This is the time of year that I love and that I dread. I love the miracle of those kids coming into the world and taking their first steps, growing big and strong, learning to play and jump and run and snuggle. But the birth of the kids and the arrival of milk again for another season is full of worry over all that can go wrong. Every year we learn lessons of patience and powerlessness during kidding season. This year has been no exception. Jade delivered first two long weeks ago. She had a quick labor and made it look easy. The first kid of the season was a beautiful grey buckling born never to take his first breath. We never know why these things happen. Jade spent a heartbreaking thirty minutes nudging and cleaning her little babe trying to get him to wake up before finally being overcome by the labor that had returned. She gave birth to two more babies and took such great care of them until yesterday when she went down. She has a metabolic condition called ketosis that may still take our dear Jade from us. We struggle through the night to get her the nutrition and fluids she needs to have the energy to survive. I have prayed a lot . . . please let Jade live. Please don't let her suffer. Please let her get off that ground and stand and walk again. We go hour by hour now with Jade and have hope she will make it through this. And I have learned how important nutrition is in a lactating animal. (Update: Jade is doing well and is expected to make a full recovery!!)
Honey delivered the evening after Jade's delivery. I say Honey is our goat that does not know how to kid in the (easier) standard head and hooves down position. Honey had three beauties — Petal, Bit-o-Honey, and Jonnie Jump Up. None of them head and hooves down. All some crazy legs hanging out and breech. All the kids and their mama are thriving. Today the kids romp around outside with Jade's babies and will be pulled from Honey at night now as we begin to milk her.
Then Tuesday was Miracle. Miracle who always has the long long labors. Miracle who I have sworn never to miss a day of work for when she is in labor because she always delivers the next day anyway. So, I missed a day of work. And she delivered the next day. And we lost a night of sleep on our blow-up mattress in the second floor of the barn keeping one ear out all night for the sounds of Miracle pushing. She delivered the next night. Miracle had three kids — two black and white speckled boys — one so small he could fit in the palm of your hand. 1#10 oz. Flower. Big brother Thumper. And the most beautiful brown speckled Clementine who is fierce and runs through the world with wild abandon holding her own in her little buckling kid world.
Then a break and Olive delivered Saturday . . . again a long labor. And a long and painful delivery. Of her one huge boy who we call Handsome (because he is!). We kept waiting for all the rest of her babies to come out . . . Olive was so huge. But just the one baby. I buried the placenta under the daffodils, beside Sweet Pea.
Lisa and I are exhausted now. We are every year this time. I am not sure how those with big herds of goats do it. How people attend to the does in labor alone and then milk them and clean them and feed the babies and go on to another doe and another doe that week. How do people do this? My heart gets caught up in all of this. And the losses get easier but harder with each one. My goat-friend Martha has been breeding goats for the last thirty plus years. I saw her the other day and she sadly told me this is one of the hardest years she remembers. So even when you know a lot you still lose some mama goats . . . and some babies . . . I am not sure how you ever get used to that.
We have been surrounded by the generosity of neighbors and friends who have offered to clean stalls, hold babies, bring dinner, bake cookies, bring movie tickets over. People have walked our dogs, attended births, helped weed the garden, driven kids to New Jersey for disbudding. They have given bottles, given hugs, given support. Each of them is appreciated and essential as we get tired and understand that the two of us cannot do this alone. We are so very grateful to all of you who have helped. I am especially grateful to Nancy who is always a phone call away and has helped at almost every birth. She has helped give bottles through the night to the wee goats, takes care of the chickens in the morning,, and is always there when we need something.
The garden has gotten rototilled and planting has begun. Peas and lettuce and spinach. Some funky heritage radish. Kale and cabbage. The flower beds have been planted with all sorts of cut flowers for this year. Thanks to Sherri who helped weed all the front beds so it was possible to even plant the seeds. We are adding an apartment in our house which is exciting and has created a moderate amount of chaos which is stressful for me . . . I like order.
We have begun milking in earnest now and I am making cheese for the upcoming 2013 CSA.
The new bees have arrived and are busy on warm days building the hive.
The morning doves returned to their nest in the clematis on the front porch. They take turns sitting on the nest and gathering food waiting patiently for the new arrival.
The cats have begun to explore the outside world which led almost immediately to Jack climbing up the largest pine tree in the back yard. To the very top. After much coaxing he still would not come down. So . . . Lisa went up and up and up. Jack has slept for two days now. And dreams I am sure of going back up that tree at the first opportunity!
Sometimes there is a quiet moment and I sit and marvel at the baby goats springing and running and falling and crying for their mothers. I snuggle their warm bodies and breathe in the smell of warm baby fur. . .
And for those quiet beautiful moments it is worth all the work.