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…
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!
I just remembered that I some times take for granted that people know what to do with their landscape plants when they get damaged or weighed down by snow or ice. The answer is absolutely nothing. Yes, that is right, nothing. Well at least not until it warms up and they thaw out. This is a hard thing for us to do because when we see one of our cherished trees or shrubs bent over, branches weighed down with ice, it is natural to want to relieve the plant of this problem. Counterintuitive as it may be, that is often the worst thing you can do. While the branches are covered with ice or snow, they are very brittle and damage easily. The most obvious damage is complete breakage but there is also damage that can occur on the cellular level. It is better to let nature run its course, letting all branches and limbs thaw out completely. After the thaw, the branches will usually spring back into place; this process may take awhile but it occurs most of the time.
River Birch ice damage in front of garden center
If complete breakage has occurred, you will still first want to let the plant thaw out completely, then come back and make a clean-cut. It is almost guaranteed that the break will not be clean and will be a splintered break. The tree will have a difficult time healing and the wound can open it to other pest or disease problems later on. Use a sharp hand saw or chain saw, make a clean cut back to the next branch junction and branch collar. The branch collar is the raised part at the base of a branch where it connects to the trunk of the tree or a branch. You do not want to cut past this, but just in front of it. In other words, don’t leave big stubs by just cutting the branch in the middle or not far enough back. The tree cannot heal properly from this kind of pruning.
It is interesting to see the difference in how various plants react to these kinds of winter weather events. Obviously the trees and shrubs from more hardier clients have adapted to this kind of event and they don’t exhibit as much if any breakage as some of the plants from less harsh winter areas.
“Winter’s Coming” For those of you who may watch or have heard of the HBO series based on the book Game of Thrones, this is the motto of the House Stark. The meaning behind these words is one of warning and constant vigilance. The Stark Family are the lords of the North, Winterfell, and strive to always be prepared for the coming of winter, which hits their lands the hardest.
A deeper, metaphorical sense can be found in the motto. According to the author George R.R. Martin, it more generally expresses the sentiment that there are always dark periods in each of our lives, and even if things are good now (“summer”), we must always be ready for a dark period when events turn against us (“winter”). In this sense “winter” parallels Richard of the House of York’s opening line in Shakespeare’s Richard III, “Now is the Winter of our Discontent/ Made glorious by this sun of York…”
In this sense it is loosely matched by the Latin phrase “memento mori” (“remember you have to die”), which was whispered into the ear of victorious Roman generals during their parade of triumph, to remind them that all earthly success if fleeting. (parts of these paragraphs came from the website Wikia.com)
I started reading the book series a couple of years before the TV series came out and I immediately connected with the Stark Family and their view on life. Having a garden center, landscape and now farm business, which is not just a business but way of life, we know better than anyone what this means. I worry about winter coming all year and this year was no different. In fact, I kept saying that I had a feeling this winter was going to be a bad one. I was unfortunately right, and little did I know how bad.
I’m not one to normally do selfies but I had to laugh at the ice in my beard, a la Ned Stark
As a child, I used to love winter and the beauty, adventure and fun it can possess. The child in me still feels that way; however, the adult in me worries ad nauseam about all of the things that can go wrong. We Louisvillians have been spoiled for years with mild winters, but this winter is different, this is hardcore and playing for keeps. I have not seen anything like it in my lifetime.
Usually, we have a snow or ice event and it is gone the next day, or even that afternoon. We have had Polar Vortex #1 roll through here, then Polar Vortex #2 and now this. We close the retail garden center in the fall and our landscape jobs are the only source of income and cash flow that we have all winter long. First trick is to sell the jobs, second is to execute them. We are used to having to work around the winter, but this is just something different. This week alone we had snow on Monday, temperatures have kept it from melting, then snow, rain, sleet and ice on top of it. With forecasted continuing below freezing temps, there is no way we are going to be able to work this week at all. (Yes, this is a year that we should be doing snow removal as we don’t, but that is a discussion for another time)
Since we have started this whole homesteading farm and petting zoo thing, many of our friends, say to us with a little envy “we could never do what you guys do.” “We really admire what you do and it’s wonderful that you do it, however, we could never do it.” We always say, “Of course you could do it, it is just a matter of doing it.” We would have never thought that we were the ones who would do this if you asked us 5 years ago. But this is the winter where I say to many of our friends, “you know what, you might be right, you might not be able to do this.” I say that because this is the winter where I wonder if I can continue to do this!
It was bad enough to have winter affect our landscape business but now we take on this farm venture which adds even more winter stress. We must be masochists or something! And now, as if to add insult to injury, we get ice and lots of damage to our trees on the property, just relentless!
I am not writing this to complain, as I would not trade it. I write it more to reflect how interesting and different your outlook is on life when you are so connected to the natural world. We as humans have done a very good job of shielding ourselves from the problems of winter and adverse weather. Of course, our family has these modern conveniences as well, but for us the weather is everything. It literally dictates how the whole day is going to be dealt with and things change on the fly because of the weather all of the time. Just as it has been for millennia for farmers and people who work the land.
There is a sense of accomplishment every morning and afternoon, when I have completed the chores of feeding and watering, that I have done something real and honest. A sense that I am part of God’s creation and fully involved in the process, instead of just going through the motions, allowing technology to rule everything.
I can also guarantee you that there will be a sense of accomplishment, when this Spring I am reflecting back on the how we survived the worst winter we have ever experienced and are better and stronger because of it. After all, Spring is Coming!!!
Stop by today and pick up some fresh veggies grown on site by Boone Gardiner. We have a nice selection of veggies, harvested when you want them. Just come out and if you see something you like, we cut and harvest it right there for you. Right now we have Kale, Mustard Greens, Leaf Lettuce, Radishes, Cauliflower available for dinner tonight. Don’t forget our farm fresh eggs from our happy hens and our local honey.
Cabbage and Kale
We should have posted this last week, but we have been a little busy around here at Boone Gardiner, with Pigs, Parties, Plants and more!!! Last Tuesday the garden center reopened (from by appointment hours) to normal retail hours of Tuesday thru Saturday 10:00 am-6:00 pm. We are excited to be officially reopen after 2 years of By-Appointment only hours. Our awesome Herbaceous High Priestess Shelley Palmer is back at Boone Gardiner, many of you will remember Shelley from our days at the old location in Eastwood. We have lots of beautiful plants to check out including our own grown in house selection of perennials. Acorn Lane Farm and Petting Zoo is officially opened for daily visits, parties, tours, etc. We have Alpacas, Chickens, Goats, Guineas, Bee Hives, Peacock, Pigs, Horse, Donkeys, Vietnamese Potbelly Pigs, Rabbits, Sheep and more! We have two baby goats and Gracie our potbelly Pig just gave birth to 4 adorable baby piglets the other day. You will want to come out soon and see these little guys. As always our landscape division is staying extremely busy design and installing beautiful projects all over town. We are here to help you with any of your landscaping needs. We hosted an Oldham County Chamber of Commerce After Hours Event here last week and had a children’s Pre-K Graduation party at Acorn Lane Farm. Dates for parties and school groups for this summer are filling up fast, call now if you are interested. Stay tuned because we will be having (maybe bringing back a few old favorites) fun events, launching a new website shortly and more. Stay tuned!