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LGDs . . . First Kidding

Today was an exciting day! One of my favorites on the farm, in fact. When I got home from my “other job,” I found Bergenia had given birth to triplets! Once I knew all the kids were dry and nursing well on their mom, I decided to let the pups have a supervised visit. This was their first kidding, which can be overwhelming. There were so many new sounds, smells … and tastes.

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The puppies are almost 6 months now and have entered the teenage LGD stage. During this time, I expect them to become more of a challenge and require extra training. These dogs are amazing, but they aren’t magical unicorns. You can’t get a puppy, throw it into a herd of animals and expect things to go perfectly. Sure, some fairytales come true, but that’s not the norm with these dogs. They require training. Especially when you don’t have a veteran LGD to show them the ropes. As much as I love these pups, there are some days I questioned my decision to add them to the farm. After all, they can be a lot of work. But I am now reminded why I got these pups and how genetics and upbringing play a huge role.

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I could not be more proud of their reaction! The pups bounded in like they normally do, eager to be with the goats. But they became immediately calm when they noticed the newest additions to the farm. Approaching them slowly and quietly, they gave each baby goat gentle licks.

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Saint Patricks-6Petra quickly started to “clean up” the birthing area for us, while Boris engaged the kids. He actually shocked me by becoming completely submissive and rolling over for the baby goats. I was in awe of their behavior around the kids.

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When I originally brought the puppies to the farm I had people question why I didn’t adopt a dog for this roll. I will always be a dedicated rescue advocate, but I also always set dogs up for success. I knew it would be irresponsible to put just any dog with our livestock. There are very few dogs that instinctually have such low prey drive and will act so calmly around new, small prey animals. Today I am a very proud LGD mama. A light bulb came on and I finally understand why they are worth their weight in gold.

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LGD Life – 4 months

The puppies are 4 months now and entering that awkward teenage stage that large breed dogs go through. They are on the go most of the day and take a few naps to recharge their batteries.

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I have experience with so many dog temperaments – both fosters and family dogs. I’ve had dogs that were dog aggressive, food aggressive, feral, etc. But I was near those dogs most of the day and was able to give them constant direction. It’s different with the LGD pups. Although I am giving them as much training and supervision as I can, it is impossible to be with them all the time. In fact, I want them to bond closer with the livestock than with me. The biggest difference is watching them grow and mature in their own pack.  And as hard as it is for me, I know I must remain hands-off for the most part.

The puppies are still working out who is the team leader, but I already know it will be the female, Petra, of course. Ranger is only with them while I am around but they clearly respect him at this point. While they may bicker over a bone or a dead animal they find, they wouldn’t dare challenge Ranger. I’m so lucky that Ranger is very appropriate with them in his corrections. Though he’s young, he is a good teacher… except when he chases his best friend, Chuckie the cat.

untitled-35One of the main reasons we got the working team was to help protect the chickens, because we lost almost our entire flock our first year here (along with other animals). But now I find myself making sure the chickens are safe from the puppies! HA! You see, they are still puppies, and big ones! Although their instincts and breeding definitely shows when it comes to goats, it’s harder for them not to think of the chickens as toys from time to time. They are perfect 99% of the time. During that other 1% I will see them bounding joyfully after a chicken. So we’ve been working on this and I can already see an improvement. Eventually I know we will be able to trust them completely with the chickens.

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Often people get LGDs and think they can just put them out with the animals and it will just work. That has not been the case for us considering they are so young. Teenage dogs are in-fact teenagers, so we must be patient and continue to work with them. Most afternoons, now that it’s warming up, I see the puppies lounging with the goats. It makes me feel good to know that the goats now feel safe around them. Petra in particular adores the goats – she will even eat hay with them!

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We hear the coyotes on a daily basis here, but since the puppies arrived we haven’t lost anymore animals! They are still not out alone full-time, so we are really impressed! Although these dogs are a work in progress, we know in the long run they will be worth it! IMG_4613

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It’s not all butterflies and kittens

I get it. From the outside our farm may look like a petting zoo. I post pictures of goat kids, puppies, kittens, bunnies… If it’s cute and furry, we probably have it. But it’s not all butterflies and kittens here.

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A year ago today I was out farm hunting and stumbled across this place. It met almost all of our criteria and came with a farm-load of work. To be honest, I really had no idea how much work really goes into a farm – but I do now!

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We have been here almost a year and we’re already officially legal to sell our goat milk and eggs! But with that comes long hours, never a day off, and no naps! Most days I wake before my children after being up most of the night nursing our youngest. I try to at least get the animals let out before my husband leaves for work, and start milking once my girls are awake. I work a “real job” 3 days a week to pay for animal feed and other farm essentials. And on those days, I am often doing chores after the girls are in bed.

untitled-31Today while mending fences (a never ending task), rotating shifts with my other half, a huge white puppy escaped. I had to slide down 10 feet into a creek to get near him and beg for him to come back to me. Luckily I found the hole from which he escaped and patched it. Although things ended well, containment is a constant worry here.

untitled-30I work through illness and nasty weather because the animals can’t wait, and I’m in bed before 10 every night for a reason. So when I have no idea what is on television at night, that is why. I am beyond grateful for the farm friends I’ve met over the last few years. They inspire and support me on a daily, and sometimes even an hourly basis. There are days when I want to call it quits, when wine will never take the edge off, but I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

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I dream of making this farm my full time job. Working outside everyday with my girls and actually making some money from it. But on difficult days I have to remind myself why I am doing this, because it is not for the faint of heart.

Thank goodness I take photographs of everything. They renew my passion and remind me of my ultimate goals – a sustainable life and an unforgettable childhood for my girls!

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New kids have arrived – Spring is almost here!

Soon (if you’re lucky) your newsfeed will be filled with baby goats – kidding season is here! Today our doe, Queen, gave birth to 2 bucklings!

untitled-26.jpgI was lucky enough to be present for the whole thing. I’ve promised my husband to keep the pictures PG, as I took pictures of every moment and angle of the birth.

untitled-25Mothers of any species amaze me. Their strength is unmatched. While cleaning one kid she was actively passing the other kid. Minutes after both were born she had them up and nursing.

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We have more does due soon, but each time is a special experience for me. We can’t keep them all, but kidding puts our does back in milk. The kids that we don’t keep either go to pet homes or other farms.

untitled-27Please email us at blabauve@gmail.com for kid and milk availability.

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The Many Faces of Motherhood

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As most of you know I recently had a baby. I was instantly connected to Jane even though I had never met her. Just like my first daughter, I simply love her unconditionally.  

We celebrate life on the farm often. We’ve had puppies, kittens, bunnies, and most recently, goat kids born! But motherhood is hard business and a job not to be taken lightly. I’ve seen the many faces of motherhood and they are interchangeable between species.


FullSizeRender_1The most recent addition to The Tucker Farm is a little goat kid! She was born a few weeks early in the middle of the pasture and sadly, we missed the whole thing. When I found the kid and her mom, Pepper, they were beneath a tree at the back of the pasture. They were surrounded by the other animals who were interested in the new kid. Pepper is a first time Mom, but her instincts are top notch. She was head-butting any creature that got too close to her kid, whether it was a tiny kitten or a much larger donkey.

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Over the past 24 hours, I’ve watched her emotions range from anger, to frustration, to joy … all stemming from the instant love for her kid. Her facial expressions say it all.

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Pepper never takes her eyes off of her kid, which is how I am with with both of my girls.  I hope that they too will someday experience the joy of motherhood.

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Twins!

If you had your money on Ruth going into labor before me, you are a winner! Ruth gave birth to twins on Saturday, June 13th, a doeling & buckling.

DSC_8795This was our first kidding at The Tucker Farm! I have been reading about goat labor non-stop and getting advice from fellow goat owners for weeks now, trying to prep myself for any possible issues that could arise. I’m lucky enough to have a lot of experienced friends close by that were on call to be goat doulas. I had been watching Ruth for the typical signs of impending labor, such as, her udder getting really full and her ligaments disappearing. But these things were never obvious to me, even on the day of labor.

On Saturday morning I let all the animals out into the pasture as usual. Ruth came out of her stall but didn’t follow us up to the pasture. Since it’s been 90 degrees here and she waddled as much as I do, I was not going to force her out. So I led her back to her stall and gave her fresh water and made sure she had plenty of hay for the day. My husband, toddler and I then went off to run errands.

We returned around lunchtime and I wandered down to the barn to check on things. Much to my surprise, I found this!

Unfortunately, I missed her actual labor. The kids were very wet when I found them and Ruth had just started passing the afterbirth, so it must have been quick. Mama Ruth is an experienced Mama and an excellent one at that. I’m thankful that in our journey to be more sustainable she made things a bit easier.

What’s amazing about kids to me is that they are already “kidding” around at only 24 hours old! Quite different from puppies & kittens. Nothing is better than watching kids play!

We look forward to watching Mama Ruth raise her kids and can’t wait to finally have our own goat milk! Believe it or not, we didn’t just get goats to be pets and weed whackers, but we got them for milk! Both my daughter and I are unable to drink cow milk, so we’ve been buying goat milk from a local dairy for a few years. Of course in order to have milk, you must also have kids.  We have another doe, Pepper, due in August . . . so more kids to come!

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Little Barn of Horrors

The first time I saw the barn was in the middle of winter, when Atlanta actually had a rare dusting of snow on the ground. Despite the fact the property sat vacant for years, and that the barn was filthy, I was still drawn to its charm.

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The water line had been cut, the stalls were growing plants, rat poop was piled high – but it had so much potential.  We were oblivious, however, to the horrors that awaited us in the barn.

It started with a few ancient carcasses.  Eh, no biggie, at least they were fully dead.  Then we found the half eaten rabbit that was very fresh – a bit more concerning.  Then came the 5 foot rat snake.  OK, he’s a good snake, we let that slide (or slither)… even though I wanted to crawl out of my skin.  We learned very fast not to leave anything laying around or a mama rat would make a nest in it.  But to top it all off, once Spring arrived we discovered the property is crawling with poison ivy!  Thankfully the goats love it!

We thought to ourselves, this is what we signed up for, this is the farm life. Things at the house weren’t perfect either.  Our master shower leaked into the basement, the HVAC broke, the furnace exhaust pipe fell through to the basement, much of the basement flooded from a storm, and the collection of spiders down there would be the ideal cast for a Stephen King mini series.  But then the real horror reared it’s ugly head…  We were playing host to a family of Copperhead snakes!

The copperheads live under the feed room concrete slab.  For weeks my toddler and I had been walking over the threshold where they hang out midday.  So far we have been able to remove 1 of them, but we know there are a few more.  Our copperhead story is not over yet, so don’t worry, I will keep you posted.

Today the barn is full of life and houses the animals we have grown to love.  Our daughter yells “BARN!” every morning before heading down for chores.  It’s hard to imagine all the horrors we’ve dealt with and are still dealing with when I look at the old barn.  Nonetheless, it remains my favorite place.

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Next up . . . predator losses & barn cats!

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It Takes a Village to Raise a Farm

Our next human family member is due in a few months so we had to dive right into getting the farm ready.  The only way I can manage a farm and family is by having a streamlined routine everyday.  This means proper fencing, safe housing, and an efficient barn/feeding routine.  We had none of these things when we moved in.

When we moved in, our barn roof leaked, the fencing was ancient, there was no dog yard, and of course no routine.  Fortunately, our “village” of friends offered to lend a hand.  We are lucky enough to have friends and family that have trucks, ladders, tractors, experience, and most importantly, the willingness to help us!

Next up . . . little barn of horrors

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We bought a Farm . . . a real one!

Some of you may not realize where our name, The Tucker Farm, came from. For the last 8 years we lived on 3/4 of an acre in a suburban town called Tucker. I crammed as many animals as I could onto that tiny lot!

After becoming pregnant with our second child we knew it was time to move to a REAL farm! I imagine you are picturing a pristine pasture full of flowers wrapped in a perfect fence. That’s not quite what we bought, but I know we will get there!

Moving Day!

Settling in . . .

Next up . . . the work begins!