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Thursday, July 26, 2012

They ambushed me!





Short blog tonight, not because I have nothing to say (Don would agree that my having nothing to say is an impossibility), but because it is very painful to type tonight. Plus, little crumbs of baking soda keep falling all over the keyboard and computer chair!

This evening I was out cutting down some brush for the goats to munch on when I obviously stirred up a wasp nest. Those things are fast...I never even saw what kind they were, but suspect they were the same nasty red wasps that got me last year. One got me on the outside of my right arm just above the elbow and the other got me on the inner right arm on the bicep...and then I was running and screaming like a banshee. 

I am mildly allergic to wasps and by the time I finished my evening chores and ended to the house for Benadryl  and a paste of baking soda for the stings I was having cold chills and light-headedness. Now that I'm medicated I am just having pain...these stings really, well, sting! The one on the inside of my arm rubs against my tee shirt so it feels better if I hold my arm out away from my body...which makes typing difficult.

Y'all have a good night and be careful outside. Obviously there are wasps waiting to ambush an unsuspecting person everywhere. If they do get you remember to administer a paste of baking soda and cool water to the sting as quickly as possible. It really does help!


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Things I've learned since becoming a goat granny...


Spent some time this evening in the goat pen, which includes the chicken, duck and rabbit pens. I had a few things I needed to do on top of the normal feeding, watering and petting everyone. Doing anything extra is quite a feat with my three new "helpers" underfoot, even a simple thing as going in and out of the gate. I've never had goats before (my Daddy did though) so I've been learning a lot since getting the three amigos...learned some stuff today too! For example:

OBI
1. Goats like to stand on things. Now, I knew this already and had put some sycamore stumps, etc. in the pen for them before they arrived. However, I've also discovered that they will get in ANYTHING. One day I had the wheelbarrow loaded with fresh hay for their house. I raked out the old hay, turned around and Obi was standing IN the wheelbarrow munching hay. I managed to get her out, put the hay in the house, turned around and Kenobi was standing in the wheelbarrow! She did NOT want to get out and we had a serious discussion about how she could tip the wheelbarrow over and fall. I finally convinced her to get out and let me go about my business.

2. If you lean said wheelbarrow on the fence the goats will have to go behind it to see what's back there. If you lay it on its side so they can't knock the wheelbarrow over, they will put their front hooves up on it to see if they can knock it over (they can).

JUAN
3. Even male goats think they are boss. Juan is pretty sure he is king of the hill and, although he's to shy to let me touch him, he has NO problem butting in (literally) on what the girls are doing.  Juan is always kicking up his heels and pushing the girls out of the way at dinner time. He's quite a little rascal with them, which is funny considering how scared he is of me! He was also scared of the dogs at first, which makes me think Juan is just all bluff and bluster.

KENOBI
4. Goats are picky...sort of in a strange way. They have loved munching on the small elm tree, the hedges and various other vegetation in their pen. They haven't touched the grass. I have discovered that if I pick a blade of grass and offer it to Kenobi she will eat it and ask for more. Of course, once Obi realized what was going on she had to come over and eat some grass too. Kenobi took offense to that and there was quite a little tussle going on despite the fact that I tried to explain to them there was grass all over the ground and plenty to go around. I do believe goats are hard headed...in more ways than one!

The thrilling part of this little fight over being hand fed blades of grass is that Juan came up to me yesterday to see what all the fuss was about and even took a blade from me! I'll win that handsome guy over one way or the other.

Yesterday I was going to put up a tarp (actually a cheap plastic tablecloth with flannel backing I found at the Goodwill Outlet) to provide the ducks some extra shade. That didn't happen since Obi decided the red tablecloth was food and every place I attached it to the fence she attempted to eat it off. So today I executed Plan B...their leaky kiddie pool is now upside down on four sticks I pounded into the ground. I put it up in one corner of their pen and ran a longer stick catty-corner through the fence across the top of the pool to keep the wind from blowing it off. It's a temporary fix until I can come up with a Plan C.

Today I discovered that I can NOT set a bag of feed down in the goat pen while opening the gate to the chicken pen. The three stooges almost had that bag of scratch chewed open in the few seconds I had my back turned to them! I guess it's partly my fault...I give them bits of corn out of the chicken scratch and they probably thought I'd brought them a 50 pound bag of treats!

5. There's a reason you need good fences for goats and it is not because they'll jump over them. No, the reason you need good fences is because goats like to rub on the fence...and rub...and rub...and rub. Now my goat fence bows out all the way around the pen. 

6. Goats are affectionate, fun and good company. Until I got Obi, Juan and Kenobi I didn't realize just how companionable goats could be. I know my Daddy's goat, Junior, followed him around like a dog. As soon as Daddy walked outside in the morning Junior would jump the fence and follow him all day long. In the evening Daddy would tell Junior to go back to the barn and the goat would jump back over the fence into his pen for the night.

Obi, Juan and Kenobi start calling to me as soon as I round the corner of the back yard in the evenings, or if they see me in the front yard. The two girls follow me everywhere in the pen (with Juan doing the same at a distance) and they love to be petted, to have their ears and bellies scratched, their heads patted and their ears rubbed. They listen when you talk to them and they will jump up on you to get your attention. When you leave the pen they will cry after you (unless they're still busy munching on something yummy like sweet gum branches).

7. Last, but certainly not least, I've learned that I really REALLY like having goats and I love Obi, Juan and Kenobi with all my heart!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

On the right path...


When Don and I first bought Hickahala Ranch it was nothing but open fields and a few acres of wooded bottom land. We loved the way it looked and discussed leaving it like that...natural. Of course, we soon discovered that open grassy fields are NOT natural here and, if left unmowed, our fields would quickly become woods!

As the years have passed by it seems like Don kept mowing more and more "lawn" until he was spending all of his two days off on the lawn mower. This year, he's finally come to the "green side". I've urged him time and again to bush hog instead of mow, to let the horses into the fenced in front yard from time to time and to let me put the goats in the back yard. I seriously doubt that it was my nagging that changed his mind. I reckon he finally just got tired of mowing because this summer he's decided to just mow paths!

He's keeping the front yard mowed around the fence and about ten feet out from the house. He mows me a path to the garden and one to the pond. Pictured above is his path to the woods behind the house. Everything else is left to grow. I think it's great! No more wasting gas (I hate petroleum products and America's dependency on them), no more wasting time on the lawnmowers and no more wasting money constantly fixing the blasted things! Nope, Don is now on the right path...the "green" path that I've been trying to steer him onto for a very long time.

The benefits are amazing. We have more birds around the house...cardinals, hummingbirds, yellow finches and little Indigo buntings, to name a few. The barn swallows raised their family on the back porch and have decided to stay for a while. Some evenings I step outside and there are dragonflies by the hundreds hovering over the lawn. They attract bats, which I dearly love to watch swooping low to catch mosquitoes and other insects. The taller grass also attracts grasshoppers, which in turn help to feed the garden spiders that are beginning to build their webs around the house.

Don has told me to sell the riding mowers in my mom's annual yard sell in October. What mowing needs to be done will be done with the push mower or bush hogged with the tractor next year. It's just one tiny step on the path to a more environmentally friendly farm and I couldn't be happier!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My favorite jewels...


I'm not big on jewelry or precious jewels, but I do enjoy spotting unusual moths, bugs and spiders during the summer months. I was quite delighted when I spotted the one above on some concrete blocks next to the garage door. The pattern and color were remarkable...this little bug was iridescent and quite jewel-like! Surprise, surprise...it's known as a Jewel Beetle or Metallic Wood Boring Beetle (Buprestis rufipes).


This pretty little beetle likes to munch on oak, maple, black gum, beech and elm trees in the larval stage, so it's no surprise I found it right next to our woodpile (which is full of elm). Like most bugs, the Jewel Beetle lives only one day to two weeks as an adult. This life span varies so widely because there are over 40,000 species of wood boring beetles known to us! That's a lot of bugs!

These glorious beetles are actually used to make jewelry as they come in a wide variety of beautiful colors and shapes. Personally, I'd rather see one crawling around enjoying it's brief life, but then, like I stated above, I'm not much for jewelry. I rarely wear any jewelry at all...not even my wedding band!

I've discovered that gardening and rings do not mix. The minute I pick up a hoe or shovel my wedding band starts wearing a blister on my hand just below my ring finger. So, first thing I do in the Spring when I go to the garden is hang my wedding band on a nail in my potting shed. I put that nail up specifically for my wedding band so I wouldn't forget where it was once Autumn has arrived and I can wear my ring again.

Necklaces bother me, bracelets get in the way and I usually forget to wear earrings. No, I prefer to see my jewels munching on the firewood or crawling up a concrete block!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Poor little girls!

As I mentioned yesterday, we've been having a lot of health issues. I was found to have a dangerously low Vitamin D level and am currently on a once a week mega dose for 10 weeks. I was quite surprised to learn that low levels of Vitamin D will not only cause softening of bone tissue, but also causes depression and anxiety disorders.

On top of dealing with that, I went out on the front porch a couple weeks ago to discover my cat, Siobhan, had lost all the flesh and hair from most of her tail! The vet called it "degloving" and poor Siobhan had to have all but a couple inches of her tail amputated. When she came home the day after surgery she looked like she had a breakfast sausage stuck to her rear end!

The stitches came out on Wednesday and now that the hair is starting to grow back she has less of a sausage tail and more of a bob tail (thank goodness).

We also took our two youngest pets, Aislainn and Possum, to be spayed. We are very strong supporters of spaying/neutering as we know firsthand the problem our country has with excess pets and the issues that go along with that - abandoned/dumped pets and the diseases they carry and spread, etc. So off they went on Tuesday afternoon to get fixed. Poor things had to spend the night at the vet's since he was not able to get to them until Wednesday morning, but both were able to come home that afternoon, albeit a little woozy still.

Little Miss Aislainn (right) put up quite a fuss at the vet's office. We were told that she was even nipping at them (which didn't really surprise us...she likes to get her way) and being quite uncooperative. Aislainn has been a sad little lamb since coming home. She spent Wednesday evening napping on our bed and has been very uncomfortable. I've never seen a dog behave the way she does and think it must be her stitches. She'll get comfy and suddenly jump up like a bee stung her. My guess is that a stitch pokes her or she has a pain. I feel very bad for Aislainn and will be happy when she is back to being perky.

Possum has been quite another story. She was a meek little lamb at the vet's which surprised us because she is the Devil's spawn at home and reverted right back to her evil ways once the drugs wore off. They must have done her surgery after Aislainn's because Possum was still pretty out of it when she got home. In fact, she's still sleeping more than normal (and that's saying a lot for a cat). I don't think she's been off Don's computer chair in two days unless he's home and moves her elsewhere. Poor Possum, we will really miss her antics when she was in heat, which seemed to be every other week!

At least the other critters have been sympathetic, as well they should considering they've all been through the same thing! Last night Possum snuggled with Darcy. I've never seen Possum snuggled up with anyone! Darcy, however, is a different story. She loves to snuggle!

Aislainn decided to snuggle with her big sister Maggie who is an excellent snuggler, by the way. Even I like to snuggle with Maggie!

I'm still keeping an eye on one ailing critter. My goat Kenobi has a golf ball size lump in her throat just below her jaw. Now, I know she didn't swallow a golf ball because Don and I don't play golf. I wanted to take her to the vet when the others went, but decided to call first as I didn't know if the livestock vet would prefer to come out to the house. Kenobi is a great rider, so transporting her wouldn't have been a problem. However, the vet told me to just keep an eye on it and as soon as the golf ball softened up to bring her in and they'll lance it. He said it's a common thing in goats and to not worry.

HA...easier said than done!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Forecast: Sunny and scorched




I did it again and I apologize for going AWOL for a while. I've been dealing with some health issues...mine and some of the critters, but things are settling down now just in time for the drowsy hot dog days of summer.  Or maybe those days are already upon us considering all the sleeping dogs scattered about the floor around me!

So far this summer has been a very hot and dry one. The  Sycamores (above) have been losing leaves and the elms have pretty much kicked the bucket. We lost another favorite elm (right) in our yard this year...a real beauty...and I will probably cry when it is cut down for firewood. We just had a week of rain, which may have saved some of the vegetation, but this tree is past saving, as are a couple more elms down at the pond. At least they will not go to waste since we only harvest dead or downed trees for firewood in the winter. This enables us to keep the thermostat very low (a chilly 64 degrees) so we don't have to burn as much propane gas. 

Last year we made it through the winter on just over half a tank of propane! Of course, it helped that we had a mild winter and I am thinking we may be in for another...the climate is definitely changing and I am convinced that global warming is upon us. I'm pretty sure this won't be the last elm we lose and am kind of relieved it is the last one that was in the yard.

Today the USDA designated our county a national disaster due to the drought we are having. I know a lot of folks around us have lost their corn fields, but last week's rain saved our peanuts. I was worried because the peanut plants weren't growing, but they look good now and are blooming. I've pretty much given up on my garden this year. Last time I tried to plant something in the garden the ground was so hard and dry I could barely scratch out a shallow hole. We're getting potatoes, Roma tomatoes, onions (left in the garden from last year) and peppers. In fact, I should be canning tomatoes right now! 

One thing that has done well this year are my two apple trees. They are just now old enough to really set fruit and they are loaded. One tree is even leaning over from the weight of all the apples. Last week's storms helped cull some of the apples and I picked them up...no sense letting them go to waste! I've made green apple jelly with them...a new jelly for me. Hopefully we'll enjoy it as much as we do the dewberry jelly (which is already down to only two jars that I have hidden away for wintertime). Dry weather means the kudzu won't bloom this year, so no kudzu jelly and there may not be any elderberries, so no elderberry jelly either...apple is going to be it!

Fortunately, all the critters are managing in the hot weather so far. The goats, chickens and ducks all have plenty of shade and are given fresh cool water throughout the day. Elvis (the rabbit) is enjoying life in his new pen and snuggles up to the bottles of ice we place in his pen when the temperatures soar. The horses can find shelter in the barn or under the trees at their pond and the dogs and cats...well, let's just admit that the dogs and cats are SPOILED ROTTEN and get to lay about the house in the air conditioning all day long!

As do I!