Consecration Acres

"If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy."

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A paper triumph, a real loss and a thin skin

On Monday I sat down and figured out how we could provide all our family’s dairy needs for a full year from two dairy goats.  It  was, of course, a “perfect world” proposal, but I was pretty conservative with milk estimates, stuck mainly to Penny’s somewhat rotten milk curve from last year (which I think I could improve by feeding her a bit more grain–I think she got a little thin there for a while) and estimated that we’d go through a full pound of butter and cheese every week.  It took a couple of revisions, but it came together and I was very pleased…especially as our current shelter can really only fit two adult goats and a couple of babies at a time AND I really don’t want to take on the expense and upkeep of a third goat right now.

That was Monday.

Tuesday morning my son commented that Angel was “not a morning goat”, that she was just waking up when he went out and that she’d made some weird face at him.  It struck me as odd that she wasn’t up at the break of dawn, as usual.  A little later he went out to take them to pasture and clean their stall and came back in too soon.  “Momma….” in the stomach-sinking tone that they get when there’s a problem.  Angel was down.  She could stand up with a lot of urging and she would respond when someone came in, but she wasn’t eating or drinking and was mostly lying on her side and moaning.  I skimmed through my books and did a quick internet search but nothing came up, so I found our vet’s number and called him.  He came out and looked at her, stood her up to try to get her to walk, which she could only do if she leaned against something, and even then, only very poorly as she was really weak, almost non-functional, on one side.  He said this was evidence of neurological problems and that, in the absence of any other symptoms, he suspected botulism poisoning.  He gave her antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, but said that he didn’t have much hope for her recovery.  He gave us a couple of doses of medicine to give her that night and morning if she made it that long.  The boys got her to take about half a dose that night.

The next morning I awakened hoping that I would find her either up and about, or gone.  She was neither.  She was much worse–now mainly just lying on her side twitching and moaning a little.  The poor kids went out there and tried to get her to drink some water.  Whereas the day before she’d jump and fight water being squirted into her mouth, now she just lay there.  Penny was milling about restlessly.  My husband and I had talked the night before about whether we wanted to pay the vet to come out to put her down if things went south for Angel.  We had decided that we’d rather call some ranching friends from Church.  I did so.  They, very kindly came out and helped us out her down.  Just my oldest son and I watched while she was shot, but the other kids all saw the aftermath–saw her body dragged out to the truck and saw her jugular cut and body drained, as her nervous system was not quieting down.  They were all really upset when I had suggested that they stay inside, and I decided not to fight them on it.  I kept looking at my five-year-old (Miss Belle) and asking if she was ok, she just kept saying “it doesn’t matter.”  She didn’t like my watching her and asking her about it.

And so Angel went.  I had Oldest Brother go out and put the bloody straw around the trees in the orchard.  He came in looking relieved and said that he felt so much better now that that was over.  It took me a little longer, but as I was driving to my midwives’ appointment, finally peace settled around me and I knew that it had been the right decision.  It seems like seeing an animal like that should make the decision easy, but it was still really hard to decide to end a life.

Miss Belle asked a lot of questions about Angel at dinner and came down after being in bed for a little while, sobbing and saying that the movie we had watched earlier (The Aristocats) was too scary.  I’m inclined to think it was much more the events of the morning…

The next day I had to call our neighbor and tell her that we had killed her goat….sigh…..rotten call to have to make.  She asked a lot of questions, but said that we could come over any time to look at another goat so Penny wouldn’t have to be alone.

We went over before lunch today.  She doesn’t have very many this year, and she isn’t selling any tried and trues except for one really skittish one.  The one we decided to try to buy isn’t kidding until March 29th (the day after my due date), so we’re looking at Penny 1) being alone for another month  2) boarding over there, but then probably needing to kid over there as well since it would be pushing her due date  3) “borrowing” a goat over here as a companion for her…except that that won’t work because the only ones she’d let us borrow are too big and pushy for Penny’s temperament and could be bad for her health as she is pregnant…

Ugh.  Ugh, also that she kept asking over and over again what it was that got Angel sick and kept saying that she could have taken Angel in her truck to someone who could have saved her.  I think she’s really nervous about selling us another goat, and I can’t say I wouldn’t be thinking twice in her shoes as well…but we had the vet look over our pasture and he couldn’t see anything potentially problematic.  I also sent Biggest Brother out there again to look for anything, and then he dumped out their feeder, checked and cleaned their troughs, turned over all the bedding…nothing!  The only thing we could figure is that a rodent got caught up in the haymaking equipment or that she found a dead something in the pasture.  It is rotten not to know what happened and not to have some good way to protect Penny and any other goats in the future.  Goat school is brutal and having a 2/3rds failure rate right now is making me a little sensitive to questions and “input”.  Smile and nod, smile and nod and pray that she’ll sell us this goat…

So that was the unexpected and very life-upsetting event of the week.  GOOD things that happened were that the state-mandated ultrasound showed that baby’s growth and location of the placenta are great, our gas range is fully installed and marvelous (I hope we have a good canning season now that we have a good canning range!) and we’re expecting rain on and off for the next week.  Strawberries also went on sale for 1.29/lb and whole chickens for .79/lb so we are stuffing the freezer.  We are taking advantage of every sale as they come!