Thursday, January 30, 2014

The power of herbs

Last Friday night Nellie attacked Dani and was going for the kill this time.  I was sitting here at the computer when I heard a most awful screaming noise outside.  I went running out there and here was Nellie on top of Dani.  I grabbed Nellie's tail and started pulling her off, but this time I couldn't get her off.  She was too strong and intent on doing in Dani.  Luckily Sam came to my aid and started biting and barking at Nellie, distracting her enough that I could finally get her to let go of Dani long enough to separate them.  There was blood everywhere.  As I was disciplining Nellie, Dani went up on the deck.  She was standing up there with blood pouring out of her.  Nellie had torn a big hole in her chest right under her left front leg.  I had to grab a couple of towels and hold them up against her to get the blood to stop flowing out.
  I got her in the house without getting blood all over the floor and examined her to see what all was going on.  She had bite wounds all over her front half, and the big hole in her "armpit".  I mixed up a concoction of coconut oil, calendulated oil, lavender essential oil, and some tea tree oil and took a syringe and squirted it up into the hole.  You could put a golf ball in that hole!  I could see her muscles where her leg joined her chest.  After I got a good dose of oils in there I took another mix of powdered herbs: garlic, comfrey, willow and some cayenne and stuffed the hole full of it.  I tried to wrap it, but nothing I tried would stay in place, so Saturday morning I quit trying.  I just left it open.  I also gave her some raw honey, a spoonful at a time, 3 or more times a day.  She is healing quite well!  The swelling in her leg has gone down and it's almost back to normal now.  She's barely limping on it.  The hole is shrinking and there is no infection at all.
  Dani is going to be 15 years old in May, so she's a little old to be getting in fights, especially with a dog so much bigger than her.  So, from now on, I have to keep those two separated.  I don't trust Nellie not to attack her again.  This is about the 6th time she's attacked and this was the worse one.  Thank heavens Sam was there and helped.  He's only 9 months old, but he's as big as Nellie and very smart.  He catches on to things quite rapidly.  He's also best buds with Dani.  He was very worried about her Friday night.  He slept on the deck the whole night, as close to Dani as he could get, being an outside dog.  He's very gentle with her when she goes outside to go to the bathroom, not trying to play with her or anything.  He just sniffs her and stands by her for a minute, then walks away and leaves her alone. He also keeps between her and Nellie while she is out.
  I'm glad we got a lot of snow last night and today, it covered up all the blood out there!  We've got a good 10 inches of new snow now, and it's still lightly snowing and 12° out there.  I hope it stops pretty soon, I'm tired of shoveling and plowing snow!  I still have more to do tomorrow.

  Anyway, the herbs and oils are doing a wonderful job of healing her wounds, probably as good as, or better than, the drugs a veterinarian would have given her and a whole heck of a lot cheaper than taking her to a vet, especially since it was after hours, as usual.  I have never had an emergency during office hours.  It's always been in the evening or week-end.  Even had to take a goat in for an emergency C-section on Easter Sunday one year.  We're so far away from any of the offices, that a house call mileage charge is more than the actual cost of whatever they are treating.  I've learned to treat almost everything myself over the years.  There are a few things that I will still take an animal to a vet to take care of, but it's got to be a last resort.

  Luckily Dani is going to make a full recovery, and is healing rapidly.  Now I just have to make sure that I keep those two apart all the time.  That will take some juggling around, but I think it will work.  At least for the rest of the winter.  Once the snow is gone, I'll have to figure something else out.  Dang dogs, anyway.  Never again will I have two dogs of the same sex here.  LGDs are just too territorial.  Good for predator control, not good for other pet dogs.  Nellie is especially mean when it comes to food.  A bone is what set her off this time.
  Well, that's all the excitement around here for now.  I'll be digging out of the snow for the next couple of days.  At least now we have a decent snowpack around here.  It was pretty slim before this storm.  Lots of bare spots under trees, etc.  Not now!   Glad I finished my thinning project on Tuesday!  I just have a few big trees to take out of the dairy pasture and it's all done, except for the burning of the slash piles.  That will happen in April when open burning season is.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Cashmere goat hide throw pillows

Here are the pillows I made from a couple of goat hides I had tanned a few years ago.  This wether was a half cashmere, half dairy goat, hence the spots.  These two pillows are pretty soft.  Not as soft as the full cashmere pillows are going to be, but close.  I tried them out by taking a short nap on the couch with these behind my head.  I slept well. :-)  They are really comfortable.  They are 20 inches long by 13 inches wide.  Made completely by hand.  My sewing machine doesn't do leather, so I hand sewed these.  My fingers got a bit tender! :-)  At least goat skin is softer and not as thick as cow hide, so that makes it easier.

  Our forest service road is a skating rink now.  Solid ice from side to side.  I went and got a pick-up load of traction sand today and spread some on the driveway hill.  Tomorrow the neighbor and I are going to take the sander he borrowed from a friend and sand the road.  I really don't like having to put chains on and off when I'm in my "going to town" clothes.  Neither does his wife.  So for the first time ever, we are going to have a sanded road!  The last neighbors never wanted to spend the money to get it sanded, they just wanted to do everything the hard way.  Now we have neighbors that want life a little easier. Yea! :-)

  We have had a run of mild weather the last week or so.  Temps up in the 40's!  Today was a beautiful sunny day.  The goats are starting to shed, I've combed three so far.

Well, that's it for now....

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Happy New year 9 days in

  I hope everyone is surviving the wild weather around the country and world!  Here in NW Montana it hasn't been too bad.  We've had a couple of cold spells, then it warms back up into the 20's and 30's again.  There is just enough snow to be winter, but not enough to be a hassle.  I am very grateful for that!

   The cashmere harvest is beginning already!  Seems a little earlier than usual, but the fiber is letting loose, so I'm starting to comb them.  I love this time of year.  The goats are so soft and my hands stay warm while combing, buried in all that wonderful fleece.

  I am sure glad I have LGDs!   We have all kinds of predators around here this year.  A couple of wolves have been seen in the immediate area, although not by me, by the neighbors.  All I ever see is the tracks.  There are a few mountain lions around.  A big Tom and a mama with a couple of cubs.  Those four eat a lot of deer!  We are down to 2 deer up in this area now.  The lions have moved down lower. following the food source.  With the dogs barking all night every night there for a few days, I'm glad the predators have moved on and things have quieted down a bit.  I can sleep again.  Sam does not like deer, so he barks at them, but only until they run off.  A deer has figured out to watch and wait till the dogs are sound asleep during the night, then she sneaks into the garden area.  Sam caught her in there last night, so in her haste to escape, she tore down the upper part of the fence up in the upper garden.  Dang beast!   There really isn't anything to eat except a few dried leaves still hanging on the trees.  There is more food out in the woods and no dogs, but no, she has to come in here.  She sneaks in through the front gate that I have open just a little ways with a piece of baling twine holding it in place so the dogs can come and go.  Now I have to figure out something else to keep her out and yet let the dogs come in.  I'd like to get a picture of her coming in, she must crawl through the opening.  Someday I'm going to get one of those trail cameras and set it up in various places and see what's going on around here.
  A deer got hung up in one of the cattle panels around the dairy weaning pen last night.  It got itself out by itself, bending up the panel pretty good.  I didn't see any blood, or even hair, around there, and there weren't any drag marks in the tracks as it was leaving, so it must not have got hurt, surprisingly enough.  One nice thing about snow, you can tell what's gone on when you're not around.  There are more rabbits and hares around here than I thought, too!

  After adding up my income and expenses, I've come to the conclusion that I either raise my prices, or get out.  Even with selling all the cashmere I wanted to last year, just saving a few ounces for me, I didn't make enough to pay the goat expenses.  Then I started looking around the internet at cashmere prices and found a wide range of prices.  Mine have been in the lower end of things.  Since I don't have an outside job to subsidize this operation, this is a full-time job itself, I need to make the money off of the products I have here on the farm.  I am raising my prices some.

  I also have come up with a new product.  I am making throw pillows out of the tanned goat hides, stuffing them with the waste from the dehairing machine!  (The waste is the guard hair and short bits of fiber that get separated out of the good cashmere as it's going through the machine)   They are pretty cool!  I've only made a couple so far, and they are nice looking.  One side is a tanned hide with the hair on, and the other side is a tanned hide with the hair off.  I'm sewing them by hand since my sewing machine doesn't do leather.  My fingers are a bit tender!  I made a prototype out of the very first hide I ever had tanned, a half cashmere, half dairy cross young wether named Spot.  It turned out pretty good.  I could've put a bit more stuffing in it, but other than that, it's nice.  The second one I made today.  I did put more stuffing in, and it's great!  I can get two pillows out of most of the hides it's looking like.  I don't have very many hides, either, so these are very limited in supply.  
  Now I have a good way to use almost the whole animal.  I've always hated the thought of taking goats to the auction, it's just inhumane to me.  I know it's a necessary part of life to feed the masses, but not for my goats.  Now the ones that don't have a big enough cashmere  yield, or not really great cashmere can still be useful to me.  I can butcher them for meat without them having the stress of leaving the farm. Their last thought is "oh boy, I get some grain to eat!".  I'll have some of the best meat in the world to eat, the dogs will get some bones, and the hides can be used, too!  There are two tanneries here in Kalispell, one does the hide with the hair on, the other one with the hair off.   I finally have a use for all the waste hair out of the dehairing machine, I don't like just taking it to the dump, it seems like such a waste. (No pun intended) ☺   I'm not going to be making a lot of pillows, I don't get rid of many goats in a year, maybe 6 at the most, and there isn't that much waste in the dehairing process,  but at least I have a neat product and another source of income from the goats.  I'll put a picture or two on here pretty soon, once I get a couple more made.

  Well, that's it for now.  Happy 2014!