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Violet Delivers a Beautiful Girl Kid!

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

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

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)

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

Here I am with little Daphne

Tips for Dealing with Ice and Snow Damage on Plants

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

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

“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

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!!!

Goat (Violet) Update

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!