Tag Archives: goats

Water, water and more water.

We live in a flood plain and I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday- I knew we’d go through some flooding. But, being an experiential person, I had no idea what to expect till it actually happened.

I’ll admit, it was a little scary. But we had done some prepping beforehand, so I felt ready. As ready as I could be for the unexpected.

Living up here, I check the weather obsessively. Down in SoCal, I NEVER checked the weather. In fact, it’s an exercise in futility to check the weather. It’s going to be 70 degrees. Every day. Unless it’s winter. Then it will be 60 degrees. The end. But up here, there are seasons. And “weather events”. And such events change by the hour.

A pretty big rain storm was expected to hit us…Ok, I could deal with that. I lived in Juneau, Alaska for a while and it basically rained 24 freaking 7. But then I read the forecast discussion on NOAA. It stated: “It’s going to be like a firehose is aimed at the Sierras.” I swiftly put aside my cockiness and immediately started thinking of how we must prepare.

Just so you know the lay of the land, we have 10 acres of pasture and a house that sits on a creek. And when I say on a creek I mean on a creek. See?

Creek meet house, house meet creek. (that's our dog Ella under there)

Creek meet house, house meet creek. (that’s our dog Ella under there)

Now, it’s actually a good thing that we are on a creek. That doesn’t seem quite right, but let me explain. It’s kind of a double edged sword. A creek is the natural drainage for a flood plain. It’s where the water wants to go (which kinda sucks)  and where the water will sure to be carried away (which is awesome). Moving water is a good thing. Water that just builds and builds because it has nowhere to go is a bad thing.

For the rest of the pasture, it’s a whole different story. Water builds up and drains slowly. (Mainly due to culvert pipes that aren’t big enough, but that’s a whole ‘nother story involving CalTrans that you’d probably rather poke yourself in the eye with a blunt kebob skewer than listen to.)

Basically, all you need to know is 1. Having the house on the creek is probably why in the 154 years this house has stood, it has never flooded. Even when it wasn’t even on a foundation, like it is today 2. We have a barn/garage and a larged penned area with 2 shelters for the goats and chickens that gets massively flooded.

So after reading about the metaphoric firehose pointed at my town, I immediately knew we had to sandbag the shit out of the garage and figure where the hell the animals will go.

I went to the fire station and got some sandbags. (and introduced myself to the Fire Chief, who is a key person to know when the shit is about to go down) Then I went to CalTrans with a shovel and filled the sandbags. I moved a bunch of old sandbags along the garage doors and added the new ones. I went to the feed store to pick up more grain and wood shavings for a make-shift pen my husband and I would build in the garage when he got home. I got buckets filled with fresh water and moved some stuff off the floor and onto pallets.

I then decided to dig out the drainage channel in our pasture, near the aforementioned culvert, in order to ensure the water flows into the culvert pipe. Now, we do have a tractor. Does it work? Negative. If it did work, could I operate it? Negative. So I got my shovel and went out in the crazy wind and dug it out as best I could.  Since I was on a roll with all the manual labor, I decided to dig a moat around the chicken pen so the water would flow away from the foundation and provide a safe, dry place for the goats and chickens to weather the storm. Or so I thought…

(Can I just skip ahead and tell you something? All that ditch digging? Yeah, it was for nothing. When you have a lake in your yard, a moat is cute, but totally useless.)

We had 3 storms forecasted- each one stronger than the other. By the end of the first storm, my husband had come home and we knew the measly amount of sandbags wasn’t gonna do diddly-squat. So, off we went to fill up more. By the end of the 2nd storm, we knew that wasn’t going to be enough and our ridiculously awesome friends came over and helped fill up 30 bags more. They taped plastic sheets to the bottom of the doors and threw the sandbags on top. As a tried and true perfectionist, when my husband sets out to ensure that no water is going to get into the garage, you bet your sweet bippy no water is getting into the garage.

The big storm hit us. The wind howled and the rain kept on coming down. The already saturated ground puddled up quickly and the creek rose. And rose. And rose. We nervously watched as it spilled over the banks, lapped at the deck and then the waters flowing throughout the entire property joined together as one big happy flooding family. How quaint.

But before Lake Tahoe appeared in our pasture, we decided it was time to get the goats and chickens into the garage and make-shift pen we set up for them. Thinking it was only deep puddles at the time, we stepped out to find the goats standing in 8 inches of water with the chickens standing on their backs in an attempt to not drown (for such a stupid animal, my chickens are rather smart, don’t you think? Maybe I just have genius chickens from all that free-ranging goodness).

Goats HATE water. And I knew that just behind the desperate and pathetic look in their eyes, they HATED me for letting the water touch not only their hooves, but HALF their bodies. If they could swiftly kick me in the ass at that point, I bet they would have. Yes, I’m terrible, I’m awful and I should have gone out there sooner, etc. But let me tell you people, it went from puddles to flood in 2.5 seconds. Needless to say, we got the goats and chickens in the barn and they did look quite relived to be safe, warm and dry.

In the midst of all the soggy madness, I managed to save a mouse. A little dark grey mouse was desperately treading water and looked at me with pleading black beady eyes, as if to say “SAVE ME!!!” Which I promptly did. I placed it in the chicken coop, on top of some dry wood shavings in the chicken’s nesting box to warm up. I checked after the waters had receded and it had apparently survived, only a little indentation was left where it burrowed in to get warm and dry. Big Ass Karma Points for me! (Though when I told people in town my mouse-saving story and they looked at me like I was a complete jack-ass and a bleeding heart liberal. Who the hell saves a mouse, when it and all its offspring are just going to infest your house eventually?)

So, this is what the creek and property looked like at the peak of the storm:

stream_flood

That is not a person in the stream, that’s a statue. My neighbor told me I should buy him scuba gear.

front_flood_2

The tide is high but I’m holding on….

And this is how our goat pen, side yard, and barn area looked like when the clouds broke and the storm was passing:

front_flood

Lakefront property!

I learned many things from this experience…but here are a few that stood out to me:

1. Water kinda sucks. Give me a couple feet of snow, but a couple feet of water? Kiss my grits.

2. That said, I better suck it up, because this “rain event” is just a little taste, an amuse bouche, if you will, of what goes down in spring when the snow melts.

3. We are blessed to be living in a small town with people that really, really help. People who will stop by and let you know that they expect you to call if you need them. People who will drive by and keep checking on you throughout a storm. People who drive 15 miles to help fill 30+ sandbags on a Saturday morning. People who drive 30 miles to help move crap out of your garage up to higher ground. People who will wade through shit-filled water in the rain and howling wind to help get 5 unhappy goats and 6 hysterical chickens into your barn. People who have been there, done that and will reassure you that you don’t have to build an arc. People who are more than willing to drive their ginormous cattle rig over just to put 5 goats and 6 chickens in it if the barn floods. People who will tell you to stop worrying and have a beer…but if you need anything just holler.

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Busy

Food for thought.

I’ve been busy. I work for a non-profit and it’s fundraise-the-shit-out-of-the-end-of-the-year time. And as the email and direct mail fundraiser, I’m slammed. That means I’ve been writing…A TON. And it makes very little room in my brain for blog writing. I am limited to making short and slightly witty comments on Facebook. That’s all I can handle. It’s rather sad. Next thing you know I’ll be on Twitter because I’ll only be able to come up with 140 characters of interesting things to say. That will be my demise, people. My demise.

Anyhoo, here’s a little re-cap of what’s been going down on the ranch…

Fall was short-lived. I heard folks around here talk about how it’s basically summer and winter in the Sierras. I could not bring myself to accept that, as I love Fall. I love the vibrantly colored leaves, the chill in the air, but more than anything I love the food. Around October, I fall back in love with my oven. Pot roast, soups, stews…Though, I do wait till it’s the very last day to break it off with my grill. I’ll grill in 45 degree weather, just to say goodbye. And then it’s off to the warm arms of my oven.

The Fall leaves were so lovely- our aspens twinkled in yellow hues, our cottonwoods glowed and the pastures wore a lovely shade of gold.

Then BOOM. One snow storm came and went and the landscape changed. I think every leaf on our huge, 100 year old cottonwood trees dropped in a single day. Winter was here.

Still, I relished in those 2+weeks of Fall.  I come from the land of No Fall. So I’ll take Any Fall At All. (Did you see that? I’m totally channelling Dr.Suess.)

Winter is here. It’s cold. Even the cobwebs freeze.

photo

And let me tell you, when you hear the phrase “a storm is blowing in”, know that that very phrase originated in the Sierra Valley. There is no fury like a Sierra Valley wind. I’m talking blow your kids away type winds. I’m talking your house is shaking, creaking and the double pane vinyl windows are bending type winds. I’m saying if my chickens weren’t low to the ground, they’d be flying by my window and down the road type winds. These are some crazy ass winds. Case in point:

This was our trampoline.

This was our trampoline.

Once the storm arrives, we’ll have that husssshhhh of the snow falling. That insulating hush where the world slows down, you feel like you are encased in a feather pillow and your eyes can’t help but watch the flakes of snow drift down in front of you.

How I love the snow.

snow

We also adopted 3 more goats. A family was moving and they needed to rehome their 4-H goats. She had them on Craig’s list, but apparantly everyone who contacted her wanted to eat them. So, she was looking for a home that would not make birria out of the goats. We assured her we wanted pasture mowers not goat stew and adopted them into our ever-growing ranch family. To be perfectly honest, I can see why people wanted to eat them. They are freaking huge. They’re not ordinary goats, they’re pot-belly pig goats.

I told my kids they could each name a goat. Sophie, my practical and thoughtful child, kept the name the goat was given, Rosie. Cooper, my nostalgic boy, named his “Rock and Roll Bob” after a fish that was “re-homed” to the ocean before we moved here. Mason named his “Cow” in honor of his enduring love of all things bovine.

Every morning I walk out to the pasture to behold all the goats, faces pressed against the wire fence, hollering for hay. It makes me laugh, without fail. Seriously, how could this not make you chuckle?

Our goat, Cow.

Our goat, Cow.

So, I’ve been busy.  Sure, my professional work life is busy, but being busy for a non-profit is a good, rewarding kind of busy.  In my non-professional work life, it’s now a different kind of busy. It’s being busy because I’m working with my hands, getting mucky and muddy, sweating not because I’m on a treadmill at the gym, but because I’m digging a ditch kind of busy. It’s homesteading busy, I suppose. That kind of busy I don’t mind glorifying. I think it’s what I’m meant to be busy with and it’s the kind of busy I like. It’s being busy with a purpose.

I’ve got a few more stories to tell about the goings-ons around here…new post to come….

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Ranch Images

Fall is in the air and in the leaves…

Sunset over Sierraville.

Clouds after a storm.

Cooper meet Cow, Cow meet Cooper.

Slightly Curious Goats.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Sierraville Jr. Rodeo. (I need lessons from one of these kids.)

Sierra County Country Fair.

Old Fashion Marionette Show.

My chicks are starting to lay tiny eggs. (Large egg on left is from one of my older hens)

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Goats Gone Wild.

Meet our two new girls. They are Boer goats, meat goats, but we don’t intend to eat them, just have them mow our pasture. They are young, sisters and just weaned from their mama. They were kindly delivered to us by the goat breeder, as the mini-van is not an ideal transport for goats. They arrived last Friday and what a Friday that was.

They were absolutely terrified and skittish when they were introduced into the large fenced-in area that our chickens free-range in. I had their shelter all ready for them: straw laid down, mineral lick available and water buckets filled.

The goats huddled together in the grass and I had to leave to pick up my husband from the airport. We returned and we all headed out to the barn. The kids rode their bikes, my husband target practiced with his hunting bow and I researched on my phone as to why our power went out. The power went out a half an hour before, due to a fire burning north of us, taking down some key power lines in its path. No big deal, it was still light out and we had candles and flashlights.

I was walking toward the house to get some water and heard my husband call “THEY’RE OUT!!!!!”

All I could say was “OH SHIT.”

I turned around and saw our two goats hauling goat tail across our 10 acres of pasture and right through the barbed wire to another 10 acres of pasture.

We quickly decided to pack the 3 kids in the van and I’d drive to the road that runs by our pasture and try to head them off, while my husband would run through our pasture and together we’d try to corner them. Yeah right.

I parked and jumped a locked gate and then crawled under an electric fence, all the while shaking a bucket of chicken feed, as if I could lure them. Yeah right, again. They just looked at me like I was off my rocker and took off running deeper and deeper into the pasture.

Back I went again, army crawling under the electric fence, over the locked gate and I drove up a little way, thinking I could get ahead of them. I ran to the back of the old Sierraville school and called my husband on the cell phone. I could see him acres away… heading my way…SO FAR AWAY. I also saw the horses in our pasture running alongside him, bumping him excitedly and he’s running with a bright orange bucket (of feed) and a broom? He looked like a maniac from afar. But nothing compared to the ridiculous sight I was- a panting, sweaty, woman running through pastures in FLIP FLOPS. Smart.

I see them run into a ditch surrounded by thick wild rose shrubs. I also see a guy at the Forest Service building and as I run toward the ditch I holler at him to help me corner them in the ditch. He jumps through barbed wire and gets on one side of them and I barrel through the rose bushes, in my super-appropriate-for-ranch-life flip flops. He gets them to walk toward me and I slowly get closer and they freeze staring at me. Here’s my best chance. Then I realize: WHAT THE HELL DO I HAVE TO GET THEM? I have no rope. I have nothing. But, I also have no choice. I must try. I leap forward and attempt to grab one by the hind legs and fall face first into the rose bushes. They, of course, gracefully leap away, unscathed, heading the way they came- through acres and acres of pasture that I JUST RAN ACROSS. The forest service guy yells, “GOOD LUCK!”. I nod as I’m running, agreeing with him. I’m gonna need it.

I meet up with my husband and we watch the goats run into a yard behind some stacked hay bales. I whisper to him to go one way around the hay bales and I’ll go the other, as if to ambush them. As if I’m channeling General MacArthur or something.

Yeah, so, that didn’t work.

The sisters took one look at us and ran like hell. But this time one went BACK into the pasture and the other decided to go ONTO THE HIGHWAY. I chased the goat that went into the highway, traffic was stopped and the goat trotted along, screaming for her sister. Of course everyone in town was out watering their lawns, getting a front row seat to the escaped goat spectacle. Awesome. Way to make an impression.

The goat ran across the highway and into a yard, through the yard, through many kinds of fences (barbed wire and such) and back toward a creek. Another guy filling up his car at the Country Store (presumably a kind tourist who was bequeathed with one hell of a story to tell when he got back home) saw my predicament and asked if I needed help. I breathlessly yelled “Yes!!!”. The man who owned the property the goat was running around in brandished a rope and I knew I had found my goat savior. He locked up part of his yard, so we could drive the goat into it. It was all a blur at this point, I was about to have a heart attack from all the running and the fact it was still 90 degrees out at 7pm. Somehow, the man I shall call The Goat Wrangler, roped the goat and we carried her by her legs to his horse trailer and locked her up. She was screaming all the way…if you’ve never heard a goat scream, you’re missing out, it’s the most ridiculous sound you’ve ever heard.

All the while, my husband was trying to get the other goat, but responsibly remembered that we essentially abandoned our three children in our running mini-van. So he said to hell with the goat and went to check on the kids….had a cop drove by while we were engaged in goat chasing, I’m sure we’d be arrested upon our return for being negligent and shitty parents. Sigh.

Meanwhile, The Goat Wrangler generously agreed to help my husband get the other goat while I drove the kids back to the house. Of course the power was out, so they hung out watching TV in van. I went into the goat enclosure to see how in the hell the goats got out and found a hole in the fencing that I hadn’t caught when I did a fencing check before they arrived. I jammed a feed bowl over it, so at least we could get the goats back in the enclosure and not have them escape again till we could fix the fencing.

While my husband and The Goat Wrangler were out in our neighbor’s pasture and I had the kids go in the house, told them to eat anything they want, play with toys and don’t hurt each other or themselves. I also told my 6 year old to watch the other two. Not one of my best parenting moments, but I had to do what I had to do. I went out there to help. I heard the goat screaming in the creek area and followed the creek a bit till I saw them.

Then we all heard coyotes. Yipping. Like after a kill.

Shit.

I’m going to be brutally honest here. Call me terrible, call me inhumane, call me heartless…I was slightly relieved. You try chasing goats all over God’s Green Earth in FLIP FLOPS and 90 degree heat for over 3 hours.  I mean, this was a DAUNTING task. This was an IMPOSSIBLE task. To capture two wily, intelligent and fast creatures that are absolutely terrified of you, have absolutely no bond with you, will never return to your pasture because it’s not home to them and are probably looking for their mother anywhere and everywhere they can…couple that with two people that have NEVER owned goats before, can’t rope something that isn’t moving, much less something that moves really fast and generally have no freaking idea what they are doing….really what are the chances? We should have gave up hours before, if we were smart.

But…we aren’t smart. And I loved those stupid goats the moment I saw them. And we had The Goat Wrangler on our side.

The goat ended up stuck in the muddy water of the creek. In the middle of a massive entanglement of willows, so tired and so over it, it just gave up. With the gruff instruction of The Goat Wrangler, my husband jumped into the mass of willows, into the mud and water and grabbed the goat and pulled her out. He came out of the creek with her, tripped onto a rock and gashed his shin. Bleeding profusely, while the goat used her last bit of energy to scream and struggle, he held onto that damn goat. It was stunningly heroic, in a ridiculous goat-saving sort of way.

We carried her by her legs back to our house, through 10 acres of pasture. We put her in the chicken pen (which was a converted sheep shelter and very large) and she screamed and threw herself onto the fencing for about ten minutes.

It still wasn’t over. I had to go back and get the other goat.

The Goat Wrangler and I drove back and I brought a large dog carrier with me to put her in. Somehow we shoved the pissed off and scared goat into the carrier and The Goat Wrangler gave me some wise advice:

1. Fix the damn fence.

2. Get collars.

3. Get rope.

4. Tie the rope to collars and then you’ll have something to grab onto.

I thanked him profusely. Over and over again. He didn’t say much, just shook his head and said “You’re welcome” and went inside his house. In his head I bet he was thinking “You fish-out-of-water-dumb-ass-city-kids. You better get collars and a rope, cause I’m never doing that shit again.” If that is what he was thinking, I’ll never know, but I wholeheartedly agree. (I dropped off some homemade jam and pickles with a gushing thank you note the next day.)

I went back to the house and we (for once!) thought of a plan before we did anything. We came up with a plan to put the dry goat in the shelter and then hold down the wet goat, dry her off (she was shivering and goats HATE to be wet) and then bring her to the shelter. That plan (for once!) went smoothly.

Needless to say, our goat girls spent the next day locked in their shelter. I think everyone involved was relieved about that- they got to recover from their escapades and my husband was able to fix the gate and the hole in the fence. We somehow got collars on them and attached 10 feet of loose rope so we could grab them and eventually train them to let us lead them. I even bought two ropes for roping livestock and practiced a bit.

I don’t even want to go into how stupidly hard it was to get them back into the shelter that night, and the night after…but now they seem to be getting used to things around here. They are eating and drinking, which is a good sign. They still run from me when I try to get them into the shelter, or pretty much anytime they see me, but I’m working on them. I’m seeing more curiosity than fear in their goat eyes (have you SEEN goat eyes??? Now that’s some weird shit right there.)

We still have yet to name them. My kids came up with Rhubarb and Huckleberry, which I quite like.

Although Crazy-Ass-Goats have been their names for the past 3 days….quite fitting.

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