Wool Noir, Chapter 2

Opportunistic troublemakers that would literally pull the hay right from the mouth of a young lamb, the whole lot of ‘em.

Are you ready for the second chapter of Wool Noir? (The first part of the story can be found here.)

The fiber for this shipment was a set of mini batts in three colors. Each color had both a dark and light mini – one was mostly black and the other mostly the color. I hope to spin mine soon, but I’ve been dithering about the overwhelming possibilities! I think I’ve decided on a two ply with the yarn transitioning from dark to light.

One bobbin will be: dark, light, light
One bobbin will be: dark, dark, light

I think this will transition the yarn from mostly black on one end, to mostly color, in a smoothish way? We’ll see.

The second part of the mystery is below. Do you have theories on the crime? Club members should be receiving the third shipment, and the solution to the mystery, as I type…so it won’t be too long before I can reveal it to you all. Until then, I hope you enjoy the story!

(Signups are currently open for Waves of Wool – the next batt club – which will run from January through March. I’ve assisted a few generous family members in purchasing the club as gifts, and am excited to be “in” on their secret! Signups are open until December 30 and all the details are available in the Etsy listing.)

Chapter Two 

This doesn’t make sense.

A lot of things weren’t making sense. Cora finished measuring a gap in the fence and put her tape measure back into her project bag.

She’d spent the past four days following multiple threads trying to identify the corn thief. With a flock of 47 sheep and goats and over 200 chickens on the farm, all of whom were contributing their two cents, she heard a lot of crazy, ranging from “Aliens!” all the way to “There never was any! The corn is a lie!” Many of the animals wanted to blame Tailpipe, just because he was incredibly annoying, crowing at inappropriate times, and randomly flying into their faces – a terrifying blur of black and white feathers that disrupted peaceful afternoon naps. He had never been forgiven for the time he scratched a lamb with his spurs, and the animosity against him was high. It is simply not possible though, that unsteady Tailpipe could’ve made off with that much grain.

Tailpipe in turn (and most of the other chickens), were holding a grudge against Martha, the matriarchal ewe. It didn’t take much detective work for Cora to find out this was because Martha had a tendency to stray from her flock and lick up the chickens’ corn at feed time. If she’s willing to steal some of their corn, she must be willing to steal ALL of their corn. The suspicion was not unreasonable, but Martha was with the flock when the theft occurred. Every other sheep backed up her alibi, and indeed, many of the chickens grudgingly did as well.

After sorting through the noise, Cora really started focusing on two theories: 1) Woodland critters had found or created a gap in the pasture fence, and exploited it to gain access to the barn, and thus the prized corn. 2) The goats. Yeah… the goats. If guilt could be determined by polling the sheep, the goats would’ve been locked up. Opportunistic troublemakers that would literally pull the hay right from the mouth of a young lamb, the whole lot of ‘em. Especially maligned was the cute little black and white one named Pickles. Pickles had a reputation for getting into places she shouldn’t be. Consensus said Pickles would’ve had no trouble at all getting into the corn storage area. Furthermore Pickles had no alibi, and wasn’t talking. In fact, the whole herd of goats were suspiciously keeping their mouths shut.

Both of these theories had merit. But now Cora needed to rule one out. In favor of the woodland critter theory – here before her, there was a damaged gap in the fence, with traces of raccoon fur clinging to the fence wire. Not only that, but there were kernels of corn on the ground. It seemed as though Cora had found the thieves’ escape route. But even this didn’t fully make sense, though it took close inspection to see why. After taking measurements and wiggling the wire, it became clear to Cora that a strong animal pushed through the fence, popping staples and allowing it to hang freely, but that animal was inside the pasture when they did the damage. Any animal that knew about the gap would be able to leave the pasture, but no animals on the outside would be able to get in…at least without help. This gap was dangerous – it needed to be repaired quickly. If a lamb or kid made it through the fence they’d be exposed to coyotes, foxes, and all the other dangers of the wildlands. Cora made noise to draw the attention of the farmer, who was nearby planting apple trees. As the farmer approached, Cora nudged the loose fence to show the damage.

“Oh my! I have to fix that,” said the farmer, who then proceeded to make repairs. When finished with her work, she thanked Cora for pointing it out, grumbled about having to also replant apple trees, and headed back to the orchard.

With that done, Cora reached into her project bag for her magnifying glass and began methodically investigating the area near the fence gap. She was going to need hard evidence to identify the perpetrator. When, after 20 minutes of searching, she found some black and white fibers, she knew she finally had what she needed.

To be continued…

 

Happy Birthday Goats!

What time did that baby pop out? Set the timer!

Two years ago this week, mammals were born under our supervision for the first time ever. We’d hatched a bunch of chickens, but mammal birth is completely different. (Can you tell I have a BS in Biology?) It’s hard to believe it has only been two years since we stumbled through our first kidding, as we’ve learned so much – and cleaned so much goo off newborn lambs and kids – since then.

The spring before the goat kids were born, we had attended one day of “lambing school” at a nearby ag school. I had my hand (and arm) all up in intimate parts of a ewe who was having trouble delivering a lamb, but that included three old, experienced vets standing over my shoulder, and I didn’t know that ewe at all.

Two years ago, in the middle of the night, I woke up for the 5th time and called up our barn camera on my cell phone (oh! technology!!). My sweet, skinny, not very thrifty goat Kaylee was squatting and clearly in labor.

Or, she was peeing? How would I know? I’d never done this before.

Bill and I climbed out of bed and into warm farmy overalls and barn jackets and set out into the cold. The corner of the barn where Kaylee was (at this point) clearly giving birth was actually snuggly and warm with a thick layer of clean straw that I would have curled up on and taken a nap – it being the middle of the night – if I weren’t so terrified.

Terrified because it was the middle of the night and the vet was snuggled in his bed and not in his office just half a mile down the road, and terrified because mammal birth is really quite dramatic.

Fortunately, Kaylee is one of the toughest goats I know, and she knew what she was doing. Her first baby – a boy with a white tipped tail – was born without issue within 5 minutes of our arrival. Kaylee then delivered two more kids, licked them clean and stood patiently while they tried to nurse.

The general rule in lambing and kidding is that you’d like the newborn to be up on their feet and nursing within one hour. Since this rule is about the only concrete thing I know about delivering lambs and kids, I’m always on top of it. What time did that baby pop out? Set the timer!

Bunny, the first born, and Katya (who was born last and came out like a rocket), were up and standing and poking around for some milk. Watching baby animals stand and try to nurse right after they are born should be amazing. Like, they were inside another animal 25 minutes ago. They just came out into the cold December night. And now they are standing? What?!? How amazing.

It’s not like that for me. I’m watching the clock and watching them nose around under their mother’s front legs looking for an udder on the wrong side of the goat. Gah! Dumb baby thing that’s only been breathing on your own for half an hour – why is this so hard?? That’s a knee! Not a nipple! Stop chewing on the straw! Stop falling over!!

It takes a ton of restraint for me to not micromanage the situation. I know, in my brains, that the babies need time to bond and learn, and it’s best for them, as well as the does and ewes for me to stay out of the way. I know I shouldn’t intervene. It still drives me nutty. Fortunately, Bill is the calmest dude on earth, and I enjoy holding his hand, and the straw really can be quite snuggly.

After about 45 minutes of the waiting and watching, it became obvious that the middle kid wasn’t going to stand on her own and nurse. She was shivering and could barely lift her head, let alone her body. That fantastic technology that let me look at the barn from my bed, and helped me keep time from birth to nursing, also helped me figure out what to do with a “chilled” kid. It involved a trip to the house tucked inside Bill’s coat, and a long soak in hot water in our bathroom sink.

Lambs and kids are basically skin and bones when they are born and need to nurse quickly in order to maintain their body temperature. That rule about an hour helps make sure they don’t get so cold that they can’t physically stand and nurse. The middle kid was born so weak that she would never had stood on her own. If we hadn’t been there for her birth, she would have died quickly of hypothermia.

When we first got her into the house (it was our first time for a goat in the house), and into the hot sinkbath, we had to hold her head above the water, and she wasn’t showing many signs of life. After about an hour, she started kicking and being ornery. We dried her off with a towel, stuck her back inside Bill’s coat, and took her back to the barn. We helped her nurse, watched everyone settle in for a bit, and stumbled up to our own beds. I would have slept in the straw, but Bill still had to go to work later that morning, and I wanted him to get some real sleep before he did.

Later, I sneaked quietly out of bed and back to the barn. I was expecting the chilled kid to be weak and lethargic (or worse), but she was standing and alert. We’ve had to repeat this process twice with lambs over the past two years, and I’m always amazed at how little milk they need to get going.

After we were feeling confident that the baby goat was doing alright, Bill suggested that we name her Pandora because she helped us find hope where it didn’t seem like there would be any.

The three kids are all grown now – Pandora even had a kid of her own this spring. They sleep together in a big pile, just as they did when they were small enough to fit under the feeders. They are a potent reminder of how far we’ve come as farmers and how resilient life can be.