the singing falls waterfall scribe logo capella, the goat shepherd's constellation
The Quill
Of the
Is Art
For The Mind
And Heart




~~*  Black Sheep Newsletter............Issue 107............Spring 2001  *~~


image of author


THE HOMESTEAD: Kids on the Ground, Timber frame barn


Kids on the Ground!!

Kidding season has arrived with gusto here at the Singing Falls homestead. It's great to have accurately calendared breeding dates beforehand and have a list at hand that shows me which does are due and when. It surely erases a lot of worry. A day or so before the expectant doe will give birth she is secluded in a small enclosed pen with her own private alfalfa entrée along with a lovely view of the mountains. This "jug" was where our first births of the season took place, Brownie-Brown the expectant doe firmly bedded in its midst. Stan went to check on her "progress" at about 2:00 a.m., hiking the hilly incline with a flashlight in hand while the stars shone bright in an Oregon sky. She lay there chewing cud and he reported to me back at the house that a birth did not seem imminent.splash dot!


By morning there were two strapping bucks at her side, one the color of Brazilian coffee, its legs black (reverse badger) and the other purely black. Both bucks sported soft crimped fleeces, and even their tails curled sumptuously – all the way to their tips – something I always look for in a colored angora goat. In my book, if the tail crimps readily, the goat is worth its muster. We were delighted with our three year old doe from the flock of Kidoebuck whose original name "Olivette" migrated over time to match the colors in her fleece.splash dot!


Two days ago our almond colored "Silky" doe gave birth. She's another Kidoebuck doe, and perhaps our nicest. I'd been pasturing the goats most of the day and when they finally "came home, wagging their tails behind them" – grazing near the fences I opened the gates to the pens. Silky had a kid at her side and walked through the gateway holding her head high as if to say, "Like him? Not bad looking, is he?"splash dot!


"Ahhhhh, Silky!" I answered, scooping the little one into my arms.splash dot!


He is a big one with an interesting colored fleece - light mocha brown/gray to be exact. What I perceived instantly was that his fleece held a pencil curl crimp. Silky is one of our largest and best covered does in our color angora goat herd ("coverage" is an angora term that indicates how full and thick a fleece is on the animal.) Always her kids seem to possess astounding coverage.splash dot!


Fleece First

As a hand spinner and weaver of mohair, it is ALWAYS fleece that I look at first. My husband is stuck like glue to body conformation. Many a goat has not passed his fastidious and scrutinizing eye because of a bad horn set or even because the scrotum was split. With me, it's always fleece. Well, now that colored angora goats are part of the ranch – it is both FLEECE and COLOR.splash dot!


The tiny fledgling buck born from Silky passed my first inspection with flying colors (no pun intended.) I cannot wait to see this buck's first clip a year from now…splash dot!


Of course the reality is that one cannot keep every buck that is born on the farm. Most will have to be wethered within three months. Some will be sold as "bucks" of course, but only the very best deserve keeping their crown jewels. That is the reality of breeding angora goats. Of course it is always a crying shame to put the elastrator around a buck's means of procreation – knowing that perhaps one is doing the wrong thing in the end. (How many times have I had calls in late autumn for bucks and could only offer, with a shrug of my shoulders, wethers??)splash dot!


Yes, it is with trepidation that my husband holds that open ended elastrator over the testicles, assured that his instrument has within its green rubber-banded grasp fully descended testicles. He then bands – never without wincing himself as he does it. The little buckling becomes very officially a "wether" at that point and unless my customers order EARLY ON – they cannot receive a buck from us. Indeed, I know of too many breeders whose farms are filled with yearling and two-year old bucks who have still not been sold. It's such a "Catch 22", though, for unless the discriminating buyer of a buck WAITS to see what the buck looks like at the age of one or two, he is not really seeing the potential of a buck. Buying a kid buck is often a game of chance. They can change dramatically and dreadfully with time.splash dot!


Back to Kidding

Well, let's come back to the ranch and the kids, all of this occurring two days ago. As Silky's strapping buck nursed, another doe caught my attention. She was frantically running about the pen anxiously, as though confused that the little buck was standing with Silky and not herself. I immediately registered in my mind "mothering instinct". I went into the house and scooped up the "calendar." Sure enough, her date of delivery was to be soon. The yellow discharge only confirmed me. Though this was "early" in comparison to most of my does, it was not unusual for a doe to give birth on day "148" of the gestation. Sue Drummond's RAISING ANGORA GOATS THE NORTHERN WAY specifies that an angora goat's gestation is from 145-150 days. We were right on target here.splash dot!


Not having much time to ponder the situation, I watched the first-time kidder (still upright on all fours and not pawing at the ground like all the books say she should be doing) begin to push in earnest. The head of the kid was by then protruding from her, its tiny cloven hooves framing its nose. I relaxed a bit and tried not to "push" with her (a tendency both Stan and I have while watching a doe give birth. Yes, it is exceptionally hilarious to watch Stan "push.")splash dot!


Though it seemed that things would go smoothly, it was evident that the first time kidder was a bit shy of the situation, much distressed, and puzzled - as though she could not for the life of her figure out what was going on back there behind her! Not much time elapsed, however.splash dot!


"PLOP". There it came – yellow with afterbirth, wet and slimy – a kid. I waited for nature to take its course and tried to remain calm, watching all of this take place under a canopy shelter inside the goat run. The new mother was not quite sure what to do next. This "interloper" in her life surely was not finding a ready place in her heart as yet. All of her instincts seemed slow to kick in and I watched as she lay her head back and look upward at a sullen gray sky, her tongue licking an imaginary kid in the air. She wanted desperately to make the connection between reality and her motherly instincts, but was not able to bridge the gap. I supposed that slimy yellow thing just was too gross for her to imagine "licking clean."splash dot!


Meanwhile, the little yellow trajectory that had shot from her moments earlier, the kid on the ground, was experiencing its own dilemmas.splash dot!


I walked over and hurriedly checked for its sex, careful to not make the new mother any more disoriented than she already appeared. She was ignoring me, after all, still throwing out her pink tongue at an imaginary kid somewhere in the air – looking a bit pathetic and stupid, actually, but I had seen this same reaction in first time kidders in the past and refused to become frantic or wring my hands with worry. Not yet, anyway.splash dot!



hand crafted tenons

Stanley working on mortises and brother Todd Vaugn, his friend, working on tenons for bent #5.

It was a little doeling, its white fleece so tight with curl that I instantly knew we had a nice addition to the herd. I went into the house, grabbed a clean towel and came out again. Toweling off the yellow afterbirth on the small goat was the least I could do. That's when the little thing began to struggle to find her legs, dancing alongside her mother. This "dance" went on for about 15 minutes. Up and down the little spindly legged creature bobbed, as though in an ocean. Then, as if a wave would suddenly sweep against mast or helm, the little thing would falter and then fall down again.splash dot!


The doe, meanwhile, had by then decided that perhaps this WAS her very own kith and kindred, and gave the kid a few motherly swipes with a pink tongue. I had to marvel at nature's ways. I had been given two choices: one, I could be frantic (like my husband most often gets at times like this) and not give Mother Nature a good long time in the matter. I could try and put the little kid's mouth near the teat, bring it in the house and shove a little bottle of milk replacer down its throat, dunk its body in a tub of warm water. I could, in other words, rush things along. Or, two, I could let nature take her own sweet time.splash dot!


I opted for the latter. I went into the house and began making dinner. I checked my e-mail. About an hour later, before dusk set in, I went out again.splash dot!


There they were, fully bonded. Two full hours after her birth the little wobbly newborn had suddenly found sustenance, and with it, strength. In my presence her mouth grabbed hold of a teat and she suckled. These are all signs that the shepherd wants to see before he can "call it a day" and say all is well. Of course I knew I would get up at about 2:00 a.m. to make doubly sure that all was well (it's only good shepherding practice), but at present this pair was safe.splash dot!


Right now as I write this we are waiting on Bubba to give birth. She is eleven years old and counting. Her gigantic form is rather ponderous with two large saddlebags hanging from either side of her as she gains her momentum and tries to keep up with the other goats yet remains perpetually the straggler. The old doe is simply not fleet of foot anymore.splash dot!


I am sure she will produce twins. She's been standing off by herself all afternoon and since it's a 60 degree rainy day (with off and on showers) and daylight for a few more hours, I'm going to forego sequestering her in the "jug." If night comes on and she has still not delivered, we can think about placing her in the jug by herself.splash dot!


I just ended that above sentence when Stan walked in gallantly, a smile on his face.

"She had two does!"

"Bubba did???" I shouted. (I don't understand why, but she ALWAYS gives births to does. I don't know that she has ever given birth to a buck.)splash dot!


I stopped writing, of course, and exited the house, running up the incline to the little overhang where I could see her standing. Bubba, the cumbersome old doe was licking a white doeling. The little cinnamon red one with blue eyes was a bit smaller than the white one, seemed cold and hunched, and both had just born.splash dot!


The little red doeling, it was apparent, had not yet suckled. I began to get frantic. (Perhaps it was because my husband was there at the time and his disease was rubbing off on me.) We brought her in the house. A blow dryer on medium setting dried her cold wet hair off and soon she was up on all fours, producing her own body heat and trying to find the teat on my leg. I marveled a bit at how delicate these angora goats can be.splash dot!


A Timber Frame Barn

hand crafted mortises

Mortises crafted in Pacific Yew wood posts.

I was astonished to see in the previous newsletter references to barns built in primitive fashion, "hand tools only." The fact remains, we who raise these sheep and goats are very much alike and possess such kindred spirits. Even as I write this, we are in the process of building a two story timber frame barn from scratch. It was satisfying to see the timbers locked together this past winter into "bents". Any timber framer will know exactly what I'm talking about when I use the word. But to instruct the ones who are not as familiar with timber framing techniques and terms, a "bent" is a series of posts and beams interlocked by mortise and tenon joints with braces that form a singular structure. The "unit" is then raised all at once, in one large, uncompromising piece. Our barn has six of these bents that were raised upon cement pillars (foundation pillars to keep the Pacific Yew wood posts out of the Oregon mud and rain) – and the picture that accompanies this article might describe this barn better than words can ever do.

This barn will someday house all these angora goats, a few Suffolk sheep and the oxen who carefully pulled all those cumbersome heavy timbers down from the mountainsides after my husband milled them from large trees. With an Alaskan mill and a chainsaw, some chisels, a router, and yes – electricity at times – the barn is coming along just fine. It is a work of art, in my opinion.splash dot!


Housed in the second story will be a loom room. In it will be, of course, my loom, spinning wheel and carding machine. I am hoping there will be plenty of storage space for fleeces. We have not yet decided where we will place our solar heated hot water system – whether down here, at the house where we live, or over the barn. If it were placed on the barn roof, I might wash all my mohair there in the loom room with hot water heated by the sun. The roof will also sport our solar panel array to accommodate some of our electrical needs.splash dot!


hand crafted tenons

Stanley working on mortises and brother Todd his friend working on tenons for bent #5.

It seems rather peculiar, but more and more these angora goats have become the "center" of our universe here in southern Oregon. There was a time I would have thought that a solar water system would be great for heating water for long baths and steamy showers. Now my thoughts run to "washing mohair" and lots of it!splash dot!

I must smile. It's been a good week at the ranch. Excuse me, I must now take my leave. There are eight puppies outside squealing for their mama, and she needed a respite from their frantic attentions. Australian shepherd pups, four weeks of age, just learning how to herd cows, learning to bark at strangers and cute as buttons sit just outside the back door. Babies, babies – they're everywhere. Happy spring, and see you at the Gathering!splash dot!


timber frame tools

Mallet and chisel, day after day.

timber frame

All the bents up and the loom room floor down.

"gun stock brace"&;

"gun stock notch and braces"

always mindful

Always mindful


goats butting heads


scripted signature


Alexandra Scribe
Homestead Home


Stanley & Alexandra Petrowski
34620 Tiller Trail Hwy.
Tiller, Oregon 97484