Having met over 20 years ago working in their field of geology, neither Shelley nor Don Hutcheson grew up part of farm families. Their decision to live on the land when they retired led them to Roane County. They bought some land and a few years later bought some more on Island Run which is where Twiggity Farm is located.
The farm is an interesting mix of hobbies gone commercial and a rural lifestyle that permits them to raise their own food and work at a pace that is comfortable for the most part. Not to say life doesn’t get interesting. Between the water flow problem that happened the day I visited to the quirky issues involved with their animals, things are usually jumping.
Twiggity Farm raises Nigerian Dwarf goats. For people who know the breed, enough said. They know the antics that can occur. For the rest of us, let me explain. A West African breed originally, the Nigerian Dwarf goat is increasing in popularity in the U.S. as a small dairy goat with a great personality. It not only is a great milk producer, but can be a pet or even a therapy animal.
Shelley has seven Nigerian Dwarf does (female goats). Five kidded a little over a week ago and she has 13 babies now. Nigerians often had twins or triplets. They are great mothers, with some of the does adopting other kids.
My first 4-legged bottle baby
Five ended up not getting fed, so they are in the house sunroom held in place with a baby corral, hungry for twice daily bottle feedings.
The other two ND and one LaMancha does are pregnant and Shelley is hoping they space their deliveries a bit. The pace last weekend was a bit hectic playing midwife. The LaMancha is a recognized breed that is a cross between a full size goat and a ND. They are small and yet produce a bit more milk, so their popularity is growing.
Milk production increases as the babies grow. Shelley helps it along with twice daily milking. She has a great arrangement set up in her lower entry. The goat enters, hops up on a small platform and eats while the milking machine is hooked up. It only takes about 3-4 minutes. That goat leaves and the next one comes in. Shelley said they are pretty smart and last year learned their place in line and all she had to do was open the gate and the door and the line would form… expect for the day they all came in at once and ended up in other places in the house. Good thing these people have a great sense of humor.
The babies are ready to go between 8 and 10 weeks. Shelley likes to get their first series of shots done and make sure they are weaned successfully. Most of the kids born last week are already purchased, some for home consumption of milk and cheese and some for 4-H projects. Milk production dips a bit and then stabilizes but Shelley will stop the milking about 2 months into the next 5 month gestational phase, giving the doe’s udders 3 months of rest. She said some people who do not breed their goats milk year round.
The Nigerian Dwarf produces about 1.5 quarts of sweet milk a day and its butterfat content is high, average 10-11%. The milk is for the Hutcheson’s personal consumption. Department of Agriculture regulations for sale of the milk involves costs that they are not prepared to address at this point in their farm.
Don is a wood worker and has built a workshop that is well organized for tool and wood storage.
He uses a shaving horse to work the edges of the wood with the draw knife.
Using wood from trees on the their land, his work is well made with smooth finishes. Shelly has put her hand to chair making during the winter and prefers a more rustic finish using twigs. They sell their wares at a show in St. Albans and at the July 5-7 Mountain State Arts and Crafts Fair at Cedar Lakes in Ripley.
March 14, 2012—ADDENDUM
I have asked Shelley for permission to share her most recent blog with you:
Posted: 13 Mar 2012 05:18 PM PDT
It has certainly been a whirlwind week down on the farm. After getting settled into a steady and generally relaxing three months of winter, March arrived. With a vengance. Followed by babies. Lots of babies!
Friday the second of March brought tornado warnings to our area which is generally an uncommon event in our region, especially in early March. I had five goats about ready to pop and I was willing them from the confines of my root cellar where I was sitting, NOT to go into labor now. Fortunately they listened and waited until Saturday afternoon. It was a pleasant, mild day so I spent part of my afternoon on baby watch sitting in the kidding stall reading.
|Its’ a boy!
Snickers was getting restless so I knew we were off to the start of our kidding season. She went into labor and after a half an hour or so she was getting nowhere in her delivery. I don’t like to intervene but I just felt in my gut there was a problem. I mixed up my lubricating gel, slimed my hand and proceeded to investigate. All I could feel was a large bony something and it wasn’t a head. I think it was a butt. It seemed to be wedged on the pelvic bone. I sort of pushed and manuevered the kid around and it finally presented and popped out. A beautiful baby boy! He was followed in rapid succession by his two sisters. Ginger, Snickers’ stall mate and twin sister began helping clean the babies and also started cleaning the afterbirth from Snickers. Apparently all this motherly activity was just too much for Ginger so in 3 hours Ginger went into labor and literally popped out her first kid. She was standing up at the time and before I could grab a towel the kid went sliding under the gate in it’s slimy birth sack. The next two came within a few minutes while I was still drying off the first kid. Whew. Six kids on the ground and doing well. Don headed off to wash towels and get ready for the next blessed event.
I keep a baby monitor in the bedroom and I woke to the sounds of a squeaking kid at 4am on Sunday. I thought a kid had gotten separated from its mother somehow so I went out to check on the six babies. I did a head count and all seemed to be tucked in close to their mommas. Why do I still hear squeaking? Uh-oh. It seems to be coming from the adjacent pen. I go in there and I see three wet babies with Do-Dah working frantically to clean them in the sub-freezing chill. Do-Dah is a stoic little doe and somehow managed to have three kids without uttering a peep, let alone the screams that usually accompany labor. I was temporarily in shock. I finally regained my composure and yelled into the baby monitor which woke up Don, who promply came down to help. I plugged in the heat lamp to help dry and warm the babies. Two were vigorous and squeaking and looking for a meal. The third little kid seemed chilled so we brought her into the house and warmed her with the hair dryer. Soon she took a bottle and she became our first bottle baby.
Jamboree, Do-Dah’s pen mate also helped clean her two remaining kids. Twelve hours later Jamboree decided it was time for her own babies to make their entrance and popped out three of her own. She also decided that they were not hers because she apparently adopted Do-Dah’s kids. Long story short, it was easier to make them bottle babies than to fight with Jam over feeding them so three more bottle kids came into the house. I just love bottle kids though. Because I decided before the kids came that I was going to only leave two kids on their moms, I also took one each of Ginger and Snickers’ kids and started them on the bottle. Ginger and Snickers didn’t seem to mind because between the two of them they were both feeding and tending 4 kids. That’s enough for any goat mom.
With four does safely kidded and all bottle babies fed, I settle into bed for my long winters nap, only to be awakened at 4am…again on Monday. Tenacious my older doe was calling and nickering and generally making enough noise that I got up to check on her. She didn’t look like she was in labor and she has a history of a long preparation period involving much noise (talking to her babies I like to think of it), nesting and general restlessness. Being the kind and considerate doe she is, she waited for an appropriate period of time which allow us to have some much needed coffee and a bit of breakfast.
Oh did I mention it was snowing really hard at 4am? So much for considerate. Anyway, at 9:30 in the freezing barn under a heat lamp she had beautiful twins, a boy and a girl. All 14 kids arrived in the space of about 30-some hours and were doing well. Finally we could sit back and relax and watch (and feed) babies.