Monthly Archives: April 2018

Packsaddles, Pirates, and Neon

Saturday Phil and I went to the Weld County Goat Extravaganza in Greeley to give a talk on packsaddle fitting. The class went well and I felt very prepared, but unfortunately only one family showed up. Finn and Sputnik were model citizens as I whisked saddles on and off of them, but any time we left the two of them to themselves they would troll each other. I tied them far enough apart that it was difficult for them to interfere in each other’s space. But Sputnik would back up almost to the end of his lead so he could put his tail as close as possible to Finn’s area. Then Finn would stretch to the end of his tether and bite Sputnik’s tail. Sputnik would get riled up and act like he was being horribly tormented, but then he would back right up into Finn’s face again. And of course Finn stood as close to Sputnik’s side as possible so as to be sure that Sputnik’s hindquarters could reach his face. It was hilarious to watch them.

I love that when we take Finn to goat shows, we have to remember to bring our “tiger cage” panels to boost up the height of his enclosure. He’s too good a jumper and far too curious for his own good. Sputnik could leap out if he wanted to, but he doesn’t have Finn’s insatiable desire to be involved in “people activity.”

I had so much gear I needed two long tables to fit it all! And look how far apart my goats are tied. Is there any reason whatsoever for them to get in each other’s way? I ask you!

This gentleman and I critiqued the fit of a vintage John Mionczynski saddle on Finn.

One of the fun diversions of the weekend was a pirate-themed murder mystery dinner theater. One of the girls we know from goat showing was in it (top row, left-hand side), so Phil and I checked it out. We were the only customers that dressed according to theme. Phil was a nerd pirate. Check out his t-shirt!

Now for the best part of the show…

Every year when we go to the Weld County Goat Extravaganza, we end up staying about twenty minutes from the show grounds because there are no hotels closer to that end of town. Except this one…

I noticed the “Rainbow Motel” last year when we took a different route to the show grounds. It’s only about 2-3 blocks away and it looks like the kind of seedy establishment that Phil and I love to investigate. The sign was not in good shape last year, but new managers took over this past January and restored it to its former glory. Phil and I love a good neon motel sign!

We checked in mid-afternoon before we settled the goats at the show, which is usually a safe time of day at any motel. It turned out much safer than I realized! No sooner had Phil and I pulled in than a police car pulled in right after us. While I was checking in, the safety level continued to rise as four more police vehicles filed into the parking lot. It took me a good half hour to check in because the manager was talking to the police about certain creepy guests in the room next to the one Phil and I had reserved. It would take too long to relay the entire story, but apparently the mother of one of the men had paid for the room and then left. The motel common areas are under 24-hour surveillance, and during the night the men had been going back and forth to their car. One of them went across the highway toward the railroad tracks with a duffel bag. Next morning they drained their car fluids into the parking lot. The manager thought maybe they’d been cooking meth in their car and called the cops to be there as a “presence” while he kicked them out.

We still stayed there. Good location. Good neon sign. And the creeps had been evicted. Apparently the previous owner had let the place become a total dive and would even rent by the hour. So I’m glad we didn’t stay there on our previous trips to Greeley. Although I’m sure the stories would have been very good if we had.

Goats get Trashy

Phil and I planned all week to take our boys out for a drive, but we changed gears at the last minute and decided to do a cleanup project instead. I’d been noticing a lot of garbage along the road going into Rye, and spring is the perfect time of year to pick it up before it gets buried in grass and other foliage. Finn and Sputnik stepped right up to the task. In less than a mile of roadway, we picked up 12 bags of rubbish totaling probably close to 250 lbs.! I was planning to weigh it when we got home, but a very kind fellow saw how full our truck was getting and he offered to dump it for us.

The funny part is that I didn’t even realize yesterday was Earth Day until we were half-way through the project. Someone drove by and hollered “Happy Earth Day!” at us, but I thought they said “Happy Birthday!” I was confused until Phil asked, “Oh, is it Earth Day?” I didn’t know, but when I got home I looked it up and sure enough it was Earth Day. Nice coincidence!

We found an old couch cushion and I was able to roll it up and strap it down on Sputnik’s saddle.

We found a lot of bottles. Plastic water bottles and glass Bud Light bottles were probably the most common, but we also found whiskey bottles, and most of all we found dozens upon dozens of tiny plastic peppermint schnapps bottles. I wish we’d known ahead of time to count them because Phil is certain we collected over 100. We joked that some poor chap was downing a drink every night before going home to face the wife, and he was chucking the evidence of his alcohol problem out the window. We also found a quite a few jumbo Bud Light cans. It’s scary to think so many people are drinking and driving on this one little road! By far the most disgusting things we had to pick up (even worse than the two dirty diapers) were the baccy bottles half-full of spit and chunks of of tobacco. Blech! Blech! Blech! Why can’t those guys toss their horrible spittoons in the trash at home?? After picking up a couple dozen baccy bottles (some of which were leaking), Phil declared that chewing makes smoking look like a virtue.

But “yuck factor” aside, it was a great project. Finn and Sputnik got to work on their leash and packsaddle manners, and it was a beautiful day to be out in the fresh air. Oh, and I found a dollar!

They grow so fast!

We’ve been bringing these little cuties into the house to watch movies with us most nights. Like most kids, they love to use the dining room table and chairs to play “fort.”

When Phil gets up to grab a snack, I get TWO baby goats!

Penny and Rita came for their first walk the other day. Jezebel didn’t want to bring them but Phil and I forced the issue by picking the kids up and carrying them for the first part. They loved it, but their mama grumbled, growled, and dithered over them the whole time. Jezebel is the classic goat version of a “helicopter mom.”

Phil and Penny.

Blackbird and Skeeter are growing into two very beautiful doelings, but they still love to clown around!

Blackbird loves to climb and jump. In fact, she showed off some moves the other day that we haven’t seen any baby but Finn make. She jumped up and balanced on the narrow ledge of rock that runs along the front of our porch.

The girls with their mama–look how they’ve grown!

My photos don’t do Blackbird justice at all. She’s a long-legged, long-bodied little doe with very correct conformation. I think she’s going to grow out quite nicely.

Skeeter is a real head-turner, and next year the gray hair should come in a deep brown with a lot of tan/gold around the edges. Forget tri-color–I think this little gal is gonna be quad-colored!

And here’s last-year’s kid that we kept. Little Coral just gets cuter all the time, especially now that she’s getting roly-poly with her pregnancy. She’s turning into a little spitfire lately too and has been challenging the bigger girls. We’re hoping she doesn’t get too rough.

A Tribute

A year ago today we said our goodbyes. His physical presence may be gone, but his spirit will never be forgotten. I look out at our herd of of beautiful Alpine/Nubian goats, currently 14 strong with three more does due before summer, and I think, “Cuzco, look what you started!”

Little did we know that this cute little “goat of many colors,” purchased for $25 from a small farm in western New York state as a companion for a new colt, would be the snowball that started our avalanche into the world of working goats, dairy goats, and goat breeding. Cuzco has probably been the most prominent thread in the tapestry of me and Phil’s married life. He came on the scene during a celebratory third anniversary trip and stayed with us for fifteen years, shaping many of our life choices and activities, and creating dozens of unforgettable stories.

Cuzco attended my graduation from Houghton College in 2003. He was elected Homecoming King in a landslide election at that venerable institution in fall 2002, much to the dismay of the Homecoming Committee who tossed out his votes with prejudice.

We moved to Lake City, CO in October 2003 and the whole family chipped in to buy Phil a goat cart for Christmas. We trained Cuzco to pull it and I drove him in the 4th of July parade in 2004 when he was a gangly 2-year-old.

In 2005 a friend’s dog chased Cuzco off a 30-foot cliff where he landed on the highway below and destroyed one of his horns. It was too far gone to save, so the vet amputated it. We were sad at the loss of the horn, but grateful he didn’t lose his life. Little did we know at the time that the loss of that horn would set Cuzco up to be one of the most interesting and memorable goats people would ever meet. The missing horn became the topic of nearly every conversation when people first met Cuzco, and he became known wherever he went as “the one-horned goat.”

In 2007 we moved to Colorado City, CO and Cuzco lived in our backyard since my horse boarding situation was not suitable for boarding a goat. After an adjustment period, Cuzco came to love his suburban life with the daily walks and regular interaction with people. The neighbors all loved him, but one local kept hounding the zoning board about our pet goat, prompting them to send us threatening letters from time to time. He was the topic of several town meetings, so a petition for Cuzco to stay was signed by everyone in our neighborhood.

In 2011, Phil and I purchased 40 acres in Rye, CO and Cuzco was able to roam free with my horses again. Unfortunately, he spent too much time picking fights with them and losing, so he was not very happy about leaving his sheltered neighborhood with its safe, cozy little yard. He ended up claiming our wraparound deck as his home and would sleep on our doormats at either the front or back door, depending on whether he wanted sunshine or shade. He became our home’s “guard goat” and would challenge strangers at the front steps by standing up as tall as he could with his chest puffed out, menacing them with his hackles raised and horn cocked.

Cuzco was attacked by coyotes during the night in June 2012 and I spent two frantic days searching everywhere for him, even if just to find his carcass to have closure. At the end of the second day I found him hiding behind a chain link fence at a house three miles from ours. He was bruised, battered, bitten, and had sustained permanent lung damage from his frantic run. But he was very much alive, and a short time later he hiked with us to the top of Greenhorn Peak.

Cuzco accompanied us to our first NAPgA Rendezvous at Whitney Reservoir, UT in 2013. He amazed everyone (including Phil and I!) by following us straight into the freezing cold water when we went swimming.

In 2015, Cuzco came with us to the Rendy in Island Park, UT. He was 13 years old that year, and despite having spent the previous two days riding in a horse trailer, he carried a 35 lb. pack containing a chainsaw and gasoline on a fairly difficult hike for our work project. Not only did he keep up with everyone while carrying the pack, he spent half the hike dragging one of my yearling goats that was tied to his saddle because the youngster refused to walk willingly after our herd got scattered along the trail.

Cuzco retired in 2016 and spent most of his time puttering around the yard and basking in sunny hollows in our pasture. He had a hard time keeping weight that last year and arthritis had finally caught up to him. But even though he was starting to look raggedy, he still had a strong bearing and presence, and he ruled our herd right up to the end. He continued to enjoy his daily walks, and the first day he didn’t come was the indication that he was ready to say goodbye. Cuzco lived a long, full, adventuresome life and I’m thankful we had so many wonderful years with him. He’s the inspiration behind all those happy young goats cavorting in my pasture now, and even though Cuzco was never a breeding goat, his spirit lives on in all of them.

One week old!

Penny and Rita are really getting active, and Jezebel is starting to take them around with her to graze with the other goats. For most of the the first week she hung around the house with them. But now they’re bouncing and running, and I’m guessing they’ll be accompanying us on our daily walks in the next day or two.

I took these photos yesterday while they were discovering the joys of bouncing on rocks. Jezebel’s kids always take a little longer to start doing fun things because she’s so over-protective. But eventually she can’t keep them under control any more!


Itchy babies.

Rita meets TinCup (who is rather difficult to see because of her color).

And she meets Tigerlily (Jezebel’s first kid, so a half-sister to these two). Tigerlily rudely has her hackles up!

Tigerlily isn’t the only one who knows how to be rude!

Just love those longhorn ears!

Fly, baby, fly!

I discovered this morning that Penny is the more adventuresome of the two kids. I have a pile of shredded tarp on the back patio that is part of a horse obstacle I’m building. It was blowing around like crazy this morning in the terrible wind storm we had. All the goats were pretty suspicious of it, but Penny was very curious and kept approaching it with wide, nervous eyes. She would run away when it would flap at her, but she couldn’t resist going straight back to investigate again.

How did I get into this predicament?

Penny’s poor little head is raw right now from disbudding last week. She reacted more than most, but even though it has stayed red for a long time it doesn’t seem to hurt her at all. I think it bothers me more than it bothers her. This little one is as soft as a rabbit. She’s incredibly fun to cuddle, and she’s starting to jump up on my knees and ask to be picked up now.

It was warm out so I removed my barn jacket and laid it over a rock. Penny was immediately drawn to it. She started pawing at it, discovered it was a cozy thing to lay down on, and promptly turned it into a nest for herself.

No, you can’t share!

In other news, Nauti and TinCup are showing, and we’ve regularly felt babies kicking! Nauti is due May 6th and TinCup on May 16th.

Babies in the sunshine

Penny and Rita sure are cute. They’ve come in to help us watch movies these last two nights, and now Phil and I each have one in our lap to help us with office work.

Rita’s ears were lopsided for the first two days and it was adorable! One up, one down.

I took a bunch of pictures that were all the same but just a little different. I couldn’t choose which one or two I liked best so now you have to bear with me while I post them all.

Ah, here’s one that came out different!

Lovely Rita and her crooked EARS!!

Little Penny Lane. She’s so soft she feels like a little bunny.

Rita gets a drink. Look at those tilted-up ear tips!

Coral and Skeeter had a good time play-fighting on our walk. Coral has been very playful lately, and look how big and beautiful Skeeter has gotten!

Coral is still the cutest goat in our herd in my opinion. She has the sweetest little face, a perpetually curious expression, and mischievous little pink smile. Not only has she been extra playful lately, she’s also been extra friendly and extra greedy for food! She’s due to kid around June 2nd. She has so much fur I took to calling her “Fuzzy” over the winter and now I can hardly remember her real name any more.

Old news

It may be “old news” by now, but it’s exciting news! Here are the photos from Sunday’s exciting kid delivery. Penny Lane and Lovely Rita came into the world on a sunny but windy Sunday afternoon. And let’s just cut to the pictures!

A bright new Penny pops into the world!

What a cute little bundle!

Phil has her dried off in no time.

Nan helps her find the milk bar.

And what’s this? A little sister!

Mama’s tired. Jezebel took a brief power nap here with her head on her flank and baby Rita shaking her wet head and looking curiously at the world around her while her hind feet had yet to make an entrance and the umbilical cord was still attached.

Enough napping! Time to inspect this second newcomer!

I got to help dry this one off.

Doh! Here comes mama to make sure I do a good job.

Apparently I missed a few spots.

Girls! Girls! Girls!

We’re covered up in girls this year! Jezebel delivered two fine, healthy doelings this afternoon! First one is all dark chamoisee like her mother. Second is chamoisee with a blaze face and a white splash on one side. They were four days overdue and good-sized. Both weighed about 8.5 lbs. They’re very strong babies and were up and nursing within a few minutes. Jezebel needed some help delivering. The first one was breech with hocks presenting. The second kid was in the normal position but her huge head was holding things up and Jezebel has a bad habit of barely pushing during labor. This is her fourth delivery and she’s never been very tired after giving birth because she’s never done any work–I have to do it! They say, “Pull the kid with the contractions.” What contractions??

We’re sticking with the Beatles theme and named these two “Penny Lane” and “Lovely Rita”. We’ll call them Penny and Rita of course. I’ll have more photos tomorrow. Cool

Kids in the Park at Easter

Saturday was our community Easter egg hunt, which is always a big hit with families from all over the valley. I brought Sputnik and his cart and Phil brought Petunia and the two kids. We were too overwhelmed to take photos, but someone sent me one later. The goat cart rides were a huge hit as usual, and the baby goats were a fun new addition to the festivities. We’ve never had kids early enough in the year to bring any to the Easter celebration before. Unfortunately Blackbird and Skeeter were terrified of the mob of kids that came screaming over to pet them and started running around the park in a panic. But Phil had Petunia on a leash so he was able to get the kids back to their mama and then he put them on leashes so they couldn’t bolt. After that, Phil had the kids pet Petunia and he let the babies hide between his legs and her body so they could feel safe. The calmer children were able to gently pet them, but most had to be content just to look. Petunia didn’t mind any amount of petting, and many of the kids amused themselves by feeding her grass that they’d picked for her.

Sputnik was a model citizen. He did a great job carting those kids around and never got antsy or claustrophobic or nervous. He wanted to stand near Petunia (he’s always been very attached to his mother-dearest), but he kept his mind on the job and never complained. He got a lot of treats for his bother until by the end he was kind of sick of peanuts and animal crackers. But what a good boy! When we were through with cart rides I tied Sputnik to a pole so I could help Phil manage his three goats. Some kids went over and amused themselves by picking handfuls of fresh grass and feeding it to Sputnik. I kept a watchful eye on him but he never got nervous or defensive about the screams of laughter or the outstretched fingers poking toward his face. It’s nice to see him so comfortable around a noisy, rambunctious crowd of kids without me having to stand near him to calm him down. What a good boy he’s become! Babysitting children is usually Finn’s specialty, but it’s nice to see that Sputnik is learning to fill that role without having a meltdown.