Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My romantic life on the farm

I have a new blog friend. Her name is Jane. I hope she won't mind me talking about her. I haven't "known" Jane for very long, but she has a straightforward way of saying things to me that strike me and ring very true. I find myself reflecting on her words later and thinking about my life. This has happened on more than one occasion since we've begun corresponding.

Just yesterday she wrote to me "...So as “romantic” as your life with your precious crew may seem on the blog, I know there is a lot of grunt work and hard labor...". And she's right. Though she forgot to add worry. And unexpected things. No matter how pretty life on a farm in the country may look from the outside, there is a lot of grunt work, hard labor, worry, and unexpected things that go on, mostly behind the scenes.

So, in a moment of "not showing the pretty side", here's a short overview of some animal challenges I'm currently trying to manage here on Critter Farm.

I've got a donkey with bad feet:

I've got two llamas with an as-yet undiagnosed skin condition:

The same donkey with the bad feet has also acquired a weepy eye that, despite my attempts at care, has now gotten worse. The vet is scheduled to come out and do an exam and eye stain on him this afternoon:

I worry like crazy about all these things. I don't paint a romantic picture about farm life, do I?

And we can't forget the unexpected. This morning, when I went up to feed Pete and Reggie, the goat boys, I see this upon entering the goat house:

I know, cute goat. But his head is bloody. That picture is blurry and dark. How about this:

Reggie's head, although appearing pinkish in this photo, is bloody and raw. He's also shaking all over in a way that he never shakes. WTH?

The bloody head is because of Reggie's scurs. Scurs are partial horn growth that grew back after he was dis-budded as a young kid. Scurs on a goat are usually loose or wiggly (but not always) and are not as solidly attached as a "real" horn. Reggie's scurs have always been relatively small, but he has always been itchy between them. He loves being brushed and scratched right between them. Never has he rubbed against anything so hard or long that he has caused himself damage.

Now, an interesting thing about my country life is that not only was finding Reggie this way unexpected, but to then see my vet driving by my house moments after I found Reggie was also totally unexpected. She wasn't due at my house for another six hours.

She had gotten lost on her way to an exam, realized she was close to my house, and came to ask me for directions. From where I was in the goat run, I called out to her what I knew and off she went.

But then she stopped. At the end of my driveway. To make a cell call.

After mulling it over in my head for a split second on what appropriate country vet etiquette is, I scooped Reggie up in my arms and ran with him to the end of my driveway where Dr. Sarah was just finishing her call.

Being the incredibly wonderful vet that she is, she jumped out of her truck and started to poke around Reggie's head to see what was going on.

She pulled out her clippers and shaved his head around his scurs:

I haven't heard him bellow that loudly in a long time. But it was clear why he did once we got the fur away. He had completely pulled off one scur and cracked the other one:

A momentary cuddle on my lap seemed to soothe him:

And then he jumped up and looked at me:

...before running back up the stairs to the goat house where his pal, Pete, was waiting for him:

This afternoon, when Dr. Sarah comes back out, we'll have a lot of things to discuss and attend to. I'll work and I'll worry and I'll try to get my arms around everything that's going on with my critters. I'll try not to feel completely anxiety ridden when I go to bed tonight. As you know, anxiety and sleep are not good bedfellows.

Every day, I learn something new out here. I have an animal medicine cabinet that amazes me with its contents. Half the time I don't feel like I have a clue what I'm doing. Yet, every day, I am happy when I get outside to my animals. Every day. Even when the weather is cold and wet, the mud is making life difficult, and the animals aren't feeling well.

Right now, I'm feeling very nervous about getting everybody back in top form. But I laugh a lot and my heart feels full - and that's kind of romantic, isn't it? :-)


  1. I know the worry so well! And the never ending list of things to do and figure out. I have 2 sheep that need shearing and their hooves trimmed. However, I can't catch said sheep and I have no way to shear them. I have no idea what I'm going to do and it makes me worry. I'm debating selling them.

  2. Hello,

    I have peeked in on your blog several times to read your post and today for the first time I felt something. Was it the true sense of you being a farm girl? I don't know what that was. I can tell you when I saw you on the ground comforting your goat I cried. I know it sounds silly but, this was an excellent post. Hang in there and sending all your animals healing prayers.

  3. Not so romantic after all, eh? Your animals sounds like they are mineral deficient... just and idea...

  4. Caring for "critters" is a lot like caring for kids isn't it? Not so romantic but I'm guessing you wouldn't trade it for life in the city, would you? I'm wishing for the best of health for your animals.

  5. Yes, Danni, laughing with a full heart . . . nothing better and definitely necessary for a good life. Romantic? Hmmmmmm . . . why not! Good to see Reggie "fixed."

  6. That's definitely reality right there. It's hard sometimes, this life. I didn't share on my blog when my Tiffany goat got in a fight with by buck and cut her head a little bit - the cut got an infection and I had to open it up and milk it out every night until it healed. It was not fun and right after I got her healed up, Tamari got ringworm and I had to take care of that. Then Tamari lost her babies.

    The good thing about it is that in the middle of all of the hard work and stress filled times, there is still a touch of the magical (or romantic) in the way we live. I gain an incredible amount of satisfaction from this life - and my own share of tears.

  7. Yes, the feeling in your heart is definitely romantic.

    Very touching post ... I feel the depth of your passion for these critters!

  8. Ummm... I have tears in my eyes. You are such a good mom Farmgirl and you and all of your critters are so fortunate to have each other. You've definitely got your hands full for sure, but I have no question that you'll work everything out. And yes, it is very romantic. :)

  9. Hi Danni! Yes, it is sweet that you love your animals and they love you back, and they make you laugh, and you worry when they have problems. But that's how we are about all family, and animals can be like family sometimes. Good luck with all your drama, I hope Beau's eye gets better & Reggie's scurs heal up. Right now my animals are all on the up-and-up, so I'm not complaining any!

  10. Reading this makes one weep, but the conflict within is whether the tears are of worry or joy. It is obvious you love your flock, who knew there could be so many problems?

    There is no answer to this question; Are they lucky to have you or are you lucky to have them? Both?

    Looks like we are going to need a bigger medicine cabinet.

  11. You're a good animal mom! You're a great animal mom, in fact.
    Keeping livestock has never been easy. It's always something, isn't it? :)

    Is is possible the llama girls have rain rot like horses get?

    You have a 'keeper' for a vet. Make her some cookies or something. :)

  12. Thanks for that non-sugar-coated post, Danni. You have such a wonderful attitude, even when you are obviously worried sick! It sounds like you have a great vet, so I am sure between the two of you, all your critter ailments will soon be resolved and everyone will be as good as new!

  13. There are always things to worry about when you keep and love animals. I understand your feeling of worry and distress at not always knowing what to do. I just try to do my best and hope that it is good enough. Your animals love and trust you, and that's romantic. Good post.

  14. By now your vet has probably been there, and knowing her, she's been able to take most of your worries away and has comforted you. I wish I could have been sitting beside you on the porch when you were holding your goat baby. So I'm sending you my love and 'Mitleid' from here. Can you feel my arms around you?

  15. PS: maybe you can visit your ever expanding animal medicine cabinet to see if there is something that can help YOU to sleep. hee hee hee!

  16. Oh Danni, you are such a good critter mama. Your medicine menagerie looks a lot like mine! You never know what you're going to need. Everything becomes second nature. You are so tuned into evryone there. Do the llamas have lice? Is it allergies with Beau's eyes? There are two donkeys and two horses here that have allergies. Claritin works great.
    Hugs to you. Try not to stress. Hugs.

  17. Oh, well. Romance is highly over-rated isn't it? Besides, it all depends on your point of view, and from here, your life looks pretty 'Roman antics' to me. :)

  18. i take it you've ruled out rain rot or mange...

  19. What a true post and one I feel close to my heart.
    I stress ALWAYS about the crew here. I feel jinxed if I don't. but the feeling you describe when you step outside...Now that makes it all worth it! There is always something, but I find a solution eventually and chalk one up for getting wiser. I love my life and my place. Then it IS all about Romance if you ask me!

  20. Danni,you are a wonderful critter mom. Loved the shot of Reggie running back to Pete. I'm constantly full of questions when our pets see the vet. Thank goodness she is patient and good at explaining things.

  21. Hi Danni-

    I'm going to guess on the llamas' skin problem that it might be fungal. make a compress or wash of corn meal and warm to hot water and apply. They think that there are enzymes in the corn that get activated by the hot water that eat fungus. All I know is that it works on roses, and it worked on my toenail fungus- no lie.

    If it's mites or some kind of small insect, get some Diatomeceous Earth, which is inert. You can get the food grade version (the other is used in swimming pools), and rub that into their fur. Great for flea control as well.

    Both are completely safe and don't involve drugs. I off these as something to try first before getting the vet involved. The DE is useful to rub in your dog's fur and leave around for ants and other insect critters. Diatoms are microscopic water-borne animals, whose skeletons are super sharp and cut up insects' exoskeletons, and then they dry out and die. It's great stuff- the only drawback is that you have to reapply after it rains or gets wet.

    Hope this helps- Paula

  22. I know what youre going through Danni. Although I'm not living it, I've spent many a day on my best buds farm. (oh and I always seem to hide sweet Daisy Lu's dirty face!!) You are a great critter farmer and we all know life on the farm is not romatic at times. Hardly ever! Get some're the best!

  23. I totally hear ya, but you are doing an awesome job taking care of all your critters, they are well loved and the ailment well stuff just happens, just like with us humans. And you are doing everything you can to make them better and that's all you can do. I know how much it hurts to watch them like that but you will get them back on track and it's like you said you learn something new every day. I find it so different going to the Donkey Sanctuary as a volunteer as to a visitor, yes I knew all these donkeys had their history, but you don't see what tender loving care has to go into it, how many ailments that there are, that the average visitor not knows about or sees, and like you I am a worrier and they are not even my animals, but it breaks my heart to hear at every day I am there who got what this week. It is a lot of hard work and I totally admire what you do, keep it up, you are a great momma to all your critters. Things will get better too , once the warmer weather comes...

  24. Aw, Danni, I'm so sorry you are going through such a difficult and stressful time with your critters. You really are a good critter mama and take good such good care of them. These types of things happen with livestock - I'm just sorry they seem to all happen at the same danged time to you! Please let us know what the vet said.

    Amazing how much room critters take up in a heart :) And if I had back every hour of sleep I've lost over mine, I'd be Rip Van Winkle. I'm hoping to finally get a good night's sleep tonight.... I hope your vet was able to calm your fears and that you slept soundly as well.(((hugs)))

  25. Oh you are a great critter Mom for sure. Thanks for another perspective of your romatic life. I must say you give this gal stuck in a glass building something to dream & smile about daily!

  26. Poor Reggie - I'm sure he felt much better after your comforting arms were around him and I hope your animals heal quickly!

  27. Mercy yes there is worry and work and and ... but its worth it huh :O)...

    The first year we had goats, oh my gosh it was awful! One medical crisis after another! But we have learned a lot regrouped, redirectioned our herd and its been so much better.

    Listerine and Neosporin ointment are my best friends with the goaties :O)...well and Ivermecitn their wormer :O)...

    and as far as the gardening goes, I always say I would love to raise everything we eat and I would, but if we only had what I am successful at raising to live on honeyman and I would be so skinny you couldn't see us when we turned sideways! Gardening in Texas as most places comes with its own unique problems. But I enjoy gardening, so yep I do it. Though I can get mighty frustrated at times LOL.

    I am hopeful that as each year goes by we learn more and more and are able to head off problems before they happen :O)

  28. I can understand all of the emotions you feel for your animals. I worry for my animals when they are ill or injured too. I also feel satisfaction knowing that I have done everything that I can to help them to have meaningful lives without any unnecessary suffering. I realize that sharing how we get through these issues on our blogs is very helpful. Thank you for sharing.

  29. It's always to see all sides of farming even when it's unpleasant. A woman once commented about this being such a romantic way to live. She'd been unrealistic in her fantasy of farm life from the time she got out of her car. After a while I thought it was time for a reality check. Her eyes nearly bulged to her chin when I said, "There's nothing romantic about shit running down your leg, and that's the reality of livestock." She had no idea such a horrible thing could happen.

    Veg farming isn't pretty sundresses with a dainty basket to pick a few veggies every day. Hot, sweaty, muddy, disease. I don't think she became a farmer.

    Thanks for showing us reality!

  30. You are doing a great job for these critters!! I am sending you a huge hug - and hopes that you have a good sleep tonight. I love that you have shown us the rough and tumble side of what you are doing! Hugs, M

  31. Me again, Looking at your supplies in the top picture and my suggestion for a couple of supplies to add is Tea Tree Oil and Ivermectin Drench. The Drench is applied several drops onto the back of the neck for parasites and such on the skin. Ask you Vet what she thinks. Both can be purchased at a farm supply store.

  32. What a great post...and what a great person I can tell you are. I enjoy your blog very much...esp this heartfelt post:)

  33. My mother, who reads your blog, let me know about your llama pictures, because she remembered that we had precisely the same condition on our Hazel last year. I came right away to comment. Hazel lost most of the hair down her spine and her skin was flakey and strange looking, and even had tiny spots that would bleed. She did not lose hair elsewhere - just on her spine and a little at the base of her neck, on the back. Our vet took skin samples and nothing showed up in the way of external parasites. We ended up giving an antibiotic shot, in case it was a bacterial infection, and also washing with an iodine shampoo that was available through the vet. Tremendous change. The bleeding stopped and her hair began to grow back after about 2 weeks. She is now completely back to normal although strangely, the hair that grew back is a slightly different color that what was already there. Anyway, I wanted to let you know in case that would be helpful.

  34. Thank you for all the support, wise words, and advice!
    I really love my blogging community. I hope that I can (and do) give each of you the support you constantly seem to provide for me.
    ♥ ♥ ♥

    Regarding the llamas, they receive a daily mineral supplement, have been wormed and treated for external parasites, been washed with Betadine and have had a product called Nu-Stock applied to their backs that supposedly treats rain rot, mange, as well as non-specific dermatoses and hair loss.


    Christy - I've been told that worry is the most useless emotion there is because it does nothing productive, yet how to we stop it? Good luck with your sheep, I didn't realize you can't catch them. This does make shearing difficult - even if you did know how to do it. :-)

    Barbara - thank you for keeping me in mind and coming back with further thoughts!!!! I will look into tea tree oil. I have Ivomec injectible but not a drench. Really appreciate your problem-solving with me!

    Paula - Corn meal, huh? I'll look into that. I have used agricultural grade DE (diatomaceous earth) regularly in the chicken coop and goat house, sprinkling it on roosts, nest boxes, the coop and goat house floors. It works wonders controlling flies in the summer and I'm pretty sure this is why I've never had mites in my coop or on my chickens. People also say it works great for worms and internal parasites, but I discount this totally because, as you said, once it becomes wet it becomes ineffective. I guess I could try sprinkling it on the llamas - they'd much prefer that to the nasty cream I've been rubbing onto their backs! lol

    Texan - what are you using the Listerine for? I've heard this somewhere before but I don't recall how it was applied. As a disinfectant? I know doctors formerly used this as an antiseptic, right?

    Robin - I can totally "hear" you saying this - you have been my personal dose of reality for a long time now. I guess I'm in the right spot because, though it pains me for the critters, I'm totally ok with various animal body fluids running down my leg. lol

    Ok, Claire.... your comment really got my attention. You are the first person I've found who has had llamas with exact symptoms to what mine have. My vet said exactly what you said, any skin samples taken are turning up with NOTHING! I've washed them down with Betadine scrub and coated them with Nu-Stock, but what kind of antibiotics did you give them? That's definitely worth a try.

  35. I enjoy your blog as well Farmgirl!

    Regarding the minerals - sometimes even though they are giving minerals it is not enough... the requirement for minerals are going up all the time because deficiencies in our soil and feed. Dry skin skin problems are often caused my a shortage of iodine and a shortage of iodine also caused the other minerals to not be utilized properly... I'm not trying to tell you what to do or how to do it, but IF nothing else is working, what I have said may be of interest to you and your vet... an idea would be to offer the animals, if you aren't already, kelp granules free choice for a bit and see what happens. Claire's comment about the iodine shampoo also made me look this up.

    I often feel like when I say things like this that I am being pushy or overbearing, I honestly am just trying to help.

  36. Hi Linda! Thank you for your comments. I do not take your comments to be pushy or overbearing - I read you as someone with experience offering their opinion. I tend to be the type of person who goes with the simplest solution first. Mineral deficiencies boggle my mind because, really, where does one start in trying to identify which mineral an animal is deficient in? The llama forums that I read mention zinc deficiences frequently, but treatment is lengthy and skin recovery sometimes never happens.
    The idea behind the iodine and betadine washes is that it puportedly kills any mild fungus, bacterial infection or ringworm. Sunshine kills ringworm, too, but we've not had much of that recently.
    I'll definitely look into kelp supplements and iodine deficiencies in llamas. If I could just get a firm diagnosis, that would be 90% of the battle in my mind. (thanks again)

  37. You are welcome - I'd also look into copper for that foot problem with your Donkey...

  38. Wow. I am totally late to this party, but it appears that you have been given some great suggestions.
    Poor breaks my heart to see those pics of him with his little head all banged up like that. But how great was that that Dr Sarah was driving by at the exact moment that you were experiencing this moment with Reggie.
    I have to on the farm isnt all flowers and rainbows....not that I have a farm of my own yet...but Ive worked on your farm and altho it does have lots of pretty flowers and Ive even had the opportunity to see a beautiful rainbow while I was there....theres a whole lot of hard work and crazy situations that can arise over there.
    BUT, everyone at Critter Farm is in the best of hands with you as their mama. And they totally love you for all you do for them. :-)

  39. Oh dear, I don't know which antibiotic it was. The vet gave it when he was out here to look at Hazel again after the skin tests were negative. All I do know is that it was a one-shot IM antibiotic - we didn't have to re-administer. That makes me think either Pen-G or Liquimycin. I hope someone else might have a good guess, or if you tell your vet it was a one-shot deal, maybe she will have a good idea.

  40. Danni, you certainly have your hand's full. I hope everyone is on the mend there at Criter Farm. You are my inspiration and I think of you when it comes to my animal's well being. I think to myself "what would Danni do"? Winslow still is not over his kennel cough, Emma endures seizures and the girl's are still hen pecking. One needs a strong constitution to be a farmer! Blessings to you.

  41. Hi Danni: I loved living on a farm in Bismarck ND, and soon became aware of the not-so-romantic side when I had to do in a few chicks that were being picked on, and were too hurt to continue. However, this doesn't deter me from now wanting a farm of my own again. I don't see you as being too romantic or unrealistic. I check your blog each day, and love following your life in the country. Keep up the good work, and keep on loving your animals.

  42. I am also a city girl who traded her heels in for a small organic farm and now lives with a pack of rescued dogs, goats, and chickens.
    Some days I am the same way-one vet emergency after another. We have struggled with bloody heads, peeling hooves, and fungal stuff(which is what your llama problem looks like to me).
    We just emerged from our latest adventure involving the banding of our brand new baby goat-he didn't take it too well.
    But, it's all worth it in the end. I would never, ever go back to city living. Ever.

  43. Hi Danni-
    Lisa from Laughing Orca sent me over. Sounds like you have your hands full! But, you are handling things well and with style.

    I'm an equine hoof care provider. Lisa sent me over to take a look at your donkey's hooves, and see if we had any suggestions.

    First, the bottom (or solar) view shows that your sweet Donk needs a good balanced trim. Most of what you see is normal growth, that went a good bit too long with out trimming. The second picture is something that is common in donkeys- the outer wall broke away, (not always a bad thing), and revealed the inner wall. The black you see there, if it has a rather... umm.. interesting aroma, will be an invasive bacterium. Best treatment? Do not wrap- allow light and air to get to the area. Wrapping provides the darkness and moisture it needs to continue to infect the hoof.

    I could go on about what a trim would involve, but I don't want to overwhelm you or hijack anything. Please though, feel free to email ( with any questions, or stop over at my blog. There my husband and I have quite a bit of information written on the equine hoof that may help ease your worries.

    If we were on the same coast, we'd be there to trim for you, however, we are all the way out in Savannah GA... and I haven't fixed my teleporter yet! ;)

    Breathe deep- hang in there, and keep on keeping on.


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