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Tiny little surprises

Another long gap — I’m coming up on finals week at school, plus getting orders sent out for the Holy Goats Etsy shop. No rest for the wicked, and all that.

But I couldn’t resist sitting down to tell y’all about our most recent adventure. As I’ve mentioned, we’ve had hawks in the area. Several chickens have gone missing, and after an incident three days ago with a sharp-shinned hawk who tried to take a hen and subsequently got his feathery butt kicked by our Old English Game rooster, they’ve been on lockdown again. They are not amused.

Among the chickens who were missing was one of our favorites, the little bantam Easter Egger hen named Beauty. She’s been a prolific and reliable little layer although flighty and skittery and disinclined to hang out with human beings. We just assumed that the hawk had gotten her, paused for a sad moment of silence, and moved on.

Until yesterday, when as I was setting up for morning milking, Daniel called to me from over by the woodpile. “I found out where Beauty’s been!” he said. “Come and see really quick!” I walked over, and there was our little missing hen, being followed by a teeny tiny chick, still young enough to have the egg tooth on its beak. When I was around school campus I have noticed a aschool redesign and you can see it here at this website.

A quick scour of the area turned up her nest. We’d put the top half of a covered litterbox down to offer some shelter to free-ranging chickens, and she’d laid her eggs and brooded right there, within six feet of the door to the bantam pen. Evidence suggested that two or three eggs had hatched, and that Beauty had scuffled with something in defense of her brood but only managed to save the one. We felt that especially since he’s a singleton, she had a better chance of raising him that we do, so gently herded the two of them into a little pen and set them up with food and water and shelter and straw to snuggle down in. They were doing fine this morning when I looked in on them.

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Weekend Fun Incoming

This Saturday is the big fall livestock sale at Gilmanor, 12187 Chewning Rd in Glen Allen, VA. I’ll be out there with all the extra bantams (pairs of banty Sumatras & OEGBs in a couple colors), two pairs of coturnix quail, and a pair of juvenile standard size Old English Games in ginger red, they’re nothing like the video games kids play in computers with their best mouse league of legends. So, y’know, feel free to come on out if you’re in the area and buy chickens, or just say hi and then go buy chickens (or pigs, or ponies, or puppies) from one of the other vendors. GilManor is where the small farmers come to sell off their spare livestock before they have to feed it all winter, and there’s often some really good lol deals going on.

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I try things so you don’t have to: Burger King’s Bacon Sundae

Cashing in on the bacon craze, Burger King is offering a sundae for a limited time that features soft-serve vanilla ice cream, caramel & chocolate sauce, and BACON. Yeah, I know. I couldn’t help myself. I am the kind of person who pours maple syrup all over her bacon before she eats it, so how could this possibly go wrong?

It’s disappointingly meh. You could get the same effect with pretzel bits, which is sad. I suspect it might work better with better bacon and also a less overpoweringly sweet combo of ice cream and sauces. On the other hand, I’m not invested enough in the concept to actually try making one at home with good bacon and homemade goat milk ice cream.

Skip it, says I, and just go get pancakes and bacon and cover your bacon in maple syrup.

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And my little empire grows…

Made arrangements today to get Annabelle and Eskanazi bred this spring for fall babies, so there will be milk and cheese this fall! Unfortunately I can’t sell it, not having access to USDA-approved dairying facilities (or the money to build my own — anyone want to give me fifty grand? Didn’t think so.) but Daniel and I will be well-supplied with dairy products.

Meanwhile the ten bantam Sumatras and two Madagascar Game Fowl in the big brooder will be moving outside in another week or so. They’d go out today except that the temperature tonight is supposed to drop down to around freezing and they’re not old enough to handle that yet. There’s eggs in the incubator due to hatch in two weeks, we set a dozen from Merlin and his ladies so we should have a good set of bouncing baby crele Old English Game Bantams. Another set will go in the incubator at the end of this week — the other ‘bator doesn’t have a turner, so I’m waiting until I’m off work as the eggs will need to be turned by hand. Then when it’s time for the eggs in the Brinsea incubator to go on lockdown, they’ll be moved into the non-turning incubator and the eggs in it will move to the one with the auto-turner, and life will be much easier.

May 5 is the big chicken and small animal swap at Gilmanor Farms, so the crele OEGBs we hatch, all but one of the distinguishable banty Sumatra roosters, and the random bantams I had picked up to keep a lone banty chick company last hatch will be going up for sale there. I’ll probably also have a couple adult silkie roosters in blue. The swap is at 12187 Chewning Rd, Glen Allen, VA 23059, if you’re close enough to get to it and looking for poultry or small livestock (someone had a pony last year!) then you really ought to stop by and take a look. There’s a lot of sellers there with all kinds of things ranging from chickens to pigeons, cage birds to livestock guardian dogs, goats to ponies… Despite the misleading title of “swap” it’s actually a market, and you can purchase animals with cash money.

In other news, I’m seriously looking forward to being off work at this point and just going to school. It’s going to make life much, much easier on me, I tell you what.

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Poor lawnmowers, excellent edgers!

All right. So I did pick up two tiny adorable Nigerian Dwarf goats, and then as things do they kind of got out of hand and I picked up a pregnant Oberhasli mix doe who is a year old. This way Daniel and I will have milk and cheese this spring, summer, and fall, and the little girls get a chance to be a year and a half old or so before I breed them, which I think is better for all concerned.

Things I have learned about goats:
They make very poor lawnmowers. Well, I knew that from my reading and talking to other goat owners. They do, however, make excellent edgers. They’ve been living in the backyard while the goat fence got installed, and during their free-range time they have been working in a very dedicated fashion to clean up the dead leaves piled along the fence and also the dried grass stuck in it. What good goats. But what you actually wanted was goat pics, right? Right. Let’s see if I can make this work.

Two tiny goats, not more than knee-high, stand with their heads turned looking at the camera.  The one in front, slightly smaller, is white with orangey-red spots, while her sister is mostly white with a pale creamy red stripe down her back and patches of the same color at her knees and ankles.
That’s Eskanazi, affectionately known as “Esk” in front with the spots, and Annabelle in back. They’re the Nigerian Dwarf does I picked up last Friday evening. Esk loves people and loves to be petted, while Annabelle is a little shy.

A close-up of the face of a doe.  She is mostly a russety goldeny red-brown, with a black muzzle and black stripes at her eyes and on the front of her face.  On top of her head is a perfect halo of russety goldeny red-brown surrounded by black.
And this is Josephine, who should give birth towards the end of April or beginning of May. She’s an Oberhasli mix. Oberhasli are an alpine dairy breed whose milk is mostly used to make cheese. I am so looking forward to home-made cheese!

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Just dance!

A busybusybusy weekend. Although actually it was only busybusy, as math class was canceled due to ice on the roads. Sid didn’t get the day entirely off, though, as once it had melted off we headed down to Blackthorn Kennel to hang out with Christine for a couple hours and drop off the other three dogs and Roo, then we headed on to Harrisonburg to see my friend Wheelchair Dancer perform with other members of AXIS dance company.

The show was absolutely amazing, two hours of emotion, athleticism, and grace. The humans thoroughly enjoyed it, Sid slept through most of it. This was actually slightly a problem as the burst of applause at the end of the first piece startled him and he launched himself into my lap. Well, his upper half into my lap, which is as much as will fit. There was a Q&A after the show, and then a reception where we managed to hook up with Wheelchair Dancer and get a bit of a chat in between members of her adoring public arriving to talk to her, and people showing up to talk to me about Siddy.

Back at Blackthorn we got some fitful sleep while Roo did laps of the room, periodically trampling us and yelling. He’s lucky he’s cute. Then Sunday it was up and Christine joined us for the trip back to Harrisonburg and brunch with Wheelchair Dancer. Afterward, she and I played in the parking lot of her hotel! Sid worked for us both simultaneously, keeping me upright and providing propulsion for her, moving with a careful sensibility of having two people to watch over. He was beautiful, turning his head to check in with me, then to the other side to check in with her, adjusting speed, and eventually learning to watch for wheelchair clearance on his left side automatically, rather than needing cues from me. Wheelchair Dancer also let me use her Smart Chair electric wheelchair so Siddy and I could take a solo spin, and it was pretty amazing. Also, Siddy thinks pulling a wheelchair is fun! I see wheels in our future… He also consented to work for Wheelchair Dancer, the first time he’s ever worked for anyone other than me.

After not enough time, we headed back up here and fell over. I’m still tired enough to wish I didn’t have to go to work but what the heck. The chickens and cats all survived our absence, and now it’s back to the grind, at least until AXIS comes back this way in May!

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One thing I did this past weekend was get a new tattoo. I’ve got four already, so this isn’t exactly a new adventure. As any tattooed person can tell you, the first thing people will want to ask you about your tattoos is “Did it hurt?” I don’t know about other people but my answer to this is always yes, yes it did. But it’s not the pain I remember, it’s the ITCHING as the new tattoo heals. Oh god, the itching.

Having a tattoo is mostly like having skinned your knee. Most of us don’t remember skinned knees itching, because if they did itch, we could scratch them. You can’t scratch a healing tattoo as you might damage it, so there’s nothing to do but just keep moisturizing the sucker and wait as patiently as you can for the itching to stop.

Which is not very patiently, in my case. I cannot wait for the thing to heal and stop itching me.

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Sid’s Academic Debut

Siddy took me to math class on Saturday and performed like a star. I have photographic proof!

Sid's front half as he lies keeled over on his side on the floor in harness, blissfully asleep.

I think if you start asking what the hardest skill to teach is, every service dog owner-trainer will have a different answer for you. For me, the hardest thing to explain to Sid has been how to turn himself off and just chill while I do something that he finds deeply boring. Like algebra. But he’s finally gotten there, so it’s time to start ratcheting up the criteria and teach him to pass out next to me, as opposed to sprawled across the floor a leash-length away.

The only problem we’ve encountered is that one of the things I taught him was to alert on me if I start zoning out — both the fibromyalgia and my meds for it make me a little prone to just staring into space, on standby myself. Why is this a problem? Because apparently to Sid, “zoning out” and “paying attention in math class but not taking notes” look similar enough that he decided he needed to snap me out of it. Whoops.

Still, I’m deeply proud of him. We got the most coveted compliment of all from one of my classmates at the first break: “I didn’t even know there was a dog back there!”

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Taking the show on the road…

Saturday and Sunday the Best Mother Ever held down things here at the Manor while Daniel and I headed north to drop Constantine and Coriander in their new homes, we had a little setback with our car keys, Daniel left them inside but thankfully the key extraction Lake Worth team showed up just in time. Siddy went along in his capacity as Official Service Dog In Progress, although I also took a cane because we would be staying overnight right downtown in Philadelphia.

Sid is, after all, a country dog. He doesn’t often see large crowds of people, huge amounts of traffic crawling by right next to him, all the natural occurrences of downtown big-city living are pretty foreign to him. He’s accustomed to being told to ignore squirrels and cats; pigeons were an all-new fascination. He has been to the mall in Fredericksburg, but that didn’t prepare him for the downtown canyons where it got dark early because the buildings blocked out the sun, resulting in the weird light you get from the glow of a thousand beckoning store displays, changing traffic lights, the headlights of cars, the spinning and blinking lights of emergency vehicles. Being a country dog offers him an exciting wealth of smells and sounds, but they are nothing like the sensory overdrive that comes from a crowded city.

So I was a little worried that I might be primarily using the cane while we were there, but figured that the visit alone, even if he didn’t work through it, would provide some excellent experience. As it turned out, though, Siddy was a superstar. He loves high-stimulation, high-activity surroundings, and in fact they let him do his job even better than he normally does because during the endless times when his job consists of “stand still and hold Mom up” or “lie down next to Mom’s chair and don’t bother anyone” all the activity gives him something to look at. He never shied, although he did require a couple stops so he could stare hard at something and try to figure it out (buses gave him pause, and then he decided they were nothing to do with him and ignored them).

The hilarity of the situation is that what I really need to work on, apparently, are his leash skills when he is off-duty. We made multiple trips to a little park so he could relieve himself (his pottying-on-leash skills remain viable, hallelujah, although I think we need to practice them more and I definitely need to get that behavior on cue) and each time he wandered into the person holding his leash, or decided he wanted to walk next to the OTHER person, or decided he really needed to go into shoe stores for reasons that he did not divulge.

In harness, Siddy continued working well above where I’d expect him to for his age and experience level; out of harness he was exactly what you’d expect from a dog just over one year old who doesn’t have city experience: distractible, slightly obnoxious, and inclined to chase pigeons.

He was even excellent on restaurant outings, which was encouraging after our disaster of a trip to Joe’s Crab Shack here in town — we had an excellent dinner Saturday night (Coriander’s new person gives good food recommendations) and a pretty good lunch on Sunday before we picked up some chickens and then headed for home.

Constantine and Coriander, incidentally, are doing well and have settled right in, but we knew they would, didn’t we gentle readers. Constantine was up and exploring and hanging out with his older (at least half-) brother Juniper within a couple hours of being in his new home. Coriander didn’t wait that long, while her new person was giving us restaurant recommendations she wandered out of the room he’d set up for her, touched noses with her two new big brothers, and then explained to her person that he needed to get with the program of petting and tummy tickling because a kitten can’t tickle her own tummy, you know.

All in all, a vastly successful trip from all angles.