Sitting on a short log stump under the lean-to, I can feel the moisture wicking up into the seat of my jeans. My one hand is grasping a cold glass mason jar, the other a warm, hairy teat.
I’ve been milking goats now for 7 years. At first, it was a challenge and a struggle for many reasons. How do you get the milk out, how do you keep the goat from kicking over the bucket, how do your hands keep from cramping up, how does maintain any sort of social life, when you have to be at home every 12 hours to milk one’s goats? I love milking goats. I love their moist breath giving me kisses, I love the cold jar becoming warm as it fills with fresh, hot milk. I love making cheese. I love goats, but mid-season I don’t always feel this way, as goats are 100% troublemakers.
We’re going to make me a milking parlor this year, to ease the single biggest stress-or in my life, which is getting the goats to and from the milking area. This new milking “parlor” will be situated next to their new goat shed set up, which we’ll be installing once we can dig posts into the ground. We’ll be using an old 16ft long horse trailer we were so blessed to get two years ago on barter. The trailer has two doors, so the goats will all come in together and hop onto their individual stanchions, eat their snacks, and I will get to go down the line milking in one fell swoop. I’m so excited. After milking, they will all go out the other door, right into their pasture. No more running all over the place with each goat before and after milking. Figuring out these kinds of improvements after trial and error is priceless, and only comes with experience. Until you live the experience everyday, you can’t know how to improve them. Onward and upward!
doula time Feb 2012
Ah, the price I pay for tending pregnant goats. I’m a goat doula! Today I am a walking zombie, rather delirious and foggy eyed. I stayed up really late last night, waiting to see if Desti would pop her kids out in the frigid clear, starry night. Crawling into to the goat shed with a flashlight to check on her over and over, I got nothing. She was standing forlornly in the corner, constantly turning her head to her sides, stretching and arching her tailbone and back. There was a bit of something dripping out of her vulva, what appeared to be birth goo. All the signs of imminent kidding, as goat birth is called. I was falling asleep by the woodstove, finished My Life in France, by Julia Child, so off to bed I crawled at 2am. I left my clothes on so I wouldn’t resist leaping out of bed when the alarm went off.
Two hours later, there’s my alarm, and out I go to check Desti again. Nothing’s happened yet! She is now curled up in a goat pile with her son from last spring, Metallika with her two daughters, and our Australorpe rooster who is too enormous to fly up onto the roost in his old age. I guess it’s not time. She did this to me last year, so I should know better. I bring the goats a bucket of hot water and it is guzzled down immediately. While I’m out and already bundled up, I go check the ducks and bring them water. It’s down near zero and they appreciate the warm water. There are eggs all over, I collect them so they won’t freeze.
Sleepless nights are pretty commonplace for me this time of year. As the excitement for kids builds, the days go by, the goat bellies swell, and my concern for mixed up kidding presentations which might require my intervention fills my wafting dreams with worry. But this is a wonderful, exciting time of year. The promise of spring is nigh, and who doesn’t appreciate the miracle of birth? Getting outdoors in the dead of night, even if it is arctic out, is a surprising joy. The freshest air comes over the farm on these winter eves, pure & clean smelling star-filled air. The moon was full recently, and that blue light on the snow has always been on of my favorite sights in the world. If I had no reason to be outdoors in mid-February in the middle of the night, I’d be missing this glory. And as I walk back up the icy path back to our tiny house glowing with warmth, I see the woodstove smoke against the moonlit clouds, smell the caramel toffee essence of this particular oak we’re burning for heat this winter. It is a magic and possibly sleep-deprived, delirium-induced moment to see this place and know I live here and feel so grateful and amazed.