Around 8:30PM, just as we were finishing our supper, we received news we'd been hoping to hear for the past few days: Jenna's pregnant goat, Francis, was showing her first signs of labor! We threw on our warmest work clothes, grabbed the camera, and hopped in our truck, eager to make it to Cold Antler Farm in time for the blessed event.
The drive to Jenna's place was slow. As we motored along through a winter storm with increasingly icy roads, listening to the Cold Mountain soundtrack, I was solemn and expectant, nervous and excited, feeling hopeful and that we'd be lucky enough to witness our first goat birth.
About forty minutes later, we arrived at Cold Antler Farm. Any kids?, we asked Jenna. Nope, nothing yet.
Together, the three of us prepared for Francis' labor, bringing buckets, towels, and bottles out to the barn. Then, by lantern light, we moved the ram lamb out of the goat pen and onto the hillside with the other sheep. This maneuver involved all three of us working together to cut fences, tie wires, and grab the feisty, wooly beast by the horns. With the ram lamb gone from the pen, the goat mamas would be much more comfortable.
When everything was prepared, all we had to do was wait.
The three of us sat cross-legged on flattened cardboard boxes in the goat pen, chatting, petting the expectant mothers, waiting for more signs of labor.
Throughout the evening, both goats would periodically freeze, close their eyes, jut their chins out, and clench their muscles, with looks of stoicism on their caprine faces. The waves of contraction would pass, and then they'd go back to doing normal goat things, like chomping on hay. Occasionally, they'd press their foreheads against the walls of the pen, bearing down when another contraction hit.
This year was Jenna's first kidding season, so she was almost as nervous and excited as we were. She could have fooled me, though—this is a woman who has delivered dozens of lambs, and singlehandedly runs a farm with two horses, twelve-or-so sheep, a flock of chickens, several rabbits, two dogs, two cats, and a few geese. She looked more like a goat-whisperer than a newbie to me!
After a few hours and no further signs of impending labor, we headed inside to warm ourselves by the woodstove, wrapping our fingers around mugs of tea. It was during this break that Jenna's friend, Yehsheva, arrived, dressed in coveralls and workboots. Armed with her skilled hands and wisdom derived from years of raising goats, we went out to inspect the does once more.
Yehsheva determined that while the mamas had definitely expressed the signs of labor previously, they were probably not about to give birth. The discharge had stopped flowing, the contractions had ceased, and they seemed, for the moment, to have put kidding on hold for the night. She did say, however, that you never know—they could kid in a couple hours, or in a week's time!
Without imminent goat babies on the horizon, we exhaled, exited "high alert" mode, and headed wearily to bed around 1AM. The wait for baby goats would have to continue.