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 :)
I am going to really enjoy telling this week's Goat of the Week story. All of the goats in my herd are special, however there are certain goats that stand out more to me personally than some of the others. Each person that comes here will leave having made at least one goat friend. Maisie is one who stands out for me the most because if I was to describe which goat in my herd would be considered my "best goat friend" - it would be Maisie hands down. (No offense to my human bestie - you know I love you too xoxo) Maisie and I have been through a lot together and she has an extraordinary story, that I am so pleased to share with you all.
Maisie was born on a cold morning on January 11, 2012. She was born at a very special place called Haute Goat. At the time, owners Debbie and Shain were on a farm in Campbellford, ON. (This wonderous place is now located in Port Hope, ON.. I highly recommend checking them out and booking an incredible experience. https://hautegoat.com/)
Maisie and her older twin brother (who they called "Boo") were an unexpected surprise for Debbie and Shain. Fortunately for Maisie and her brother, their early arrival didn't impede their ability to thrive and grow, and as Debbie takes such wonderful care of her animals, they were always safe and warm. Fortunately for me, I was already in contact with Debbie as I had purchased another doe - Maisie's older paternal sister Carmela just a few months prior. There was a specific personality type that I was seeking for my breeding program, and from all of the herds I visited with, the goats at Haute Goat were particularly calm, with easy going temperaments. The three foundation does for temperament in the Sky River Meadows herd, ALL came from Tripping Billies lines. They are; Tripping Billies Carmela, Tripping Billies Loo (Maisie), and Tripping Billies Delilah. They are all truly beautiful souls, that we have Debbie and Shain at Haute Goat to be grateful for. Each and every generation down the line has remained true to the solid, calm temperament that these girls brought to my breeding program. Oh, and better yet - MILK!!! All three of these girls are now retired from breeding, showing and milking, but each one of them gave me over 2L of milk daily which is pretty incredible coming from a little goat!
I first saw a picture of Maisie when she was only a few weeks old. I can't speak for love at first sight amongst humans, but I can say that for me it truly was love at first sight of wee Maisie. MISCHIEF - right from the moment we got her home, and she really never stopped. Her intelligence was apparent right from day one as well. She was so tiny when she arrived that I was too frightened to put her with the herd, so of course I moved her right into the house ;) Maisie quickly made friends with our dogs, and then quickly took over the household. The dogs learned quickly to be wary of Maisie as she could pack a hard, quick wallop with a head butt. Even my Dad's poor dog Daisy learned the hard way when she was just a pup and Maisie just a kid. They were virtually the same size, but Maisie won. To date, Maisie is one of three goats in my herd that I say will take on any sized dog. She is fearless.
Maisie has earned a lot of distinction in my herd over the years. The most notable for me is that she was the first goat that I housetrained. It took three days. That was it. Shocking no? I've learned more since then and now know you can actually housetrain a goat inside of twelve hours, or 3 repetitions if they are smart enough. Maisie would scratch at the front door with her hoof to go out, if she needed to ask to go out. She never had an accident in the house once she knew what was expected of her. I was blown away with the ease in which it took to train her. Fast forward that ability to not go potty indoors to today, and voila! You have a goat that can now do house calls. For me it was a breakthrough that may have fast-forwarded my dream of opening a therapeutic animal farm for my animal assisted therapy practice. If anything, realizing that I could train a goat to go with me anywhere was the fuel I needed to fire my dreams. I immediately changed the focus of my studies to get me closer to my dream, and began taking Maisie everywhere with me, including even to University (that's a story for another time). She may even be in a grad photo taken of me 3 years later, but again, a story for another time. :) To this day, Maisie still enjoys going for a ride, and is always up for an adventure.
Maisie, like most goats, will try to scare you with how quickly they can become ill. Maisie has kind of made a career out of trying to die on me. She tests my abilities every single winter, with random bouts of pneumonia. She has also undergone a few surgeries the last few years to deal with some health issues. She grew a tumour on her side that we had removed and analyzed - fortunately came back benign. She also underwent dental surgery to remove her teeth due as they were loosening and causing all kinds of problems for her. She is better able to gain weight now, and actually manages to eat just fine. We intervene where necessary to give her the extra her body needs. Her one downfall to no teeth is that she can't scratch herself without her teeth. She has learned to expect full body rubs from everyone she meets. She also LOVES to be groomed and is willing to stand for as long as someone is willing to brush. Her lack of teeth make her pretty comical, as there is nothing to keep her tongue in her mouth. It is often hanging out, especially as she runs :)
Maisie has some incredible strengths and she shows amazing resilience. She has encountered pretty much any number of frightening things, and she just takes everything in stride. Honestly, I get more stressed out than she does when we are asked to do something. I think Maisie thinks she is a comedian. She will do things sometimes just to get a reaction from people. She also loves to dress up and has worn some impressive costumes over the years. Maisie has also always been my best teacher for training someone on how to milk a goat. Over the years, Maisie has likely taught hundreds if not a thousand people to milk - most of the children. A highlight of Maisie's career was the time she was featured on a YouTube channel called The River and Wilder Show! Check out the video below
As incredible as Maisie is in all things she takes on, I think her biggest gift is in her ability to connect directly to people's hearts. Those beautiful ice blue eyes of hers stare directly into your soul. Maisie has an uncanny ability to know exactly who needs to see her when we go into a residential home, hospital or hospice setting. She is always respectful and quiet, allowing those she visits with to be comforted by her presence and soft coat. Watching Maisie work touches my heart in ways nothing else ever has. It is a gift to be able to share her love with others as well. I am hoping this ability and gift that Maisie has passes on through her genetics. I currently also have Maisie's grand daughter B'Elanna, and great-grand daughter Yara in training to help us in our important mobile work.
In the new year Maisie will turn 8. Her time with me has been so special and we have learned so much together. I can't wait to see where the next bunch of years take us. I just know for absolutely certain - without Maisie, there would be no Sky River goat magic! She is my muse <3 Through her, all of this has become possible. To my Miss Maisie Moo XOXO
This edition of Goat of the Week is a sad one for me to write. There is no other goat more prominently in my mind these days, so he is the only choice for this week's edition. I am honoured to be able to share his story with you all.
Looking back, I don't remember the original circumstances that brought Jose to me. I remember that there were a group of bucklings imported from the USA, and that for whatever reason the people were unable to keep them. I was lucky to be one of the first to pick amongst these bucklings. There was something special about him, I could tell even just from the pictures. We were even able to pick his name. As he came from New Mexico, we wanted something that suited. Although we settled on Jose right away, the rest of his name took some time. He was almost Jose Jalapeno (if Geordon got his way he would have been!) but in the end we settled on No-Way Jose.
Jose was a couple months old by the time he finally was able to come home to us. Right away he won us over with his sweet nature and silly antics. Jose was incredibly playful and was always looking for someone to chase him. He even loved jumping on the trampoline in his younger days.
Jose always had a very un-buck like personality. He was sweet and cuddly, and enjoyed being brushed. Not many will appreciate the smell that breeding male goats have. It is not an odour that is easily removed, and is not the kind of smell you want to wear as cologne. Intact male goats have some amazing abilities, one of which is the ability to shower in their own urine. This smell drives the lady goats crazy! Jose was no exception. Although he was cleaner than my other boys, he still smelled just as bad as the rest. Jose was always a complete gentleman with his ladies. The trouble was, that sometimes the breedings that I hoped would happen with Jose, sometimes didn't, Jose was a lover and not a fighter. He would much rather cuddle and play than get into serious fights. For this reason, my golden boy was a little tricky to breed at times. Some of my females are a little rougher and tougher than Jose would prefer. There were a few times over the course of his life that I was unable to breed Jose to the mate of my choosing - because he was AFRAID of them! A perfect example of this was when I tried to breed Jose to my finished champion doe ASH Donna. Donna head butted Jose and no matter what I did to try to intervene, he was having nothing to do with her. He decided the best place to be was to hide behind me. He may have even screamed a few times when she tried to hit him again lol. She also proved that she had no interest in his "make love, not war" philosophy, and was happy to wait for a rougher, tougher kind of buck.
Over the years, although there were a few breedings we weren't able to accomplish with Jose, we did accomplish many wonderful breedings with other does. There are a few of his sons, and many daughters out there carrying on his lines. We are saddened that we do not have a son of Jose to carry on his genetics here. We do however have a few of his daughters in our herd. His daughter Honeynut has proven to be a wonderful mother and has given birth to quads 2 years in a row. Jose has a few younger daughters in our herd that haven't been bred yet; Hermione, Nymphadora and Arya will all carry on after him.
Back when I was still showing goats, a couple of Jose's daughters did quite well in the showring as Junior does. Sky River Meadows Asia won Jr. Reserve Champion AOP at the 2013 Brooklin Spring Fair. Sky River Meadows Neveah won Jr. Reserve Champion Nigerian Dwarf Goat at the 2013 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. Jose's son Sky River Meadows Hades also won a Grand Champion Nigerian Dwarf at the 2014 Eastern Ontario Buck Show in Delta, ON. Jose lost to his son Hades in that ring, placing second behind him. That was the same year that Jose completed his Championship legs, earning him the status of Permanent Champion. He won 3 out of 4 rings at the 2014 Eastern National Buck Show in Delta, ON. I had hoped to get more of his offspring into the show ring, but I have not had the time to show my goats for a few years now. Maybe one day we will again!
The last few years of Jose's life were spent enjoying the good life with his "bros", waiting for the special time of year when all of our boys have work to do. Jose's temperament was so sweet that he was quite fearful of many things. I will always miss his voice as he was a very vocal boy. His way of hollering out whenever anything scared him always made me smile. Jose was a beautiful boy, with the most amazing coat. What he did not possess in brains and braun, he more than made up for with his good looks, perfect conformation and sweet disposition. It was an absolute shock and tragedy that took him from us so soon. Jose will forever be missed. March 24, 2012 - November 14, 2019 RIP Jose.
It is with the heaviest of hearts that I share this sad news. Our dear, sweet boy Jose passed away Thursday morning. This was unexpected, and has come as a shock to my family. He passed due to unknown causes.
Jose arrived to me in 2012 as a young buckling imported from New Mexico. He very quickly won over all of my families hearts with his sweet temperament and silly antics. In 2015 Jose competed at the Buck Show in Delta, ON and won Grand Champion Nigerian Dwarf Buck in 3 out of 4 rings. His son beat him in the 3rd ring that year. Jose became the first Nigerian Dwarf Buck in Canada to become a finished Champion.
As most people that come to the farm do not interact with the breeding males, you may not know Jose, but through his children that live within our main herd you may know him well. Argus, Honeynut, Legolas, Nymphadora, Remis, Ron, Hermione, Jorah and Arya, all have parts of those great qualities he possessed.
Jose was a very vocal boy who always had something to say. It is his voice that I will miss the most in the barn. Rest in Peace Jose. I hope that wherever you are now, the clover is abundant, the sun is always shining and you can spend your days chasing the ladies though the meadows.
As a way for everyone to get to know the herd here at Sky River Meadows, my team have decided that a new weekly feature "Goat of the Week" would be a great way to introduce the individual herd members. Each Monday we will feature a different goat, sharing some of their story and pictures. I did not post this feature yesterday, out of respect to our Veterans on Remembrance Day. As this is the very first Goat of the Week post, I decided to feature our beautiful herd Queen Bonnie. I hope you all enjoy these weekly additions, and learning about our wonderful herd of goats.
Imperial K Bonnie was the very first Nigerian Dwarf doe that I added to my herd. I purchased Bonnie from a woman in southern Ontario who had owned Bonnie for several years. This woman is now a friend of mine and I know she is smiling reading this as she has a particular "love" for Bonnie ;) Bonnie was 5 years old when I brought her home. She was not friendly and really hard to catch. She was not even close to being considered tame at the time, and even though she has been with me for 9+ years she is still the exact same - unfriendly and hard to catch. She is the boss here and she knows it. I am grateful to her for keeping everyone in line though. As Bonnie has the distinction of being the only horned goat in my therapy herd, she is easy to spot. The remainder of my herd has been disbudded - meaning they don't have horns. We do this for safety reasons. Goats love to headbutt and fight with each other, and often they can injure themselves or people with their horns. So by not allowing them to grow horns, we can minimalize injuries when they fight each other, and ensure that no one loses an eye. Bonnie's horns have gotten to an impressive height at almost 15 years of age. I often find myself admiring them. If not for the safety of people and the herd I would love for all my goats to have horns. The rings on goats horns are similar to that on a tree, they grow with age. I have to admit I am fascinated by horns.
Bonnie is incredibly intelligent and stubborn. For the most part we humour Bonnie and just bend to her will and accept her rule around here. Once a month or so though, Bonnie has no choice but to get caught to have her hooves trimmed, get weighed and have an overall check up. We have to plan ahead in order to accomplish capturing her. I joke with my team that it is a three day process as I swear Bonnie can read my mind. Fortunately for Bonnie, she is still in great health so we don't have to bother her too often. She is the only goat in our herd that gets away with being this way. The one with the biggest horns wins! Although Bonnie has been retired as a Mom for several years now, I will always fondly remember her three pregnancies she had with me. How she would lovingly *whack* me with her horns in between her contractions if I wasn't rubbing her belly just the way she needed. Bonnie was an amazing mother to all of her kids. She only ever had two daughters - Black Jack's Ophelia, and Sky River Meadows Cassiopeia. Bonnie also had four sons. When we had to downsize our herd after Geordon's death, Ophelia was one that we sold. I still own Cassiopeia though and it is wonderful to watch how close mother and daughter remain all these years, and how many children they shared in raising. Bonnie has always been the type of doe that would try to steal other mother's babies. She was so adamant about collecting ALL of the babies each year she gave birth, that she would nurse any and all babies.
An interesting observation I have noticed over my years as a goat herder, is the familial ties that exist in the herd. When goats go about doing goat business each day, they tend to do it in family groups. This is especially apparent when they sleep, in one big family puddle of goats.
The average life expectancy for goats is 15-17 years for females and fixed males. Bonnie is almost 15 years old and so far going strong. I hope for all of our sakes at Sky River Meadows that Bonnie continues to thrive and rule over my herd for many years to come yet. I have a hilarious story about the summer of 2018 when Bonnie went on strike as Queen for almost 2 months... but I will save that story for another time and place. For now I will leave you with a few more images of Bonnie, living the good life, without a care in the world. She really does have the best life going for her here. She is surrounded by her family and is the center of her universe. Although she can be a Royal pain in the butt, I am so grateful for Bonnie and all that she has brought to my herd and breeding program. Her icy blue eyes continue to dominate her genetic line in my herd. Even after she passes over the rainbow bridge, when her time does comes, those beautiful eyes of hers will still be admired here by many. Until then LONG LIVE THE QUEEN! ~ Angee
Five years ago I met a man. Little did I know at the time, but this man would offer me the opportunity of a lifetime. He arrived on my doorstep just four days after the passing of my husband Geordon. The universe certainly does have a way of opening doors for us, after closing other doors... In the months following Geordon's death, I began to meet with this man and discuss his vision and what he wants to create on his property. His vision included me and my herd of goats. He asked if we would be willing to move our farm operations from our property, to his 500+ acre property only 15 minutes drive away. The opportunity was too great to pass up. Some of you may be aware of the journey we embarked upon to come to Woodfield and others are not, but here is the story of how we came to be at the amazing place we now call home. This will also explain why there has been so much silence and lack of posts. I can't speak for Woodfield here, as it is not my journey or story to tell. That story will have to wait for now.
So how does one start life over again after losing a husband/partner suddenly? A giant leap of faith is how! The last 5 years have been challenging to say the least, but the rewards have been far greater. Being offered a farm that is far beyond my means to afford was a very large adjustment for me. Realizing that I am being handed the opportunity to make all my dreams come true has been difficult to accept. It is almost as if for the last 5 years I have expected to wake up suddenly and realize it was all just a dream....or to have someone come along and take it all away. Putting down roots in a new place, adjusting to my new normal, reimagining my farm business, figuring out what I want to do with the rest of my life, completing a few new certification programs, studying a totally new life path, exploring new ideas and finding magic in the most unlikely of places, becoming a grandmother...these are a few of the things that have occupied me over the last few years. I have not been idle, but very busy indeed.
June 2018 saw me finally make the move with the herd to Woodfield. Our last year here has been beyond magical. Although it has been very busy with moving 4 times in the last year, to different houses on the property, we are finally settled into the farmhouse and huge bank barn where I was first brought to 5 years ago. We have come full circle and everything happened exactly as originally planned - even though along the way it seemed like we would never get here. The universe is always so full of tests. Checking in with us to see if we really WANT something as bad as we say. The tests that have come my way have been difficult, heartbreaking and sometimes I felt they would break me. I held onto my faith in myself and what I want to create here and we all came through to the other side. We have been living in this amazing farmhouse for a month now and it still feels completely surreal. I spend each evening watching the sun set over the fields and am just in awe of the place I get to call home. What an amazing place for people to come to interact with animals. The healing that we will bring to the people and the land here inspires me to keep working hard towards this goal that I feel so passionately about. Creating my small piece of what will be the bigger picture here at Woodfield is an incredible gift that I intend to put all of heart and soul into. Stay tuned! Creating something amazing takes a lot of time and energy, which is why my online presence is so much less these days. Finding time to be on the computer and particularly on social media is nearly impossible most days. I hope that now that we are finally done moving I can get into a new routine that will include more time for posting online.
So, Sky River Meadows is now not just a small breeding farm of Nigerian Dwarf Goats. Although the original breeding program is still operating and I am continuing to offer mentorship to anyone wishing to raise goats, we have expanded the business operations to now include our Therapeutic Animal Programs. I am also meeting with other professionals in the area who wish to explore some possible collaborations which could develop into some other offerings in the future. Currently our huge barn is under extensive renovations in order to restore her to her once previous glory. Restoring a barn that was built in 1907 is no small task. Because of some unexpected delays with those renos however, it has delayed the start of some of our programming - most specifically GOAT YOGA! I want all of our animal experiences here to be beyond our visitors expectations, and that means having everything in place before we welcome people. Again, challenges and obstacles from the Universe. We will tackle whatever road blocks the Universe puts in our way. The closer I get to my goal, the harder I want to chase it!
I will not put a timeline on when we complete projects here or have new activities ready. I fully believe that everything will come together at the right time. For now I am focusing on one day at a time. Staying focused on Self-Love (a personal goal of mine for this year), and staying focused on the needs of my herd are my priorities at the moment. As volunteers come forward and get involved in the activities here, things will begin to shape up. If you've ever thought of becoming a volunteer here, maybe now is the time to reach out? Send me an email and let me know what skills you bring to the table. We are in need of assistance with everything from daily animal chores, to admin, to baby goat cuddling. The benefits are immeasurable!
Until next time ~ Angee
What a week and month it has been. My intention was to start blogging regularly again. My animals however apparently have other plans for my availability. After many attempts to write a new post over the last week, I am finally able to take a breather this morning to write. In the last week we have welcomed 5 new babies to the farm! One amazingly gorgeous colt and 4 babies goats so far! With all of the new arrivals, I am continually reminded of what a blessed life I live. Every day, real life happens in my barn. Sometimes it is a struggle and endless dirty work, and other times it is so full of magic and miracles I can't even put to words. One thing is for certain, I am so lucky to be able to chase my dream and share my life with all of my animals. Through complete and utter exhaustion this morning, I wanted to take the time to get a post up to at the very least announce the new arrivals.
I don't think there is a rule of how to start up a new blog after taking a few years off. Like most things I take on in life, I've chosen to just jump on in and see what happens. Otherwise I will continue to convince myself to stay off the inter-webs and hiding in my safe and comfortable barn with my animals. So, here goes!!!
HEY EVERYONE!!! Phew! OK, now that the first step has been taken, perhaps the others will follow. Please forgive me if I suffer lapses at times when I may retreat into hiding again from time to time. My life has remained very busy as I seem to thrive on constant movement. I've constructed myself a work schedule that keeps me out of town a few times a month, so I am often on the road and sometimes not online. Over the next several weeks I will be trying to blog regularly again so that I can update everyone on the changes that have occurred at Sky River Meadows with the herd, including with me.
In order to bring myself back into the routine of blogging again I have chosen my intention to start by telling individual stories of some of the animals here. That way I can just focus on them and not my anxiety about posting again. Besides, it's the animals who are the super stars around here and I can never sing them enough praises. I love the idea of being able to tell their stories and to share them with all of you.
I am also excited to announce that the goats are ready and that we are starting up our daily goat walks again for the season! We walk a couple of times daily, so email me to get on the reservation list or to book a date and time for your family or group. There are limited spaces available daily so be sure to plan and book ahead. We have trails suitable for all ages and abilities. We walk most mornings and evenings, unless we need to be away. **Rainy days excepted. The goats do not walk in the rain**. If you're looking for a fun, unique, educational and uplifting activity, contact me to arrange for a goat walk.
The most exciting news of all is that we are just days away from babies being born here. Our first baby of 2019 may be a foal this year instead of a goat kid! My mare Cheyenne is due to foal on May 18th and our first doe Precious is due May 23rd. We are excited to welcome the newest members of the herd. It's been a long winter of waiting for them and for spring to arrive in Muskoka!
So, the first post is done! Stay tuned for upcoming posts and stories about the animals!
Blessings and light to you all! ~ Angee