Agatha, Come On!

The hens had an outing. They dispersed to the old pumpkin patch, under the peach tree and across the lawn.



While they forage, I clean the barns and then garden. Once I finish my chores, I have to put the Girls back into their safe fenced pen. When I call, they all come running and gather around me.



Well, maybe not everyone. I count 13 hens. One is missing. It is, of course, Agatha. She’s in the overgrown raspberry patch, oblivious to where here flock-mates are. Agatha is not the most alert hen. (There she is in the exact center of this photo.)



I yell and she looks up. Oh! she says, but doesn’t exactly hurry.



Agatha hears me shaking the canister of scratch corn and starts to trot. But then she gets distracted. It takes awhile. The other hens get impatient.



Finally, there are 14 hens in barn, including that one rather spacey Speckled Sussex.


Frost and Ice

It’s a hazy late April morning.



At first glance, you’d think that we’re heading straight into summer. The cherry is in bloom.



But there’s frost on the grass.



I’ve set the patio pots out, but haven’t filled them yet. The child’s wheelbarrow is decorative and at some point will have training flowers and herbs in it. But not now. Right now there’s ice.



I’ve planted cool weather crops – kale and peas – and the carrots seeds will go in this week. But those warm weather veggies will have to wait another month.

Scooter says that the grass it damp and cold. This is a morning for doing his business quickly and getting back inside to his warm bed.


Personally, I think that these chilly late-spring days are ideal. There’s sunshine and flowers, but it’s too cold for gnats and mosquitos. And, I don’t yet have all of those gardening chores making me feel guilty that I’m not doing them!

Happy Birthday, Goat Boys!

About eight years ago I went to a fair in Maine and was totally smitten when I saw a stall full of Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats. I’ve been to countless fairs at which there are animals that I become enamored with. But I’ve never felt the urge to bring home an ox, a Belgian draft horse or a pig. This time it was different. I had to have a couple of goats in the backyard. I looked into it and I decided that I’d get wethers (neutered males), just two, just for pets.

I found a small breeder in Maine who gave me first dibs on that year’s babies. On this day, seven years ago, one of her favorite does had twins.

She sent me this photo of them.


Those were the ones for me. They arrived here on June 22, 2009.

It turns out that the neutered males are not as “miniature” as the females. Pip and Caper grew and grew.



They aren’t exactly the petite goats that I’d imagined.



That’s okay. They need all of their heft to contain their outsized personalities.

smiling pip

A very happy birthday to you, Goaties! And many more to come.

Dog Bliss

The sun is out. There’s nary a cloud in the sky. The paving stones have heated up.

Scooter says that all makes the perfect day.

Dog happiness.


I never get tired of seeing Scooter blissed out in the sun.

Lily doesn’t sunbathe, but she does wiggle on her back with all four in the air. See?


Are your animals having a good day today? Tell me about it! Let’s spread the joy.

Revised Advice

With more than twenty years of experience and countless hours devoted to researching backyard hens, I consider myself something of an expert and I’m confident giving advice. I don’t feel the same about goats. Although I write about Pip and Caper, my knowledge is limited to these two individuals and the seven years that I’ve had them. Once in awhile, though, I pass along something that I think is helpful or fun. From experienced goat keepers I got the idea to give Christmas trees to the goats to chew on. I’ve been giving the boys pine trees for years now. Some I cut myself from the back woodland, some I get after Christmas when people drop their trees off at the town DPW.

Yesterday I heard from Liz, a reader who like me, has a small flock of hens and discovered that chickens are the gateway drug animal to pet goats. This past year she added three wethers to her backyard. After Christmas she gave her goats their tree. Not long after she noticed them urinating frequently. The pee was rust/neon orange in color. She called the vet, who did blood work. The next day the goats were dribbling pee while walking and were clearly in pain. Fortunately for these goats, they live near Tufts Veterinary School and Hospital, where they were admitted. Meanwhile, Liz went over their enclosure with a fine-toothed comb trying to find the culprit. That’s when she noticed that the trunk of her Christmas tree had a stripe down it – the tree had been coated with a color enhancer, which is toxic to animals. The tree had been bought at Lowe’s, and with their assistance Liz was able to trace it back to the farm, who helpfully told them what the chemical was so that the goats could be treated. Thankfully, the goats survived with no permanent kidney damage.

These goats are alive because Liz was observant and knew when to get help. Some symptoms – like orange urine – are enough to jump to action. By the way, those goats were fortunate that Liz and her husband were willing and able to pay for the vet care. It came to thousands of dollars. They are not wealthy people. Anyone who keeps pets know that there are hard monetary choices to be made. Not everyone can or should bankrupt themselves to save an animal. (A topic for a post unto itself.)

I’m grateful that Liz shared this experience with me. Although the advice that I passed along to give pine trees to goats remains sound, it’s not complete. I’d now say to only use pine trees that you cut yourself. There are toxins lurking everywhere in commercial products (which is a scary thought, isn’t it?) I’ve revised my previous post and hope that the word will get out. Please share this information with any goat keepers that you know. Thank you.