Two things happened this past month that have taken me from being a muck-boot wearing hobby farmer to a farmer up to their boots in muck.
I guess to make it more literal, there were three things.
- We bought four goats to add to our farm.
- I lost my job the same week.
- It rained most of the month of June.
You’ve perhaps seen the photos of the glorious glamorous Miss Hibbitz the Duroc Sow, but you have not known how I paid to feed Hibby each week. Ironically, I’ve worked for a Lubavitcher Rabbi for the past 12 years. It worked out well; I kept my bacon separate from the lettuce the Rabbi provided and worked tirelessly to help him market and communicate Judaism to the community. Here’s a tomato: I’m not Jewish and I’m not religious.
While Hibby grew and grew, so did the Rabbi’s Chabad House. My skill set now fails to cover all that they needed, such as the ability to count and keep track of money, and so they decided to restructure and hire somebody who could Do It All. I wish them well and much mazel. Obviously there is so much more to say about it, but… goats are just more interesting.
If you know anything about goats, which in June I did not, you will know that bringing four goats into a fledgling farm changes everything. Apparently they have a great knack for getting sick and dying. Gwyn the Goat Lady, who has raised goats since the 1970’s, recited the long litany of diseases and disorders to me while she installed the goats in their new pens at our farm. Rain was thundering down on the metal barn roof so she had to raise her voice to a shout so I could hear her. I was petrified. I still am. Each morning and evening, when I waltz through the doors with the milking pail, I am inwardly steeling myself for the worst even as I call out merrily to my new friends.
We have two already-milking Alpine does, Myra and Ballerina and two bucks born in March, One buck, Jay Joplin, is a sweet Alpine who will one day be the daddy to these lovely ladies’ kids. Silent Bob McGee is the other buck, a Saanen who we bought to keep the other buck company but who came un-wethered and is now destined to grow into a giant white stud-muffin who will demand that we buy a pretty Saanen doe for his pleasure next year.
Within the first week I had damaged Ballerina’s teat with my clumsy stubby stupid little hands, which led to blood in the milk and the immediate onset of the dreaded mastitis. Gwyn, the patron saint of all goats and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, came immediately. She came every day for five days in fact, driving an hour each way, to administer the injections Ballerina needed to recover.
In my defense, well.. have you ever milked a goat? Prior to the goat’s arrival, I had not. It turned out to be exceedingly difficult to get the milk out of those swollen udders. After milking for 20 minutes I could still see shimmers of stainless steel at the bottom of the bucket. When Gwyn tapped the teats a quart of milk gushed out as though she had pressed the foaming nozzle on the espresso machine.
Gwyn shared two bits of information with me that week that I find interesting. A) Gwyn had entered competitions at one point in her life. She won first place repeatedly. B) Once she had a family come to visit her goats and a toddler, just a year and a half old, had slipped away from the group. They found her under a goat on the milking stand and… she had milked the entire doe out.
So, although I am pleased that I am being taught by a grand-champion goat milker, ultimately, a baby can do it.
I might not have a job, but it is raining buckets…. of milk.