just kidding

This is a photo that turned up today while I was searching for something else. Now, some of you may be be wondering “What’s that small white thing trotting across the circa 1979 living room?”

And others might be wondering if I’m already stooping to posting “pet stories” on this blog for lack of anything else to write about (not true — I have a post about Narceus millipedes coming up shortly).

But, no, this story isn’t about pets, but about this time of the year – or what this time of the year used to be here on the farm — kidding season. You see, there’s some history to this place that goes back almost thirty years and encompasses a long span of time when we kept quite a herd of goats here at the farm. Late February was just about the peak part of the year when kids would be arriving by twos and threes on almost any given day.

Those days have ended and the stable now stands empty, but if I were to go out there and swing open the heavy dutch door, the place would echo with the memory of goats and their kids calling, hay being tossed around in mangers, a couple of horses stamping at the floor while waiting impatiently for their grain. The air still holds faints traces of the summery fragrance of hay, the sticky-sweet molasses odor of dairy ration, and the familiar scent of animals that I have come to miss.

Kidding season was a strange mix of fun, excitement, and stress. The fun and excitement part was in seeing new kids arriving each day and watching them take their first few steps and gulps of milk. The stress part was in making sure that the deliveries went well and that the mothers and their kids came through okay. For me, being the primary goatherd in the family, it meant a lot of hours spent in the barn, often making a couple of trips out to check on things in the middle of the night. In our northern climate, being there at the moment when the kids arrived was critical — to dry them off, get them drinking, and fluff up some fresh straw around the stall. During a deep freeze, if a kid was born very weak, I’d often bring it into the house for a few days. Back then, we stockpiled any large cardboard crates that came along as we’d need them to contain young kids until they could return to the barn.

Now, back to the photo of the kid in the living room. She was a purebred Saanen doe kid that was born on a frigid February night. She was very weak at birth, and came indoors to spend a couple of weeks in the house. We would let her out of her cardboard crate to roam around for a few minutes several times a day. The wolf-like canine with its legs stretched out was our dog, Kaila, a husky-greyhound cross. One would think that particular cross wouldn’t be much suited as a “herd dog”, but Kaila was one of a kind. She would play with the new kids, lying down to stay at their head level when they were still very small. She would duck her head down and let them tug on her ears or poke at her sides and even hop on and off of her back. As the kids grew and began to gallop around the house, racing and occasionally skidding out of control on the tiled hallways, Kaila would canter back and forth with them as they played the goat equivalent of tag. But she always took care not to bump them, and spun round and pretended to flee when it was her turn to be chased. She never tired of their games, even as she grew older. In the end, she was taken from us by bone cancer several years before her time.

So, when I turned up this photo today, it brought back a few memories. The fun and stress of over two decades of kidding seasons, and the memory of one the good dogs that I have known.


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3 Responses to “just kidding”

  1. Laiku Oh Says:

    The dog looks like it’s saying, “Hey stop jumping around like that! You’re making me nervous!” And the goat kid’s saying, “But I like jumping!” Very cute.

  2. Laiku Oh Says:

    The kidding season sounds very busy, but a sort of fun job!

  3. burning silo Says:

    Kidding season was a lot of fun, but you’re right… it was also busy. Also, quite stressful as I had to go to the barn at least once or twice each night to check and make sure that there were no goats kidding. Sometimes things go wrong during the birth process and I would have to be there to fix the problem. It’s very stressful, especially when you also have a full-time job, which I did most of the time when we had our large herd of goats.