Friday, May 8, 2015

Coming back to life...

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It has been very warm (in the 70s F) here the past few days so we've been taking advantage of it the best we can. My days are pretty up and down but I have been completely making the best of what I've got and enjoying my critters, and the sunshine when I can.

Emerald loves coming to the house for a daily visit, she climbs right up the porch, comes inside and then heads out on the deck with me and the dogs. She also joins me and the dogs on our walks. I started teaching Spriggan my Pygmy buckling how to walk on a leash too - now is the best time for him to learn and he's a real sweetheart. He had a blast at the house. It's going to take work, but he'll get more and more used to it as we go (the leash part, he loves being at the house!)

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On Monday, during the full moon, Beatrice finally gave birth to a beautiful little buckling! He is so precious and so tiny. He's a Saanen/Pygmy mix.

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He has the sweetest face - Beatrice's kids always do.

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And his ears are still floppy. He's a heartbreaker.

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I brought him to the house the other night because Kevin had not seen him - and since then he's been making regular short visits just to snuggle. He's super sweet and LOVES being held. You can kind of see how small he is - he's very small, Chihuahua sized but it's so hard to see in all the pictures I have of him so far.

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I was having a rough morning today but after an hour snuggling this sweet baby it sure seemed a lot better! He's not a bottle baby, his mama is happily caring for him, but you wouldn't know he wasn't, he even loves the dogs already.

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We've been trying to walk every day, even if it's a short one. It's good for all of us. It's hard on me sometimes but I need it too and spending as much time with the animals as I can is healing in itself, and good for my spirit.

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Little (well not so little anymore!) Emerald is just a doll, she's such a sweetheart. I couldn't have asked for a sweeter baby.

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She sure loves her little dogs too! And her big ones... as soon as she goes back to the barnyard, she goes straight to the big dogs.

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The forest is just alive with all kinds of wildflowers. We need rain pretty badly though, now is the time for it, and it's quite dry... too dry.

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Spriggan actually walked a whole lot better on the leash once the little dogs joined us... I thought Emerald would be enough but he wasn't sure about it, but once the little dogs were there he walked much better on his lead. Sadly I only have pink collars right now and he's too small for a halter (any of mine) so he's stuck with pink at least for right now! He only wears it to learn to walk on lead of course, and actually he did quite wonderful for a first time.

I should be training Emerald on a lead now but she does so wonderful, she follows right along behind or beside me that I haven't bothered. Even when she is in the house at this size, or on our deck, she is so calm and well behaved it's quite surprising.

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Spriggan the adorable.

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Since it was warm enough to dry off outside the boys all had baths too, which they didn't really enjoy but needed pretty badly. It's almost time for their annual check ups and vaccines, we bring them all at once so it's quite an afternoon!

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They have been loving being able to sun themselves on the deck again, it's one of their favorite things.

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I also got to go for a ride on our trails with Kevin and Rollie, it's been ages since I've been out in the forest here, and we even got to the big creek which is quite far. I haven't seen the creek since fall. It felt amazing to be out, to see the forest waking up and coming back to life, and feel a little normalcy despite everything.

I've been trying to enjoy every minute I can that's good - and the moments that aren't, I focus on the good. I am blessed with such a great family, and it sure helps having the kinder weather returning, although the bugs are quickly waking up too! I keep hoping to get my seeds started but I haven't had the energy yet. The energy I do have I have been putting directly into just being with the animals and it's been 100% worth it even if I can't get anything else done! :)

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend friends! 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Major spring catch up

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Well I started writing this post weeks ago. Actually, a month ago. These pictures are all from March and early April but I still wanted to share them before I move on to hopefully more recent events!

The whole month of April has really been a blur to me, at least the past 3 weeks. I became terribly ill again with this ongoing illness I've been battling since my surgeries - it's not endometriosis or related to the surgeries but it's an underlying condition we've not been able to pin down even though we have been trying. I go through flare ups, periods when things are just beyond terrible, and then times when everything feels like it's going to be just fine, so it's been confusing and obviously, frustrating.

But finally this time I became so ill, I ended up in the hospital for 6 days. It was not fun, and it was not a good experience. No one ever wants to stay in the hospital but I was not offered treatment quickly, I did not eat for 7 days, and it just wasn't a good experience. I had tests run and I was let out with a probable diagnosis and given no treatment, so I continued to be just as violently ill and in terrible pain. I was told it would take 1-2 weeks to get the biopsy results back and that we'd just have to wait. But because I was given nothing, the inflammation I had was just getting worse. We were thankfully finally able to find something and know it's likely Ulcerative colitis, but I'm still waiting to see the specialists and discuss this further in the coming weeks.

Thankfully a week after getting out of the hospital, I was able to see my nurse in New York State whom I've been seeing since November and while they were speaking with a GI Doctor to get me a referral, the Doctor told them to start me on prednisone to give me some relief as I wait for test results and appointments. So thankfully I started that almost a week ago, and have had some relief from it - not total, but for sure it's helping. Plus it just feels good to be moving forward instead of just being sick and waiting for someone to do something while I get worse. Since I have been out of the hospital, I have almost ended up back there 3 times so far.

It's still very touchy and I've got a way to go, but I'm much stronger and able to eat some things (sometimes) so that has helped a lot. I lost almost 10 pounds in the hospital just from not eating.

I'm very used to pain, but personally I've never been this sick on top of the pain, so it was a new experience for me. I thought I had faced a lot with my 7 surgeries and they were a handful but certainly this was much more trying and scary.

Also it was very difficult being in a mixed ward of people, some recovering from surgery, some dying. No privacy. I realized how spoiled I had been after my past two surgeries, I had nurses who came as soon as I called, I had my own room, it was quiet. People here were constantly screaming in agony or fear, crying, yelling. My senses were overloaded in the worst possible ways. And almost every night I had less than 1 hour of sleep, so I was a little crazy from the exhaustion. I felt terrible for everyone there, especially the people who would not be getting a chance to leave. It was heartbreaking.

So of course just being home has helped, in my own bed, with my animals, it's quiet, and I can manage my symptoms better than they were even being managed in the hospital. They were unable to control my migraine so I suffered for days with it, it was blinding and part of why I got so ill. It was caused by the initial pain meds they gave me but also from not eating anything, and being dehydrated, so at least at home I'm eating some but I'm also able to stop the migraine before it gets out of control, which didn't happen there.

So back to this post, I haven't been able to share all my pictures of my now healthy happy fat lambie, Emerald who was born unable to properly walk and with a smushed (slack) face... she almost died on me, but after I got her through that she has done nothing but flourish and she is happy and healthy! As are the other kids born in March.

In early April the sap ran and we were able to get a good store of maple syrup put up too, Kevin boiled for 5 days straight and we got a few really good batches of syrup.

The weather was slow changing but we've enjoyed the past few days some really warm temperatures with some periods of sunshine, lots of afternoon wind which is typical. But things are greening now, and the forest is waking up quickly. 

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It was very difficult when this little girl was ready to move to the barn after a month... 

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She was nothing but sweetness and snuggles...

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And every evening we cuddled in the recliner for hours. 

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And she'd pass out...

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It was a tough transition on both of us, but she did fine and once she started spending the days with the goat kids, she started to learn about eating hay and grain... and that maybe she wasn't a person after all... at least not totally :)

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My heart could not have been happier that we were able to get through the first couple of weeks of her life. This was a tough one and I'm still not totally sure how I managed it sometimes.

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But it was worth it. I have a beautiful healthy little girl.

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Who is sweet as pie. And of course once she moved up to the barn, Max took over and watched her for me when I wasn't there, as he does with all the bottle babies.

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He loves all the kids, but the bottle babies bond closely with him right away, they are used to dogs and someone just know he'll take care of them. The other kids when they first meet him are kind of surprised this wolf is supposed to be their protector! This years Pygmy buckling wasn't so sure about it when he first saw Max.

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There was a lot of excitement when the sap finally begun to run after so many weeks of nothing. We were getting kind of worried the run would either be super short, or the sap would be no good by the time it did run. Without the right conditions the sap will not be clear and the taste won't be good either, and that makes for bad tasting syrup.

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But we got good sap, and the guys worked hard. We also had some decent weather so it was extra nice working at the sugar shack.

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Syrup, almost ready!

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Our new sap tank worked really great in the mule for collecting the sap this year, much easier to transport with a lot less waste than the barrels we used to use.

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I wasn't able to help with the work, but I visited a few times and brought homemade cookies and food for the guys, and also did my part sitting by the fire, keeping "watch."

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The goats sure were glad when the sun finally came back. This year we've had so little sun it's been tough on everyone.

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The big dogs however LOVE the snow, so they were sad to see it go and would sleep on it even when there were only small spots of it left. They are happiest in the winter as they are made for it.

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Horace turned EIGHT years old!

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The little dogs were excited as the snow started to go away because finally they could smell stuff again, and Rollie could start chasing chipmunks, which is his favorite pass time.

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I enjoy the early spring nights, cool, but with that hint of warmness, that promise that things will start changing.

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We had our usual early April snows too. We finally got rid of the snow and then this would happen.

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But we knew it wouldn't stay and it was pretty wet snow that stuck to everything.

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In early April a few of our deer friends came back after being gone for weeks again. Not many returned but a few did, and they stayed for a week or so and then went off for the spring.

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When I went into the hospital it still looked like this.

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Douglas wasn't thrilled about it either, especially since it had finally just went away.

While I was in the hospital it rained a lot and when I got home the grass was turning green and the first wild flowers were just starting to blossom.

I was able to get out in the forest for a bit with Kevin a few days ago for the first time in months and it felt so good to be in the forest, to see her waking up, coming back to life. And today I went up to the barn for a bit, I had not been to the barn in three weeks at all, so you can imagine how good it felt just to see the animals and spend some time with them.

Now I'm back to resting, but I have plenty of new pictures and hopefully will be able to work on a new post now that I've caught up a bit.

This is an ongoing journey, but I'm just counting my blessings and hoping this leads to me finally being able to find a way to manage this, and get better, or live a much more functional life. If I get to the right Doctors and right treatments I feel confident I can finally have some relief and not just go around in circles, at least that's my hope, so I'm hopeful about this spring, and hopeful for the months ahead. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The "In between" times...

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Once again I started writing this post ages ago. I've been so tired and keeping myself too busy to properly focus. But today, I'm going to give it a try! So, here we go...

Spring, like Autumn, is such an enchanting time. It's a time when our senses seem heightened, when life and death seem more visible than usual. They are a time of change and renewal so powerful, so apparent, we cannot ignore it. 

Out of all the months, October and March are probably the most powerful for me for a number of reasons. But let's talk about March, since she is here and keeping all the attention to herself right now. 

March is chaotic. And she is moody. She is unpredictable, and a little... insane. She is powerful, and Vibrant. She is like a lioness waking up from a sleep induced by exhaustion and a full stomach after gorging after the hunt. 

I recognize this energy and relate to it on so very many levels. 

On the farm, in my world, March brings a whole lot of work, but rewarding work. But despite it's rewards it can be costly, and it's very sensitive. March brings goat kids, and lambs, sometimes healthy brilliant ones, sometimes ones that are weak, or need a whole lot of help to get or continue thriving. The sleepy times of keeping warm and full during winter are over, and the time of life, and, also, death, comes roaring in. There is that old saying, "In like a Lion, out like a lamb" or vice versa, about the weather in March. For me, I don't remember many years when March did not come in like a Lion, and I'm not just speaking about the weather.

On the animal front, my herd is doing great. Every one is still fat, healthy, beside themselves with excitement for the sunshine and warmer, longer days.

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Ruby and Horace sunning themselves...

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Scarface assures me spring is here...

On the 8th, one of my Pygmy goats kidded for the first time. She had twins. One stillborn, one super weak, unable to stand. She was an excellent mom right away, cleaning her baby, talking to him, and standing for him to nurse. I got him nursing with some effort, and the colostrum and milk was flowing well into his little body. Still, I knew he was a weakling. Very weak. But he was eating like a champ and she was a star, so he had the best chance possible. He got his doses of vitamins, and was kept warm. But he didn't make it very long. I took the loss hard, as I do every time and I immediately blamed myself, because I always immediately blame myself. 

I have saved a lot more animals than I've ever lost, but I quickly forget that and focus only on those losses. 

I mean I took it hard. I am an emotional person by nature. I think this is one of my best qualities but it can also be one of my worst and has sure caused plenty of problems in my life, mostly in my dealings with people and my relationships. I have been learning more self control (slowly!) mostly as I get older, and yes, wiser because of it. Age brings experience, more patience, and more understanding of life. I appreciate it more every single day. 

But as I was in the depth of my despair, I was holding a bottle, feeding a lamb who by all means should not be here at all. And she was eating vigorously, and happily...  

I've fought many battles, and sometimes I win, sometimes I loose. But I choose to fight. No one is forcing me to do it. I choose to fight, and I choose to choose life. I'm grateful for the experiences and for Kevin allowing me to have them. He loves the animals but emotionally he's not equipped either and he doesn't like the stress, or what he sees me go through when it's bad. Although I know he loves having the animals in his life too regardless. 

I realized also how much my illness has taught me. While it's been so easy for me to focus on the pain, the frustration, the depression... It's also been helping grow in ways I never even realized I could. I feel it. It's changed me and all of the ways it has changed me have not been bad. 

The next morning I woke up to Emerald calling for me to get her morning bottle. I was already awake and had been for some time. I was lying in bed, listening. I was worried. Would she call me this morning? Is it later than usual? I refused to look at the clock because I did not want to know. Then I heard from the living room: Baaa. The first one tame, and then as each baa came the level of her voice and urging building. I sat up, looked at the clock. She was right on time, a little early actually. 

So I warmed her bottle, fed her. Then as is our routine now she cuddled with me and the dogs while I had coffee, she got her vitamins and another bottle, and then I decided to put her in her bed for a bit so that I could go outside with the dogs for a short walk. 

It was 35 degrees F when I had woken up at 7 and it was still the same when we went outside for a walk at 9. The dogs were thrilled to be outside and not be cold. Rollie is beside himself with excitement that the squirrels are out and chipmunks... so many critters to chase again! 

We walked down our road so I could check to see if the sap was running.

 Tuesday the 10th, Rollie and I helped Kevin put out the first of our buckets for this year, and then I came inside to rest, while Kevin and Jim finished putting out the rest of the start of our buckets - 50 so far. We've done up to 80 but cannot keep up with the amount of sap. Our evaporator only makes a gallon a day, and that day consists of 10-12 hours of steady burning and keeping the right temperature. So we are airing on the side of caution this year so we don't waste any.

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One of my favorite rituals of March is tasting the cold, crisp, sap and really, the life force of the earth and the tree. I thank her each spring for her abundance. If you do not respect nature, how can you expect for respect in return?

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The sap was indeed running, although the sun was not shining. I love how moody March is during any given day. Sunshine. Nope clouds. Now snow. Maybe rain. Maybe ice. Nope slush. 

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The sap run is just beginning and even though so far, we only make 5 or 6 gallons for ourselves it's still a lot of work. We are always exhausted during March, between the barn, regular chores and sugaring, it's a long, full, day. We often complain (all of us) at how tired we are, how sore we are. But every year we dream of this time, and look forward to it. The good, the bad, the ugly, the sweet. If it wasn't worth it, we would have stopped long ago. 

I can't imagine not living closely with the seasons, or with the earth, or my animals. It's hard work, physically, mentally, emotionally, I've said before it's not for the faint of heart. You either toughen up, or give up. I've often thought it was time to give up, and while it is a time of change for me as physically I am less capable, and Kevin grows older, it's not a time of giving up. I have toughened up, in some ways. But in most ways I am still that highly emotional girl I was when I started this venture 12 years ago this spring. I'm also a lot smarter too. Possibly also, more crazy.

And if there is one gift, one lesson I'm learning now that I wish for every single person, young or old, it is to love yourself fully, any flaw, any insecurity, any vulnerability. Young people, especially girls, spend a great deal of time fighting this. I know I have, and I still do. But I feel an acceptance, and an appreciation growing inside of me for the challenges I can and have over come, that I hope continues to. 

We are all flawed, we are all growing and evolving all the time on our journey through life, and no one, I don't care who they are, knows it all. And while we need to take responsibility for ourselves and our lives, decisions... we also need to accept that every one is human. I read something beautiful the other day that someone said... that to be open to love, you have to be open to loss. It's true, and it's meant on many different levels. Shift your focus from the pain, we all suffer through it in different ways. Focus on the light, and it's always there, even when it doesn't seem like it is.

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I'm so grateful Emerald is stable. She is beyond precious. This picture shows it well, but do you see the smirk on her face? It's very cute - but it's also a sign of something.

As I watched her yesterday eating, pooping, peeing, functioning well except for a continuous limp with her front leg it dawned on me, her face and the leg are neurological. Possibly. She has had both problems since she was born, and she wasn't breathing. So it's possible it's part of her problem or damage caused during the birthing from her positioning, from the trouble the Ewe had with her. She can see, and she is very alert now, and today she was even finally playing again, although she walks like her one leg is a peg. I thought yesterday it was pain I saw in the leg, and that might be. I gave her something for it and saw no response, but I'll continue to treat it for inflammation and pain. But I think also there is a chance it's damage. We will see in time.

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She is improving and eating, and while we are not out of the woods, I'm grateful for both, especially to see her more lively.

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She is such a sweet gentle soul, and she adores the dogs, especially Douglas. I think it's mutual.

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On the 11th at 2 PM, I was up at the barn checking on the girls and noticed Aurora was loosing her mucus plug. It was getting closer. As this is her first kid, and her sister had trouble, I was worried so I wanted to make sure I was there.

And I was there... for hours. When nothing had changed by 7 PM, I did the evening chores and came home to make dinner and feed Emerald again. Jim and I were doing hourly checks. He checked at 9, and I checked at 10;30- and everyone was asleep. Aurora was also just relaxing. I watched her for a while and saw she was OK so I headed home.

After a good warm day, the night felt cool and damp. The air is warmer but it chills you quicker. It was dark outside, but I like walking to the barn in the dark, I know the path and I can see quite well as long as nothing interrupts my eyes (like lights). The stars were SO bright, I couldn't stop looking up. It was an incredible show, like a painting, and with the leaves still off the trees they were glowing through the branches of all the big, dark, sleepy trees.

I knew Jim would check at midnight. His cabin is fairly close to the barn, by our sugar house.  He'd come get me if anything changed yet. I had just fed Emerald again and at midnight was closing my eyes in bed. When there was a knock at the door.

It was Jim. Aurora was screaming.

I ran in the dark with Jim running behind me up to the barn. She was indeed screaming, which isn't terribly unusual and she is very vocal, the most of any of my goats, but when I got there I could see the kid was positioned right but in trouble. So I got down and reached in.  One leg was stuck, so she couldn't get him out. I fixed it and he quickly fell out.

He was trying to get up before he was even loose, I wiped some of the bulk of goo off him, and cleared his nose and mouth.

He went to her and she put her head down and hit him, not a good sign. But while she was pushing him away, she was licking him... I could see her instincts kick in but she was confused. What new mom isn't.

I checked for another baby coming with my hand and did not feel one, but she was big enough for two and she is a Pygmy.

Meanwhile she got up and really went to work cleaning him, all the while talking to him. After a while he started looking for milk, and after a while of watching him struggle, I helped. It took a bit, but I cleared her teats so the milk was flowing well, and got him to suck. He was up but clumsy so having a hard time getting food. She was standing for him but not for long. I got out of the pen and just watched, letting them have space and after some more time, he nurse twice on his own.

Just after 2 she passed her placenta so we were done. He was still nursing. Finally I could sleep.

For less than 4 hours.

Then it was up with Emerald.

The next morning I felt a little zombie like, I had a lot of coffee, and Aurora and her little boy were doing great.

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He's got a fully tummy and he's very fiesty and strong, as a healthy kid should be.

Aurora loves her little guy, she's a great mom. It's heart warming.

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I went up for a quick check again of the baby at 9:30 and I noticed Brie had discharge and had totally pawed up her pen.

I waited an hour and with no change, I came home to tend to Emerald and the dogs, and do laundry... and we started every 1/2 hr checks based on where she was at with it. We were really hoping she wouldn't also wait until midnight!

At 3:30 Jim went up to check since I was in the middle of being crazy - when I get over tired I get hyper, so I was making Shepherds pie, Maple syrup pie, buttertart bars, hard boiling eggs, making the bed up with all new bedding, and doing laundry. I was just realizing I was crashing and needed to take a break when he came right back and got me. It was time.

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Once we got there Brie had a healthy Saanen kid already up, and almost nursing without any assistance. I went in and cleared the plugs from her teats so the milk was flowing free and easy and within minutes he was nursing several times on his own. She was also tending to him like a star, better than I've ever seen her tend to her kids. She always get a little moody with them but this guy she was all over. He's big, healthy, and strong, and I'm grateful for that.

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I was also happy to see that Aurora's little boy was nursing at the exact moment I went to check in on them.

I've also noted that everyone came through the winter quite well since all the does that kidded don't even look like they did, they are still so fat!

Now, back to today the 21st of March. 

It's spring now, and heavy wet flakes of snow are falling from the sky.

I am worn out. But everyone is doing well. Jarlsburg, the Saanen buckling is huge! And Spriggan, the Pygmy buckling is fat and round and making good use of his built in Pygmy "spring" by hopping everywhere and never walking :)

Emerald is doing amazing. Two days ago she started spending the days at the barn because she needs to run around also spend time bonding to some of the animals there, so she spends the day playing with the goat kids inside and comes home for the evening/night. I'll continue that until the night time temperatures even out, hopefully next week, and then she'll move up there. She is growing like a weed and her leg has almost completely straightened out. She has NO limp. I am sure now all of her problems were because of out growing her mother and not having enough room. I am so grateful my hard work is paying off in this happy, energetic, fat lambie.

The sap has not run but maybe one day so far as the temperatures are not on our side. Even when it is above freezing the wind is bitter and cold. I'm not sure what this will mean, whether the run will come late or not at all. If the weather suddenly breaks into spring and does not ever find the happy balance of just below freezing at night and above during the day, we won't have much of a run. We've had almost no sunshine this month either, which has been tough on the trees and every one else.

Now hopefully, I'll be able to write a post that doesn't span the length of 2 weeks! I have many new pictures to share and plan to do so now that things are settling down for a moment. But I wanted to catch up with everything that happened here.

Yesterday and again today, I'm trying to get a little rest. Running on little sleep and lots of work has left me pretty worn out since I am still not myself. But I've been managing better than I would have expected. The dogs are thrilled to be able to rest since they find running around after me all day instead of sleeping all day, quite exhausting :)

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! I hope also that the sun comes out soon, we all need it or like the trees, we will also just want to stay asleep. 
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