves in the hope of creating emotional and physically balanced chickens, complete with mother and father and fed with organic feed! No poultry psychologist needed!They are free to roam our property without any limitations. And when I say roam, I mean there is not one inch of my lawn that is not covered with chicken crap. There are definite pros and cons to that aspect of “wild chicken rearing.” On the upside,they are all very interesting colors and sizes and some of them create blue eggs.

 

Our chickens also gave us a reason to start experimenting with solar power. My dad is the expert in that department and rigged up a nifty little contraption that allowed the chicken coop to have off-grid lighting. Of course the next solar experiment was much larger…chicken fun