Every year when kidding time comes around I pull out my books on how to raise dairy goats, veterinary medicine, and anything else I can think of that might help me get my moms and babies through this exciting but scary time of year. I pore over the pages on abnormal presentations and what can go wrong, wondering if I would recognize a problem if it occurred. This was only my fourth kidding season, and I consider myself a novice.
Fiona kidded first.
And in private.
When the others went out to browse, she laid down in the stall and refused to go. Twenty minutes later I was back, and there she was with three slimy babies.
But not everything went as well.
It was the night before Mother’s Day and Bambi, the last one to kid, was in labor. I wasn’t sure that she was at first, because she wasn’t doing the usual things: pushing her head against the wall, building a nest, lying down then standing up only to repeat. She just seemed distressed. An hour or so later I came to check on her and stayed there the rest of the night.
Things weren’t progressing. She was clearly in labor. The contractions were quite visible, racking her abdomen. As the night wore on, she seemed to be exhausted. She would lie on her side for long periods of time; the contractions practically came on top of each other, but no babies.
I knew I was going to have to help.
I followed all the instructions I’d read about for helping a kidding doe.
Gloving up, I put some KY jelly on my fingertips and straddled her. I wasn’t sitting on her, but my legs could keep her from getting away from me, something she immediately tried to do. I brushed her tail away and pushed my fingers into her vagina, widening the view. I could see just the slightest bulge of an amniotic sac.
With the next contraction, I suddenly got a burst of fluid and saw a hoof, which I grabbed hold of. I reached with my other hand and found another hoof.
Another contraction and I pulled. Hard.
I had two back feet in my hands and with Bambi pushing with all her might, pulled the baby out …
to its neck …
and the cervix locked around its throat.
I held onto the feet with my left hand and tried to insert even a finger of my right hand into the birth canal to loosen its hold on the baby’s neck to try to help it get air. But with Bambi bucking me and my muscles giving out, I failed.
Another contraction and Bambi pushed her baby, with me pulling, into the world. I brushed its face, toweled it off, tried to stimulate it to breathe, but nothing happened. It was a perfect little doeling. It was the beautiful fawn color that I like so well. And it never drew a breath. Unfortunately this was a singleton, the first one we’ve had here, so Bambi was kidless.
The next day, I saw one of the saddest things I think I’ve seen in my time of raising animals. Bambi ran out to the pasture, crying. She bawled most of the day. She would charge the other mother’s kids, smell them all over, then run off crying some more. The other moms seemed to understand, and though they were watchful so their babies didn’t get hurt, they let her check out the kids. This went on all that day and well into the next before she apparently stopped looking and went out to browse.
I didn’t milk Bambi. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it after all that trauma. Her udder never got very big, anyway, and it just seemed too cruel. I did, however, keep a close watch for any signs of infection and saw nothing. There was no abnormal discharge. There was no odor. And within a week you would never have known she’d given birth.
I’ve reviewed the whole thing in my mind a number of times since then. I’ve decided that jumping in sooner wouldn’t have helped, since the contractions hadn’t pushed the baby far enough down for Bambi to push it out even if it hadn’t been a breech presentation. I am glad that I recognized there was a problem and did what I could to help. I’ve been worried about this happening ever since we started keeping goats. Now that it’s happened, I won’t be so unsure of myself anymore. I know I can do what I have to.
The apples are coming on now and it’s cooking time.
Kidding time may have been traumatic, but apple season is upon us and there’s nothing scary about that. We make apple wine and apple juice. We dry apples for sweet but healthy treats. And we make applesauce and apple butter.
I’m going to share how I make the latter two. It doesn’t take a lot of time. I don’t peel or core the apples, but I do cut them in half in order to put more in the pan. If you’re worried about cyanide being released from apple seeds, I suggest reading http://www.thenakedscientists.com and its comments on this. I would also say that I’ve been doing things this way for many years – more than I care to admit to – and I’m still here.
My recipe for apple sauce and apple butter:
1. Wash and sort apples. Cut out any bad spots, and toss out the rotten ones.
2. Use a pan that will hold at least five quarts of fluid. Put 2-3 inches of water in the bottom. Remember, the deeper the water, the longer it takes to boil off the fluid you don't need.
3. Place the apples into the water. It doesn't have to be boiling when you put the apples in — it'll get there eventually.
4. Boil the apples until they turn into a mushy mess that can be mashed with a spoon.
5. Let cool.
6. Strain through a food mill. The result is applesauce. If this is what I'm making, I stop here, add a few red hots to be pretty and add a little bit of spice, and can it. No sugar. We don’t need it, and if the sauce is a little tart, we like it that way.
If I'm going to go on to the next step, apple butter, I do the following:
7. Place 3 quarts (12 cups) of applesauce in a crock pot with 3 cups of sugar (I use Splenda for one of the cups), 1-1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves.
8. Turn crockpot on high and walk away, returning periodically over the next 12 - 24 hours to stir the evolving apple butter.
9. The sauce will turn tan, then dark brown. When it seems to have the right consistency and the taste you want, it's ready to can in a water bath. This recipe makes about 8 half-pints of apple butter.
That's it. It takes very little time and is loved by all.