In case you missed it, we bought a farm.
Really, we bought 5 acres in rural Wyoming and turned it into a farm. It was a “horse property”, but horses eat money, and my wife had always wanted goats. So we turned it into a goat farm. And chickens, aka “mini raptors”. Almost did pigs, too, for a minute. Peppa and George were very cute. J made sure they were very well cared for, giving them lots of delicious scraps and plenty of social and grazing time. We could never have brought ourselves to butcher them.
Goats are pretty sweet. They’re like slightly looney dogs, but you can milk ’em. They love to climb things and get into trouble. But mostly they love to follow you everywhere, especially when you have grain or treats. They have their own little personalities.. One of ours, Princess, loved to sip my wife’s drinks while we sat and hung out with them. Girl Crush, the first and only one we bred on our own farm, never stopped smiling. Ginger, a later addition to the herd, wouldn’t eat her grain without head scratchies and kisses. And Fancy.. oh Fancy. A prodigious milker who would just stand there without a care in the world as long as we were by her side.
We had a fluctuating herd size of anywhere from 4 (at the start) to 28 (at the peak). Plus the egg-laying chickens, which we never got eggs from due to a very sneaky snake that we discovered two days too late. We had about a dozen chickens after the dust settled (not all baby chicks make it, as you can imagine). We also had ducks for a minute, but we quickly discovered they weren’t for us. Then there were the guinea fowl — they’re like guard-dogs but in bird form, they sound the alarm when predators are near, and if you’ve got enough of ’em, they can take on small game like foxes with no problem.
But to really keep everybody safe, you need a LGD — livestock guardian dog. Enter Moose. Moose was a Great Pyrenees – Akbash mix, and he was the best boy we could ask for. We picked him up as a months-old puppy from a farm in South Dakota (where we actually obtained a lot of these animals, interestingly enough). He was great with the kids, he loved his goats, and he enjoyed guarding the property. He did eat a chicken, though. That as traumatic, mostly because she was J’s favorite, Sassy — a ridiculous fluffy white and gray Silkie hen, and pretty rare, from what I understood.
Theres always stuff to do and build on a farm. Luckily, one of things I enjoy in my spare time, is building stuff. I built a “chick brooder” or two (it’s a box for raising baby chickens in) — first out of cardboard, then a real nice wood one with chicken-wire windows and roosting-bar. I also got to build a hay feeder for the goats, constructed mostly of framing beams and a cattle-panel cut in half. I’ll include pictures of all this at some point.
Now, we “needed” barn cats (true, actually, because we did have mice), so we got Snickerdoodle and Oreo, then later, Mouse & Cheeseburger. We tried to convince the kids (and ourselves) that these were supposed to be semi-feral mousers, but they were just doo dang cuddly; they were domesticated within days. (Not to say we took them inside; no, they were just very people-friendly.) They still did their job — or at least, they would have, if we’d kept the farm long enough for them to grow up.
J loved all her animals. She’d look at me with those adorable pleading brown eyes and I couldn’t say “no” to the latest acquisition. But each one had a place and a purpose. And she handled them all with such care and grace. Even when it was hard, and she needed my help, she’d do everything she could before roping me in. Of course, I enjoyed it just as much. Perhaps it’s my Nebraskan farmer roots on my dad’s side, or my general inability to sit still and do nothing, but I loved working outside with the animals too. And I love J more than anything, so I would, and will, always do anything to make her smile.
One of the most incredible experiences on our farm was having our first few live goat births right there in our very own barn (which was actually the garage, using large dog kennels as birthing pens). The first birth, from a doe named Bomb-dot-com, a Nigerian dwarf, was fairly smooth. We had the birthing pen set up with lots of pine shavings blankets, and J was on & off the phone with her goat mentor (and original owner of said doe & several others that we’d bought) the whole time. We had the towels, the suction thingy, and lots of patience. Bombomb almost had the kid while we were out of town, but thankfully she waited til we got home that night. J had to help pull then kid out just a little bit, but the birth went just fine. The miracle of life — never gets old. We named her Aristi, the first born. She was black and white with a little mini-goat marking on her side, and very healthy.
Our next kidding was a bit more scary. Pepper, the sweetest Nubian doe in the world, was hangin out in the birthing pen, and we were keeping our eyes on her. She suddenly started pushing, apparently, but we think she’d been trying for longer. When we got to her, we had to pull out the first kid (a boy), and it got pretty bloody. The second followed quickly, a girl. The boy wouldn’t stand, while the girl started looking more healthy. Neither would nurse, at first, but the girl caught on. The boy wasn’t looking good. There’s something called “floppy kid syndrome”, which we almost suspected he had, but we think what really happened was that he was stuck in the birth canal for a long time and we didn’t know.
J. nursed these babies with such care and devotion. She stayed up all night with a feeding tube and blankets and baby wipes. She gave the boy selenium so he could try to stand and walk, after learning that a selenium deficiency was a possible cause of the issues. Hours upon hours she coaxed him to nurse and stand, worried about his tiny little throat from the feeding tube, wiping him clean any time he had yellow runnies. We ended up giving them to Pepper’s original owner, after doing everything we could to make them healthy babies. That was hard on J, giving them back, but they are now living healthy and happy goat-lives, thanks to her tireless care. She saved that boy kid’s life, that’s for sure!
J was made to be a mom, both human and animal. She loves hard, with such a deep care and devotion that is nothing short of incredible. Her dedication to giving these animals a happy healthy life was a beautiful thing to see and be a part of. We made so many great memories on our little farm.
But farms a lot of work. Like, a LOT. Too much, as it turns out, for our current lifestyle and family dynamic. Our kids, bless their hearts, are just a bit too “city”. Plus, we found that we felt stifled and stuck in a way that was new and disappointing. Bring in a small rural town of less than 2000 people, you start to get tired of the same old 2 restaurants (where 1 gives you food poisoning and the other is closed on Sundays), and 1 grocery store (with no health food and expired meats), and 2 gas stations (both of which are overpriced because they can). So you keep driving 45 minutes each way to the closest big city multiple times a week, never having enough time to actually have any FUN there because you’re too busy trying to squeeze out every possible errand you can from the one trip so you don’t have to turn around and do it again in 2 days.
On top of all that, we missed our family. The kids needed grandparents, and we needed the free babysitting. (kidding, sorta.. not really.) And we all needed more friends, the teenager included. Don’t get me wrong, we made a few friends in Wyoming that’ll last a good long while. But nothing really beats a Grandma and Crampa (as our toddler calls him) being less than 20 minutes away. But we’ll miss Wyoming.. we still do. The freedom and open spaces, the good people and the lack of income tax. And the GOATS!!
So we up and moved again to central Oregon. And that’s where the adventure continues…