May 2012


What a day we had today!!  And it’s only 2 in the afternoon! 

For several days now, Shiloh the donkey has been showing signs of impending labor.  She was a rescue that we adopted, and she was already bred.  We just didn’t have a clue when she was due.  I have been studying up as best I can, but I have never seen a horse or other member of the equine species foal, so I wasn’t sure what to look for.  As it turns out, there wasn’t much on line at all about donkey labor.  (Here’s a tip for other donkey owners) I finally figured I’d research horses in the hopes they were similiar.  Thankfully,  donkeys pretty much follow the same signs as horses–though I learned there are a few differences. 

For about a week now, Shiloh’s tail head had been raised, hip muscles and ligaments obviously softened and depressed (“caved-in” on both sides).  Here is her rump shot back in November (remember the infamous pregnancy test?) :

Here is her rump yesterday:

I have also been watching her udder expand.  Many resources I have read swear by a visual “milk test” to predict labor, while others say NEVER milk them.  I figured it certainly couldn’t hurt anything, so I did the milk test.  Here is a great website about a horse milk test to predict a mare going into labor:  http://yellowhouseranch.com/foaling.htm   This website was really what I started following in the last few days.  HOWEVER, I have now learned that the donkey (at least mine) does not produce the amber color described here.  The udder builds similiarly, then, about a week ago, I was able to squirt a VERY sticky clear water.  3 days ago, it was still clear, but more of it and less sticky.  2 days ago, it squirted in a very nice stream, but still clear.  Yesterday morning, it took on a cloudy appearance.  By the afternoon, she had wax on the end of both teats.  Sorry, I didn’t get a pic of the milk, just the full udder and wax yesterday.

In addition to the other physical signs she was showing, I knew it was getting close.  As of yesterday–24 hours prior to delivery, the baby had definitely dropped so she looked like a bell shape. 

Again, though, she never took on the “pointy-belly” described by all the things I read.  Rather, she remained nice and round until the very end.

I found her stall bedding dug up a few mornings this week, but never saw her actually doing the nesting.  Then, yesterday, after I did the milk test in the morning (for which she was fine), I went out to check on her in the afternoon, and it was clear her temperament had changed.  She is usually very docile and I can handle her anywhere.  Yesterday afternoon, though, she threatened to kick at me when I touched her udder, and then when I petted her side, she turned around and attempted to nip me.  That was way out of character for her, so I didn’t let the kiddos in the pen after that.  I penned her last night and checked on her a couple times (really hoping to see the birth).  She seemed only slightly more agitated than usual–not hanging out beside me nuzzling like she usually does, swishing her tail, and shaking her head as if being bothered by flies (only there are no flies this time of year), and so forth.  I also saw her roll once, which I heard was a sign.  Nothing happened last night, to my surprise.  According to my research, the vast majority of donkeys foal between midnight and 5 am in the dark hours for safety.  It is apparently quite rare to catch a foaling without sleeping in the stall. 

To ensure I could keep an eye on her this morning, I put her out to pasture near the house.  Around 10:00, a wildlife officer showed up to inspect our bee fence (that is, a fence to keep bears out–not keep bees in!).  As we walked out, I noticed Shiloh out in her favorite semi-grassy and sunny area of the field, but with her tail cocked–as though she had to poop, but she didn’t.  I told JR to run check on her.  He ran about half way, and came back and clarified that she was indeed positioned with her tail up in a strange way.  I kept my peripherial vision on her as the officer and I discussed the fence around our hives.  Suddenly, Shiloh pawed the ground a few times, turned a circle, laid down on her side, and gave an obvious, HUGE contraction!  It was time!!!!  I apologized to the officer, asked her if she would mind if I went and checked on things since we had been waiting so long.  Thankfully, she was as excited at the unplanned event as we were.  JR ran into the house to collect everyone else, and we gathered along the tree line, ensuring plenty of safety and distance for Shiloh.  I moved around a little so I could take pictures, and Shiloh never seemed to concerned about us there.  Thank goodness for zoom cameras though!

She pushed and pushed and pushed some more.  First, a white bag appeared. 

Shiloh got up and down a few times, and finally, a set of front legs appeared. 

Shortly after, the nose and tongue appeared.  I breathed a sigh of relief that, for the first time, we were about to witness a totally natural, unassisted birth–something we have been praying for for some time now.  As we watched, Shiloh took a couple breaks, then resumed pushing.  Suddenly, after about 30 minutes since we had first seen her lay down, the foal popped out.  Within another minute, the foal broke free from its sack, and began to try to right itself.

Over the next 30 minutes or so, it began to try to stand.

I managed to get some video of this part as well:  http://youtu.be/wmd5CqaZteM

Finally, after the main show was over, the very kind and understanding officer took her leave.  But not before showing the children a bear head in her truck, and giving them a lesson on poaching investigations.  I was eventually forced to drag myself away to tend to other things.  Eventually, I took Shiloh a treat of molasses-water to drink, loved on her a bit, then, when she seemed comfortable with my presence, I worked my way over to the foal to do some imprint training and to check on the sex.  Now THAT was fun!  And, as if we hadn’t been blessed enough with a live, healthy foal and a natural birth, we even got a little jenny!  (For you city slickers, that means it’s a girl!)

Oh, but as usual, the day didn’t stop there.  Our beef got delivered about an hour after the birth.  As I’m standing there paying the rancher, he looks out at the pasture, and asks, “What is that?” I looked in the direction he was pointing (which was NOT toward the donkeys), and realize one of our bee hives had just split, swarmed, and gathered on a tree branch.  He left, and I frantically set to work to try to save our bees.  Now mind you, the bees are my hubby’s thing and they tend to make me quite nervous.  But, I couldn’t wait, or the swarm would leave.   Thinking we might have an empty hive out there I could put them in, I made a few calls.  Don’t you love the way God just puts people in your path when you need them most?  It just “happens” some neighbors came over to admire the new foal right before this swarm was spotted, and they were telling me how the “grandpa” of the bunch used to raise bees.  I quickly called him and asked him if he’d help.  He had never caught a swarm, and it had been many years, plus he wasn’t keen on climbing my rickety ladder, so I suited up, and feeding off his confidence, found my courage.  The bees were collected on the tip of a tree branch, about 12 feet up.  This isn’t them–no time for a camera right then–but it’s an internet photo that shows basically what they looked like.

I climbed the ladder and held a 5-gallon bucket under the swarm, praying the weight of them landing (about 7 lbs) in the bucket wouldn’t tip my ladder.  My neighbor-helper meanwhile used his pole-saw to reach up and cut the branch just past the swarm.  It couldn’t have been more perfect!  The swarm landed with a thud in my bucket, and I quickly snapped a lid on top and climbed down from the ladder.  Once I got them into the garage, I replaced the sealed lid with a ventilated screen I found.  Here they are, patiently waiting on S to get home:

Boy, what better homeschool day could we ask for?!  Nonetheless, mean mother that I am, once everything calmed down, I still made the kiddos do their normal lesson before going back out to play.  I cleaned up all the stuff used today, put all the beef into the freezer, and came in here to rest and type.  For the record, of all days to be on a day-trip, S had a work trip today that put him up in the mountains with no phone or reception or way to contact him.  I can’t wait for him to get home tonight and share in our excitement. I’ve also decided that he owes me a dinner and movie date for overcoming my fears and catching his swarm for him!  Furthermore, for once in my life, I kind of felt like a real “super-mom” today!

In closing, today was a great day, and we are reminded once again just how blessed we truly are.  Now, though, I need your help.  We need a name for this new little jenny.  We prefer our names to have meaning, and some sort of Biblical meaning or something giving praise and thanks to God is even better.  “Shiloh,” for example, is of Hebrew origin and means “His gift”–appropriate because she was given to us in a time of need.  So, let me know your thoughts for this new cutie.  The winner will receive…..ummmm…..a really big “Thank YOU!” and the joy of seeing your chosen name printed on my blog!  How’s that for a mega-prize?!

The goats have really kept us busy this spring.  As you know, we sold Lilac and Sara (who, btw, went on to produce gorgeous, healthy triplets– a perfect outcome after all my work with her last year!), and then, after our remaining milker, Onyx was unexpectedly put down, we had her two bucklings to bottle-feed.  We borrowed a Boer/Nubian cross doe to supply them with milk (I hate that store-bought powdered stuff….seems to cause far more problems than it does good!).  We knew that this doe had to return home eventually though, so S and I began discussing what we wanted to do.  We had planned to have 3 milking does for this year, and to move with us back to Red Gate next year, but it just wasn’t happening.  Faith hadn’t freshened yet, so the only doe we had in milk (and only once a day, since she was still nursing kids) was Bell.  I left the choice to S whether we wanted to settle for our 2 first-freshener does, or start the search for another doe.  He decided he wanted the milk, so told me to start looking.

My goat mentor and friend knew of our plight, and made me an offer.  She had a 2-year-old Alpine daughter of our former buck, Stallion (whose genetics we absolutely loved!), and the doe was pregnant and due to freshen within 2 weeks.  I could buy her pregnant for one price, or I could leave her, let her freshen, test-milk her, and let my friend keep any kids produced, then buy her at a steal of a price.  In order to reduce the chances of losing a doe from kidding complications, or getting stuck with a poor milker, we opted for the second option.  So, the wait began. 

Latte (after milking)

“Latte” finally freshened–a beautiful and well-bred little buckling.  We let my friend keep her for several days to milk out and feed the baby (and because I HATE the taste of the hormonal first-week’s mik!), then I went out and test milked her.  I had seen her prior to freshening, and she had very tiny little teats, so I was concerned.  To my surprise, her udder and teats had ballooned up, creating a beautiful udder, but also large and bulbous teats.  I wasn’t thrilled, but she was milking about 6 lbs. a day 4 days post-freshing, and I liked her personality and breeding a lot, so I decided to go for it.  To make it even better, my friend offered me a 1-week trial to make sure I liked her.  We decided to keep her.  Although I am still getting used to milking Latte’s oversized teats, I have fallen head over heels in love with her personality!  She literally adopted me as her baby, cries for me when I’m not there, licks and nuzzles me when I come out, follows me around like a little puppy dog, and is just a sweetheart in general.  This is so unique for an Alpine, but I just love her.  The only real concern I have with her is that she has become a 10.5-11 lb per day producer at just 4 weeks post-freshening!  (BTW, a gallon of milk is roughly 8.4 lbs, meaning she is giving us almost a gallon and a half 4 weeks after having her baby, and the doe generally doesn’t peak until between 6-8 weeks!)  That may sound like a great thing, but since she isn’t a pushy goat that inhales all food in sight, she is a bit underweight for my liking already, and with this type of production, she will likely become very high-maintenance for a while.  We’ll see how it goes.  In the mean time, I am supplementing her with whatever calories I can think of to help keep her weight on was we approach her peak lactation. 

Latte’s udder before milking 5.5 lbs.

As if that wasn’t enough milk, Faith freshened with a precious little doeling.  The single little girl doesn’t consume nearly as much as a buckling, so I had to start milking Faith out right away to keep her milk up.  Considering she has always been my bucky kicker that hated to be touched, she is turning into quite a nice little milk goat.  It’s truly amazing how those maternal hormones can turn a girl around!!  I was really worried what kind of mother Faith would be since she seemed so mentally immature, but she has surprised me all around.  She was my most complicated delivery yet, requiring a great deal of assistance to untangle 3 legs and a head and get that baby out.  But once the doe, “Joy” was on the ground, it was love at first sight, and Faith just grew up before our eyes.  They have been a fun pair!!  For the record, Joy is for sale, but S has agreed we can also keep her if she doesn’t sell.  Whether we simply continue offering her, and just increase the price with breeding and freshening is yet to be determined.  However, she is a very impressive little doeling from incredible milk and show lines, so I am not in a big rush to sell.  

“Joy”

Bell’s little doeling left a few weeks ago, leaving us with her buckling eating every drop of milk he could get from her–the little pig.  In fact, thanks to him, I learned about “milk goiter”, a harmless and temporary swelling of the thymus gland that sometimes happens in high-milking lines when the baby is overfed.  Oh well.  You can just see the soft swelling right where the jaw meets the neck in this photo.

I don’t bottle feed if I can help it, so the best I could do was pull him off earlier in the day.  When not with the does, his primary companion was Pelham, our American Chinchilla rabbit buck out in the community hare-pen.  These photos are hard to see, as I couldn’t get close enough without them both getting up, but I thought these photos were so cute!

I didn’t really expect him to sell since there are no Kinder breeders around here in need of a buck, and he started getting really pushy and trying to head-butt me when I walked in the pen.  So yesterday, the little buckling became dinner.  We didn’t actually weigh him live, but after weighing the meat, we believe we got 10 lbs. of meat from a roughly 20  lb. kid, or around a 50% dress out percentage, which isn’t bad for a 6-week-old, milk-fed Kinder kid.

That brings an end to our kidding season, and I am busy settling into our new milking routine.  I am currently getting 10.5-11 lbs a day from Latte, 6 lbs. from Bell, and 4 lbs. from Faith (in addition to whatever her doe is eating).  I am totally thrilled with Bell and Faith producing so well, and having such great udders and teats for hand milking–especially for first-fresheners.  I still have to hobble Latte who likes to dance, continually shifting from one leg to the other for some reason, accidentally tipping a pail or two in the process, and Faith who still hasn’t figured out she can be milked without lifting her leg up in the air (she still does it for baby too!).  Bell is a gem to milk though, standing perfectly still and earning her freedom from the hobbles after the first few days.

My milking routine takes about 30 minutes, which isn’t too bad.  Thankfully, we certainly have no shortage of milk now, and in fact, we are selling milk shares (the only legal way to do raw milk in Colorado) for the peak season.  We have sold several already, and still have a fridge overflowing with milk.  We drink 1/2 to 3/4 gallon per day, and I am eagerly awaiting all my rennet, cheese cultures, and soap-making materials to arrive in the mail so I can start using some more of it!

It’s really funny how a dry spell can make us so incredibly appreciative of something as simple as fresh milk!

If you have followed our blog for any length of time, you are aware that our middle son, A, has some challenges.  The problem is, we don’t yet know what the problem is or how to deal with it.  As a result of the medical journey we’ve been on, A is undergoing a serial casting process for physical therapy, to re-stretch his leg muscles and tendons that had contracted for some unknown reason.  He has now stretched from -3* to 17*, with the ultimate goal of 20*.  We are almost there.  At that point, (probably about a month from now) he will most likely be put in AFO’s (leg braces)  to keep him stretched until we find a cause, or until he can maintain the stretch on his own.

In addition, this past week, A and I found ourselves admitted into the hospital for a greatly anticipated, long-awaited test.  We were scheduled for a 3 day/2 night video EEG test, to find the severity of what was believed to be seizures discovered during a short-term EEG test about 2 months ago.  We got to Denver Children’s hospital around 10:30 in the morning, and were eventually seen by an EEG tech who got A all wired up. 

First, the tech had to measure and mark the appropriate locations for the sensors.  A was content to lay there and watch a movie. 

Next, she applied the sensors with a terribly smelly glue.  There were around 24 sensors on his head, and 2 on his chest to monitor heart rate.

To prevent him messsing with them, she then covered the sensors in cotton and a gauze head-wrap.  The wires were zipped into a sheath of fabric, and the box that the wires connected to was placed into a kid-sized backpack.  This allowed A to move around the room.  Of course, it wasn’t really that simple.  A was also on video camera for the duration to see if he did anything that could be physically seen while having a seizure.  This meant that, although he was free to get up and move, I had to try to keep him in a specific location for as long as possible so the camera could see him.  And the docs wanted him to watch as little TV as possible, so his day would be as normal as possible–except of course that he had a head covered in sensors and his day was confined to a 10×10 foot space.  Normal?  Right! 

Thus, we did our best to improvise and settled in for the long stay.  A was entertained by the occasional cartoon:

Then he got to move over to the chair or sit on the floor where he could play with his Alfie robot or color:

Or he could move to the couch and look out the window.  Then, before the energy exploded out of his little body, he was given a boundary within which he could push the rolling tray table around–back and forth, back and forth, while mom placed bets on whether the dragging power cord trailing from his backpack, or my sanity, would snap first!

Of course, it wasn’t REALLY that simple.  Remember the fact that we do have 4 other young children?  S had to take off work for 2 days to take care of them during this hospital stay.  Well, as it happened, the night before we were scheduled to start, R wasn’t feeling well.  She was awake and crying the entire night.  I wound up taking her downstairs to the basement and “sleeping” with her on the futon so S could get some sleep and drive to Denver the next day.  I figured she must be teething, as she was very out of character for herself.  We were so tired from the long night, S and I both slept in, then, when we couldn’t sleep in any longer, we jumped out of bed, threw the kids together, did the farm chores, bundled the kiddos into the van, and headed to Denver.  Meanwhile, R was continuing to be cranky.  About 45 minutes into the drive, R angrily grabbed her socked foot, ripped her sock off and started crying.  Again.  I turned around and caught a glimpse of her bare foot….covered in ugly red and white blisters!  OH NO!!!!  I reached back and began frantically checking her body, not sure how we missed it when we dressed her that morning.  Her head, torso, arms, and legs were actually not too bad, having a few “bug bite” type bumps on them.  Her hands and feet, however, were covered in white-headed pimples, angry looking blisters, and just plain looked painful!  No wonder she was crying all night!!  (Though I don’t think they had developed the night before, I think their development is what made her so miserable.)  So, while S continued to drive, I called the nurse hotline to find out what to do.  After dropping us at the hospital (where I told the nurse, but we all knew we would be isolated in our room anyway), S took R in to the base clinic, where she was diagnosed with “Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease.”  At least it wasn’t chicken pox, which is what I had feared.  As it turned out, A had gotten it several weeks ago, but it presented as a couple of unexplainable “bug bites” (we really don’t have any biting bugs in our area–especially this time of year) and disappeared within about 3 days.  Then, N and M likely got it, and complained only of a sore throat and mild fevers for about 24 hours. JR never complained of anything, then apparently R got it last.  This photo is not R, but one I found online that looked like her hands and feet….

So, as it turned out, I’m not sure who got the best end of those days–me stuck in the hospital room with A, or S stuck at home with a miserable, quarantined toddler.  The good news for R is that, like the others, she seems to have had a VERY mild case of it.  After what the pediatrician had prepared S for (which includes blisters throughout the intestinal tract and everywhere in the mouth as well), S took her home, gave her a thoroughly fermented kefir smoothie and some vitamin C, which seems to have prevented any intestinal problems.  Within 24 hours of the appearance of the blisters, they stopped developing, and now seem to be healing.  She never stopped eating or got bad diarrhea, and only missed sleep that one night.  The doc prescribed ibuprofen and tylenol on an as-needed basis, but S never even had to give it to her.  She is still a bit fussier than usual, and I suspect the blisters on her feet are a bit painful, but overall she seems to be on the mend.  We praise God for both the health of our children and the ability we have to feed them nutritiously in a way that encourages their healing. 

A on the other hand, was released from the hospital after only 24 hours.  The GREAT news is, they found no seizure activity.  The not so great news is that, since they found no seizure activity, we are still at square one of having no clue what is wrong with our child, only we have ruled out yet another possibility.  Next on the agenda is a follow-up appointment with the neurologist almost 2 months from now, a possible opthamology appointment to check on an eye problem he has begun complaining of, continued physical therapy, and the start of occupational therapy.  They are also considering sending us to a metabolic geneticist to look at some metabolic factors more in depth.  For now though, we’re starting to lean back on the in-utero drug theory–which still doesn’t explain the neurological regression of his body that has been happening.  At this point, only God knows what’s going on still, so we can only pray for wisdom in raising this child and trying to maintain the peace in our home with his continual antics. 

There is certainly never a dull moment in parenting this household!!

Hard to believe it has been over a month since  I posted!  OK, I know I did that little series on marketing, but truth is, I typed that up months ago, and saved it for a busy time when I might not be able to do other posts.  Now, though, here I am, back in blog world, on a beautiful Mother’s Day.  My family has gone off to church, and I am home with a sick and quarantined baby, so I figured it was a perfect time for some catch-up blogging. 

It has been a busy month in every aspect.  First, my mom came out for a visit for 2 weeks in April, and I managed to get some projects checked off my list while she was here.  One night, we took her to the Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs, and she took some great pics of the kids for us!

Then, over dinner one evening, we got into a discussion about government and politics with the kiddos, and they started asking questions about what it meant to vote for officials.  This discussion turned into an impromptu skit on politicians running for office and how we vote.  Nana and Daddy got to be the presidential candidates, making promises and telling how they would best serve the nation, complete with one candidate  offering all sorts of bribes (don’t worry, we won’t name names, Nana). 

The kids had to decide who was best, write it on their ballot, and I got to be the tie-breaker.  It was a lot of fun, and a great lesson on one of the things that keeps our country running. 

Remember the big military formal I posted about last year? (you can read it here)  Well, it was that time of year again, and since Nana was here, I got to have a special day out with M to doll up for it this year.  We went shopping (I needed a new dress, remember!), got our hair cut, got a manicure and pedicure (so much easier than last year!!), had lunch out, and generally enjoyed the day together.  M just melted hearts everywhere we went.  She even got extras like decorated nails and a full hair-do at no extra cost just because the folks liked her so much!  (Guess I need to behave better next time!)  Then it was time to rush home so I could get ready for the evening.  I am embarrassed, but I promised photos last year.  This was rushed, and remember, the camera always adds 10 lbs!

We had a great visit, mom was treated with getting to witness our last doe, Faith, freshen, and then she returned home in early May.  The kids really enjoyed spending time with her and being spoiled, and I think it is so much fun that they are getting old enough to remember her visits and make memories with her.  Even baby R, who generally doesn’t care for strangers, took right to “Nana”, and had a friend from the first day. 

………..

Continued from Part 8 (or start at Part 1)…

At this point, you should be pretty much ready to start selling your item.  As you begin your business though, there is a very important question to keep in mind…

  • Customer service: Is the customer always right?

When you consider word-of-mouth advertising, customer service is quite important.  Customer service can make or break your business in a hurry.  When working with customers, you really aren’t allowed to have a “bad day,” particularly with newer customers.  You must strive to always be courteous, friendly, cheerful, and willing to answer their questions. 

Think about trying to find some assistance in a warehouse-type mega store, and then compare that with finding service at your local, small-town farm or hobby store.  (BTW, if you’ve never had the privilege of going to such a store, make it a priority.  You will discover the definition of GREAT customer service!).  What makes them so different?  It is the fact that, to those workers, it isn’t necessarily “just a job.”  They are knowledgable of the products they are selling, and they enjoy helping customers (or at least they act like it really well).  They aren’t focused on just “making the sale,” rather, they generally try to help the customer find the item that will best suit his needs.  In turn, they create happy, satisfied customers that become loyal, return customers.  Many people are willing to even pay a little more for an item just to receive and support that type of service.  Here are a few tips for good customer service…

  • No matter how busy you are, always acknowledge a customer when they walk up. 
  • If the phone rings while you are helping a customer, focus on the customer that has arrived to shop in person, and either let the voicemail answer the phone, or answer and take a number to call them back later (explaining that you are with a customer). 
  • If you have a voicemail or e-mail account, check it regularly, and respond to inquiries in a timely fashion.  Most experts will tell you to do so within 24 hours, but I have found greater success if I do so within the same business-day. Many customers will change their minds if you wait 24 hours.
  •  Don’t be afraid to tell a customer “I don’t know,” but be sure to follow it up with “I’ll find out for you.”  Then be sure you do follow-up in a timely manner.
  • Try to keep the customer happy.  If they are not satisfied, consider refunding their money, even if you suspect the product is fine (within reason).  If their purchase involves a wait, be sure to keep them posted.  Good customer service CAN BE hard work (though not always)! 
  • When making decisions regarding customer service, just put yourself in their shoes and think about what you would want and expect from a seller.  Go from there.
  • Depending on your type of business, you may want to mail occasional reminders, Christmas cards, birthday cards, etc.  However, don’t go overboard.  I wound up on one small-business e-mail list, and I get at least one e-mail every week.  As a result, I generally delete them before ever reading them.  It’s just too much.  Those that are limited to once-a-month, or better yet, seasonal, I generally appreciate. 
  • If a customer refers a new customer, be sure to thank them somehow.  You can also consider giving them some sort of appreciation gift with their next purchase.  Such acknowledgement is greatly appreciated.

Inevetibly, you will eventually come across a disgruntled, impossible-to-please customer.  In such a case, you may ask yourself , “Is the customer ALWAYS right?”  As a general rule, the answer is yes, but technically, the answer is a resounding “NO!”  There does come a point when you have to consider the safety, effeciency, and profitability of your business.  As a seller, you have every right to refuse a customer.  Of course, if you do so, they are likely to spread some negative comments about you and your business, so it does come at a price.  You must make this decision carefully.  Let me give you a few examples.

  •  When I was training horses, one client I accepted had a wild, 5-year-old, Paso Fino Stallion that he had recently inherited.  The horse had been born in the field, and never been touched in it’s life.  No other trainer in the area would touch it.  I was willing to take it, but had a few requirements.  He had to arrange to have it gelded, and house it for several weeks prior to bringing him to my farm.  He agreed, and I soon found myself with a beautiful, proud animal to train.  I had given the owner an estimated time of 6 weeks of training to reach the goals he desired.  As agreed, the owner came every weekend to check progress and pay his weekly fee.  After 2 weeks, the horse was doing great, I was riding under saddle, and the horse was coming around.  After the third week, the owner saw how great the horse was doing in the pen, and decided he was done.  He wanted me to have only 1 more week to get him accustomed to the trail, and he wanted to take him home.  I discouraged it, knowing the horse wasn’t ready, but against my better judgement, I allowed him to pressure me.  That week, I pushed the horse too hard, taking him into unfamiliar territory before he was ready.  I wound up hurt and unable to train for 6 months as a result.  The owner, of course, felt he had no responsibility, didn’t pay the remainder he owed since he “didn’t get what he paid for,” and then, after getting the horse home, he attempted to toss a saddle on and just jump on.  With no mental or physical preparation, and no lessons from me (required after I’ve trained a horse), he suddenly tried to “cowboy” this horse around, resulting in himself getting bucked off and hurting his back.  As of a year later, the horse was never ridden again. 
  • When I had my scrapbooking business, I had a couple customers that only showed up for my discontinued clearance sales a couple times a year.  They never hosted events for me, never supported my business in any way, never referred any other customers, and often complained and wanted a refund on an opened, clearanced item if it didn’t wind up being what they’d expected.  These customers became far more of a hassle than they were worth.  So, I quit notifying them of the sales.  Interestingly enough, they never contacted me to ask about the sales. 
  • When I used to pick up raw milk as part of a co-op group we had, it was a HUGE investment of time and money on my part.  Most members paid me a little to do it for them, but every month, I spent almost 2 full days working on milk pick-up.  One season, a group of 4 new members from a neighboring town joined, referred by one of my better customers.  The 4 were friends, and had expressed great interest.  The first drop, they made a lot of mistakes in what they were supposed to do, and I wound up paying for some things out of pocket for them.  We got it worked out, and I chalked it up to them being new.  The next month, more mistakes were made and complaints were received.  The third and fourth month, I was getting fed up, but tried to hang in there since I’m a peace-maker by nature.  Then, the fifth month, they didn’t place an order.  I was surprised, and asked the loyal, referring customer about it.  She apologetically explained that on their last order, all 4 of them had gotten sick from something.  They each went to the hospital, were told they had listeria (if I recall correctly), and apparently told the doc they drank raw milk.  The doc automatically blamed the milk (no tests were done), so they decided not to purchase again.  At first, I was mortified and somewhat fearful they would somehow blame me.  Then, I found it maddening that they automatically assumed the problem was in the milk.  As a diabetic, I have an immune-disease, yet I had never gotten sick.  I had 2 pregnant customers who drank the milk, several with babies and toddlers who drank the milk, and my own young children drank the milk.  None of these people had gotten sick.  Also, I found it interesting that the 4 customers were from a different town, meaning it was highly possible their contamination came from another source, but they just automatically assumed it was from the milk I picked up.  This experience was a big wake up call to be careful who you accept as a customer.  If you are working your tail off to try to keep them happy, something is wrong.  It may not be worth it.  In a case like this one, they may well spread bad gossip about your business anyway, so why bother?

When it comes to customer service, I recommend using your gut first, then try to give people the benefit of the doubt.  If, however, at any point, you feel something may be wrong, don’t hesistate to break off that relationship–tactfully and politely of course.  Depending on your business, you may simply be able to stop sending newletters and order forms.  Sometimes, it may be more difficult than that.  Just remember to be polite, respectful, and courteous, and hopefully you can maintain a good reputation even if it means losing a customer or two. 

Now, go out there, have fun, and I wish you the very best in your business endeavors!

Now…back to our regularly scheduled posts……