Monthly Archives: July 2017

Pueblo County Fair Packgoat Class 2017

This past Thursday, Pueblo County Fair held their annual packgoat class. It’s always on the fair schedule, but no one seems to be in charge of it these days so Phil and I run it even though no one has ever officially asked us or even told us about it. For the last three years we’ve just showed up and taken command of the situation since it seems to be assumed that we’re in charge. There is a woman who is officially in charge on paper. I always call her–she has never called me, but every year she seems relieved when I tell her we’ll volunteer. It’s kind of an odd situation, but since it’s a lot of fun we don’t complain.

Except this year I’m complaining! Someone on the fair board decided it would be a good idea to schedule a mandatory 4-H meeting one hour after the start of the packgoat class. Since the meeting was to be held on the other side of the fairgrounds, parents didn’t want to let their kids get too far away, so attendance was dismal this year. We usually have quite a few kids and enough goats and enough time to hold a friendly obstacle course competition and have some races or other games with prizes. Not this year. We had hardly any kids this time, and the ones that could come were in a hurry and most didn’t have goats. We let them take turns with our goats, but it wasn’t quite as fun as other years because everyone felt rushed.

Tara was here as usual, and this time she played with Sputnik. This little girl was in love with Pac-Man when we brought him to this event several years ago, and she got him to do things he wouldn’t even try for me. This time she got to work with Pac-Man’s son and he did well for her.

I wish this photo wasn’t blurry because it’s absolutely adorable.

A young man named Billy did well with Tigerlily and eventually convinced her to do all the obstacles for him even though she was skittish about some of them at first.

My friend Jordan came with her young packgoat-in-training, Geronimo. Geronimo did amazingly well considering how little time Jordan has had to work with him. She’s in college and can only come down a few weekends per semester, so Geronimo doesn’t get much handling. Nevertheless, he took all the obstacles in stride, including this sled drag which was scary for several of the goats.

Oops! Runaway goat! One of our obstacles involved dropping the goat’s leash and picking up his front foot to clean it off with a hoof brush. Obviously the entire point is for the goat to stand obediently while his feet are handled. Sputnik wasn’t so sure about that one and only did that obstacle well for me. Everyone else needed to hang onto him.

Finn did well this year in contrast to last summer when he decided to play stupid and incompetent for the young man who was handling him. Phil took a more active role this year in making sure Finn obeyed his various handlers and it payed off.

Tigerlily was a lot of fun to work with this year. She started out skittish with some of the obstacles, but I spent a little time introducing her to all of them before handing her over to the kids. They continued working with her and by the time we were finished she was doing all of them like a champ.

At the close of the day

Phil and I often walk as the day begins to cool during the glow of evening light.

With eighteen goats, we can rightfully claim to have a proper herd now!

The goats enjoy the view as much as Phil and I do.

Rocky says, “Babies stink!”

Babies also want up!

“Are you sure you want up, Lightning?”

Of course he wants up! Ears taste just like potato chips!

I love my beautiful Tigerlily. She seems to be thriving lately and is making way too much milk!

Can you count all eighteen goats?

Finally, a bad photo of our new girls, Nauti and TinCup! They’re sweet, sweet girls and should add some really nice things to our herd, not least of which is better udders. They are currently on the thin side because they are such high milk producers, but they should fill out nicely once they dry off. They’re yearlings and should be very big girls once they’re done growing.

We call this the baby goat rock. I wonder why?

Flying babies!!

Introducing the Goat-O-Rama Kids of 2017

It’s high time for some individual profiles on this year’s Goat-O-Rama kiddos! First, let me introduce you to Sox. The third kid born at Goat-O-Rama this year, he is currently the largest and strongest of the bunch. Or maybe he’s just the fattest. Either way, he’s quite the little chunklet and at eight weeks is getting very difficult to pick up. He broke his first collar this morning.

He may be a big kid, but I’m not sure he’s quite as large and strong as he thinks he is. He’s been challenging the grown-ups lately. Tigerlily was not overly impressed I’m afraid.

A friendly father and son fight. Rocky is a good dad and is clearly proud of his feisty little offspring.

Sox got no end of amusement from the string on my stanchion. Spaghetti?

Sox and Coral may have the prettiest faces of any goats in our herd right now. I love the cheetah-like “tear marks” down the sides of his face.

Up next is Sox’s little sister Sanibel. Do not be fooled by her innocent appearance!

This little scallawag is usually on some kind of mission to stir up mischief among the other kids. She’s smaller than her brother but just as strong, and if a boy mounts her she’ll turn around and mount him right back just to show him who’s really on top!

Except for the ears, Sanibel looks like her daddy. But she’s all mama’s girl and will probably be a hard one to wean.

Sanibel isn’t shy, but she’s less personable than I like so Phil and I are working on that. I like all my babies to love people!

Coral and Westin were the first and second kids born this year at Goat-O-Rama, and boy are they ever a good-lookin’ set!

I couldn’t seem to get a good photo of Westin. This guy is always on the move, so my few individual shots of him are awkward and unflattering. He is an athletic little dude and reminds me a lot of Finn–strong, adventuresome, energetic, and independent yet very personable. He has the nicest conformation of any of our boys this year.

Westin enjoys a good scratch, and if I won’t give it to him he’ll use the patio gate.

Westin also loves to put his nose in the camera. “Am I close enough?”

I can’t get enough of Coral’s adorable little face. She’s like a stuffed toy and is my favorite baby to cuddle.

And now for the Nubblets! These three guys never stop entertaining us! They’re as cuddly as they are cute and every one of them wants to be picked up and held, although they’re quickly getting much too big.

Tornado was my backwards boy who held up the whole delivery. He has the sweetest face and the most Nubbin-like features and personality.

The little white tip on Tornado’s tail was the first thing I saw when he came into this world. He’s the quietest and most contemplative of the three and has had the fewest health problems. Both his brothers battled upset tummies during the first two weeks of life, but not this guy!

Storm was the second kid born and was not only awkwardly positioned but also came out with very crooked front legs. One day of splinting straightened him out and he’s been running and bouncing with the best of them ever since. You’d never know he had a problem and he’s the biggest of the three kids. In fact, when all is said and done, this guy may end up being the biggest Goat-O-Rama kid of 2017. He’s tall, he’s rangy, he’s big-boned, long-bodied, and long-legged. He’s like the Gary Cooper of my herd.

Last of all we have Lightning. Lighting jumped into this world like a bolt out of the blue and was up and nursing within minutes while his two older brothers were still figuring out how to crawl around in the straw. He’s the smallest of the lot but the most active and also the one most likely to jump on people and beg for attention.

Storm and Lightning love to tussle.

Nubbin loves her three babies but she has her limits. Nursing is a frantic ordeal with three kids fighting and wrestling each other over two teats. I’ve taken to putting Nubbin on the stanchion each morning and allowing only one or two to nurse at a time. With the kids as big as they are, I recently started letting Storm nurse Tigerlily each morning so his smaller brothers can have all of Nubbin’s supply. This should help keep Nubbin from being physically dragged down and help the boys grow better.

Pell-mell down the hill!

What does Lightning see? We may breed this guy to Tigerlily this winter since we plan to sell Nubbin and these three are the last of her bloodline in our herd. We’ll see how he grows out.

4th of July Festivities

We drove our team in the 4th of July parade in Westcliffe again this year. They are a huge hit wherever they go, and this year we felt more prepared than we did last time. The boys are a lot bigger now and the wagon looks downright comical behind them, but we don’t have the money right now to upgrade to something more appropriately sized, so we simply decorated the heck out of what we have!

Phil drove for the actual parade while I threw candy for the kids. Check out Phil’s awesome America t-shirt – “Back to Back World War Champs”!

Just before the parade, a lady from the alpaca group ahead of us gave me some festive bandanas to tie around the boys’ necks. They truly completed the look!

Funny side note to this event–Sputnik LOVES baths! I discovered this when bathing him for the parade last year, but I’d forgotten about it. For a goat who generally dislikes being touched, it surprises me how much he enjoys being scrubbed and sprayed. I use warm water, but even so, most goats cringe and brace themselves when I turn the hose on them. By contrast, Sputnik stretches, closes his eyes, blinks blissfully, and puts his head right under the sprayer. He doesn’t like his ears sprayed, but his nose, his chin, his cheeks, and between his horns are all favorite places for me to shower him. He likes to put his lips on the sprayer and drink the warm water even if it goes in his nose and makes him sneeze. He loves having the shampoo and conditioner rubbed in and rinsed out. The longer it takes the better. He even loves being toweled off afterwards! What a silly boy he is!

Finn and Sputnik: Driving Instructors

Before the Rendezvous weekend, Phil and Kate and I spent some time hanging out in Lake City where our Australian friend Kate got to practice driving our team around town. They cut quite a dash on those quiet village streets!

Kate was a quick learner and drove very well with minimal instruction.

How embarrassing! This is what happens when Sputnik spits out his cookie and then changes his mind and wants it back.

Looks like his front legs sank into the road.

This is more like it!

Last month’s kids

It’s been too long since I’ve posted any kid pictures, and already these are quite outdated, but here ya go!

Westin and Coral

I’m keeping this little gal. I think Coral may be the nicest kid we’ve had yet, and she certainly has the prettiest little face of any kid born here to date. In fact, in my totally unbiased opinion, she may have the prettiest face of any kid I’ve ever seen.

Baby goat party under the stairs! They’re now too big to sneak into this little hideout, but for a few weeks this was the favorite place for all the cool kids to hang. They loved looking down from their high perch and best of all, no grown-ups allowed! We’re calling Nubbin’s triplets the “Nubblets”.

Storm has the distinction of being the first kid sold this year. He’ll go to his new home along with Sox in August.

Pretty Miss Coral. Tell me that’s not the cutest little face in the world!

Westin had a milk goiter when we came back from the Rendy. It’s hard to see  in this picture and unfortunately it went down before I could get any more photos, but the wattles made him look like he had an udder on his neck!

Rendezvous Climax – Uncompahgre Peak

On the final day of the Rendezvous we climbed Uncompahgre Peak. It was perfect weather for our hike, and wildflowers dotted the landscape. This woman, Kate, came all the way from Australia for the Rendy and since she couldn’t bring any of her own goats with her, she adopted Tigerlily for the weekend. Tigerlily carried a few of Kate’s things in her little pack and she did great! 

We had to cross a lot of snow in the basin below the peak. It was soft, deep, and heavy and presented a real challenge for the big goats–especially the ones carrying packs. Goat toes are great on rocks, but terrible in snow. They sink straight down and can get no purchase so they wallow as if in quicksand. We felt bad for them so we tried to avoid snow as much as possible, but often there was no way around and we simply had to help and encourage them as best we could.

Finn really knows how to strike a pose!

Finn and his best pal, Phil.

Goats look so at home on this type of landscape.

Phil and I with Finn and Sputnik at the summit.

Finn showed off along the cliffside just like he did when we hiked this mountain last fall.

Like father like daughter.

“Please don’t jump, girl!” Tigerlily and Finn both gave me heart palpitations as they cavorted as close to the edge as possible.

Sputnik is more sensible. He preferred to spend his time resting up a safe distance from the precipice.

There is a 360-degree view from the top. Tigerlily wanted a peek through the binoculars.

Eventually even Finn took time out for a rest before we headed back down.

Just me and my three.

My faithful companion, Sputnik. He’s turned into a good, sensible packgoat. He’s not particularly athletic, but he gets the job done and he doesn’t shirk or complain. He also blends in perfectly with these rocks, so it’s a good thing I use red packs!

I had charge of Sputnik and Tigerlily for the somewhat treacherous boulder descent. I tied her to Sputnik’s saddle because she kept chasing and trying to smack one of the baby goats who accompanied us on the hike. Sputnik was steady. He kept Tigerlily in line without power tripping over it.

And then there’s Finn. Finn is flashy, athletic, and a major go-getter, but unfortunately he knows it and he has an alarming tendency to show off in dangerous places. Take this precipice as an example.

This pinacle was near the bottom of a steep boulder field which we had to scoot down on our bottoms. We had to go one at a time and keep our goats close to avoid rolling rocks down on each other. Phil and Finn reached the bottom and Phil let go of Finn to let him find his own way down for the last bit. Instead, Finn took a detour so he could pose regally on this rock outcropping. Then he wouldn’t come down! I suppose he wanted everyone to take as many photos as possible. He stood there a long time while Kate scooted down the boulder slide behind him. Apparently Finn was so busy posing and taking in the view that he didn’t notice Kate until she was right behind him. He caught sight of the legless Kate-monster slithering down the slope behind him, panicked, and instantly took flight–literally. He sailed off the front of the outcropping, which is a sheer drop of about fifteen feet onto a very steep scree and boulder slide. Between the size of the drop, the steepness of the landing, and the weight of his packs, Finn’s hind end very nearly overtook his front end and he came terrifyingly close to somersaulting head-over-heels down the mountainside. Yet somehow Finn landed the leap without flipping or catching a foot between any boulders. He skipped on down the trail like it was nothing, but I’m pretty sure I have more gray hairs now than I did before that hike!

“Yeah, Finn. You’re awesome until you’re not, buddy. Please don’t kill yourself trying to demonstrate how cool you are!”

The 2017 North American Packgoat Rendezvous, Lake City, CO

The first day of the North American Packgoat Rendezvous dawned clear and bright with a nice breeze to keep things pleasant. Trucks and trailers began rolling into the campsite before noon and people spent most of the day setting up their camps. There were people gathered from at least ten different states plus Hawaii and Australia!

The second day was more organized, with several educational classes presented. Phil and I taught one on harnessing, hitching, and driving goats. Finn and Sputnik were excellent teachers.  

One of the celebrities of the Rendy was the elusive, reclusive John Mionczyinski, known as “the father of goat packing.” He rarely attends these events so it’s a real treat when he shows up. He has a vast wealth of knowledge and experience and he loves telling stories. Listening to John’s stories was a highlight of the Rendy. 

John has an old squeezebox and has composed many “goat songs” which he likes to play near the campfire. 

Tigerlily wasn’t quite sure what she thought about it, but the rest of us sure enjoyed the music!

Phil brought his fiddle and gave us some music as well. Another fiddler named Jenny also attended this year, and she and Phil played many duets. They played so well together that most people in the crowd were surprised to find out that they had never met or played together until that evening, and that they hadn’t even practiced beforehand!

My friend Jordan came with her young packgoat-in-training, Geronimo.

Next morning, we loaded our goats and a sizable work crew into a few trucks and headed off to do some repairs on the Alpine Gulch trail. 

Finn carried a few tools, but mostly we left his panniers empty so he could carry rocks. Part of our goal was to rebuild a forty-foot section of trail that had been washed out by the creek. We rerouted the water and repaired the trail by hauling rock from a nearby mine tailing dump to fill it in. Finn hauled several 70-lb. loads in his panniers that day!

After we repaired the trail and blocked off the alternate route people had made, we spent the rest of the time building log bridges over the creek because the old ones had washed away. The creek was near peak runoff, so we got pretty wet! Finn and Sputnik really showed their bravery when it came to crossing the water. Other goats balked, but my guys went right over. Sputnik plunged into the fast-flowing, freezing cold, chest-deep creek, but Finn preferred to cross on the narrow log bridge we had just built. It was wet and slippery, and with his packsaddle on he almost lost his balance, but with a little encouragement he was able to make it without falling in.