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~~*  Black Sheep Newsletter............Issue 114............Winter 2203  *~~


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THE HOMESTEAD: A Goat Shepherd Looks Back at Her Year


I cannot believe that by the time this column is in print, the New Year will have already been in progression. 2003 so soon? I ask myself as I shake my head. Where has the time gone?splash dot!


Has it really been ten years since Stan and I first made our home here in southern Oregon's Cascades? Has it really been over 20 years that we have bred angora goats, watched them drop kids on the ground, sheared them of their tremendous fleeces, nursed the sick ones and cried many tears over the ones who didn't make it through an illness?splash dot!


bucking bucks bucking

Bucking Bucks

How many long hours have I spent spinning mohair, the fiber of choice around here, and then woven my skeins into heirloom quality throws and blankets -- and how many looms will we finally accumulate before I consider that I have enough? (Right now we have a table loom, a 40 inch Loomcraft, an antique 45 inch Payton and a 60 inch LeClerc which I still need to try out.)splash dot!


Indeed, it's been a long sojourn with the angora goats. Still, they are our prized possessions, each one of them. Yes, there have been some hard knocks along the way – and over time in this column I have shared with you in regard to some of them. There are other times that I have held my sorrow privately, but when I read through the pages of this fine periodical and see the writings of other shepherds who tell us how they are mourning the death of some beloved animal, so often a faithful ewe, I find myself nodding my head up and down in understanding.splash dot!


There are times that are poignant, even romantic – like the times this past spring when my husband and I sat in the warm sunshine, he on one end of the crude log bench in one of the paddocks, me on the other, watching newborn kid goats kick their heels like calves let out of the stall, their fitful mothers worrying over them continually and nudging them with their noses far from us. There was the time when I ran inside the house and beckoned Stan to come outside and view the new kid that had just been born, one the color of a coffee bean, a color mix between deep brown and taupe, a doeling to boot.splash dot!


There are times, indeed, that cause fear to jump to the forefront. That occurred this past autumn one early morning as the sun streamed in fanning rays onto the floor of the barn and I strolled amongst the goats as I gave out "prizes" of barley grain. Suddenly I realized that the big black reverse badger doe was missing from the bunch as they all gathered around me pushing and prodding so that I nearly lost balance.splash dot!


A prized doe, she was gone. Since we have 50 does milling around the pen, it's sometimes hard to keep track of each one of them, and I surprised even myself that morning by taking such rapid notice of her being missing from the group.splash dot!


"Where could she have gone?" my mind agitated. I was swiftly out the swinging latch gate then on that sunshine morning which had dawned a bit crisper than usual because a hard rain had come down during the night.splash dot!


As I toured the large pasture, all 35 acres within the confines of fence, climbing the mountainsides and looking closely at the boundaries of wire (they love to entangle themselves in wire, their locks finding ready lodging) I finally walked downhill again – to a far oak field. A smattering of the gnarly old oaks grow there, their light gray bark lovely against the backdrop of green mountain behind.splash dot!


Recall that we had been in severe drought – so there really was no pasture to speak of, only brown oak leaves that lay upon the ground (which the goats do love to munch on) and the old grass that had not yet greened. I looked ahead and then squinted for focus, for I thought I saw a still figure of a large black goat in the distance.splash dot!


It was not a mirage after all (at times a tree burl or decaying piece of wood has looked from a distance to be an animal, and upon closer inspection turns out to be otherwise.) The goat was there, and she was still as a statue. The stillness seemed foreboding to me. Dead or alive? I asked myself the question with a sensation of fear running itself to my mind. Then I watched as the statue blinked.splash dot!


"Alive" my mind answered, but still fitfully. Why was she laying there like that? Why was she so still? Had some wild creature in the night brought her down? By then I had come up to her with my heart pulsating as only a shepherd's heart can, and then I saw what the problem was. How long had she been here like this? Her right foreleg was firmly snagged in a small oak's crotch, so firmly caught that it was impossible for me to extricate until I literally broke one of the branches that held it.splash dot!


Can you believe that – a goat's hoof firmly caught in the crotch of an oak? I can. After living with angora goats for more than 20 years, I can easily believe that – and a thousand other strange ways they will find to get themselves in trouble. In fact, no longer do I find myself asking much anymore, "how in the world?"splash dot!


After extricating her I could see that she was shivering, which of course signals that she was running a fever. The rain that had soaked her fleece had somewhat dried off by then, but it was apparent that she was still greatly chilled. She could not walk and it seemed to be that she was extremely weak. She could not even hobble homeward.splash dot!


So, my husband and I (after I had alerted him to the situation) carried the ponderously heavy goat homeward, and gave her her own "hospital" stall. In later days, with the help of fellow shepherd and good friend Cis Hansen (her own animals of choice are the Shetlands) we brought the goat through. (Note to the reader: I would be quite remiss if I did not mention my friend herewith, for Cis has so often dropped all she was doing at her own place and come here immediately to give a helping hand if any of our animals became badly hurt.) So, in time, the black badger with the winning personality pulled through, though it was touch and go for awhile there.splash dot!


With angora goats there is the establishment of a "pecking order," and this goes not only for the does but also for the bucks. And in the buck pen one can always expect to witness a duel, especially during this precarious breeding season (which is only now ending here.) At the moment of this writing there are two yearling bucks just outside the window in the back room who are, in fact, bashing it out, their prize being solely the ability to say after two long hours of fighting, "I won." They are not really hurting one another, so we let them continue to run at each other as though preadolescents on a playground.splash dot!


Finally, and if it were not so I'm sure this business would be a very bad one, there are always the times that the goats and their antics will make me break out in laughter. This morning as I hung a freshly woven mohair throw upon the galvanized gate before yet another rain broke on the horizon, to "drip dry" it, a memory was jogged. Three yearling bucks spied the blanket and sped forward to check it out closely, asking one another (I could overhear the conversation well) "what do you presuppose that is?" The blanket of mohair had definitely given them curiosity. As the three of them edged their way even closer to the piece of work and then took a whiff, I remembered Rusty.splash dot!


Rusty (and he was a red buck whose name fit him well) lived with us about five years ago. It was he who one fine spring day felt it needful to do a similar inspection on a recently woven garment I had been drying in the sunshine just over the same galvanized gate. It was apparent that the blanket completely took his attention that morning as he continued to come close to it, examining.splash dot!


It was surely inadvertent on his part, purely accidental, but somehow in the next few minutes he hooked a tip of one curled horn into the weave of the garment. By the time I blithely walked out into the bright daylight to see how my blanket was drying I found to my dismay that it was now vastly missing from its place of hanging. Indeed, as I furtively glanced upward into the buck pen, I was even more dismayed to see that my woven project had by now become a rather decorative headdress on a very frantic goat, that goat running through the enclosure trying with all his might to rid himself of its billowing, trailing presence.splash dot!


Though it is amusing to me now, it was not then. All is well that ends well, so they say – and I caught him timely enough, no damage being done to the woven piece. And now that I have recalled all of this to you, I think I'll go retrieve that weaving from the gate pronto and find a place in this house for its drying…splash dot!


So, the cycle of life continues here on the farm and we follow with the ebb and flow as well as we know how to. We keep our veterinary box filled with the necessary items and straighten those contents out at intervals so that everything we need at moment's notice is able to be found, a great advantage when emergencies do crop up – which seem, no matter what preparations are made, to be often enough. I think now of what occurred in the goat yard just five days ago…splash dot!


Another sunny and warm December day had been ours here and so I took full advantage of it by sending the goats to pasture while I tidied the barn. They stayed out for a good two to three hours and then came back for their alfalfa, as usual. One of the does, a large and lustrous badger named Lena was becoming, of late, a bit boisterous and demanding – spoiled rotten, really, if the truth be told. She had somehow learned (as these creatures will) that she could fully make the high leap, like a lithe gazelle, right over the logs that corral the bottom tier of the barn from outside the enclosure. No longer would Lena need to use the gate entrance way as the others with less dexterity had to.splash dot!


So, that day as I lay the alfalfa out in piles for all the goats that had gathered outside, I had forgotten about Lena's profound abilities. Soon enough there she was – in the large pen with me – and she was coming hard at the barley I had laid forth for the band of does.splash dot!


She began to munch on barley in my presence. Well, I could not have that, of course – fearing that she might bloat more than anything. So, shaking a stern finger at the goat, I reprimanded her. "No grain, Lena!"splash dot!


At that very instant I chanced to look up into a distant pasture on yet the other side of the fence (still on our property) and saw four neighboring dogs (ones I had tangled with in the past) chasing my husband's ox, Bright, from the creek. Bright was now drinking from the creek again these days after such a long drought on the land. Those long Holstein legs were flying behind him and he kicked a time or two, but two of the dogs were fast at his side and jumping at his flanks.splash dot!


I was in one of those "shepherding" dilemmas then. "Who do I tend to first – the neighbors, who I will have to instruct again to keep their dogs away from our property and the fearful ox, or this doe who is presently gorging herself on grain? Well, I opted for both at once – and tied the doe with twine, quickly, around her horns – away from the grain - before running outside to deal with the dogs and the neighbors who owned them (neighbors who apparently did not care one whit about taking care of them.)splash dot!


It wasn't long and I had come back to the barn. When I arrived, I found that Lena in a fit of rage because she was tied away from the grain by twine had hurled herself like a demoniac to the ground and had, who knows how, pierced herself with one of those sharp horns of hers. She was bleeding badly, the blood running. I was frantic. With the help again of my husband, we patched her up. First we had to shear the long hair from around the wound, the blood running in rivulets, her screaming bloody murder.splash dot!


We then washed the slowly pulsating wound (was it a vein or artery she had cut??) with a Betaldyne solution. I am thankful for a stalwart husband who seems to take matters like this in stride and who, I think, was born to be a surgeon or veterinarian, and somehow missed his calling in life. I asked him at one point, "do you think we need to suture?" He answered in the negative and said that the wound, if it were a severed vein, would be something he could not suture.splash dot!


We then gave her a large dose of LA 200 (our choice of antibiotic) knowing that we'd have to treat her twice more, successively, to make that shot effective. We sprayed her wound with a wonderful herbal concoction called Schreiner's and then slung a long bandage around her. That's all we could do for her then except, of course, to hope and pray.splash dot!


Her appetite never waned, not that day nor the next. I treated her "special" that first long and drawn-out day that she had injured herself. Then yesterday when I chanced to turn around and found that she had jumped the same log wall while the other goats stood patiently outside the gate entrance, I stopped my worrying for her. Indeed, Lena, you seem to be greatly on the mend.splash dot!


mohair throw

Faded Glory Throw Warped

mohair throw

Faded Glory Throw Weaving

Faded Glory

It's time to warp the loom right away for another mohair throw, the warmest of blankets, especially when placed over quilts upon a bed. My customer says she wants old flag colors. "Tea stained," my husband tells me, knowing immediately what she means. Actually, now that I think about it, I won't have to "tea stain" any white mohair. I have just the color I need, a kid fleece all in skeins, a gauzy taupe color – and he was born that way. Those skeins will be perfect alongside the red and blue I intend to utilize.splash dot!


Happy lambing and kidding to all of you – may it all go smoothly, or as smoothly as is possible, and if you are like us, may you be happily surprised at the colors that pop out. We here at Singing Falls wish you all a very prosperous 2003.splash dot!


goats butting heads



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Alexandra Scribe
Homestead Home


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