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~~*  Black Sheep Newsletter............Issue 99............Spring 1999  *~~


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THE HOMESTEAD: Get a Life! Queen Bubba Down


This late February day began with me in charge of the homestead because Stan had to work outside the farm. We both prefer to be stay at home ranchers always, but find that the pocketbook doesn't always handle that notion well. I waved him a cheerful bye-bye as he sped away in the little red car with the dent in the trunk. I assumed the responsibilities of feeding his two holstein oxen and my little red milk cow and then sent all three into their fenced enclosure to browse the early grasses and forbes.splash dot!


The angora goats stood there looking expectantly at me through their fenced enclosures because they knew darn well the scheduled tight ship my husband runs. It was time for their grain ration. I filled up the appropriate cans with 3-way and molasses laced with diatomaceous earth (we are experimenting with this as a natural means of worming). When I exited the small barn, I saw nothing but goat eyes, unblinking, and heard the occasional bleat.splash dot!


I opened their gates and entered their domain. The volcanic rocks jutting from the green pasture in the kid run conveniently have little "bowl like" fissures and I sprinkled the grain atop the rocks scattered throughout the pasture. Each goat had a healthy portion.splash dot!


We looked carefully into diatomaceous earth (D.E.) and have come up with reports that a 2% portion of D.E. on grain daily will effectively eliminate worm problems in ruminating animals. Apparently it's a slow but steady process. Sixty days from beginning a program utilizing D.E. is the time to check for worm infestation microscopically and I've only heard victorious reports of its good effects. Untreated D.E. (not swimming pool D.E.) can be purchased in bulk from suppliers such as Azure Standard out of Dufur, Oregon, or available through many large garden supply outlets.splash dot!


Daily Chores

I set a pot of beans on the stove and walked out to check watering troughs. After climbing the steep incline to the barn site, I filled the water buckets while my eyes scanned the horizon for the Suffolk sheep. They were not to be found.splash dot!


Uzi the white guardian dog whose ancestors hail from Hungary walked at my side. I asked him, "Vez your sheepies, Yoo-Yoo?" (I baby talk my animals and am looking into obtaining a government grant to prove they respond much more readily to baby talk than to adult English.) As soon as the question was posed, he ran full tilt to the top of the enclosed pasture. I don't know if he was onto a coyote trail or if he really was searching for the wayward sheep, but he surely could have won an academy award for his nose to the ground ambiance.splash dot!


Walking ever upward, I crested the hill and decided to trek into the forested area. It was not that I was actually fearful for the welfare of the sheep. That big black nosed Suffolk ram tends his mistresses well and I am sure he would put up a good fight should a predator overtake them. Uzi met me periodically as we wound through the madrones and cedars.splash dot!


Breaking into a clearing which is set on a steep mountainside, an area I call "cougar country", I saw the hefty sheep wearing their "No Fear" tee shirts, grazing. The ram cast a wary eye my way. A big ewe stood at attention as I continued my climb. Only her mouth moved, chewing cud.splash dot!


During this walk I was better able to assess the pre-spring pasture scene. No wonder the sheep rarely come down anymore to the sounds of shaking grain cans or rustling alfalfa leaves. Tender new grass is evident everywhere this late February day.splash dot!


That's when I remembered the beans on the stove. Expecting to be greeted with a blackened bean pot and smoke throughout the house, I was put at ease to see that my long sojourn into the ephemeral mists of southern Oregon didn't burn the beans. But I did nearly run back to the house hundreds of yards downhill. Good exercise for a 50 year old.splash dot!


Get a Life!

Some would admonish me to "get a life!" For three years running, right around the month of January - February at the latest - I begin to have fitful dreams of June's Black Sheep Gathering. I wake up with my heart palpitating and my mind thinking anxious thoughts. The difficult aspect of my dreams comes with the fact that in all of them I am approaching a breeder who has sold her entire selection of goats. I'm left there desperately watching others tote away goats by their horns, goats with gleaming tendrils of colored mohair.splash dot!


One good thing about these dreams: they force me to realize that if I want to do this thing right, I'll have to contact breeders early -- visit farms, and possibly make selections through photos. (Most breeders are open to sending photos and copies of pedigrees.)splash dot!


I recall arriving (this was not a dream, but reality) in the parking lot of last year's gathering with overwhelming emotion suddenly overtaking me. Tears came so easy. Folks I only see once a year - folks who love these goats like I do - would be there. I could not wait to see their shining faces and their long locked goats. Would I suddenly see the goat of my dreams and haul away another "I just gotta have it!" goat home in the back seat of the trusty red car?splash dot!


Stan usually tempers my purchasing reflexes. I have learned that it's sometimes good to have him in tow, checking my impulsiveness. He's been known to patiently take me aside and explain our finances, or give me a profound dissertation as to why a certain goat did not measure up to his high standards. But, careful as he is, he's got his weaknesses for these ravishing creatures, too, like the year he succumbed to the wiles of a little black doe from Montana. He just happened upon Coon Hollow's pen and said in a very business like tone of voice, "I'm interested in color - but for some reason I can't explain, I'm stuck on blue eyes!" (Indeed, we had seen some lovely blue eyed white goats in our past, but never colored.)splash dot!


Diane Coon held up a tiny little black doeling who was standing in the pen amidst a few others. Her silver/black fleece was long and tipped with burnished bronze. The black kid doeling hardly bigger than a fuzzy caterpillar looked at Stan with her ice blue eyes. "Flash those baby blues," Diane laughingly said to the goat. Well, guess who was in the back seat of the dented red Isuzu that day?splash dot!


Queen Bubba Down

Don't ever give up when it comes to nursing your ailing goats back to health. This lesson was profoundly imprinted on me through an experience with a nine year old doe whose color lineage could be traced to the early breedings of two of the most respected names in the colored angora goat business, Isa Jennings and Sharon Chestnutt. The following is a blow by blow account from my journal:

"It's always survival of the fittest out there in the goat yard. I found Bubba (a big angora doe) down this morning. Angora goats will do that. They will fall down on the spot, especially in a crevice in the landscape, and lay there barely breathing. You just know you have a dead goat. Until you walk up really close and see their ribcage moving with the movement of breathing. Or a blinking eye. Some will even roll their eyes up, feigning pure death. Only a grain can will bring them to their senses, if shaken with alacrity.splash dot!


I have grown to believe it is meant to test the will and endurance of the shepherd. It surely does me. A near heart attack every time.splash dot!


I've watched the pecking order tug of wars between the various does. Bubba is getting older now. I'm sure she was knocked down by an over-zealous doe contending for her head position. When I managed to prod her to stand, a front leg continued to give out. Darn it! She looked like she was flagging, and Zeb, the big black buck wanted to breed her. She would stand up - he would begin to mount her - and she would fall down again, that front leg giving way.splash dot!


It's now three weeks after the accident. Her front leg still won't hold her. We had to move the big doe out of the pen, of course, into the "hospital", a little room set up in the dairy shed where I milk my cow. She is a cumbersome doe. Try moving a walrus with horns and mohair, if you want a visual image. Stan grabbed one horn, I the other. We basically dragged her as best we could to the little barn.splash dot!


There she lays healing, hopefully. I have not splinted her front leg, but rather, at this point in time, am seeing if rest will heal her. She had a terrible bout with diahrea within two days of putting her in the small barn. (I believe she was chilled in her run because she was shivering in her lop-sided position when I found her.) Before long she was squirting liquid as thin as water. I began to worry. Her appetite had not failed (it is my firm belief Bubba will eat to her last dying breath and maybe a couple minutes after she passes on), but we all know how quickly our goats can go down. Pneumonia is the final enemy, usually.splash dot!


My trips to the small barn soon included washing her hind end rather consistently with warm water and toweling her - but when the stools became extremely foul and watery, I mixed up a garlic brew that I recalled had saved two scoury calves (who later became Stan's oxen.) I offered the garlic brew, warm, mixed with a tad of molasses to her. She drank it down because I told her insistently, "Bubba, this will cure you!" I also gave her approximately 1/2 cup of olive oil.splash dot!


Indeed, by the following morning (I woke at 3:30 a.m. agitated - how many of you know of these early star-lit excursions?) as I entered the barn, it was apparent things had changed in the way of goat berries.splash dot!


I rely heavily on herbal remedies. They often involve much time and work for the shepherd compared to, perhaps, giving a shot of this and a shot of that, and drenching with this chemical or that. I had known for a long time that garlic was a natural form of the drug "sulfa" and was naturally anti-bacterial. With this older doe, it worked wonders."splash dot!


Now, the happy ending. Bubba recovered fully. She was suddenly able to walk again one day after 12 long weeks of care, with the agility of a 90 year old woman at first, and within three or four days of gaining strength on her wobbly legs, soon was running. We kept her with the kids initially, but it was evident one late January day that she was flagging. She has been with Zeb and his colored does ever since and has assumed her queenly position over any other doe in that pen. The final happy irony of this story is that the other day I calendared 150 days from the day she was bred

and found that she would be giving birth, if all goes well, on Stan's birthday, June 1st.splash dot!


Winter Flees but Leaves an Enduring Mark

I happened upon something Stan wrote to a fellow angora goat breeder who had some heavy losses this past winter. I liked what he said so much, I "cut and pasted" it here from his e mail. He doesn't know that - and probably will be surprised when he reads this paragraph. But, really, it is succinct and to the point (part of his personality) and describes Winter 1999 on this goat farm:

This has been a very difficult winter health wise for the goats at Singing Falls also. A general alert has been sounded on various goat lists for serious worm infestations this year which was compounded here with a vile strain of coccidiosis. We departed from our usual "natural parasite control" methods and treated with Albon (a sulfa drug) and chemical wormers. We prefer heavy doses of garlic and diatomaceous earth. Everything has stabilized and is on even keel again but we're keeping a watchful eye. The Fiber harvest has been wonderful this late winter in spite of the "invisible dark hand" that swept across the ranch several weeks back. Just when you think you have the animal health care thing down pat something else comes along to show you there is so much to learn and to be humbled by. Not just in regards to the medical side of things but also the real life intrusions that constantly violate our idyllic notions of life. To those thus afflicted I would encourage you to keep hanging in there and let the memories of those brilliant rich tendrils of natural fiber and the antics of the spring kid crop as they bounce upside down and backwards on the rock out croppings keep you going. Stanley"splash dot!



Back to the present. There is a time line I must follow when writing this column - and now I'll have to mail this in without being able to tell you about any kids born on this farm. None of the pregnant does have given birth yet. Donna, the red doe, looks like she'll be giving birth within the week, judging by appearances. It's kind of a let down. I so anticipated sharing news of goat kids born.splash dot!


But, I do know that kids are "popping out all over." I have been corresponding with a few angora goat breeders in the last few weeks. The time for kidding is fully upon many. Julie Mahoney, of Kidoebuck fame, Yoncalla, Oregon, had an interesting story to relate to me last week involving the birth of two little colored bucks born in the horse pasture. Julie was tending to chores near the chicken coop when she heard the unmistakable cries of newborn goats. She ran frantically to where the sounds were emanating, only to find that there were two kids, still wet, crying vociferously for their mama while the mother goat ran from one to the other, both newborns many feet apart.splash dot!


Julie's immediate concern were the horses. Five of the mammoth creatures, majestic Arabian Pintos that Cornerstone Farm is famous for, were closely gathered around one of the newborn kids. As Julie focused on the scene in the green pasture it was apparent to her that the five giant horses whose noses were close to the tiny new life, were statue still. Only their nostrils moved with their breathing as they surveyed the tiny new life in their midst. Julie was able to gain entrance between the horses and scoop the kid up, taking both kids to a newly made "jug" inside that weathered post and beam barn with the anxious mother tagging along.splash dot!

New life intrigues all of us, doesn't it?splash dot!


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Alexandra Scribe
Homestead Home


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