OK, so clearly this is not a goat. For the last GotW post of 2019, I thought it would be fun to share a story from another herd member here. Out of all of the "non-goat" animals here, horses not included, none have quite as big a personality as Amelia does. She certainly leaves an impression on people! She also isn't what most people expect, which I love so much about her.
Amelia as she is called, is a 2yr old Irish Dexter heifer. I bought Amelia from a friend in the early spring of 2018 when she was just a baby. It was my intention to bring her home when I moved to the new farm. With more space it would be much easier to introduce a cow to my goats - most of which had never seen a cow, with the exception of the show goats. Due to a few delays I did not get to bring Amelia home until she was close to a year old. I had my work cut out for me, making friends with this one! She came with very pointy horns and a VERY big personality! She was quite shy, and had not been handled much, so we had a long way to go to bring her to the social butterfly she can be known as now. She was young though and I've worked with much more challenging critters than this one, so was confident she would work out.
Amelia was raised with a herd of goats, so I knew that she was going to be fine living with my goats. The biggest challenge would be how to convince my goats to willingly live with a cow. In the end it really didn't take much. The older goats were much more reserved and took longer to warm up to her, but the babies were quick to discover how much fun she was to climb and jump on top of. I am sure by now you are wondering why on earth would I want to add a cow to my goat herd? Turns out, these feisty little cows are incredibly protective! Where we live we also have a healthy coyote and wolf population. It never hurts to have back up in your herd - especially when you can't have a livestock guard dog, which I can't. So we use alternative protection animals. It turns out that Amelia is FIERCELY protective of her herd and she takes it very personally each and every time I remove any animal from the farm for any reason.... which happens a lot lol. I swear that she is telepathic and knows the day before we have an off farm event. Amelia has a bellow that could raise the roof off the barn in alarm when she chooses to use it - and she does choose to use it - often! We discovered Amelia's ability to launch and project her voice over vast miles when she first moved here and we would take the goats out for a hike. She would bellow and buck, ripping all around the pasture until we returned her goats. She would work herself into quite a tizzy actually that it became apparent that I was going to have to start bringing her with us, just so she'd calm down. That was great fun for a few weeks. Amelia was happy and having fun ripping around the fields, and was content to just follow along with us all. After a couple of weeks though, Amelia began to have ideas of her own. All of a sudden one day while on a walk with the herd, Amelia decided to go off on her own adventure... It happened a few times more... We trained her to walk on a lead after that. Chasing a belligerent bovine all over the Muskoka bush is not as much fun as it sounds. Oh the adventures Amelia has had!
On occasion, as does happen, gates may not be as secured as they appear, or Amelia has an incredible ability to open gates. She does get out somehow though, and when she does, she wants to ensure everyone knows it! We live on a very large property with the herd separated to a few places at different times of the year. She will run around to ALL members of the herd letting them know she's on an adventure. She also visits my front door and the barn monitors so that I will be sure to know she is out and about. She then likes to run down to the neighbours farm, to taunt and bellow at the cows that live there. It is quite the sight to see a miniature cow that is easily 1/3 the normal cow size, frolicking around owning her world. Such sass! I stopped chasing Amelia down after the third escape. I know she isn't going anywhere and she is safe. She might love an adventure, but believe me - only short ones. Amelia also loves food, water, napping, brushing, pampering, shade, etc, just as all pampered animals do. She also loves NOT running. So even though she gets out, I don't worry. Once she is done being naughty she is easy to catch and put where she belongs without much fuss.
Along with her huge personality came a set of very pointy horns that I knew we would have to deal with as well. With handling and "taming" of the wild beast that Amelia can be, I suffered many bruises and pokes from those horns and was well aware of how dangerous they could be. Even with the helpful use of pool noodles, there was no dulling the point of those horns when Amelia chose to use them against you. In order to protect all of us, our team, and our clients, for safety reasons the decision was made to have Amelia's horns surgically removed, which we did in March of 2019. The surgery went very well and she has fully recovered from the ordeal. Although she has a much different look about her now, and she still occasionally uses her phantom horns against me, we are all much safer for it.
Amelia literally now spends her days eating and sleeping, waiting for visitors to come admire her or maybe even to brush her. In the warmer months, she is out at pasture with her little sister Elsa who joined us in November 2018. She is no longer living with the goat herd, but spending her time looking after the mini donkeys we also have, and waiting for a time when we will have more of a job for her to do. During the winter months, Amelia is up at the big goat barn and makes up the loudest part of our welcoming committee there. Not a bad life for a cow on a therapeutic farm, even if it is only me who says so. :)
On today's edition of Goat of the Week, I introduce everyone to Han Solo. I chose Han for a couple of reasons - the nerd side of me is going crazy as I haven't yet had a chance to see the new Star Wars movie.... The main reason I chose Han though, is due to Christmas being just a couple of days away. Not everyone loves the holiday season. For some people it is the hardest time of the year and each day is a struggle. Everyone will have their own reasons for these difficulties or struggles through the holidays. I myself struggle in many different ways this time of year, and I know so many other that do too. Now what does a goat have to do with all that? Well Han is different in a special kind of way, which is why I have chosen him for this "Christmas Edition" of GOTW. I thought he would be the perfect goat to open a discussion about the ways we can all struggle to cope in a world where we don't always feel we belong. The holidays tend to magnify those feelings and make one feel even more alone. For that reason I feel this is the perfect time to introduce Han to everyone. In a herd as large as ours, everyone has their "role". For Han, that role is to be our resident a**hole. I know that sounds harsh, but I assure you it isn't. Here is where I am going with that...
Han was born in 2015, in the year that my naming theme was Star Wars. It was apparent to me very early on that Han was a highly sensitive individual. He was very skittish, and would tense up the moment anyone tried to touch him. At the time it was early on in my studies and I wasn't as aware then as I am now as to the struggles of highly sensitive individuals - I am also now very aware that I too am one of these highly sensitive types. We can sense and feel the emotional energies of others, and sometimes those emotions can cause confusion and overwhelm us, especially if we are unaware that the emotions we may be feeling, may not in fact be our own, but that we are picking up the emotions of others. Han being so sensitive like this, made him virtually impossible to "tame". He is not like any of our other goats that are friendly and curious. He is not. If you approach Han he will run away and knock you down if he needs to in order to get out of your way. He is incredibly tricky for me to catch for his regular maintenance and care, but over the years I have learned the best way to "deal" with Han. Like our Queen Bonnie, Han is only handled by me. The trust we have developed in our relationship is based in mutual respect. Han knows that I will do what needs to be done and let him go back to his life of quiet contemplation without any extra fuss. You could say we have an understanding with each other. I think he knows I am a similar creature.
The sad reality for a goat that is not easy to manage is often to end up on someone's plate. Fortunately for Han, he was born on a farm where a herd was being created that would need someone like him in it. I am grateful that I am able to offer a place for those who would normally suffer a much different fate. My herd is as large as it is in a way to attempt to make a representation of what our own society or community is like. For Han, he is often judged unfairly for being the way he is. I have heard visitors that come here refer to him as the "grouch", the "mean one", the "angry one" etc. None of those labels are fair or any indication of who he really is. Nor is me referring to him as the "Resident A**hole", but that literally is his role. He is here to represent those "types" of people in our society. Han is not grouchy, mean or angry all the time. He does not like to be touched, many people are the same way. There was an interesting point in time last summer that came about a month after we moved to Woodfield. One day while out on a herd walk we stopped to lay in the grass and let the herd graze. All of a sudden, Han was at my side. He just stayed there right beside me, not moving. As a slowly reached out to touch him, he let me. Even more shocking, he let me rub him all over! I even got to take a selfie with him. (thank heavens otherwise no one would believe me). For about a month after that day though, Han continued to interact with people and let them touch him. I thought perhaps he had determined to like people afterall, but nope! After those few weeks, it was as if he decided I tried it and didn't like it, and he went back to being the Han we've always known. Hey, at least he gave it a shot! ;)
So back to my reason for choosing him for this weeks post. I think that as a society we are so quick to judge others. We forget that we should always remember to be kind and compassionate first, because we have no way of knowing what someone else is going through. At this time of the year especially while so many struggle. I think it is even more important to remember to always reach out in kindness to others. Gentleness goes a long way. No one is perfect. We are all human. We all make mistakes. We all have things hiding in our closets. We all have regrets. We all lose things we love. We all grieve. We all feel too much sometimes. When Christmas rolls around, please take the time to think of those in your life that may be struggling right now and reach out if you can. We all need love. Love in all forms.
Merry Christmas to everyone from all of us at Sky River Meaodws. We wish you all an abundance of health, love, light and happiness in 2020.
This week on Goat of the Week, I introduce Honeynut to everyone. Honey (as she is most commonly known as) was not born on my farm, but at another farm in the Muskoka area. She is the daughter of our beloved Jose who recently passed away. From what I was told by her breeder, Honeynut's birth was a tough one. She had her umbilical cord wrapped a few times around her neck and was unable to come out without assistance to untangle her. I remember seeing her for the first time when she was just a couple of hours old. The hair on her neck showed the evidence of how long that cord had been wrapped around her neck while she grew in utero. The hair around her neck stood out funny for a long time showing those marks. She is lucky to be alive, and I know I am lucky and blessed to have her. I acquired Honey on an exchange deal with a fellow Nigerian Dwarf Goat breeder. A baby of hers, in exchange for a baby of mine. (saves money * and enables goat friends into getting more goats * without costing actual money * so hubby's can't complain * ;D ) I bonded with Honey very quickly after her birth, which is not common for me with animals not born on my farm. I actually have to work to stop myself from falling in love with other peoples animals in order to spare myself the inevitable heartbreak if and when they say "no, you can't take my *blank* home with you". LOL I get it. With Honeynut I bonded quite quickly though. It was likely due to her traumatic entry into the world. Either way, I am not afraid to admit that I held my breathe until I was told that I could have Honey in exchange for one of my Jose doelings at home. I continued to hold my breathe until her registration paperwork arrived, proving to me that she was mine. That was a very happy day for me :)
Life with Honey was great from the moment she arrived home. As she was dam raised I had to wait until Honeynut was old enough to come home with me. I visited with her as often as I could until that point, so she was bonding with me as well. I was concerned that she would have a tough time fitting into the herd here as she was an outsider coming in, but she did really well making fast friends amongst the babies of that season. I was still competing in goat shows that year, so all of my babies were properly weaned from thier mothers - unlike now, where I just let the moms decide when it is time to wean. Honey came to me at the end of my time competing with the goats, so I only put her into a handful of shows the summer of 2016, and she did come and compete at the Royal Winter Fair as well that year, however I can't remember exactly where she placed. I remember it was one placing behind her twin sister Willow, near the back of the lineup though. She did not place well. She was very gangly and leggy as a baby, a late bloomer you could say. She did have that beautiful golden colour that I loved so much on Jose. She also carried his silver moonspots and his very sweet and loving temperament. Also like her dad, she doesn't have a ton of smarts about her. She is beautiful, loving and sweet though, … and MILK!!! Holy moly can this girl milk!! Last year as a first time mom, Honey blessed us with quadruplet doelings! An amazing blessing indeed! Due to how busy we were with moving the farm, I never bothered to train her to the milk stand last year and I allowed her to wean her kids when she chose. This past season Honey blessed us once again with quadruplets! 2 girls and 2 boys. So at the age of 3, Honeynut has given me 8 healthy babies! This year I did decide to train her to the milk stand. Honey took to milking like a pro. She never kicked or fussed, not even once. She has always been so trusting of me, I guess that was also something she was just cool with me doing. Besides, I was much gentler than her brood of hard bunting babies, and even offered soothing massages with being milked which she enjoyed greatly. :)
As this was the first year of milking Honey, I really can't say how much milk she produces yet. As she was still nursing two of her babies, I only ever took a small amount from her each morning for a couple of months this fall. One thing is for certain, Honeynut is an incredible mother. In 2018, with her first kidding, she gave birth while I ran to the store. She literally dropped the fourth kid as I came back to her. I've only ever owned one other "sneaky birther" before, and that was Ash Donna. She was notorious at popping out triplets while your back was turned for a few moments. This year Honeynut once again did us proud by giving birth to quadruplets again, with ease. Both years I have not needed to intervene or supplement the babies along side her. She does need to consume a large amount of grain while she is in milk, but I have no issues with giving her anything she needs. Honeynut does have the type of body that can eat endlessly and never gain an ounce. Like a racehorse, she requires extra nutrition, especially at certain stages, especially during lactation. Honey has no health issues and has always had strong feet and legs.
Honey is kind of a goofy, playful soul. She plays and runs often while we are out walking with the herd. When we go hiking in the deep bush, or adventuring as I like to say, Honeynut is quite brave and adventurous. She enjoys climbing and often scares me by hanging out WAY too close to the edges. My mantra while adventuring with adventurous goats is to "trust the goat". I am always grateful for the health of my herd and ability to do the things that we get to do together. It keeps us all healthy to stay active. Being able to explore and connect in nature everyday is essential to all of our well being. I see the evidence and positive effects every single day not only in the people that come to visit us, but in the goats and in ourselves. As we are now in the snowy months, it becomes increasingly difficult to get the goats outside. The sunshine will always draw me out though, and therefore I drag the goats out as well. In the winter months the herd runs up and down the length of the driveway a couple of times before eventually they run back into the barn to their thick warm bed and abundant hay feeders.
Honeynut doesn't have a very "In your face" personality like so many others do. She is very friendly and sweet though, and often comes forward to spend time with people. She LOVES to be groomed and will stand for a long time for someone who is brushing her. She also appreciates a good bum scratch and has the most adorable tail wag whenever she gets one. I think that Honey has one of the most expressive faces in the herd. To me is seems she makes a face in reaction to things, rather in a human way. I've been lucky a few times in capturing some of her faces in photos, and share some of them below. As she is still so young, I am sure much of Honey's story is yet to be written. As she matures I am certain she will continue to do incredible things here. For now I will continue to be dazzled by her willingness to take part in all of the activities we do here, and her seeming absolute trust in me. I am grateful to her for being here, and for already contributing so much to the herd. She's pretty special, my Honeynunny <3
This weeks edition of Goat of the Week is all about Anakin. This cutey pie has a different story in some ways. I like to refer to Anakin as one of my "dirty little secrets" in the sense that his purpose in being a part of my herd is very personal to me and my work, which I will elaborate on in more detail shortly.
Ani's story began on my birthday in 2015. It was a typical beautiful sunny day in August and his mom Cassi decided that me sitting with her, waiting for her to give birth to her babies was how I would spend my birthday - which was OK by me! What a gift to be able to receive!. Cassi gave birth to two beautiful babies that day - Padme and Anakin. These two beauties were complete polar opposites of each other. She was black with white markings and blue eyes, he was white with black markings and brown eyes. She was reserved, quiet and shy, while he was very boisterous, mischievous, playful and so very sweet - to me anyways.
Anakin is what is called a wether. That is the term for a fixed male goat. The Sky River therapy herd actually has eighteen wethers within it. These males have a couple of very specific job functions within the herd. Fixed males are often herd protectors and they let me know when the females are receptive to being bred. The most important job they have though is to be the great connectors with people. Due to being fixed, they become less interested in sex drive and more interested in connecting. They are generally more affectionate, loving, playful and personable.
The reason I refer to Anakin as one of my "dirty little secrets" (and I have more than one) is that his place in the herd was earned due to my love for him and my need to have him in my life. As an adult wether he is not very friendly to most people, rarely comes forward to interact or connect with anyone, and he really just prefers to eat while the others work. He is not one of the herd protectors - even though I suspect our Queen, Bonnie has been trying to get him to step into that role for some time now. He continues to refuse. He is often the first goat to spook over any little sound. He is very sensitive and still very attached to his mother Cassi. He is rarely far from her and he gets very jealous of his younger siblings. I like to describe Anakin as a dreamer - much as myself. He often appears to me to be daydreaming and I have been able to amuse myself for hours just watching him go about living his life in such a carefree way. Due to his love for munching all day long, and not a ton of ambition for activity, he is also now rather chubby. Perhaps it is due to the fact that he knows he is very special and important to me, and also that he is quite spoiled, but it always seems to me that Anakin is smiling. His presence gives me strength and stability. Knowing he is there helps me stay connected to myself and grounded. Anakin, and a few others who share this role, very well may have the most important job in the entire herd - and that is to hold space for me, making it possible for me to do the work that I do. These special souls, my "dirty little secrets", help me to stay present, focused and connected. In some ways I feel that these special ones are an extension of myself, allowing me to deepen my connections with all things. Many of my personal support animals also bond, connect and develop relationships with other people. Anakin it seems, is quite content to spend his time only deeply connecting to me and no one else. His arrival on my birthday was a gift, just as each and everyday that I have shared with him has been. I am so grateful to him for the love and support that he gives to me so freely. He ensures that each and everyday I feel loved, needed and so supported. What a blessing, and a special gift indeed. <3
This week I am pleased to tell everyone the story of Mystique. She is lovingly known by a few nicknames here, but most will know her as Mysti. She is often one of the first goats noticed due to her very unique, and dramatic colouring and extra long shaggy hair. It is safe to say that every colour a goat can have in their coat, Mysti has it in hers in spades. Nigerian Dwarf Goats are known for having many different colourings and patterns to their coats. Mystique's cool spots are a genetic trait that was passed to her called "moonspots". What I personally notice first about Mysti more than any other of her physical characteristics, is her crystal clear, sky blue eyes. I've lost many hours staring into their depths. For anyone who has shared space and made a connection to Mysti you will know what I speak of when I say that she has an "old soul" about her. Not everyone in life has an extraordinary "out there" kind of story. For Mystique, parts of her story are inexplicably intertwined with that of her twin sister Pipsqueak. Those parts of her story most of you may already know. I am happy to talk about the Mysti that everyone does know, but to also tell you all about the Mysti that most people don't get to know.
In 2014, I received word that there was a group of goats in Quebec that were in need of rescuing from a bad situation. A couple friends and I launched a rescue mission and headed to Quebec in a minivan to bring these goats back home. What a fun adventure! :) One of the goats that joined my herd was Taylorside's Coconut, the sweetest little goat I have ever met, and who will always remain so special to me. It turns out that little Coconut was pregnant, and late that summer, she gave birth to Mystique and Pipsqueak. There was little I could do to prepare for their birth as I was unsure of their due date. When that magical day did arrive though, I was grateful to be home and to be there to assist Coconut in delivering them into the world. Mystique was born at a healthy "normal" weight for a Nigerian Dwarf Goat at just over 2 pounds. Her little sister Pipsqueak however, weighed in at only 10.2 ounces and seemed too tiny to even be able to survive. She had other physical malformations in her front legs as well that appeared at birth would impede her ability to walk normally. If this story was about Pip, I would go into further detail, but for now I will leave Pip's story for her own time. This is Mysti's tale :)
Summer of 2014 was a big one for us as far as kidding seasons go. We had 32 babies born to us that summer, which is the highest number of births to date on our farm. Imagine for a moment - 32 baby goats! Socializing them was a daunting task that required numerous volunteers to be on hand just to let them out of their pen and into the yard to play. Although Mysti and Pip were the last babies born that season, Mysti didn't waste anytime in letting the older babies know that she wouldn't tolerate ANY bullying of her little sister. What a fighter Mysti was! I swear she spent the first few months of her life fighting every battle of hers and then fighting all of Pips battles for her afterwards. Not that Pip wasn't capable of fighting her own battles - believe me! Mysti has just always been there, taking core of things so she has never had to.
Like most of my herd back in those days, Mysti was also paraded around to goat shows as a way for us to try to promote the breed and raise awareness as to what we were trying to create here at the farm. Let's just say that Mysti was not a fan of goat shows. She went, she placed, she had a miserable time, and I decided she didn't need to do that anymore. Trying to show a goat that does not want to be shown is not fun, and I can think of MANY other things I'd rather do with my time than to wrangle a screaming Mystique around the show ring to make her look good to the judges. Besides, I had plenty of goats in my herd that WANTED to be at shows, so 2015 was her last time in the ring.
As a way of trying to give her another focus besides fighting all the time, I decided to breed her. Perhaps if she had babies she would find a new focus, and settle down into being a Mom. Well, that didn't work either. I have tried to breed Mystique unsuccessfully for 3 complete breeding seasons now. I have exhausted everything in my arsenal beyond putting her up for an entire month with a smelly buck companion - not a good option for a therapy goat! Another breeding season is right around the corner and I'm not counting her out yet. Mysti possesses a few qualities that I would like to add into my breeding program if she were ever willing to cooperate. Fingers crossed that next spring we may see babies out of her yet :)
So what do the goats that don't have jobs in the show ring or having babies do here at Sky River Meadows? Well, that's where the main therapeutic herd comes in. We currently have 49 goats in our therapeutic herd. The majority of them have no other job but to connect to people, make friends and give unconditional love and support. Mystique is one of these amazing souls. She is often observed as the quiet watcher of people. She is well known for a certain expression that she often wears, which also happens to be one of her nicknames of Resting *****face - which is meant in the most loving of ways. Mysti is anything but the hard expression she often wears. She is soft, sweet and very affectionate. However, make no mistake - Mystique is PICKY about who she spends time with. You may get to share space with her for a few moments or she may lie down and invite you to lie with her for a snooze, or even more than likely not - she will ask you to scratch her butt. Mystique definitely wins the award for the itchiest butt in the herd. I do think that is due to the crazy hair she insists on growing each season though. No matter what connection you get to make with Mysti, it is a gift, pure and simple to just share space with her.
It is interesting preparing to write these Goat of the week posts. It gives me an opportunity to really reflect back on the life of our dear herd members, and to truly put to words what their lives each mean to me. While passing through countless photographs looking for just the right ones, I get to reminisce and smile. The thing that stood out for me the most about Mysti's photos - in almost every single one of them you'll see Pip is never more than a few feet away from her. I can't tell you how much that touches my heart. The dedication in which Mystique has lived her life in service to her sister has inspired me many times. It reminds me that we don't all have the same purpose or goals in life. That sometimes, we choose our own path, even if others may not agree. Above all we have to be true to ourselves, always striving for our own authenticity. Mysti reminds me to always be proud of who I am no matter what. Thanks Mysti :)