I stepped in it.

Let’s just get into it. It’s spring here on the “farm,” and despite all very filtered (in more ways than one) #farmlife Instagram posts, things can get a little nuts and aren’t always beautiful.

Today was the morning after The Toddler decided he prefers to sleep if I’m lying on the floor next to his crib touching him. And today was also Day 3 of my desperate attempt to back myself off the way-too-much coffee habit I’ve found myself underneath again. So I was already at a disadvantage when naptime finally hit. I’d been kinda disengaged from everything all morning–going through the motions, slowly.

By 7 a.m., I had gotten the goats out with The Toddler on my back (and he is getting heavy!), and I kept him up there to feed and water the chicks and throw in a load of laundry. We puttered around the house all morning, me halfheartedly vacuuming and making my bed to try to feel somewhat productive because I just didn’t have the energy to invent or execute an errand to run. I played with The Toddler here and there, but definitely wasn’t particularly fun today. I also barely acknowledged my poor dog or the cats.

It was one of those “I can’t even” mornings. I thought about climbing into bed for a quick snooze once The Toddler went down. I loaded up my laptop and answered a few work emails before I heard the cats meowing at the back door to be let in.

The cats rushed past my legs, and there in front of the door was a little black creature. At first I thought it was a dead mole — not uncommon. But it looked weird: hairless, not mole-shaped, and definitely breathing. I sighed, shut the door and sent my husband a message. He suggested I mercy kill whatever it was, and as sorry as I felt for myself for having to squash a half-alive rodent, I agreed. So I grabbed an empty bread bag and a handful of tissues and braced myself to buck up and do a mercy kill.

When I opened the door again, though, I realized what I was seeing: A newborn baby rabbit.

Shit. I’m going to have to mercy kill a BABY, I thought, almost indulging in a little cry, as I lifted it with a tissued hand.

But then it rolled over, showing off a fat pink belly with just a couple little scratches, and nuzzled my hand. My maternal skinlessness was activated.

Long story short, it’s in a shoebox with a heating pad and the Internet research I’ve done up to this point has revealed the following information:

  1. It is illegal to try to rehabilitate injured wild animals in Ohio without a permit. (Sounds insane, but makes sense, I guess — wouldn’t want crazy animal lovers “rescuing” perfectly healthy babies/injured coyotes or whatever as an excuse to keep them as pets.)
  2. Baby rabbits are really, really, really hard to keep alive. One major reason is because they won’t get the right gut bacteria to survive without their mother’s milk (wahhhhh #breastfeeding), and one way to remedy this is to feed it a little rabbit poop from a healthy rabbit. I don’t exactly have the resources to fulfill this need.
  3. My cat knows exactly where the rabbit is. He also knows where its nest was, though he won’t tell me. I know this because he also tore apart one of the baby’s siblings all over my sidewalk, driving home the point that nature is a cold, cold son of a gun.

I left a message with a permitted rehab person and hope that either he calls me back and I can hand off the little bun to someone who knows what they’re doing, or that it will die at least peacefully and warm without too much suffering. (I am doing my best to feed it with kitten formula and wipe its tiny butt to get it to poop. I’m not going to starve it while I wait for a callback or fate.)

The Husband eventually made it home and I told him all about the bunny, and its dead sibling, and the subsequent live snake the cat left at the door today (sigh), and how just minutes before he had gotten home, our poor neglected dog ran away to my parents’ house while I walked her and gave the goats a hay refill. I figured that was enough craziness for the day.

So I was cutting the tip off a kitten bottle nipple with a razor blade while The Husband got The Toddler’s pajamas on, preparing to feed the bunny, when he yelled, “Reanna, you have to go outside right now! Cudi is on the roof of the hut!”

The “hut” is a temporary rain shelter, tarp over wire. We bought it when there was still snow on the ground last month and we needed something quick, but it’s a dog kennel. It is not meant to hold a goat’s weight (and honestly was pretty tall? Like, not something I expected them to be able to scale???)

I ran out the front door in my socks, razor blade still in hand because I was afraid of dropping it in the house. I set the blade on the porch and pulled my socks off as I ran to the goat pen, shouting, “Kid Cudi, no!!” as sternly as I could. He was unmoved, if seemingly a little annoyed that he was starting to sink.

It quickly became clear I was going to have to wade into the wet straw, mud and goat shit and get him down. Another opportunity to buck up and deal with #farmlife, I thought with mixed dismay and amusement, as I grabbed the fence to unlatch it…

…forgetting I was barefoot, standing in wet mud, grabbing a powered electric fence.

The Husband’s squeals of laughter weren’t cruel, but they were distracting.

I shook off my near electrocution and pressed in, trying to avoid obvious piles of goat pellets as I made my way to the goat on the roof. He sunk one side of the roof before hopping off. I sighed with relief and turned to leave. Heard from the window as I approached the fence, “He’s doing it again!”

Back through the goat shit, quick as I could, in time to watch him sink the whole roof. He managed to get out without help or injury, but I had to circle the hut and pull off the tarp because he obviously wanted to get right back up.

So that’s how I found myself nursing The Toddler before bed with probably a little goat shit on my feet.

Guess that’s what happens when you jump into hobby farming with both feet.

I stepped in it.

Winter Interlude

If I hadn’t been up every few hours last night, the scene this morning would have shocked me.

winterinterlude
April in Northeast Ohio.

For some reason, everyone in the house was hungry all night long — the cats woke me up three times (the first time for food, the second time to get locked in the basement for waking me up again, and the third time loudly scratching at the basement door and me letting them up so they wouldn’t wake up The Toddler, whose room is next to the basement stairs. Then, The Toddler woke up at 4:30 a.m. deciding he was starving and desperately wanted to nurse. My refusal sent him into a rage, and I had to send The Husband in to comfort him until the leisurely hour of 5:06 when I decided it could be “morning” and he could nurse.

(My sleep training logic is that if he wants to nurse, he has to get up for the day so as not to backslide into night nursing. 5:06 is disgustingly early, but he went to bed at 6:30 last night, so unfortunately I see 5 a.m. almost every morning. That’s our next hurdle to overcome, once sleeping through the night becomes more routine. So far we’ve only achieved it twice since the night weaning week, but usually wake-ups are quick and easily squelched without nursing.)

I digress. My point is it snowed like crazy last night.

While The Husband ate breakfast, I ran out to the barn with food for the goats. They’ll be stuck inside today, as the portable electric fence we use is rendered useless under heavy snow.

By the way, we renamed them finally! They came with the names Sehnsucht and Saudade (twin brothers) and Bazyll. While foreign names for the feeling of profound and melancholic longing are certainly poetic, we tend toward a sillier flavor of pet names in our family. So now Bazyll is Grover (after our favorite blue monster), Sehnsucht is Regular sized Rudy (or just Rudy), now our second pet named after a Bob’s Burgers character, and finally, the most inspired pet name I have ever or will ever have… the leader of our herd, formerly known as Saudade, is now Kid Cudi.

3goats
Thick as thieves: (L to R) Kid Cudi, Regular Sized Rudy and Grover

Because he’s a kid. And he chews cud.  Also because he loves weed(s). Please don’t make me explain it to you.

The chicks are getting bigger and featherier and braver at an improbable rate. We had to upgrade them to one of these last week because they seemed crowded in the brooder I constructed, and moved them into the guest bedroom so we could put the cats in the basement at night as needed without worrying for the chicks’ safety.

dominique-chick-3-weeks
Lincoln’s feathers are coming in nicely!

So if you’re planning on spending the night at my house any time over the next month or so… you’re going to have roommates.

Well, I thought I had a cogent point to this post when I started it, but there just isn’t enough coffee in the world this morning to bring me to a neat conclusion. It’s still blustering outside like it’s February and the toddler is sitting next to me covered in yogurt and trying to get me to name all the parts of the house he can see (Door! Floor! Ceiling! Clock!) so I had better sign off here.

Winter Interlude

The kids are all right

On Saturday, The Husband and I left The Toddler with Grandma and drove an hour and a half into the heart of Amish country to pick up three young Nigerian Dwarf goats we found online. Their owner was selling them as almost year-old wethers (the name for neutered male goats), as she has milk goats and her herd was getting too big.

We ended up cramming the poor guys into a dog crate in the back of my Subaru hatchback because we need to do some repair work to the cool but temperamental old yellow 1972 Ford F250 we co-own with our friends. The ride home was a quiet but tense one, The Husband gripping the steering wheel and doing his best to keep the turns smooth and slow on the winding back roads, carefully passing Amish families in buggies while the goats stumbled around in an increasing puddle of urine in their crate. Not an ideal way to start the relationship, I’m sure, but they were exceedingly patient with us.

They arrived at our house and we corralled them into an area we have cordoned off with portable electric fencing very near our house. This is one of the big garden beds my grandparents used to manage, but which has over the past decade or two become utterly overrun with poison ivy, wild roses, blackberry bushes and feral garlic (from the time my grandmother threw some old, sprouting garlic cloves out her window. Advice: Do not do this. All last spring and summer the overwhelming scent of garlic wafted through our windows.)

Anyway, to answer a few questions we’ve been getting:

  • The goats’ main purpose is to help us manage this overgrowth (they prefer “browse” or “forage” to pasture–they like reaching above their heads to eat, more like deer than cattle. So the brambles and vines and saplings are prime eating for them.) They will also serve as pets. Also, their poop makes great fertilizer. Also, they’re pretty cute.
  • We have no interest at present in running a dairy. Nigerian Dwarf goats are bred for milk, but you have to breed goats about annually to keep the milk flowing, and breeding goats brings an overwhelming element to the adventure that we’re not willing to entertain right now: stinky, aggressive bucks (non-neutered males), helping with deliveries and keeping kids alive in the dead of winter, when they’re usually born, twice-daily milking and figuring out what to do with all those extra goats.
  • We haven’t picked new names for them. They’re still pretty leery of us (they were quite friendly toward their former owner, but being a year old and only with us for a few days so far, they’re taking their time warming up to us). So we’re keeping their old names for now in hopes that a little consistency in that regard helps open the lines of communication. I’m not going to get into what the currently are, because it’s kind of a longer story than you’d think, but we’ll let you know when we settle on new ones.
  • The Toddler adores them. He can see them out his bedroom window, and they have been added to the good night tour each night along with the chicks.
  • The Dog, poor Louise, got a nose full of the (honestly potentially not strong enough, it feels only slightly worse than getting a static shock from socks on a rug) electric fence when she first encountered the goats, and holds me personally responsible. She’s avoided eye contact with me since Saturday.

Here are some photos for your enjoyment… I hope as the goats get more used to us, there will be better shots, but I can’t get very close right now (and if I am, I have a spoonful of molasses in one hand and a lead in the other, which doesn’t make for easy photography.)

Nigerian dwarf
One of the guys before we brought him home. (Behind him is one of the bucks from the herd, saying his goodbyes.)
Nigerian dwarf goats
The boys stayed shoulder to shoulder the whole first day they arrived, but did nibble on some forage.
Nigerian dwarves exploring
This photo is from today. They like to stand on that falling down fence, and here they are nibbling some wild roses. Get it, guys!
Tucking in for the night
This is where they sleep in the barn at night. Check out my Instagram @arkayokay to watch a video of them basically sprinting to the barn on leads as I try to mimic the “praise voice” their former owner used (embarrassing).
20170326_194730
The apparent leader of the herd in his favorite spot. They started to let me get a little closer today so long as I sat still.

In chick news, the girls are getting bigger and bolder and feathering out nicely. I bring them a treat each day (either hard boiled eggs… yep, the original chick feed, as weird as it sounds, or smashed chick peas, or raisins or freeze dried meal worms, but eggs are their No. 1 jam) and they hop into my hand and go nuts. A couple of them have even been testing out the mini perches we put in their brood box. So cute!

They also survived an attempted massacre by my cat while we were out picking up the goats. Fortunately, everyone was accounted for soon after we got home. We have reinforced the boxes to keep that from happening again (I hope.)

In parenting news, The Toddler is 15 months old now. He’s absolutely a toddler, exploring everything, throwing tantrums, picking up more and more words (his current favorite word is “gouda.” Ha!) and being equal parts heart-explodingly sweet and unbelievably challenging. I am addicted to his hugs.

This week, The Husband is on spring break from school so we’re finally working on a gentle approach to night weaning. (Yeah, I know a lot of moms figure this one out 6 or 10 months in or whatever, but we’ve been lazy and he’s been down to one quick nurse a night unless he’s sick or teething.) Anyway, every night the husband is “on duty” no matter what for an increasingly longer amount of time. Usually if I send him in, The Toddler screams and points at the door for me until we cave, but he’s going to have to take comfort with his dad for longer and longer period of time until he figures out we can’t all get 3 a.m. milkshakes every night.

Speaking of 3 a.m. milkshakes, The Toddler’s dwindling need to nurse, coupled with my persistent attachment to frozen yogurt and string cheese and buttery toast, means I’m starting to gain back a little of the baby weight that fell off so easily from breastfeeding. So today starts a conscious effort to pay attention to my appetite and get some exercise. I went running outside for the first time in eons. It felt like I was running with a backpack full of bowling balls, but I got through it and it felt good to break a sweat. Here’s hoping my saying it on the Internet will help me stick to it.

Time for a very desperately needed shower! Until next time.

The kids are all right

Cooped up with kids (and life is sweet)

Good morning, Internet! As I’ve alluded… we’re going through some exciting additions to TLMB household and I’m thinking of shifting gears to a more hobby farm/parenting blog… workshopping the title, which I hope will make sense to you soon as it is basically one clever turn of phrase after another.

Cooped up

I have been up since 3 a.m. with inexplicable insomnia. Except it’s not really inexplicable… If I’m being honest, it’s a shadow of the sleeplessness I felt waiting for The Baby to arrive, fed in equal parts by sheer excitement and my obsessive need to plan. Because, my friends, in two short days I will be welcoming six new babies into my house.

Fluffy little chicken babies.

dominique_chicken
Dominique chicken By gunthercox (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Yes, The Husband and I are taking the leap into hobby farming with a half dozen chicks, who will, if luck prevails, provide us abundant eggs and entertainment.

I’ve trawled chicken blogs, researched breeds, assembled a brood box (though I still have to finish the second one and build a “chunnel” today), bought feed and bedding and heat lamps. We thought about building a coop, but after careful reflection on our carpentry skills and less than ample free time, we decided to buy a ready-made one that is now waiting for us at Tractor Supply to see if we can get our old yellow truck started to pick it up. (Note: A Subaru Impreza hatchback is not large enough to transport an 8 chicken-sized coop, even unassembled.)

First thing Tuesday morning, The Baby, my brother and I will head over to Grace Brothers Nursery to pick up the girls (which, despite its lackluster website is a great small business… and while we’re now closer to the North Royalton location I highly recommend anyone on the West side of Cleveland check out their urban farm shop on W. 65th.)

We’ll get some combination of the following breeds, selected for their temperament, hardiness, size, egg production and status (as available) as heritage/threatened breeds:

  • Golden Buffs (apparently a.k.a. Golden Comets or Red sexlinks, I think). This is a hybrid bird, and the sexlink means that female chicks are one color while males are another. They are bred to lay a lot of eggs.
  • Buff Orpingtons. These are extremely common, extremely big/puffy, and known in chicken circles as the “golden retriever of chickens” for their friendly, easygoing demeanor.
  • Dominiques. This is the breed I’m most excited about, as they are among the oldest American breeds, developed by some of the first European settlers to North America. Their barred black and white feathers provide camouflage against predators, they are extremely active foragers, very cold hardy and friendly. They’re also medium sized, I think about on-par with the Golden Buffs.
  • Silver-Laced Wyandottes. These are probably the showiest of our selection… check out those feathers. They’re big like the buff orpingtons and cold hardy, too. Perusing the chicken forums, I suspect these might have the greatest potential to be less friendly, but they’re still considered pretty easygoing and docile.

The chicks will spend about 6-8 weeks indoors getting bigger and growing feathers before they move out to their coop. I’m excited to see how The Toddler takes to them! (Don’t panic: No small children or dogs or cats will be left unattended with the flock. Handwashing precautions and kissing bans will be in place to prevent salmonella.)

So that’s the news in chickens.

With kids.

We still just have the one human kid (15 months old now. How?!) But in a week, we’ll be adding three literal kids to the family. Goat kids.

The Husband and I found three Nigerian Dwarf wethers (neutered males) available for sale from a lovely woman who lives in deep Amish Country, about an hour and a half south of us. We went to “interview” them a couple weeks ago and decided we had found the pets/weed eaters for us. They’re actually almost a year old, so maybe not kids much longer, but they’re super cute!

nigerdwarfgoat
Nigerian Dwarf goats. Ours have different coloring, but you get the idea. Cute! HoppingRabbit34 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
No, we’re not doing dairy goats. I know we’re already teetering on “more than we can handle” territory and can’t imagine keeping up with milking, let alone having to breed regularly and deal with newborn kids. And no, despite our jokes and hypothetical talks last summer when this crazy idea first crossed our minds, we’re not raising them for meat. They’re going to eat all our poison ivy and wild roses and enjoy the sunshine and sleep in the barn.

What I’m most nervous about with goat ownership is parasite/worm control. There is definitely a learning curve, but the woman selling the goats has already been really helpful in sharing resources, and we’ve been doing a lot of research and reading on our own. There’s no greater teacher than experience, though, right?

So on Saturday, we’ll go get our little herd. Today we will be setting up the electric fence and finishing setting up their barn stall and outdoor shelter to keep them out of the rain. And finding a mouse-proof place to keep the goat pellets we bought that isn’t the dining room.

More on goats as the story develops.

And life is sweet.

beekeeper

Our smallest new charges will arrive by the thousands in April. This is the piece of the hobby farm pie I’m most nervous about, as it seems you need an advanced degree to keep up with all the maintenance and disease prevention, but we’re going to start beekeeping.

We’ve been taking classes with the Medina Beekeepers Association over the past month, learning about bee anatomy and hive dynamics and mites and pollen and honey. While it will be really nice to have fresh honey if it works out, I feel a moral duty to at least try to take on this task, as honey bees continue to die out and be threatened by insecticides and pesticides and mites.

I don’t have much more to say about beekeeping yet because I still have so much to figure out, but by late April we’ll have the hives installed, and if the weather conditions are right, we might be able to harvest a little honey by the end of the season.

So there you have it. Our little homestead is taking shape, and my days of reading books and folding laundry and freelancing will also be days of sweeping a coop, trimming hooves and checking hives. It’s going to be a big change for our family, and thus a big shift in topic matter for the blog. I hope you don’t mind. Stick around–if for nothing else than the many, many pictures of baby chickens I’ll inevitably post in the coming weeks.

 

 

Cooped up with kids (and life is sweet)

Weekend warrior and half a year…

It’s been a busy week at the TLMB compound, and the only time I’m finding to blog is while rocking a napping, teething baby, so forgive the stream of consciousness/lack of a clear thesis to this post. In no particular order, some updates:

The Baby turned six months old on Saturday!

He is *eating solids. He is scooting across the floor toward anything (cords, table legs, dog toys) he thinks he might be able to put his mouth on. He is picking up the main concept behind playing peekaboo. He has endured another round of shots and he has cut two teeth. My tiny baby is careening headlong into toddlerhood and I am just trying to keep up without my heart breaking/bursting. This wasn’t the only.milestone we hit since my last post. In fact…

*Mostly smearing on his head/massaging into his hands and arms like lotion.

My marriage turned six years old on Friday!

My dear husband brought home a bouquet of flowers and we celebrated by driving up to our old neighborhood in Cleveland, eating some of the best bakery in the universe, having a beer at Nano Brewery while The Baby slept in his carrier, and then going home and tearing the carpets out of our hallway and The Baby’s room. It may not be super romantic, but it reinforces the fact that The Husband and I make an amazing team. Which is critical right now, because…

The home improvement saga continues

We’ve been trying to make some urgent upgrades to our house (formerly my grandparents’ house) since we moved here in April. Most pressing has been replacing the 30-year-old shag carpet that resembles a basset hound’s back in its wrinkles. With The Baby making it clear he will never again remain where I put him down on the floor, we chose this past weekend to go for the hallway and his room. (We had someone else do our living room, kitchen and pantry a few weeks ago, but committed to doing the rest of it ourselves.) I actually really like doing this kind of DIY, but the corners and closets are awful. We also painted both rooms while we had the subfloor exposed. Last night when we finally moved the furniture vack into The Baby’s room it felt wonderful to be so nearly done with this project. But it’s just one of many projects, the craziest and next one being…

We’re getting goats?!?!

It sounds like a very bad idea, but the overgrown flowerbeds and yard around our house are brimming with poison ivy, brambles and wild garlic to such a degree that getting goats has become the most timely, affordable and eco-friendly way to solve this problem. The property has a barn (currently stuffed almost literally to the rafters with broken lawnmowers) that we’re tricking our friends into helping us clear out a bit. Then we’re charging full steam ahead into acquiring some goats. I am still in disbelief that I’m doing this, but that’s sort of how I felt about parenthood, so…it will be fine? Stay tuned.

A final note of congrats…

My good friend and way better blogger Melissa became a mom last week! I’m so excited to meet her little guy and hear how her birth went. Check out her post (and blog in general… especially if you love food and running and Cleveland.)

How’s your summer going? Any tips for new goat owners? Any tips for new crawlers? Any suggestions for what beer I should buy myself to deal with all this?

Weekend warrior and half a year…