Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Some BBQ and Clogging to Take Your Mind Off The Goats

I will tell you right now - I am obsessed with clogging. Of course, I didn't even know what clogging was until Saturday night. I mean I thought it was people who wore clogs and danced polka-esque or a la German or something but no - clogging is kind of like tapping, only clackitier. It's awesome!

Ok - actually, a quick check of Wikipedia informs me that clogging is simply a type of folk dancing that varies region to region. In the U.S., it's roots are in the Appalachian region and the Ozarks, it's typically done to bluegrass and that COMPETITIVE clogging is done with taps. So it is like tapping. Only I still say it's clackitier.

Anyways, to back track just a moment - Saturday night found us in the small town of Dudley Shoals, NC at Sim's Country BBQ. Sim's is something of a marvel to me as they are open Friday and Saturday nights from 5pm - 9pm. Eight hours a week. And I thought the people at Fox's Fish Camp had it easy!

Located at the end of a windy, dirt road and next to a beautiful pond (apparently full of catfish), the building itself is not much to look at. In fact, when we were there Saturday, all I really noticed was the plastic sheeting draping the outside. I don't know if that's winter insulation or weatherproofing or what. Additionally, from the front, the building doesn't look all that big but inside it's huge so it must be the angle at which you see it from the outside that is so deceptive.

There is not a whole lot to Sims. For $10.75 per person ($4.25 for kids), it's an all you can eat buffet including slaw, pickles, cornbread fritters, bread, beans, chips, and BBQ. The 'cue includes chicken, beef and pork. Everything is disposable - Styrofoam plates and cups, plastic utensils, individual packets of salt & pepper. It kind of reminded me of a church supper for some reason. Drinks and dessert are extra - although this being a family place there is no alcohol. I will say this - the food is very, very good. I'd estimate there were at least 200 folks in there including several groups (a church, a sweet 16) and the line for the buffet was long at times (we arrived at 5:30 and went right through however our attempts at seconds 20 minutes later took a good 20 minutes).

At 7 the Bluegrass kicks up and the cloggers get at it. You see - Sims also has a clogging school and so kids and accomplished adults alike take to the dance floor and show their stuff (as do a number of small children under the age of 5 who generally twirl and spin and look incredibly adorable).

I don't know if I am doing a truly good job in describing this, and I don't want to blather on like I did when I wrote about the Woodshed, but I will say this about Sims:

It's totally country
It's totally fun
And when you come to visit, make sure you ask to include it as a stop in the J. Peterman Reality Tour.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I Don't Think They Serve Goats in South Africa

I am giving you an out - or at least a pause - because seriously folks, my life is all goat, all the time. I have absolutely nothing to contribute that is not goat related. This is what happens when you have a 2-1/2 week old goat living in your house, you're bottle-feeding it 6 times a day, trying to house train it (knock on wood - it's going well), loving it, nurturing and in general spending inordinate amounts of time with it because it is after all, quite young and it thinks your its mom...

So if I am goated out, you must be goated out. And while I will continue to write and post, I can't promise much diversity in my musings which is why it's a good thing that my cousin Lily is blogging about her adventures in Capetown for the semester.

It should be a goat-free blog, however, I don't have time to Google the regional cuisine of Capetown so if goat is a staple and Lily winds up writing about it, I can't help you there.


And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Full Hands

We have had our hands full and therefore I have not had much time to write much about anything that's going on. Just to clarify the recent chain of events:

2/4 - Ann Margaret gives birth to triplets - 2 boys, Buster and Peanut, and 1 girl, Lucky.

2/6 - Ann Margaret rejects her daughter and we bring her into the house and start bottle feeding her and raising her until she is weaned and big enough to go out into the pasture and defend herself (roughly 6 - 8 weeks).

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2/12 - Nugget gives birth to a baby boy and yes - Elvis is the father but we don't discuss it. We're calling the baby Surprise Steve.

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It's now been 2 weeks. Lucky is thriving in the house. She bottle feeds and runs and jumps and plays. She thinks I am her mom - it's kind of cute.

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We try to get her outside for at least a few hours a day so she'll start grazing. Unfortunately, like any newborn she does not like to be left alone and I have a job so I can't spend all day with her so this has been a challenge.

Buster and Peanut are thick as thieves. They are completely inseparable. It's heart warming to watch them learn and discover and figure things out.

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We've been out of town for a few days but I think that Surprise Steve is getting along with his half brother nephews well. As always, it makes me sad Lucky does not have any one to play with (believe me, she's tried with both Tony and Sebastian and they are just not interested). Apparently, our friend who was housesitting took her out to the pasture and the reaction from Ann Margaret was pretty violent which does not bode well. I'd still like to see if we can get her to play with the other little ones.

I am absolutely swamped but wanted to give you all a proper update. Between 6 bottle feedings a day, house training and a long overdue trip to NYC, I haven't written much and I apologize. More to come...

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Elvis is a Stud

I am sitting at the bar at the Westin in Charlotte nursing a pinot noir and killing time before a 6pm meeting when Marty calls to tell me that apparently, Nugget just had a baby. All I can say is, Elvis is a stud.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Nine to One

I have 9 children. Sebastian. Tony. Elvis. Ann Margaret. Nugget. Dixie. Lucky. Peanut. Buster.

At any given time in my day, one of my children needs to be fed, loved or played with. Water needs to be changed. Stalls need to be mucked. Litter needs to be cleaned. Food dishes need to be refilled. Straw needs to be added. Hooves need to be cleaned. Attention needs to be lavished.

The responsibility has increased exponentially since we decided to bottle-feed and hand-raise Lucky ourselves. That's right - we've decided to keep her. Even as late as yesterday, I was thinking we'd give her away. I just didn't know how we could manage raising a newborn goat on top of everything else going on in our lives. But...we bonded and I am now Lucky's mama. I guess there's something about bottle-feeding a newborn, taking care of it, nurturing it, letting it nuzzle your neck after it feeds. How could I get rid of her now?

I feel a little bad that I have kept my distance from Peanut and Buster but with Lucky rubbing her little face all over me, I am afraid her scent is on me and I don't want to transfer it to them lest Ann-Margaret reject them too.

The last few days have been an emotional roller coaster. From the high of Ann-Margaret giving birth on Monday to the terror of watching her attack Lucky on Wednesday to the difficulty of trying to figure out what we were going to actually do Thursday and Friday - I am plum worn out. It's a week I never thought I would live but it's a week I would never wish to live without.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Friday, February 08, 2008

More Goat Pix





From left to right: Peanut (boy), Lucky (girl) and Buster (boy). This was the last morning the 3 of them would spend together like this.



Lucky adjusts to life on the inside.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Just Call Me Mama

Well - Lucky (we re-christened her in light of her newly discovered gender and her circumstances) has taken to the bottle like a champ. She got it around 10:30 yesterday morning and when she first connected and started suckling, I just smiled and smiled and smiled. And I'll tell you what, I love feeding her. It is such a bonding experience and I feel so good knowing I am helping her live. She crawls all over me and sniffs me and nuzzles me and we play and in general have a good time. I am not so sure any more that we are going to give her up.

Meanwhile, we let Ann-Margaret and the other 2 babies out today for the first time. By the way - wrong on genders again. Peanut and Coco are both boys so Coco has been re-christened Buster. Anyways, the boys love being outside. They were running and jumping in the grass and exploring {Elvis got a little alpha with them, but not violent). Then, when they were tuckered out, they curled up together for a nap in the sun.

It breaks my heart that Lucky is cooped up inside in a kennel while her siblings play together outside. That makes me sad. It really does. But I love getting to bond with her and I love taking care of her and I love being a mom to her and I think in 6 - 8 weeks when she is weaned from milk and big enough to defend herself, we'll turn her back out into the pasture and she'll return to her family.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Nature vs. Nurture

I am not a farmer. Period. I have no capacity to remain clinical and detached when dealing with my animals. I am a big, fat, tender bleeding heart full of love and compassion for all of my babies because that's that they are: my babies. Part of the family. I can't see them any other way and I think that's why yesterday was so tough on me.

For 2 days I told everyone I could about what I witnessed on Monday. How magnificent it was. Awesome. How I marveled at Ann-Margaret's maternal instinct. I even joked about how humans over-prepare and read books and drive themselves crazy over child-rearing whereas animals seem to let instinct kick in and everything else falls into place.

Well I changed my tune when forever whatever reason, Ann-Margaret's instinct told her to attack one of her newborns. The only way I can reconcile this in my head is that Ann-Margaret knew she couldn't effectively raise/mother/nurse 3 kids. It's simply too many - in fact, goats don't usually have litters of more than 2. I think she chose Junior because Junior was the most aggressive. Not in a bad way mind you, but she was the first to nurse. The first to jump up. She was always running and frolicking and being active and sweet and wonderful. So I am telling myself, that maybe Junior nursed too much too soon. And Ann-Margaret, fearful for Peanut and Coco, pushed her away. She doesn't know that her 2-day old kid has no other resources. She's just protecting her litter. It's weird I know - but in my head this is the only way I can make sense of it.

I was crushed yesterday. Devastated. I hated taking a 2-day old kid away from its mother, its siblings, its natural habitat. I hated what that separation might mean at such a young age - from not getting the proper nutrients because she wasn't nursing to socialization skills later down the road. However, with some time behind the drama of yesterday afternoon, I am starting to be ok with my decision.

Had I not stepped in and interfered with nature, Junior would surely be dead. Now, she is in the house where it is warm, she is being fed on a regular basis (yes - I am bottle feeding my baby goat - well, not quite bottle feeding - she's not quite there yet - so we are dropper feeding her but it's close enough) and doesn't have to compete with her siblings, and she is receiving lots of love and affection from yours truly. How is this bad for her? It's not.

When I first posted about the birth of the goats, my dad sent me the following email:

I’ll just say, as proud grandfather do whatever you have to do to keep those goats alive. If we just let nature take its course, there would be no Lipitor, and Elvis would still be making babies. It’s a delicate balance of nature, science, and common sense.

That's why I know I did the right thing. Keeping Junior alive and giving her the chance for a life - even if it's not with her mom and dad, even if it's not with her siblings, even if it's not with me and Marty - that's the right thing to do.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Day 3: Rejected

I wish I had happy news to share. How all the goats were doing well and bonding and playing and eating. But sadly, such is not the case.

Oddly enough, over the last 2 days, I've had concerns about Peanut and Coco. In fact - I was most worried about Coco who was the last born and who I thought might be the weakest. Even yesterday - she was off by herself while Junior (who as it turns out is a girl) and Peanut played and lay together. I had to pick her up a few times and put her with the others but by this morning all 3 were tight as could be and everything seemed fine.

At around 2, I went outside to poke my head in to see how everyone was doing. Everything was fine but when Junior went to nurse, Ann-Margaret butted her away. Worse yet, she began butting her for no reason. In all of my fears and worries and concerns, it never occured to me that Ann-Margaret would reject one of her babies. Moreover, I never thought she'd do it so violently.

I pulled Junior from the stall and placed her solo in the adjacent stall. She of course hated being ripped from mom and siblings and started bleating incessantly. Ann-Margaret answered and it seemed like they were communicating so I brought Junior back over. Ann-Margaret went at her so hard, had I not been there, something terrible would have surely happened.

The vet tells me rejection is a fact of life and it happens. She didn't seem shocked given that Ann-Margaret had 3 babies and that's more than a goat usually has. We've brought Junior (who is probably getting renamed) into the house. She is in a big kennel with some straw and a stuffed pug for company. We are trying to bottle feed her but so far she's not taking to it so I am forced to squeeze a few droppers full of half goats milk/half regular milk into her mouth every hour or so until she starts eating on her own.

To be honest, I don't know what we're going to do. One option is to keep her in the house until she's big enough to defend herself and then return her to the pasture. I don't think that's really an option.

Friends with a farm and other animals (although no goats) have offered to take her which is a more likely scenario - even though I hate the idea of splitting Junior up from her family. Then again, most animals are separated from parents and siblings eventually and I keep trying to remind myself of that fact.

No matter what I am saddened and crushed by this whole thing. I just hate it. No 2 day old baby should have to go through what little Junior is going through - even though she is going to get so much human love and affection from us, from whoever takes her...I don't know. I am starting to ramble I just feel so overwhelmed.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Some More Pictures of the Kids

Some More Pictures of the Kids



That's Peanut looking at the camera, Coco is the dark brown one in the middle, and Junior has its tail sticking up at the camera (we still don't know yet if they are boys or girls or both).



Peanut is pretty cute - don't you think?



Coco gets a nuzzle from mom.



Junior checks out Coco.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Monday, February 04, 2008

We Doubled Our Herd

So here's what I get for moving my office: silence.

Up until this weekend, I was officing from the red room with a glorious view of the pasture and the perfect vantage point for keeping watch over my flock. But over the weekend I moved into the home office which is in the interior of the house and without a view and so it was that I missed 45 minutes of Ann-Margaret's cries earlier this afternoon. Marty did hear her, but figured she was hungry and brushed it off.

Lucky for me I wanted a cup of tea and lucky for me that I went into the kitchen and looked out the window and noticed my little Ann-Margaret missing. And so, anticipating birth, I threw on some shoes and ran outside where I indeed noticed Ann-Margaret laying down behind the picnic table. And then I noticed the little white legs near her head. At first 4. Then 8. There were 2 little kids who had already made their way into this world. I tried to motion to Marty who was in the kitchen.

"We have babies," I shouted. I approached closer to examine the scene. It was then that I noticed the third kid.

WARNING: READ NO FURTHER IF GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS OF GOAT BIRTHS FREAK YOU OUT.

I suppose if I was a veterinarian or remotely experienced in the ways of goat births I might not have panicked. But I did. Because towards Ann-Margaret's rear, there was the 3rd kid in a puddle of gelatinous goo. I couldn't tell if it was alive, breathing, drowning or what. Ann-Margaret was focused on her other 2 babies and was paying no mind to this one. I freaked.

I somehow managed to get Dixie and Nugget up in stalls (couldn't be bothered with Elvis), race into the house, grab my phone, grab the Nutri-Drench (a nourishment supplement I purchased back in the spring before Nugget was born that I never used but somehow thought might come in handy), and call the vet in all of about 60 seconds.

In hindsight, I believe that the 3rd kid had just been delivered. As Dr. Bob later explained, it was still in the sac it had spent the last 145 - 155 days gestating in. Barehanded, I wiped it clean and cleared its throat so it could breathe. Somewhere in this 3 minute span, Marty called our neighbor Steve to help (Steve was the one who held down Elvis while Dr. Mary snipped him in September), Steve showed up, and Marty came out with a towel and scissors. Steve cut the umbilical cord and we placed the soaking wet kid in front of its mother who promptly started licking it clean.

I pause here to say how much nature and instinct amazes me. As much as I wanted to interfere, I didn't have to. Ann-Margaret cleaned her babies one by one. When she was ready, she stood and again, one by one they found their way to her nipple and took that precious first sip of mother's milk (although one needed just a little bit of guidance). Ann-Margaret was calm, attentive, loving, tired, gentle, sweet and motherly.

When she was ready, it was easy to lure her into a stall with a dish of feed and she didn't panic when we picked up her newborns and carried them in to be with her. She ate and nurtured and cleaned and nuzzled.

She's been calm each time I've gone into the stall to check on her and the little ones. She lets me pet them. She lets me pet her. She doesn't mind when I help guide them to her to feed (only the 1 seems to have nursing down- the other 2 are a little slow).

I confess, I am worried. Three kids are not normal. There's only 1 Ann-Margaret and she's only got 2 nipples which means the least aggressive could lose out on precious feeding time and other important nurturing. Then again, maybe they'll all be okay. I am trying to be of the "let nature take its course" school but I think I am more of the "if I have to bottle feed one so it survives I absolutely will" school. Does that make me a bad person?

We don't know the genders but we've picked out temporary names. Photos follow! All in all it was a glorious, miraculous, spectacular day and I am so glad, that this time, I didn't miss it.

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Temporary names: Coco - dark brown on far left. Spitting image of Nugget. Last one born/the one I helped with. Junior in the middle. We think it's a boy. Confident, sure and the spitting image of its dad. Peanut on the far right. Looks like mom and still a little shaky.

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Ann-Margaret mothers her newborns.

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Marty poses with Junior.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Countdown is Over - Ann-Margaret is a Mom...Again

Very quickly - I was in the kitchen making a cup of tea when I noticed that Elvis, Nugget and Dixie were grazing but no sign of Ann-Margaret but I heard her bleating. I went outside and sure enough she was sprawled out behind the picnic table with 2 little kids already out and a third en route which I helped clean off...

I'll write in more detail and post pix later but wanted to share the joyous news!!!!

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Better Because of Dixie

I have noticed some changes in the goats since we brought Dixie home. I'll start with Elvis. He seems to want WHATEVER Dixie is getting. Which means if I go out into the pasture to play with her or pet her or in general be affectionate and loving with her (because one can do that sort of thing with a donkey), he's right there too waiting for his nose to be rubbed or his ears to be scratched. Elvis. My ornery, stinky, mean old Billy has become an affection-seeking softie. I love it.

It does have its downside though because he hangs around whenever I feed her and seeing as she's fed twice a day and he's only fed once, the morning feedings are a bit rough because he gets SUPER jealous. On the other hand, when I put her up at night and give her a final night time snack (a little apple and oat treat) he gets one too and it's kind of cute.

Even Nugget is starting to come around. At first, when I'd put Dixie up at night Elvis would be the only one of the goats to follow me into the barn and hang out til he got whatever Dixie was getting. The girls seemed quite disinterested. But recently, Nugget started following me into the barn too and last night she got her first apple and oat treat. I know what you're thinking - I am spoiling my goats even more. Well, I disagree. I am bonding.

Meanwhile, the whole trio has become much better grazers since Dixie joined the family. It used to be that they could take or leave grazing. Maybe they'd go for a twirl around the pasture, then they'd sit down and rest for a few hours. They'd eat mostly along the fenceline anyways and I would wonder why on earth I ever got goats if I still had the hire someone to bush hog the pasture.

But Dixie grazes non-stop. Morning. Noon. Night. Sun. Rain. Cold. Wind. Snow. She is a grazing machine and I've noticed the goats are much more active in the their grazing efforts - especially my little fattie Ann-Margaret who seems to enjoy having a pal who likes to eat as much as she does.

Speaking of Ann-Margaret, it has been 128 days since we snipped Elvis. The typical gestation period of a goat is 145 - 155 days, which means if we're going to have any more goat babies, it's going to be in the next 27 days. Actually, round up to 35 because there's always the possibility Elvis still had some swimmers AFTER the operation and it is possible - remote, but possible - that he could have somehow impregnated Ann-Margaret AFTER the fact for up to a week. I don't think it's likely as he was limping around for a few days, but, then again, Elvis is the man.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...