Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Alas, poor Spot

It was a really long day yesterday.

Since Spot wasn't in good shape, Mary decided to let the new baby goat stay in the house overnight, so she could feed it milk every few hours.

Alas, the poor girl didn't make it. Mary was holding this little goat when she breathed her last. In fact, Mary was checking her heart, and then she couldn't find the beat. There was really nothing she could do. We figure that the baby goat died of sepsis (an infection that progresses throughout the body). My suspicion is that the yellow stuff around the boy baby was bacterial growth, and that the little girl breathed some of it in.

We wanted to bury everyone right away, but we had other commitments. I had to process, sort, and clean the eggs (not necessarily in that order). I selected the best and the cleanest to go into the incubator. Since eggs are laid with a coating called the 'bloom', it is best to not wash the eggs that you incubate. Some people advocate not washing the eggs at all, except maybe just before use. Theoretically, they should last longer with the bloom intact. In reality, eggs have been stored for ten years or more and still eaten later. Ours are often stored at room temperature for a week or two, and we have never had a problem. I know of people who store them for weeks at room temperature. Eggs are designed to sit under a hot hen for three weeks without spoiling, so they last very well.

Anyhow, I had three days' worth of eggs sitting in the collection buckets ready for processing.

No, we don't use cute little wicker baskets and skip out to collect the eggs. We generally use a coffee can with a hand full of hay aon the bottom. And anyhow, I would look lousy in a skirt, and I would probably hurt myself if I tried to prance or skip.

So I counted the eggs for each day and entered the data in a text file (I like to keep track of productivity). Then, I took the best eggs and put them into the automatic egg turner. The rest were washed. The ones that were cracked or stained went to some empty egg cartons next to the stove for our use. The rest; the ones that are clean, unstained, and uncracked, were put into egg cartons. Two dozen were set aside for some of Mary's co-workers who wanted to buy them. Another carton of 18 was set aside for a lady who is hosting a family (of 9, IIRC) because the shelter is overloaded or something like that. The rest went to the food pantry.

It took a little searching to get everything together. Not much, though, because I had put the incubator and egg turner in the garage on some nifty shelves that I made last year. I just had to find the windows for the top of the incubator.

But it was worth it. Paul's second grade teacher was thrilled when I offered to lend her the stuff to hatch eggs in class. The kids were thrilled when we brought everything there. They were also curious about all the different colored eggs. We had some duck eggs (which will take an extra week to hatch), along with white (Leghorn) eggs, blue and green (Americauna mutt or "Easter Egger") eggs, and the standard brown (Rhode Island Red, Buff Orpington, White Rock, Barred Rock, Isa Brown, Black Sex Link, Black Australorp) eggs.

So we delivered the eggs to the food pantry, dropped the incubator off at school, and got home just in time to meet the school bus at the Bristol Store and pick up our youngest boy. We drove home, and I had Mary distract Gabe while I picked up the dead baby goat and snuck it around the other side of the van and to the garden.

Then I dug a hole. It was a big hole because it had to hold an adult goat. I sincerely hope that our horse doesn't die any time soon! It didn't really seem like it, but I calculated later that the dirt I moved weighed several tons.

OK, so 'calculate' is overstating it a bit. I moved maybe two cubic meters of dirt. A cubic meter of water weighs a metric ton (2,205 pounds, or about 1.1 tons), and dirt is considerably heavier than water (or it would float).

But I got it dug (with a little help from my favorite kitty -- who insisted on climbing me). Then, I went inside to eat so I wouldn't end up with the jitters from hypoglycemia. I never used to have that problem (though my parents do). Now, I have to take better care of myself lest I break down or something.

After eating and relaxing a bit, I had to tackle the problem of dragging that heavy goat through the fence (remember, there is a cliff at the entrance of the barn), up hill, across the lawn and driveway, and into the garden.

I did that by tying a rope around her neck, and making a loop that I could put around my waist. Now, I know how a mule feels.

Interestingly enough, the horse went over to check things out when I started moving the dead goat. She had to sniff Spot and look things over. I never really expected that kind of behavior from an animal.

When Spot was sick and couldn't get up, the horse used her head to try to help Spot up. It was actually quite touching. For one thing, I didn't think that she had any great affection for the goats. For another, it really looks like something you would expect more from a human than from an animal.

But I finally got that poor girl under the fence, up the hill, over to the garden, and into her final resting place. She is sharing the grave with her daughter.

Mary was working on the computer when I went back into the house. She was surprised that I had moved the goat by myself because she expected that it would take the both of us to do the job. I figured it was easier to do it myself than to coordinate the efforts.

I asked her if she wanted to pay her final respects to Spot and the baby, so she and Gabe went out to the garden. Mary ended up covering her up. I haven't been out to the garden since then.

So far this year, we have planted way too many animals and not enough plants.


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