Grain Training 101

This morning I tried to make a “kids only” stall, but Tina and Junie would have none of that. However… there are now two stalls with water, hay, minerals and a place to sleep… for whomever happens to be in there, excluding alpacas, of course.

In an effort to get the babies to come in their stall to try some grain I locked up T & J, and all their buttinsky bossiness, and ever-so-cautiously, the babies made their way in. Thus, the grain training began!

A little while later, with T and J still happily noshing away in both stalls and feeling all smug for “winning” that battle, I snuck outside with more grain.

While the little ones nibbled and explored nearby, I parked myself next to the chicken coup, sprinkled a little grain on the ground in front of me and shook the plastic container to make “The Noise.” I scooped out a handful then hid the rest behind me. There I sat, perfectly still, grain-filled hands outstretched near the ground… they browsed ever closer but always kept a very wary eye on my hands.

Halo was the first to get curious, and brave, enough to take the first risky sample, sniffing and testing out my fingers first. A couple of quick little bites then a hasty, but not too distant retreat. After observing Halo’s couple of tries and noting that no body got killed or scooped up into a strange vehicle and whisked away to Timbuktu by some crazy goat lady, Gloria decided to take a walk on the wild side too.

Moments later, they were both trepidatiously eating out of  my hands.

They’re still very scared, but slowly but surely, I’m winning ’em over. 😀 Happy.

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Ebony and Ivory

It was a big weekend here on the farm!

For the long weekend we had the entire clan plus some friends camp and play at what we have officially dubbed “Ft. Umfleet.” We decided it was kinda silly to pay to stay at Ft. Stevens when we can all sit around a fire pit and swim and play horse shoes and frisby golf and bocci ball AND play with alpacas, chickens and goats right here at Angel Acres! Can’t do THAT in a camp ground! But riding a bike around here can get a little frustrating… and we’re kinda short on beach… and we’re not a REAL military fort, but we DO have a tree fort so that’s got to count for something.

The other big news among the ruminants is we have acquired two new herd members!

Gloria and Halo came to live with us yesterday after Grandpa Goat read my September 3rd post in which I let slip my yearning for more caprine lovelies but lack of further critter funding.

The man is a total soft touch when it comes to goats and even more so over his new found obsession… Alpacas! (He insisted on paying for the boys even though we DID have guard animal funds! LOL) So, GG sends me a link to Craig’s List for these bargain Nigerian Dwarf goats… and they were very inexpensive given their bloodline. By the end of the day I had both doelings for much less than the price of one of my older girls, though it may take a while to get their papers.

Anyhoo… unlike Tina and Junie, these little girls haven’t been loved on or even named. We didn’t realize the degree of their “lack of refinement” until we got them home and tried to get them into collars, onto leashes and out of the truck. The fact they DIDN’T have collars on when we got them should have given me a clue…

Got the collars on fairly easily… even the leashes weren’t too difficult. Thought it would be nice if they were met by T and J happily greeting them on their own leads when they hit terra firma.

It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

The “big” goats lunged forward in an explosion of curiosity.

The “little” goats spontaneously morphed into psychotic, flailing, squealing greased pigs and bolted past us all into the field and began bawling their heads of running full throttle for the extreme front pasture… Gloria with her bright red lead, and I’m sure fragments of my husband’s hand, trailing behind her in open mockery of our attempt at a civilized and uneventful “herd merging.”

They aren’t “grain trained” yet, but after about 30 minutes of frantic pasture trotting, were apparently intrigued enough by the ruckus stirred up by all the other animals beating me up for the bowl in my hand they came just close enough that I could stomp my foot down on Gloria’s leash, upon which more screaming ensued (I’m certain the entire countryside is convinced I was singlehandedly eviscerating the poor tortured beast with a rusty spoon) as she repeatedly hurled herself into the air and slammed unceremoniously back to earth. Guess what. I’m still bigger and stronger and scooped that little micro goat into my arms and carried her defeated fanny back to the barn… her panicked little “sister” tagging right along behind me.

It was like an odd rendition of Noah’s Ark with pairs of alpacas and goats eagerly loping behind me in hopes of seconds on the bribery grain. We got the babies into the pen in the interest of calming them down a bit (or a LOT) and for their own safety since Tina IS the Queen and wasted NO time butting them into submission. I got them all settled in with food and water… grain to spark their appetite (and hopefully exploitable weakness)… felt a mild sense of satisfaction (or at least relief) and went in for dinner.

When I came out to check on them before bed, they were standing outside the pen staring at me in defiance.

They’re very small. I’m convinced they can slip through knotholes when motivated.

After a couple of other epically failed attempts to “protect” them and put them in a small enough environment that they couldn’t avoid my loving overtures and endeavors at emotional manipulation, I have released them on their own recognizance. I am trusting that Tina and June will eventually school them on the benefits of being spoiled rotten and lovingly mauled.

They’ve got a month to straighten the babies out before hoof triming time!

On a bright note… here is evidence that the first round of ruminants is getting along famously. Just this afternoon Shiraz and Early were in the barn laying down in front of the “Alpaca-Free Zone” stall when Tina, seemingly without a care, threaded through their great big bodies and around behind Early close enough to touch and disturb him to the point that he stood up so she could get past him.

And even the goats are getting along better.

Ahhhhhh… sweet progress. I can live with baby steps a little while longer.

That’s all from the Farm for now… except for the free Back to School cupcake my Pixies and I will be enjoying later at The Sweetest Thing. I think we’ve ALL earned it!

Farm Girl, out.

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Sleeping tight

Sometimes it’s hard for me to just allow things to take their natural course. Intellectually, I know it’s the only way anything ever truly works as it should, but my heart so desperately wants to fast forward to what I know is to come.

Last night I saw evidence that things just may go as we have “planned” with the pasture mates…

We had friends over for dinner and a long-overdue visit. As we all sat in the hot tub enjoying the lovely evening breeze, I heard coyotes yipping right on the edge of our property! As the neighboring dogs were barking their warnings, I flew out of the water, grabbed my towel and raced to the barn to check on the girls and close the doors “just in case.”

When I arrived at the gate, I turned on the light to find… Both Girls curled up together in their (“alpaca free zone”) stall: the Boys laying just outside the stall opening… as if on guard.

The alpacas had never slept in the barn until then, always favoring the enclosure outside. 🙂

While the goats, especially Junie, are still a bit wary of their stately counterparts, I do believe everyone is starting to settle into their surroundings and relationships.

Personally, I think the bonding began yesterday on our walk as they nibbled weeds together under the swing set… almost touching noses in the dandelion patch.

After all the very best place to really get to know someone is over a good, wholesome meal. 🙂

It was a glorious evening all the way around.

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I live in a petting zoo.

We went to the Oregon State Fair yesterday and had such a great time!

Of course we made a B-Line for the Nigerian Dwarf Goats… and of course, we wanted to take them ALL home! We need a few more goats. A few more FREE goats, mind you. Sadly, my critter budget is tapped out.

What cracked me up was when we got to the Petting Zoo. I wasn’t all that keyed up to go in because, with the exception of a couple of deer and a wallaby, what were the “exotic animals” there for the mauling? Alpacas, Goats and chickens! LOL Except the chickens were just for looking at. At OUR house there’s at least one who likes to be picked up and loved on. 🙂

So this morning, as I was treating our goaty girls to a bit of grain and doling out minerals and hay to the alpacas while trying to encourage harmony and friendship among the ruminants… and the girls then ran out and playfully scared the chickens out of their spectating feathers (to my enormous amusement), I couldn’t help but grin and think to myself… “Yep! I live in a petting zoo!”

And now, I’m off to pursue the very important, and too long neglected, task of coming up with some GOAT TOYS!!! The poor girls have got to be bored out of their little brains!

Happy Thursday, Y’all!

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Pondering the pasturemates…

What ARE you… exactly?

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The Beginning of an Era!

Grace and TinaToday we become dairy farmers!

After years and years of raising cattle for beef, we have officially given up the bovine business in favor of small, friendlier, more manageable critters: Nigerian Dwarf Goats.

The matriarchs if our herd, Joyful Tina and her daughter June Bug are coming to live with us tonight and we are thrilled to have them.

What motivated such a radical change you might ask? An infestation of Biblical proportions is what! It’s called Tarweed and it is horrible!

The cows wouldn’t eat it, but as they grazed on everything that grows around it, they would become covered in the sticky resin that coats the plant. Dust and dirt then attaches to their hair leaving them black with dirt from head to toe. YUCK!

Cows are also… well… big and not altogether the brightest animal in the shed. We had a pretty traumatic experience involving a freaked out heifer breaking down a stall with my father-in-law and James’s cousin in the barn, preceded by two difficult births. Dealing with cows often requires a lot of physical strength so any time anything of significance happened with them, I always needed help from a man… Since I am the CAOO (Chief Animal Operations Officer) around here, that can be a serious problem if something goes awry and it’s only me and the kiddos at home on the farm…

The whole situation was becoming really oppressive and frustrating.

Then, my mom calls…

“I was just watching HGTV where they were showing how (insert name of famous palatial estate here) uses goats for weed control and it made me think of your whole Tarweed problem…”

In an instant it all made perfect sense, the wheels started turning and everything clicked perfectly into place. It was like God was just laying it all out in front of us and all we had to do was walk straight ahead!

In ONE WEEK, we found the perfect pair of goats, our cows were sold (in less than 20 minutes after I posted the ad on Craig’s List), located and purchased two beautiful and amazing (AFFORDABLE) alpacas to guard the goats against coyotes and James mowed down all that horrid tar weed!

The BoysThe Boys, as the alpacas, Shiraz and Early, have come to be known, arrived last Monday and have settled in nicely. We are eager for the pasture-mates to meet this evening and begin this exciting new era of our family farm.

We plan to breed Tina next month in hopes of seeing babies in March… that means I’ll be a milk maid by June! 😀

There has been nothing but a sense of peace during this whole process and transition. Everything just feels completely right. Manageable. Joyful! This Farm Girl has truly come home.

We are SO Grateful and BLESSED!

And so… with 15 chickens, two alpacas, two goats and a song in our hearts, Angel Acres is born! We hope you’ll enjoy watching our adventure unfold from the relative safety of your computer. 🙂

Farm Girl, out!

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Didn’t miss Tina’s much…

Does my hubby know his way around a barbeque or what?!

We thoroughly enjoyed our in-house date last night and the very reasonable price tag.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Everybody! 😀

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