My New Year's Day tradition is to review the accomplishments of the past year and plan for the next. It amazes me to realize this adventure has been going on for a little over six years, and to see how far we have come in that short time. This place has gone from a wild and woolly hillside to a farm, on a hillside. Sometimes i wonder if it will ever be 'done', but that answer is always "no," at least not until we are done and someone else takes over. And then, it will be their new beginning.
2018 was an emotionally challenging year, and potentially a transition in focus. It shows in the low number of posts to the blog, and that sadly, most of them are about sick animals. It was not all bad, however, and there were many moments of joy to make it all worthwhile. I cannot think of anywhere else I'd rather be at this moment.
2018 has been a year of learning. The year began with completing a Master Gardener class through the WV extension office. Along with the knowledge, I also gained valuable resources and met many wonderful like minded people. This led me and my daughter to our next level of plant adventure: herbalism, which includes wildcrafting, growing, and finding natural ways to improve our health. This will be another lifelong learning journey, and one we can share. It enhances the joy of living on this land and sharing it with my children.
As for the goals of the coming year, we must complete projects already started, make the daily chores easier and more manageable. And, continue to do things we enjoy.
Happy New Year!
I've been putting off writing about this, but since its been 'one of those years' I prefer to put behind me, I will end with it, and start 2019 fresh and new.
We've had plenty of rain this year. That isn't a surprise to anyone living on the eastern half of our country, so I won't belabor the point. I will say that looking back to 2000, it is the second highest rainfall in the Huntington WV area after 62.46 inches in 2011 (although there is still tomorrow and the forecast is calling for 100% chance of rain). It is also the highest in other parts of our region (Charleston). In case you haven't looked at the weather maps for proof, here it is. I will post an updated graph after the year ends. I really feel that the rain in Scottown has been even higher, but unfortunately we don't make the map.
The good news, if you can call it that is in 2012 we had a lower than average rainfall (36.99 inches). I'm not hoping for a drought, but less mud would be great, The rain in 2011 did't make a lasting impression on me, probably because I wasn't living on a farm at the time, and didn't realize the effects it could cause on the land and livestock who live there.
So before I lose you with boring talk about the weather, I'd like to introduce a new and unwelcome visitor to our farm. His name is Meningeal worm. Parelaphostrongylus tenuis. Also known as Deer worm, or brain worm.
The host of this nasty worm is the white tailed deer. The larvae are carried by slugs and snails, who are then accidentally ingested by grazing animals. The larvae continues to develop, penetrating the gastrointestinal system and eventually migrating to the central nervous system where it causes extensive damage. This process takes several weeks to occur, so until damage is done, there are no initial symptoms. There is also no current way to test the animal while it is alive to confirm the diagnosis. Animals most susceptible are camelids (alpacas and llamas) but other species such as sheep and goats are affected. This year, for the first time, it was my goats.
Research on the topic is available, although it is not discussed as frequently in goats as in other species. I am not an expert on the topic, but I will share my experience.
The saga began about three weeks ago, on December 6 when we noticed two of the bucks having weakness in their hind legs. My first thought was polio. Another frequently similar illness is listerosis, however this seemed less likely. We were also concerned that they may have been injured. I packed the youngest one,Pierre, also the weakest, into the gator and took him to the barn closest to the house where he could stay in a private, cozy stall. I began treating him with B Complex injections every six hours. His temperature was normal, and he had a healthy appetite. His poop was normal. His vision seemed normal. There was no sign of pain or injury on inspection of the leg. He was wobbly, often balancing his rear against a wall to stabilize himself. His rear right leg was very weak, dragging it when he walked. On uneven surfaces, he fell, but was able to get himself back to a standing position. At this time I did not see signs of skin lesions or missing hair. The other buck, Carl, older and a bit larger, was also showing weakness but not as severe. I left him in the buck pen but medicated him with B complex (with thiamine) as well.
The next morning, I called the vet's office for advice. It seemed there was nothing they could do unless I brought the goats to the clinic. Since they were seemingly stable, I decided to continue my treatment unless they worsened. Meanwhile, I was frantically researching.
After 24 hours of B complex (thiamine) injections, I did not see improvement. Based on his symptoms and the environmental conditions, meningeal worm was most likely the cause. If it had been polio, the thiamine should have helped by this time. The pasture is a cleared area, but it is surrounded by woods, and white tail deer are abundant. Even though the bucks lived at the top of the hill, they browsed the hillside and the valley below where the earth was soggy.
Most references recommended a five day course of oral fenbendazole (Safe-guard/ panacur (25 mg/kg) and steroids such as dexamethasone, or NSAIDs such as flunixin meglumine (Banamine). Initially I treated them with banamine because I did not have dexamethasone on hand, but I was able to find a source. They both received the recommended treatment of Safe-guard. I also continued to give the youngest buck twice daily dosages of B complex during the course of the treatment. The older buck seemed to recover most quickly, and his symptoms were also the mildest initially. To date, he has no itching nor hair loss.
The younger buck's weakness seemed to become slightly worse after treatment. He did receive a course of steroids.
Today he is showing signs of improvement but still not back to normal. He also developed an area of hair loss on his front right shoulder. This is thought to be caused by migration of the worm causing the skin to itch. Meanwhile, at about the same time, I noticed an area of hair loss on one of my mature pregnant does. She was scratching a large area on her back hind quarter on both sides of her spine. Fearing this could be a sign of the worm, I treated her with injectable ivermectin followed by a five day course of Safe-guard. Her treatment started on December 8. Three weeks later, the itching persists and the hair loss has increased. So far, she has no neurological deficits.
Now, we watch and wait. Pierre is still at the doe barn, but has a large room and a pen outside to exercise. He talks to the girls and they keep him company through the fence. Some say recovery is possible, but it is highly likely he will have some degree of permanent neurological damage. Time will tell.
Time fell back today, which means it will be the last time I see daylight until spring, except of course on weekends. Between various other things, I took the opportunity on this beautiful sunny fall day to take a few pictures of the beauty around me. I never take this for granted. Days like to day have been rare recently, The past several weeks have been very rainy, cold, cloudy, and full of mud. It was refreshing to 'bathe' in the beauty of the forest today.
My favorite big beech tree, so far he's still standing.
This one didn't hold up very well in the last wind storm.
And on the back side of the farm, the colors were just as nice.
Everyone was happy to see me, as they always are because I mean FOOD
Bailey followed me down the hill and was ready for a ride in the gator. Frizzy was enjoying the sunshine too.
And these girls, looking for a break from the mud
And finally, the last roses and muscadine grapes of the season.
She was not just any goat.
Born in Wayne County WV in 2011, Alita spent her first year in Athens, Ohio. By luck, she came to us in December, 2012 as our first goat and one of the first three animals to join the farm. She was joined by Primrose the donkey and Julia the sheep.
Alita introduced me to everything goat. She taught me how to care for, breed, birth, milk, and what it meant to just be an awesome goat. She was an easy keeper, always happy and healthy, and always in charge. To the rest of the herd, over the past 5+ years she has been the Queen. She was always there to let me know when things were 'off', when something was wrong or someone was misbehaving. Of all the goats, she was the smartest. She knew exactly what I wanted and where to go. When I opened the gate, she would walk straight into the milking parlor and hop on the stand. I never had to lead her, but if I did, I would simply put my hand on her shoulder and she responded.
In 2014, she had her first kids. Since then, she has been mother five times to 11 kids, 6 does and 5 bucks. Two of her daughters, one granddaughter, and three of her sons (as wethers) still live here with us. Since her last kidding in December, she has milked twice per day and refused to slow down. Even when I tried to move her to once a day, she refused and took her place in line at the gate. There was no way she would be left out! She had a job to do.
It is not the same without her. Only a few days have passed since we lost her, and I still expect to see her smiling face there to greet me. My heart breaks and my eyes sting every time I think of her. I will miss her kisses and her companionship. She was not just any goat. She was my teacher and my friend.
We lost Alita on 7/21/2018 after a sudden and short battle with pneumonia.
"Goodbyes are not forever. Goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean I'll miss you until we meet again!"
- Author Unknown
Over the past 24 hours, we have learned more than we ever wanted to know about colic. The most important lesson is, I never want my horses to experience this again.
I have heard and read stories of equine colic from friends and acquaintances, and many times the ending is heartbreaking. I consider us very fortunate that, at least as of this time today, our story has a happy ending.
It began yesterday during my daily evening rounds to feed and check on the animals. While caring for the boys in the buck pen, Shiloh came eagerly walking up to the fence that was between us. It is normal for him and Freckles to greet me any time I'm in the pasture, usually hoping for a treat or at the very least a pat and a hug. This time, however, Shiloh was alone. These two are never apart by choice, and complain bitterly if they are forced. I quickly jumped in the gator and drove down the pasture calling for Freckles, Shiloh flew past me. .
There she was, lying in a shady area near a brush pile. The dirt under her was flattened as if she had been there for a while. She saw me and struggled to her feet. At that moment I wasn't sure what was wrong, but I knew it was definitely something out of the ordinary.
She followed Shiloh, trotting back to the open pasture where John was working in the garden. I told him that something was wrong with Freckles, When we both turned to look at her, she had laid down in the middle of the field and was rolling back and forth on her back.
My first thought was, Freckles has colic. We stood her up and noticed her abdomen was distended and very firm. She was in obvious pain. I did the only thing any modern farmer would do and googled 'horse colic.' The symptoms were classic.
We both agreed it was time to call the vet. John grabbed her halter and started walking her. One hour later, I was meeting Dr. Walker and family and driving them up the hill.
He examined her, and treated her with medications, educating us all the while. The next few hours would be up to us to monitor her, and call him if needed.
By this time, it was 9:30 pm.
Connor came to help us build a coral in the pasture to keep the horses from wandering away during the night. Freckles was exhausted. Her skin was cool and clammy, and her eyes glassy, still drunk from the pain medication. We continued to walk her and keep her on her feet.
At around eleven she was standing. We decided to get cleaned up and I would go back to check on her at midnight.
She was sitting on the ground with her head up, but not rolling. I coaxed her up and walked her for a while. Seeming status quo, i went back down the hill.
Two hours later, I was back with her. This time she seemed to be in pain again, wanting to roll. I forced her up and administered another dose of pain medication, this time orally.
I could not leave her side. We walked slowly back and forth, she was weak and panting, begging to lay down. Each time I stopped her. This went on for more than two hours. Finally, she laid down and would not get up. Her head was up, so I stood, bracing my body against her neck reminding her not to roll. If at any time I walked away, she tried to stretch out. I sat beside her and held her head up, talking to her and begging her to stay, Shiloh needs her. I thought I was going to lose her. Her breath was shallow, and she could barely hold up her head. I could feel myself getting weary,
Just in time,(5 am) John called my cell. "I'm coming. Get her up" he said. She finally stood up for me, and we walked again, for three more hours. As the sun came up, she seemed to gain energy and her stomach was gurgling. By 9 am, she was licking salt and drinking water and finally - Poop!
I'ml not confident its over, but things are definitely improving.
Special thanks to Dr. Walker and the Equine Center for his compassionate care.
Today was 73 degrees, and tomorrow is expected to reach 80. We've had day after day of rain with more in the forecast. Last week the creek flooded, and this week the great Ohio River is above flood stage, cresting today at 52.1 feet. To us this means MUD, and a lot of it.
Between rain showers, Connor and I took advantage of the warmer weather to clean out the goat barn and the chicken coop. We created a giant mountain of poopie bedding - soon to be compost.
The girls are enjoying their fresh clean house.
Onion and Pepperoni, twin wethers from last spring, took a trip up the hill to be with the boy herd.
The babies, Judith and Enid, have graduated from living in the garage to having their own room in the goat barn. Unfortunately for them, it is time to learn how to be goats. They are now over 8 weeks old, still getting a bottle and learning to eat hay and grain. They were not very happy about the situation.
The grapes and rosebushes have been pruned and mulched, and the blueberries are waking up with little buds soon to be blooms. Is it spring already? I have a feeling there will be more cold to come.
We woke up this morning to a snowy, frozen world. It started with the doors of my vehicle being frozen shut, and I had to find a way in so I could drag out several bags of feed because the barrels were empty. When I finally made it up the hill, I found the latch to the front door of the goat barn frozen, along with one of the gate latches. Luckily I had another way in so I could deliver feed and water, and milk Miss Alita. The animals didn't seem to mind, and were happy to see me as always.
After a week of living in the house due to zero temperatures, I tried to return the triplets to their mom. This would have made things a little easier on the farmer, since separation has meant twice a day milking in the frigid weather and bottle feeding several times per day. Unfortunately, the kids clung to their new mom (me) and Alita was over raising babies and wanted nothing to do with them. She is a great mom, so this was my fault for keeping them apart too long. Back to the house and milking routine we went. Don't get me wrong, we love having the babies with us, and they seem to love it too.
They have a safe, warm pen in the basement, and plenty of time to run and play. Its nearly impossible to get a good picture of them!
One of these lucky little girls now has a wonderful home at Moody Blue Stables in Ashland, Ky. It always makes us happy to see our babies go to a great home!
Another year has come and gone. 2017 went out with a bang with the birth of triplet doelings from Alita and below normal freezing temperatures. We are back to bundling up like mummies, hauling water and breaking ice morning and evening. In spite of complaints from Alita and John, the babies are spending a few nights in the house due to the cold and learning to eat from a bottle.
Its always fun to reflect on the past year, to remember our blessings and all we have learned and accomplished along the way. We continue to slowly check things off the list, but somehow the list continues to grow.
It will soon be one year since we switched to soy free chicken feed. Our chickens are healthy and thriving on the mix, and we plan to continue along this path. It does require some creativity to ensure they have a balanced diet and plenty of protein. This is not as much of a challenge during the warmer months because they have access to natural sources such as bugs and worms. In winter, we give them plenty of meal worm treats and add organic fish meal to the mix.
2017 was a year of bucklings here at TRF. We had five does give birth to eleven kids, and only four were doelings. We kept Autumn, and brought in our sweet Diva to the herd. Maybe 2018 will be different, since we are starting out with 3 girls.
Construction projects for the year consisted of installing two stock tanks on the hilltop, tearing down the old sheep shed, moving the hay tent and building a new area for the boy goats. The old sheep housing spot was cleared for a future pond.
2017 was a good year for the garlic crop. Many were sold, and some were replanted for next year.
Baby goats meant plenty of milk, caramel sauce, cheese and soap.
We hosted a kids with farm animal photo shoot, attended our first 'farmers market' as a vendor, and held our first soap making class.
We are thankful for another year of doing what we love, learning new things and sharing along the way. My goal for the coming year is to 'make things easier' as much as possible for living on the side of a hill. Thank you for sharing our adventures. Happy New Year!
It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the tent shed did not work out. It collapsed on one end after a stormy, windy night in November.
With winter just around the corner, we had no choice but to build something quickly, and this time, we decided to make it a permanent structure.
They worked morning till dark and even in the snow, and finally it's done.
The final step will be a gutter and downspout on the back to catch rainwater, and remove the tent.
A cold rainy weekend is the perfect time to make soap. For me, soap making is therapeutic. I can focus my attention away from the stresses of daily life and be creative. A big part of the fun is formulating and trying new recipes, always looking for the perfect combination for whatever purpose I have on my mind. I was in the mood for holiday scents, and simple colors. This session, I made five different batches of soap and some lotion bars. Some of these will make great Christmas gifts.
Zebra - Facial bar
Made with face friendly oils including rice bran, avocado and sweet almond, and scented with tea tree, peppermint and carrot seed essential oils, this soap was divided and layered in a loaf pan with charcoal and bentonite clay. I've wanted to make this for a long time and can't wait to try it.
Oats, Milk and Honey
This one is a repeat favorite I keep trying to perfect. It has chopped oats and local honey added along with the goat's milk. Honey is a little tricky to work with and always makes the soap batter hotter than usual. Against my better judgement, I used a loaf mold and, even in the freezer, it gelled in the middle. It may look a little different after curing for several weeks, but even if its two tone, it will be an awesome soap. I cut these into extra large bars.
Cloves and Orange
I had a couple of firsts with this recipe. For the first time I used olive oil pomace, and as advertised it caused the soap to thicken more quickly than usual. It is colored with natural tumeric, another first, giving it a rustic orange color. Along with the clove and orange essential oils, it smells and looks like gingerbread. It also gelled in the freezer even though it was in a flat pan, but only adds to the rustic look. It will be a hard, bubbly soap.
Using one of may favorite basic recipes, this one is swirled with french green clay and kaolin clay, and scented with eucalyptus, lavender and peppermint.
I like to keep a simple white on hand for some of my customers. At first, I wasn't sure what to call it, but after cutting a few it reminds me of cream cheese frosting on a cake. It is scented with clove, mint, lavender and eucalyptus (seems to be the theme for the day). It is made from another simple but tried and true recipe.
I hate to waste things, so periodically I take the shavings from all the soaps I've made and trimmed up - to smooth and improve its appearance - and melt them down. The scents from so many varieties mixed together don't always work out so well, so I added some Almond Biscotti fragrance oil at the end. It doesn't look like much, but it is still usable soap. I usually give these away, or think someday I'll use them to make felted soaps.
In addition to soap, I made three scents of lotion bars in Christmas and winter molds. The white one is scented with Turquoise fragrance oil, one is Almond Biscotti fragrance, and the other is mint, clove and orange essential oils. The gold flecks are from the chamomile infused sweet almond oil.
Earlier this week, inspired by my hairy oldest son, I decided to try making beard balm and beard oil. So far, his reviews are positive. Since the oils used are a little expensive, I will make these as needed, so if you would like some as Christmas gifts, let me know.
In between all the soap making, I was grooming Callie, chasing Bailey who learned how to get out of the fence, taking does to the buck for dates, and finally putting gravel in the walkway. I even managed to salvage a few boards of barn wood for a future project.
My name is Christy Franklin.