Posted by: clemscritters | February 17, 2010


This past weekend we lost one of our original boer goat does.  Sally was the dominant doe, pushing everyone off their grain and hogging it all for herself, pushing everyone off the hay until she was full.  A week ago she seemed to be a little off her feed; on Saturday she was down and unable to get up, with a very low temp.  An awful day followed… vet visit .. worry and anxiety, and finally knowledge of what had happened.  I learned why people warn you not to over-grain animals.. I’d always heard this, but never knew WHY and no one ever explained it – until this weekend and it was too late for Sally.

Apparently the balance of nutrition is very important, and over graining results in an imbalance.  The fetus of a pregnant goat (or sheep) in the last half of the pregnancy sucks the calcium out of mom’s system.  If her nutritional balance is not correct, she can develop ketosis and hypocalcemia, which is what happened to Sally.  She died around 4 AM on Saturday.  I feel awful, knowing that it was me who did this.  Of course our other does are fine, but they are getting much less grain now.

All while this was going on and I was learning my lesson at the expense of this doe, I heard the original Clem (my dad) in the back of my mind repeating – “you’ll kill that animal with kindness” which is something he frequently said to me when I was growing up.  I never understood until now.  Now I know what he meant.    Thanks, dad.  again.  You continue to teach me even though you’ve been gone for more than 10 years.

Sally was a good girl with a lot of personality.  She lost her kid last year and I wonder if perhaps she had a propensity toward this condition last year too, and that is why the baby doe died.  I guess I’ll never know the answer to that question, but some things I’ve learned are:  (1) don’t over-grain and (2) if someone wants to know WHY, tell them.

Posted by: clemscritters | January 31, 2010

Life changes

I feel compelled to write about our horses leaving the farm for new careers.  The problem is I am not sure what or how to write on this subject.  While I am happy for them, I do feel their anxiety at their new lives, being separated from each other and from me.  Savy Boy and Sage were never really ‘livestock’.  They were family members and it is akin to sending your grown up children out of the nest to begin their own lives.  We were not providing good honest work for the horses; we were providing a retirement home, and – at too young an age, that’s not good.  I saw what retiring too early did for my parents, and so I suppose I can rationalize it that way… I will miss them dearly because whoever said that the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man, was a true visionary.

I’m thinking that there may be a horse in my life again before it’s over, but it will come at a time when I’m prepared to help one.  A rescue.  I think that is where my horse sense comes from and where it is going.

Life has a way of changing in steps.  First the horses go; now we get ready for kids and lambs; once we have a plan, we’ll get ready to move the farm, and that will be the biggest life change.  At -20* out there today, a move to the south would be ok.

Posted by: clemscritters | December 11, 2009

The angora project

Through the generosity of our friend Beth, we are fostering two angora does (means they belong to Beth, but they live here with us, to get us started with our angora goat program) please meet the newest members of the Clems Critters flock:

Of course, you already know the adorable “frankie”

Well, this past weekend, his momma nanny and his nana nanny came to live here. Please say hello to
Miss April (his mom):

and Miss Naomi, his nana (I swear, they already had names when we met them)

We rented them a ‘boyfriend’ and couldn’t help but call him Abe
isn’t he handsome?

We hope to have some kids in the spring, which would get us off to a good start for our fiber farm.

Posted by: clemscritters | November 22, 2009

Horse reincarnated

When I was a child of 9, my dad took me to a riding academy on Long Island to look for a horse of my own after much begging and pleading on my part.   He was looking for a horse that would teach me a few things because my experience was limited to say the least.  We waited 4 hours for Cheyanne to come off the trail, and when he did it was love at first sight (at least for me).  His silver plated breast collar, still hanging in my barn, saddle and bridle, cost more than he did, but Labor day weekend in 1962, he came home to Bayport.  What ensued was a partnership beyond description.  We went everywhere together… piano lessons, babysitting, swimming, racing, running away from home (ah, teenagers); and then we moved upstate to a farm where he could retire.

As my skills were sharpening by that time a new horse came into my life; a buckskin quarterhorse, green broke, cut late so he had a lot of studly issues.  I named him Mr. Cass after a friend of my dad’s who I greatly admired.

But I digress.  Advancing age and a poor start in life (Cheyanne was a branded mustang range horse) took Cheyanne’s vitality and health at age 23, but, as a child of 16 I believed if I loved him enough he’d live forever.  I couldn’t bear to see my friend put down, so I nursed him over the winter with warm oatmeal and ground carrots, massage and constant attention.  Come spring, my dad couldn’t stand to watch him suffer anymore, and insisted he be put down.  I was told and then sent away while dad took care of it.  I still have a lock of his mane…..

Fast forward 30 years or so, and I have met and fallen in love with Don, we are looking to buy a couple of horses.  The search leads me to a horse trader who had a beautiful appendix quarter horse, plus a barn full of others.  The appendix (Savvy Boy) is the deal of the day and perfect for Don.  I am drawn to an overweight bay in the corner who the dealer calls Paco.  Says he is a mustang from the west, he picked up in Pennsylvania from a guy who had him standing in the paddock and he hadn’t been looked at in years; overgrown feet, etc.

I was transported back to 1963; love at first sight again. Another mustang. Paco looked exactly like Cheyanne except he was fat.   We brought both horses home.  A suitable name was Romeo because:  I had just moved to Lowville from Rome; he looked like a shakesperian jousting horse he was so fat; he was the animal love of my life at the time! 

It took a year to get him to really love and trust me; a year for us to have more fun than should be allowed, and a year for him to die.

Romeo developed uncontrollable diarreah and after many tests by two separate vets, many months of medications, daily prayer, reiki, and tears, I was 16 again, faced with an ungodly decision.  I knew that I couldn’t love him through his illness.


This time,  I knew I had to be the grownup; daddy wasn’t there anymore to make the decision for me.

Horses being what they are (wonderful helpers) Romeo went down in his stall a few days after the decision was made and we were waiting for the vet and the backhoe.   I sat with him while we waited for both, cradling his head and crying, telling him how he’d meet this great horse Cheyanne once he got to horse heaven; that they’d both be cared for by the greatest horseman I’d ever known (my dad).   I was relieved when the vet arrived and put him down; his suffering was over, and I had finished something which started when I was 16.

Savvy Boy and I developed a bond in our grief; but I can say that no other horse since has been as special.  I think you get a few in your lifetime.  I’ve been very lucky to have found mine.

Posted by: clemscritters | November 11, 2009

Hypocrisy and freezer camp

It concerns me that 90% of americans don’t give a hoot about where their meat comes from.  Today we are sending our first goat to freezer camp.  We’ve sent chickens before, and Don has processed chickens, ducks and rabbits himself (he is so very practical and un-hypocritical);  while I am sad to see him go, I understand that it is his destiny; I’ve tried to remain detached.  We’ll see if I am able to stay that way.


It all has to do with how you are raised I’m sure.  Don was raised by practical people in this regard.  My parents had a totally different outlook on animals in general, and I can remember distinctly the outrage my mother had on behalf of the dairy cows when their calves were not allowed to nurse so we could sell the milk.   I suppose she lived in meat lala land, but I’ve moved to a border town… I know what needs to be done, but am a closet vegetarian. If I had to kill an animal to eat meat, I’ve live on nuts and berries.  It’s ok for me to be a hypocrite in this arena… I am allowing me to be that.

I prefer to raise fiber animals.  We have a partnership.  I take care of them and they give me fiber. No one gets hurt.  So, me and Don,  we have a good partnership.  He does the things I can’t and I do the things he’d prefer not to.


Posted by: clemscritters | November 7, 2009


There has been a revolution going on in my soul lately; can’t say why, but I have a few ideas – if I had to put it into order of importance, though, I think entering Juniper Moon Farms’ Great Goat Giveaway would rank right up there on the responsibility ladder with WHY I’ve been feeling this way.  In case you missed it (and I can’t imagine anyone I know did because it’s all I talked about).. there was an essay contest whereby you had to state in words why you wanted to win a herd of angora goats and become a shepherd to them.

Loving animals in general, discovering goats recently and angora goats only months before, having been told I’m a fairly decent writer and always having wanted to write and express my deepest and darkest, I decided to enter.

Asking for votes for my essay over the web and at work and life in general was an experience not unlike running for office (an experience I’ve successfully completed, glad THAT’s off the checklist – whew!).  You ask people to support you, feeling a little bit humble by their agreement to do so, figuring you’d do a good job, but not knowing the other candidates and what kind of a job they’d do, you can only hope for the best.

Long story short, I did not win; I was blown away by the sheer numbers of votes the other candidates could garner… so I was never really in the running.  That is inconsequential in hindsight – the experience in and of itself was the reason I was meant to enter – reading the comments left by my supporters I can only akin to attending your own wake; made me cry more than once and made me realize just how blessed and loved I really am.

Bonus gained from this experience:  I have begun to follow the blogs for Juniper Moon and now Gilead Goats (Kristen Judkins, the winner and most deserving and really nice person/shepherd) and have been inspired to begin my blog anew – started in 2008 and then neglected.  I’m sure my mother in law will read it if no one else, cause she likes to keep up with the goings on here in the northcountry.

So, THANKYOU Suzie.  You’ve inspired me – and I thank you for stirring my soul.  I continue to be on the lookout for friends for Frankie (my lone angora goat) and I believe that my focus is clearing, all because you started something – you are awesome.

Posted by: clemscritters | October 1, 2009

Rabbit updates

This home project has enjoyed great success.  The American Chinchillas are a rare breed (something we did not know about when we started); this, of course piqued my interest and so I had to learn as much as I could.  Fast forward two years, and we now have breeding stock placed throughout New York State, as well as Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Canada.   I hope we are doing our part to preserve these great rabbits. 


Adding French Angoras just seemed like a natural thing, to go along with the spinning/weaving hobbies I’m developing.  Intrigued by the angora breeders and their business at shows, I had to try it, and thus far am learning a LOT and doing pretty good.  One litter on the table got good remarks from the Judges, so I am encouraged to try another.. not to mention the beautiful fiber for spinning.  My broken black buck and black steel doe produced a total box of chocolates — a broken chocolate, chocolate torte, chocolate steel and two plain chocolates (and a broken black carbon copy of dad) – pictures are loaded to the desktop, so will have to post them when I get that back from the shop.

Posted by: clemscritters | October 1, 2009

bye bye

Ducks and geese were fun, but wintering in the barn not so much.  Some found new homes, some new careers, but I am most happy that the geese, who were so arrogant and cool, have gone to live at a place I often admire, with a large pond and a knowledgeable and caring new owner.  This was a good experience, one I’d repeat, but a warmer climate would be better for keeping them…

Posted by: clemscritters | September 26, 2009


Well, it seems like a century ago that I even LOOKED at this blog; and so much has happened; actually it has only been a year – so I guess it’s time for an update!  We acquired goats and sheep, have added on to the barn, acquired cows, expanded our rabbits to include angoras, reconfigured the inside of the barn to accommodate all of the above.  This is a constantly evolving project.

The garden is done again for the season; we had great success with sweet corn.  The cows and horses loved the stalks/underdeveloped ears of corn… the guineas as usual loved the baby beans but the grown beans, not so much… the fish loved the overgrown zucchini.   Sauerkraut is in the crock cooking and should be done this week.  I’ve added lavender to the crop circle in the hopes of drying and using to preserve some wool from the sheep.  (repels moths)

We are now preparing to go on vacation and there is so much to be done I don’t know where to start!  Will try to post some pictures of the sheep and goats (especially Frankie the angora… so cute) and the bunnies as days go by.  I am hoping to become more blog-friendly as I am sort of hopeless in this regard.  Katherine Graham Cracker, Sasha & TashaBoer goats peek outsideClems Hershey Bar

Posted by: clemscritters | July 15, 2008

Baby chicks

Summer is a prolific time on the farm.  Momma hen hatched out five or six babies yesterday and today; a couple of black, four or five red or light browns, we’ll see when she gets off the nest.  She had to be moved to an unused rabbit cage because it was a “meerkat manor moment” yesterday when a newly-hatched chick was snagged and eaten by those nasty chickens in the pen.  No wonder we weren’t getting any succesful hatches. Live and learn; a trauma for me, mom didn’t seem to notice, but it took me a couple glasses of wine and some commisserating with best friends to calm down.   The new barn will have a nursery area for sure.

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