This is Part Two of Violet’s maternity story and a follow up to my introduction to Rufus. These events actually occurred on December 17, 2014.
Well here we go again, and a little early at that, at least for birthin’ goat babies. “Miss Scarlet I don’t know nothin’ about birthin no babies.” Actually, I guess we cannot plead ignorance anymore, as with these most recent births, we have now been part of bringing eleven goats into the world although the goats of course do all of the work.
Isn’t she cute?
We had been watching Violet for a little over a week and believed she would give birth any day now. She has gotten very large and rotund and her udder has bagged up nicely, which means she has lots of nutrient rich goat milk ready for her babies.
We decided a while ago to move crazy Rufus, our Billy Goat, back up with the girls. It is all about timing with raising these goats and Hope (my wife) and I thought we had it mastered but I guess not. We were trying to time the mating period so that Violet and the other girls would have their babies in March when it wasn’t so cold. They have a 151-day gestation period so keeping Rufus away from them was our goal as he is one horny Billy Goat.
Violet and Daphne comfy in the maternity ward.
We think Violet got pregnant one day back in the summer during a brief period when Hope was in the middle of giving a school group a tour of the farm, and Rufus busted out of his pen. I had to wrestle with him in front of the kids, trying to keep my cussing and straining quietly to myself all while smiling and saying, “I got him, it’s ok!” I put him in with the girls just until the tour was over and we could fix his door, and this was just long enough for the Rufus “magic” to happen.
As I said we knew she was close, heck we were worried enough about it that Hope put me to work before I left town for my annual Duck Hunting Trip preparing the maternity ward of the goat yard. We fence off a separate area so she can be partitioned off from the other goats and have her babies and tend to them in peace. We didn’t like the idea of Violet being in with all of the other girls and again with crazy Rufus, who is in the middle of everything and always primed for trouble. For more about Rufus and his Billy goat behavior, and his helping me build the maternity ward, see Part One of this post. I’m beginning to think his goal was sabotage from the get go.
I made a little enclosure for our very pregnant Violet and moved her and Daphne, her daughter from a year ago in with her. We figured she could keep her company and be a good companion right until the birth came and then we would move her out.
They had been in their safe little pen next to the other goats for two weeks and by this time we realized that we had jumped the gun because there were still no babies. Early one morning, after battling my 30-second commute to work, I got settled in my office and had my morning meeting with the landscape crews. During the meeting, I receive a text from Hope asking me to check Violet. Reluctantly, I went out into the dark, winter morning and saw that she was fine with no babies yet, however I could sense something was different. First, she was wide-awake and standing at attention, even greeting me with a gentle “mahh.” All of the other goats looked up but soon put their heads back down as a sleeping child would, and resumed their snuggling and sleeping in their warm “goat pile.”
I texted Hope back that she was fine, with a no baby report, however she was up, wide awake, talking and her bag (udder) was huge. Hope said, “It is going to be soon. We need to keep a close eye on her today.”
I left Violet and went on about my business and took a crew to start at a new landscape job and Hope came back from dropping the kids off at school and fed the animals, and the day went on from there. After having lunch at our favorite restaurant in Crestwood, The Red Pepper, Hope had to run our youngest child to the doctor’s office and I came back to the garden center. I went into the office, checked email, sent off some invoices and tended to general business. As I walked out the door and was headed to the bank and post office Hope’s voice popped into my head. “We need to keep an eye on her today.”
New born kids. Here Violet is actually being a good mom to little girl.
I silently cussed to myself that I had to stop what I was doing and backtrack, but I did. I retraced my steps and walked out the back and as I approached the goat yard, just like earlier in the morning I felt that something was different, and low and behold, it was. There sat Violet with two new baby kids. They were healthy, beautiful, standing and already able to walk around. I was petting on one of them and felt behind the ears that they were still wet, exhibiting exactly what “wet behind the ears” means. Mama Violet had cleaned them off completely; they were dry but shivering from the cold. This rude awaking is common for goat babies with the timing of the birth and leaving mama’s womb in the middle of winter.
I texted Hope and told her that we had two new kids, one girl and one boy. Of course, after she waited weeks for these guys to come, they are born when she is not even on the property, the audacity of them! Quite frankly though, as long as things go as they are supposed to, these are sometimes the best births, because nature just takes over and we are not there to worry and try to do our human micromanage thing showing us that we are no better than God. I couldn’t tell if they were nursing yet but Hope reminded me that was normal, “they will figure it out,” she said. I told her to run by Feeders Supply and grab two small dog sweaters or jackets, as these little kids were cold. They were fine for now but definitely would need something to wear thru the night to help keep them warm.
After Hope got home with our children, we had a big trip outside to visit the new babies. There is nothing more fun and rewarding than sharing this experience with your own children and the excitement they get when we have new babies on the property. Hope had gotten two little puffy, ski vests (for little dogs), one pink and one blue of course.
Boy looks just like rufus, girl looks like Violet’s daughter from last year.
We struggled a little to get the vests on, they seemed to fit perfectly but as soon as we got the one on the little girl, she would just fall over on her side. It was so pitiful but funny as she would fall down, we would stand her back up and then she would fall down again. We repeated this process at least five times with the same results, her falling over like an AD-AT Walker from Stars Wars or an actual Fainting Goat, which she is not! She didn’t like it all and would just give up, lying there crying for us to get it off. “Mawwmmm, Maawwwmmm!!” If you have ever heard a baby goat cry out, it sounds just like they are saying mom in an exaggerated, high pitched tone.
This was not going to work, they had to have something to keep warm, but if they couldn’t stand to nurse and get the invaluable colostrum from their mother they wouldn’t make it thru the night. So I ran back to out to Feeder’s Supply, by now it was after 7:30 on a school night and we needed to feed our kids (as in the human ones that we are responsible for!)
As I am driving to the store, my best friend Kit called me and said “What’s up?” I had to admit “I’m driving to Feeder’s Supply to buy two miniature dog sweaters for our newborn baby goats.” He laughed at this statement, so I replied “I’m serious.” He said, “I know you are, I do not doubt that, I have come to expect this kind of thing from you.”
When I returned to the farm, Hope had fed our children and we ran back outside to put the new sweaters on. These softer, wool style sweaters were much easier for the little goats to maneuver in and I must say quite stylish, like something from the LL Bean catalog. Of course the rest of the night, we barely got any sleep worrying about the babies and whether they were warm enough, getting enough food from Mama, and so on and on and on.
Bad picture, but this is Hope adjusting the new sweaters that fit just right.
The next morning we woke up to happy healthy but cold babies. They seemed to be doing fine but the coming night was going to be even colder. We needed to decide whether we should run a bunch of extension cords to heat lamps and worry about burning the place down, or spend hours cleaning out an office that we were using for storage and move the goats inside. Well, we decided on the office and luckily it did not take hours to prepare. Violet was used to this hotel treatment as we did it last year, fashioning an indoor goat pen in the garden center offices with our kids old pack and play. It worked out great, and everyone seemed much happier right away.
Violet and babies moved indoors to the hotel suite.
Things were going swimmingly when we started to notice that Violet was rejecting the little girl. It got so bad that as one point she head butted her with her horns and flipped her in midair, throwing her. Nature can be so cruel and we knew we were going to have to do something and do it quick for the baby girl to survive. To be continued…
I knew the moment I finished creating the make-shift maternity/ new kid pen for our goat mother and new baby that it wasn’t secure and it was a poor job. The way one looks at any job that has just been performed half-assed, reassuring one’s self that it is indeed fully-assed and just fine, even though you know better. With this I had no excuse, but I decided to leave the “farmer rigged” goat maternity ward and go back inside and see what happens.
Rufus just hanging out
An hour later, I came back outside and low and behold, I had two goats that weren’t supposed to be in the maternity ward, performing the equivalent of older siblings running up and down the hospital hallways unsupervised. Right there in the middle of it all was Rufus! Yes, Rufus, our one and only Billy Goat and resident stud. I guess I should cut him some slack as he is the proud new Papa to be, maybe he just wanted to hand out Cigars. However, with Billy Goats and their behavior, you are always quickly and rudely pulled back to reality.
It was obvious to see that Rufus was the culprit as he was looking at me with his big, bug-eyes while sections of woven wire fencing still hung from his horns. Deeply relishing his 2 minute destruction of what took me over an hour to make. Like a toddler tangled up in the tinsel from the Christmas tree, who stumbles, falls and takes the whole tree with them, he sits there looking at me and saying, ”This is fun, and isn’t it funny!”
I think to myself, “This is not fun, and it is definitely not funny. I am neither having fun nor being funny, period.”
The tricky part of working on anything in a goat yard while a Billy Goat is present is that the Billy Goat is present. The shear presence of a Billy Goat on a Farm changes a farm. Kind of like the presence of a dirty old uncle at a family event always changes the family event. If he isn’t leering at your sister, commenting how pretty she is and how much she has grown up. Then he is rough housing with you on a level on par with Ultimate Fighting, and you just want to get away.
A Billy Goat is horny, has an insatiable curiosity and is horny. Did I mention he is horny? And the curiosity part means that if anything happens, he is there in the middle of it making it all about him. Remember the dirty old uncle, yeah you get the picture.
“Woo Hoo” he says to me with his eyes as I walk in the yard to start my repairs. “What’s up buddy?? You want to play??”, he continues on.
“No Rufus, I don’t want to play, particularly your style of play” I say.
“Oh Come on, it will be fun”, I imagine him saying as he snorts and flicks his horns.
I carry a fiberglass livestock stick that I can use to fend off Rufus and keep him away from me. With me, he only wants to play (thank God), which entails standing on his hind legs to become 7’ tall and wanting to butt heads, lock horns and everything else male goats do. The other female goats who are present look at me like, “Where is my fiberglass whooping stick?” Her looks say it all, “I needed one of those damn things earlier today and where were you, oh that’s right, inside the house. After all buddy, you’re the one who moved his ass back in here with us, like we would enjoy him and his CONSTANT ATTENTION. I mean seriously, the son of a bitch never leaves us alone and he is always horny. Always!”
After tapping Rufus out of the way, I try to go about my mending of the wire fence, clipping wire here, retying there. It is a tricky process as I have to always keep one eye on him and one eye on what I am doing, he is constantly walking up behind me, checking things out. My wife tells me that I am overly paranoid and that he is just curious, but I say “nah nah nah, this is a guy thing and he wants to challenge me. To see whom the bigger Billy really is.”
This go on for a while, things seem to be going fine, but then when I am not paying attention, I get separated from my sacred stick. Like Gandalf from Lord of The Rings without my staff, my powers are greatly reduced. Rufus moves in, tries to butt me and of course since I am a guy, I react more aggressively than I should.
I grab him by the horns (you know, grab the bull by the horns) and hold his head down, demanding to him “You want some of this, you want some of this! I know you don’t want some of this, you cannot handle it!” My wife just rolls her eyes and walks away. Now she has full proof to back her theories that I have lost my mind.
He is bucking and flaying his head around, enjoying the moment way more than he should and certainly more than I am. It takes an incredible amount of energy and strength to hold a Billy Goat down and I finally give up and release him. He backs away, snorts, palls the ground and then rears up in the air, again to his over 7’ height. “Awesome man, this is fun”, he seems to say to me.“No Rufus, no. Get down you SOB”, I holler out. Luckily I am reunited with my staff of power and I poke and prod him with it till he realizes that I am back in control.
Rufus displaying his next trick.
He backs up and goes for his next move or trick in his bag that he pulls out when defeated but still trying to show his dominance. He bends his head towards the ground and proceeds to do what all Billy Goats have been doing for thousands of years. He urinates all of his face, goatee, underside and backs of legs. Once he is convinced that he has thoroughly doused himself with his equivalent to Drakkar Noir to goats, he throws his head back with furious abandon and curls his top lip, grinning his teeth at me.
This part is almost worse than the urinating on oneself, actually it is. He takes such pride in this horrific act, that after he throws his head back to the sky announcing to everyone look at me and what I just did, he curls his upper lip showing off his teeth.
Yes, a full out Elvis style lip curl that he holds in pose for several seconds. I am convinced after witnessing this numerous times,. that Elvis actually was exposed to goats at an early age and saw Billy Goats do this lip curl and that is where he learned it. At least he did not repeat the golden shower part of the segment.
The Elvis Lip Curl
After this dramatic display, I quickly go about finishing my reinforcement work of the pen and get the heck out of Dodge. I tell myself that I shouldn’t be insulted by Rufus and his shenanigans, after all, this is not unusual behavior, just a goat being a goat. I am the one who chose to have him live here and use his services. He is after all the resident stud.
Come hell or high water, some of which we have already had, I was determined to get this blog post out. I have been trying for at least three months to get this completed but to no avail. It has been excessively busy with our landscape jobs, garden center, farm, employees, kids and family.
Skip Laurel with burnt foliage.
From the winter that would not end, to the spring of insanity, where I am so busy I cannot catch my breath. Albeit good insanity, as moneymaking insanity is always better than the alternative, but with this kind business it is always feast or famine.
We just survived that little thing around here known as Derby. Since only Louisvillian’s can turn a two-minute event into a month long party, of course many of our clients have to have their gardens and landscapes be just perfect for this time of year. Now we are into the normal spring rush. It is so crazy and intense that I often forget why I do this line of work.
I was at a new client’s home the other day, a friend from Rotary, and the first thing out of his mouth was, “Man, you have a great job; you must love what you do. You get to go to people’s houses, be outside, not cooped up in an office and see all kinds of great things.” I had that brief moment as often before, that I had to remind myself, “You know what, he is right and this is awesome.” However, I am just like anyone else and who is caught up in the day-to-day grind and forget what I am doing.
Spring has been spectacular as usual and we are fast approaching summer. However, it still seems that it is not business as usual. Plants are off schedule and blooming at strange times. Some are dead or some are tricking everyone into thinking they are dead, as they have taken longer than Rip Van Winkle to come out of their slumber.
For months now, I have had clients asking me about various plants and whether they were indeed dead. Most have assumed they are dead, as they just look horrible. All of the broadleaf evergreens took a hit. Plants like Southern Magnolia, Cherry Laurels (Skip and Otto Luyken), Holly, Boxwood, Nandina and many others. Other plants that are supposed to marginal here were not hit at all like one of my Osmanthus that looks amazingly well.
Scratching the bark of a Foster Holly.
I have been seeing some amazing things happen with plants coming back. I have been periodically checking on a planting of laurels that we installed last fall. A few months ago, I thought for sure they were all dead, but now all have flushed out and are looking great. Trust me, there are many that didn’t make it, but I am surprised by how many did survive. All we have to do is show them a little patience.
Keep in mind things like Crape Myrtle, Vitex, Nandina, etc. always take a long time to flush out their spring growth. We get asked about these plants every spring. The best way to check to see if a plant is still alive is to scratch the bark lightly with your fingernail or a knife and see if there is green underneath. If there is green, the plant is still alive. This doesn’t guarantee that the plant will flush out new growth, but there is a better chance than not. I have seen “green” plants stall out and just not have the energy or resources to push spring growth. Another possibility too, particularly with deciduous species that were knocked to the ground with total dieback, is new growth coming up from the roots. So again, be patient.
New growth on Skip Laurel
The amazing thing in all of this is to bear witness to the tenacity of life. This winter did claim some victims, but there are way more survivors than casualties. Plants are just like people; whatever doesn’t kill them makes them stronger. They just need a little time to gather themselves and pull out of the winter funk; Lord knows I have. Finally, plants like people will often surprise you in amazing ways, if you just give them a little patience. Happy Spring Everyone!
After misreading her signs, more like the independent, little girl decided to wait awhile, Violet (our youngest goat) went into labor the other night. Being the sweet girl she is, she could not have picked a more convenient time for us. It was last Saturday night; we did not have plans and were home with the kids. Hope had just gone outside to feed and was making the rounds when she called me on the radio saying that Violet’s bag (udder) looked awfully full.
I replied, “Yes, I saw it yesterday and it looks good.” As we have been a little bit worried that her udder wasn’t bagging up enough and that she was not going to have much if any milk for this new baby. I was having flashbacks of Hope nursing Captain Black Boots, a little Jacob lamb we had, at all hours of the night like one of our own children. Hope then calls back over the radio and says, “I think she might be going into labor…well, if she isn’t she is really close and it will be tonight or tomorrow.” I said, “OK, keep me posted and let me know if you need me to come out.”
I was trying my best to stay calm and hang with the kids, not goats but our actual children, however something inside of me kept nagging saying something is up. Then Hope calls back over the two-way radio and says, “You might want to come over here if you want to be part of this!” I reply, “Oh come one! All right, I have to get dressed and I will be over. Just hold on!” Like she has any control of this, but I was not there for the full birth of our last goats and I want to be present for the whole process.
Hope in the goat hut with Violet in labor
I hurriedly scamper around the kitchen to get on my Carhartt overalls, boots, jacket, hat and gloves. Like any of these moments when you are rushing it feels like you are moving in slow motion. Hope later remarked jokingly to her Dad that I did somehow manage to come out with a bourbon cocktail in hand. Well I did, but I had already poured that before this whole thing kicked in so I figured I might as well bring along the traveler.
I get outside and proceed towards the goat pin and sure enough, Violet is in labor. Hope is already in the goat hut with her and I bring her the towels and the lantern. We are thinking there are two goats in there so everything we are doing is geared towards that. Violet is lying down and we can see a hoof and the little goat’s face. She is moving a little, and it is truly the most amazing thing you have ever seen.
Truly beautiful and once you have done this, you move past the gore or so called grossness of it all, which is none really and see the miracle of birth for what it is, a MIRACLE. Violet seems to be stuck as there is a little bit of a pause at this point. We get worried for a moment that we can only see one hoof and that maybe the other is stuck. Violet stands up, which alarmed us at first, but all at once she lays back down, a few strong pushes and the baby kid just spills out. The amniotic sac breaks immediately, Hope helps clean off the kid with a towel a little at this point. She then picks up the kid and puts her in front of Violet. Before too long, she is licking her and cleaning her off, which is exactly what you want.
Violet with Daphne, 1 minute after birth
We wait for a while, expecting another baby and yet there is nothing. Hope and the veterinarian clearly saw two spinal cords on the ultra sound. Since nothing is happening, I rush to feed and water the other animals while we are waiting, as they are all hungry on this cold winters night of 22 degrees already.
Twenty minutes pass and after much deliberation, we decide that we should move our newest, little family inside. I run into the garden center offices and prepare one of our landscape design offices that is not being used. Yes, we put goats in our offices. We are pros at having livestock indoors as we have had a lamb, among other creatures in our house! The good news is the garden center has concrete floors. I get some old floor mats, a corral we had used for our own children, fresh hay, feed and water.
I then go get the baby kid from Hope and take her into the design office as it is getting very cold quick. Hope puts a lead around Violet and walks her in, I help them through the door and we get everyone inside. The whole time this is going on our kids keep calling us over the radio asking if the can come see the new baby goat. We keep replying to hold on and that we will let you come over soon.
We are all in the office, the two of us and the two goats, and we can finally take a sigh of relief as we realize that there are not any other babies coming; which is fine as we have a healthy girl. Hope reminds me that we need to dip the umbilical cord into iodine to sterilize things. I discover the little iodine wipes that I had in a first aid kit are all dried up. So I rush over to the house, tell the kids to sit tight and I will be right back. “When can we see the baby goat, when can we see the baby goat!!??” they ask me. I tell them to let me run to the store and we will go over together.
Kids loving on Violet and Daphne (new kid)
After driving over to CVS to get the iodine, I run back into the house, get our kids and run over to the garden center. Crain and Lily, our children, are delighted as always with the new baby goat. We dipped her umbilical chord in the iodine and decided after sitting with the goats for a while, that it might be a good idea to feed our family. Hope calls our friends over at China King (Crain is in class with their daughter Xin, got to love Oldham County) and I run back out to get Chinese take-out. This was just another normal day on Acorn Lane Farm.
Here I am with little Daphne
I felt the need to do a quick update on Violet, since many of you have asked about her and what is going on. I really appreciate that you guys are actually reading and asking for updates! I promise you, I will keep you posted but nothing has happened yet. We must have totally misread her signs, but she is stable and nothing has changed. She is outside with the other girls and doing fine. We have had babies for the past two years but are still new to this and many of you have offered great tips which we appreciate. Adding to the confusion of her delivery date is the fact that we didn’t know when the “deed” occured if you know what I mean, so we have not been able to accurately track her pregnancy. Now with Daisy we have a better idea and there is also a possibility that Pansy and Rosie are preggos too. I will keep you guys posted. Thanks!
On Monday night after taking the kids to Piano Lessons and Boy Scouts, I came home and Hope and I are discussing little Violet, who is one of our younger goats and is pregnant. We have been watching her over the past few months grow and grow after our Veterinarian Dr. Slone was out and confirmed she was indeed pregnant and the ultrasound showed two goat fetuses. Yes, they have portable ultrasounds for this kind of thing. It is not unusual for Hope to ask me while she is at work in Frankfort (she took a winter position with the General Assembly just during session) how is Violet? I know what this means, I say no change, she hasn’t bagged up and her “Who Who” isn’t doing anything. “Who Who” is a term for a female’s private parts that our daughter uses and we use with her. Hope being the proper Central KY Girl she is, likes these more cordial, delicate terms for reproductive anatomy. Bagged up is referring to her udder and whether she has come into milk and checking her “Who Who” is a daily thing for us goat farmers while they are preganant as they will show various signs of approaching labor.
I don’t know how graphic you want me to get, but it involves discharge and swollen vulva which means she is dilating, to just give you a preview. Well, I guess that was pretty graphic. I can guarantee you that I never thought I would be looking at a goat’s “Who Who” on a daily basis when I graduated from the Horticulture Program at the University of Kentucky. I am supposed to be a plant guy, what happened here.
Violet in Pregnancy Wing of Boone Gardiner
I noticed early that day that indeed these signs were starting to show, and Hope called our good friend Joy who is a long time goat breeder and has been a wealth of knowledge for us. Joy said she would stop by and check her out and she confirmed that she was indeed dilated but not in labor yet, as there were no contractions, but it wouldn’t be long.
So back to our dinner conversation about Violet, and what to do with her. We both felt with the returning Polar Vortex that it would be best to move her in. If she has the kids in this kind of cold, they will certainly get hypothermia and freeze. So after thinking I was finished for the night having fed and watered all of our menagerie earlier before piano lessons and boy scouts, I put on my Carharts and ventured back outside.
At 8:00 it was 13 degrees with a wind chill of 0. I couldn’t just move her into the garage. I had to build a pin of some sort as there are all kinds of organic fertilizers, among other things, that she doesn’t need to be getting into. So with my trusty light, a Christmas present from my brother Chris, which I was truly excited about. Yes, these are the kinds of things I get excited about. A light that I can use outside while doing these sort of crazy farm chores in the pitch dark and freezing cold. Hope reminded me that there were some extra cattle panels that I could use in the goat pin. For those of you who do not know, a cattle panel is a strong wired fence panel, that is extremely tough and versatile. I had to cut down 2 -16′ cattle panels where I had them wired up on a wall. Then I proceeded to cut the 16′ section in half (with bolt cutters, these are thick wire) and bring those inside to create an 8′ x 8′ pin that she could safely be inside of. It backs up to our John Deere Gator, which served as a good stabilizer.
I then had to get a water bowl, something for food and then hiked out to our barn (former coal house for heating old greenhouses) to get some hay for her to eat and use as bedding. I set up a heat lamp and even ran a space heater for a little while when I was in there. I didn’t run it all night, I know what a fire hazard these are, especially around some hay! Finally, I got a lead line and went out to fetch Violet. Great thing about Violet is that she is such a sweet goat and loves people, so she was easy to get on the lead line and bring out of the goat yard. Once we started getting close to the garage, she started wondering what I was doing with her but didn’t put up too much of a fight. I got her in and settled and I have to say it was quite a nice little area. Unfortunately, as soon as I left the garage, she starts her crying out ” Bahh, Bahh, Bahh!!” She is just like one of our children who wants us to sleep with her. She makes you feel horrible for leaving her, but eventually she calms down. I called Hope on the phone and she suggested I turn on the radio for her to keep her company. So I plugged in the radio and turned it on to WFPL, our local NPR affiliate. After listening to this all night, Violet would be up on world affairs and be able to discuss politics at length. Hope came over and sat with her for awhile and eventually snuck out. I think we both knew she probably wouldn’t give birth that night, which she didn’t, but it made us feel better having her in there.
The Trusty Light
So now, flash ahead to today, Friday 31st and she has still not gone into labor. Yesterday afternoon I was feeling bad about her being by herself and since it was warmer I moved her outside. She spent the night out there with the other goats and seems to be a lot happier. I went out in the middle of the night to check on her, but still no change. I will keep you posted.