Fetchin’ in the Firewood

A dead tree blew down in a remotish corner of our property over a year ago and I’d put off cutting it up and hauling it to the house because it was on a steep slope with a lot of rocks and trees that made it tricky to get a truck or tractor back there. I do drive the tractor back there, but lately we’ve either had too much snow to be safe on the hill or else too much mud to let me cross my pasture without tearing deep ruts. But darn it we were running out of firewood and I wanted that dead tree! So I had a brilliant idea–use the goats! Sputnik is always eager for a bit of work so I hitched him up and he hauled the chainsaws and gas can out to the dead tree. I tied him up nearby and got to work. Soon there was a respectable pile of firewood and log rounds lying where the tree had been.

I loaded the cart and Sputnik eagerly pulled it back to the house, almost dragging me along with it!

He’s not proud of himself at all! No, not one bit!

The second load was heavy! The logs I cut from the tree stump that was left standing after the rest blew down were still a bit green.
Sputnik was overeager at first and kind of dragged me out to the tree by his halter and then dragged me back home with the first load. He started out eager with the second load but settled down very quickly when he realized how hard it was! By the third load he was Mr. Steady Eddy and I didn’t even have to tie him when I loaded and unloaded the wagon. He stood very nicely, happy for a little break between loads. 

By the end of the fourth load Sputnik was getting tired. I had given him all the heavy logs, and the long trudge back home was mostly uphill and bumpy. Meanwhile I’d locked Finn up on the patio because he had been such a pest when Sputnik was hauling the first load. He dogged Sputnik the whole time, poking, prodding, and shoving him while Sputnik was trying to work. I shooed him away but he would run around the other side and start pestering again. Sputnik didn’t deserve that kind of treatment and I had no time for nonsense, so as soon as we got back to the house with our first load of wood, Finn went straight to jail. He watched in silent envy as Sputnik went away and came back with three more loads. By the time Sputnik needed a break, Finn was rarin’ to go. Normally Finn does not like pulling the wagon and if I’d started out with Finn he’d have been sullen and balky. As it was, watching Sputnik get all the attention and treats sparked Finn’s jealousy and by the time I hitched him to the wagon he was more than eager to work and he practically dragged me out to the tree as Sputnik had done at first.    

The entire herd was eager to help and followed back and forth on every trip–supervising no doubt! I felt like the head of a large parade. 

Finn ended up only having to haul 2 1/2 loads and they weren’t as heavy as Sputnik’s, but he still felt like a hero.

A nice drink of water for our hard worker.

Sadie did not help at all but she would like us to think she did something important by walking back and forth all those times. Oh wait–she cleaned up a lot of the wood chips from the wagon after I emptied it. See? She did do something important!

The Deep, Dark Depths of February

February was a month of snow and ice and unrelenting cold. The sky stayed overcast most of the time and for a while I despaired of ever seeing the sun again. Phil and I spent a lot of time huddled near the wood stove, particularly during the week we came down sick. We did our best to maintain our morning walks with Finn and Sputnik, but there were some days when it was just too icy. One day the ice rolled in just late enough for us to get our walk in first. By the time we got home the pine needles had gone from green to white and Sputnik’s beard was full of frost. (And for some reason I LOVE this photo of him!)

Finn’s eye whiskers also froze over.

The goats spent most of February destroying our stack of firewood. Every time we put it back up they tore it right down, the little monsters!

Hi Skeeter! She looks so much like her mom…

Phil’s birthday brought a rare ray of sunshine into this otherwise rather bleak and dreary month. He went outside and sat with the goats. Cupcake and Mocha immediately came to wish him a happy birthday. Then they wouldn’t leave him alone!

Goat attack!!!

Once they finished Phil off, the girls went to work on the woodpile!

Sadie just wants a piece of cake.

And TinCup is the wallflower.

The ice settled back in after Phil’s birthday and formed some amazing crystallizations on our porch!

I love how the icicles grew up through the cracks.

Our bannister grew some very impressive whiskers.

The tin goats got a little extra decoration for their horns.

The real goats got no such adornment. “When is this weather going to end? And where is our breakfast??”

A few days later a fine mist rolled down from the mountain and coated everything it touched in a layer of solid ice. It looked like someone had driven a zamboni around our yard! It was so slick I could not walk from the hay barn to the goat pen. After slipping a few times on level ground, I went right back inside and dug out my snowshoes with the metal claws on the bottom. The goats stayed in their sheds. They could barely walk on the frozen surface. The horses fared better. They were heavy enough for their hooves to punch down through the ice and give them some traction.

I heard a lot of stories afterward from friends and neighbors who had tried driving out in that weather and ended up in ditches. Our mail lady had to crack open our subdivision’s shared mailbox with a sledgehammer. Then she fell and slid underneath her car and couldn’t get out. Her husband tried to rescue her and ended up falling three times. She was eventually able to pull herself out by grabbing the running board and climbing up the side of the vehicle. Thankfully everyone was unscathed. I stayed home and only ventured outside to feed animals and bring in firewood.

Near the end of the second day, snow began to fall and by evening Phil and I were able to go sledding down the hill behind our house. The hill is long and it looks steep, but it’s not actually very good for sledding and we’ve rarely been able to get up much speed. This time was different! With the hill coated in solid ice with two inches of new snow on top we got some exhilarating rides! Next morning the temperature rose and the ice melted. No more good sledding, but it sure was fun for the one night it lasted!

February ended on a high note with a 1980’s theme party hosted by my veterinarian friend. It was only for the ladies so unfortunately Phil couldn’t attend, but I have to say I was mighty proud of my costume! I went as David Bowie’s Goblin King from the movie Labyrinth.  I think I’ll recycle this one for the State Fair in September and dress a baby goat in a red and white striped onesie.

The original:

Adjusting

January was a strange month without Queen Petunia to lead the herd. Even when she was sick, Pet’s presence seemed to go with them. The goats acted a bit lost for a while and spent a lot of time hanging around their pen when they would normally be out and about. Petunia always led the herd on their foraging forays, and even near the end when she quit going round with them, the herd seemed to go under her blessing and supervision. No one was sure who was in charge for a while, so the herd seemed a little confused and less orderly until Tigerlily finally stepped up to the plate in early February. Petunia was a gentle herd queen and a bold leader while Tigerlily is less kind but also less bold about striking out and leading the herd. The goats are bigger homebodies now than they used to be under Petunia’s rule. Hopefully Tigerlily will settle into her new role with time, and as the spring grass and oak buds emerge in the next few weeks I’m sure the goats will start being tempted away from the house.

In the meantime, they had a lot of fun stripping our Christmas tree! It took them about two hours to strip this poor thing to a bare skeleton. 

Except for Finn. Finn is so beautiful he prefers to pose for the camera rather than eat with the common riffraff. 

Tigerlily says, “I’m beautiful too! take pictures of me!” 

Cupcake (Petunia’s last kid) has had an interesting journey. She was a noisy baby and would cry loudly and often, especially after her brother, Buster Brown, left in October. But ever since Pet died she has hardly made a peep. I think she was distressed because she knew her mom was sick but there was nothing she could do for her. On Pet’s last night when I found her shivering in the shed despite the blanket and the warm evening, Cupcake was curled up as close to her mother as she could possibly get. All the other goats were eating supper, but Cupcake skipped the meal to give her mom companionship and warmth. It was incredibly sweet, so when I took Petunia into the house that night, I brought Cupcake in with her. We put Petunia down the next day but of course Cupcake didn’t see any of that. She kept trying to get into the house because that was the last place she’d seen her mama. On about the third day, Cupcake bolted past me when I opened the door and she ran around the basement calling. When she saw that her mom wasn’t there, she stopped looking and has not worried about her ever since.

I was afraid that Cupcake would get beat up once her mother died, but interestingly enough, Sputnik took her under his wing. I can’t say he actively protects her, but he lets her eat next to him and share his shed which means no one dares bother her. I have two big hay feeders and Finn and Sputnik generally share one while most of the girls share the other. Pet used to share with the boys because she was the queen. Tigerlily has recently started sharing with the boys now that Pet is gone, but as often as not she gets chased off. Cupcake, on the other hand, rarely eats with the girls. There she is, cute little fluff ball, happily chowing down between towering Finn and Sputnik while everyone else keeps a cautious distance. It’s adorable and I’m thrilled that our little orphan has a special place in the herd.

 

Hail the Queen!

For whatever reason, the Christmas 2019 season was one of the best ever. It was filled with fun, friends, celebrations, gatherings, caroling, light, and music. There seemed no end to the festivities. And Petunia felt good during the week of Christmas. She’d been sick off and on since October and had been steadily losing weight. She couldn’t keep warm and had to wear a blanket most nights. Over Christmas her appetite picked up and she started interacting with the herd again. I thought maybe she was on the mend.

But it was not to be. Around New Years Petunia crashed again and this time she refused to eat anything at all. The vet came and looked at her but found nothing helpful. I brought Petunia in the house where the only place she could keep warm was by the wood stove. Still, she refused to eat, and on January 7th we said goodbye to our “Pretty Pet.” She was only six years old and the long-standing queen of our little herd.

Petunia was the first goat born at Goat-O-Rama and was the first kid I delivered myself. She was born during a rare June rainstorm in the drought year of 2013 and I was instantly drawn to the funny white face with the lopsided black spots. She was a bold, outgoing baby who loved to be picked up and held. If she saw an open lap, she jumped in it without waiting for an invitation.

“Can I help?”

“May I have this dance?”

Petunia at her first show – Colorado State Fair 2013.

In October that year we took Cuzco, Nubbin, and Petunia with us to Utah for our second annual “goat vacation.” Petunia was in heaven on those sandstone rocks and was a bold explorer. 

Petunia took her first (and probably her last) sled ride that winter.

Petunia’s ears were her best feature. Was there ever a goat with such a glorious span!

Petunia welcomed her first kids, Snickers and Sputnik, into the world on June 16, 2014. 

Fall 2014 saw Petunia back at the Colorado State Fair, this time with a proud udder. She’d raised two kids that summer but she hadn’t lost her figure!

Petunia also took first prize in the costume contest that year, wowing everyone with her repertoire of fancy tricks. 

One week later, Petunia took first prize in her class at the CDGA Harvest Show in Longmont. 

Petunia welcomed Pedro and Pepi into the world on May 5th, 2016. 

Petunia was always a fantastic mother. She surprised us with two doelings, Blackbird and Skeeter, on February 1st, 2018.

Petunia’s last two kids came into the world on April 24th, 2019. Brownie and Cupcake, like all of Petunia’s kids, were as friendly and outgoing as their mother. 

This is how I will always remember our Pretty Pet–boldly marching at the front of the herd as she led them out on the days’ rounds. 

If there was one feature I was proud of, it was Petunia’s ears–a mile wide and ready for takeoff! 

If there was one feature Petunia was proud of, it was her tail.  

The Goat-O-Rama Gang presents a series of seasonally festive photographs for your enjoyment.

Coral is one of our most proficient tree-trimmers and acrobats.

Lovely Rita wears a tastefully fashionable “sprinkle of snow” cape with festive “sprig of pine” accessory.

I may have been premature in choosing a photo for the Christmas card this year.
Tigerlily will not be outdone by the younger generations! She can still dance with the best of them,  and her white spotted coat needs no holiday enhancements.
Snowball gazes in rapt admiration at her glamorous and athletic mother.
With this balancing act, Finn appears to be trying out for the circus.
Sputnik in regal form.
Coral, a.k.a. “Fuzzy”, wonders whether it might be easier to flap her ears and fly to the treetops.
Mother and daughter–what a pair! So similar and yet so different, and both look stunning in the snow!

The rest of the photos belong to Miss Snowball. She has turned out to be the biggest, the prettiest, the softest, and certainly the most photogenic baby of 2019. Her pure white baby coat has been replaced by her permanent color, which is as stunning and unique as her mother’s but with a very different expression. Unlike Tigerlily’s minimal bold black spots, Snowball has developed a soft roan wash over much of her back. Her ears darkened to a beautiful fawn brown that frame her white face and cherubic smile.


2019 Beulah Parade and Yule Log – A Goat-O-Rama Tradition!

This was the 67th anniversary of the Beulah Yule Log Festival, and our 7th time attending. As usual, Phil and I dressed up as Santa and Helper Elf for the Beulah parade of lights the night before the Yule Log. We were thankful to have help decorating the carriage from our friends Bob and Alane Smith who we know from our church in Rye. I added some red and gold frills to the goats’ harnesses and bedecked them in enough bells for the people in the next county to hear them coming.  
The parade was a blur of fun as usual. The goats were particularly well-behaved this year despite having only a single practice session one week before the event. They always get a little nervous in the most crowded section, mostly because of how many dogs bark from the darkness then suddenly lunge into the light all sides. Thankfully the dogs are all leashed, but the experience is always a little unnerving for the goats.

Santa thrilled one and all with his generous distribution of candy. The children always love seeing Santa ride into town in his goat-drawn “sleigh” while the elf toots the horn.

Next morning was the Yule Log festival, and for the first time in our seven years of attending, Phil and I finally got to sit inside the beautiful stone lodge built during the Depression by the CCC. We thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful music presented at their Christmas ceremony before going back to our truck to retrieve Finn and Sputnik for the Yule Log hunt.

We didn’t come anywhere close to finding the Yule Log this year, but as usual our goats helped drag it back! There was no snow this time so dragging the log (and its dozen or so riders) was more difficult than usual, but as always the goats put their best effort into the work and we soon made it back to the lodge with our prize.
And here is the esteemed Yule Log, with part of it already cut and fed to the Yule Fire and the other half waiting to start next year’s fire. 
And now for Sputnik’s favorite part of the celebration–wassail and cookies! There were several dozen varieties of cookies presented, and I’m pretty sure Sputnik sampled most of them and loved almost all of them equally until his belly got full, at which point he became somewhat more discriminating.

As always, the Yule Log Festival was a wonderful, magical celebration steeped in tradition and camaraderie. We can’t wait till next year!

A Whirl of Changes

November is usually a month to get ready for winter and holidays. It’s a month to prepare for cold weather and get used to shorter days. Cutting, hauling, splitting, and stacking firewood usually looms large in November. But this year was different. I spent a brief but fun weekend in Massachusetts with my in-laws. They invited me out to attend Equine Affaire, which is one of the largest horse events in the U.S. It my first time visiting Phil’s parents sans Phil. He held down the fort here so I could go for my “horse spa weekend” as he called it. We had a wonderful time together and I’m so happy they invited me.

Just before I left for MA, I made the difficult but long-in-coming decision to list my horse Skokie for sale. I’d had Skokie since birth. He was the only offspring from my mom’s beloved palomino mare, PJ. My mom and I had spent time picking the stud–a beautiful Thoroughbred stallion named Coverallbases who was a grandson of Seattle Slew on his father’s side and a grandson of Secretariat on his mother’s. When we originally bred PJ to a Thoroughbred, I had hopes of getting into hunter/jumper competition and other English riding disciplines. But this never panned out and Skokie ended up much too big a horse for me and for the western riding I ended up doing. Skokie and I also never really clicked. He was a good horse and I had no complaints about his behavior, but for some reason our personalities never quite meshed. It was time to let him go.

A buyer from Virginia called while I was in MA. I was not interested in selling Skokie to anyone sight-unseen, but the man was very determined. He said his daughter would come pick Skokie up. That made me feel better. There was no way I was going to pack Skokie off with a shipping company and send him across the country! But if the man’s own daughter would come in person and actually ride him and take him back herself, I could feel ok about that.

At the same time as I was negotiating the sale of Skokie, I had my eye on a little Morgan yearling that was more my size. I fell in love with Morgans when I was in college out east. I was on the lookout for a mare or filly, but when I saw the buckskin gelding’s sweet little face on the sale page, I couldn’t resist. I ended up bringing my new baby home the day before Skokie left for Virginia. It was absolute Providence that this transition happened at exactly the same time. Dusty didn’t have to be lonely for even one day, and I didn’t have to deal with the dynamics of a temporary 3-horse herd with Skokie asserting his size and dominance over the young newcomer.

I named the new horse Pepperjack. Skokie was in rare form when Pepperjack got off the trailer. He pranced so beautifully that I almost regretted selling him. He looked like he was posing for a statue in Kentucky Horse Park and had that gorgeous Thoroughbred “Look of Eagles” in his eyes. Skokie is normally very laid back, so seeing him puffed up and almost floating above the ground was a real treat.
While Skokie danced and pranced along the fence line, Pepperjack introduced himself to the goats and got to know Dusty a little bit.
I think Pepperjack and I are going to be very good friends. He’s a fun, gentle, and adventuresome little fellow and he will not outgrow me like Skokie did.
Next morning, Skokie hopped on the trailer to Virginia. He now belongs to the Master of the Rockbridge Hunt and will be a foxhunter, which is really the life Skokie was bred for. I feel like a small-town mother who just sent her son off to an Ivy League university, but somehow I think he was made for that life. The best part for Skokie is that he’ll never have to see the inside of an arena again. He always hated arena work but loved striking out cross-country to explore new places. I hope he has a wonderful, exciting life out there and that he turns out to be the best horse his new owner has ever had.

For me, I’m glad of change. Losing Jet so unexpectedly last year was a terrible blow and I’ve had a hard time riding or even spending time with horses since then. With everything new, I feel like I can start over. I look out the window and the horses make me happy again. I look forward to the adventures that await Dusty, Pepperjack, and I in 2020.

In unrelated news, Finn really enjoyed Halloween this year.

Winter came early again this year

I was caught off-guard last year by a blizzard on October 30th. This year’s first blizzard came even earlier–October 24th. We had a good 15 inches of snow! 

The heavy snow wreaked havoc on my electric fences, but it sure was pretty!

“Where’s our breakfast?!?”

Petunia had to break a trail down to the house to get milked. I think this time the milk was already refrigerated before it hit the pail!

“Do I really have to walk through all that snow?”

Sweet little Cupcake looks like she dunked her nose in the snow. I love the matching frosting around her eyes.

“They hay feeder is empty! Why is the hay feeder empty??”

“Ah, this is more like it!”

The cold weather got Rita and Coral riled up!

Petunia got very cold for some reason and even went mostly off-feed. She would sniff the hay, take a bite or two, then go lay down in the shed by herself. I blanketed her and gave her medicine but it took her a few days to recover her appetite and her energy. By the time she felt better, her milk had almost dried up and it never came back. So much for fresh goat milk this winter!

TinCup never acted cold and never went off-feed, but I blanketed her anyway because she’s the skinniest goat in the herd and I didn’t want her to lose any weight from keeping herself warm. TinCup says “Nom nom nom!”

Fall Fell… Where was I?

It’s been so busy around here that I’m afraid I haven’t been a very good blogger. Day 11 was our last day of “goat vacation.” We packed up and headed out of Escalante the next morning. We had a beautiful drive over the Utah mountains. A pinkish haze drifted across them from some distant wildfire.
When I got home, I had to decide what to do about Buster Brown. I wanted so badly to keep him, but I’d had a call from the fellow who bought Thor and Yeti. He had bought two bottle kids before he purchased Thor and Yeti, and one of them was a bit of a runt that failed to thrive. Sadly, the baby died in September and family was heartbroken. His name was Brownie. I couldn’t help it. I knew my Brownie could be the perfect replacement for the kid they lost. He would fit in well because Thor and Yeti were already there. I’ve never seen male and female siblings stay so closely bonded for this long. Usually by three to four months, the brothers and sisters don’t get along because the boys get pushy. Not so with Brownie. He was such a sweet and gentle goat that even at five months, he and Cupcake were still best buddies.

In mid-October Phil and I took Brownie and Cupcake for a final walk together before he went to his new home.

I can’t get over how closely Cupcake resembles Nubbin. They aren’t related, but Cupcake has that same beautiful red-bay coat with white-frosted ears and nose, and a white star. Cupcake has more white on her sides and legs than Nubbin, but I sometimes still do a double-take.

Snowball is one of the most beautiful kids we’ve ever had here. A roan pattern has popped out from her white coat and it’s absolutely stunning and very unusual. She has the sweetest smile accentuated by her black lips, and just like her mother, Tigerlily, she looks like she’s wearing eyeliner. She’s still as soft as dandelion fluff and her personality is as sweet as her looks.

And yes, Snowball came in the house the other day.

Mocha is the go-getter of the group. She is a very athletic and adventuresome little goat and she will do anything for treats! Small as she is, she can easily jump three feet! I love these “levitating goat” photos Phil got.

8th Annual Hassey “Goat Vacation – Utah: Day 11 Continued

On the return trip, Sputnik informed us that he was feeling left out of the packgoat experience. He was right. I pulled the pack off Finn and let Sputnik carry it back. Proud goat!

It was hard going in the canyon bottom. That soft sand was brutal on tired calf muscles.

It doesn’t matter how tired you are or how late it is… there’s always time for a goofy photoshoot! Phil discovered a pile of bleached bones and…

“Water! Water!” 

I remembered this grand pedestal from our last trip. Phil stood up there and made muscle poses with yearling Finn.
But was the rock still sturdy enough for the two of them? Finn’s a little bigger these days (and Phil might be too)! 

Satisfied that the rock was sturdy, off came the shirt. Finn eagerly bounded onto the rock at Phil’s call and gave us his most magnificent pose.

I think we need a different kind of NAPgA Calendar next year…

How Sputnik felt about the whole thing:

And now it’s my turn to show off. Remember the big stone beehive we passed in the morning? Well it was still beckoning to me when we passed in the late afternoon. Sometimes discretion feels like the cowardly part of valor. 

It looked steep but doable. It was steeper than it looked.

They were not invited, but the goats had to follow me nonetheless. As always, goats make a steep ascent look easy-peasy.

About here my nerve almost failed me. It was a looong way to the bottom and my boots were slipping. So I took them off.

Barefootin’ it!

Whew! I made it! I wasn’t sure I wanted to look down. I was sitting on a very narrow perch with a very steep drop on three sides. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to climb down. Gravity can sometimes be too helpful in these cases, and I possess a lot more gravitational pull than I once did.

The goats wondered what the big deal was about. 

And at the day’s end, Sputnik finally mastered the bottle of Gatorade! Although he did dribble enough to earn himself the title of “Bluebeard.”