Tag Archives: Goats


When I got up at 3am to check Drama Queen’s progress, the two ligaments to either side of her tail had gone completely mushy, just as Goat Health Care said they would…this usually means delivery is coming in a matter of hours (up to 24).

There was no vaginal discharge yet, so I went back and grabbed a few more hours of sleep. Now it’s a little after 9am and Drama is showing more signs of labor; pacing around, talking more than usual, and pawing at the bedding.

She’s still interested in alfalfa and warm water with apple cider vinegar (always a big hit in cool weather), and more interested in petting and scritching than usual.

Teri and I will be taking turns checking on her, and tonight we’ll probably be posting photos of goat babies!

Goat milking stand made from junk

UPDATE: there’s a newer post with a picture of the device being used, for anyone who wondered exactly how that worked.

In keeping with the already established aesthetic of our livestock equipment and housing, I built a milking/hoof care stand and stanchion out of old pallets and scrap wood.

Here’s the overview:

With the stanchion open:

Though it looks like a medieval torture device, the blue bucket full of treats keeps goats happy and distracted during milking, hoof trimming, etc.:

Goat’s-eye view:

Teri pointed out that it would be disasterous for a goat’s body to slip off the side while her head was in the stanchion, so I added side rails. One can be flipped out of the way to release the goat (goats don’t like to go in reverse)

Locked closed:


Old lawnmower wheels make this weighty contraption sort of portable:

It may look slapped together, but typical of my engineering, it’s sturdy enough for a small elephant. I studied various sets of plans, made a few sketches, and adapted what I had in my imagination to the supply of old pallets and scrap we had lying around.

Here’s proof that I didn’t major in drafting (or penmanship, which has continued its downhill progress through almost 30 years of computer use):

Goat friendship and eggs: both pretty miraculous

Me and Drama Queen (with Koko's head on her back and Aberdeen behind)Here I am with Drama Queen…that’s Koko’s ear and nose behind Drama’s head, and Aberdeen behind me.

It might sound silly to someone who always got eggs from a supermarket, or who always had chickens, but today we ate “homegrown” (home laid?) eggs for the first time, and it was a thrill. It’s amazing that these pigeon-sized bantam hens lay such big eggs.

The shells were very firm and thick, so they cracked neatly with no shrapnel. Yolks were the deep orange, high-domed ones we’ve gotten used to from real free-range eggs, and unsurprisingly the omelet was delicious.


Omelet from bantam chicken eggs

Finally back into the garden

What passes for Winter here is losing its hard edge now, and I’m starting to spend time in the garden again…here’s a rather disjointed post about some of the current projects:

This is going to be a raised bed with straw-bale borders. The inside is filled with old goat bedding and other compostables. Soon I’ll remove the tarp, letting water in to start the composting process. The plan is to put a layer of soil and finished compost on the top and plant into that, hoping that the warmth of the compost action beneath it will help get early plantings off to a good start.
Straw Bale Bed

Yesterday, our neighbor and I planted a hundred baby fir trees along the property’s roadsides, to eventually decrease traffic noise and provide privacy. They come in a bag about three feet long:

BabytreeI expected the trees in there to be tiny, but they were mostly about two feet long, and very healthy looking.

This kale is actually the remains of last year’s that got harvested, then eaten down to stubs by goats, then transplanted into the cold frame, where it’s thriving.
Kale Feb 2009

Turnips are starting to sprout in the cold frame as well. It’s not the ‘right’ time of year to plant them, but with the mild climate here it seems worth trying.

This garlic we planted a few months ago is looking well:
Garlic Feb 2009

…as is this garlic, which we planted about a year ago. It died down pretty young and I never dug it up, but it’s returned as a volunteer. (since everything is so green out here, I removed color from everything but the garlic plant to make it visible)
Volunteer Garlic

Pregnant goats!
Obers Feb 2009

Here’s a 55-gallon steel drum (used once, to transport maple syrup) set into the ground to serve as a root cellar. We haven’t experimented with putting food in it yet, but the thermometer I have in there seems to stay in the 40s no matter what’s going on outside.
Steel Drum Cellar

Day in the life: goats

This is the first of a series of posts documenting the mundane activities that we (usually) find so magical. We both really enjoy reading accounts of typical days on homesteading blogs, and want to share the random little things we’re learning.

Our Daily Goat Routine


[ ] all gates secured, fencing intact
[ ] open East door, North door if it’s warm
[ ] refresh water
[ ] refresh hay if necessary
[ ] clean and fill mineral feeder
[ ] scatter clean hay over old bedding


[ ] check water for goat-berries
[ ] check minerals for goat-berries
[ ] give grain/snacks in double feeder OR mineral feeder + separate bowl to reduce fighting, or a flake of alfalfa in small hay rack


[ ] refresh water
[ ] refresh hay if necessary
[ ] clean and fill mineral feeder
[ ] scatter clean hay over old bedding
[ ] get goats inside their house (if they’re reluctant, throw something into the snack bin, like a handful of sunflower seeds)
[ ] close gates

Weekly in warm weather, and maybe once or twice during winter:
pitchfork out the old bedding, take it to compost, scatter a bit of baking soda and fresh straw on floor.

Every month or two:
convince goats to let you trim their hooves. It’s not easy, sometimes painful. In a milking stand is the preferred method, but we haven’t built ours yet so it’s a two-person job.

November photo assortment

peasWell, mostly November. This picture of 2008’s second pea crop is about two months old (the weather changed and the plants became goat food)

greenhouseWith Western Oregon’s mild climate, we will be trying our hands at winter gardening. I’ve replaced the leaky, opaque roof on the greenhouse with “sun-tuff” – corrugated plastic panels – and used some of our old windows to make a cold frame (the 2′ high glassed projection on the front). We hope to grow kale and a few other greens in there, after getting them started indoors and gradually acclimating them to outdoor life.

Outside the greenhouse there’s still plenty to do. Cover crops of clover, cereal ryegrain, faba beans, and vetch have been planted in last year’s beds:
cover crops

garlicHere’s a 40′ double row of garlic, about 1/3 planted. We’ll be doing three different varieties, with different storage life and flavor attributes. In our mild climate, the garlic will (we hope) grow slowly through the winter and burst into life in the spring, with harvest coming in May and June.

goth sunflowersPerhaps inspired by Halloween festivities, these sunflowers have gone goth.

Goats, of course, don’t take a break in the winter as most of the garden does. Stand by for gratuitous cuteness:
aberdeen door

koko aberdeen door


goat gateNext year, the goats will enjoy another little pasture area. I’m putting a lot of radish seeds in there, because goats love the greens, which grow early and fast. Here’s the door from their current enclosure to the new pasture. The door is of course made from old shipping pallets.

firepit stepsIn non-farming news, visitors will be happy to see that the deadly mudslide down to our fire pit now has steps.

And finally, the Yamaha saga. I found what seemed like a good deal on a mid-size road bike, and bought it with dreams of 55mpg dancing in my head.yamahaThe wiring and tires were a mess, but I’ve fixed that and a few other things. The title was lost, but the previous owner’s widow filled out all sorts of paperwork that should have helped me get a title.

Finally the day came – I went to the DMV and all my papers were in order, but there is a lien on the bike from the 1980s, and I’m currently navigating a voicemail maze at the finance company in question to determine whether the lien is satisfied. Oh well, it’s raining all the time anyway now, but I hope to get this thing on the road for next spring. For now, it just sits there looking cool (as cool as it can with the ill-fitting Harley seat, slated for replacement with a stock one)

How to breed dairy goats

It’s that time of year; the leaves are falling, the garlic’s about to be planted, and goats are going into heat.

Most does (proper term for female goats) have about a two-day fertile period every few weeks from September – December. In other words, they have two fertile days, then three weeks off, and repeat that for several months. It can be difficult to be sure when’s the right time; in general, does in heat will “talk” more and tend to elevate and wag their tails. We noticed Drama Queen was doing all of this yesterday afternoon, and decided to test her.

How do you do that? With what’s called a “buck rag” – an old rag that’s been rubbed over the extremely fragrant body of an uncastrated male goat. I brought out the buck rag (kept carefully sealed inside a plastic container) yesterday, and Drama Queen got very excited, wagging her tail and trying to eat the container. Aberdeen seemed interested too, but less so.

Koko may have been interested, but for various reasons we’re unlikely to ever breed her.

Our good friend and goat-breeding expert from down the road came by with Valcor, a carefully selected male. We are unlikely to keep any intact males around ourselves; they are the source of that infamous “goat smell”, which largely comes from their habit of constantly urinating on themselves. They’re also bigger, fence-jumpier, and will attempt to breed with pretty much any female regardless of age or close relation.

Now we get to the how to part. It’s very complicated: put the male goat in with the females.

Here’s an instructional video:

Lots of busybusybusy (just a tease)

I know you come here for the pretty photos, so rest assured there is a big backlog of beautiful plants, animals, recipes, and adventures waiting to be resized and color-corrected, and they will be posted soon.

Apart from working 40+ hours/week at the day job, I’ve just been really busy. Lots of that “busy” is stuff that would be perfect for the blog, but I just haven’t had time to document it in detail.

We’ve been harvesting/canning/fermenting/drying: Oregon Grape, apples, pears, blackberries, zucchini, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, asian pear, dill, kale, and a bunch of other stuff. Planted arugula and carrots for us, and a whole bunch of perennial rye grass for goats. Started blackberry, Oregon Grape, and blueberry wine, and the new batch of chocolate stout is ready. Got a great deal on oak parquet flooring for the kitchen, and the loft area is just a few days of labor from becoming our winter bedroom. A few cords of wood are waiting in a pile for me to find a deal on a used chainsaw, which needs to happen soon if we’re to be warm this winter.

I learned to “process” chickens from live bird to frozen grocery item. I wondered if it would bother me, taking a life with my own hands, but although my reverence for life has grown throughout the years – all life; we escort even the hideous-looking earwigs and vicious wasps outside to continue their lives – it felt nothing but right. I feel like I have much more of a right to eat chicken than I did when it came from a supermarket all prepared and shrink-wrapped.

Next month I’ll be going on my first wild turkey hunt, which I’m very much looking forward to, and somehow that doesn’t clash with the fact that our property is a no-gunfire-except-in-case-of-emergency refuge where a momma turkey and her five babies visit several times a day to eat seed fallen from our bird feeders and the deer who ravage our raspberry plants and chives will be fenced out rather than shot. As I write this sitting at our outside table, the turkeys are pecking and cooing not more than five feet away from me.

Coyote have been howling their eerie chorus in the hills at night, and the days, which were fifteen-plus hours long just a short time ago, are noticeably shorter. Part of me reflexively tenses at the thought of winter’s approach, until I look back at how green things are in the rainy season and remember that December and January are often perfect for BBQs in Western Oregon.

The man who considered CBGBs a holy place of pilgrimage and mourned the “cleanup” of Times Square is now reluctant to visit “the city” (Eugene, a small but vibrant town of 138,000 about half an hour away) more than once a week. If I’d known how much country life would agree with me, I would probably have left years ago – but then I might not have met Teri, who is my glowing inspiration and the anchor of my life.

What a long strange trip it continues to be!

And I promise you lots of pretty photos very very soon.

Crispy critter (or “curiousity killed the rodent”) (or “electricity killed the squirrel”)

Around 10am, I was working at the computer and heard a loud “POP!” out by our telephone pole, and all the electric went down. The electric co-op got a repairman here very quickly, and he extracted a fried squirrel from the transformer by our house. I’m afraid it’s the one we were getting friendly with, who would steal sunflower seeds from the shed when he thought we weren’t looking. I buried him in the yard, hope it’s not the one we were befriending.

Since our driveway is overgrown a bit, I had to trim a few small branches for the electric guy to get his truck in. The goats were VERY happy about this:


Why the long silence?

I haven’t posted in a while, partly because it was Teri’s turn to debut a goat and I didn’t want to post about other stuff till that happened – and she’s been crazy busy finishing up school. Myself, I’ve been busy with work – dayjob got hectic just when I have a couple of side projects going on.

Despite all this, we’ve somehow managed to plant bush beans, chard, kale, peppers (sweet & jalapeño), potatoes, cucumbers, corn, tons of sunflowers, various types of tomato, chives, 30 domestic raspberry plants, 4 wild black raspberry plants, dill, catnip, basil, oregano, and a few hundred square feet of perennial ryegrass (where the goat pen was bare after blackberry cane removal).

The salad greens are part of our dinner about every other night, peas are doing well, and once again we’re faced with the “how to eat all these @#$ radishes” problem (but they’re yummy). Lettuce and spinach seem to be unhappy about being planted so late; we had a few really hot days already, and they’re both very slow and spotty. The onions seem to be slowly growing, the apple trees are setting fruit, and the pear tree (which did very little last year) looks like it will be bountiful. And of course there will be a zillion blackberries.

Not much in the way of photos today, but here’s the goat house viewed from about halfway up one of the 100’+ trees that flank our house:

As for how to eat all those @#$ radishes, I’ll save that for the next post…