Above all, try something. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Sunday, March 20, 2011

March in Montana: In like a Mountain Lion...Out like a Mountain Goat

Jack Creek mountain goat herd, with new buddy, front and center.

I remember when March meant warm temps, sun burnt cheeks, and Capri pants...
March in Montana brings different types of changes than our old New England stomping grounds did.
We welcome warmer temperatures sure, if you mean closer to the freezing point of 32 degrees. While we are super happy to not constantly worry about pipes, vehicles, and pets freezing in sub-zero temps, we are still living fully in winter mode around here with daily snow melts, followed by afternoon and evening snow squalls. Average nightly temperatures dip only down to the 10's and 20's at this point. A welcome change for sure!
Also with March's arrival is mud's arrival. Not alot of roads are paved around these parts, living most of the winter months under a solid sheet of ice and snow, we are recently starting to see muddy roads instead. I much prefer to drive on packed snow than mud, which can be tricky, even with the best vehicle. At least in packed snow, you don't sink.
Bring out the galoshes, folks. This could get messy.
Recently in our local newspaper, The Madisonian (we live in the Madison Valley, cut by the Madison River) we read an article about a mountain goat kid that seemed to lose its way, and after getting separated from it's herd, somehow ended up on the ski slopes at Moonlight Basin Resort, about 13 miles past our driveway.
This story hits close to home, literally, as we also have a local mountain goat herd that lives in our own canyon here in Jack Creek. During the winter months, its fun to watch them as we drive into town, perched high on the cliffs just above our road. They seem to defy gravity on the littlest hooves you can imagine, hopping and skipping care-free along mere centimeters of rock ledges.
In the springtime, we have the luck of seeing all the newly 'hatched' white puffs of kids, bouncing to and fro right along with their mama's, its really the cutest thing to see! So tiny, and so agile, within hours of being born.
Anyways, I digress.
So after the concerned skiers of Moonlight Basin decided skiing wasn't the BEST activity for a young mountain goat kid to take up, Fish and Wildlife authorities were called and came to pluck the young buckling off the trails. Not being able to locate the original herd to which this little guy belonged, they decided to reintroduce him to the Jack Creek herd in our canyon. Luckily, he took right away to a new and accepting mama, and here are some photos of the herd and the newest member, fitting right in.
Adoption, I love it!

Maaaaa can I have five bucks?
In other news, I put my first seeds in seed trays to germinate a few weeks ago! I decided to concentrate on primarily the hardiest plants, with which we had the most success with last season, and throw in a few of the more mild-mannered veggies to grow in containers this time.
The seeds I planted alot of: Broccoli, Green Cabbage, Red Cabbage, Brussel Sprouts, Basil, Cilantro, and Lettuce.
The seeds I skimped on since they died to death didn't do so well last time: Tomatoes, Jalapenos, Bell Peppers, Scallions, and Celery.
And OF COURSE my tomato seedlings look like they are on steroids. It's a trick, I can tell.
We are hoping to put up some type of hoop house concoction this spring/summer to shield our plants from the weather and hold in more heat once they are transplanted.
As soon as the icebergs can broken up on the far side of the garden, I'm putting my peas in! I'm hoping for the beginning of April!

Some spring seedlings

Well. It's official.
Wookie-Foot (my fluffy-footed free exotic chick from last summer) is a rooster! It has taken him nine months of gestation to birth out his first crows, and I am bummed about it. Here we are, finally thinking we are at the correct 1:9 ratio of rooster to hens for flock happiness, when this happens. I had already decided that in addition to the Freedom Ranger meat birds we would raise this spring, I was also going to get myself a couple of Barred Rocks and Auracana pullet chicks, and now, this.
The thing that bugs me is that Wookie-Foot is a GORGEOUS bird. He is big, and fluffy, and rainbowy, with fancy feet, and a super mild character. Now I have to either get rid of him, get rid of General Tsao (my other huge black roo), or commit to another 9 or so layers.
Decisions, decisions.
Now you may be saying to yourself "Well, why can't you just keep them all?".
And I could. But if I'm going to keep this flock of working birds in captivity year-round and expect them to produce endless eggs for the Coyle clan, the least I can do is make their environment as stress-free as possible. And if that means getting rid of one of the dominating, stress-causing males on the scene, or introducing a new harem of females to one of those males to keep him busy, so be it. Animals cannot speak, not in human language at least. It is up to us, to understand what will make a working animal happiest and produce that environment for them. It's the least we can do.
In the photo below you can see I'm getting ready for some spring chicks by cleaning out the chick brooder. Chicks are fragile little beings that are quite susceptible to disease. With each new flock of chicks you must be sure your brooder is properly cleaned out and as dry as possible before introducing new chicks to it. I mixed up a bucket of hot water, with a cup of bleach and a few squirts of dish soap, and went to town on our brooder with a paint scraper, Brillo pad, and finally a sponge. Allowing it to air dry really didn't work out for me with the impromptu snow storm that decided to grace our area though.
Grumble grumble.
Pfieffer, can you get that end?!
In goat news: kidding season is coming!
Although Janet continues to be the only doe to show thus far, we aren't getting terribly worried about the other two. Because we left our girls at the love farm for a solid 5 weeks, their kidding period goes clear to the middle of May.
During their last 'potential' month of gestation, however, you must supplement their hay with some more nutritious grains. This month of daily special feedings also allows you to connect physically (and spiritually I think) with your potential mamas.
Each evening, around sunset, I traipse down to the goat shed and bring out my favorite three does to give them each a chance on the milking stand.
While on the milk stand, they are petted, brushed, hugged, snuggled, and given an udder check-up. It is ideal to get the girls very used to having their udder, and body in general, touched and harassed manipulated prior to kidding time so as not to upset or stress them out when it comes time to 'help out' a little. They also start out on the right foot hoof, associating the milking stanchion with "FOOD!!!" and "TREATS!!!" As opposed to an after kidding introduction, associating it with "MY MILK IS BEING STOLEN!!!"
It's a little farmer trick we like to play. They never figure it out.
Fatty McEatsalot
Above you can spy on Janet. She is QUITE the boss of the world milking stand, refusing to get down, even after the food is LONG gone. Somehow, I knew she would be like this! I'm going to guess that she kids around mid-April, which is about 4 weeks away. EEEK! We are really hoping for some girls out of her...although she mentioned naming her first-born Jerry?
Not seeing much belly action on Wild Child
Wild Child, above, still has yet to show any sort of plumpness. We can only hope, as she is a great mom with experience, and produces some nice kids. She is still a bear on the milk stand though.
Runty clearly needs a mini milking stand
And now, a poem:
Here stands Little Miss Runty
 How I love thee
 Could that little belly
 growing ever so slowly
 hold an even tinier goat than she?

Runty has come a long way since getting a daily grain ration. She is starting to allow me to pet her, and seems to like the special attention. Alot.
Here is a breakdown of what I feed the does:
  • 1/3 Wet Cob (mixture of Corn, Oats, and Barley coated with molasses)
  • 1/3 regular rolled Oats
  • 1/3 regular Barley
  • a sprinkling of Black Oiled Sunflower Seeds
  • a few tablespoons of Yeast Culture (think: probiotics)
  • a few tablespoons of Kelp (think: super greens)
I don't measure out how much I give really, I more or less eyeball the animal and decide how hungry they look/act as to how much I dish out. With Janet's girth growing by day, the amount of grain she gets is slowly climbing so as to properly care for the other life forms inside of her. Runty also gets a little more feed than average, as I am trying to get her up to size while she is still young and Runt-like.

Kelp topping- yum-OH!
Don't you just want to shove YOUR face in there?! Don't lie. You do.
We are very happy to finally have our milking stand INSIDE this year! Ed was kind enough to put a wall up in the chicken house to get the birds contained on one side of the house, while I dragged the milk stand into the other side to use for the goats. We have windows, electricity, all our feed, and even a few mouse friends. It's quite luxurious, all would agree. Especially in bad weather, which wouldn't you guess, is extremely frequent around these parts.
Local geese
Honk Honk

Dinner for a crowd!
A few weeks back we had some of our very favorite Vermont friends visit us for a week. After a successful day of fishing under the dam, the boys brought home a couple of trout for dinner. Coating them in breadcrumbs, stuffing them with lemons and onions, and frying them up in butter brought some delicious eats I'll tell you what!

I'll leave you with a nice image from last weekend's snowshoe/muddy/elk shed hunting/dog walking adventure that Ed and I had in the backyard.
Not much more time for snow shoes from the back door left!
Cheers~ J.C.C.

Snow shoe on a bluebird day


  1. Hope all of your hard work with the goats pays off! And I'm not just kidding (ha, ha)! Seriously, this blog is a real education for those of us with no experience in animal husbandry (nothing to do with you, Ed). Can't wait for the new spring babes!

  2. Nice blog - I enjoyed reading it and seeing what you guys are up to!

  3. Nice blog, browsing on google and got your website. FYI, I think the "snow geese" are trumpeter swans based on the black bills. See you on backyardchickens!