Hungry Goats

The goats stopped eating their hay. If you recall, they didn’t like the coarse first cutting hay that I had, and so I bought four bales of second cutting. They liked the first few flakes, but then they turned up their noses at it. The hay looked okay, it was green and leafy, but when I shook it, dark dust flew. Mold? If so, it didn’t smell bad yet. However, Pip and Caper, the goat gourmands, pulled the hay out of the rack and piled the rejections on the floor. Look at the deep bedding. Expensive deep bedding.

Also notice Pip’s dirty nose. He was so hungry that he dug under the fallen leaves in the meadow and snuffled in the dirt to find edibles. Also notice the round torsos. They were in no danger of starvation. (Caper disputes that, but don’t believe him.)

Still, it’s important for goats to have full bellies at night. Their four-stomach digestive process produces heat, and so it’s important for them to eat a lot before bedtime in order to stay warm through the night. (Jealous? I am.)

So, despite my busy, pre-surgery schedule, this morning I drove 25 miles to a feed store in New Hampshire that had second cutting hay. I got five bales. I moved the old bales into the HenCam coop. Candy likes the old hay for eating and for snuggling in, so she’ll get it throughout the winter. The one open bale (which I think is the only one that the goats should have had objections to) I put along the fence in the HenCam pen.

That made the hens, and Candy, very happy.

Meanwhile, Steve mucked out the goats’ stall. I put a new flake in the rack.

And the goats ate.

And ate. Pip ate so much that even though there was hay dangling from his mouth, he couldn’t chew anymore.

But he wasn’t too full to have the last laugh.

A Break From the Barn

On Thursday I’ll be giving the barns a good cleaning. I’ll muck out the goats’ stall, sweep cobwebs and scrub waterers. I’ll scrape chicken manure from a ledge under the big barn’s roost, and put down clean shavings. I’ll give the goats a good brushing and rub coconut oil into Candy’s dry ears. On Friday I’m having surgery and I won’t be allowed in the barns for a couple of weeks.

I’m getting a cochlear implant. I’ve been slowly going deaf for years (no one knows why.) I’ve worn hearing aids since my twenties, but as my hearing has worsened, they no longer help, and so it’s time. Hearing loss is an invisible disability. It’s stressful, exhausting and limiting. The CI offers hope that I’ll be able to once again engage in conversations around the dinner table, and hear simple exchanges like “credit or debit?” at the supermarket. But, it’s a long process. First, there’s the surgery, then a month of healing, then the CI is turned on, and there’s learning to hear again. I’m told that at first everyone will sound like Donald Duck (one of my least favorite cartoon characters – I’m dreading this) until my brain makes sense of the new inputs. There’s no telling how successful the CI will be – it’s not like a new pair of glasses, where the results are known and immediate. I’ll be doing auditory rehab for months. My surgeon and audiologist are optimistic that my hearing will improve dramatically. I sure hope so.

I’ll spare you the details on the surgery, but suffice it to say that one part of it entails drilling a hole through the skull to access the inner ear. I can’t risk dust and germs getting into that incision, so I won’t be allowed in the barn. Many of you have written to tell me that Little Pond Farm is your “happy place” and your “island of sanity.” It is for me, too. I’ll be watching the HenCam along with you.

It’s outpatient surgery and I’ll be home Friday night, but I’ll be on potent pain-killing drugs, so I’m not sure when I’ll be lucid enough to blog. But don’t worry, I should be fine. I’ve got homemade soup in the freezer, a husband at my side, and friends willing to close up the barns at dusk if he can’t. My oldest son knows how to do the laundry (well, I wouldn’t have him fold it, but it’ll get clean…) Any suggestions for movies to watch while I’m holed up? I like movies with happy endings.

Lily’s New Bed

My dogs follow me everywhere. Three other people live in this house, but I’m the dog magnet. So, it’s a good thing that my office is such a fine place for dogs. There’s a big glass door and a porch with a view of the street. They both have beds, but Lily’s is too small.

Despite a long to-do list, I decided to make Lily a new bed today. Scooter would get her old bed, which he prefers to the polka dot one.

I’m not much of  a seamstress, but I can sew a straight line. I had some fleece and fabric scraps, so I spent the morning on this project. I appliqued hearts and bones (thinking they might hide the dog hair.) Lily would have preferred dead squirrel graphics, but I decided that that was beyond my abilities.

I put the bed down.

Scooter claimed it.

Lily wanted to lay on her bed. She wanted to look out the window. Scooter said there was no room.

I told Scooter that I was giving him the old bed, and set it right next to the new one. He balefully looked at me. I picked him up. He growled. He was embarrassed at growling at me, but he had to. He just did. I set him down on the new bed. I called Lily over. She lay down, keeping an eye on Scooter.

The bed is the perfect size for Lily to curl up. It’s big enough that none of her toes have to touch the carpet. That is, if she has it all to herself. But she doesn’t. Scooter says she has to share.

Good dog, Lily.

Finally! The little dog has gone downstairs to sit on a warm lap on the couch (the only reason to leave my office) and Lily has her new bed to herself. The way it should be.

Winter Beard Styles

Goats have beards. Some have bigger beards than others.

But, in the winter, the goats drink, their beards get wet, and freeze. A bit of a Fu Man Chu look.

It was 6 degrees F this morning (that -14 C!) and icicle beards just made everything seem that much colder. So, I trimmed them. Not the best job. You try cutting a goat’s beard with scissors. They don’t exactly stand still for it. But, the boys aren’t vain and didn’t complain. I think they’ll be happier not having chins dripping with ice. Caper looks kind of cute, doesn’t he? I’ve always liked my men clean-shaven.

Fussy Eaters

It’s a myth that goats will eat anything. In the winter, when there’s nothing left in the meadow to eat, hay is their main food source. Hay is basically dried grass, but not any grass. Farmers devote fields to growing this stuff. Some farmers seed timothy, others seed alfalfa. Some don’t seed at all, and simply cut what’s there. The first mowing of the year is aptly named, “first cutting hay.” The stems are thick, the tops mature. If the hay has been baled and brought in before it gets rained on or baked by the sun, it’s green and smells grassy. Good to me. Not to my goats. My boys won’t eat first cutting hay.

Note their hay rack. The stuff it’s stuffed with all looks the same, right? But note that the boys are munching on the right side.

First cutting is on the left. “Second cutting” hay is on the right. Late summer hay is also known as “goat candy.” I still have two bales of the first cutting – bought when that was all that was available. It was 19 degrees this morning. Cold. The goats need to eat hay to keep warm. And yet, when I came into the barn, there they were, telling me they were starving. The hay rack was full. With first cutting. Even hungry, they won’t deign to eat it. It’s going to be some expensive bedding.