Here are some of the things I've learned already this year:
1. Don't take your goats off pasture while they are pregnant. We housed our mama goats with our hens when they grew near birth to keep the buck away from them. During that time, they experienced a host of health problems, including parasites, which normally we do not have a problem with.
2. For that matter, don't house goats with hens. They tore nesting boxes off the walls trying to get at the feeders we had placed out of their reach and generally created havoc in the hen house.
3. And furthermore, know the exact day your goats conceived. You'll have a much better idea as to when they will give birth. My calculations were off by 3 weeks since we just threw the buck in the pen with them when we got him and 5 months later we couldn't recall the exact date we got him to begin with.
4. Goats can retain their placenta for up to 3 days after giving birth without much danger. I didn't know this and when one of or mamas hadn't birthed her placenta withing 24 hours, I called the vet to ask. The secretary at the vet's office told me to bring her in immediately. I would like to interject at this point that loading a goat who has just given birth onto a stock trailer is--er--difficult. Even if you intend the load the baby with her to avoid separation, getting her to realize the plan is a whole other story. In the end, she went without baby and was none too happy about it. My husband missed class that evening to help out as well. When we got there, the vet went ahead and removed the placenta and loaded her up with antibiotics so we wouldn't have to come back if things didn't proceed on their own. (Let me tell you, it's not a delicate process and one best avoided if it can be!) She also told me I could have waiting up to 3 days before any real danger of infection set in. Wish I had been told so on the phone so I could have avoided the time, stress (to mama human AND mama goat), expense, and having my husband miss class.
5. A lesson learned throughout our time here on earth is that death is a part of life. One of our 3 babies died a few days after birth. We don't know if he got too cold, if he had a disease, if the mama rejected him (he was a twin), or if he had a congenital problem. He just got weak and died, despite our trying to bottle feed him by the wood stove. It's especially hard for my kids, but I do think it prepares them for when we lose someone really special. Not that it gets easier . . .
6. There's no such thing as a free horse. I was offered 2 Ponies of the Americas ponies in December, and they were delivered in January. I learned the hard way, after much stress and expense, that horse and pony ownership are not to be launched into lightly. Luckily, I was able to find them a good home and even trade them for riding lessons for my kids from their new owner. We can still visit them! I also made the difficult decision to put my beloved Belgian Tervuren to sleep. He could barely get off the floor anymore and I was cleaning up after him daily. We also decided to get rid of our Boer buck that we could not keep pinned away from the girls with 10 ft high fences, hot wires, etc. My stress level went from a 10 to a 2. The real lesson is: know when it's too much. The "homesteading" lifestyle is supposed to bring us peace, presence, and joy. Those have come back to me in abundance since I pared back down. I may now have to find the "services" of an off-farm buck, but I'll deal with that when the time comes!
7. When you hear a calling to do something in your life, answer it! I have felt called to homeschool my children for years; however, fear, my husband's reluctance, fear, a tight budget, fear, and, um, did I mention fear? have kept me from it. I am making the change this fall because the pain of not answering the call has been unbearable. Unfortunately, this transition would have been easier if I had done it when first called to. Jonah and the whale, anyone? But more on that later . . .
8. I've always been good at not buying things I don't need, thrift shopping, cooking from scratch, etc., but now I am learning how to coupon and wait for deals for the things I do need to purchase. This is helping my budget immensely. It is like having a part-time job, but I'm getting more efficient at it and it's a part-time job I can do from home while homeschooling.
9. Pray about EVERYTHING. I have been wrapped up in a million forms of fear, self pity, resentment, etc. as I've made some necessary changes in my life. When my prayer life is consistent, it all seems to resolve despite of me. I've also seen the hearts of those close to me change as I've done the things I've been called to do. Why didn't I think of that sooner?
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