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Camping at Mashamoquet Brook State Park

This past weekend Rob and I went camping at Mashamoquet Brook State Park in Pomfret, CT, a whopping 30 minute drive from home. The campground we stayed at is called the Wolf den. We have a big anniversary coming up and with Rob’s surgery next week, we decided we needed a getaway. The farm is pretty much a constant source of projects and work, and we forget to take time to relax if we are at home.

We left home on Friday afternoon after Rob returned from work and Quinn and I came home from our ride at Arcadia. The park is 10 minutes or so off of 395, but tucked back into the woods. There was a total of 6 out of 35 camp sites occupied, mostly with tent campers, but few RVs. It was very quiet. Only one site (ours) has electric and water (which was leaking and had to get turned off). Rob brought his amateur radio equipment, and set up a portable station and I brought books.

The nearby camp nature trail by the brook had beavers and I saw at least 3 turtles laying eggs in the meadow. The wetland brook area also had great blue herons and tons of red winged black birds. The beavers have dammed up the brook, so no fishing is possible, it is more of a wetland.

The weather was gorgeous. No rain at all. Saturday we slept in, went on a few hikes, took a nap (me), read, and Rob played radio. Our main hike was on a nearby blue trail that was fairly technical with rock covered hills, and boasted an indian chair and a table rock rock formation and supposedly the wolf den of the last wolf to be killed in CT.

Saturday night we grilled steaks, baked potatoes, along with sauteed green beans and mushrooms. Yum! We sat by the fire after dinner and just enjoyed the quiet.

Below are a few pictures from the weekend. We will definitely try to do some other local staycations again.

A step in the right direction

Two years ago in February we bought SA Fiona in KY. She’s been a bit of a challenge. She is 11 this year, but had never been broke to ride. She is sensitive and was very herd bound when she first came, making it a challenge to even work with her safely without another horse present.

We started riding her in October of 22, but the weather shut us down, and last spring we started again and she did most of her 100 miles walking trails and learned to walk and trot in the arena. We had some saddle fitting woes, and worked extensively on reducing her reactiveness to anything touching her, bugs, saddle bags, legs, plastic bags, ropes, scary things and did a lot of long lining.

Quinn has been riding her more since getting out of school in mid May, and taking Fiona on longer and longer trail rides. Last weekend Alex and Quinn did 8 miles in Pachaug. Exposure to dirt bikes, cars, screaming camping children, mountain bikes, is all a part of riding in Pachaug State Forest. Our property backs up to the forest and offers hours of trails straight out the back.

This morning Quinn and I loaded up Amira and Fiona, and headed over to Arcadia management area in Rhode Island. It was the first time putting Fiona on our trailer since she came. She loaded right up behind Amira with only the slightest bit of hesitation. Unloading at the Horsemen’s area, we discovered she really didn’t want to back out, so Quinn let her turn around in the tight space ( she was in the third stall of our four horse slant load). It spooked Fiona a bit, and she quickly exited leaving Quinn behind, but luckily I caught her on her way out. In hind sight, I should have collapsed the rear tack to make things easier and more open.

Fiona settled pretty quick with some grazing ( Amira is a good role model) and we tacked up tied to the trailer. Then we went into the large grass arena and walked on foot before mounting and riding around another few minutes. Fiona seemed to take it all in stride, so we headed out on an 8 mile ride down to midway and back. We walked and trotted and it was uneventful. Even with mountain bikes that didn’t stop and loose dogs, no one died.

Back at the trailer, we realized we had never sponged Fiona before…just rinsed her with the hose at home. Lots of things to work on. On the way home we flipped the position of the horses and loaded Fiona first, so she would have more room getting out. Amira prefers to back out anyway. We will work on some trailer loading and teach Fiona to back out should she ever have to ride in a straight load.

Quinn was very happy with Fiona today and it was certainly a big step towards Fiona becoming the horse we want her to be. We will continue to expose her to new things and plan to do a camping outing with the horses soon.

The Spice Girls’ Baby Goats and Phaylene kids

Can I just say crazy couple of baby goat weeks…We had 7 baby goats in mid March. Two from Tulsi, two from Carolina and preemie triplets from Jasmine.

On Monday March 18, Chili was giving me all the indications she was planning to out her babies, but she wasn’t due until Friday, so I left her out with the others. She is a drama queen goat, and doesn’t like to be isolated by herself.

Well, after morning chores I decided to check on her and then go deal with milk dishes. An hour later I came out to check on her and she had two babies on the ground already. An almost 9 pound buckling and a small 5 pound doeling. We named them Kauai and Kipu. Kauai got Chili’s frosted nose and ears, but Kipu certainly got her personality as she is a little diva already. Chili has been great settling into being a milking goat and is super easy to hand milk. She is still opiniated and will let us know if we forget to bring out the alfalfa.

Later that week, on Thursday, Rob and I had been invited to an equine educational evening sponsored by Flemings Feed. It was informational and dinner was great with some awesome desserts. We came home and went to check on Pepper in the barn, who was due Saturday, and low and behold, she had one buck kid on the ground and was pushing out a second! Pepper had eaten dinner on the stand 45 minutes earlier with the kids…

We named Pepper’s boys Principe and Palau. Our naming theme this year is Vacation islands.

Here are some pictures from the foursome being outside last week. The three boys are available as pet wethers, as is Tulsi’s buckling Trinidad, if anyone’s looking. Kipu is staying here.

Last Tuesday April 9 Phaylene, our aged doe, kidded with triplets. We had been watching her all day, but it wasn’t until we left the barn to have dinner that she decided to kid. We sent Amanda out after dinner and she called the house screaming “babies!”. There were two kids out and a third on the way. Two doelings, one buckling, all pretty small at 6.6-6 pounds. Phaylene did great and is already cranking out over a gallon a day.

Phaylene’s triplets

Quinn and Amanda named the kids Minna, Malta, and Mykonos (where Rob and I honey mooned). These may be Phaylene’s last kids depending on how she looks this year, as she is 9 years old, and Quinn wants to retire her. One of Phay’s doelings is likely to be available.

The current baby goat count is 14, with one goat left to kid.

Porsche is our last pregnant doe, due May 10, with kids from Fox’s Pride KS Smooth Swagger. Amanda is really hoping for a doe kid out of this breeding, as she doesn’t have one yet this year from her project does. Porsche is a yearling, and while we don’t usually breed our yearlings, Porsche was on the heavy side and plenty big enough at 110 pounds last fall. Keep your fingers crossed for her!

More Baby Goats!

It’s been a busy few weeks on the farm. Rob has been traveling a lot, and when not traveling, he has been running, a lot, in preparation for his 50 K in April. Both Jasmine and Carolina kidded the first week of March.

Before Jasmine’s and Carolina’s kids arrived we were dealing with an abortion by Camellia about a month out from her due date. She ended up testing positive for CVV, Cache Valley Virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes and a threat to does in their first or second month of gestation. There is nothing you can do to avoid it, other than not breed until the mosquitoes have died off. This last fall was so warm, that wasn’t really an option. Does that contract the virus are then immune. Amanda was disappointed, of course, since Camellia is her project animal, and they have a special bond, but that is part of life on the farm. To top it off, Camellia ended up having a retained placenta, and we had to watch her carefully and give her some medications to help her clean out and recover. Camellia did not come into milk, so she will be taking the year off showing, unless she goes to a pet class or two at the fairs.

Jasmine was not due to kid until March 10, but went into labor on March 3. Her udder had been filling that weekend, so we knew something was up. She delivered three small triplet does, 6.5, 6.3 and 5 pound babies. They were 7 days early, and were a little quiet and needed to stay in the house a few extra days, but are growing and eating, weighing in in the mid teens currently. The kids named them Bahamas (Baha), Bali (the one with all the white), and Barbados (Barbie). The B babies are holding their own. Two of Jasmine’s doelings will be available. Likely Barbie, and Baha, but Quinn hasn’t finished deciding between Baha and Bali yet.

Carolina kidded on March 5. She was due on March 7, but kidded two days early which is within the normal window. Her labor stalled and we had to investigate what was going on. We found two heads, and three feet (not good). After Quinn and I trying to push one back and find the missing leg of the other for a while, but they were tangled, we decided it was time to call out our vet. The kids were big, and we just could not dislodge the first one. Of course, Rob was on travel to DC. Our vet, Cara Kneser, lives close to us and was on site in less than 15 minutes. After some pulling, pushing and lots of lube, she managed to get the first baby (a buck of course) unstuck and out, and the second kid, a doeling, was pulled right behind. They were both alive, which was a miracle, and poor Carolina was super sore and needed some tlc for a few days, but she appears to be bouncing back. The kids named the buck Crete, and the doeling Chrysi (greek island). They are both retained.

Carolina’s kids, Crete and Chrysi barely an hour old

The kids are now living in the garage pens, and we took them outside in the drive way for some play time, Chili and Pepper are up next for kidding, due on Friday and Saturday next week.

We have also been looking at ways to save on our hay bill, because as we all know, alfalfa at $50 a bale and second cut upwards of $12, the cost has been rising here in the Northeast. We decided to try out using a round bale with the goats after sourcing some nice second cut bales. We used a combo panel to wrap around the bale and covered it with an easy up. So far, the goats approve. It’s also their new favorite napping spot.

First baby goats of 2024!

Last Sunday Tulsi was due to kid. We had been bringing her in at night for a few days, as her udder was filled and her ligaments were getting soft. Sunday morning she was clearly uncomfortable breathing heavy and starting to paw, so we knew it was the day. We had ultra sounded her with twins, so that was what we were expecting. I fed her and went about morning chores. Not too long after that she went into labor and delivered twins, one doe and one buck. They were both nose and toes, though the buckling had one front leg bent back, so I had to assist a little with that.

The kids named the doeling Tahiti, and the buckling Trinidad. The doeling was 7.3 pounds and the buckling 7.5 pounds. Vacation islands is our naming theme for this year. Last year was car makes. Tahiti is the one with less white on her. The babies get to hang out with us in the kitchen for a few days, and then transition to living in pens in our garage until the winter weather has passed and they are ready to go live in the baby pen. We choose to bottle raise to socialize the kids to like people, which makes them friendly and easier to handle and show. Raising them separate from the does also allows us to keep their environment cleaner to reduce their parasite load and they can be sold sooner as bottle babies if desired.

Tulsi is doing great. She is producing a gallon of milk per day already, and her udder has increased capacity from last year when she was a milking yearling.

The babies have unfolded and are enjoying the attention they get from the kids when living in the kitchen, they got disbudded last night and starting tomorrow they will go out to the garage during the day, to stretch their legs and not make such a mess in the house. They are currently getting bottle fed five times a day, and will transition to the grey nipples and their lambar over the next few weeks.

Next up for kidding is Carolina on March 7 and Jasmine on March 10. Jasmine is huge, likely carrying triplets, so she might go early, Hoping for easy deliveries and healthy kids and mamas.

Hike #1 at Hopeville Pond State Park

One of my goals for this year is to complete 52 hikes for the year. The idea is to go for a hike somewhere new each week. Well, last week on Sunday I was going to go hiking, but then we got 4-5 inches of snow and my knee was hurting, so Rob told me there was no way I was going out. Probably a good choice.

Since I just had a total hip replacement, I can’t go that far yet, or hike major hills, so I decided our local State Park was a good choice for this afternoon’s hike. Hopeville Pond State Park is located 2.5 miles from our house at 929 Hopeville Road in Griswold(map here). There are wooded trails and flat asphalt roads, so a good choice for a gimpy middle aged woman. It is a very popular spot for dog walking, and to let little kids ride their bikes and roller skate etc. There is an 80 site campground (no hook ups), and two beaches to swim at during the summer. I decided not to swim. I drove to the parking lot at the entrance (gates are closed to traffic Dec-Mar) and walked down to the boat ramp in the campground, and then cut across on some trails back up to the main road. I was aiming for about a mile, turned out to be more like 1.3 miles, the longest I’ve walked since my hip replacement.

Planning to go on another short hike on Sunday, and maybe work with my horse (on ground work). Tomorrow we are getting more rain, so not a good day for outside activities.

It felt so good to get outside and move, now to decide where to go for my next hike. Maybe I’ll drive over to Arcadia Management Area in RI and walk around Breakheart Pond, or Green Falls, which is part of Pachaug State Forest…I feel like Green Falls may require walking poles, as it is a more technical trail with boulders, so that one may have to wait. Onwards and upwards.

Thoughts Three Weeks Past TRHR

22 days ago I had my right hip replaced. It was outpatient. Arrived at the hospital at 5.45 am, out at 4.15 pm. I’ve suffered with reduced range of motion and pain in my hips since I was in my early 30s. Bad conformation, especially if you want to ride horses, with deep sockets and constantly hitting the side of my femur, caused severe osteoarthritis. Riding, biking, running, hiking and even sleeping was becoming increasingly more painful. This was my first one, hoping to get the other hip done next year.

I am doing ok. First few days were rough, I am not going to lie. Muscle spasms, swelling, sciatica, pain at night, not being able to lift my leg very well, being dependent on others. Not my forte. And the pain meds made me sick, and gave me a migraine.

Ten things that made my life easier for the first few days and weeks:

  1. Rob, getting up three times a night the first few days and getting me those ice packs, pain killers and making sure I didn’t kill myself getting in and out of bed (I decided I wanted to sleep in our bed, on the top floor, 13 steep steps, step stool to get in our tall king size bed). And allowing me to shower…it’s the little things.
  2. A raised toilet seat, seriously, just get one. If you’re plus size, maybe not one with side bars, my thighs barely fit and I am normally a women’s medium.
  3. Grabber pick up stick. It’s hard to reach down and it allowed me to get dressed on my own.
  4. Long shoe horn, for taking off socks and putting on/off shoes. One downstairs by the door too. Because you won’t be able to reach your feet.
  5. XL Women’s Hanes Boxer briefs. I’m a Hi cut girl normally, but ouch, they sit in the wrong spot, right over my incision! All the forums said to get men’s boxers, but these work great and don’t have a hole in the front. I had anterior approach, and these do not bother my incision. Two sizes up.
  6. Ice packs, big one for the hip and another one for my knee. Doubles are helpful.
  7. Large lounge pants, I’m normally a M, I got XL. You won’t want anything tight on your leg.
  8. A walker, for the first 4-5 days, for me, and crutches for stairs, at first. I was done with these after a week.
  9. A cane, for a walking aid after I was done with the walker. My surgeon is not a fan of using crutches instead, because crutches are to keep weight off your entire foot/leg and make you dependent on your upper body for support and the new joint needs weight bearing to heal.
  10. A sock aid, best thing ever, when you can’t reach your feet.
Treadmill screen

So, what is recovery from a total hip replacement like? I was up and walking at the hospital a few hours after my surgery, using a walker. Physical therapy was started a week after surgery and I’ve been to my first post op appt. My surface stitches were taken out and I was cleared to drive short distances. The new hip was x-rayed and looks good so far. As far as muscles go, my hip flexors and adductors are super tight, still, from so many years of restricted use and may need additional intervention and it is so hard to be patient. My abductors are all weak. I am not supposed to cross my legs yet and have some stretching/twisting/lifting limitations, so I don’t dislocate the joint. Inside the house I am walking without an aid, unless I have pain and I walk with a cane outside for stability, although I am not always using it now. As far as exercise goes, I’m biking on my new recumbent bike twice a day for 15 minutes and I’ve been walking on the treadmill for about 20 minutes as well as walking some outside and going on short shopping trips. I have PT exercises I am working on after my biking and walking 2-3 times a day. Tylenol and Motrin are the only pain medications I am taking as needed, Vicaden was given to me for the first few days, but made me so sick I stopped taking it. I had a similar experience with Percuset after my c-sections, so not really surprised.

After 6 weeks I will be allowed to do more things and, stretching and exercise wise, push myself harder. Right now there is still swelling and angry, short muscles. My TFL(tensor fascae latae) was cut, and will need to heal, I have a 5-6 inch incision over my hip and an additional small area where the robotic cameras were placed. My right knee is angry where the IT band attaches and in general when I overdo my walking. My legs feel slightly uneven, the right leg is slightly longer. I was told my body will adjust. 12 weeks is the big mile stone, which is when I may or may not be allowed back on a horse. And do yoga, and twist, and possibly lift hay bales again. We’ll see. Current goal is getting on and off the floor without feeling like I’m popping my incision open, so there’s that.

Amira and I in 2022 (photo by Wanda Clowater)

I’m looking forward to being able to get back to riding and working on the farm. Goat kids will start arriving in late February. Onwards, and upwards. One step at a time. Quite literally…

God Jul!

Merry Christmas! Happy holidays! God Jul! Feliz Navidad! We are enjoying a quiet Christmas at home this year.

Due to Anna’s surgery and Rob’s injury, Christmas cards fell to the wayside this year. To those of you who sent cards, thank you! We will likely send out cards again next year.

Rob has had a busy and productive year at Sonalysts. When he was not working there, he was working on the farm, or hunting, running, riding, fishing, and whatever else he could find to not sit still. As many of you know, he had a cart accident with Huey in September that he is still recovering from, but he is back to running, riding and hunting, so that is a good sign.

Anna became a US citizen this year! She voted for the first time as well. Anna spent a lot of time training Fiona and let the kids compete Amira in all but one distance ride. This December Anna had a total right hip replacement, and will be recovering from that into the spring.

Alex finished the nuclear technology program at Three Rivers and spent the summer interning at Millstone Nuclear Plant again. This fall he started at URI to finish a degree in Mechanical Engineering with a Nuclear minor. He still enjoys riding Mojo, going trail running, and is the protector of his siblings.

Quinn graduated high school and is attending Eastern CT State University for a double major of computer science and data science. Quinn has claimed Fiona as theirs, and enjoys sewing dresses and other creations, along with showing our dairy goats.

Amanda is in 8th grade, working on making her high school choices. She is currently riding our new horse JJ and it seems to be a great match for her. She is also going hunting with dad, biking and running as time allows. Amanda went to the Big E with our dairy goats this year and enjoyed showing them at fairs and shows throughout the summer.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! We hope to see all our friends out there enjoying life in the New Year.

Biosecurity Testing

We draw blood and test annually for “the big three” diseases in goats: CAE, CL, and Johne’s disease. In addition, we quarantine new goats for at least three weeks and we buy animals from other herds who test or make sure new animals are negative before turning out with our current goats.

CAE stands for Caprine Arthritis and Encephalitis and can be transmitted through blood, milk and other bodily fluids. Symptoms include arthritis in adult goats and encephalitis in young goats and kids (ataxia, progressive weakness, proprioceptive deficits). Subclinical symptoms include interstitial pneumonia, hard udder mastitis, and a failure to thrive. The most common method of transfer is through milk and colostrum. It is common for goat breeders to bottle feed baby goats with pasteurized milk and heat treated colostrum as CAE prevention. Breeding with a CAE infected animal or in utero infection can also transmit CAE, although it is less common.

CL stands for caseous lymphadenitis and is a highly contagious chronic infectious disease that is caused by a bacteria. CL results in abscesses in the lymph nodes, open or not, and/or general poor condition if the infection is internal. Affected animals are often culled to avoid transmission to others. Once established on a farm, the bacteria can live in the soil for a long time.

Johne’s disease, or paratuberculosis, is a bacterial infection of the intestinal wall. Symptoms include weight loss, submandular edema and weakness. The typical transmission route is oral-fecal, but transmission through milk is possible. The bacteria can remain in the environment for years.

We tested our whole herd in November for all three and the results can be found here. We continue to maintain a herd free of all 3 diseases.