Plastic, Plastic, Plastic

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It’s Plastic Free July, an event that despite being less linguistically attractive than, say, Dry July, Movember, Meatless Monday, or even Sugar-Free September is nonetheless important. Because we all know that packaging waste, single-use plastic in particular, is making a big disgusting mess of our planet.

Plastic is great stuff. It is durable, waterproof, resistant to bacteria, hygienic and can be formed into just about anything you can imagine. It is also fairly cheap. But some of those qualities constitute a double-edged sword.

Of course we all get told that we need to avoid single use plastic because of the environmental impacts. But telling us little people, us end users with precious little power to make any real change, that it is our responsibility to just not buy things with plastic on them, is really pointing the finger in the wrong direction.

Like a lot of things, this environmental responsibility and consumer guilt is disproportionately directed at women. Because we are the ones who get the fun jobs like grocery shopping, caring for small children, cooking, cleaning and looking after sick people. All of those things come with a side-order of plastic, which we are often powerless to avoid.

As someone attempting to build a small business producing and selling mainly consumable products, I have become acutely aware of ways in which packaging is forced upon us.

First of all we have labeling laws. While I am allowed to sell bars of soap unpackaged as long as I provide all the relevant details at point of sale, most consumables are required by law to be sold with a label.

My moisturisers, herbal balms, lip balms and bath minerals must all be packaged and labeled. The labels must include every ingredient name in full, the physical address where the product was packed, the minimum net weight, and the name of the product and manufacturer.

While I have managed to source compostable packaging for my lip balms, and even compostable plastic tubs for the bath minerals, I am left relying on recylable packaging for my lotions and balms. Aluminium tins for the balms, which are poured at a high temperature, and plastic tubs for the lotions which must be able to be sealed against moisture and other contaminants.

But even when zero-waste packaging options are available, unless you are buying in quantities to make it worth buying pre-printed containers, you still have to stick on a label. Pre-printed packaging is usually offered on minimum runs of 1000, and you need a different print for each variety, so for me the outlay for pre-printed lip balm tubes would be around $5000.

I have not been able to source any labels that are completely biodegradable. All the labels currently available have a plastic layer. Thus making it almost impossible for me to comply to labeling requirements without including a plastic component in my packaging. My current recommendation is that people using my products packed in compostable packaging remove the label before composting. It’s better than a whole plastic tube, but it’s not ideal.

Labeling is necessary to protect consumers and monitor supply chains, and there are a lot of food staples you just couldn’t buy without some way of containing them. Packaging is necessary in a lot of cases, but it is time to embrace new ways

Eco friendly packaging adds to the cost of producing each unit, which is usually passed on to the consumer. There are plenty of people out there willing to spend a bit extra on an item in eco friendly packaging, but it seems that there are few big companies who are willing to make these options available. Our purchasing options are still sadly limited, most of us aren’t in a position to produce our own food and other consumables, and many women are stretched to the limit trying to balance budgets and care for their families while working full time.

Do you go for the Australian rice in the plastic bag, or the imported rice in the cloth bag? Do you stop buying corn chips altogether? Is it even possible to find a laundry detergent that is not packed in plastic, full of irritants or detrimental to your washing machine? And when we can’t fulfill all of these criteria, how do we decide which considerations are most important?

It’s the bigger companies who need to step up and start giving us real options. Most of us pour a huge percentage of our available funds into the purchase of food and other consumables, it is a big-money sector. We can only do so much with what we have available. We can’t all have a milking goat in the back yard, but that shouldn’t mean the rest of us should have to deal with the guilt of bringing home a plastic carton of milk every couple of days.

We are seeing the dawn of a new age of environmental collective conscience. But the War on Waste cannot be won at a household level. Busy mums can’t be expected to make pasta from scratch to avoid buying it in a packet. There are better options out there, but big companies just aren’t feeling the need to use them just yet. They think we have more time to change how we do things. We don’t.

Some Days Are Better Than Others

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There is an REM song that features the line ‘It’s been a bad day, please don’t take a picture’. This line rolls through my head at the end of a particularly bad day. When you are feeling raw and overwhelmed by events that came from nowhere and took your feet from under you.

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Today is July 31st. Twenty years ago this evening I was in a hospital room in Geelong, facing my first open-heart surgery. I had no idea what I was in for. My relatives had been prepared for the sight of me post-surgery in the ICU, and I had signed the consent form with the blunt and cursory warning that my survival of the next day’s operation was not guaranteed. Here are the reasons you might die, okay? Cool, now sign this. We’ll see you in the morning.

I survived that surgery, and the next one five years later. But on July 31st last year I was facing a different catastrophe. The next morning I would wake to find Cookie in labour, a whole month early. And I would find myself rushing our beloved hand-raised kid Poppy to the vets with serious respiratory distress.

August 1st 2018 was a day when things went very wrong. A bad day, please don’t take a picture. By the end of the day I would be down over $1000 for vet treatment, Poppy would be dead, Cookie’s one live-born kid from her quads, delivered by cesarean, would be beginning her unwinnable battle for life, and I would be beginning to realise just how much trouble my goats were in.

A year on I can only be thankful for the distance I have gained from that dark and desperate day. The tears I shed for Poppy and my distress at losing one from my set of perfect miracle quads. The realisation that something very, very bad was going on in my herd.

From this point things did not let up for a long time. In fact, they are only just letting up now. On the back of a frantic end of financial year at work, and the relentless, oppressive workload that came with it, I spent six weeks coming to terms with, preparing for, executing and recovering from snatching kids and having the rest of my herd destroyed. Hot on the heels of that came my breakdown at work, stress leave, repeated attempts to feel okay in my job and finally my seemingly inevitable resignation. Next came my back injury, which took my whole summer and taught me all sorts of lessons about pain.

Then just as my back was settling into something I could bear the thought of living with, my annual visit to the heart specialist became my next source of stress. A series of tests over 10 weeks, constant fear that after all these years my heart was starting to feel the effects of the hardware installed in 2005 to keep me alive. My anxiety was taking on a life of its own, shifting from a background buzz to a deafening, ceaseless roar. My body was constantly tense, strung like a bow, causing muscle pain and headaches.

A new medication to reduce the frequency of cardiac ‘events’ and settle the palpitations and ectopic beats that had escalated, likely due to the constant flow of cortisol and adrenaline through my body, had the handy side-effect of knocking my anxiety out cold. It feels weird, but it is an enormous relief. Just in time for the arrival of my old friend seasonal depression, affectionately known as Winter Flat, the name of a bleak new housing estate to the west of town.

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But it can’t rain all the time, even if sometimes it feels like it. Every year, a few weeks past the winter solstice, the life force starts to stir again. Dormant trees begin to bud. Udders on maiden does begin to spring. The horses begin to shed their winter coats. The wattles bloom and the old almond tree pops up white blossoms like popcorn on its bare branches.

Eggs flow in, from the Silkies and the ducks, and the Muscovies begin their annual courtship games with all the posturing and social drama of The Bachelor. The sun comes out for a few days to give a glimpse of things to come, before disappearing back behind the clouds for the wettest month of the year.

Quite muddy becomes horribly muddy, kids are born on freezing nights, and in the ensuing chaos you lose track of time. And then suddenly… it’s October. You play the game of ‘is this the last frost?’ for several weeks before bravely planting your tender seedlings in the garden and crossing your fingers that the Cup Day rule will play true this year.

If there is one thing I don’t tell you all often enough, it is how fiercely I love being alive and witnessing the million tiny miracles that the world has to offer. How hard it is to live with the fear that at any moment my heart could malfunction, leaving all my unfinished business permanently unfinished. Do I live for the future, or live for the moment? Why not both?

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So it’s time for me to pull up my socks, and set to work healing from everything I’ve been through in the past year. To drink more water, go to bed earlier, eat less chips, do more exercise, and generally take care of my beloved cyborg vessel so that it can support my consciousness through as much life as possible. But priority one is reducing stress. I’m going to have to google how to do that, and hope that life decides it’s time to cut me some slack.

Elcarim Farm Botanicals

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Did you know that I have a small business selling goat milk soap, moisturisers, hand creams, lip balms, bath minerals, natural loofahs and herbal balms? I have just created an online store at elcarmfarm.com where you can find out more about products and place an order. The main page is a blog, where I’ll be adding info about what I’m making and which markets I’ll be at, and you can visit the store to browse products. Come along and check it out.

Dances With Vegans

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I don’t think it is news to anyone who has ever read any of my posts on this blog that I raise animals for meat, milk and eggs, and thus I am an eater of meat, milk and eggs.

I’ve never been into telling people what they should or shouldn’t eat, mainly because I believe that every body is different and every person should probably eat different things. My only suggestion is to learn to eat what your body asks for, not eat things that cause you signs of illness, and not place value judgements on any food or the people who eat it.

Having said that, there are clearly a lot of people who disagree with the way I eat and where I get my food from. I know this because they tell me, and throw in value judgements for good measure.

I can understand not wanting to eat animals. I can understand that factory farming is sometimes cruel, and that ‘food safety’ laws can get in the way of farmers adopting less stressful ways to get animal products to the consumers.

We can all agree that there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to modern mass-farming methods. Hopefully we can all understand that under capitalism, a dozen eggs or a kilo of beef mince become consumable products just like a t-shirt or a can of deodorant, and the market forces that bring those products to us do not take into account that the former are derived from actual living creatures.

Based on these realities of modern mass-farming, I have done my best to create my own supply of ethically produced animal products. My poultry free-range during the day and are safely housed at night. Populations are managed to minimise the conflict and harassment caused by too many male birds in the one place, and nesting females hatch and raise their own young. Excess males are sold or eaten.

Under ideal conditions, my goat herd is run as a matriarchy, with does raising their own kids whenever possible and only excess milk taken for household use. Does live in a family group with their mothers and sisters. Everyone has enough food, safety and shelter. Bucks are kept separate, but with each other for company, and wethers are rehomed as pets and lawnmowers, and occasionally for meat.

A cat controls the vermin. A dog wards off predators.

And yet, according to some, this is not enough because I am denying my animals their freedom and controlling their lives. I am oppressing them, and this is cruel.

I want to ask these people – what would you have me do? In their ideal world, where I wake up tomorrow vowing never to exert my will on an animal again, what should my actions be?

Should I open my gates and let them all run free? Stop feeding them and providing water? Allow them to breed unchecked, leading to starvation? Of course, under these conditions my Muscovy drakes would eat all of the newly-hatched Silkie chicks until the hens got wise and found more remote places to nest. At which point they would probably be killed by foxes or hungry dogs. Indiscriminate breeding of goats would lead to does kidding at too young an age, does of all ages dying at kidding due to malpresentations, kids not surviving birth, starving or dying of cold in their first few days. Does producing triplets and quads would not be able to feed all of their kids, who would either starve or grow up stunted. High-yeilding does would suffer all sorts of metabolic conditions from milking more heavily than their bodies could maintain on the available feed.

The poultry might adapt to life in the wild over a few generations, but the goats would all be dead from malnutrition, kidding difficulties, and worm infestation within a couple of years. And they would be drawn-out, agonizing deaths. Surely this is not what vegan activists really want?

So if we instead put these animals, and all domesticated animals, in sanctuaries and shelters and continue to feed and care for them until they die of old age, preventing them from producing any offspring… how is that really any different to what I am already doing with regards to ‘controlling their lives’?

And is wiping out all domesticated species really the goal of vegan activists? If it is not, then what IS their goal? Because preventing animals from suffering involves intervention and controlling some aspects of their lives. But it also involves allowing them to live closely to their natural state so that they eat the right foods and have the opportunity to use their instinctive behaviours.

Animals are not human. We know that, because none of them ever pulled off the sort of feats us humans have. That is not to say humans are better than animals, but we are different. We are able to look to our futures. We have ambitions and we are able to examine our thoughts and motivations, and even change them if we so desire. This is a blessing and a curse that animals simply don’t have.

The notion that a domesticated animal that is well fed, has a family to hang out with, space to exercise, somewhere safe to shelter and preventative measures taken to improve its health is still suffering because it is not free does not bear out in reality. Anyone who has spent time with animals knows that their contentment relies on knowing that meals will appear as expected and there will be enough to go around. It relies on being able to get out of bad weather, or always having a place to cool off in the heat. It relies on having company to share the tasks of detecting threats and minding the babies, and a predictable, stable hierarchy in their community. It relies on being free from ongoing pain and discomfort.

And when the time comes, when for what ever reason that animal’s life needs to end, be it illness, injury, age or because it is ready to eat, if the animal is handled kindly and the job is done quickly, that contented existence is never compromised. The animal is simply aware one moment and not aware the next.

Animals also have no concept of time, beyond the cycle of light and dark. Without calendars even we humans would not have much of an idea how long we were alive for – some things seem to last forever, others seem to be over in the blink of an eye. Without time, animals don’t know if they have lived for weeks or years.

Sitting around pondering the afterlife, wondering if everyone will forget us, fearing that we are wasting our life, dreading real or imagined threats, these are all perks of being human that animals do not have the societal or intellectual structure to experience.

I’m not going to be told by the same people who inflict no-meat diets and 100% indoor lifestyles on their cats that I am morally reprehensible for raising livestock.

Humans didn’t evolve to live in hollow cubes, staring at screens all day, disconnected from out bodies and from nature, eating unrecognisable foods. Many of us are a long way from free, we are influenced by social conventions, the media, our access to resources and our physical capabilities.

A good animal-production enterprise should look a lot like communism, where everyone gets what they need in order to be a productive member of society and the young and sick are cared for, overseen by the human in charge.

Under capitalism, everything becomes a commodity, and the suffering of all creatures is just another resource. Capitalism causes animal cruelty, not farmers, and certainly not smallholders who are trying to create a way of producing food where animals are more than just a means of production to be exploited for every possible dollar.

 

 

 

Begin Again

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It has been over six months since my last post.

In that time, I have quit my job, gone back to school, started a new business, endured an agonizing back injury, and attended my Nana’s funeral.

I’ve also raised seven healthy goat kids, a bumper crop of ducks and chickens, and bought a pony.

I’ve never been one to sit back and observe.

Adjusting to life on one income has been a lot less terrifying than I was expecting, even with unplanned expenses like a new goat shed, significant vet bills, and months of treatment on my back.

I injured my back in a yoga class, of all things, and the surge of fury I felt when it happened was fascinating to observe through the lens of my fourth yoga class that week. I stayed to the end, and I wonder if it would have been quite so crippling an injury if I had not followed it up by straining my abdominal muscles the next morning, trying to keep my eyes open while sneezing as I turned right at a roundabout.

Either way, with the existing weakness from the disc injury that ended my retail ‘career’, a series of physio visits left me no better off, and I limped into the new year wondering if this was my life now. A strange limbo of being able to stand or lie down, but not sit, limited to car trips of less than 20 minutes, lifting nothing heavier than a cat, and loosening up during the course of the day, only to be woken by pain in the midsummer pre-dawn. I spent the summer in slip-on shoes, watching my toenails grow from a distance, unable to reach down far enough to trim them.

The miracle of Bowen Therapy turned it all around, and we located a muscle deep between my ribcage and pelvis that my body had sidelined. Waking it again meant going through a whole lot more pain, but one morning I woke up and it had all changed. I can reach my feet again, sit in a classroom for a couple of hours, and comfortably travel far enough to visit friends in other parts of the state.

I’ve made hundreds of bars of soap and invented the perfect moisturiser. Family and friends are enjoying my new hair washing soap. My home made herbal balms have healed burns, bruises, muscle soreness and tendon strains, and apparently also the mystery pain in my left ankle. I’ve started attending markets, I can casually process an EFTPOS sale, and I’ve almost got the hang of presenting my products on my table. The wooden chicken that my Nana gave me for Christmas sits on my table at every market. Lately it displays a necklace of home-grown loofahs. At the rate I am going I may break even by the end of the year.

The next phase of the business is to start selling herb plants and develop some more herbal remedies. I’ve got a decent collection of seedlings of plants like mugwort, clary sage, nigella and white sage. I’m working on developing infusions that combine tasty herbs with remedies for anxiety, PMS and respiratory illness. It’s a delicate balance of not claiming that my herbs are capable of curing ailments, while informing consumers of the actions of different plants.

But enough about soap and herbs and sore backs, you’re all here for the goats, aren’t you.

I began with nine newborn kids, snatched at birth, and nine and a half months on I have seven healthy young goats. One little wether went to live with a friend and her menagerie, and I lost my big buck kid, Titan, to a badly broken hind leg. It hasn’t been smooth sailing, with a nasty stomach bug going through them before they were weaned and Peanut costing us a small fortune at the vets with her broken leg, but we’ve got most of them this far in one piece.

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Doe kids: Georgia, Portia (aka Peanut) and Merida.

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Antonio (aka Fat Tony) on the left, Angus the buck in the back, and Duncan in the front.

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Banquo, the runt of the litter, not moving too far from the feeder, just in case I put something in it.

The two goatlings in quarantine, Trinity and Odessa, are both daughters of my foundation buck, Capricorn Cottage Tazzy. These two young does have been bred to Goodness Dutch and should kid around the middle of September. The plan at this stage is to test their colostrum for mycoplasma once they have kidded, as well as attempting to make cheese from their milk. One of the symptoms of the as-yet unconfirmed pathogen was that soft cheese made from milk from infected goats would not achieve the proper texture and would go off very quickly. So testing the ability of their milk to form a proper curd is another way to find out if these girls are clear of disease.

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Goatlings Trinity and Odessa.

The third test will be leaving them with kids to raise. My intention is to snatch raise any doe kids, and hopefully a buck kid from Odessa, and leave them with at least one wether kid each to raise. If these kids do not get sick at 10-14 weeks of age, there is a good chance that the does are not infected. Passing all three tests would satisfy me that they are uninfected and safe to join the others. But even then, I may not get all the results until next Summer. So for now, we wait.

What else? Oh yeah, I bought a pony. It was one of those decisions that had been a long time coming but also happened suddenly. Once my back made it possible to go on long car trips, I was able to once again visit my dear friend and her mother three hours away in the north of the state. And with some help from my friend, I was finally able to process the loss of my two special ponies and face the prospect of moving on from this loss. Next thing I knew, I was signing the transfer papers for a young black New Forest Pony mare, handing over a deposit, and researching possible suitable stallions for her. Meet Bankswood Countess, aka Sticky.

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Sticky.

I’ll go up and work on her handling through the winter and spring, and she will join us here at Elcarim Farm in the summer.

So that’s the edited highlights of my last six months. A few obstacles, a few endings, but also a few new beginnings. Hopefully this is also the beginning of me writing again.

Saving Georgia

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The next morning I expected to find Rosanna either dead in her pen or with a prolapsed uterus or both, but she was at the gate ready to go out and spend the day in the paddock with her sisters. She asserted her position with headbutts to a few key players, and marched down the paddock with the other does who had kidded, who were all still calling out for their kids.

Rosanna’s doe kid, Georgia, would not take a bottle. She made a strange ‘mah’ sound that was not like the normal bleat of a newborn kid, and she walked slowly, falling down often. In stark contrast, her brother was hungry, talkative, and would not stay in one spot for a second. I kept them together in the house for the first couple of days, hoping that Johnny’s activity and contact would help Georgia’s little body figure out what to do.

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Georgia and Johnny

It took ages to get Georgia dry, due to all of the lubricant and detergent that had been used to facilitate her birth. We had been tube feeding her each time her brother had a bottle, offering the teat first to no avail. By the afternoon she was bloated, seemed to be in pain, and I decided to take her to the vet to see if anything could be done.

The vet asked about my tubing techniques and gave some suggestions as to how to avoid getting air in Georgia’s stomach during tube feeding. She also diagnosed her as a ‘dummy kid’ based on her odd walk, odd voice and inability to suck. She sent us home with advice to keep tube feeding until Georgia could take a bottle and hope for the best.

The next morning I found Rosanna dead in the goat shed, curled up as though asleep. Presumably the drugs she had been given after her difficult birth kept her comfortable for long enough for her to lie down with her sisters and previous year’s kids, and quietly succumb to internal bleeding. I had never lost a doe at kidding before, despite assisting several. In a normal year it would have been a disaster, but under the circumstances it was just another drop in the bucket.

I put Georgia and Johnny out with the other kids, hoping that the throng of little bodies would help Georgia’s systems come online. In dummy kids, as with dummy foals, it is believed that a failure of the newborn’s body to respond to the prompts of birth to switch to ‘outside mode’ is the cause of the syndrome. Newborns are inactive with poor muscle tone and absent suck reflex. In foals there has been dramatic success with simulating the pressures of the journey through the birth canal using ropes. I read all I could find about dummy foals and dummy kids. One goat breeder told a story of a dummy kid she had who was ‘cured’ by an unrelated doe licking her like a newborn. But the likely outcome was that I would have to get milk into Georgia by any means possible until she was able to move onto solid food, if I was to keep her alive.

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Kiddie pile – find all nine

After four days of tube feeding, Georgia was behind in her milk consumption and starting to look skinny compared to the others. She was doing okay, but slow, weak and unsteady on her feet. Continued tube feeding irritates the throat, and there was the concern that if she did try to suck and swallow she would find it painful, which would deter her from trying. At the end of day five, she finally took milk from a bottle. Only 150ml at first and her throat did seem sore, but over the next few days I kept her on four feeds a day and she started to catch up to the others. She had another visit to the vet that week to rule out joint ill, but her lameness was deemed to be related to her brain injury, and it resolved on its own.

It probably took a month before Georgia was 100%. She is still bottle fed, as there are only eight spots on the lamb feeders and nine kids, but she can drop 900ml at a feed, and leaps, climbs and bounces like all the others.

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Lamb bar madness

The kids are now nine weeks old, and living full time in a small paddock in the back corner of the house yard. My other goats are all gone, except for two special goatlings, Dutch the buck, and Cosmo, a wether who keeps Dutch company. Those four are kept in the small paddocks at the front of the property, where nobody goes except me to check them. The hope is that I can get some kids from the two goatlings, who are daughters of my foundation buck Tazzy, and add them to the current nine to keep my herd viable for the future.

In the next few weeks we will find out if the kidsnatch has been successful. Previous kids started showing symptoms from 10-12 weeks. If we can get through to December without any signs of respiratory illness, we can start to look towards the future. Otherwise there will be more questions, more tests, and likely the end of my goat breeding enterprise.

 

#kidsnatch2018

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Any doubts I had about whether I wanted to continue with goats at all quickly evaporated the moment Merida was born. A single doe kid, heavily mottled, from my big, spotty doe known as Katie. Katie’s mother, Elcarim Meredith Q*, was the first Elcarim Doe to be awarded a Q* and also my first doe to win a Best Udder Overall sash. Katie was the best of her five daughters. She was also potentially my highest volume milker ever, having twice produced over 5lt in 24hrs in herd recording on her first lactation. Believing I had more time, though, I planned to wait until her second lactation to try for a Q* award for her.

We snatched Merida from her mother at birth, as planned, and Matt cleaned her up while I milked off some colostrum, of which Katie had plenty. It then took me over an hour to heat the colostrum to a temperature that would kill any pathogens without destroying too many antibodies and hold it there for the required 60 minutes. My many hours of standing over a pot of milk with a thermometer while making cheese was good preparation for this. We had more than enough colostrum for one kid, so I was able to keep some in the fridge in case we needed it later.

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Merida

Merida was a quiet house guest, and she was bopping around the lounge room within a few hours. She would make a little bit of noise early in the morning but then go back to sleep until it was time to feed her again. She made the transition to milk replacer without any problems, and we were on our way. That was Thursday.

Titania was acting strangely a couple of days later, but had zero udder development. Juliet was enormous, and I had been penning her by herself at night for a few weeks to give her a chance to rest in her own space without all her relatives crowding around her. Saturday night I put Titania in the pen with Juliet.

Titania was my favourite doe, a daughter of my foundation doe Traybonne Rianna DM. She was Rianna’s 15th and very last kid. Even as a two year old she was a powerful, capacious doe who I had high hopes for in the show ring as a milker. As a goatling she was shown under four different judges, three of whom sashed her Champion goatling, including Murray Grills who described her as ‘a freak of nature’.

I almost didn’t check the shed camera at 11.30pm, having checked it half an hour earlier, but I was anxious and worried about missing a kidding. The 11.30pm check revealed kids had been born, and I rushed out to the shed, mobilising the rest of the household to prepare the towels and cleaning gear and meet in the shed.

When I arrived on the scene it was obvious that the kids were Titania’s. Three of them, two standing, one just born, with Juliet working on cleaning one of them. I grabbed them one by one and plopped them over into the next pen to get them away from the does. The words of the breeder in Queensland who had undertaken a similar operation were ringing in my ears – ‘I didn’t let the does clean them up, if they hit the ground I left them’. I thought about leaving Titania’s kids there, worried that being licked clean by the other doe could be enough to infect them. But Titania still had no udder development and no milk at all. If I left her kids with her they would starve.

Rohan arrived with a big plastic tub and I put all three kids in it and sent him off to the garage to help Matt clean them up. I then went into the laundry, put all the clothes I was wearing into the washing machine, scrubbed my hands, put on clean clothes and went out to inspect the new arrivals.

Two enormous bucks and a little doe. And boy were they noisy. They yelled the house down all night. The leftover colostrum from the previous kidding came in handy, they all had a feed. By now it was well after midnight.

Those three kids bleated their little heads off all night. Nobody got much sleep. The next morning I set about creating a pen in the garage where the kids could live for a few weeks until they were big enough to move outside.

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Titan, Antonio and Portia

Titania was named after the Shakespeare’s Queen of the Fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. So two of her kids got their names from Shakespeare characters, Portia for the doe and Antonio for the buck with the big white body patch. The other buck I named Titan, after his mother.

That night Matt volunteered to keep an eye on the camera while I got some sleep. Juliet was very close to kidding, and a little after midnight she was in full labour, so I went out to supervise. Things didn’t seem to be moving along, so I scrubbed my hands and went in to assist. I found a kid presenting spine first.

Juliet was enormous from about halfway through her pregnancy, and I had helped her birth quads the previous year. I was expecting to have to help her out again. She was Titania’s older full sister, and had achieved her Q* the previous year. She was also a Best Udder and Best of Breed winner, who achieved a classification score of 85 on her first lactation. She was not a very big doe, but a very hard worker. I was very keen for a doe kid from her.

I managed to figure out which end of the first kid was the front and got one front leg and a head pointing in the right direction, but I could not for the life of me find the other front leg. I warned Rohan, who was once again waiting with the plastic tub, that the kid was in a funny position and might not be alive when I got it out. I took the head and one leg and decided to see if the kid would come out with the other leg still back. Thankfully he did, and he was very much alive. I pulled out another two kids and sent Rohan over to the cleanup crew while I milked Juliet, who had loads of colostrum.

Three bucks. Not exactly what I was hoping for to carry on the legacy of my best doe. But all alive and vigorous. And thankfully not as noisy as Titania’s kids. I processed the colostrum, fed the kids and got to bed somewhere around 3am. Sticking with the Shakespeare theme, they all got names from Macbeth. Angus for the tall, rangy red buck who came out first, Banquo for the leggy but skinny red kid with a white stripe down his face, and Duncan for the big black and tan kid with the curly tail.

juliet kids

Juliet’s triplet bucks

By now I was sleep deprived an pretty emotionally drained as well. While Katie had kidded several days late, Titania and Juliet were four and five days early. I had only Rosanna left to kid, and by the following afternoon it was clear I would not have to wait long for her.

Rosanna was the only daughter I had of Elcarim Sienna F115. Sienna was the doe who pioneered long lactations in my herd, milking for 643 days on her second lactation. I did not milk test Rosanna on her first lactation, but she raised an enormous set of twins which would have taken a good 4lt per day. She was given a classification score of 83, and was a best udder winner and Best of Breed winner. But as well as all that she was a sturdy, healthy doe who ate well and never seemed to get sick.

She laboured for a few hours with little progress. Around 7pm I decided it was time to intervene. I managed to locate a couple of little feet, but there was not much room to move. I had hold of two feet but could not find a head, and I wasn’t sure if those two feet both belonged to the same kid. After some time I was able to establish that there was a kid presenting with two feet forward and the head was right there, but I could not get the head through. After about an hour of trying to deliver the kid, I was exhausted, and had to admit that I was out of my depth. We called the vet to assist.

It was 9pm by the time the vet arrived. And very soon it became evident that it wasn’t any lack of skill or effort on my part that prevented me from delivering Rosanna’s kid. The vet worked for what seemed like ages, and eventually pulled out a bloodied and mostly inactive kid. He confirmed that it was alive, then put her into the tub for Rohan to take over to the garage. The second kid came out much more easily, a little buck. The vet gave Rosanna painkillers, anti-inflammatories and antibiotics before heading off.

I was shaken and upset by the events of the evening, but relieved that kidding was over. Rosanna’s first kid was a doe, the image of her mother, who we named Georgia after the song by Vance Joy. I tasked the boys with naming the buck, the only proviso that it had to be the name of a song, and they came up with Johnny B Goode.

So now we had nine kids to go on with, three does and six bucks. No more does to kid, no more sleepless nights. But that didn’t mean that the hard part was over.