Friday, September 30, 2011

Do You Hear That?

No, neither do I!

The goat girls are finally starting to have quite times at least. It will be interesting to see what happens now that the weekend is here and more neighborhood noise again.

Last week is pretty much a blur, but we’re all on the mend finally.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Backyard Doings

Changes in the backyard continue as ducks and goats move out of babyhood. The ducks are, indeed, Welsh Harlequins despite earlier fears. They’re beautiful birds. The most amazing thing about them is the small band of dark feathers on the end of their wings. This strip looks black in the shade, but in light, turns from bright teal to cobalt to vivid purple depending on the angle of viewing.

You can sort of get a sense of it here, although without the stunning iridescent depth of the colors:



They each look distinctive, as well, so our earlier concern about not being able to tell them apart was unfounded.


Jemima Dorothy:



Nancy Drew:






And Ethel:


Quite relieved that I received the right ducks, as is, I’m sure, Mrs. H from Winnemucca ;-).


In goat news, mounting frustration. Weaning is not going well. Actually, weaning from the bottle is going fine – the girls are eating hay and drinking their water just fine. They’ve started to like their alfalfa pellets more, as well. I have no concern about their nutrition coming off bottles. What is NOT going well is weaning them from our continual presence. It is, as I post, day 4 of our not having a person continually in the back yard. Before that time, we’d tried moving the lawn chair farther and farther away, disappearing for awhile, etc. But it never did work. They’d bleat increasingly loudly for our company, and we were unwilling to irritate the neighbors. But winter is coming, and this just isn’t sustainable with home school and illnesses that always come with the winter.

They have screamed for four days now. They do stop sometimes for a little while. We try to catch them being good and go out for a little while a few times a day when they’re quiet. But it’s not getting better. Not quite sure what the next move is here. We stay outside in the morning until 9 on weekdays and 10 on weekends. One night Selkie screamed herself hoarse; what a strange, strange sound that was.

028You’re not planning on leaving again, are you?”

selkie scoldsHate to have to threaten you, but you haven’t heard my best scream yet . . . “


There were really strong winds last night, and one bed of tomatoes had the twine supports snap. Not a huge surprise, as there are some ginormous tomatoes hanging off that twine. About six of these:


I have to share with you the funniest line from the blogger Simcha Fisher at the blog, “I Have to Sit Down”! Referring to her backyard, she said, “On the other hand, the last thing I want is more stuff cluttering up the yard.  Our property already looks like it’s waiting for FEMA  to come and assess the damage.” Bwa ha ha ha – perfect phrase. We’ve got a couple of areas in the back that fit that one precisely:


I do intend to remove the spent strawberry growing thingies . . . and no, that plastic is no longer covering anything . . . and how the boots got in the strawberry holders is a mystery . . . and I did ask for the Little Tike toy to be taken out of the goat area. Sigh.

Several areas of the yard look like we allowed the children to get in a pillow fight, although obviously it’s just the ducks getting bigger:



What the Patriarch intends with these are a mystery, but the ducks will spend hours happily trying to open them up to eat the bugs hatching inside (or just sit on top, sunning themselves):


Just to note: those aren’t bags of actual trash – we’ve not quite gotten that bad yet – but the used bedding from the screened porch. We’re still working on a “waste management program”. So Simcha Fisher, just send that confused FEMA appraiser over when you’re done with him.

We do still have some nice things happening in the back. Still getting tomatoes and zucchini and beans for now, although every night and day gets cooler:


Well, that’s it for the backyard. Inside most of us have some bug and are sitting around nauseated, aching, with sore throats. So the back yard, with all of its challenges, is the place to be at Shady Fifth this week.

033 If you dare (insert spooky goat scream) . . .

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wish Me Well

I had read repeatedly that bottle-fed goats are ready to be weaned from 10 to 12 weeks, had even marked the 10 week point on our calendar, but somehow I just sort of woke up to the fact this morning that both of our goat girls are 12 weeks old as of today.

They both eat hay, grain, and alfalfa pellets really well. They know how to drink water, but I don't catch them at it very often. This might be that they've not needed water, getting enough fluid from their milk - I don't know. They've been getting 3 bottles a day, and today I just gave them their morning bottle and am skipping the mid-day bottle. The plan is to hold at this point for a few days and then drop the morning bottle as well, etc. However, at this point (posting at 6 pm) it isn't going very well. They are both mega-cranky and yelling loudly each time they hear a voice, thinking maybe some kind soul will offer them a bottle. Too bad I didn't think of that and begin weaning on a weekday for goodness' sake. You never really notice how often your neighbors laugh, holler, open their back door, etc - and I think they're actually having a party next door. Not loud, but there are a lot of voices and Selkie and Sarabi sound like they're auditioning for Fierce Guard Goats. This has to get better, right?!!?

But this has to be done. Sarabi in particular has been looking more and more chubby - oops! And worse than weight gain: if they're allowed to bottle feed past 12 weeks, their stomachs won't develop correctly for eventual milk production. Whew. Close call there.

And in other backyard news, The Patriarch got the barnlet arranged to sequester the hay and hang the goat minerals up where the ducks can't access it, so last night the ducks made the big move out to the barn. Woo hoo! Nigel scooped all of the straw off of the screened porch, and rolled up that plastic/Goodwill blankets combo I'd stapled down in July when we got the goats. Worked perfectly. Screened porch carpet dry and clean, and awfully good to have it back until it turns into something else that I can't imagine right now!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

You Know How Toddlers Prefer the Box to the Gift?

Yeah, well, ducks are like that too.

You can have a nice purchased watering station, scrubbed each morning and filled with sparkling fresh water:


And a larger container that they like to take turns bathing in, also refreshed 2 or 3 times a day:


And their very favorite spot to get a drink is . . . you guessed it . . . the mud spot:


They long ago got all the bugs out of there, so it’s not that. Sophia suggested that maybe they just built up the habit and are still hopeful they’ll find a bug!

They are super bug chasers, by the way. We have some enormous  reddish moths that have appeared in the last couple of weeks, showing up at twilight for whatever moth-y reason. The ducks love that for a bedtime treat. Of course they are fabled at slug control, and lately I’ve noticed them catching flies, always handy! It will be interesting to see how the mosquito population is affected next summer. We’re loving our bossy muddy ducks!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Family First

Gareth recently celebrated his thirteenth birthday. We are so blessed to have him in our family! He is super caring, loves a joke at any moment, and is always ready for a game, a “swordfight”, or a good book recommendation.

This does give us a family first – four teenagers at once! Here is a picture:



We’ll have four teenagers for quite awhile now. Doesn’t seem possible that they’re all that old, but there you have it – reality sneaks up on a person!

Birthday boy:




Little brother never gets cool gifts like this! Fortunately Gareth shares.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Paging Goat Psychologist to Shady Fifth, STAT!

"Don't worry" I said naively to the family as they headed out for a day at the church campout this morning. "I have a bunch of school stuff I need to work on". Secretly, though, I planned yet another coat of paint on the bedroom (I have finally discovered a gray paint that actually looks gray in there).

Insert evil goat nickering . . . 

Wow, I don't know WHAT is with them today. I'm posting from a netbook in a chair right outside their fence. If I so much as run in the house for a moment, they both start screaming. Not a nice little talking-to-you bleat, screaming. They won't even allow me to sit in the shade in the spot I cleared a few blog posts ago. I had to run in for a sec a few hours back to use the ladies, and when I came back out, one of the neighbors a few houses down was bleating back at them (yikes).

What's more, Sarabi (bossy at all times) is just being meeeeean to Selkie today. Usually she lets Selkie know who's herd queen, but today she's plotting mean tricks. Of course, Selkie can kind of be . . . uhmmm . . . clueless that way. This afternoon, for example, after having been pestered all day, she thought it would be a good idea to take a nap with her head and shoulders in a bucket. Sarabi didn't have to think too hard about that one and had great fun bounding across the yard to ram that bucket, causing Selkie to do a little spin cycle out of her nap. And to prove that she won't be joining Goat Mensa anytime soon, Selkie went right back in there and fell asleep again. Sigh.

Sarabi, as herd queen, always gets fed first, but today she's keeping close watch for Selkie to approach the mineral/supplement/alfalfa pellet feeders. Selkie gets anywhere nearby and Sarabi tears over to butt Selkie away. Naturally I've held Sarabi's collar long enough for Selkie to get what she needs, but what on earth?!!?

 Why exactly am I the victim?

Maybe they're just pouting because they had their second shower this morning. I haven't trimmed their coat at all because we're heading into winter, and I plan to give them their first trim next spring. This means they hold a lot of dirt. When I notice that their white spots are getting gray, I just take them into the shower. They're so scared they stand stock still the whole time and the entire process is quick and easy. Fortunately they're still so small they both fit in there without problem. I'd trimmed their hooves this week, so they look so pretty and tidy right now - good thing since obviously I'm held hostage looking at them today! Getting hungry . . . thank goodness for all of the tomatoes out here and the containers of yogurt in our garage fridge!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mrs. H in Winnemucca, NV: I’ve Got Your Bossy Ducks!

If you’ve ever watched the movie “Babe”, remember how the little mice proclaimed the subtitles in little mousie voices? That is how I’m hearing it in my head: “Ducks Are Bossy”. And I’m persuaded that some lady with the same last name as mine is standing in her backyard right now, coffee cup in hand, shaking her head in a perplexed manner wondering why the black and orange ducks she ordered are feathering out so white.

Here is the picture of Welsh Harlequin ducks on the Metzger website (where mine come from):


  (picture by Metzger Farms)


I have girls. Like the one to the left.


Our ducks are growing so fast! And feathering out . . . but isn’t this strange?


And that picture doesn’t show that their breasts are rust colored! Oh well, it still could change. There’s so much I don’t know.

One thing I do know is that these girls are bossy. And since they do everything in unison, their whole personality at this point is like four stereotypical teenage girls demanding “take us to the mall”, “we want to go to the movies”, “more allowance”. If we’re not quick enough with a food tray refill, they line up and walk back and forth with their half cheep/half quack voices, like strikers on a picket line. OK, so I’m mixing metaphors here. Can you have petulant teen girl picketers? If so, that’s the ducks right now.

And despite the fact that we are the Source of All Goodness for them, forget the whole imprinting-on-the-human business. I think we were too careful to not handle them too much when they were new. They definitely see us as something akin to big birds of prey whenever we approach. Ah well, they’re for eggs, not cuddling (although a disappointed Sophia would beg to differ – she had been encouraged by the pictures of the Dervaes girls over on Path to Freedom with ducklings in laps).

They’re “supposed” to be feathered out sometime around next week or so, and boy is The Patriarch ready for the screened porch to be converted back to a screened porch! The ducks are just up there nights, now, and this because they are still huddling under the heat lamp in the cold hours of the morning. It’s been dipping into the high 40s here overnight, and the ducks aren’t ready to handle that until they’re feathered out. But admittedly, the screened porch is a mess just from them being there a couple of hours in the morning. It’ll be nice to have that all cleaned up again.

And that’s a duck update! Back to you, Chet . . .