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Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Moral of the Story

Adapted from Sketchite

Adapted from Sketchite

By Josh Crise (written in May)

The bugs in Maine this time of year are horrendous so you often find yourself swatting, slapping and just being aggravated for a few weeks. The problem is that in this area of Maine, you are constantly saying … awe I can’t do it or that because it is below zero, raining, too hot, too muggy, snowing, the bugs will carry you away, etc. The list never ends for why you can’t do something. As some of you know, I am always working on something from framing a new barn to building a green house or repairing the swimming pool. I am also constantly harping on my family that there is always going to be a reason not to do something so just get out there and 'gettah' done.

So typically I roll out of bed at about 4 – 4:30. Sun is coming up, I have had enough sleep and my wife is just in her slumber, not to be disturbed. It works well for me because I am up and available to work most days with Lorenzo (one of my remote colleagues across the ocean in Barcelona, Spain) for a few hours early before everyone else is in for the day. Of course today I took a slightly different approach.

This week I am working on a roof, for the lean-to attached to the barn expansion. Each night, my helpers say there is something going on or come up with some other excuse like the bugs are terrible. So this morning I woke up, rolled out of bed and went outside to work putting up metal roof panels on the lean-to by myself. Now mind you they are 3 feet wide and it isn’t a solid roof, just uses wood strapping so you can’t get on the roof, you have to lean way out to drive the screws into the panel. 3 feet doesn’t seem like a long ways but it is further than you think when you are standing on the top step of the ladder (YES ... a no-no) and teetering on one foot on your tip toes to reach the furthest screw point on the panel.

This is where it gets good … so I am in that position, tippy toes, one foot, other leg out balancing myself in midair like a cheetah’s tail would in hot pursuit (Brady thank you for teaching me the use of similes in everyday language!) and on the top step of a 6 foot ladder leaning way out to get that screw in when all of the sudden the ladder is no longer under my foot … I am now pivoting in midair half on the roof and half off the roof and I hear the ladder crash to the ground.

Now wait, I want to reiterate I am working by myself at 5 am in the morning and the whole rest of the house is asleep and the lean-to in question, attached to the infamous goat barn is 150’ away from the house, where no one can hear me if I do scream like a pansy for help.

So back to the ladder that has now crashed to the ground and the teetering big guy hovering neither on the roof nor hanging from the roof, sandwiched in a 2 feet by 2 feet square area where I can’t easily let myself down 8 feet to the ground nor scramble up onto the roof that is only strapped with 2 inch wood strips and not sheathed with plywood.

So I manage to get my foot up behind me, and onto the strapping, in my 2 feet square area and push/pull my way to the roof, 8 feet off the ground, scramble around and sit on the 2 inch by 6 inch tall stringer holding the roof together. Out of breath, looking down on the crashed ladder, what can I do but just sigh and laugh.

But now what? Jump, scream for help to the fam jam (as Kelly Davis would say), cry, weep, curse … yes cursing (I am a sailor not like Lorenzo who takes every chance to get out on a sailboat he can, even dragging is wife Grisel when he can) always makes you feel better about not falling to your death or breaking a leg/arm in the process. Still now what … screaming is not going to work they are all asleep and too far away.

Oh wait … as I ponder my situation and consider just how long I may be stuck on said lean-to roof, it dawns on me I have my cell phone in my pocket. Yes, this is why I keep my cell phone in my pocket even when working because a few years back my sister in law (name that shall not be named ... Elaine) didn’t have her cell phone and she laid there for quite a while after slipping and falling on the ice. In the end she crawled back to the house after dislocating her shoulder. Damn … I have my cell phone in my pocket so … I place the call to the wife who must be sleeping, yes likely in REM sleep … for the love of God answer the phone ... success, she answers the phone … I am saved … NO … she sends Kevin to set the ladder up for me … but wait what 17 year old wouldn’t have something sarcastic to say to his dad after being woke up to come save his dad who is stuck on the roof. Who walks out in just his skivvies barking, “Hey dad … need some help … how did you get yourself into this predicament.”

So the moral of the story … and no the moral of the story is NOT to, not be out at 5 am working, while the whole house is sleeping, nor to NOT stand on the top step of the ladder, nor NOT to stand on your tippy toes, on one leg with your cheetah like leg extended way out to balance you (again thank you to the master Brady for his simile rich language) … it is in fact to make sure you have your cell phone with you so you can beg for help!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Trust Your Gut!

The first set

The first set

By Amelia Crise

It’s been 24 hours now since our second kidding season kicked off. And if we’ve learned anything, it’s this; if you have a gut feeling, follow it. Yesterday morning, March 14, 2018, around 10:00 AM, we saw Kona, one of our pregnant does acting a little like it might have been time to deliver. She was scratching at the ground, looking like she was trying to make a nest area. We went outside and got her all set up in her own pen, but then decided to let her out because she wasn’t showing any other signs. We have heard that goats are generally very mouthy when they are ready to kid, however, Kona showed nothing of the sorts. So, she went about her business, and we went about ours.

I forgot to mention; March 14, 2018 we experienced a major snow storm, dropping almost two feet of snow. We lost power early in the morning, but eventually it came back on. While the power was off, however, our cameras, which run off the WiFi, were also down. So, while the power was out, we went out several times to make sure Kona hadn’t had her kids; she hadn’t yet. Later, the power went out again. I tried for probably 15 minutes to get on the camera just to check things out. I still couldn’t get it on, so I decided to head outside just to make sure everything was okay.

As I was on my way up the path to the goat barn, probably about halfway there, I heard a strange noise; kind of like a whining noise. I didn’t really think anything of it, so I just kept walking. Then, I heard it again. I finally realized what it was, or what I thought it to be: a baby goat! So I raced out to the barn; sure enough, Kona had two tiny kids hobbling around at her feet in the open pen!

I was so excited! Thankfully, I had remembered to bring out my phone, so I ripped it out of my pocket and called up my dad. As soon as he answered I said, “You need to get out here right now! Kona had her babies!” In reply, he said, “Nuh uh!” He really didn’t believe me! I had been joking for weeks every time we went out there that the babies had been born. Inevitably, he didn’t believe me when it was the real deal! Eventually, I got him out there. He had actually seen me rip my phone out of my pocket as he watched from a bedroom window on our second floor; that’s what convinced him this was the real deal.

He arrived outside and we immediately got to work. One of the babies seemed very strong, while the other seemed a little wobbly on his feet. Unfortunately, none of us saw the births, but I believe the stronger one was born first, as it was also a little dryer. We took both kids into Kona’s stall and I began drying both of them. We had a hard time getting Kona to come into the stall while I was in there. We’ve had Kona now for about two years and she still is very timid around people. She won’t let you touch her and only comes up to you if she thinks you have a treat for her.

Eventually, we got her inside with me and the babies, with the help of a few more hands. Once we had the kids mostly dry, we had to work on their umbilical cords. Kona had the cords pretty short, so all we had to do was tie them off close to the belly and put iodine on them. At that point, we found out we had a boy and a girl! We were all extremely excited to have a girl, as last year we only got boys! We already had names picked out. Both were to get Hawaiian names, just like their mother. We named the boy Honu, which means turtle in Hawaiian, and the girl was named Nani, meaning beautiful in Hawaiian.

All parts seemed to be in working order, so we proceeded with a very crucial part. It is extremely important that the kids get drinking mom's colostrum within the first 45 minutes after being born: the quicker, the better. We immediately started guiding the kids to Kona’s teats. Honu was already searching for his first meal from mom's teats, so he was fairly easy to get latched on. Nani was a completely different story. We probably worked with her for 20 minutes trying to get her to nurse. It was to no avail, however. We could never get her drinking.

Kona did so well through all of this! It was a huge surprise to us. I was very nervous getting right down at her level at first. I wasn’t sure how she would react; would she run away from me, would she try and butt me in the head as I was touching her kids? She did great though! She was very nervous, but she never once tried to hurt me or bolt away. She even let me pull on her teats to get the milk flowing, as we thought that may been the reason why Nani wouldn’t drink.

It had been about an hour and Nani still hadn’t nursed. We were getting a little worried. Honu did so well, and we just could not figure out what was going on with Nani. We even tried sticking honey on our fingers to get her sucking: nothing. My dad was extremely prepared for something like this; he retrieved artificial colostrum paste and we attempted to shoot that down Nani’s throat. She gobbled up the first dose, but she wasn’t having the second batch. I was worried something was wrong with her stomach or throat, but I couldn’t find anything.

It was dinner time, so we got everything cleaned up and went in for dinner. We decided just to leave the kids and Kona and see how things turned out. As Mother Nature had dumped two feet of snow on us, we had to go dig the cars out. We worked at that for an hour or so and then decided to go back out to the barn. Much to our surprise, both kids were nursing when we arrived out there! A major success in our books!

Needless to say, we now have two beautiful, healthy kids, and a very healthy momma who is doing a fabulous job! We have two more pregnant does who we think will be delivering early next week! Lesson learned though; listen to whatever that gut feeling is telling you!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Rock Garden

A slow progression ... like an iceberg

A slow progression ... like an iceberg

By Karen Crise

Born and raised in California, my husband Paul and I retired, in 2015, to Northern Maine. We live with our oldest son Josh, his wife Kathy and two of our grandchildren Amelia and Kevin as well as Kathy’s dad Pete who joins us from Florida each May through August.

When we moved to Maine, we knew it would be different from anything we’d ever experienced. We did not expect that our son would decide to become a goat rancher. Yet here we are living on a goat ranch, Marble Creek Acres.

As my son was enticing us to choose Maine as a place to come and retire, he used my love of gardening to help persuade me his place was the right place. He said he had the perfect spot for my garden. Immediately my imagination began to plan how I would make this the garden of all gardens. Little did I know that my perfect spot was a heap of boulders, weeds, brush, bushes, and small trees. By small I mean less than a foot tall. Also included was a tall Maple tree that I fell in love with as well as a couple of Pine trees and one lonely Birch tree. The Maple tree bit the dust the very first Fall. It had a big split in it from the Winter before. The men took a chainsaw and my beautiful Maple became firewood.

I still had no clue how to proceed with the mess of what was to become my garden. My son came to the rescue and showed me how we could push boulders into a circle to make a planter. We dug out the junk in the middle of the first circle of boulders, draped landscape paper and filled it with top soil. I planted the first plant. A lovely bush that gets little pink flowers in the Spring. I cleaned up around the new planter and had the start of my garden.

The garden developed a little at a time. The biggest rocks were moved by my grandson, husband and son. Anything I could move or roll I did myself. The biggest rocks were moved by the tractor. One big rock was flat on the bottom and my grandson was able to flip it with the tractor so that it became a place to sit and reflect.

It was during the second year of work on the garden that our son decided he was going to raise Kiko goats. He had been thinking about it for quite a while. I was all for it. I love animals and always wanted to live on a farm. He started with a small barn and fenced in an area for the goats. He brought home the first goats, Zulu and History bucks from Vermont. Then came Asia and Kona, does from New Hampshire.

Unfortunately, I lost one of my Pine trees as it was in the designated goat paddock. Oh well, that didn’t seem so bad until the goats started reaching over their fence and eating my second Pine tree. Ugh! My Maple tree and two Pine trees were now gone! I had saved two of the foot high Pine trees during the garden cleanup and they were far enough away from the goats that they couldn’t reach them. My Birch was safe and my two little Pine trees. Someday I’ll have some shade.

It has taken more work than I imagined to have a garden here in Maine. The garden continues to develop and I’m loving every minute of the work. I have a love hate relationship with the goats. The goats escape their pen and when they do, they head straight for my garden. Apparently my plants and flowers are quite delectable to Kiko goats. I can see the future and the future is showing a picket fence around my garden.

Zulu is the proud papa of Mojo and Cuba born last spring. He’s also the proud papa of our newest kids, Honu (male) and Nani (female) born yesterday March 14, 2018. Two more of our does are pregnant and due any day. We have chickens as well as our goats. The chickens provide an abundance of eggs. Yummy!

My husband Paul likes a different kind of garden, the food kind. He grows tomatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic, green beans, zucchini, pumpkins, corn and many other things. Last year he even tried growing watermelon and cantaloupe. Last summer the family built a vegetable stand to sell our produce from his garden. He has his garden, I have mine. His feeds our stomachs and mine feeds our souls.

Retirement continues to evolve for me. I love living in rural Maine on a goat ranch and I’m sure there will be many more changes. I’ve even tried my hand at building and painting bird houses. Whatever happens it will always be fun here in Maine.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Due date… where are the kids?

Kona, Asia and Ratu

Kona, Asia and Ratu

By Kathy Crise

Welcome Storm Skylar, we are expecting up to 20 inches of fresh March snow and today is the first due date for three of our does. Yes, I am still worrying about everything “goat” related and I am a big baby when it comes to the actual birth part.

We are technology junkies and have security cameras in several areas of the barns to keep an eye on the girls as the day arrives and as the days go by, with less than five hours to go and the does will be “overdue”.

150 days ago, on a beautiful fall afternoon, Zulu and the three does got to do their goat thing. Then the count was on. We were having the herd tested for Johne’s Disease, Caprine Arthritic Encephalitis (CAE) and Caseous Lymphadinitis (CL) and we also made sure to have pregnancy tests completed. The results came back positive for all three does: Ratu, Kona, and Asia. After Christmas, the extreme cold stretch, more snow, spring weather, more snow, ice and everything in between, we started giving the pregnant does their grain ration about 6 weeks ago. They also got their hooves trimmed one last time. And then the wait…

Here we are on the first of two due dates and if you ask me, Kona is going to have her kid(s) first. Her bags have been showing the most growth signs compared to the other girls, but what do I know? Ratu had twins last year and I don’t think she is as big as she was last year. So she is either having a single or going to wait until next week. Asia is actually the smallest goat of the three moms-to-be and we are hoping she will surprise us with twins!

Over the weekend we played with names for the new goats. Our naming scheme isn’t fancy but consistent. All of the goats have four letter, two syllable names and until we have 26 named goats, the letters of the alphabet cannot be repeated. Right now we have Asia, Cuba, Eden, Gaia, Ibis, Kona, Mojo, Ratu and Zulu. I won’t reveal any names here but there are a few theme type names, like Hawaiian sounding names for Kona’s kids.

So where are these darn kids? It’s their darn due date!

I just peeked in on the goats and here’s what the moms-to-be are doing this snowy evening…

Thursday, March 1, 2018

"The Worrier" Published in the Goat Rancher

Published in the March edition, pg. 45-46

Published in the March edition, pg. 45-46

By Josh Crise

Just a quick update to Kathy's blog post, "The Worrier". Kathy was featured in the March edition of the Goat Rancher, titled "Maine winters can't help but create a worrier", on pages 45-46. The Goat Rancher is a magazine which has been in circulation for more than two decades, covering every aspect of the goat industry, from the producer with 1000 head to the small rancher. There are articles from producers and veterinarians as well as other columnist with anecdotal stories and advice about goat husbandry. The magazine is available in most Tractor Supply Company stores throughout the country.

If interested, for more detailed information on the Goat Rancher, a subscription or digital subscription, visit goatrancher.com


Monday, January 1, 2018

The Worrier

"Goatcicles"

By Kathy Crise

As you dive into this post, be sure to read it with Patty Smyth’s “The Warrior” playing as the sound track in your head.

The mother of Marble Creek Acres, that’s me. The rancher’s wife, mom of two fantastic teens, daughter-in-law to in-laws that I woudn’t trade if I could, I go by many names.

Mom, momma, Kathy, Wifey, and here on the farm, “The Worrier”. That is my role, The Worrier! I worry about everything from the chickens to the crops and now the goats. I am the worrier.

Initially, I was resistant to this idea of starting a farm, but you can guess, I lost. (That is a story for another day.)

Winter weather is always a worry for me. I could insert a load of facts right here but I will just say this, it’s only mid-January and it has been colder than I ever remember and the snow…I’m ready to pack the kids up and move south (I will let you decide how many legs and feet or hooves said kids have)! I am the worrier.

Kikos are a hardy goat I have been told, again and again. I watched the herd’s coat change as they prepared for cold days and nights ahead through the autumn. This is only our 2nd winter with goats and admittedly I don’t remember their coats bulking up like this last year. Was this a wive’s tale that I was not aware of? I am a study of the wive’s tale and all signs pointed to a long, snowy, cold winter. Were the goats trying to tell me something? I am the worrier.

The goat barn and the coop are watched by the tech-worriers in the house. The rancher likes, eh loves his technology and we are able to login to from our smart phones and check the security cameras in the barns. The app also tells us the current temperature in the stall and outside the barn. As a major Christmas snowstorm covered…blanketed…inundated our area, the goats’ area shrunk from their fenced in range to the space covered by the lean-to. The doe side gets afternoon sun, so they are able to stand in their hoof-to-hoof, hunched up, warming sun-soaking position. The buck side is shaded during the day so the mighty teen-son shoveled Zulu an area, at my worried request, where he could sun himself. I am the worrier.

The mercury dipped night after night with little relief during the day. It barely made it into the single digits, and of course, the wind was howling day and night. The wind chills were dipping dangerously low and I watched the girls’ on their camera at night when they bedded down in their stall. Warmer weather finds our 2-year old Kona as the watch-goat. She stands on the bench night after night, occasionally getting off her hooves, but still away from the other goats. She’s a curious but solitary loner. As the weather got colder, Kona got closer. I am the worrier.

Morning chores usually brings a beautiful goat chorus as you move closer to the magic barn doors. You know what’s behind the doors! HAY! Give us hay! Hey we want hay!!! Faster, faster, please, faster, why are you moving so slow human? You know this cacophony if you’ve ever been on morning duty! I am the worrier.

You’ve goat to be kidding me, not a single goat came out to greet us. Ratu (aka Big Momma the queen of the 8 girls) peaked her muzzle out, providing the humans relief that they weren’t all “goat-sicles”. Eventually, as the hay was being chucked into the feeder, all 8 goats came out to eat breakfast. They were cold and I don’t blame them for coming out slowly, it was so cold! I am the worrier.

Most of my worries go unheard. Okay, they hear me but don’t always react as fast as I like. Actually if eye-rolls count as hearing…whoops did I type that out loud? The goat barn doors close down to a small port for them and help keep the weather out. The windblast pushed right through their open port day and night. Although the stalls are small and hay-lined, they were extra cold during this time. I am the worrier.

As the 2-legged family sat down to lunch one afternoon, I proposed a stall-warming tactic that I was certain would go unrecognized. My worries are usually just that, my worries. Sometimes it is just being the last to know or not knowing at all. This particular approach reminded me of walk-in freezers with the dangling thick plastic blanket thingy! I proposed if we could hang a blanket in their small doors to cut the gale from gusting straight into the stall, they would indeed be warmer. I am the worrier.

The planet may have tilted a little off its axis that afternoon because the other 2-leggeds, including the head-rancher-in-charge, agreed that this was a great idea. To the barns I headed with the capable drill-toting 17 year-old armed with an old wool blanket, scissors, and a pocket of screws and washers. The girls were curious as we flung their doors wide open, allowing what little warmth that had accumulated to escape. We cut the blanket in half and Kevin set to attaching it to the small port. The “littles” (3 of this spring’s does) pushed their way in and nibbled on Kevin’s fingers hoping that they were a small snack adding to the exposure of bare-skin to the cold misery that Kevin was bravely tolerating to provide the girls some protection from the elements. I am the worrier.

That evening as we looked in at the family, the camera thermometer registered -11 Fahrenheit outside the stall and -3 Fahrenheit inside the stall. Even Kona was cuddled up in a pig er I mean goat-pile! I am the worrier.

While in the stall, Kevin and I were remarking that it was kind of cozy in there with the fresh droppings helping to warm up the stall. Out of the wind, that’s what I have been told, out of the wind. As long as these hardy goats can get out of the wind, they can weather the weather. By morning, the camera had stopped working and not a goat came out to meet the rancher for fresh hay. It was cold, air temperature according to the internet was around -20 degrees and the breeze had abated some. Future forecast predictions were for a warming trend, with a balmy 10 degrees predicted the following day. We made it through the cold spell. I am the worrier.

Amelia captured this cuddly picture from the security camera. Can you see all 8 goats?