January 2011, I was full of trepidation and exhilaration as I prepared to finally quit my day job. Would I be able to be a full time farmer, finally, for real? Andrew and I talked about backup plans and how to make it through if things didn’t go quite like we hoped. We could always get jobs off the farm again, but we both knew we only had this one life, and we had to go for it. Then, I did something really out of character, and sort of irresponsible. With my little bit of savings, I bought plane tickets to Germany.
When my Mom was in the middle of her dealings with breast cancer, around the year 2000, she had connected with a dear woman who was a second cousin once removed, living in and a native of Germany. Anette was around my Mom’s age, and they both had breast cancer in common. Over the years, they formed a strong bond and friendship through emails. Anette was a very special and supportive person in my mom’s life, and they really looked forward to meeting each other for the first time in person at my Aunt’s wedding on Vancouver Island in 2004. I didn’t anticipate that Anette and I would form a friendship as well, but she and I hit it off instantly, we were kindred spirits and we had an amazing time being joyful goofballs together, dancing like wild women at the wedding and staying up late around campfires on the beach, talking about everything, especially how precious life was. She had fought breast cancer and won. It was such a beam of hope and light for my Mom’s situation. She came to the US to visit my family in 2006, right as things were starting to look not so good for my Mom. Anette and I kept in touch, and she shared my grief after we lost my Mom in 2007.
In the spring of 2009, Anette came to visit me in Wisconsin and stayed at my little farm around my 30th birthday. This was during the year that everything was about to happen farm-wise for me, and also what turned into a tumultuous year in other regards, as well. We had a wonderful time and she dove into my little world wholeheartedly, she loved eating my bountiful breakfasts featuring my ducks’ eggs, listening to my crazy music and dancing in the kitchen, hanging out with my friends, we took nature walks and talked and talked and talked. I promised Anette I would come to visit her in Germany, to see her world and visit the home of my ancestors. I knew there would be no way to make this type of journey once Andrew and I were focused on the farm, so the plan was my trip to Germany would happen after I quit my job and before Andrew and I farm season began. A true vacation and serious transition time between day-job and full-time farming. It felt necessary and good, but a bit crazy.
The day I quit my job, I was SO nervous. What was I doing? I was making a decent wage and had a regular paycheck from the co-op, but I had a calling to pursue, and it was finally time. I gave them a month’s notice and much thanks for supporting me as I made my transition from co-op employee, to official farmer. If it hadn’t been for my working in the co-ops, I may have never tapped into my desire to become a farmer. They knew it was coming, and so had I….and here it was. My last day didn’t feel real. I had hoped for it with all my heart for SO LONG. Finally, I was leaving and off fully on my journey.
First, though, I had a trip to take. I’d not had much experience with traveling out of the country, other than going to Canada where my Mom’s family resided and being an high school exchange student in Bolivia for 9 months. My trip to Germany was absolutely incredible. Anette’s generosity was astounding, she took me all over and showed me innumerable sights, historic German land marks and we even took a journey to the town where my great-great-great grandpa had been born, and we found what we were pretty sure was the family house. We stopped by the world headquarters of Jagermeister and drove on the “autobahn.” We visited her mother and took leisurely walks together around the ancient village. I noticed how the German village farms were laid out very differently than in the US, with their cobblestone courtyards, with the farm buildings all centered around that entryway and pastures extending out the back. We toured castles, ate in restaurants and saw shows. She took me on a trip to the Baltic Sea where we walked the cold beach and had “fisch-satt” dinner after she showed me the health care center she had stayed in as she had battled and beat her cancer. I had a once in a lifetime experience with Anette as my hostess and very personalized tour guide.
As we took walks in the park in the city of Berlin, visiting the infamous giant wild boars kept in a forest paddock for people to see in person, I was pining for our farm, thinking of our 3 pigs and how our season would be unfolding after I arrived back home. I took studious notes about the farming things I noticed, and all the things I was thinking about. I tried to just relax as well, it was a vacation after all. I was longing for home though, and so excited to begin our journey into real farming. When I returned to the US, spring had not yet sprung, in fact snow was everywhere. Andrew had taken really good care of all of our animals, the ducks were laying eggs and thankfully all the pregnant goats had waited to give birth. We started our seedlings and geared up to be as ready as possible the moment spring arrived.
Cedar was still being a bully and so we prepared to butcher him before the goat kids were born. I brought out my gun, and led him away from the paddock, over in the snow for his last treat of oats. Goats, especially mature males, have a very thick skull, and so the instruction I’d read was to make sure to aim from the back, between the horns, so the bullet would go straight into the brain. With thanks to him for his services over the previous 3 years, as he ate the oats, I pulled the trigger, and down he went, instantly dead. We thought we could lift his carcass up in a tree to make skinning and gutting easier, but after we situated the single-tree with it’s pulley system to handle the weight, and pulled up, his heavy weight pulled the whole contraption down out of the tree. Oh boy. We proceeded to be thankful for the clean snow to rest him on, as we went through the processing. I wasn’t sure how his meat would taste- there is plenty of caution online and in butchering books about older goats, especially intact bucks. As it was nearly spring, he was out of the rut season, so his muskiness had subsided. We fried up a piece of his meat and….it tasted like what I remembered steak tasting like. Delicious! We broke his carcass down into 3 easier to lift sections and put them in a couple coolers to rest over night. I tied his head up in a tree for the wild birds to clean off so I could save his beautiful horned skull. The dogs carried around his legs and gnawed them down to nothing. Life on the farm.
The following day I cut up chilled and rested meat into roasts and stew meat, keeping it simpler than all the complicated cuts we’d made with our half pig. 3 years previously, Cedar had been my most expensive goat purchase, a $200 purebred buckling. After 3 years, he’d sired many offspring, but as he had grown fully mature, he’d become a danger for the lady goats and had even made a few passes at me with his hefty horns. We didn’t have a separate pen to keep him nor did we want to deal with a tank of an assertive goat. Now the problem was responsibly and respectfully dealt with, and his meat would be put to good use in delicious curries, jerky and stews.