Sunday, March 25, 2012

It Only Takes One Word...

At times life likes to slap you in the face and remind you of the things that are most important. Typical human nature often causes us to take things for granted.

My slap in the face came on March 20th in the form of my mother. My mom is my best friend, the one who encourages me in all my various insanities, the one who is here at the drop of a hat no matter the crisis. My favorite childhood memories are of momma letting us play in mud puddles, then joining in. Climbing trees, building club houses, taking us exploring and doing her best to help us follow whatever dream we had at that point in time. She encouraged my “turtle farm” when I was 8 years old (which was actually just a huge enclosure that had 5 turtles in it), let me raise hundreds of tadpoles in my bedroom & she always let us lick the beaters when she made cake.

She did her best to always encourage us to enjoy life and pushed me to be a child and not so much the lil grown up I tended to be. Mom has a zest for life, and even though she’s never been dealt the best cards, she has always done her best and found a way to enjoy life regardless. She does the same with my children and my munchkins always eagerly look forward to a stay with Grandmama.

On March 20th, mom & I took a trip to visit Young’s Prairie Dairy in Elgin, Texas, to pick up some new goats and visit for a bit. Had a great day, got lost thanks to the Garmin and brought home the goats we intended to, plus one unplanned addition (I’ll post about them later). That evening when we got home though, my mom, who is a go-go-go always active person was very worn and tired.

For the past 3 weeks she’d been a lil slower and she thought it was because she was getting over a bug. Then she showed me the bruises. Huge, nasty, unexplained bruises. More troubling was the swelling on the left side of her abdomen. She made an appointment with a new doctor, but couldn’t get in until the end of April. Typical of my mother’s nature, she thought she’d just wait it out until April. I thought that was insane and took her to the ER.

Never in my life did I expect the doctor to come back with a Leukemia diagnosis (the swelling was her spleen). It is amazing how one little word can strike such soul deep terror. Sure, other people could have leukemia, but not MY mom! She’s so healthy, in great shape and always active . It felt like someone hit me in the gut and I just couldn’t catch my breath. I stood there, stupidly staring at the doctor waiting for her to say she was mistaken. They transferred mom to a bigger hospital and from there we spent the week having dozens and dozens of blood samples drawn.

Then came the bone marrow biopsy. I didn’t know they couldn’t give her sedation or pain meds before. I stood there, holding her hand as they did the procedure and prayed it would be over quickly. They didn’t get enough marrow for the test they wanted, so they took a sample of bone instead. Over the week they managed to get her white blood cell count down from 93,000 to 62,000. Put her on a medication to clear out the uric acid that was trying to build up and then a low dose thyroid medication.

Mom was bewildered when she first heard the diagnosis, but now is back trying to be the rock for everyone else. She is determined & optimistic.

She came home with me this weekend (only had to bring home the thyroid meds) and was thankful to be away from the hospital. We go back to see her oncologist on Monday so we can find out what type of leukemia (right now they are leaning towards chronic myelogenous leukemia) we are dealing with and then she will decide her treatment plan from there.

I’ve never not appreciated my mom, but now I make it a point to appreciate her even more…Even the small, mundane moments are things to be treasured. No one is immortal despite a child’s perception of their parent’s invincibility. Mom is the one person who has been there my entire life to dust me off & help me up when life didn’t play fair. The idea of her not being here is by far the scariest thing I have encountered. I can be a “doom & gloom” type of person…. Plan for the worst & hope for the best. But in this instance, I’m going to do my best to share my mom’s optimism. So I laugh, joke, and be silly just like she expects me to be. My brother, her brother, my husband and I have taken over many of the task she usually does and are trying to encouage her to take it easy...

Please keep her in your thoughts & prayers….. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more stubborn, determined person in all my life, so if anyone can beat this, MY momma can.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Noodleville Bloody Battle of Wills

I’m naturally a stubborn person. Persistence is my middle name and I’ll usually stick with it until I accomplish my goal or until it becomes glaringly obvious that persistence is futile.

I really hate to confess that I may have met my match. Worse yet, standing so stubbornly against me is a goat.

This goat to be exact... Don't let that sweet, happy face fool ya....

That would be Bleuberry of course. She is a 1st freshener this year and our milk stand mambo every morning is getting old.

In the beginning I tried cutting her some slack… After all she had a rough kidding (mentioned here) and if you recall, she had a nasty leg injury a while back… Well I thought the multiple doctoring that injury required (all done on the stand) may have made her a lil wary of it.... So I tried very hard to be sympathetic...

We had a back breaking routine every morning……. She walks peacefully up to the stand, I break out the treats and try to coax her on. After failed bribery, I pick up her front end, place it on the stand, and pull her forward by her collar so she can’t back off. At the same time, I reach back with my other hand and try to grab a hind leg & heave her forward. Every day. Twice a day, this same old routine.

Bleuberry is not a small goat.

I am not a very strong person.

This game is no longer fun.

My sympathy and understanding are rapidly deteriorating.

This morning in particular I was up late the night before, didn’t sleep well, then my alarm didn’t go off so everything was a bit hectic. To say I was NOT in the mood for her nonsense is an understatement.

Our battle was more dramatic than usual… she finally figured out my trick and kept backing off the stand before I could grab a back leg, so it took several tries. Then she decided to do the jitter bug on the stand, spilling most of the milk and even splashing me with some. Since she can NOT win this, I ended up milking quite a bit on to the barn floor while she danced, hopped and snorted at me.

This is great because she finally got the hint that I will continue to milk, regardless of her actions. This is not great, because I would have to come out later and clean the barn floor so the milk wouldn’t sit and attract flies.

I finish up and I’m wearing more milk than I thought was possible.. My jeans are soaked and thanks to the holes in my jeans, I can even feel lil puddles of milk inside of my right boot!!!


Given how much I’m wearing, I’m assuming her production is decent… But I can’t say for sure because I haven’t got a full milking inside to weigh yet…… I grit my teeth, talk sweetly and give Bleuberry her customary treat for finally standing still. I was about to turn her loose when I realized I forgot to spray her teats.

In the beginning she was really fussy about the after milking spray. I use Fight Bac spray, and it’s a bit cold, so it took her some getting used to, but the past few days she’s not even flinched when I’ve sprayed her.

I walk around behind her, let her know I’m there, and hold one side so I can spray it well. Then move on to the next one…..

Then WHAM!

Before I even did the second spray, and without a bit of warning, she mule kicks me square in the face!

I really freaked because I thought she broke my nose and there was blood spraying everywhere. It is really quite amazing the amount of blood that can come from a nose.

I swear to you she purposely lulled me into a false sense of security and had this attack planned the entire time!

I don’t have anything but my barn towels to hold on my nose and I just bought new ones so I didn’t want to stain them up with blood. Since the entire front of my shirt was covered in blood anyways, I just held my shirt up to it, sprayed her teat and let her sit on the stand while I leaned against the fence holding my injured nose.

Called the barn cats up to finish what little milk actually made it into the bucket, & glared at Bleuberry the entire time I waited for the throbbing to subside and the blood to stop pouring.

On my trek back to the house, I fancy I might have looked like one of those action heros after the grand finale in a top notch action movie…

Ya know, like Bruce Willis dashing away from an explosion or something. Bloody, beat up, but triumphant...

Ok, ok.. Perhaps my slow trek back to the house wasn't THAT dramatic..
 There were no cool explosions behind me as a back drop, but still, the milk soaked clothes and blood EVERYWHERE looked pretty darn dramatic as I trudged back up to the house. Would have been even cooler if I were toting a weapon, or someone I rescued, instead of my milking caddy, but you work with what you have.

Whatever the image, I do know, without a doubt, that it was shocking, or perhaps “disturbing“ is a better word for it…….

Hair disheveled. Covered in sweat, milk soaked jeans, blood down the front of my shirt, a bit of blood smeared on my cheek & chin and strangely I had a good bit on my arm too….

This is the lovely image the Fedex man saw as I met him at the porch. His expression as he took me in was worth a thousand words. I really must start toting a camera just to capture these moments...

He asked if the name on the package was correct, did his lil' scanner thing, and warily asked if I was ok.

My uber cheerful reply?

“Oh sure.. I’m great! Just finished milking a goat…This weather is just fabulous, don’t ya think??? How are you doing today?”

His facial expression after that comment was far better than the first. The beaming smile and overly cheerful tone were a stark contrast to my bloodied appearance....

It took all I had not to giggle manically at him. Though now that I think of it, maybe I should have…. Would have been funny…

He wished me a speedy “Good Day” and was on his merry, wary way.

Poor guy, probably wondering how that much blood was involved in goat milking.....

Granted I *could* have explained myself better, but vague answers get much funnier reactions, and after my morning, a laugh at the expense of another was well earned. At least he did not get stuck in the situation I put the UPS MAN in a while back… That was a bit more awkward…. lol I really must make a note to try harder not to disturb, embarass or upset those who deliver my packages....

ANYWHO, looky what was in my package!!

Goat goodies! Dewormers, nipples & tubing so I can build a lambar feeder, needles, Fight Bac, syringes (much cheaper to buy in bulk online that to purchase from TSC), more dairy sanitizing products, new filters for my stainless steel strainer, coccidia meds, a new weight tape since Jasper ate mine, CIDR applicator, and some products for my momma too.

As a side note, for the evening milking, I told Bleuberry that there was NO way we were repeating this morning’s fiasco. She could cooperate and get treats, or I’d sell her for dog food. But one way or another, I was done, done, done with the drama, and all my understanding and patience went right out the door the moment she busted my nose.

She glared at me, ears back and stood right behind the stand. I held out a treat and calmly let her know this was her final chance to hop up unassisted......

After a minute of contemplating, she, for the very 1st time, 12 days after freshening and 25 back breaking, individual battles later, jumped up on the stand all by herself!!

Dunno if it was my tone of voice, or if she just sensed that I was finished, but either way, I’m thrilled…..

Persistence does pay off my friends…. Especially when it’s accompanied by a few threats.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Noodleville Updates-Both Happy & Sad

Hey there blogger world.

One of my readers brought it to my attention that I’ve neglected my blog for well over a month now……

I do apologize, I’ve kind of been in hiding I suppose… licking my wounds.

As many of you know, my dairy goats are a big part of my life and I’ve suffered some terrible losses this year.

First though, some good news. I left y’all hanging on my last post, but I’m happy to update that Sabrina had two healthy bucks and milked very well. One boy, now named Moose, was huge… 12lbs and already had visible horn buds at birth! The other lil man, Toby, was 8lbs, and had wattles.

Toby, Cou Blanc buckling
Sabrina & buckling
I evaluated my herd and made some decisions on where I want to go with it…. Sabrina, though a FABULOUS milker, didn’t fit into my plans and since I can’t maintain a large herd, I had to make cuts. She went to a great home though… 1st time dairy goat owners who needed milk and we stay in touch regularly. Sabrina is the easiest to milk, most tolerant animal I ever met and she has been just wonderful with her new family and very tolerant of everyone learning to milk on her. Toby, the lil buck with wattles, went with her as a companion and is spoiled rotten by their 5 children and they are loving the fresh milk & have been making yogurt by the gallons. Moose, that chunk, went to replace a buck who was lost to snake bite last year.

Now a bit of the bad. After deciding which way I wanted to go with my herd and breeding plans, I scraped up the funds to buy a beautiful bred doe named Astra. She was my idea of perfection and I worked so hard to get her, then drove 5 hours to pick her up…. Sadly, she came home with pregnancy toxemia and due to some inaccurate, but well meant advice, I missed the early warning signs.

We progressed to hypocalcemiaketosis so rapidly.

Days spent in the barn injecting calcium, spoon feeding her, drenching with alfalfa gruel, trying to boost her energy with sugar…Kefir for her rumen, stole cud from a healthy doe to drench into her (almost lost a thumb in the process), set up a dextrose IV, minced hay in the food processor to feed tiny bits at a time….. Every 2 hours, day & night, tending to her….
Days of sitting in the barn floor praying, begging or crying…..Small improvements that gave me hope…..only to be followed by crashes that had me watching with a desperate hopelessness….

I can’t describe the hopeless horror of watching a dream blow up in your face. Worse yet, that dream felt pain and looked at me pleadingly and I couldn’t fix it… Astra was something I thought I could never have and having this thrown in my lap was just awful.

We had to make a choice…Our hope was to pull the kids early to take the strain off her so she could recover.. But when the vet arrived, it turned into a last minute c-section to hopefully save a kid, but certainly not Astra. Instead we lost all 3. She had a beautiful cou blanc buck with wattles, and a broken chamoisee doeling…. I couldn’t have asked for more… It was exactly what I wanted and in the end I only got to hold dead kids and gave Astra an apology before we released her. Many people don’t understand…Some don’t see what all the fuss is over a goat, but I can’t explain it to folks who haven’t experienced what I have….
RIP Astra
To my goat friends & mentors… Many of you were right there with me through this and I can’t thank you enough for your support and help. Y’all kept me going and though we didn’t get the outcome we hoped for, I’m so thankful for the help & encouragement.

To those who own goats, please read Sue Reith’s HypocalcemiaKetosis information. It is valuable information.

A few lessons I took away from this that may be helpful to some….. Have your vet give you a bottle of injectable CMPK to keep on hand (Vet RX). It is much, much more effective than oral CMPK (sold OTC), and unlike oral CMPK it doesn’t have a harsh carrier that burns (oral CMPK burns the throat).

Inject 30ccs, SubQ and make sure the injections are warmed to body temperature. I microwaved a damp towel until burning hot, then wrapped my syringes in it and reheated the cloth & rewrapped as many times as needed until I got it to body temp (which goat body temp is warmer than humans)……

My vet didn’t have any CMPK injectable on hand (it’s an RX) so I had to make due with injectable calcium gluconate (sold OTC at TSC for cattle, give 30ccs, SubQ at body temp). I now have 2 bottles of CMPK injectable on hand, but if you can’t get any, at least keep calcium gluconate on hand. Sue Reith also has a recipe for homemade CMPK *here*. It won’t work as fast as injecting it, but unlike the oral CMPK you purchase, this you just make with ingredients from the vitamin isle and mix with warm water to give orally… So no caustic carrier like the oral CMPK.

If you catch the warning signs early enough, the homemade CMPK could just save your doe, but I would still urge you to try to get the injectable (or injectable calcium gluconate) on hand for emergency situations…..

These metabolic issues progress RAPIDLY and as I learned, mere minutes count. Had I caught the small warning signs sooner, I may have been able to save her...

For a doe needing sugar (ketosis), buy a $5 of injectable dextrose from TSC. It’s listed as an IV for cattle, but you can give orally and at the same time, give injections, SubQ, 30ccs at a time as often as needed. Keep several bottles on hand. I found out about this too late, but it did perk Astra up a bit.. Better than anything else we tried.

I also had to use the dextrose recently on another doe... She went off her feed after kidding and her urine had a slight "sweet" smell to it. Tested it with a ketone strip and it turned purple. Warmed up 2 syringes with 30cc each, injected the dextrose SubQ over the ribs (one shot on each side) and then drenched her with 60cc orally. Gave 30cc of CMPK injectable & repeated the dextrose in 2 hours. Then again. Next barn trip she wanted her grain. Did one more round before bed, and the following morning I tested he urine with the ketone strips and nothing showed up. So if you are quick, catch the signs early, you CAN turn around metabolic issues like ketosis & hypocalcemia. Anytime you have a doe go off feed... Check her temp!! Don't ignore it.
Many sites recommend propylene glycol for ketosis. I know it *can* help, but try a bit on your tongue. It HURTS!!! Very caustic and can burn the esophagus making them not want to eat which does even more damage........ Not to mention, something of that nature isn’t friendly to beneficial & necessary rumen flora…

I’m not knocking those who use it, but I’m happy I found an alternative. I will not touch propylene glycol, or items that contain it (Nutri-Drench) with a 10ft pole... Most especially when I found something more gentle, more easily accepted and not harsh.The injectable dextrose is YUMMY (yea, I try goat meds…) and it’s a double whammy because they can have it orally and by injection.

My nerves are still raw from the ordeal with Astra. I didn’t have her long, but when ya sleep in the barn with a goat for days, it speeds the bonding process. All the “what ifs” & “should haves” haunt me. The images from my barn that night are torture. It looked like a scene from a horror movie after it was all finished and it took me 2 days to fully clean it as I could only bear so much at once…

I thought I was made of tougher stuff, but this one really hit me hard. Knowing what I know now, I wish I would have given up sooner and saved her the pain. But I stubbornly thought that if I held on, if I did more, prayed harder, or begged more I could fix her. I’m sorry I couldn’t offer her more than my lap and tears at the end.

I will never buy another doe, on management so different than mine (she had no real calcium source in her diet prior to coming home with me) who is bred and so close to kidding. The move I think, tipped the odds against her.

Very hard lessons, but at least I learned them and I hope to never go through such an ordeal ever again.

For brighter news, Bleuberry kidded on March 5th. Weirdest labor ever. Contractions were sporadic.. Weak, then strong, then gone. Even with the help of CMPK injectable (good for hypocalcaemia and sluggish labor) and oxytocin, we could not get real contractions from her! During the process she tried to lick the skin right off me… Lick…lick..lick, then a sharp bite when a contraction hit. I’m sporting bruises from the bites!

After a while with no progress, my mom ended up fishing the kid out. Good grief, that was awful.

He didn’t want to come out and he was big. This is Bleuberry’s first kidding and she had a 12 1/2lb buckling. Poor Bleuberry has some tearing from it and I just felt awful…

Bleu's buckling... Pretty smokey color.

Add to it, she wouldn’t contract afterwards to expel the placenta. We went in and massaged the cervix, that got us some contractions, but not much. Then we kind of did this heimlich maneuver with our hands right in front of her udder and pulled sharply up…. After several rounds of this we finally got her to start expelling the placenta. She’s got a bit of udder congestion and was pretty sore, but she's mending well....

Applied Preparation H to help ease the pain from tearing (which she seemed to appreciate), did a round of antibiotics, and babied her with hot molasses water and her favorite treats. We pulled her kid at birth and he left as a bottle baby shortly after. I was just too tired to deal with him and since I wasn’t keeping him, it was better to place him sooner rather than later. Bleuberry never saw him and bonded to us instead….. Licks us and baby talks to us….Very sweet, but the down side is she screams like crazy when her baby (me) leaves the barn.

We have had a few awkward moments when I sit in the barn and she starts cleaning me, then starts nudging me towards her udder like she would a kid… Milk stand time has had it’s ups & downs, but other than the huge battle of getting her up there, we aren’t doing too bad at all. She's a first fresehener, so I cut her some slack. Hopefully in time things will go a bit more smoothly.... Pleased with the udder I’m seeing so far… It’s not going to be as nice or productive as it could have been if she would have had multiples instead of a single, but it’s well attached, high in the rear & good sized teats that are easy to milk… Still needs time, but I’m excited about the potential she’s showing.

Anywho, I am done kidding until May and am so thankful for that. I am down to Bleuberry, Casper, Comanche and Tonka after my losses & herd thinning and have to work to rebuild my Alpine herd….

Kind of feels like I’m starting at square 1 all over again, but I feel like I have a better idea of what my goals are, so hopefully this year I can work towards those goals & tuck the heart break away for a little while.