Whew! It has been a hectic month for us, which is why I left such a gap in our regular website posts. Barb and I have been working on so many projects that we’ve barely been able to keep up with it all. As if the Garden and our four Saturday Farmers Market appearances in July weren’t enough, we’ve spend time preparing for the return of our beloved goats, helping construct and paint a small cashier booth on the Lion’s Club booth at the Tri-County Fairgrounds, preparing our home craft and garden exhibits for the fair (which we delivered to the fairgrounds on Saturday, July 27), mowing our yards, helping our son get settled into his new Berkeley Springs house, helping transport a local friend to cancer treatments at the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center in Cumberland, doing part-time planning work for the City of Cumberland, and treating our hayfield for milkweed—a plant that is hazardous to our goats. Our only major recreational activities over the past month were attending the Fourth of July festivities and fireworks in Petersburg and making a long-delayed July 9 day trip to visit and tour the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park at the common boundaries of Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. You will find pictures of our visit to the famous gap in the Cumberland Mountains on the “Dave’s Pictures” page of our website.
Helping our goats adjust to their home here at Peeper Pond Farm has been a big challenge for us. Essie went through a brief one-day melancholy period over the loss of all her companions for the past two years. She ultimately became the queen of the Carroll’s Dwarf Nigerian herd, and her family was suddenly reduced to one new-born kid. It was difficult to motivate her to interact with us on Friday (the first day of her return), as she just stood resolutely in a corner of the barn trying to comprehend it all. Eventually, with repeated brushing and attention from us, she emerged from her somber shell and resumed eating, wandering around, and seeking our attention. Now, two days later, she seems better adjusted and more engaging.
Our new Dwarf Nigerian doe kid is another story. She had to make the biggest adjustment of all for a 4-week old baby. She was removed from her mother (from whom she was nursing), forced to accept bottle feeding, moved to an entirely new living environment, and stripped of all her companions except for Essie. So far, we have not overcome her fear of us, and we must work hard to catch her for her feedings. We must wait several minutes after catching her for her to settle down and stop trembling in fear before attempting to feed her. We only managed to get her to drink about six ounces of milk on the first day, and slightly more than that on Friday. I was concerned that she would not make the adjustment, and we’d have to return her to her mother before she dried off and stopped producing the mother’s milk she needed to survive. However, we added a small bit of sugar to the milk we were feeding her, and it seemed to make all the difference. She drank a full 12 ounces of milk on Saturday and Sunday and seemed to be catching on to the idea that she could suckle milk from the bottle we were forcing her to drink from. She should be drinking more for her current age, but she is nibbling on hay and grass, so we feel more confident that she will eventually adjust.
Yesterday afternoon, we encouraged Essie and the new kid out into our goat pen. They wandered around exploring and tasting many of the natural treats they discovered along the way. While our baby doe still isn’t comfortable with us, she walked around us confidently and comfortably, which is a big improvement to her recent behavior. She is probably a little young for fresh grass, as her stomach (rumen) hasn’t developed enough to properly digest such lush feed, but we let her at least enjoy a taste of it to help reinvigorate her desire to eat. We have seen her nibbling on hay quite a bit, which will help her rumen mature. Fortunately, Essie is developing a motherly attachment to her and is encouraging her to share the hay with her.
I should also note that we recently decided to rename our new Dwarf Nigerian. She had not been given a name when she came to us, and we have discussed many potential options. On her first day at our farm, we initially called her “Shadow” because she clung so close to Essie that it seemed she was always in her shadow. You will see her referred to by that name in our first (July 25) website post announcing her arrival at our farm. However, I found that name difficult to remember. I struggle to remember names and often make one up that is as close to the true name as I can guess just to get it out of my system. In Shadow’s case, all I could think of was “Snowball” because she looked to me like a tiny ball of snow. Barb liked the name and agreed it was more appropriate and easier to remember. Consequently, we decided to change her name to Snowball and will add her to our website under that final name.
It is a joy for us to spend time with our goats. It has been a long time since we last enjoyed their company, and I am filled with hope for our farming future. Although I was raised on a cow dairy farm, I adapted to dairy goats quickly and find I have a great affinity for them and the rich, sweet milk that they produce. They are very affectionate (after they become accustomed to people) and a pleasure to be around. We know that we can earn Snowball’s trust eventually, just as we did with the baby buck we raised and sold two years ago, Billy The Kid. We are truly privileged to have our Essie and Snowball, and we are again thankful to the Carrolls for sharing them with us.