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There are some things that you can learn about only by doing them, and having goats was one of those things for us. We adored the kids, I loved the breed, and I appreciated how personable and intelligent the goats were. But for one and a half years, we cared for them without receiving any milk in return, and the milk-n-cheese pay-off wouldn’t come until we’d fed and cared for them for two years. That pay-off would come with a price: milking every day, which was something I couldn’t imagine fitting into a full-time job and the full-time care of my son.

I realized that, the more I took on, the more stuff I was doing half-assed. I just didn’t have the bandwidth to do everything that I wanted to do and do it well. I also realized that, as a single parent, there’s a limit to how many life-forms I can care for without neglecting some pretty important things.

The people who bought Calypso, Pandora, and Pan are profoundly knowledgeable about goats and will provide a home for them that is far better than any we could ever provide. Calypso and Pandora went to Hillary Kenworthy at Woodland Hills Farm and Pan went to Jacqui Wilcox at Daystar’s Farm. Rhea, our favorite, went to friends on the island.

The problem with all this? Guarding goats was our dog’s job, and since they left, she seems to have lost her anchor. We now have Emma outside during the day, guarding the chickens and ducks, and we have her inside at night, guarding us and the cats. We love Emma and hope that this rhythm will meet her need for meaningful work.

Meanwhile, I miss the presence and energy of the goats, but I don’t miss their demanding bleats whenever we stepped out the back door. I don’t miss paying for and hauling hay–and storing two tons of it in the basement because we don’t have a barn. And I don’t miss having to care for goats in the dark on these short winter days. Both Adrian and I are satisfied with our decision to find new homes for the goats. But it doesn’t really feel like a farm without them.

While she stayed at the Writer’s Refuge, Carolyn Gale took the following pictures of our goats, for which I’m grateful. Now that they’re grown, it’s fun to be reminded of how downright adorable they were.

The goats are named after four of Saturn’s 23 moons. The does are Pandora and Rhea, and the bucks are Calypso and Pan. Moon names are inspired by the name of our farm: “13 Moons Farm.”

Calypso When they were smaller, we took all four goats for a "browse" occasionally Adrian would bolt down Foxglove Lane, and the goats would tear after him Adrian would bolt down Foxglove Lane, and the goats would tear after him Calypso was Adrian's favorite Calypso visits Adrian in the fort he made out of fire wood The girls look so much alike, that we tell them apart by their collars. Pandora = purple. Rhea = red.

The other day, Adrian came in and told me (in his own words) that bucks are capable of self-administering fellatio.

I thought raising him on a small farm would be educational, I just didn’t realize how educational it would be.

We have a long list of things we need to do to get our little farm ready for winter. Among the items on the list was putting “baseboards” on our quonset-hut style goat shelters to make sure the wind doesn’t blow in. Goats hate the rain, and I knew ours would be spending quite a bit of time in their shelters this winter.

I forget how curious they are. They often positioned themselves smack dab between me and my work. Here is a picture that Adrian took of me drilling holes through the boards, so I could wire them to the stock panels and fence posts that make up the shelters. It’s a wonder that I didn’t drill a hole through Pandora’s nose.

Adrian took a picture of our livestck guardian pup Emma, too.

She has the sweetest personality, and we adore her, but her puppiness drives us insane. Her playfulness means she can’t yet be trusted to be alone with the livestock. She chases and mouths the goats, ducks, and chickens. She plays with Adrian as if he’s a puppy and sometimes inadvertently hurts him. We get mad at her for a minute. Maybe two. And then, well, look at that face. She is as sweet as she is cute. She doesn’t mean to hurt anything, it’s just that she’s 7 months old.

Only 13 months to go until she’s an adult . . . Oy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went in on a hay shipment with Molly (of Blackberry Moon Farm) and Stephanie (of Sweet Breeze Farm). Delivery was free if we ordered five tons or more, so we each ordered two tons and had it delivered to Stephanie’s.

Above are cell phone pictures of the truck being unloaded  and Adrian and Connor (Stephanie’s son) on top of the stack.

Now, what to do with two tons of hay and no barn? Well, you have to borrow Stephanie’s truck “Bob,” and then hire neighboring teenager Rob Crane and his friend Skyler to move the bales to . . . our basement.

That’s right. We have two tons of alfalfa on pallets in the basement. There was no other place to put them where they’d stay dry. Of course, the goats have figured that out, so every time we walk to the basement door (which is outside) we are greeted with a chorus of “meeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhs.”

When Adrian was about six months old, beginning to move around on the floor, and putting everything in his mouth, I caught him sucking on carpet tassels. Since then, we’ve had a no-shoes-in-the-house rule, and now, the very idea of wearing shoes in indoors kind of disgusts me. Ironic, in light of the fact that we’ve been living with four goats in the house for the past six weeks.

We don’t have a livestock guardian dog yet, so we can’t leave our goats outside safely at night. (Coyotes would find them tasty.) To protect them and make bottle feeding easier on us, the only logical place to put them was on our screened porch.

I covered the floor with a huge tarp and spread two bales of white shavings on top of it. This formed the very large litterbox in which they live. During the day, they go outside, which means they need to walk from their temporary home through the living room, dining room, kitchen, and mud room, to the door that is closest to their pen.

Goats in the house!

Rhea, Calypso and Pan walking
through the living room

What happens in the process is that wood chips stick to their feet and get dragged into the house. And of course, the thing that makes the wood chips stick to their feet in the first place is, well, poop.

So, for the past month and a half, I’ve had poopy little goat feet treking across the floor of our house and have had to numb a large part of myself to make that possible. At least I could control when the goats were in the house and make sure they got to the back door as efficiently as possible, right?

Wrong. Pandora, who used to stick her head through the cat door and use it as a sort of intercom, figured out how to come into the house that way.

Goats are smart. Maybe too smart. Ours are a cross between standard Nubians, which are not known for their intelligence, and Nigerian Dwarfs, which are veritable goat Einsteins. Some say that “a fence that won’t hold water won’t hold goats,” and that is especially true of smart goats. We’re going to have to keep an eye on that Pandora.

Pandora stepping through the cat door.

Pandora climbs through the cat door
Pandora enters the living room through the cat door
Pandora checks out the living room, while her
admiring herd mates look on and take notes

We have started taking the goat children for “walks.” They got so wrapped around me the first day that Adrian said, “Mama, they think you’re a maypole!” Trapped in a tangle of colorful leashes, I reminded him of the maypole at his school’s Mayfaire celebration.

Like puppies, they get their legs wrapped around the leash and the leashes wrapped around each other. But they’re already getting the idea and enjoying an occasional change of scenery. They’re nibbling curiously at cedar and Douglas fir branches, tasting sword ferns, sampling salmonberry bushes, and delicately eating grass one blade at a time.

We don’t get far on these walks. Right now, the point is mainly to get them used to feeling the tug when they reach the end of the leash and to let them browse a bit. Unlike farm animals that survive mainly on grass–such as cows, sheep, and horses–goats eat a variety of plants, including bushes and trees. They are much adored for the enthusiasm with which they eat invasive plants such as blackberries, and for their ability to clear brush.

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                                         Photo by Chris Pollard

You know that part in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” where the Grinch’s heart, which is originally two sizes too small, grows three sizes, and everything changes? That happened to our hearts this weekend.

Our hearts didn’t seem small to us before–they were your normal, average-sized vessels. But now that we’ve brought home four baby goats, our hearts feel much bigger than they were and that has changed our lives. My son Adrian quickly decided that he didn’t want to go to school anymore, and although I find it challenging to write with a baby goat asleep on my lap, I’d rather type slowly and inefficiently than forgo the experience. We are virtually incapacitated by our love for these little animals.

Adrian and Pandora 

That has me thinking. Isn’t it in everyone’s best interest to increase our capacity for love? Won’t the compassion my son gains from this experience enable him to engage more compassionately with all living things? Won’t his ability to intuit these babies’ unspoken needs make him more sensitive to the needs of others? Won’t his willingness to take responsibility for their physical well-being make him more willing to engage in the work that makes any relationship thrive?

Adrian with all four goats

My hunch is that the answer to all of these questions is, “Yes.” As Adrian’s mother and “childhood designer,” I sometimes imagine who I want Adrian to be when he grows up, and then reverse-engineer experiences that I think will lead to that result. Our little farm is one of those experiences.