Sunday, March 27, 2011


Here are the photos of Amelia and her big moment...delivering twins.

Amelia's first baby

Amelia's second baby

Two little ones: a boy and a girl

All the new kids together
When we let the mom's out into the yard for hay and water every couple of hours, the babies get to hang out together. They all have dog sweaters on to keep their core temp up in the chilly barn at night. Richard named Amelia's kids Vincent (lying down, in green) and Pixie (in black and red). Cinnamon's girl is Ginger (in green, orange, blue stripes) and Tres's boy is Surprise (on the right edge of this picture). Two boys and two girls. They are adorable, as baby goats always are, and in a couple of weeks, after the moms are not making the colostrum any more, we will be back into goats milk here on the farm. Lots of milk for ice-cream, yogurt and cheese.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Goat birth update

Wouldn't you know it...when I went up to check on the goats after posting my last blog, Amelia was ready to have her baby. Richard made it just in time to help. She had twins--a boy and a girl, without any fanfare at all, except she seems to want to walk around while giving birth, which makes it interesting to catch the baby. They are beautiful brown and black babies and I will put up photos tomorrow. Now...I'm going to bed for my first full nights sleep in a long time.

Oh, and post note, we "bounced" Amelia after the first kid and felt the second, so we knew she wasn't done. That's where you stand behind the goat and put your hands in front of her bag and lift up on her abdomen. If there are babies in there, you can feel the hardness instead of gushy guts. We bounced her after the second and she was just gushy. Wish we'd done that with Cinnamon. Of course Amelia's kids came out quick, within like ten or fifteen minutes of each other. Text book delivery.

We now have four babies here at the farm. Two boys and two girls. Mamas are all doing well.

Baby Goats!

We've got babies!

It has been a tiring couple of days with little sleep overnight while we wait for baby goats to show up. It started on Wednesday with Cinnamon going into labor.

"It's time!"

I called Abigail, from Cloud 9 Farms, over to help, and wouldn't you know it...nothing happened. (Except that I spilled my emotional garbage at that poor girls feet and wouldn't be surprised if she never came back.) That was around four pm. I continued to check on Cinnamon throughout the evening, expecting something.

After I got my kids to bed, I went and sat with mama goat, and eventually the labor began. Richard and I sat in the barn until 2:30 am waiting for the babies. We got one little girl at 12:30...and that was it. Cinnamon labored and labored and no more babies came, so we though she was done and was waiting to expel the afterbirth.
It's a girl!

She looks a little like her Mama.
We decided to go in the house and take the baby with us, letting Cinnamon finish up on her own.We were exhausted and cold. The barn is not that comfortable after 6 hours. Richard named the little girl own spice girls.

Ginger in a basket
Up again at 5:30 am and out to check on Cinnamon by 6:30. She was up and walking around. She nursed the baby and went out with the other girls for morning hay. Maybe she ate the afterbirth? Not unheard of.

It wasn't until later that afternoon, after Richard went to work (of course) that I noticed something was amiss. Cinnamon was back on the floor, laboring and straining. That wasn't right. I figured she was done a long time ago. I couldn't have been more wrong, and knew this was more than I could deal with, so Richard and I decided to call the vet, who told us to bring her in right away. 

That was interesting. Richard was still working, and I had to load two human kids, an ailing mama goat who didn't want to get  up, let alone walk into a trailer, and a wee newborn doe. And fast. Richard called off from work and made it out to help as I was pulling a goat down the hill, carrying her baby in my free arm.

Richard stayed with the kids (all three) in the car and I stayed with my favorite goat.

It was a nightmare. The vet took one look at her and told me she had another one in there, and after an exam with the stethoscope told me it was already dead. No, no, no. She also told me it was not going to be pretty and the baby might come out in pieces. Cinnamon is bleating away now and the vet and assistant give her an epidermal, which numbs her back legs. I'm holding her head and talking softly to her as the vet goes in to retrieve the stuck baby. It's sideways, she says, it's spine is coming first. She had to turn it and pull it out. No easy feat. It seemed to take forever.

I'm crying and my goat is yelling and my legs are cramping from the constant squat. There was a chain involved and it was absolutely horrible, but finally it's out. And the vet says she's going back in to make sure it's all clean. "There's another one," she says. "This one is breach too," she confirms. Now there are things she ties to its feet and pulls it out too.

I'm absolutely bawling and my goat. One girl and one boy. Two dead babies. I should have known. I should have called the vet at 2 in the morning.Without really meaning to, I'm sure, everything the vet said made me feel worse. "See how big she was when she came in? And now she looks hollow. Now she's done."

My poor Cinnamon. I feel like I have single handedly murdered her children in my ignorance. Could I get past this?

"And sometimes, you can be an expert and know how to do everything and still lose them," the doctor told me. She lost her own foal a couple weeks ago. That doesn't make me feel better.

I cried and replayed the night in my head, wondering what I could have done? Could I have called that vet at 2 in the morning, having never met her before and not even knowing if she doctored goats? We had made an appointment earlier that week to bring in the llamas to get gelded, but that was still a week or so away. Could I have delivered those babies myself? Probably not, as twisted up as they were inside mama. I screwed up. I knew it. I felt responsible for all of it. 

It's too much, I decided. I can't do this myself. I can't give the goats the undivided attention they need while in labor and still run a household and take care of my human kids too. When Richard goes to work, it's just me, trying to keep everything running smoothly, and sometimes I come up short.

When we got Cinnamon home, she laid down in the barn and refused to look at me, but even worse, she refused to have anything to do with her living baby girl. Great. So now I've got to bottle feed the baby. The vet suggested sleeping in the barn to keep an eye on both goats. Really? Maybe she didn't notice my toddler children...I guess not, they were in the car the whole time. So, we finally get the baby to eat something, I put her to bed in an old playpen I've been holding onto, and I set my alarm for two hours later. I will get up and feed the baby and Richard will check on Cinnamon every couple of hours. The previous nights four hours of sleep was a luxury.

Cinnamon is depressed, and rightly so. I'm afraid she isn't going to make it through the night. Richard thought to dose all three mama goats with a vitamin supplement at bedtime, and I think that may have made a difference.

In the morning, Cinnamon is a new goat. I suggest that Richard milk her because I'm in short supply of milk for the newborn. We decide to take Ginger up, to see what Cinnamon will do. It's worth a shot, right? And, miracle of miracles, she starts licking the baby and lets her nurse! And, she lets me pet her head too. Maybe we could get past this.

Good news. 

Today will be busy too. I eye the other pregnant goats with suspicion, not ready to deal with any of it anymore. I have to head into town to pick up the syringes the vet forgot to give me for Cinnamon's medicines. I also need more goat birthing supplies. Joe, from Westcliffe, was coming to help Richard with the Earthbag barn. Another big day on our little farm.

I'm trying to think of how to get help. I research the WWoofer program online. Maybe we could get a farm intern. Good idea. No time to write up the farm info and submit it.

I run errands and wash up the towels from the birthing the night before, and check on Cinnamon and baby often. Tres and Amelia are lounging in the sun in the goat yard. Everything is fine...until, I hear Richard yelling..."We've got a baby!"

What? Amelia? "Who?" I yell back, grabbing fresh towels and locking the kids in the living room with a movie.

It's Tres, and she's just given birth to a big healthy boy in the middle of the yard. No trouble, no noise, and no warning at all. She didn't look like she was going to pop...not at all. We weren't even sure she was pregnant. I guess she was.
Baby goat born in the dirt
So we grab the baby and the mama and take them into the barn. Thank the gods for the extra hands on this day. Richard and Joe tie off the umbilical cord and dry the baby.

Joe and Richard take care of the new boy

Wow! Crazy days! What are we going to call this little guy? "Surprise," suggests Joe, and so his name is given.
Later that evening, after all the mamas are settled with their babies, we get an e-mail from the lady who bought Penny and Yvette. Penny has just given birth to triplets of her own. Can you imagine? And when I go up to check on my goats, Amelia is showing the first signs of going into labor. we go again?

Richard and I take our camp chairs, a space heater, a book, the phone and prepare for a long night. but once again, nothing after several hours, and we decide to go to bed in the house. Same old story. I set the alarm for every couple of hours and check on Amelia. Nothing. Nothing today either. I'm so tired I can hardly function. Richard went back to work. The kids just went to bed and I'm trying to get everything ready for the class tomorrow. 

Now, I'm on my way back up to the goat barn to see what's up with my girls tonight. I think I may have burnt the pumpkin bread I was making for tomorrow. Another long night in store. 

Still looking for a farm intern...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Learning more simple ways

Daffodils on the northside

I'm going to go ahead and decide that spring is here, with all of my plants waking up throughout the gardens.

We've got chives, green onions and catnip coming back along the path to the goat barn, and a lot of the trees and bushes we planted last year are budding. Won't this spring be a glorious one!


The classes this past weekend were a big success, even if we only had three folks show for the chicken class. It was still great fun, and a little more personal as we all got to know one another a little better. There was a nice couple from Pueblo and another fellow from the Greenhorn Valley who also came to the Season Extension class on Sunday with his wife. Interesting people, all of the participants. I really enjoy hearing everyone's story and why they are interested in our sustainability classes. Turns out we all have a lot in common when we think about the future of America.

On Sunday, Richard and his class got the hoop house up over the newly planted potatoes in the lower garden and possible future home of a USDA funded high tunnel.

They bent the conduit pipes for the frame on the small hoop bender Richard built.

pipe bender (hey, there's another one of those pesky pallets)

 And, with all those hands to hold that plastic, the breeze was hardly noticeable.

long hoop house

Here's a really easy and functional cold frame Richard built out of two by sixes and an old storm window from our Victorian house in the Springs.

Three pregnant goats, Cinnamon in the middle
Things don't have to be expensive or complicated to get the job done.

Cinnamon still has not given we wait...and we wait.

Gates across the driveway

One of the best parts of the weekend was getting the gates across the driveway. Finally. I've been waiting a long time for those gates that will keep people from just driving in (selling meat from a freezer?) and will keep my kids and animals from running out into the road that people drive down like a race track.

We also had dinner with some new friends this past weekend, and enjoyed ourselves immensely, talking and talking well past the kids' bedtime as they ran from one end of the house to the other. Luckily, our guests were not frightened away.

I had a moment, while trying to get the kids to nap during Richard's class, to watch a documentary on the Amish, which was fascinating. They are a people not much different from myself, minus the religion. They want to live sustainably and avoid the trappings of the mainstream society that would drag them into the chaos and lesson their quality of life. And, they'd like to protect their children from a culture that is ego based and competitive to the point of self-destruction. I'd like that too. The Amish believe in work and the enjoyment of choosing a life dedicated to family and community, living simply and giving themselves an opportunity to be close to nature and God.

With the upcoming energy crisis, I have to wonder if the Amish ways are not better ways. I find myself looking into more of the pieces of their culture and realize the rewards of abandoning the use of electricity for manual labor. I'm very interested in finding a functioning Singer Treadle sewing machine to replace my worn out electric machine. Wouldn't that put some joy into making clothes and quilts for the kids? I would find joy in learning to use and maintain an antique machine that proved itself capable of withstanding the changes of modern man, to the point where it becomes useful again. The items that we need to stock our homes with to survive the future are the things the Amish have been using all along. We could learn a thing or two.

And, Amish are about humility and fighting the Ego, something I have personally been trying to overcome in my own life. Ego is the killer. Just think of a life, a simple and sweet, natural life without that troublesome Ego messing everything up. Wonderful. I wonder if the Amish give workshops? Classes? "How to live Ego free in a mad society." "How to restore a hundred year old sewing machine." "How to teach your kids the value of life and educate them without the use of Disney characters." Sign me up!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Classes still open this weekend!

Just letting everyone know that we still have openings for our chicken basics class this Friday, March 18, from 12-3pm here at the farm. Learn how to order or buy chicks and how to care for them, including building cheap housing. It's time to start your own backyard chicken flock for fresh eggs and healthy meat birds.

We also have openings for the season extension class on Sunday, March 20 from 12-3pm. In this class, Richard will be teaching how to build a hoop bender and make low tunnels for early crops and late crops, how to make simple cold frames, and simple greenhouses--low cost.

Both classes cost $10 per person and you can register at Green Desert Eco Farm

Sign up now! Help support the farm and food for the future! Grow your own!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Projects, goats, chicken radio and Big Horn sheep

We've been working hard this week...Richard on various unfinished projects, and me on my continuous hunt for a place to relocate the farm.

We've almost finished the pallet fence in the upper garden. I think it looks nice. The boards that rise above the fence will be for the electric keep the deer out (I hope).

And from the outside...I like it too. Below is the view from the road.

We've also been working on our parking area with all of the dirt and gravel we've loaded into the truck by bucket fulls and dumped in our yard. Free cycle again!

Before long it will be finished and we will have a nice place for visitors to park. A lot of these landscape timbers came off of Free cycle too.

This week we sold, and delivered, Penny and Yvette to a family outside of Colorado Springs who raises Gypsy Horses and was looking for some more milk goats. They have a huge old barn that is in desperate need of renovation, but having only just bought the place, they are working nonstop to catch up on their projects too. The barn makes me nervous, but I think they will give our girls a good home and I hope they will send photos when the girls kid.

Penny and Yvette, on the way to their new home
And Cinnamon, my little girl goat, is about to kid...any day now. We check on her every few hours and I put one of my old baby monitors in the barn to listen for goat screams (the sounds of labor), but so far all I get are the chickens, singing their chicken songs. Richard calls it chicken radio..."I'm on a chicken radio..." Not quite the version by the Wall of Voodoo, but catchy. 

In the early morning hours, after the chickens are let out to run and play, the little song birds hang out by the barn and I can hear them, like the birdsong on the "soothing sounds" of the alarm clocks meant to lull you to sleep. It makes me happy. I wasn't aware of the variation of birdsong on our small property. When we were out working on the parking area, there were the prettiest sounds coming from a bird perched on the top of one of the Junipers. Very unusual. Richard thought it might be a Mocking bird. Do we have those here? It was too far away to see well enough to look up in my bird book.

So, I'm listening to the birds and listening for a goat in labor and looking for land on the internet. We took a drive yesterday up to Westcliffe because there is some cheap land up there, and I wanted to see how it "felt."

It was not right either. Too high, too cold, too windy, and too far away, although the thing that bugs me the most is that all of the roads into this mountain town are horrendous...winding and me mini anxiety attacks as I look out over the edge of the mountain. It seems the older I get, the larger my fear of heights gets.

But, I was rewarded with an amazing glimpse of a herd of Big Horn Sheep as we headed towards Wetmore and the flat lands. The sheep were still in the twisty mountain valley, and my camera is still lacking a good zoom, but here's what I got:
Big Horn Sheep herd outside Westcliffe, Colorado
The best zoom my camera gets...not good enough.
They are amazing, breathtaking creatures, and I am fascinated every time I see them, which is not very often. I have yet to see a mountain goat, and I've been looking. Wouldn't it be cool to see one of those?

Anyway, the search for affordable land is on. It seems we might have to have at least 35 acres (the magical number) to be able to get a well that we can use for our home and for our gardens and livestock. Crazy water laws here in Colorado. Can we find 35 acres for less than 30K that is not desert hard pan? The challenge is on.

The Earthship thing...probably not, but I haven't entirely ruled it out, and we met a really cool man who's bringing his lady over for dinner on Friday. It seems we have a lot in common and even more to talk about. And yes, he lived in an old converted school bus while he built his homestead. Livin' the dream!

One day I'll land in the place I am meant to be...or maybe that's right where I am now. Who knows? I only know I have to keep on seeking out adventure because it keeps my heart beating and keeps my spirit singing. Live the life you are given to the best and fullest of your ability. That's all anyone can do.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Magical Chicken Days

The Chicken Class was a big success. We had a couple of cancellations in the morning, but everyone else that signed up showed up. Thanks guys! Richard did a wonderful job. I think he's a natural born teacher. Me...I freeze in front of a crowd, so I'm better left to the writing side of things...or the sign making, which I can usually pull off on short notice.

Copied chicken, bad cut and paste

This picture does not have the chicken's feet, so when I was free handing a bigger version of this onto poster board, I had to do a little research on chicken feet. Handy if you happen to have a flock of chickens in your backyard!

chicken foot (hen)

During this class, my little ones and I were entertaining my mother and sister (who came for a short visit), on the other side of the house.

This past week sure was all about chickens... moving them around, drawing them, teaching about them, chasing them back into their yards after discovering they can fit under the gate.

New Hampshire Reds go for a walk

It was also about learning, and how life is full of lessons every single day. I learned that our farm can not accommodate dogs, so please leave them at home if you come to visit. I learned how to draw chicken feet and how to fit ten extra people comfortably in our kitchen. I also learned that miracles still happen, and when I asked for one a few days ago, in relation to our farm location situation, I never expected it to show up in the form of a jolly man who might just be the answer to my prayers. And the new adventure may just involve that old sleeping dream of living in an Earthship. How about that?

Maybe the serendipity, the synchronicity, the magic of intention and the power of the good old Universe has come knocking on my door, or maybe the wind has blown some of the dust residue from NM and Susan's good luck into my mountain valley. I can't wait to see how this all plays out.

Friday, March 4, 2011

March 6 chicken class is full

Believe it or not, we filled up our Chicken Basics Class for this Sunday!  But, there has been so much interest that we may offer another class next week. Let us know if you want to come and we will set it up.

Also listed the two big goats on Craigslist and have been fielding e-mails about that. Who knew two pregnant dairy goats would be so easy to sell? They aren't gone yet, but we are hopeful our first callers will come through, but if not, then the second family definitely gets them. And by the way, that second family needs affordable dairy goats for their little girl in a bad way. They are so far out in the country (near Trinidad) and the little one is allergic to everything but the goats milk, so if anyone wants to sell a couple of nannies in milk or about to kid, let me know...there's a family who needs them.

Today we went to Pueblo to get more pallets for our fence project. Hey, the midden in the upper garden is almost hidden from the street now. The neighbors should be pleased...if it wasn't for that damned pallet fence.

Going to do a seed starting class next Sunday, and as soon as I get the details together, I will post them. Feel free to register early.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gettin' on the gray and pinin' away for a real farm

Here's an Earthbag update:  

We decided to go with the base coat of stucco (gray coat) to cover our bags and protect them from the UV rays. Since we will eventually stucco the outside to match our house color , we decided that rather than mix up local mud, which might or might not stick, we'd just do it the lazy store bought way. Actually stucco gray coat is really cheap.

Today, the weather was warm and sunny, and hopefully the coat we put on will dry before we reach the overnight predicted low of 28 F.
This time I got to help a little, painting on the thin coat, but Richard finished up the outside while I managed the children, laundry and phone calls from farm hunting.

I still ended up with stucco in my hair, covering my cowboy boots and splattered across my face. For a minute there, I felt like I was back in the creative mode, painting (anything will do) and getting dirty was part of the joy. Can't wait to play with the thicker stucco...just like getting my hands in clay again. 

One of the neighbors stopped by to ask about llama poop for his garden, and he and Richard chatted over the fence for a while. I'm guessing he's not one of the complainers, and in fact he's building a mulch/compost pile and building garden beds to plant in. Good for him! We are bringing down the neighborhood. Power to the backyard farmers!!

And the news on relocating the farm: our bank won't give us a loan. I guess in this day and age you can't own one house and buy another. No more contingencies. I've had several suggestions about selling our house and renting for a few months. Really? Do you think someone would rent to a family with two llamas, five goats, two guineas, 30 chickens, two dogs, four cats, two parakeets and a parrot? What would the pet deposit look like on that?

But, I called another guy...who just might be one of the nicest men I've talked to on the phone, and he's given me hope. If we could wipe out some erroneous info on our credit report we might have room to wiggle. So that's the next plan, otherwise we are looking at owner carry situations and they usually want too much down, although I'm not ruling that out. I've posted ads on Craigslist, looking for a farm. Hey, if you're a fan and have a farm in Penrose you want to sell and would carry the loan for a year or two, (until we sell this house and get another mortgage), please call me up!

In any case, life goes on here on the farm. The chicken class is still on for Sunday and we still have space open. We are about to order a mess of day old chicks...layers and broilers, and maybe even a turkey or two.
(Oh man, that's going to raise that rental deposit.)

Yesterday we went and picked up a load of manure and some sapling fruit trees from different farms in Penrose and I had more great conversations with a local farmer. They raise goats, have a couple of llama/alpaca cross girls, a great old orchard, and bees for honey that they bottle and sell.  Wonderful. The things that are possible.

I noticed in Penrose, most people have animals and the resulting manure pile, composting away somewhere, and in some cases, in their front yards, which is part of the working farm, and not some sprinkler system feeding sod surrounded by decorative rocks and gravel. I have to say I prefer the farm look, where real things are happening, and think we'd definitely fit better in a farming community that understands the projects being worked on and the value of that animal poop in the gardens.