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~~*  Black Sheep Newsletter............Issue 96............Summer 1998  *~~


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THE HOMESTEAD: Bubba, Babies and Blackberry Wine


The kitchen table looks more like a veterinary lab table, littered with measuring cups and long skinny rubber tubes. The task I most hate when the goats begin to give birth on our farm is mine again. Tube feeding. I've read Paula Simmons' careful explanation of how to push that rubber tube into the stomach and not the lungs (listening for either "air" or "gurgling" (the former being the lungs, the latter, the stomach) and have not yet been able to pick up that red tube without trembling hands. Having tube fed at least one dozen baby lambs and goats in the last 10 years, watching quite a few bounce up within an hour or two bawling for a real nipple, it's still a repulsive task to me. The reality is that I will kill the little animal if any of that warm milk enters the lungs. Ms. Simmons calls it "mechanical pneumonia" and there is no cure.splash dot!


But neither is there a cure for a dead baby goat or lamb that could have been saved if it only could have had some warm milk to give it sufficient strength to fight on for life. Somehow there is no alternative.splash dot!


So, Little Mo (our herd sire, Big Mo, died the day after breeding this baby's mother) hangs precariously between life and death at the tender age of 4 days, his sister bouncing around outside with a distressed mama goat watching the backdoor, hoping I'll return her precious kid.splash dot!


grand dame bubba

Bubba at Singing Falls

The kidding has been fast and furious for Stan and I. I don't envy you who have 40 or more of these expectant mothers waddling around in your barn or pastures (even though that's the number we have set as a goal for our farm.) We only had ten or so pregnant does this year, and that tested our endurance. We've been up all hours of the night checking on one doe whose due date lapsed.splash dot!


Another doe decided to give birth in a mud wallow in the meantime. Tired and cranky from lack of sleep, I stepped out the door only to see a muddy newborn kid floundering in his grimy birthing bed. I brought him in the house and gave him a warm soak in the tub because he was already in stage #1 hypothermia from cold. Oy vey, he also needed to be tube fed. My heart pounding, I gently inserted the tube, listened for either "air" or "gurgling", and poured the warm milk in the syringe attached to the tube. Within a couple of hours he was up on all fours lustily crying out for mama.splash dot!


Stan and I have raised angora goats for nigh on 16 years, but had never thrilled to the experience of seeing a colored angora kid born until this last spring of '98. The spotlight early March was on Bubba, a very large doe born faded red out of purebred "throw back" color parentage, who had bred to Zeb, our four year old black Coon Hollow buck.splash dot!


We combed colored genetics articles and Stan and I debated as to what colors could possibly be produced by her. We also wondered with a bit of trepidation whether she would actually give birth or just merely explode. We had never seen an angora goat quite as large. She began to resemble Spielberg's Jabba the Hut more than Bubba the goat. She tested our strength and endurance by lingering 2 days after the appointed day of birth, according to the calendar calculations. This was now day #152.splash dot!


All work on the homestead ceased. The center of our universe began to revolve around that small stall where the expectant mother goat lay munching her alfalfa rather contentedly. The afternoon wore on and there were no signs of day #152 being the day she would finally expel her cargo. Stan got into the pen with her and began to massage her sides in a frantic attempt to see if he could feel any babies at all or sense any movement. Before he placed his hands on both of her sides he turned to me and said, "Have you seen any kicking? Have you felt anything?" We had seen some violent internal movement two days earlier, but were perplexed now when there seemed to be nothing but her steady breathing. I stated rather forlornly, "She just feels like a giant sponge." After his probing fingers had stroked her and pressed here and there, again here and again there, he stood up saying, "She feels like a giant sponge".splash dot!


bubba's babies

Bubba's Babies Bein' Bad

He stepped out of the pen. She looked at both of us, stood up and stretched taut, curled up her lip at the ceiling, and lay down again. Stan took the electric wire he had been stringing into the barn and a few tools and shrugged his shoulders.splash dot!


I stayed in the barn. And then it happened: she began to push in earnest. The beginnings of a small prolapse that we were watching with trepidation early on that week were suddenly gone. A dark object slithered out of Bubba (I don't know that I'd ever witnessed an easier birth). I wiped mucous out of its mouth quickly with my hand and called to my husband.splash dot!


Not wanting to believe in vain that I was actually seeing a dark colored angora kid 'neath that birth sac, I thought, "Oh, it's just faded red with a dark birth sac." When Stan entered he immediately said, "Look how DARK that kid is!!" That's when I began to notice that was wet, dark curly hair I was seeing, not a birth sac, hair the color of brown cinnamon. She was a doe, and her sister ejected a few minutes later, a faded red. I lingered outside of the birth stall admiring aloud her "pretty babies, Bubba!" She seemed to be smiling.splash dot!


My romantic husband walked into the house and poured two glasses of homemade blackberry wine, and brought it out to the barn. After pouring some molasses into warm water for Bubba, while the newborns began their up on all fours, down again dance looking for milk, all three of us celebrated.splash dot!


goats butting heads



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Alexandra Scribe
Homestead Home


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