Monday, March 4, 2013

You're Kidding?

I have become a midwife in waiting. It is my main job now, and the thing I am thinking of between other jobs and writing assignments here on the farm. A lot happened today, and much of it things I could tell you about for hours on end, but all of it is shadowed by the tick-tocking of the Doe Clock.

Every few hours I am out with the goats - morning, noon, and night checking on them and their vaginal state. Friends have come and checked in, small off-farm visits have taken place, but mostly I am here. I am here with towels and bottles and a little playpen set up in my living room. I'm reading all my goat book's kidding chapters over and over. I know all the rules of the game, I'm just waiting to play and the wait is killing me. The goats, both of which look ready to explode, must be twice as anxious. We both want these kids out and the milk flowin'.

Friends like Tyler, Tara, and Yeshiva have been with me at Goat Camp. At night they help keep watch. The girls stretch and purr and ooze fluid out their business ends, but so far, no actual births have taken place. These past few days have been riddled with too much coffee and too little sleep. Showers are a rarity. I wake up worried and go to sleep guilty. I keep reading that warning over and over in my books: you should be there… you'll regret it if you aren't and something goes wrong… It feels like my first lambing season all over again...

Well, not entirely the same. Lambing was exhausting but not nearly as personal. This feels less like a job and more like an extended family member being brought into the farmhouse for a long visit. I think it's because dairy animals in general are more personal, more a part of your life than a sheep on the hillside. There are animals I will milk twice a day and know the way you know a college roommate. I have no secrets from these girls and they have none from me. I have stared at their back ends longer than I have stared at any text book and I think I am starting to see things that aren't there. Phantom contractions, mythical discharges, is that a hoof? Nope. It's a clump of poo. Great. Someone pass me the Red Bull… I am convinced both of them are holding out to the last possible second (because they are) and forcing me to feel slightly uncomfortable about my elevated state of caprine voyeurism.

I hope for news soon. In the meantime there's a Fiddle Camp this weekend, two new piglets in the barn, hay delivery, manuscript deliveries, game nights and hawk tests to study for… So much to update on and I will, but right now I am going back outside to check on the girls. More photos as I find the time to post them!

Photo by the gang at


Blogger Kira said...

Ahh, at last you update everyone! We're all in waiting mode right there with you!

I'll be in your same situation in late May when my doe is due to kid. I'm already a nervous wreck about it and she has 3 more months to go!

By the way, the picture of you with your head resting against your doe's head is wonderful! So sweet! Goats are so great! Gentle, funny, boisterous, and goofy personalities all rolled in to one! I love them!

Lastly, just a question - are you planning on raising the kids separately because you need all the milk for yourself or others? Or because you want to hand raise for calmer, friendlier goats? If the latter, I'll share that I have two dam raised goats and they are super friendly. My wether sits on my lap and loves attention. My doe is super sweet too. I don't have any friendliness issues with my dam raised goats. I will be dam raising my goat's kids for many reasons but the ease of care is not to be ignored - no frequent feedings to schedule or plan around, no bottles to clean... Just a few words for thought. No advice here because this is my first year raising goats and I have ZERO advice to give anyone.

Best of luck to you in all your adventures - kidding is just one of the many to come!

March 4, 2013 at 9:30 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

This is our first year of kidding goats too. We read the books, talked to the experts, Googled everything and are all ready to go...We knew that our Mabel was close - her belly had dropped and her bag was filling with colostrum on one side and watery milk on the other. We went on Baby Watch 2013 - on Friday, I check her at 1:45 PM, my sons checked her at 3:30...nothing (no ooze, no pawing at the ground etc...just normal Mabel). But, when my husband came home at 4:35 PM - TWO BABIES were in the pen with their mama! TWO! I missed it...but you know what!? She did it! All by herself, she got them out, cleaned, fed, on their feet and ready to go. They are healthy, beautiful little creatures. Today - they romped around with the rest of the crew. I figure, all of the watching and waiting and preparing that I do - Mother Nature just laughs at me and proved who is boss. Good luck with those babies!

March 4, 2013 at 9:46 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Thanks so much for sharing this journey with us. I feel for you with the no sleep thing. I remember those days from when Joe was a baby - not fun.

Blessings on Bonita and Francis. May they birth healthy, beautiful babies.

March 4, 2013 at 9:55 PM  
Blogger Brenda said...

Jenna - It sounds like you've fallen victim to the Doe's Secret Code of Honor. Here it is ...

The doe's secret code of honor is as old as goats themselves and is ultimately the species
best kept secret. No doe shall ever kid before its time. (Its time being determined by the
following factors):

1- No kid shall be born until total chaos has been reached by all involved. Your owner's
house must be a wreck, their family hungry and desperate for clean clothes, and their
social life nonexistent.

2- "Midwives" must reach the babbling fool status before you kid out. Bloodshot eyes,
tangled hair and the inability to form a sentence mean the time is getting close.

3- For every bell, beeper, camera or whistle they attach to you, kidding must be delayed
by at least one day for each item. If they use an audio monitor, one good yell per hour
will keep things interesting.

4- If you hear the words, "She's nowhere near ready. She'll be fine while we're away for
the weekend," Wait until they load the car, then begin pushing!

5- Owner stress must be at an all time high! If you are in the care of someone else, ten to
fifteen phone calls a day is a sign you're getting close.

6- When you hear the words "I can't take it anymore!" wait at least three more days.

7- You must keep this waiting game interesting. False alarms are mandatory! Little
teasers such as looking at your stomach, pushing your food around in the bucket and
then walking away from it, and nesting, are always good for a rise. Be creative and
find new things to do to keep the adrenaline pumping in those who wait.

8- The honor of all goats is now in your hands. Use this time to avenge all of your barn
mates. Think about your friend who had to wear that silly costume in front of those
people. Hang onto that baby for another day. OH, they made him do tricks too! Three
more days seems fair. Late feedings, the dreaded diet, bad haircuts, those awful
wormings can also be avenged at this time.

9- If you have fulfilled all of the above and are still not sure when to have the kids, listen
to the weather forecast on the radio that has been so generously provided by those
who wait. Severe storm warning is what you're waiting for. In the heart of the storm
jump into action!

10- The power could go out and you could have the last laugh. You have a good chance
of those who wait missing the whole thing while searching for a flashlight that works!

11- Make the most of your interrupted nights. Beg for food each time someone comes
into the barn to check you. Your barn mates will love you as the extra goodies fall
their way too. - Author Unknown

March 4, 2013 at 10:46 PM  
Blogger Brenda London said...

for the future, maybe obtain a baby monitor so you can get away to the house a bit? you need it and the girls will feel your fatigue and anxiety so you need to take care of you as much as them. Stress and anxiety (caused mostly from fatigue) prolongs labor and you know they can sense how you are feeling. I'll bet if you ask, someone out in cyber land has one no longer needed to spy on babes and would be willing to gift it? In that wonderful video you posted you can hear the man mention that he had heard "after" birth sounds when he was in the house, they must also have a baby monitor.

March 4, 2013 at 11:29 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Oh, we're thinking of you as you wait! The girls are lucky to have you. Wish I were going to fiddle camp again. Maybe a little Ida Red will speed up delivery:).

March 4, 2013 at 11:37 PM  
Blogger Ruth Dixon said...

Been doing the same thing with my ewes. I only have 4 ewes in our flock, but one had problems last year and one is a newbie, so I'm feeling the important parts for "puffiness" and gently caressing bags to find out if they are any fuller. The life of a farmer, I love it!

March 4, 2013 at 11:40 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

I go thru this everytime a cow gives birth. Maybe we just see ourselves as mothers or something. Good Luck and I hope it happens soon.

March 5, 2013 at 12:02 AM  
Blogger Brenda London said...

the video I referred to was not the one you posted, the link was in another reader's comment in an earlier post, goat birth at Laughing Dog Farm, and they did use the baby monitor, first pic of the video!! (duh moment for me!)

March 5, 2013 at 12:21 AM  
Blogger Lorie Hyten, adult services said...

O dear girl thoughts are with you...wish I could help out. Lucky animals to have such a caretaker.

March 5, 2013 at 1:57 AM  
Blogger RamblinHome said...

A few weeks ago, we had a blizzard-a foot of driving snow, howling winds, etc, etc. My friend's goat gave birth to twins in the middle of it...and she had no idea. She was fairly certain they were at least another week out, but alas no. She didn't know until her girls came screaming into the house after checking on the goats the next morning. When she went out, there were two blue eyed, black and white kids, just as healthy as could be. I hope the birthing is just as easy and results in just as healthy baby goats! Good luck and fingers crossed it will happen soon (and with you there)!

March 5, 2013 at 6:44 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Jenna, I know the "no advice" rule here but a "suggestion" is to get a baby moniter. I keep one by the bed and you can see and hear what is going on. You will sleep so much better. When you get "old hat" at it, you wait until you see hooves before you get up and get dressed.

March 5, 2013 at 6:53 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

did I ever tell you guys about the time I went to Rite Aid to buy a baby monitor? All of the ones on the shelf were plug in kinds, and I wanted a battery operated base. The guy at the store had no idea why it had to be battery operated and I explained that it was going on a shack on a hillside, far from the house, and I wasn't about to waste running electricity up there or buying a new extension cord if I could just get a battery operated base.

the guy looked at me in terror and I left with a terse thank you for your time....

I realized on the ride home I never explained it was for sheep.

March 5, 2013 at 6:59 AM  
Blogger Noël McNeil said...

I'm hoping that you got some 'kids' in the night! Oh, and sleep too...

March 5, 2013 at 7:12 AM  
Blogger Wendy Rogers said...

I wan to know what we EVER did before blogging!!! There is so much helpful info here. Jenna you are right about dairy animals being more precious to us! There is a bond there more like the bond with a horse...Here is a link to an old post from FiddleSong Farm. Love you!Best of luck to your gals...Wendy

March 5, 2013 at 7:32 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

I've been on butt watch for weeks now! Yesterday I cancelled everything because I thought my doe was in labor she was panting with her tongue out and yelling Ma Ma repeatedly! Well, it was 77* here and I guess she was hot!!!!

Your story about buying a baby monitor is hilarious! I bet that guy was worried all night LOL!

Baby wishes to us both :)

March 5, 2013 at 8:44 AM  
Blogger JoAnne Schnyder said...

I, too, have the same question as Kira. Are the kids always raised separate from the does? Why are they not left with them for a time? Thanks for the education.

March 5, 2013 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger SWEETHEARTS MOM said...

Oh sweetie; this seems so long; I may rethink getting goats when I retire; good luck

March 5, 2013 at 9:47 PM  
Blogger SWEETHEARTS MOM said...

Oh sweetie; this seems so long; I may rethink getting goats when I retire; good luck

March 5, 2013 at 9:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for letting us come along for the journey. The photo of the two of you head to head is wonderful (good catch Going Slowly" folks)

March 6, 2013 at 7:44 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...


March 8, 2013 at 5:31 PM  
Blogger Reason's Whore said...

You'll know when they're in labor, trust me.

And if you don't, that's because they had the kids while you were getting some shut eye. Like sheep, they mostly do it fine on their own.

In my own experience, goats sleep at night and birth either late evening when you've got them in the barn, or early morning, when you're probably up already. We had to pull one kid of triplets this year. Not fun but if you've read the books you will get through it. Kids may not all survive, though.

Gotta wonder why in the world you would bottle feed. Lot of work for nothing assuming your herd is clean.

March 9, 2013 at 1:49 AM  

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