Sunday, March 15, 2015

Emergency Goat Surgery

It has been a tough 6 weeks here at Mountain Hollow Farm. If you’ve not read my last blog post, you can catch up here. As we were getting ready to take Grover for cremation last Monday, I noticed that one of our pregnant does, Magic, had something funky hanging out of her back end. We took her to the vet to discover she had a herniated uterus and needed emergency surgery. The left lobe of her uterus had “slipped” through a hole in her abdomen wall. The hole was a about 2.5” in diameter. The left lobe of her uterus was 3.5” to 4” in diameter and 7”-8” long. As you can imagine, the vet had a hard time putting it back in place.
Magic, awaiting surgery
Once she returned Magic’s uterus to its proper place, she opened it up to remove the dead kid. To our surprise, there was no kid. It turns out that she had miscarried it and the placenta is what she was passing. Her uterus was swelled from the trauma of the hernia.
Magic, prepped for surgery
After she was stitched back up, we brought Magic home. She seemed to be doing well that evening and on Tuesday. However, on Wednesday, she refused sweet feed. That is like a kid refusing candy. Hoping that it was just an upset stomach from the antibiotic and painkiller we were giving her, I gave her some probiotics. Sadly, a few hours later I found her dead. Our 3rd dead goat in 1.5 weeks.

The next day, I took her to the vet to be cremated (we don’t have a tractor to dig a hole, and I was not even going to try it by hand in our rocky soil). I did not skin her because she had a huge bald spot from being shaved for surgery so I borrowed our vet’s electric shears to harvest her fleece.

The only “good” thing about all this is that this was my first time using electric shears and it was way easier to shear a dead goat than a live one. Those shears are very sharp and it is easy to cut the skin with them.

Honestly, if this was our first year farming, I’d probably be quitting right now. However, we have done it long enough that I know this is not the norm. We have better days ahead. In fact, we will begin kidding next week or the following one. There is not much that can make you smile more than watching a bunch of energetic goat kids. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Winter Farming Challenges

Tyler digging out the gate.
We usually have fun on the farm, but the last couple weeks have been a challenge.
On February 21st, we had a 10” snowfall. Including the storms a couple days before AND after that storm, we had a total accumulation of 16”. Those of you who live in areas that get that much snow regularly aren’t fazed by that thought. However, we don’t get that much snow on a regular basis and it basically cripples the area. The county doesn’t have enough equipment to clear the roads quickly. Fortunately, we have a 4 wheel drive truck, so we were able to get around for the most part. I got the truck stuck twice.

Feeding the animals is difficult in deep snow. Imagine carrying 40 lb hay bales through 16” of snow and ice… It’s not fun. And the subzero temperatures caused the water troughs to freeze, making watering the animals a special kind of difficult. Oh, and we had to climb gates because the snow blocked them shut.

The water rose another 6" before we started moving stuff.
Finally, the temperature warmed up enough to make the snow melt but it also rained. The combination nearly made our creek flood. There was not anything we could do to further protect the animals, but we did move a lot of stuff from the first floor of the barn to the loft. Coincidentally (and thankfully), the creek crested around the same time we were rearranging the barn.
Our neighbors, Tyler & David, helped us move our things to the loft.
Prior to the warm-up, the low temperatures caused pipes in our house to burst and claimed the lives of two of our goats. They both died overnight. Vanili, our angora buckling, died March 3rd. Grover, our oldest buck, died on March 6th.
We'll miss Grover. He was a gentle giant.

If you cry easily or have a weak stomach, you may want to stop reading here. There are things I
NEVER thought I would do before I started farming and the following are definitely some of those things.

Farming is not a high profit venture; therefore, farmers have to use every part of the animal they can just to stay in business. Sadly, that means I’ve had to learn how to skin goats in order to sell their tanned pelts. Needless to say, it is far from my favorite farm chore but I’ve done it twice in the past week.

But it gets more morbid than that… Grover had very large, very impressive horns that I’d like to have on display for our educational school tours. When I took him to the vet to be cremated, I asked if she could remove his head so we could preserve the skull and horns. Guess what… she didn’t even bat an eye. (They occasionally have to send dogs’ heads to the lab to be tested for rabies.) Suffice to say that it was like something out of a horror film. I imagine taxidermists do that sort of thing all the time. (I’m glad I’m not a taxidermist).  

So, home I go with a goat head. Removing the flesh is as simple as hanging the head in the barn so the flies can clean it off. (I know it’s gross – sorry! I hung it in an inconspicuous place.) Now, I’m not going to go into any more details on this blog, but I’d be willing to discuss it when I see you in person if you are curious about any of this.

To top off everything, as we were getting ready to take Grover for cremation, I noticed that one of our pregnant does, Magic, had something funky hanging out of her back end. We took her to the vet to discover she needed emergency surgery. I’ll write more about that in my next post.

I agree with that saying: Do something you love and you’ll never work another day of your life. At least I agree with it 80% of the time… J

Friday, February 27, 2015

Beavers and Their Dam Activity at the Farm!

Hello out there to our fellow winter weather warriors, we hope that everyone is keeping warm and safe! Curl up with a hot cup of something (tea perhaps?) and read about this exciting discovery here at the farm!

Flora was not the only thing we observed while we were hiking the proposed nature trail recently, there was also sign of fauna in the form of freshly sharpened tree stubs and shaved branches from a skilled whittler. It quickly became apparent that beavers are settling into the creek near the old dam that once powered the mill! We were very excited to discover these fascinating mammals starting to build their home and will be eager to watch the progress. Although beavers are thought to be nuisances by many, their alterations of a habitat is natural and creates diversity and ecosystem enrichment found nowhere else. 

And so it is, beavers are building a dam near the historic man-made dam. Irony? Coincidence? We'll leave it to the beavers!


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Nature and History Collide!

Marble we found near the trail
This week at Mountain Hollow Farm we embraced our inner nature geek and talked trail building with one of the fine educators at Lincoln Memorial University, Dr. Katie Benson. We are very excited to start the process of establishing a nature trail at the farm. Once completed, it will follow the creek to the dam then climb the mountain a bit to an old logging road and loop back to the beginning. It will be a wonderful opportunity for visitors to see rare and beautiful flora that is exclusive to the farm’s ecosystem!

A very interesting gall
Some of the flora we observed (even in winter!) on our hike with Dr. Benson was Walking Fern, Liverwort, Running Cedar, and Climbing Fern. We also observed several galls - an abnormal plant growth caused by insects feeding or laying eggs on a plant - a neat phenomenon that most everyone has probably seen without knowing! But the trail’s most spectacular beauties emerge in the spring, the wildflowers! 

A unique aspect of the trail is that it used to be the mill race that ran from the dam to the old grist mill and sawmill that were once here at the farm. Visitors will be welcome to take photos as they walk along the scenic creek side and will also be able to take part in history as they stand on the trail that was once an operating mill. We are very happy and grateful to continue a partnership with Lincoln Memorial University and look forward to working with Dr. Benson and her students over the coming year to establish our trail system. Check out our Facebook page or sign up for our newsletter to track our progress.
(The leaves look like reptile skin)
Climbing Fern (Lygodium palmatum)

Running Ground Cedar (Diphasiastrum digitatum)