It is an incredible responsibility to be in charge not only of your own well-being but those of your family as well. We have two growing and beautiful children, but we have 19 chickens, a beehive, 3 dogs and 4 goats. Each one deserves a series of blogs covering what we’ve done right and what we wish we could change. Parenthood is indeed a challenge and full of discoveries and there isn’t anything that really prepares us except actually doing it! This blog will be devoted to our newest family members - Milk Dud, Snickers, Daisy and Delilah.
Momma is Daisy and she’s the biggest with all of our goats being Nubians. Daisy was bred with a Nubian dwarf and they produced Milk Dud and Snickers. (Milk Dud is a boy and Snickers is a girl.) We aren’t sure if Delilah is a pure bred Nubian or not but she’s small and at least mostly Nubian. We did a lot of research on the different types of goats and decided that for now, Nubian is the way to go. They are a hardy group of goats that are good for milking and meat; which at the end of the day, is exactly what we are looking for. Originally we were going to get Milk Dud and Snickers once they were weaned along with Delilah and her sister. A sad story later, we had to hurriedly pick up the ones we have now. And that in and of itself was a bit of the problem. We had to hurry to prepare for them. Instead of having 6 weeks to prepare for their arrival, we had just a few days during the hectic work-week to become ready. I felt like the count-down was on and ready or not, here they came!
Mackay had researched the goat the fencing in advance and it was actually ready. Please check out his youtube video on the brand/model here: https://youtu.be/CJRDcpKTmkM
While I was out working my day job, he had to put it out himself and get it ready, all 200 yards. It worked just fine and the solar battery was charging. We had a lovely Friday after work trip to Tractor Supply to pick up food, salt blocks and stands, formula and then baby bottles from Dollar General. (Tractor Supply was out of the nipples and bottles.) We dropped those items off and then went to get the goats. After talking a bit with their owners, we loaded them up in the back of our truck (it has a topper so no one could jump out) and we gave them some food to munch on for the short drive home. By now, it was almost pitch black. This was turning into a problem - it was extremely dark and we were holding flashlights in our mouths so that we could have both hands free to carry the kids and get the ladies out and settled. Finally, we get our own kids to bed and set out to see how our other kids are doing in their new home.
The electric fence is ticking as it should and we checked every panel to see if it was on - it was but… just didn’t have a kick or any juice. Now we are concerned, not that our goats would get out, but that something would get in - our goats were sticking their heads through the fencing and leaning on it like it wasn’t electrified! This is a BIG problem! It’s really late now, pitch black, we’re tired but know we won’t sleep knowing our goats are essentially unprotected. After some quick texts with their previous owner, Mackay works a little magic! Off comes the solar panel on goes a new power source that we jerry rig from our workshop. There is a definite bite now to the fence and we call it a day.
The next morning, it’s time time feed milk to the babies. Based off of what we were told, the girl would Not bottle feed but the buckling would be hungry and eat because Daisy wasn’t producing enough milk. Dollar General nipples for babies do not work nearly as well as nipples designed for goats - we learned that the hard way! Every few sucks you have to pull the nipple back out from inside the bottle so the babies can reattach and that gets old. Fortunately, it appears Daisy is producing more and Milk Dud and Snickers are getting enough to eat. We do still occasionally supplement but not regularly. We have seen both kids trying to eat fresh clippings although it seems they’re trying to figure out what all they can and can’t eat. Daisy and Delilah LOVE animal crackers like it’s crack but the babies could care less. Daisy and Delilah are much more coaxable when they know you have their treats. One shake of the canister will bring them running.
24 hours goes by and we relax a bit until a very strong storm moves suddenly into our area with a lot of lightening. We had not had time to build a shelter for them and we were really worried about the babies. The ladies were accustomed to being outside in the rain and weather, but the babies were not. After a break in the storm about 1am or so, Mackay was able to bring them all over to our enclosed porch and warm Milk Dud and Snickers with his body heat and towels. He gave them warm milk, all four of them actually although Snickers wasn’t really interested. The babies stopped shivering and Milk Dud now idolizes Mackay and thinks he is a rock star. The next day, Mackay made a make-shift shelter to keep them dry and our kids added several buckets full of pine needles to give them a bed. Success! Last night it rained again and everyone was snug as a bug in a rug. In fact, the kids think it’s fun to jump on the tarp and they all seem to like being under it together. Quality family bonding time perhaps?
All in all, what a joy they are! And it’s good family bonding time for us too - instead of sitting in front of the tv, we all sit in the goat pen playing with the Milk Dud, Snickers while trying to get Daisy and Delilah more comfortable with us. Our kids enjoy playing on the brush pile along with the goats. The chickens often come join us and peck around. The dogs each were shocked by the fence and keep their distance now, which is a blessing because Freyja was all about trying to get herself a goat sandwich. Peace and routine, once again, has settled upon Iron Side Ranch. Not sure how long it will last but for now, we savor it and thank God for our beautiful and growing family.
Luke Bryant says that “days go slow and years go fast” and that seems to fit life right now. There’s not enough hours in a day to get everything done and yet the year goes by as it should. The kids are growing fast and when Facebook pops old posts of the kids from 2 or 3 years ago, I’m amazed at the difference. I find that I think I’ll remember these happy moments forever of their childhood but quickly realize I can’t remember what I had for breakfast, let alone what cute phrase the kids said years ago. I wish that every moment of joy could be captured in a bottle to be released in moments of hardship! Just the other day, Hannah was saying that today was the best day ever. Her reasons for why are simple and beautiful. She has a lot of ‘best days ever’ for which I am deeply grateful. (And since she can’t remember her last favorite days and why, I don’t feel so bad at forgetting mine so quickly either.)
Yesterday we received the call that our precious little baby goats were going to be have to be bottle fed because mommy goat had unexpectedly lost the ability to produce enough milk. Last week we watched as they jumped and played and nursed. And now, the girl is fighting to stay alive because she doesn’t want to bottle feed. Their owners have asked that we pick them up this weekend because bottle feeding two babies just isn’t in their hectic schedule. And on top of that, we were going to bring home two other of their mature girls to help thin their herd! Now we are hastily trying to figure out fencing and lodging for four goats instead of two. We received a call this very morning that something (probably a very large dog based on track marks) had jumped their fence and killed two of their goats, one being one of the girls we were going to take. This is real life on a farm! One day everything is fine and the next, things have drastically changed.
Had to laugh at myself when I started comparing our ranch with my real estate business. Life in both worlds can completely change quickly although real estate isn’t generally life or death thank goodness! Just the other day, we had the green light to close and then two days before closing received word the seller (a company that handles foreclosures) didn’t have their paperwork straight and had no idea when it could close. Talk about frustrating! Yes, I get that they aren’t exactly the same thing but the disappointment and change is just as real. And… you have to go with the flow! Life could be stressful if we let every disappointment and change weigh us down. Instead, we have to look at the positive. One goat gets eaten, mommy goat gets to come to our ranch and stay with her babies instead. One closing falls through and we get to look for another house that’ll be even better. We ended up rescuing a starving dog about two hours before an open house I was hosting at our current Iron Side Ranch location and that was fun! 3 dogs all getting to know each other all the while I’m showing potential buyers through the house and property. Am happy to report the rescue has adjusted nicely into the pack and all is well in the animal world here. Next step is to see how all 3 dogs respond to the new arrivals that are coming. We have made our trip to our favorite local feed and hardware store - Tractor Supply and we are ready for the 4 new family additions! Life is good. Life IS good.
We have our goats! Next blog will go over the first lessons and mistakes we learned! And there are a LOT… :o)
Life on a farm has subtle rhythms and it’s those familiarities of routine that I thrive on. Wake up is the same every day during the week and a consistent time on the weekend. Coffee is the first order before anything except the sun coming up which thankfully doesn’t require my immediate attention to do. (It’s going to come up whether I’m ready or not.) The kids eat breakfast and get ready for school. Morning chores with the animals can almost be done half asleep because we generally are and everything still gets done right. And then the day progresses between rote chores and daytime career demands. The fire needs attending to every hour or so to keep it going just right in the winter. The chickens move around the property with regularity and the crowing of the roosters is somehow comforting and reassuring. The dogs are in a sleep rhythm until something I can’t hear gets their attention. The coo-coo clock ticks and chimes punctually. (Punctually doesn’t mean on time, having the hardest time getting it set to keep the right time but that’s another story.) Mackay and I have our own texting and calling rituals that I love. It’s comfortable and pleasant amidst the chaos of the world.
Sword fights do break out in gleeful randomness and the sibling squabbling does occur. Chickens get left out accidentally and a predator snatches one away right under our noses. Cars break down. Someone catches a cold but the gentle rhythm of the ranch never strays for long. I can imagine the cows munching along happily. Goats playing and eating without a care and pigs grunting and snorting and digging. Ah yes, these three animals are all still in my imagination and dreams but they’re coming this year. (4 goats arrive later this week!) The electric fence on my entry bench is a daily reminder that they really are coming. I think Saturday’s are my favorite with Sunday’s as a close second because that’s when we are all together. The kids bring a lot of noise and energy and Saturday’s are work days. We all pitch in together whether it’s cleaning out the chicken coop, stacking wood, working on the tractor, planting trees or cleaning the house. It’s the day we relax by working outside and together. Sunday’s are family days. Morning ranch chores, church and then home to a nice lunch prepared by Mackay and then we play. Corn hole is a new family favorite although a game of cards or Clue is definitely a possibility. This is the day we slow down and reconnect with each other as a family. We talk, we laugh, we relax and thank God for the life we have together. This is the day we plan out our week, review our family budget and if possible, steal a nap or run to the ice cream store for a sweet treat. (The kids are way more in favor of the ice cream but that’s no surprise there.)
Slowing down and working harder and smarter has been a life changer. Sure, there’s always stress when things happen - life happens and the unexpected hits BUT savoring the simple moments, stopping to enjoy the fire in the stove, petting the dogs or even taking a few seconds to breath in the sunlight, spending time in the Word has never been a moment regretted. When I take these few moments during the day to reconnect with those around me, I’m present in the moment, present for those I love and care about and more focused on work when I need to be. The more we live without tv and electronic distractions, the more meaningful time becomes. At this moment, we are considering a small possibility of selling our property and moving to an area of 150 acres that doesn’t have anything on it except dreams and possibilities, trees, a pond, a stream and wildlife. Could we sell our home and move into something temporary while we build a home from the ground up? We’d have to dig a well, put in a septic tank and get a propane tank and a solar array almost immediately. There isn’t a power grid to join. No cable. No internet that we know of and it’s a bit of a drive to the local grocery.
It’s an intriguing idea. Honestly, I’m not sure we do it and enjoy it without killing each other! Part of me says “hell yes!” and the other part says “are you crazy, no A/C with Alabama summers?”. But to live on just over 150 acres would mean we could become full time homesteaders and ranchers within a few short years and we would eventually build a bigger house as funds became available. Well, the reality is that we are about to find out because we close on this precious land later this month! And no matter what happens, I’m not sorry that we dared to dream and are striving to reach those dreams one moment at a time. Let’s see what today holds and tomorrow dreams up while keeping pace with the gentle rhythms of our farm…
I'm a wife, mom of 3 wonderful children, homeschool teacher and loving ranching. After Mackay and I married, we've been steadily pursing our goals of having a self sufficient life and teaching others along the way.