Thursday, July 14, 2016

Road to Goats: They're home!

Everything had been ready for what felt like WEEKS! I had my poulter's license (obtained from the city), I'd built their pen, fenced in the yard, bought a million little things for them, many of which I've never even used. I was READY!

Goat #1: Paisley Moon

I got Paisley from a breeder 4 hours away. We met at the half-way point between the two of us. I loaded some hay into a dog crate, and set out to get my very first goat! She was VERY quiet and sweet on the way home. My fears about how they would be were really calmed by this car ride. When we got home, she was a little tentative, but almost immediately started chewing up some weeds and acclimating to her new space. And, of course, she pooped on the driveway. I got back with Paisley right at lunch time, so I couldn't really sit with her and comfort her much, but she seemed OK. I put her in the pen, and went in to feed my human kids. Right after lunch I had to head out to get Goat #2. It was around this time, I think, that Paisley realized she was in a weird place, and ALONE. It did not go well.

Goat #2: Hermione

I got Hermione from a different breeder an hour west of my house. On my way to get her, I get a call from my mother-in-law (the in-laws were visiting for a week). I didn't notice that I was getting a call until the voicemail notification popped up. Then I saw that my MIL was texting so I called her back. Apparently Paisley had somehow escaped the pen, and gone in the front of the house. Of course, as soon as she said this I thought Paisley had been hit by a car and was dead. She wasn't, but the school across the street had been letting out at exactly the same time. A crossing guard came over and started ranting at my father in law about how the goat could have bitten a kid (unlikely, since they're PREY ANIMALS AND WOULD JUST RUN AWAY). A bus stopped in front of our house and was honking and refused to move. Basically, the neighborhood was up in arms over a wee little goat that was in the front yard. My father in law got Paisley back in her pen and sat with her until I got home.

Thus began the most anxious week I've ever had in the entirety of my life.

After that, I was just a huge stress ball all the way to get Hermione. When I rolled up to the breeder's house, there were two giant German Shepherds in the front yard, and I couldn't even get out of my van. The breeder came out and shooed them into her yard, and told me to pull up to a little square of space on the driveway that was apparently past their invisible fence and would allegedly keep them from ripping me apart on the spot. I wasn't convinced. Bless that breeder's heart, but that woman would NOT SHUT UP, and all I could think was "I have to get home because my other goat is going crazy AND SHE NEEDS A FRIEND RIGHT NOW!" I've mentioned in a previous post that goats are herd animals. Well, this will serve as a warning that you do NOT want a lone goat. They don't like it, and they try to escape and cause mass hysteria. This lady kept going on and on about how people steal her chickens and she had to get deadly dogs to protect them. Whatever, woman. Just give me my goat and let me leave!

Hermione was WAY bigger than I was expecting. I don't know why I thought 23 inches seemed as small as Paisley would be, but I was so wrong. Hermione is probably twice the size of Paisley.

She screamed the whole way home.

When I'm about 10 minutes from home, I get a text from my husband that he's on his way home. I believe I've mentioned his reluctance to get a goat, right? WELL, now I'm trying desperately to beat him home because there's Paisley poo on the driveway, and I want to intercept the Paisley-got-out-and-caused-a-hubub story before he hears it. I make it home at EXACTLY the same time that he did, and of course, the first thing he noticed was the poo since he almost stepped in it, and I didn't intercept the Great Escape story. Argh. He gave me a WHAT-HAVE-YOU-DONE look. Not exactly great for the first impression. :(

After Paisley had a friend, she seemed to calm down a bit. Hermione actually ended up being the quieter one once she was out of the dog crate. I put a chain set low on the gate, assuming that's how Paisley escaped, and she hasn't managed to escape again.

Now, if only this were the most tragic part of the first day, it wouldn't have been so bad. It so wasn't.

The first milking

I'd found a guy on Craigslist who agreed to build me a milking stanchion. He was ALSO the guy who was supposed to build the goat house, but he didn't. >:( As it turned out, the neck hole on the stanchion was WAY bigger than the goats' necks, and so big that their heads actually slipped through. So, basically, it didn't work AT ALL. Ya' was so bad.

I wanted to start with trying to milk Hermione because she had been milked before, and I was hoping she would set a good example for Paisley.


Hermione FREAKED OUT! Not only was the neck hole too big, but the little part that held the feed bucket that was SUPPOSED to keep them oh so happy was too thick, so it didn't even hold the feed bucket up. Hermione kept moving over to the side and falling off the side of the stanchion, she kept getting out of the neck hole, and she kept knocking down the feed bucket that I'd set precariously on a lawn chair because that was the best I could do at the time. About 15 minutes in to failing miserably trying to milk her, I just threw the pan off and held her haunches with my arms while I reached down and milked straight onto the stanchion, or my foot, or Hermione's feet, or WHEREVER the hell the milk sprayed. At that point, I was really just trying to milk her enough to keep her from getting mastitis and dying.

Paisley didn't like it any better, and she had only been milked once in her whole life. I mean really, if you think about it, they're probably thinking "who the hell are you, and why are you touching my boobs?! I don't even KNOW you!"

At some point my husband came out to see what I was doing and was probably frightened by my appearance. I was CLEARLY frazzled, freaking out, and an absolute mess. He held Paisley's collar and held her in the stanchion while I held one of her legs to keep her from kicking and milked her out one-handed. She has these itty bitty cat teats since she's a miniature and this was the first time she'd given birth, so I have to milk her with two fingers and it's significantly harder to do that when the goat is desperately trying to get away from you. It was a nightmare, and if there had been a livestock auction going on across the street right at that minute, I would've sold them without a second thought.

It was about this time that I began to question my life choices. I felt the whole weight of responsibility for getting these goats, spending money on their housing and pen, and THEM, and doing something I certainly didn't need to do, nor did my husband WANT me to do. I was a complete emotional mess, and I tossed and turned the entire night unable to sleep.

The next morning I got up with renewed determination. If you're my neighbor and you're reading this, I'm really sorry for sawing and drilling at 7 am, but I NEEDED TO FIX THAT DAMN STANCHION! I had some leftover pallets from the goat house that I sawed some small pieces off of and closed up half of the neck hole.

Problem. Solved.

After I fixed the stanchion, I moved it so one side was up against the fence and the goats couldn't escape. Apparently that's all they needed! Once they realized they couldn't escape, milking went SO MUCH BETTER! Hermione just stood there and let me milk her out. Paisley still wasn't super thrilled and I had to hold one of her legs, but she's new to the milking scene and that wasn't unexpected. Now I just tie one of her legs to the stand with a piece of rope and she stands quite happily as long as she has food.

Happy goats!

I eventually also fixed the little slot for the feed bucket by boring holes all the way across with the drill. It was inelegant, but it worked, so...I don't care! 

I have to say, the first week with the goats was the most stressful week I think I've ever had in my life. I actually lost 3 pounds, and that is SO not me. I don't lose weight without trying. Ever. In the history of my life. I was so constantly stressed out that I didn't even have an appetite. BUT it's gotten so much better, and now I actually enjoy going outside to milk them now. 

And the kids do too!

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