May 24: birthday

Lazuli buntings and yellow-breasted chats shout from either side of the river. A wrentit sings upstream, a hummingbird buzzes between the boulders. There are swallowtails dancing in the shade of the willows. Yellow warbler chips above them. I was awoken before dawn by the flycatcher outside my window. I went on a run and met all the neighborhood dogs. I think we’re gonna be friends. I saw the neighborhood horses but they were busy grazing a front lawn, so we did not properly meet. An osprey greeted me when I got back in the neighborhood and so did the nameless dog who I’ll call Sheeba. Red-shouldered hawk call from upland. Yellowjacket tickles my arm with the wind from his wings. I intended to go to the Trinity & Klamath River confluence this morning but it turns out the road is closed today until noon! It’s great to be in a place so small and sleepy where that can happen… closing the only highway with no warning and no signs. So I’ll have to settle for just one river today, sigh.

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I turn 25 today.

IMG_0171[This is my third day on Green Fire Farm & Winery in northern California.]

May 18

There were things I was gonna say, but I forgot. Prob trying to catch up from the days that I missed, but we can’t make up lost time. The tanager sings every evening now, mountain quail not as much. I’ve seen deer around, a coyote last week, might of just heard a fox.

I packed my stuff today and I felt sad because I’m tired of my clothes being wrinkled. I’m tired of being confined to plastic Walmart bins. I got a pang of sadness looking out at the pasture and thinking of how much I enjoy these goats. I can’t get over how CUTE Hatch and Eske are. And Rita and Rocket. And Liana, and Elaina. Grandeur is beautiful and hilarious. And Rose is so funny. I can see that I am going to want animals in my life. I really enjoy chickens.

Today while Westi was out I ran around doing laundry, making rosemary tea, filtering milk, sewing my tote bag. When she came home I was sewing my pencil case and she put a box on the table and said it was a surprise. I put my ear next to it and could hear peeping! 4 chicks were inside! So cute and frumpy.

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May 12

It is raining in half the yard and the other half is sunny. There is a rainbow out to the east backed by charcoal clouds. Strong winds make it chilly on the nose. This morning Westi had to be in town so I was on my own with the animals! Everyone was super antsy today. Liane and Rose upset about their babies being gone (sold yesterday). Elaina tired of being stuck inside with the kids. Grandeur worried and confused because, well, she always is. They were eager to get out and knocked the alfalfa from my arms when I tried to enter the pen! Milking went fine though. Well, as fine as expected. And they all entered the pasture easily. Except for Grandeur. She expressed concern about everyone leaving her behind, but she didn’t want to join them. I was dancing around trying to inspire her to come outside when I noticed one of the ducklings had escaped. So I left Grandeur where she was because clearly she wasn’t going anywhere, and I chased the dang duck back and forth along the fence until it surrendered out of fear, and I put it back where it came from!

I just made organic hot chocolate with goat’s milk – omg. I’m so spoiled and fat and happy.

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May 9

It’s been cold at night lately, below freezing, leaving the valley dusted with frost. Mountain quail call in the evening now. The moon is nearly full.

May 7

Exhausted. These days have been exhausting. Rocket (#2 – the sad little face-down-in-the-hay goat) recovered well, he’s suckling now. Still has droopy ears, which makes him about the cutest thing in the world. However, his brother, Olay, who was the first-born, became weak yesterday. Like how Rocket was on the first night. Olay wasn’t eating and he was cold. Westi tube fed him and we held him under the heat lamp in a blanket and a sweater. When that didn’t help she realized he hadn’t pooped yet, so she did something to try to solve that. When that didn’t help, she realized his stomach was full still; he wasn’t digesting his food because his body temperature was too low. She brought him inside the house and put him on a heating pad and got his temperature up to normal. And he died shortly after. “He starved to death with a full stomach.” These attempts to help Olay took place over the entire day, and so his passing was an unfortunate relief. That’s how it goes.

May 5 – goat birth

Made two batches of jam this morning and a batch of granola! It rained through the afternoon so I made envelopes and drew with pastels. We went out in the drizzle to put the moms back inside. Elaina, who is usually pretty agreeable, did not want to come. She was being vocal and I heard her teeth grinding, which is a sign of discomfort in a pregnant lady, a sign that things are accelerating. Same with change in personality. Westi came up the hill behind her and pointed out a small drip of clear goop coming out of her. That certainly means baby is coming! Like, today or the next.

We got everybody inside and closed off a separate section for Elaina to be in. With Grandeur. Elaina couldn’t care less about Grandeur’s company but G would go nuts if a fence separated her and Elaina. While West made dinner I sat on goat watch. This entails sitting in the pen in a lawn chair with a beer and a goat book, taking note of any notable behavior. Elaina laid down a few times and each time I thought, ‘omg, is it time!?!?!?’ but each time she was just resting and looked at me exasperated for disturbing her with my nervous excitement.

I went inside for dinner and Westi came back out with me afterward for the usual milking time. The kids did not drink from mamas today, so there were full utters all around, woohoo! Just as Liane and I were off to a great start (for once), Elaina let out a holler and Westi exclaimed, “she’s pushing!” After only a short while – minutes – a body appeared at the opening of Elaina’s uterus. She was pushing and groaning, yelling like crazy with her tongue sticking out. What was coming out was a tail, which is not good (I just read this in the book). When this happens, you need to intervene and make sure a leg exits first. So Westi reached a hand inside of Elaina to find a back leg to pull. But in order to extend a leg, she had to push the body back inside… while Elaina was trying to push it out. It was very dramatic and intense for a few minutes while Westi struggled with her hand inside the screaming goat. I felt like crying for a moment! Mike came in while that was happening, and Grace too. Westi finally got a leg extended and the baby came out slimy and matted, with incredibly long legs! It looked just like Elaina!

Grace cautiously inched closer to see the new baby; she was nervous and didn’t want to get too close. She neared Elaina’s back end and was bothered by the sight of the placenta (understandably), and as she stood there, another baby shot out without any warning! Same deal with the slime and matted fur. And after another few minutes, Elaina started pushing again, and a THIRD squirted out! Literally, these two came sliding right out. She went to licking all the babies and it wasn’t too long before they looked like tiny goats. They weren’t drinking from the utter right away like they’re supposed to so Westi milked Elaina some and squirted it in the kids’ mouth. The milk stuff is special for newborns – thick and yellow! Like eggnog.

They all accepted the nectar and soon 2 of them started acting like goats – walking around and searching for the utter. But one laid face down in the hay. We rubbed him and gave him coffee for stimulation. Put a Chihuahua sweater on him to make him look like a dweeb I mean for warmth. Tube fed him. Eventually he held his head up some but his front legs just hung lifelessly and half backward. I felt bad for him, wondering if he was in pain or confused or scared.

The other two are hilarious and adorable. The girl (#3) refuses to sit down; she will stand motionless for lengths of time until she loses balance and falls to the side. And she’s fiery already, like Cora. We left the little sad goat (#2) in a sweater in the box with the others. Westi will check on him through the night. I hope he’s alive in the morning.

Sounds like we were lucky with this birth being fast and convenient. Westi has stayed up the entire night with a goat in labor before! Still, I am exhausted. But this needed to be documented in full before time passed. And now I sleep.

May 4: day 5

The land is illuminated in an eerie way, dimly with thick gray clouds overhead. I think it would be exciting for Elaina to give birth tonight during a storm. With the half moon above. But it looks like she is holding out for another night. She is behaving differently these days, but it doesn’t mean it’s happening quite yet.

It is very still out here with only robin clucks. I am in the hammock, though daylight is dwindling and a few mosquitoes are buzzing, but it is stuffy in the trailer. It was in the 90s again today.

I hit a big rock with the mower this morning and broke a spindle. Mike fixed it. Then I got the thing stuck on the side of a hill. Mike got it unstuck. Then the belt snapped. So I called it a day with the mower. Mike later fixed it. Then I went to chip some wood but I couldn’t get the chipper started! So I called it a day with that too. Mike later fixed it. I moved on to the weed whacker and did not break that.

May 3: day 4

Today I rode the lawnmower around in circles. Then I overflowed the duckling’s water and turned their marsh into a full on pond. So we had to tear apart the whole thing and clean it at 8pm. Oops. I’m getting better at milking… sorta.

May 2: day 3

My hands smell like goat’s milk. Not like the refreshing beverage from the store, but like warm and sticky bodily fluid. Today I got a little more to come out but my aim is all wrong. It runs down my arm and squirts on my shorts – not even close to the cup! Liane’s been very patient with me. But I caught her giving me this expression over her shoulder that reminds me of the way Sugar would roll her eyes at me.

A cougar was allegedly spotted today at the edge of the property. The goat kids were making progress with being weaned but now separating them from mom means that one of the two groups will go unprotected.

I went hiking today and was dumbfounded by the bird sounds, walking around with a crook in my neck and frown on my face. I’ve possibly never seen so much poison oak in my life – arching over the trail at waist height, like evil snakes trying to entrance you. I did well at avoiding it until I saw a fresh pile of bear poo and then my focus strayed and I think some brushed my ankle, and finger, and arm. Will find out in a few days I guess!

May 1: day 2

MORNING
Nashville warbler and ash-throated flycatcher are vocal at dawn. And turkey. A scrub jay, a crow. The lilac bush glows. The sun moves quick – the shadow on the ridge drops before my eyes.

EVENING
I got bit by a goat today, because I thought it was so cute to let them nibble on my fingers. Turns out they have sharp back teeth. Tried my hand at milking this morning and got about a half an ounce. It takes practice. It’s a relief to be around goats – no need to fear for your life every time you’re in back of one. And let me tell you, that bite was a pin prick in comparison to the bite of that mustang Emma Grace.