This is my last blog post on the Camp Creek Enterprises Webpage for Imnaha Nubians. I reluctantly decided not to renew my domain name, because the page–for all the work and fun I was having putting it together–just wasn’t generating enough traffic to be worth the time and money. I DO intend to continue with a blog and may eventually publish the Imnaha Nubians information on another Site, but for now, it’s Sayonara. For those of you who wish to stay in touch, Imnaha Nubians does have a Facebook page. Hope to see you there!
As long as I’ve lived on a farm—and it’s been a good portion of my life, it never ceases to amaze me that you must always be prepared to shift gears at a moment’s notice and take off running in a 180-degree direction from what you were doing. You might think you know what’s on the agenda for today, but it almost never fails that something else entirely will co-opt your time. Stuff happens, and you have to deal with it, at least if you raise animals. Sometimes, too, trees fall over, or there’s a flash flood you hadn’t counted on. Owning a farm calls for flexibility.
This point was illustrated yet again this morning. Sam & I went through our morning routine as usual, feeding, milking, and cleaning up. It was pouring rain, though, and it was obvious that the shed for the bucklings wasn’t up to its task any longer. Bear in mind that these are three bucklings I raised for my nephew and they are weaned and ready to leave. They have horns, because he wants to train them as pack goats—apparently pack goats need horns. They were ready—or I should say I was ready—for them to be gone two weeks ago, but they’re still here, so they needed their own place separate from the other goats. Those horns! None of our other goats have horns, and I was really tired of getting stabbed in the backside, too. Anyway, instead of doing any number of other things he’d lined up to do, Sam had to upgrade the bucklings’ shed this morning.
Okay, that done, we had brunch (nobody ever eats “breakfast” around here, unless it’s grabbing coffee and a cookie or a banana on the fly). Sam had to work today, so he got cleaned up, changed his clothes, and we both walked to the door as he prepared to leave.
We no sooner got to the back door than our two roosters ran past. There were two roosters, because one of our hens raised three chicks last fall and two turned out to be cockerels. The coyotes had nabbed their old man, and we were in need of a new rooster, so both of them grew up. They had been coexisting, more or less peacefully, so we didn’t feel pressed to get rid of the extra one—until today. Today, however, it was a battle to the death, and they were both exhausted and bloody. This had all happened, by the way, after we went inside after doing chores, while we ate brunch.
Well that was too bad, but we had no choice but to deal with it and hope Sam would not be late to work. The reality is we have these animals to provide us food. We give them the best life we can while they are with us, and we appreciate them, even love a number of them, but that is their main purpose. We are not Vegans. Now I have to pick and clean a chicken today, but at least the little boys won’t have to learn the back stroke. I wonder what will happen tomorrow?
Yes, it’s that time of year, when many of us are beginning to think about dealing with our animals’ parasites again. Does are kidding, our kids are running around exploring their big, new world—and it won’t be long before the daily temperatures reach 55⁰ and parasites become active. Of course, you’re already having to deal with the ones that spent the winter dormant inside your pregnant does, just waiting for the flood of hormones to wake them up and make them go crazy—they’re hungry after their long winter’s nap, after all.
There has been a huge shift in thinking about how to best deal with the internal parasites inhabiting our livestock over the past five years or so. Routine de-worming of everybody is out, as is the rotation of anthelmintics (de-wormers). Isn’t it amazing what you can learn with a little bit of research? Come to find out that the recommendations of not many years past actually increased parasites’ resistance, and we’ve found ourselves on the verge of a disaster, not unlike the one we’re facing with antibiotic resistance. Isn’t it funny, too (in a not very amusing way), that what works best in preventing the build-up of parasites and resistance to the de-wormers we use to get rid of them is good, old-fashioned management?
It’s news to many of us, though we really ought to know better, that our animals have developed their own resistance to internal parasites, and that resistance is inherited. Look at your herd, and you will recognize right away the animals that are bomb-proof—nothing ever fazes them, and they never get sick. They are always doing great! Then there are your “Typhoid Mary” types. No matter what you do, they are always just bumping along, one hoof away from disaster. You spend more time doctoring them and taking them to the vet than all the rest, and chances are good that their kids are just like them. Fortunately, most of your animals will be in the average group: They are fine most of the time, though occasionally they will come down with something or need treatment. The good news here is that if you get rid of the sickly ones and their kids, your overall herd will be much healthier—and you will save time and money.
There are many good management tools you can use. Never feeding on the ground and having good hay feeders that keep animals from contaminating their hay with feces and urine will go a long way. So will pasture rotation. Keeping manure cleaned up around your outbuildings and in your pastures helps as does making sure water containers cannot be contaminated with manure and are scrubbed regularly.
That brings me back to the subject of those de-wormers. Unfortunately, not many are cleared for use in goats, because little research money has been devoted to goats until very recently—this despite the fact that goats are extremely important food source livestock worldwide. Because of this factor, you will need to consult often with your trusty veterinarian (what would we do without them?) to learn what to do. Most likely, your vet will recommend starting with a routine fecal flotation test to see what parasites are present. Then he can recommend a course of action. Nowadays you may find yourself having to use two separate anthelmintics given together several days in succession and then a follow-up de-worming after another fecal is run to catch the parasites that are left. It’s not fun for anybody, but it must be done if your animals are to remain healthy and produce up to the level they should—otherwise you are throwing money away on a daily basis in feed costs and more.
Just remember, you have plenty of company, and yes, it IS worth it! Your animals will thank you by being the very best they can be, and they will give you satisfaction and peace of mind.
Well. Here we are, a week-and-a-half before Christmas, and it was -4⁰ F. outside when I got up this morning. Why is this important, you may ask? Because today I am really wishing I had bought those heated buckets and an armload of heat lamps last summer when it was still warm. Isn’t hindsight wonderful?
Thankfully, it is nice and sunny out, and there’s no wind, so the animals don’t appear to be suffering from my lack of foresight. They even seem to be enjoying the sun after it snowed all day yesterday—though a few of them are shivering a little. All of them look really furry, like little bears, and they are very hungry on days like this!
Fortunately, we don’t have to worry overmuch about the goats or horses being cold. A little shivering during cold weather is normal and serves to generate heat. Ruminants generate a great deal of body heat digesting their hay, so as long as they have shelter from wind and rain, they will be cozy and warm most of the time. I had actually put one of my dog’s fancy quilted winter coats on one of my older goats yesterday, because she’s been a bit down and not eating as usual. Since it didn’t have leg straps, it kept twisting around her middle as she moved, so I finally removed it this afternoon. She looked at me as if to say, “Thank goodness you got rid of that thing!” Then she ran through the gate to go eat off the haystack.
Like goats, horses also generate heat from their digestive process, though they are not ruminants. They are uniquely adapted to cold weather, having wonderful coats that keep them warm and dry. Their guard hairs and undercoat fluff up to form an insulating layer of warm air next to the skin, and their hair growth pattern naturally sheds water so it doesn’t penetrate their coats. In addition, the hair on their rumps is denser, so it is more protective when they turn away from the wind. As long as they have plenty of hay to eat and shelter from wind and rain, most will not require more protection from the cold. They can also tolerate standing in cold temperatures, because their lower legs and hooves do not have a large number of exposed blood vessels that lose heat to the air.
You will note I said animals must have shelter from wind and rain. Those two elements will quickly cause an animal’s natural defenses against the weather to fail, and they can die from hypothermia, no matter how healthy they are. Shelter doesn’t have to be fancy. A good run-in shed where they can get out of the wind and rain will usually serve them adequately. In addition, any shelter needs to be well-ventilated. If it is closed-up tight, dangerous levels of ammonia fumes from decomposing manure, urine, and bedding can cause severe lung damage from pneumonia. Take a good sniff when you walk through. If you can smell ammonia, it’s even worse down where they goats are. Closed buildings housing ruminants such as goats also build up a great deal of condensation during cold weather, unless they have a good flow of air. Ever been rained on indoors? It’s not a good thing, either, and shows your air quality may not be up to snuff.
What about those horse rugs and goat coats you spent a boatload of money on? You probably won’t need them, unless your animals are clipped (some horses do need various types of body clips during cold weather to help them cool out after strenuous work) or they have to spend time outdoors in the rain (i.e. you live in Seattle—I used to, and horse rugs were invaluable during bad weather. I would far rather throw my horse rugs in the washer occasionally than have to deal with rain rot.) Having a good winter coat of hair, being accustomed to the cold, and being healthy and well-fed are the best defenses your animals have against bad weather. Putting blankets on animals that don’t need them can even be detrimental, because it will cause them to overheat and then chill when the blankets are removed. At the least, blankets and sheets weigh down their hair coats, so they may not be as warm.
Aside from horses needing protection because they are clipped or they live under a waterfall, the main reason why horses are blanketed is to keep them CLEAN! It’s true. They love to roll in the dirt—or mud—anytime they can. Sheets and blankets can save a humongous amount of grooming time. That equals more riding time for you.
All livestock benefits from having warm water to drink during frigid weather. Having heated buckets will save you a great deal of time chopping ice without the hazard of using a bucket heater, or the effort of hauling buckets of hot water from the house. It will also mean the animals drink more, so they don’t become dehydrated. Alternatives include using insulated, covered buckets, and some of those are good. Just remember, regardless of which system you use, any exposed wiring must be covered so animals can’t chew on it. Be assured that, goats and horses being the curious critters they are, they WILL chew on wires if they can.
Infrared lamps are a good idea too, because they do not heat the surrounding air, only whatever they are shining directly on, such as animals taking shelter beneath them. This can be a real help when temperatures are as extreme as I encountered this morning. The animals using them will not become overheated, as they might with blankets, or suffer bad air, as in an enclosed building, plus they will naturally move away from the heat if it becomes uncomfortable. Very young or old animals will especially benefit, because it is more difficult for them to regulate their body temperatures. Your animals will be warm and have fresh air at the same time.
One other useful idea during frigid weather is to feed smaller feedings of hay more frequently. The animals will actually eat more than if you fed more but less often. Since having lots of good bacterial action in their guts will help keep your animals warm, it’s something to strive for. I realize many people won’t be able to do this, as you must be away from home during the day, but if you can, it will pay off. Try to make sure you’ve got enough hay on hand to make it through any bad weather, too. Nothing is worse than having to haul hay during a blizzard!
While we’re at it, don’t neglect taking care of yourself. All the preparation in the world won’t be worth a nickel if you haven’t got good protective clothing for working outside in the cold. This includes a good quality waterproof, insulated jacket with a hood (my Original Mountain Horse Jacket is worth its weight in gold), a couple of good hats to pull down over your ears, a couple pair of gloves, preferably leather or neoprene with a thermal lining (such as Thinsulate), some good insulated boots (believe it or not, the best I’ve ever worn are Mudruckers) to keep your feet warm, and some good quality boot socks (Smartwool is great). You’ll want to invest in a couple good pairs of long johns, too! And why a couple of each? Because you’ll need an extra set for when one is wet or in the laundry basket.
Lastly, don’t forget to care for the wild creatures that share our space. You don’t have to go off the deep end, but having a clean source of free-running water will help many animals, and some bird and suet feeders will go a long way to help our little feathered friends when there’s snow on the ground. They are pretty good at rustling up a meal on their own most of the time, but many birds (not all migrate) die of exposure during very cold weather.
Have a wonderful winter holiday—and stay toasty!
P.S. There’s nothing like a nice warm drink of your own when you come back inside. I occasionally enjoy an Irish coffee, and here’s how I make it:
Pour about 6 oz. hot coffee into an 8 oz. coffee mug. Add 1 Tbsp white granulated sugar and a jigger (+/- 2 oz.) of your favorite Irish whiskey (I like Bushmills) and stir. Top with a dollop of whipped cream, and enjoy! Time to make? About 2 minutes!
If you’re a non-alcoholic person, I also love a cup of hot Chai topped with whipped cream. You can buy good readymade Chai or make your own from one of the great tea blends from the supermarket, such as Market Spice Tea or Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice tea (my two favorites). Keep some made-up in the fridge and microwave to heat. Otherwise, it’s always hard to beat good, old-fashioned hot chocolate!
I love fiber. In particular, I love yarn, so it follows that I also adore anything having to do with producing or using it. That’s probably true, too. I haven’t done a great deal of knitting (or weaving, or crocheting either) lately, but that’s mostly because the arthritis in my hands has become a problem. I still subscribe to at least half a dozen knitting or fiber magazines, possess a yarn stash, bags of fleeces, and I still have all my equipment in my yarn studio, unused though it may be.
I was reminded of this a couple of days ago, when an old post from Facebook surfaced (they like to remind you of your “memories”). Four years ago I bought my spinning wheel—a beautiful Kromski Polonaise model in natural wood color (not stained, like the one pictured). Man, I can’t believe it’s been four years! I always wanted to learn to spin, so it was a red-letter-day when I bought my lovely wheel from a Craigslist ad placed by its former owner—a college student at Seattle Pacific University. It was only lightly-used, and I got it at a bargain price. I can still remember how pleased I felt driving home with my prize.
Not long after that I found another Craigslist ad (I used to frequent Craigslist in those days) listing this beautiful 40-inch 8-shaft Macomber floor loom for sale. What a wonderful deal I got on that! The loom was at half-price, plus it came with a boat-load of free stuff thrown in: a loom bench, a tension box, and loads of other goodies like shuttles, reeds, plus a stand for holding bobbins of yarn strung through the tension box. WOW. I could scarcely contain my excitement when Sam and I drove home with all that!
I already had bought a 32-inch Kromski Harp Rigid Heddle Loom (and all the stuff that went with it, including a carrying bag) not long before from KnitPicks and had been playing around with that.
Then Sam bought me a wonderful 24-inch 8-shaft Ashford table loom for Christmas that year. This one is really nifty, because it can be run off a stand with floor pedals, too. I have nearly everything that goes with it, except the floor stand and a second back beam, which I don’t need to have right now anyway.
All that spinning and weaving paraphernalia is in addition to all the knitting and crocheting gear I have around, most of which I’ve had for years. That stuff I use regularly—at least when I am engaged in a project. I can’t afford to buy loads of yarn anymore, since I’m retired (no Noro for a long time :(), so it’s good that I have a sizable stash to work from. I mostly like to make gifts for friends and family at Christmastime and whenever somebody has a baby—seems like I’ve made dozens of baby outfits and Afghans in my lifetime. Most recently I gathered up all the things I’d made this past year that were still hanging around and donated them to a silent auction to benefit the husband of one of my nieces who has cancer.
So, have I spun up bunches of yarn or woven loads of projects? Um, no. I did try to take some classes on how to spin and weave from Weaving Works in Seattle before I retired, but that didn’t work out well—I lived too far away to be able to make it to classes on time (that due to the horrendous traffic). I have bought lots of books and DVDs on how to do those things, but I’m sad to say I have not yet made one skein of yarn with my beautiful wheel from my lovely fleeces. I haven’t made more than a couple of projects with my looms, either. Last year we sold our wonderful Border Leicester and Gotland-cross sheep, so no more fleeces. I miss my sheep (something I never thought I would say in my lifetime), but we had to make a choice on what direction to go, and the Nubian goats won. I dearly love them, and I can buy nicer
fleeces more inexpensively than I could produce them myself!
In the future, I’m still hoping and planning to spin up some yarn and learn to use my looms. The first step is to stop being intimidated by them –and I’ve always loved Nike’s motto, “Just do it!” I think my first project will be to complete the set of placemats that I warped on my rigid heddle loom TWO YEARS ago. Tsk.
I’ve been struggling and unhappy recently. I’ve been aggravated and stressed out, too. Why? Because of trying to sell milk from my goats!
I have some special problems here. For one thing, I live in a remote location far from an urban center, so the population base is very limited. Also, I have dairy goats—not cows—and I want to sell raw milk, not pasteurized. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll know why, but basically it’s because I like goats and they’re easy to handle. Their milk is better for humans than cow’s milk, and raw milk is far healthier than pasteurized. I’m not going to quote the studies. They are easy enough to Google, if you’re interested in reading them.
Selling raw milk in the United States is a difficult proposition, in fact you can’t sell it at all in some states. I’m fortunate that the State of Oregon does allow the sale of raw milk under certain conditions. If you run a commercial dairy, then you’re covered by those regulations, but if you aren’t then you are forced to stay small: For goats, you can have no more than nine does in milk (and that’s EVER in milk, by the way); for cows, you can have no more than two milking cows; you cannot deliver your milk—people must drive to your farm to pick it up; and you cannot advertise (a lawsuit successfully challenged this statute a couple of years ago, so the State no longer prosecutes you for advertising). All that is pretty limiting, so obviously the push is for everyone to have Grade A dairies under State supervision. That’s pretty expensive and complicated to do! I can’t afford to do that, without getting a loan and buying much more property and several hundred head of goats, and frankly, I don’t want to run a commercial dairy. I have a friend who does, and it is not for me.
I hadn’t gone looking for milk customers. When Sam & I bought our goats, our idea was to have a few milkers for our own milk and to raise extra kids for meat. We could sell the extra milkers and doe kids as potential milkers, too. We did our homework, and the bloodlines we have are also successful in the show ring and do well on DHIA Test and Linear Appraisal, so selling goats has never been a problem. It’s the extra milk we produce that’s been the problem. When we retired, our primary aim was to engage in activities we enjoyed and to reduce problems and stress, so dealing with this extra milk was becoming a problem.
Normally, I don’t have any extra milk until all my kids are weaned. There is usually enough left over after feeding them for our house use, so it works out well. After weaning, though, there’s a ton of it. The past two years I’ve made cheese, and I probably have enough cheese squirrelled away to make it through the Apocalypse. Fortunately, I like making cheese and we like eating it, but there is a limit. We also are not allowed to sell any dairy products, other than milk, in Oregon, unless we jump through more legal hoops.
So when I got a couple of calls from local folks wanting to buy milk, I thought, “Terrific!” I had some sort of romantic idea that they would all become my friends, too. Ha! To make a long story short, it didn’t end up that way, and yesterday I had enough and decided they were all fired.
One would think, since I have a unique product that is supremely healthy for people that it would be appreciated. One would think, too, that since they had contacted me, not the other way around, that I might decide not to serve them if they made me very unhappy. At any rate, I am done with having a refrigerator full of milk because people can’t be bothered to show up to get it when they are supposed to, because in this day of having a phone in one’s pocket 24/7/365 it is too inconvenient to call and say you can’t come by, and because I’m tired of handing out milk jars right and left that I have paid for and never having them returned. One might think that they would realize that I’m doing them a service—and I DON’T HAVE TO?
My nephew is making a few calls for me, and I will be feeding my extra milk very soon to a couple of weaner pigs. There’s an added bonus in that they will also process garden debris and kitchen scraps. They will also never complain, and they will always be appreciative. When they are big enough, they will either be butchered for our own meat (yes, I make sausage and have a smoker), or they will go to the sale. Either way, it looks like a win-win for me, and I won’t have to be stressed-out any more.
Judging from the email I get from folks who visit this site, there are many of you who are aspiring writers. You want to write but aren’t sure how to get started and think maybe blogging may be the way to go. If so, this post is for you.
Becoming a published writer nowadays is easy. That does not guarantee anyone will read your work, however. Getting your own blog online is a simple matter, and it won’t even cost you lots of money. You can sign up for a domain name and a free or inexpensive blog-type Webpage through many different Web Hosts (I’ll plug Hostgator here, since I originally went with them, everything is simple and easy, inexpensive, and they are great to work with). Then you can choose a free template through WordPress or Weebly, for example, and you’re ready to start designing your page. It’s nearly all plug-and-play, so the design and content is entirely up to you. Honestly, that’s how I put together my Website, and it’s not difficult. If you are reasonably tech savvy, then you should have no trouble setting up your own Webpage. A site on Blogspot.com is even easier to set up, and it’s free but with less design options.
There are loads of free videos available through YouTube on how to design and set up a Webpage. I watched several of them dozens of times and took notes before jumping in. The best one I found is by James B. Stafford (it’s no doubt a bit dated now), and here is the link to it:
Now for the hard part: Writing. Writing is easy for me, because I’ve been doing it most of my life. For me, because I do so much of it, writing is like breathing. I enjoy doing it, and I probably wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I couldn’t. I’ve also earned a B.A. in English as well as certificates in Technical Writing and Professional and Technical Editing. I have published a book of poetry, and right now I’m working on a book about dairy goat management, in addition to my blogs here and on Blogspot.com (“Not a Natural Blonde” at http://sablwolf.blogspot.com).
Yes, I write A LOT. That’s what you have to do to be a writer—write stuff. Every. Single. Day. It should be something besides email and Facebook posts or memos at work. Those don’t count—unless they are really long, involved, and you spent a couple hours on them. You must actually write to be a writer. Don’t laugh. A number of years ago I had a friend who fancied himself as some sort of Hemingway clone. He was in love with the notion of being a writer, and whenever somebody asked him what he did, out came, “Oh, I’m a writer.” The trouble was, he’d gotten some encouragement from his professors for a few good short stories he’d written in high school and college—but he hadn’t done much after that. What had he written lately? He was working on a couple things. Anything published? No. Did he write every day? No. Was he really a writer? No! He could have been, he had the talent, but he wasn’t because HE DIDN’T DO IT.
How do you get started writing? The Nike motto says it best: “Just do it!” You’ve got an internal monologue running all the time, so start writing down what matters to you. Write about what you care about, whether it’s farm animals, your dog, cooking, gardening, or even politics. If you want to write, you are no doubt an intelligent person with something to say, so write it down.
And please, don’t just rant. Spare us. Few other people will be interested in reading your rant, no matter how witty and entertaining you think it may be. If you honestly care about something, write about why it’s important to you, its good points, how it could be improved, etc. Be positive. Add something to the Blogosphere that is uplifting and helps other people realize why what you care about matters—to them.
While you are writing, be sure to fact-check your material and give credit to people you quote. Don’t plagiarize, and don’t steal other people’s photographs—get permission to use them. A good writer is an honest writer who deals with reality, not events that happened sometime long ago, far away in the Land of Fuzzy Thinking. The only exception to this is if you are writing a work of fiction. Look things up on Google or Bing if you don’t know where they came from—nowadays it is possible to do that without leaving your desk. Don’t fudge and don’t lie.
You can write the old-fashioned way with pencil and paper, or you can learn to compose at the computer. If you are reading this, composing on the computer is probably no big deal for you, and it vastly simplifies writing itself once you get the hang of it. There are so many helpful tools (and no, I am not talking about Spellcheck or Grammarcheck—in my opinion, those are so useless they are a waste of time). I’m talking about simple tools such as cut-and-paste or find-and-replace, for example. Those are huge improvements over writing longhand and among the reasons why I finally learned to compose at the computer. Besides, it saves you the trouble of transcribing your work onto the computer once you’ve finished, where it eventually needs to go anyway. My relatives won’t be able to sell first drafts of my work through Sotheby’s for millions after I’m long-dead, however, because there aren’t’ any. Boo-hoo. Become proficient in the use of Microsoft Office Word. You won’t regret it. You can even download an app to use it on your iPad.
Before you begin writing, compose a topic sentence. If you don’t have a clear idea why you are writing, a topic sentence will help crystallize your thoughts. Then write an outline. It can be as simple as this one:
I-Introduction (Topic Sentence and Introductory Paragraph)
II-Discussion (3-5 Points to consider that support/prove my argument)
B- Second Point
Once you have your basic outline, fill in all the points you will cover in writing your article or post. You may decide to re-arrange them or even leave some out before you’re done. The writing part is nearly done for you then, because you have already assembled everything you need to write about.
The next step is to have someone whose opinions you trust critique your work, hopefully several people. If you are lucky, they can proofread it at the same time. Running your work past somebody else can not only help get rid of spelling and grammatical errors but can also help you find any unsupported gaps in your argument. Whoever you choose to critique your work can tell you if you proved your point, or if you need to do more work. That’s what professional editors do. They not only proofread, but they also help you learn to develop your ideas in a more organized, clearly written, effective manner. Professionals are paid for what they do, but you probably have a few friends who wouldn’t mind reading your work and helping you out until you gain more confidence.
Every writer has his/her own routine. Some people need to “center themselves,” or they may only be able to write using paper and pen or at a certain desk or time of day, etc. Hopefully, none of that will limit you. I usually write about whatever has been concerning my mind for the past few days, on the news or about something seasonally appropriate. Occasionally I do an outline, especially if my topic is lengthy, but mostly I just sit down at my computer and write. It’s already organized in my head, because my subconscious has been working on it while I’ve been going about my business. When I’m done, I re-read it a few times, edit it myself, and sometimes I will leave it and come back later to finish. I ask my husband Sam (who is also a trained editor) to read things before I publish them, and based on his feedback, I may add material or do a re-write. Lastly, I save the article on my computer and then publish it on my Webpage, along with whatever photos I might use to help illustrate my points.
The nice thing about blogging is that you can write about whatever concerns you and publish it yourself. The downside is that you may not ever have a large readership, though it always takes time to become established, no matter what you do. Don’t get discouraged, and keep at it. If you want to publish magazine articles or a book, that involves an entirely different, more lengthy process. It is much more difficult, time-consuming, and costly, but blogging may eventually take you down that road. If it does, persevere, keep on writing—and good luck to you!
As always, I wish you the very best.
And to all of you purists out there, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy New Year, etc. If I left anyone out, I’m truly sorry. Those are the holidays on my horizon.
I’ve been struggling somewhat with Christmas this year, now that we live so far from any of our family or friends—and even from our
church. Christmas means so many different things to each of us, so it can be difficult to pin down. For many of us, it’s a religious holiday and part of Advent (in simple terms, the “coming” Nativity of the Christ child, as well as anticipation of the Second Coming of the Messiah), so it really is a seasonal event, not just one or two days. It’s not over until Epiphany, the twelfth day after Christmas, which celebrates the day that Jesus was revealed to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi (commonly referred to as the Three Wise Men). Remember the “partridge in a pear tree?” Remember Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night? Yes, those refer to the twelve days of Christmas. If you participate in a more orthodox church, you will be familiar with Advent wreaths and candles, Advent calendars, Advent devotionals, etc., and you will be totally immersed in it. Protestant churches and other religions and traditions, such as the Jewish Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, have their own circles of ritual and celebration specific to them as well.
There is more to the Holidays than church or religion, however, especially nowadays when so much of the season is secular and more inclusive of other traditions. For most of us, the Holidays is a time to re-connect with friends and family—to express our love for them, and to remember and help others who are not as fortunate. We get caught up in all that we think is expected of us: decorating the house, sending Christmas cards, buying gifts, baking seasonal treats, and planning for special parties and celebrations. Everywhere we turn, we are besieged by commercialism, and no wonder, since so many retailers and charities depend on the Christmas holiday season in order to break even for the year, let alone show a profit. It all seems a bit desperate, because it is.
I try to not get caught up in political correctness this time of year. I haven’t yet found another person who was offended when I wished them a Merry Christmas. If they were, they never told me about it. Nobody has ever wished me a Happy Hanukkah or Happy Kwanzaa, but I wouldn’t be upset if they did. Why? I take it to mean that person is wishing me well and a happy holiday season. No slight intended, so ruffled feathers are superfluous. Maybe other folks are more hung up about this than I am, but they need to get over it. Really.
Then there was the plain red Starbucks seasonal cup. I still have difficulty understanding why so many were offended by it. It’s red, green, and white—all the traditional colors of Christmas. Does it really have to have snowflakes, holly, trees or “Merry Christmas” on it to be a seasonal cup? Do some people just roam around looking for things they think are offensive? Get a life, people! The cup was most likely plain red to save money. Seems like a sound business decision to me.
The Holidays can be overwhelming. Or it can be under-whelming, which is where I am right now. In either case, it is easy to get burnt out. Maybe watching my favorite Christmas movies on TV will help get me in the spirit of things? Baking Holiday treats is out, unless I give them as presents, because they will primarily be eaten–by me. The easiest solution is to stop and consider what is really important, and do that, so I will concentrate on sending out Christmas greetings, a little decorating with a tree, and preparing a special holiday meal. My sister Laurie and I will share a phone call and catch up on family news. Then it will be over, and I can get down to planning for the coming year: What I will plant in my garden, which of the goats will go on the sales list, and what shows I hope to attend. You know, the important stuff!
My wish is that each and every one of you will have a blessed Holiday season, full of wonder and delight, good health, and every good thing, especially LOVE. God bless you.
And while you’re at it, have a Merry Christmas & a very Happy New Year!
Next year’s kid crop and milk production, especially this time of year, are on many people’s minds, but I wonder how many folks actually have goals (outside of producing more milk) and a plan in place to achieve them?
Many herds are on DHIA test now and participate in Linear Appraisal, but lots of herds still aren’t and don’t. My question is, “If you aren’t, how do you really know what your animals are doing, especially compared to all the rest?” Your does Flopsy and Mopsy each had high days over 10 lb. recorded on your barn log, and Mopsy went Grand Champion and Best in Show at one of the shows you went to. That’s pretty good right? The answer is, “Yes, that’s not bad—but you don’t have an accurate basis for comparison.” Peak numbers won’t tell how a doe milks during her lactation. Does she peak early and fall off or have long stable lactations? There’s a big difference in total production. We all know Grand Championships are awarded based on the animals in attendance, so what is winning at one show may not even place somewhere else. Without objective numbers, you just don’t know if what you’re doing is working. DHIA and Linear Appraisal will give you those tools.
This summer I spent some time perusing various breeders’ Web pages, and I have to say I was mostly disappointed. Few breeders, based on the animals currently in their herds and their proposed breedings, seem to have comprehensive goals or plans. Being on DHIA test and participating in Linear Appraisal gives you some numbers to work with, but it’s only a start. You still have to decide what to do with them. Breeding high-producing does to sons of high-producing does will eventually improve your milk production, but it’s not all that simple. Mopsy’s great granddaughter may be from a line of top producers, but her milk production will suffer if her udder is flopping around her ankles at every step or her feet are so crooked she can’t get around. There’s a lot more to it.
Linear appraisal scores can help. If your does need improvement in the rear udder or better feet and legs, you will want to breed to bucks with strong scores in those areas. If possible, it would be a good idea to research pedigrees to see how their other ancestors and siblings scored. That means you need to understand what all those other numbers, besides the 90/EEEE, represent. You also need to understand heritability—and I confess I’m still in the learning mode there. For example, I was looking for a buckling to use on my doe kids this fall and was quite excited about one from compatible bloodlines. His mama scored 2-04 88/VVVE. Pretty good right? It seemed so—until I looked at the individual scores, and there were several +’s in the area of feet and legs. That was too bad, because it meant I couldn’t use him. Now let me qualify why not. The +’s might not have bothered me if the doe had been older (say 5 or more), but she was a 2-year-old. Since feet and legs are one of the first places does break down with production, I was not willing to go any further. Feet and legs are not an area for compromise in my book. My opinion is that very few buck kids should be sold every year, compared to the number that are, and any doe getting +’s for scores, unless she’s aged or an outstanding doe in some regard (a Top !0 producer, SG or Elite Doe, for example), isn’t a suitable candidate to produce a buck for breeding. She doesn’t have to be a 90 /EEEE, but she should have good solid Linear Appraisal scores and a respectable milk record, hopefully DHIA. People can disagree with me—that’s their right. Every person is entitled to his/her own opinion.
One thing I also noticed is that lots of breeders tend to onesie breed their does. I understand. You have that expensive nitrogen tank out back filled with the best semen from all the old greats, and you want to use it. No problem, if you have one or two does that you have particular goals for–say you want to get a buck to breed up, or you want to bring in a bloodline for future use. Loads of folks jump on the bandwagon every so many years with one particular buck that’s producing show winners, too. We saw it with Frosty Marvin, and we’re seeing it with Playboy now. Please, don’t misunderstand me—I am NOT denigrating those bucks or saying don’t use A.I., but you don’t have a breeding program and will never have a distinctive herd if you breed all your does this way. People buying kids from you won’t know what to reasonably expect if you’ve used ten different bucks from all over, because your kids will all be different. How did Wingwood or Lakeshore get to be the powerhouses they are? They each had a plan and linebred, continually bringing back and breeding for the animals in their herd that were great. They followed their plans over many years’ time, culled or sold animals that didn’t match their goals, and when you buy a kid from them you know what you’re getting, besides a famous herd name.
This coming year Imnaha Purebred Nubians will be participating in DHIA test and Linear Appraisal, so we will have scores on all our mature animals (we don’t have kids appraised). We have had a plan in place for the bucks we want to use in our breeding program for the past two years and are already looking ahead another two to three years. We aren’t set up to do A.I., and in our location it isn’t really feasible, so we will still need to buy bucklings that haven’t been born yet. Using kids rather than their proven mature sires is something of a crap shoot, but people don’t usually want to part with their mature bucks. Why would they? There’s a huge investment in proving a buck’s worth! We will reward their efforts by buying sons to use in our herd, and hopefully help prove it was worth it. If not, we’ll re-group and start again, but that’s part of the gamble. With luck, five years down the road we will see our breeding program has paid off and our goals were met. People will know what to expect when they buy an Imnaha kid. Then we can set new goals and raise the bar.
No matter how “on top” of things you think you are, there always comes a moment when it seems as though you just woke up and everything is different. It feels almost like déjà vu in the way your head spins, and you find yourself looking at the world with new eyes.
I had one of those experiences this morning. I was standing at the gate by the milk room, waiting for Sam to bring Marian for milking. It’s not even August yet, but it already feels like fall. The doe kids are weaned and nearly large enough for breeding, and over the past couple of weeks most of the mature does have gotten bred. Yesterday I sold my last two Border Leicester sheep (except for Romulus—he’s an old guy and just a big pet now), Caesar and Mom, to some nice folks up near Spokane, so they’re leaving day after tomorrow.
Just a couple of months ago we sold all the cross-bred sheep, so Sam and I thought we’d buy another purebred ewe next spring. However, we weren’t taking into account the realities of our little place. It’s so dry and rocky here, that our acreage will only support so many animals, even feeding supplementary hay and grain. We had to choose, and the horses and goats weren’t leaving. I’m really going to miss the sheep, too! It’s like trying to have two breeds of goats (years ago we also had Saanens). Inevitably, one group always takes a back seat, and you split your energies and investments, so neither group gets your best. At the same time, I’m excited about the babies our goats will give us in just five short months. Of course, I will want to keep them all, silly me, but then I will have to decide which milkers stay and which go so I can keep a few of those new kids! It’s really hard when each one is special and you love them all.
Sometimes though, the decision is made for you. We lost our very best doe Cherry this year, due to complications from a difficult birth, and no matter what we did we couldn’t stop it. That had never happened to me before, and it broke my heart.
Sometimes a doe’s production may not be up to your standards, her udder may be starting to break down—or she yells (yes, I have sold goats for yelling). None of those things mean a doe can’t still be productive, she just needs to move on. With kids, it may be as simple as someone has made a reservation to buy it, or you aren’t working with those bloodlines anymore. Still, it’s sad, and I always hope for the best and try to find good homes for each and every one of them.
Plans change too. Early this spring we revamped the big Quonset, thinking it could house the goats (besides the horse stable and the house, it’s the only other large building on the place), but that didn’t work out very well. It was impossible to get the building to breathe sufficiently, and we were going through tons of shavings for bedding. Now we find ourselves, yet again, having to build another structure to shelter the goats! Fortunately, we will be able to use the Quonset for hay storage, at least—which we will need to buy and haul sometime in the next few weeks to be ready for winter. Sam seems to have a solid plan now as to how he wants to construct the goat facilities. I’ll help! I just want it to be finished when the fall rains begin!