I was drinking coffee and doing a little Japanese study this morning, as is my wont as of late, when a small, cute, Luc-shaped zombie came over, crawled into my lap, and sucked out my brains with some vivid slurping noises.
“Mmmm,” he says. “Tastes like kanji.”
On Sunday, a gal who last year bought one of our goat babies, took our whole herd of four goatie girls home to her farm an hour southwest of here. We helped load the girls into the truck, waved goodbye, and then Sophie and I went inside and curled up on the sofa and cried. It was a really hard decision, one we talked about for more than six months. One of the reasons I chose this gal to take them was that she was happy to take them all together—two mama and baby pairs, the two babies having never left our place, never been away from their families—I was glad, when they were shaking in anxiety in the horse trailer, that they were standing together, pressed close, not alone and separated. But still, yesterday and today I have felt both relieved and terribly sad.
Sophie was two when we first got Lucy and Fancy. Lucy was only eight weeks old. I would put Luc, barely walking, on my back and three of us would take our goats on walks through the forest every day. Over the next five years we mid-wived goat births, played with goat babies, learned to milk them, plus how to make different kinds of yoghurt and cheeses. When Luc got old enough he and Sophie would spend hours out in the goat yard playing with our growing herd, and since we stayed home a lot in those days, it was wonderful to have this source of fun and adventure right here in our yard.
The last year or so, however, more and more it has been me going out to feed and milk, as Sophie and Luc have grown into other interests. It isn’t that I wanted my kids to do more of the work—I enjoyed the work of it, exercise that benefited other creatures, plus being outside early in the quiet mornings, I liked all that, the smell and sounds of the barn—but taking care of the goats was becoming something I did away from my kids, instead of something I did with them. That wasn’t what I wanted. And although we all loved them, the kids want to go into town and play with friends more and more, rather than stay here at home, not to mention traveling, something I’ve never been comfortable doing with lactating goats. “Goats” was becoming an item on the incredibly crowded to-do list. But Fancy, Lucy, Emma, and Sally are people, not to-do list items!
So we talked about letting them move on, about our priorities, about what was best for them, for us, for Sophie, for Luc, for me. And we talked about it some more. And some more. And finally it seemed like it was time.
I went and sat in the barn on the empty milking-stand yesterday. There were still whirls in the straw on the ground where they had made their beds their last night there. But they’ve gone to a family with six children, horses, other goats, and dogs, a farm with pastures and barns, to a gal who grew up with goats and is comfortable with them, calling them “her babies.” I think they’ll be fine. I think I’ll be fine. But I miss them.
In the same week we sent our last chicken, Whitey, to live with my Aunt and her chickens. Whitey was our last chicken left standing, and it didn’t seem right to be a chicken on her own. Chickens want other chickens around, and we didn’t want to get more chicks. Sophie and I don’t eat eggs anymore and Luc increasingly won’t. Not to mention that Henry wants to chase them….
So our little micro-farm has been disbanded. For now anyway.
It’s so weird not to go out and milk goats in the morning! Weird not to be worrying about them on cold nights, or timing my day around when I have to be at the barn. Weird not to hear animal sounds from the barn out there. It’s so quiet!
All things pass. What will be our next adventure? Maybe bees again this spring. And maybe a few beds of greens….
Or maybe something else entirely.
What the heck is going on with the moths around here? A week ago it was cicadas. Now we have luna moths. I’m serious! Everywhere we look we see beautiful luna moths, winging their way through the forest, day or night, high or low. Look at this one I managed to photograph before it flew away:
A moon crown for a goddess!
But then, this morning, this mysterious scene on the path of our usual dog walk through the woods…don’t look if you’re faint of heart.
The crime scene.
What the heck happened? The remains of a fairy war? They all drank the luna moth kool-aid? The cat?
And then a couple of nights ago, Sophie came running out of the bathhouse shouting, “It’s Mothra! Come quick! Hurry! And bring the camera!”
“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”
Isn’t that the coolest looking critter you’ve seen in a while? I mean…dang. I love his little fuzzy head. Who designed these little guys? I want that job!
Maybe this one killed the other ones in an epic moth battle. Maybe the moon moths sacrificed themselves to it in a frenzy of passion and moth-lust. Maybe he was here to pay his respects. Maybe he was just passing through.
We may never know.
Fancy, our currently lactating goat, still, still, nurses Sally, her daughter. Sally is over a year old and is bigger than Fancy, but she still gets down on her knees to get to the Golden Udder of Mama-Goat Goodness, several times a day. Fancy is about the sweetest goat ever. I’m starting to think she will never wean Ms. Sally. Maybe when she has more kids (which we wouldn’t keep this time) she’ll finally put her hoof down and say no to Sally. Because, you know, I want Fancy’s milk all for myself.
Of course, when I had a second kid, I didn’t stop nursing the first one, so maybe I’m wrong. Sophie was only eleven months old when I came up—surprise!—preggo with Luc. Not even a year old, she was way too tiny a little girl to tell her she couldn’t mim anymore (her word). So, despite SHOOTING PAIN, ahem, I nursed Sophie all the way through pregnancy. And just when she was starting to wean (because really, that pregnancy milk was probably salty and thin) the new baby milk came in, thick and rich, and she latched onto that stuff like drunk to a bottle of bourbon, growing round and chubby on the fat of it.
Too much information? How about this—I tandem nursed (that’s what nursing two babies is called these days, like tandem sky diving, only scarier) the two of them for years. O. M. G. I look back on this with equal parts wonder and horror. Here’s the thing. Hormonally—and I’m convinced it’s hormonal because the feeling was so alien, sudden, and bizarre—when a new baby comes along, nursing the old baby starts to make your skin crawl with this, this profound revulsion. I’m not exaggerating. (And it isn’t true for every mama, of course, but it’s totally common, I learned.) Wtf, right? Here was my beloved daughter, still tiny, but when she latched on, my body wanted to kick her off with violence and disgust.
Isn’t that weird? I thought it was weird. I mean, I also felt sweetness and connection and togetherness, all those lovely nursing emotions, and at the same time I wanted to run screaming from the room.
What’s weirder, perhaps, is that I hung in there and nursed them both, for years. This is like the Navy Seals of breastfeeding. But they just loved it so much! When you have something so there, and free, and accessible, that makes your kiddo feel all happy, and safe, and connected, and loved…well, I wanted to give it to them. So I did.
And this: an acquaintance of mine lost her eight year old daughter to leukemia around that time. It was terrible. Shocking and horrible and it changed my life. And I remember her saying, of the many amazing things she said afterwards, that she had thought about weaning her daughter around two, but her daughter really hadn’t wanted to wean yet, and so they had continued on until her daughter weaned herself at four. So at eight, burying that same daughter, my friend said she was so glad she had nursed her girl for as long as she had because instead of adversarial interactions over nursing to remember, she had another two whole years of sweet memories of the two of them together. And when her daughter weaned herself, it was effortless and friendly, another positive memory. My friend only had eight years with her daughter. But having generously given to her, my friend had the opposite of a regret. What is that, a gratefulness?
Live with your children so you don’t have any regrets! I want to shout this like a call to revolution. Because, jesus, what if I lose my children young? I can’t even begin to let myself imagine it—the rejection of that thought is more profound than the tandem nursing revulsion thing, by a factor of 100. But it could happen. Which makes me want to be as generous as I possibly can, while I can. ( I fail way too often.)
Why do we wait until our children are dying to given them what their heart’s desire? I’m thinking of that whole “make a wish foundation” thing. Not that wishes are bad, but why wait for death? Why not be generous now?
When Luc nursed for the last time, he patted my breast, said, “Thank you, Mommy,” and ran off. That was it. He was done.
It’s probably absurdly anthropomorphic to project all of this onto Fancy, who will not wean her daughter. Goats are goats, not humans. They think nothing of trampling the bottom-goat, have no compassion for weakness amongst their peers, and regularly ram each other for fun. But Sally, being bottom-goat in our herd, always has to wait to eat, standing at a distance until Lucy, top-goat, deigns to let her in to get some hay. Being human, I sneak Sally treats on the side. Maybe Fancy feels the same?
Fancy and Sally sleep with their necks intertwined. And when Sally gets whammed by Emmie, who is one goat up in the herd from Sally, Sally sidles over to Fancy, kneels her great big goatie self down beside her mama, and gets a drink of milk. It seems an act of generosity from Fancy, who will also still stand between rampaging Lucy and little Sally, and bleat Lucy off, butting heads with Lucy to protect Sally who is bigger than Fancy is.
But it’s my milk that Sally is getting! I want to make yogurt with that milk!
Maybe I’m the kid who, to Fancy, will not wean?
Every thirteen years the red-eyed cicadas come out of their holes in the ground in a sex frenzy and they don’t care who knows it.
This one has recently come out of that skin thingy hanging there beside it. Aren’t they spooky looking? With those beady, staring, red eyes? Flying through the air, perched on every branch of every tree, in the grass, in my hair, the red-eyed cicadas are marching on the world, rubbing their legs together, creating a simply astonishing noise that, I swear, in the forest around the yurt sounds like the nuclear power plant oh-fuck alarm is going off. It’s so loud you have to shout to be heard outside—no joke—and it’s almost as loud inside for us, since we live in a glorified tent. They hit about a high G and there must by millions of them. Millions. Everywhere I walk my boots crunch on abandoned exoskelotons, like I’m a terminator and I stride upon the bones of my enemies. I’m telling you, it’s intense.
Mochi, our cat, loves it.
She just caught one here. A moment later she strutted away with it hanging out of her mouth, still buzzing, still trying to get laid even as the cat crushes it in her mighty jaws. BZZZZ, BZZZZ, hey, baby, hey baby!
These cicadas really do hang out in the dirt for thirteen years. Everywhere, every six inches or so, there are dime-sized holes in the ground, tiny abandoned graves. Zombie-bug rising! Or, you know, like someone has come along and aerated the entire forest with a really aggressive hole-maker machine.
The next time these cicadas come out Sophie will be twenty years old. Luc will be 18. My baby’s childhoods will be over. Sob!
[Give me a moment here.]
Okay. Anyway. The cicadas are pale, even milky when they first come out, which makes the red-eyed thing even weirder. I’m serious, these critters are the insect-undead, red-eyed zombie bugs, and they are here to eat our brains! They liquify the brains first, you see, with their tremendous noise. I’m convinced of it. It’s a freaking bugapocalypse out here!
Sophie took this shot, when it was all novel and interesting. Now we just can’t believe the proliferation, nor the sound.
Last week it was fire, this week it’s locusts. What is the world coming to?
Eggs come in all sizes. Long-time readers may recall that we keep chickens, sweet chickens who like to be picked up and petted, and who lay eggs of all colors, no kidding. We also have a friend who keeps emus. Crazy big birds who lay giant, teal colored eggs, one will make whole quiche. And, recently, we met a gal who keeps pheasants. Little tiny taupe-colored eggs, so cute. It happened that we had some of all these in the fridge the other day, a very eggy situation. Sophie wanted to document this momentous eggtastic moment, and I agreed.
Here are her little hands, trying to show how much smaller the little eggs are compared to our chicken’s eggs.
Keeping chickens is totally easy, by the way. If you like fresh eggs, I highly recommend it.
So that was the eggs before picture. Here is the eggs after picture, or what we made with some of our eggs this morning:
Blueberry pancakes! With faces!
Two blue eggs are in there, hiding, totally transformed by Paul’s culinary magic…
You can also see in the picture how ridiculously messy our table is, covered in a constant flux of art projects, meal-remains, mail, books, etc. Life is full, what can I say.
A mess never stopped a kid from enjoying a pancake with a face, that’s for sure.
I’m considering selling the goats. I know, I know, it’s a tragedy. I love my goats! I adore the fresh milk, and, oddly, I enjoy the work of going out to the barn and feeding them, milking them, taking care of them… They are so sweet and fun, if stubborn and absurd, but still, I really enjoy it. So why am I thinking of selling them?
Well, it’s energy maybe I ought to use elsewhere. I mean, there are tons of things I would enjoy doing, but I only have so much time, so I have to pick the most important items, right? And maybe the hour+ of goat time a day, and the money for feed, maybe those would be better spent on something I care about even more. Maybe it’s time to prune my to do list of all but the top, most wonderful-est items. Maybe keeping goats is a hobby I’m ready to let go of.
[Bottom lip sticking out] But I love my goats!
Okay, aside from the delicious milk, one of the reasons we got goats was as something cool for the kids to be a part of. Which they have, especially Sophie, especially around the birthing of kids. That has been great. But, as with all things, goats are kind of old hat now. Yesterday’s news. Sophie still comes out to help take care of them sometimes, but not that often (true, it’s been cold lately). Which is not to say that either Sophie or Luc might become re-ignited in their goatie interest. Especially around kidding season. But still, that only lasts a couple of months, and the rest of the year, they’re not that into it. As an unschooling project, it might be done.
Also, with no goats, it would be a lot easier to go on trips, and now that Sophie and Luc are older, trips start to look more doable….
Jeez, I just don’t know. I’d want my sweet goats to go somewhere good, preferably together, or at least the mommas and daughters staying together. It seems so cruel to upset their goatie lives so profoundly just because of my convenience or loss of interest!
And my god the milk is so wonderful. It would be sad to let that go.
But it might not be enough of a reason to keep them.
Arg! I’m so conflicted!
After a year+ of a building break, we are starting out next project: the bedroom. At least, that’s what we call it. There’s the yurt, the bathhouse, the Noah House, the tool shed, and soon, this new structure, built on the backside of the yurt, to house our king sized bed and some much needed closets…sounds like a bedroom to me.
I thought a quick retrospective was in order.
Ground breaking day for the yurt, back in April, 2005. Paul and my uncle Jamie hand dug all forty something holes. “Digging is kind of fun,” said Paul. “It’s good exercise. This is no big deal.”
Sophie, not yet two years old, agreed.
I adore this picture of Sophie and my other uncle, Spencer. This was a week later, when they hand dug the foundation for the bathhouse.
Scoot ahead in time a couple of years to December 2007 and we have: hand digging the foundation for the tool shed!
We’ve got more laborers now. What would we do without Sophie, and now Luc!
Oh my god, those kids are so CUTE.
“If I dig it by hand, I can just get it over with. I don’t have to wait till we have the money to hire a machine,” said Paul. My man, always practical.
Moving ahead to January 2009 and the Noah House….
We had already hired the carpentry crew to move the little house from its previous location (it’s a good story, if you haven’t read it, click the Noah House tag for the full story on recycling a tiny house), and they had a little earth mover so, “It’ll be faster and it’s part of what we’re paying them already…” said Paul. “Besides, I’ve got all this stuff going on at work….”
“DIGGERS!” said the kids, ecstatic as they watched. That don’t care, digging by hand or machine, it’s all good to them.
Moving ahead again, to today, 8 o’clock this morning:
[sound of birds chirping] That’s the backside of the yurt, a couple of trees downed to make room, some recycled cinder-blocks awaiting some creative re-purposing….
And boom, up-to-the-minute, this same spot, two hours later, right freaking now:
“Why don’t you hand dig it and save us $500?” I said.
“Hand digging sucks. No way am I hand-digging another foundation. The only way that foundation is getting hand-dug is if you go out there with a shovel and dig it yourself,” answered Paul.
Um, okay. Well. That’s not going to happen. Clearly Paul’s views on digging have changed over the years. Building a house will do that to you. So, anyway, we’re listening to BEEP BEEP BEEP rev roar vroom BEEP BEEP BEEP this morning. Diggers are LOUD.
Building your house room by room is weird, I know, but bootstrapping is the way to go if you’re (1) wanting to use alternative building methods that banks don’t like, and (2) broke.
But it’s all so exciting though! A bedroom! Stay tuned for updates….
After an hour or two of hanging out, watching some tv and just being silly…
…it’s time for a walk.
Maybe I should call it a run?
Two of the best things in the world about having a puppy are (1) how silly they are when they play and (2) having them race towards you like you are the best thing in the world and they can’t wait to be in your arms. licking your face.
We’ve been going on several walks a day with Henry since we got him—has it already been two weeks? We carry cheese or hotdogs in our pockets and when we call him, he comes running like gangbusters, practically vibrating with happiness.
Sometimes when we call him, we hide, so he has to find us to get his treat. “Go find Sophie!”
We don’t make it too hard for him, though. He’s only a little guy.
Even if we’re just hanging around in the woods, Henry RUNS. Back and forth, over and around, circles and lines…
Being a puppy is hard work!
He only slows down to get his treats, haha, have I mentioned how much Henry loves walks?
Those cats won’t chase themselves, you know….
I’m not worried about Mochi, he just wants to chase her, not catch her. When he gets to her, he stops and she whacks him on the nose and then walks away. It’s pretty funny.
After all the excitement, it’s back to the warm yurt.
So far, having Henry around has been grand. I highly recommend puppies for your general happiness and wellbeing.
Wait, come back here, you—
There he is! Our fuzzy doodlebug, Henry! Yes, we finally named him. Although Paul is not on board with ‘Henry,’ the kids voted and I decided I was sick of not being able to call him, and as my Mom pointed out, if we didn’t name him soon, he was going to by “Puppy,” so Henry it is.
I used to have a teddy bear named Henry. I guess I associate the name to cute furry things I can cuddle.
He’s sleeping on my foot as I type this. Housetraining seems to be nearly done. He’s got Sit and Down and don’t-jump-(much)-on-the-human. He doesn’t bark at the goats. Progress!
I have copies of
in a stack on the kitchen table where I read them while eating. (Yes, they are covered in food dribbles and coffee stains, it’s the curse of being a tree-book in my house.) My friend Priscilla once told me I could probably build a nuclear bomb from books I checked out of the library. I think this puppy thing might be harder.
Luc is the most ambivalent about the whole puppy situation. This is mostly because he gets very excited, which gets Henry very excited, which leads to jumping and sometimes nipping (we’re working on it), which terrifies Luc. I keep telling Luc to stay calm and not run away, and he says okay, but then he screams and runs and gets chased the very next moment. Sigh. We’ll get there.
Henry says, “Hihihihi! You have one of those liver treats that are so tasty? No? How about a pine cone?”