Eleven Days Early (written 2/15/20)
For a couple of years, I have wanted to add German Angora rabbits to the mix here. I've had generic Angoras for quite a few years already - a couple of English, and a couple of French and English crosses. But the Germans are appealing for several reasons.
For one thing, they're just plain big and beautiful. Each bunny is a hefty ten or twelve pounds, a big bundle of squeezable softness. Still, as sweet and squeezable as they may be, the real appeal is the softness.
All Angora bunnies are super incredibly soft. But the Germans take it to a new level. Petting one is like burying your hands in a cloud. They are the wool machines of the rabbit world. Each bunny yields seven or eight ounces of wool about four times every year. And with each ounce of wool netting a cash amount of about eight dollars, my thought was to combine business and pleasure. Purchase a registered breeding pair of German Angoras, raise a couple of litters and sell the wool, while at the same time enjoying the opportunity to befriend some new pets.
So the entire day today was spent driving out to the St. Louis area, touring the rabbitry, watching a shearing demo, and then snagging the first of the two bunnies, the little boy, and heading home.
The little girl won't be ready to come home for another couple of months. In the meantime, Hot Toddy, my first-ever pedigree German Angora, is stowed comfortably in a big, wire cage in the carport, and I must say that I'm not looking forward to that drive again any time soon.
Well, back here at the farm, chores were done late. As I shuffled around the barn, filling grain dishes and water buckets and checking on everyone, it occurred to me that Mistrie, one of my Nubian goats, was starting to look pretty caved in.
Mistrie is an almost-two-year-old. She's Minty's daughter and, in dairy speak, she is a "first freshener," meaning that this will be the first time she's had babies and begun to produce milk. When a doe is within twelve to twenty-four hours of kidding, often times her sides will look sunken, or caved in, as the kids drop into position in preparation for birth.
So tonight I took a closer look at Mistrie. Hmmm, definitely caved in.
And more milk in her udder than she had this morning.
What was going on with this girl? She wasn't due until Feb. 27. My tummy did a neat flip-flop. Surely we couldn't be ready to have babies this early. I, at least, was certainly not ready. The nursery pen wasn't cleaned out yet, I didn't have any straw, and frankly, I simply wasn't psychologically stoked for the stress and worry and nonstop energy required by new kids and new milkers.
And so, flicking off the barn lights and snuggling deeper into my winter coat, I headed for the house and made one of the biggest mistakes I have yet made as a shepherd. I put myself first. I went indoors and left a pregnant doe, almost in labor, to her own devices on a frigid night.
It's only by the mercy of God that Mistrie's set of triplets wasn't born overnight. With the temperature bottoming out at around fifteen degrees, they would almost certainly have frozen to death in only a matter of hours.
I should have been cautious, should have been smart. I should have dug out the baby monitor, mixed up a batch of colostrum, slept light and woken early. I should have been a good shepherd. Instead, I fell into bed, exhausted and preoccupied after a majorly long day.
The babies arrived at around ten the next morning. They came eleven days early. And they are healthy, hungry, and strong. Triplet doe kids. Alive and warm and well. What a gift. And what a big bang to begin this year's frantic scramble of freshening. In keeping with the wine and liquor naming theme for 2020, these three cuties are Brandy, Bourbon, and Lava.
Apparently, Lava is a local beer brewed in Iceland, which seems kind of appropriate.
Welcome to the world, little ones.