First Freshening Anxiety

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A few years ago, I begged and begged Dave to let me get goats. Because 1) They’re adorable and 2) goat’s milk!! But not only that, but goat cheese, goat’s milk soap, ice cream, the works! Eventually he did let me get two yearlings (Judy and Liza) and then a few months later he surprised me with two 1-week old bottle babies. Jump forward to last December when Judy and Liza were ready to be bred. They got knocked up big time by our stud buck, Ridge Runner. And now… they’re a few weeks away from their first kidding. Every time I look at their growing udders I start salivating at just the thought of the wonderful goat’s milk we’ll be getting soon. And of course, beautiful, bouncing baby goats! But the closer that we get to their kidding due date, the more and more nervous I’m getting. What do I need? Are they going to have trouble? How are they going to behave on this milk stand when they don’t even like me touching their belly?! Are the babies going to be ok? Did I feed our does correctly during their pregnancy? How do I actually milk a goat? Am I going to screw all of this up? Am I even ready for this? I’m not going to lie to you guys, I’m really nervous.

Judy is due on May 14th and Liza is due May 20th. To add to this wonderful and chin acne producing stress, we have five momma pigs that are due beginning May 16th. And we also have a wedding in town on May 1st and a wedding in Santa Barbara May 23rd. Plus the garden and whatever comes up (because something always does!). This upcoming month alone will probably make me go grey and automatically age me 100 years. However, if next month does go well, it may very well add 10 years to my life. I’m hoping for the later. Either way, we’ve renamed May “Babypalooza month.”

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They’ve been doing great on the milking stand these past few weeks. Every morning they get up on the milking stand (in the same order every day) and eat their grain with their tails wagging. Then once they’re done, we walk them around the barn and into the pasture via the man gate. However, they do NOT like getting their bellies touched. Or their udders. Or even their back legs. I’m able to do this while I trim their hooves (which I really need to do… dammit!). But I think they know when I’m trying to feel around for some babies and they protest. Understandably so, they’ve never been pregnant before so I’m sure they’re trying to adjust to what is happening to their bodies. So unfortunately I haven’t been able to feel any baby movement. My immediate thought is, “Since I haven’t been able to feel any babies, what if they deliver all stillborns or abort them or something worse?” What’s worse than that? I don’t know. But for some reason, when dealing with babies, my first thought is that they’re all going to die because I failed as a caregiver. Is this a normal thing?

The only other babies we’ve had at the farm are baby chicks (which we have 45 peeping in our living room right now) and baby pigs. When our pigs first farrowed, it was a surprise. One morning I went out to the barn and BAM! Babies. But this spring when we had five farrow within 2 weeks, I didn’t really worry about them. I knew that they are designed to pretty much handle their own business. Pigs are usually really good at that. Plus, since our pigs are a unique and rare heritage breed called the Iowa Swabian Hall, they have some pretty strong hybrid vigor bred into them. But for some reason, with our goats, I’m nervous. Maybe it’s because it’s been something I’ve really wanted and anticipated for such a long time. Maybe it’s because I want babies and milk so bad. Maybe it’s because goats are more personable and cuddly (although I’m getting very close with our pigs now). Maybe it’s because every time I’ve read about goat kidding, there’s always a mention about how many things can go wrong and how it’s so important that you’re there or else the babies might die. This does not help my stress induced chin acne.

Judy Garland in the pasture eating for two, hopefully three!
Judy Garland in the pasture eating for two, hopefully three!

Last week my sister from another mister, farmer Connie from Chopping Block Farm, invited me over to introduce me to their new baby calf that was born the previous day. He’s perfect. And beautiful. And I couldn’t believe that 24 hours prior, he was still in Dixie’s belly. Connie told me about Dixie’s calving and how she found Dixie out in the woods, deep in labor and starting to push. Before Connie could get to the house to grab a flashlight and back, Dixie had already given birth to her baby boy. Connie ended up having to give him some colostrum in a bottle because Dixie wasn’t getting the hang of nursing at first. But all in all, she didn’t have to do anything. Because Mother Nature knows what’s up.. she knows what she’s doing. This is so amazing in so many ways. It tells me that maybe I shouldn’t be stressing or worrying about their imminent kidding so much. Like Connie and Dixie, I’ve had Judy and Liza since they were babies. And now my babies are going to have their own babies, which is a really cool thing to experience.

I remember a few months ago I was so nervous to even get pigs. I told Dave that I didn’t want to go into their pen because I was afraid that these 250 pound animals would charge at me as soon as I turned my back. But now, a few times every day I go in with them and have even formed a special bond with a few of them (Piggy Azalea and Amy Swinehouse especially). Before the pigs, there was the garden. I was afraid to expand the garden from our little 100’x100′ garden into a 300’x100′ garden. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to successfully grow all of the plant starts in the greenhouse and then manage a garden that large my second year gardening. But now, we’re doubling that 300’x100′ garden and then some and are already making plans for more expansions. Before that it was the chickens! We started out with 5 chickens and I was so nervous every time they had a few missing feathers, sneezed or had dirt on their butt. But now, I’m incubating baby chicks like a boss and grabbing up chickens when they go AWOL and accidentally meander into the greenhouse.

Ms. Liza Minnelli, our herd queen.
Ms. Liza Minnelli, our herd queen.

What I’m trying to say is this: farming is a constant educational experience. It’s really a gift. It makes you face your fears or doubts head on. It helps you become a better problem solver. It makes you a stronger person, physically and mentally. Things I thought I absolutely could not do 2 years ago, even a few months ago, I can do like it’s old hat. Cull a chicken for dinner? No problem. Carry a 75 lb bag of potting soil a small to medium distance? No problem. Help five sows bring 34 adorable baby pigs into this world? Yes! Absolutely, let’s do it again next month! Maybe goat kidding and subsequent milking will be the same sort of thing. I hope so, because this anticipation is killing me!

So next week I’ll be buying kidding and milking supplies. It’s fun! I feel like I’m going back to school and buying new pencils and glue sticks. Meanwhile, Judy and Liza look (and probably feel) super pregnant! Their bellies and udders get bigger and bigger every day. I’m starting to take bets on how many they’ll have and what genders. Also name options. That’s the fun part! Has anyone else experienced first freshening anxiety before? Surely, I can’t be the only one that got nervous before their first kidding. And if anyone has advice or tips of first freshening please comment below! Also, keep your eyes peeled to our facebook page for a naming contest post-kidding!


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