|Article Index||"The Story Of GoatWorld (Part VII)"||Article Index|
Our new life would begin in the Arkansas River Valley region of SE Colorado. Away from the mountains (though we can see them clearly on a real nice day), and down from an altitude that at times had me gasping like a fish out of water.
Actually, a few years have now transpired since I wrote Part VI and a few of you have written and asked if I planned on continuing. Well, not wanting to let anyone down...here ya' go!
Our new home became a farm built in 1930. Not a bad place, but the first thing I can say is that quite a bit of work was in order. The next thing I can say is that I can only remember living one other place in my life that was more remote: Independence, CA. Drive a few miles north of our place and you are out in the "no services for the next 100 miles" type of area. Heading south isn't much different.
But we soon found ourselves immersed in our new home and quickly adjusting to the lifestyle. I don't know how many of you have ever seen the movie "Band of Brothers"? I had watched all parts of it one snowed in night up in the mountains and remembered where Major Winters talked about his life after the military, stating he had retired to the peaceful farm life. Oddly enough, I found myself thinking about that quite often not long after we arrived.
However, there are times when you don't get much time to reflect on stuff like that (except maybe when you are laying down to sleep at the days end). We immediately began working on all the things that need to be done (or not) when you get into a new home. Painting, cleaning, fixing, etc. And being that the house was built in 1930, there was quite a bit on the plate.
One of the first things we found we would need to contend with on what seemed to be a daily basis was the wind. I believe it was within the first 3 weeks of being here that we looked out the window and saw a large cloud of dust rolling our way from the south. We would soon learn that this is a rather common occurence called a micro burst. Well our initiation into micro bursts culminated in completely uprooting a huge cottonwood onto half of our barn. Thankfully, the insurance payout was fair and swift and I was able to rebuild the barn with no problem. But it did give us a rather wary feeling about wind and trees (cottonwoods).
That Spring and Summer went by largely unremarkable and I soon found myself and the goats enjoying a large expanse of pasture that was rich with a very prolific and nutritious weed called Kochia (aka Mexican Fire Weed). Even though the area is very rich in agriculture and farms that grow hay and other cattle type crops, there is a large contingent of farms that grow and harvest Kochia hay as well. It sure beat having to wrestle with the small bales and high prices being paid for them.
Sometime during our first few months I met up with a neighbor who took a liking to me and offered me part-time work helping with a beef cattle farm. It would prove to be a mutually beneficial relationship for some time to come; they had the farm equipment, I had a few muscles left to do some work. Toward the fall, they supplied me with several large round bales of Kochia hay to feed the goats and other livestock. This would be a blessing in disguise come the first week of December.
In some respects I was more worried about heat than cold, and knowing we were moving into a lower altitude had put in the back of my mind that it would be much warmer that it was in the mountains. I certainly didn't think that it would get any colder. Actually, I thrive better in a cooler environment that in a warm environment but my wife is the opposite so if she gets cold, things do heat up for me!
That first fall was delightful weather wise and I thought I might be getting a good handle on understanding high plains weather. As we entered in early December, nearly all of my expecting does had their kids with very few problems. The weather had stayed quite enjoyable and the snowfall had been rather light up to that point. By that time in the mountains I would have already shoveled my fill of snow for the year. But about two weeks after the goats kidded, we were hit with three blizzards in a row that literally stopped everything in its tracks. The main raod to the west of us was impassable until nearly the end of February.
The snow didn't bother me as much but we quickly found out that our house wasn't as energy efficient or insulated as well as you would want. All the little problems that cold weather brings quickly revealed themselves. I knew there would be work to be done come the first nice day of Spring which at that point seemed an eternity away. One cold day my neighbor and I were sitting around in his living room contemplating whether we should go out and check cattle when he suddenly remarked, "this isn't cold...I've seen it 30 below quite a few times before!" Hmmm. when it was still cold and snowy in February, he told me they were thinking about buying me a plane ticket to go back to Pennsylvania and get that dirty little groundhog, Puxsutawny Phil, remarking, "this is too cold".
I wasn't too worried about the goats as they can take it pretty cold, and considering they had just arrived from the mountain winters previous, they were used to it. I did keep an eye on the new kids though and they did fine as well. In all my years raising goats, seems more succumb to heat than they do cold. But the wind, that darn wind...not just a gentle breeze. We are talking hurricanes on the plains.
I think I wrote about it earlier upon our arrival to the San Luis Valley in Colorado where the winds were horrendous...it's not much different on the eastern side of Colorado either. I believe it was the very next Spring that a town called Holly in SE Colorado was nearly wiped off the map by a tornado that swept through. THey are located about 75 miles or so to the southeast of us here. And according to locals, winds, hail and tornadoes are the primary threats. Thankfully, we haven't seen hail of any significance yet, but I know it's lurking in the future.
It is said that no matter where you live and how nice it is, or how much you like it, there are always going to be a few things that detract from that beauty. Ours would come in the form of carnivorous coyotes that would soon become the bane of my goat operation.
We had long employed the service of a guard dog or two - specifically a Great Pyrenees, and for the most part, the first year here the dog did the job. But that next year, young goats would begin disappearing faster than a kids money at a carnival. One or two dogs just weren't enough to contend with a large (and growing) pack of roaming coyotes. I think the dogs even became fed up with it as well because they took off. I don't think they were killed by coyotes...a neighbor told me they had actually seen our dogs killing a few coyotes.
It mostly came about when our mother dog had her pups and for some reason decided that the large irrigation ditch to the north of our place was a better place to raise the pups. It wasn't long after that when they all disappeared and only came home occassionally for food. It left us nearly defenseless except for a .22 and a hope and a prayer the bullet would find its mark.
But coyotes are pretty intelligent and these coyotes became more brazen with each passing day. Daylight attacks weren't uncommon and certainly the night time attacks didn't diminsh either. Almost all of our poultry became dinner and I found myself having to pen up a bunch of reluctant goats at night. This also meant that I had to buy more hay instead of being able to openly turn them out to pasture - even in the daytime.
Coyotes in this area have long been a problem. An in the bad years when the cottontails and jackrabbits aren't as abundant, the coyotes are known to go after calves and other livestock as well including an unlucky horse or two over the years according to reports.
Something needed to be done as I was on the verge of losing my beloved goats. It got to the point where I didn't want to go out and check the goats in the morning only to be sad for the rest of the day upon finding out another was gone. I got so mad that I could close my eyes and see myself actually catching a coyote and beating it to death with my fists. For any of you reading this that have ever dealt with this problem, I'm sure you know exactly what I mean. It's a real heartbreaking situation.
(Coming sooner than expected!)
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