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~~*  Black Sheep Newsletter............Issue 123............Spring 2005  *~~


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THE HOMESTEAD: Spring Springs with Colored Kids and a Huge Order


At 5:00 am on this frosty March morning we were awakened by the sound of an insistent Polish Tatra/Maremma livestock guardian dog, Tatra. He routed my light sleeping husband from bed first.splash dot!


"Something's up. I don't know if he has something treed or what." He was peering into the darkness through the window by then, trying to make out what the white ghostly figure was doing in the distant oak orchard. Stan began to dress hurriedly.splash dot!


By then I was fully awake. "I'll get up and look. You have to get ready for work," I reminded him of the previous commitment he'd made.splash dot!


In the shake of a goat's tail I was up and dressed and snug in the barn coat, trudging up the hillside in the dark.splash dot!


Tatra the guardian

Tatra the watcher of all things

"What's up, Tatra?" My eyes gazed into the far distance. The dog left the oaks when he saw me and the lumbering white form then drew close to me, his white tail like plumage slowly wagging a greeting.splash dot!


I looked up toward the oaks and shined the flashlight into the distance. I then knew what he was raising a ruckus about. Our big cinnamon colored doe, B-1, had dropped a couple of kids. She'd chosen to do this far from the barn and the other goats. Meanwhile she stood there as dawn began to paint the sky light gray and she softly talked to her newborns who were nestled there at the twisted and knotted roots of the vintage oak.splash dot!


No time to lose. A coating of white frost coated the pasture. Ice lined fencelines and anything metal, and I wished I'd worn my llama wool gauntlets instead of being so bare handed. It was apparent in one swift goatherd glance at those newborns that they had not eaten yet. It was too cold and they would likely be hypothermic before long, if one wasn't already.splash dot!


Hypothermia and Weak Kids (or Lambs)

The only way to recognize hypothermia is by taking the kid's (lamb's) rectal temperature. If the body temperature is lower than 100 °F, the kid is in the danger zone. Their bodies won't function correctly unless their temperatures read above the 100 °F mark. The normal temperature of a goat is 101.5 - 103.5F. If a goat's temperature is below 100 °F, you will have to work hard to warm that kid up until the temperature reads at least 100.splash dot!


There are various ways to warm a chilled kid. A lot of people like to immerse those chilled newborn kids in warm water. The temperature of the water should be from 103.5° to 105°F.splash dot!


Though I've often put the kid in warm water without sheathing the goat in plastic first, I have heard that it's best not to get the kid wet. Encase the goat in a plastic bag up to the neck and then immerse it into your warm water tub. To help with circulation, massage the legs while the goat is submersed. After 10 to 20 minutes in there, check the temperature again. If it is STILL LOW, REPEAT THE PROCESS. You want to see that thermometer reading 100F or above.splash dot!


When the temperature is at that mark (and no doubt the kid will be shivering at this point) - place the kid (or lamb) on a heating pad with a protective cloth between the small animal and the pad. Then cover the animal with a blanket. I like cutting four holes into a large woolen sock and sheathing the animal in their own "sweater." CHECK THE RECTAL TEMPERATURE EVERY 30 MINUTES TO AVOID OVERHEATING.splash dot!


If all goes well, the kid will be standing up crying lustily for milk soon enough and you'll notice its little head bobbing up and down as it searches for nature's milk bottle. That's the time to take it back to the barn and the doe. (Make sure both are in a properly sheltered area.)splash dot!


Back to the House

I immediately scooped up the two chilled kids and began to walk the incline down to the house. Stan was out by then (I had shouted into the intercom - "I need your help!") Within minutes he had the large doe in tow and was leading her toward the birthing jug we had prepared in the barn, the one she had shunned for her place under the stars that cold early morning. As they often are after they have given birth, she was confused and thought she should remain there at the site where she'd dropped her kids. She fought him all the way to the barn, but he finally got her inside of her pen and adjusted the heat lamp.splash dot!


"Your kids will be out soon enough," he told her, while he shook some corn and peas into a trough inside the pen and she cried out for her two newborns.splash dot!


The kids were now on my kitchen floor and I found the hair dryer. The two strapping kids just so happened to be boys after all, and one was already up and trying to suckle the oak Hoosier in the kitchen. I knew he'd be fine. It was the other one, red like a true copper penny, who worried me a bit.splash dot!


In time I warmed him up and both were lustily crying out for their long delayed breakfast. In reading through some previous Black Sheep Newsletter before last year's kidding season began, hoping to glean some good advice to set me on a straight path, I came across something Ian Stewart had written about a product called Sheep Nutri-Drench.splash dot!


So, before kidding season began, Stan picked some up for me at the local feed store. I've had it on hand ever since, though this season he purchased the same product by a different name (Goat and Sheep Nutri-Drench.) It's the same wonderful stuff. Every new kid gets a squirt or two almost before they suckle, and like Ian, I believe it may have already saved a few lives.splash dot!


Well, I'd caught cold this week, so it wasn't fun being rousted from a pleasurable sleep by an astute livestock guardian dog, but seeing those lively, healthy kid bucks taking in their first meal of their lives made it all worthwhile. The other kid turned out to be a deep brown/taupe color, and both have the tightest pincurls on them, a promise of nice shearings of mohair in the future.splash dot!


These colored angora goats that come in so many shades of black, red and brown - never cease to amaze me with all the variations of color. Most of the fun of kidding season is the color surprises that greet a goatherd.splash dot!


Jury Duty

April should be a twice as busy time for me. I have been called to do jury duty in the local township for the whole month. I do assume that the trial shouldn't take the entire month, and I'm certainly hoping it won't. Our fiber business is run directly out of our home and April will be an especially hectic month in the way of kids being born. It will be especially stressful if I must leave the farm if a weak kid is suddenly born that needs my assistance.splash dot!


I can't imagine that as I sit there listening to plaintiffs and defendants and their lawyers go back and forth that the court will allow me to hold an infant angora goat on my lap all tucked in blankets or leave the room every two hours to feed with a stomach tube. No, I just cannot imagine that.splash dot!


I've already prepared Stan. "You'll have to pitch hit for me. You'll have to stay home and take care of any weak kids that are born..." Of course I am hoping that there will be no kidding problems and that my tenure in the courtroom will be soon over. Maybe they'll settle out of court after all and I won't be needed. That's my hope, anyway.splash dot!


Or maybe when the attorneys begin to whittle down their choices for who should sit on the jury, I can explain to them that kids will be dropping left and right during the time I would be serving as a jury-person, and what distraction that would be for me! If just one of those lawyers was a shepherd on the side, he'd understand completely I think.splash dot!


Kidding season has barely begun (we have five bucks on the ground right now, all strapping and lively) and I'm already plumb tuckered. Stan tells me twenty-three more does should be dropping their kids in the next two months. My calendar shows the second week in April to be a particularly busy week. Four does - one after another - giving birth a day apart, if my calendar holds true. Honey, if I'm on jury duty then, you'll have a stiff schedule to keep.splash dot!


A Large Order

And not only all of this, but I received the biggest order I've ever received just last week. It's one for a mohair bedspread for a king-sized bed! It will be made from our hand spun mohair. My head spins as I think of all the hand spinning that will entail.splash dot!


Somehow I have gotten the "vision" for this weaving and if all goes well, it will be a masterpiece. So, I've crossed the large hurdle that was wedged in my mind and I've made the decision that I can weave such a large piece. It will have to be woven in two pieces, each approximately 5 x 10 feet, and then both pieces will have to be seamed in the middle. I should finish it before next year...splash dot!


A goatherd's life is with her goats
So she must eat her groats and oats
So that she can run beside them
(They're not like horses - you can't ride them)splash dot!


A curled fleece 'neath sun so bright
Lights her eyes, be it black or white
Then when shorn and finely spun
Makes hairy yarn a lovely onesplash dot!


Certain nights are soon cut short
Intercom blaring its report
A newborn kid or two have come!
(I'm up and dressed at half past one?)splash dot!


Kidding season is here full bloom
Does jostle in their birthing room
Kids romp and kick like jumping jacks
(I don't cook; we live on snacks)splash dot!


When day is done upon the farm
And all the goats rest in their barn
We count our blessings with elation
(And greatly long for a vacation!)splash dot!


Kidding season; though it's a season that takes all we have got and then some, with doll hair customers clamoring for more mohair, and someone else wanting a bedspread half the size of the moon, I can't complain. It's a wonderful time of year.splash dot!


Now who is calling me anyway? A stern bleat just resonated through the speakers behind me. One of the does, and I can guess it might be Spryte, who recently twinned two coal black bucks. Can't even let me write an article without interruption. Though I earlier fed them, it sounds as though it wasn't enough. I could swear that bleat said, "And make it snappy!"splash dot!


goats butting heads


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Alexandra Scribe
Homestead Home


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