Ever since we took a vacation with Phil’s family to South Dakota in July 2020, I have been longing to go back–this time with goats! It seemed like a fantastic destination for goatpacking, so on a warm, sunny day in September we headed north with our FOUR packgoat boys. Yes, you read that right! Finn and Sputnik are now joined by our two handsome yearlings, Sonic and Scout. We hope these youngsters will learn a thing or two from the old pros!
We made it as far as Scottsbluff, NE and before tucking in for the night we unloaded the goats at a local park for some exercise and fresh greens.
Everyone knows the tastiest leaves are just out of reach. “You can get it, Scout!”
Sputnik always looks so old and wise.
I love walking these beautiful boys in places like this. They look out of place because they are goats, but they also look like they belong because they are gorgeous and regal and who would dare say “Keep off the grass!” to such noble creatures?
That night Phil and I stayed at the Arcadia Hotel which was a lovely little place located right next door to a bowling alley! Phil and I decided to play a couple of games. It was a pretty rundown place, but the ball return machines were awesome! Although old and battered, they had a sleek mid-century modern design with chrome and rocket-inspired fins that looked like they came off a car from 1959. When we were turning in our shoes at the end of the evening we asked the proprietor when the place was built. “1959” he replied. Nailed it!
Next day we headed on across the plains toward South Dakota. We stopped for a brief walk in the Oglala grasslands near the northern border of Nebraska. The view was not particularly inspiring this time of year, but it was nice to get out and stretch our legs. Phil and I planned to make a couple of tourist stops in South Dakota before checking into our B&B so we figured we better let the goats out for a stroll even if the scenery wasn’t amazing.
Once we entered South Dakota, we stopped for a couple of hours at the Mammoth Site where we viewed the skeletons of over 60 fossilized mammoths that had died in a hot spring in days long past. The hot spring silted in, burying their bones and preserving them.
After the Mammoth Site we tootled on over to the Cosmos Mystery Area, which is sort of like a fun house on steroids. Up is down, down is up, level isn’t level, and water runs uphill. It was enough to make Phil dizzy for two hours afterwards. We weren’t allowed to unload the goats there, but I wonder what they would have thought if they’d been allowed? Probably nothing… goats don’t have 3-D vision and I think their equilibrium is different from people’s. But you never know. I’d have taken them for a tour if I’d been allowed!
The last two kids of the season were born on June 4th at dusk. Mocha hung around in the pen all day and picked out a nice cozy little corner where she dug herself a pit to lay in. And then she laid in it. And did nothing else. Phil and I kept waiting for her to start pushing but she was determined to take her pretty time. Eventually it got late enough that we had to put all the goats in the pen with Mocha. Finally something started to happen, but when Phil and I came out to attend the birth, all the older baby goats rushed over and began climbing all over us! This would not be a peaceful, quiet birth! So at the last second, with the water broken and a sac peeking out, Phil and I dragged poor Mocha away from her chosen spot and away from the pen so she could deliver without baby goats jumping on her head. I ended up having to assist the birth a little bit. I’m not sure if things were already delayed or if moving Mocha mid-delivery messed baby up, but the kid was stuck like a cork with nose and feet all trying to come out at once. I pushed the head back a bit and gave the legs a tug and with a few extra pulls, Baby #1 entered the world!
Mocha was surprisingly dramatic. I expected her to be the strong, stoic type, but instead she stretched out on the ground, threw her head back, and bawled as though the delivery had almost killed her. I had to pull on her collar to convince her to sit up and take a look at the new kid. Once she saw the new baby she was smitten and forgot about feeling sorry for herself.
The new kid was a girl about 7.5 lbs and extremely lively! She was standing in less than five minutes and within fifteen minutes she was already starting to hop. I’ve never seen one pop up so fast!
Baby #2 emerged without drama a few minutes later. Another girl! The girls definitely have the upper hand this year! Out of eight kids born in 2021, six are girls and only two are boys. We were not prepared for this unbalanced ratio when we went with a “Return to Treasure Island” theme. There aren’t many female characters in that series. Isabella and Conchita are the only named female roles. Isabella got taken by Snowball’s girl and we have Diamond, Ruby, and Sapphire since those particular jewels are mentioned repeatedly throughout the series. We settled on Conchita for Mocha’s second kid, but what should we name the first? For that one we had to dig deep. In the middle of the series Long John Silver reminisces about his wife–a “woman of color” mentioned briefly in the original Robert Louis Stevenson novel and expounded on in a short but very powerful conversation in the TV series. In the show, Silver says, “Ashanti she were” and it’s unclear if he is referring to her tribe or her name, but that’s what we went with.
Skeeter takes her job as herd queen very seriously. She stood by the gate and watched the proceedings with intense interest. She always wants to know what’s going on in her herd and how many new babies there are.
When the birth was over we took Mocha back into the pen and set her up cozily in one of the sheds where she could bond with her new family.
Skeeter followed us over and stood with her head through the gate to make sure Mocha was doing everything right.
Diamond takes after her mother in more than just looks! She wanted to supervise too!
We have been blessed with an abundance of moisture throughout this past spring. Regular small snow storms hit us throughout March and April, and May came with several long, soaking rains that saturated the already soggy ground and brought grass to places I thought could never be green again.
The goats have been enjoying the lush pasture!
Meet the Three Stooges! From left to right we’ve got Ruby, Sapphire, and Diamond. If our place is a circus, these three are the head clowns! We have a hard time photographing them because they won’t stop jumping on us. They LOVE any kind of attention and if anyone sits down for even a second, they will immediately find themselves covered in muddy little cloven hoofprints from twelve little muddy cloven hooves.
Ben Gunn is an old soul trapped in a young body. He looks like a baby, but don’t let his youthful appearance fool you! When the madcap girls are jumping all over us, Ben Gunn keeps a stoic distance, grazing maturely with the adult goats. He doesn’t even do much rough-and-tumble with the other goats when people are not there! He prefers to butt heads with the big goats and all that baby stuff is beneath him. For all that, he’s not unfriendly. He loves it when I sit quietly with him when the girls aren’t around, and big as he is, he’ll still climb in my lap as long as his crazy sister isn’t jumping on his head.
In one night of rain our neighbor’s nearly-empty pond filled almost to capacity. The next day it filled even more. We haven’t seen it this full since 2017.
Scout sure has been looking grown-up and pretty lately!
“Yes, I’m gorgeous!” he says.
Oh… he’s not posing. He’s just looking to see if Phil has a cookie for him.
Snowball has been keeping her kids closely confined to one of the shelters. This was understandable during this past weekend of constant rain, but now the babies are over a week old and they need some fresh air and sunshine! I evicted them from the shed this afternoon and forced their mother to take them on an outing around the property. They were delighted to finally be allowed to tag along with the big goats!
I can’t get over this little gals’ stunning markings!
Sputnik got worm medicine this morning and has a sulk on.
Finn hides and says, “Don’t give me any worm medicine!”
We we were a little tired on Wednesday after delivering these wee ones in the wee hours, but they were worth it! With a little help from me pulling on their legs, Snowball delivered a big, strong baby boy followed by a small but also strong baby girl. Both kids were up and nursing in short order after Phil and I helped dry them off. We were able to spend a bit more time enjoying them the next day.
We’re calling the little doeling “Isabella”. She looks remarkably like her grandmother Tigerlily, but with more black down her back. She also has little black spots throughout her white coat that remind me of a Dalmatian. I’ve always wanted a Dalmatian but they aren’t very well suited to our situation. Perhaps a Dalmatian-spotted goat would do.
She loves to sniff faces. Her brother is happy just to lay in laps.
Isabella also likes to hog the camera. I had a much harder time getting pictures of her brother Hawkins.
But then, who can resist this adorable face? It’s hard NOT to take too many pictures of a goat this cute! Look at those little puppy ears!
The photo is a little too clear to make it obvious, but when we look at the top of this little head through the somewhat blurry lense of the Goat-O-Scope we see two decoy happy eyes, or maybe some arched eyebrows looking back up at us. It won’t last long, but it’s funny in the meantime.
Hawkins would rather chill than mug for the camera. It’s hard to know what color this little guy will be. He’s similar to his daddy, Scout. Scout had a charcoal-colored back end but when he grew older it shedded out to solid black and now he’s a classic cou blanc. Hawkins will for sure be darker in the front than his daddy, but it remains to be seen what color the back half will end up. He also has a crinkled right ear that I might have to fix. Flop ears are ok. Pinched-together ears not so much. I had to fix Snowball’s pinched right ear when she was a kid too.
New arrivals came around 12:30/1:00 this morning! Snowball blessed us with a lovely two-tone chamoise buckling (9 lbs.) and a stunning white and black spotted doeling (7 lbs.). Everyone is doing well!
It was a full super moon last night and the sky was clear and the air was warm. I took Dusty out for a moonlight ride last night and I’m so glad I did! Not only was it spectacular, but it meant my final check on Snowball was later than usual. On a normal night we’d have been asleep when she started labor! Sticking with the “Return to Treasure Island” theme, I believe we’ll be calling these two Hawkins and Isabella.
We went for a walk yesterday and Phil got attacked!!
We have been blessed with a cool, wet spring, but although it was enough to make the grass grow long and green, it was not enough to fill the pond or make the creeks flow as they should in springtime. Yesterday and today that changed. The rain moved in around 2:00 in the afternoon and it didn’t stop. It rained and rained all afternoon, all evening, and all through the night. When we awoke in the morning it was still raining. It continued until around 10:30 a.m. and then stopped. It was never a hard rain that washed away across the fields and straight into the ditches. It was the slow, steady, soaking kind that saturated the ground and got deep into the roots. By the time it stopped we’d had around 4 inches.
The pond has not been this full since 2017. When we woke up the pile of rocks next to the cow was still on the shore. By late morning the rocks were a little island.
Before the rainstorm, the pond was the size of the red circle and the rest was deep, sucking mud that kept animals from being able to drink from it.
The horses sure are enjoying all this grass! Every day is a feast!
In other news, Mocha ate the Goat-O-Scope last night. I guess being cooped up in the shelter gave her cabin fever and she decided to rewire the thing. I turned on the Goat-O-Scope sometime around 9:00 p.m. and saw a large eyeball staring into it, then a big, whiskered muzzle rooting around. I saw some teeth and a wire being pulled down from its neat little bundle above the camera. I ran downstairs and unplugged the extension cord before she bit into it and shocked herself. (I’m not sure if that’s what would happen but I was concerned.) This morning I found the chewed-up camera cord laying in the straw. It had been ripped right out of the unit and it can’t be fixed so we’ll have to see what we can do to replace it. Snowball is due in a few days and we can’t be without a Goat-O-Scope!
March came in like a lion. Then April came in like a lion. We ran out of firewood and almost ran out of propane. But sometime around the end of April, warm weather arrived! I got my shorts out, grass started coming in everywhere, and the goats enjoyed going out for daily walks!
Snowball is looking mighty round these days. As this photo was taken on April 29th, she’s still got about four weeks to go here. “Hang in there, girl! How many babies have you got in there anyway?”
Sadie’s kids are two weeks old here and happy to be bounding out on one of their first walks.
Skeeter did not accompany us on this walk and we wondered where she was. I hunted around and eventually discovered her hiding in the boys’ pen at the top of the hill with her two little kidlets. They weren’t quite old enough to be going afield with the herd so she took them to a warm, safe place where she could keep an eye on everyone from above. I think last year’s hard lesson with Butterfly has made Skeeter cautious this time around. When the herd goes anywhere near the horses, Skeeter hangs back and takes her kids the other way.
Little Ruby loves climbing on big, soft mama!
Diamond was born with one straight and one flop ear. I was desperately hoping they’d stay this way, but alas, I believe this was the last of her asymmetrical start. The right ear straightened out over the following weekend, never to flop again.
Sputnik has a certain noble air about him, doesn’t he?
There’s that flop ear again!
Sapphire and Ben Gunn enjoy a nap in the soft grass and warm sunshine.
Skeeter and her her two girls under the shade of the ol’ pine tree. Remember it? Skeeter’s mother Petunia played under this same tree. Funny to think that dear old Lilly was Ruby and Diamond’s great-grandmother. Goat generations go by very quickly.
For the first time since they were born, Skeeter allowed her little darlings to play with Sadie’s older kids. She was rather suspicious of the filthy little brats, but she recognized the practicality of allowing her kids to have friends and entertainment other than herself.
Big Ben Gunn meets Diamond… who looks almost exactly like his sister Sapphire. It’s seriously hard to tell those two girls apart now that the size gap is narrowing!
Diamond and Ruby.