As close as she is to delivering her kids, Mae Mae has still made a point of steering herself into the milk room at every milking, even though she has no need yet to be milked. It is a surprise to me — she has not made the milking room her habit this late in her pregnancies, but whatever her reasons for doing so now, it is a pleasure to see her maneuver her great bulk with such spring and spirit into her place on the milk stand.
The great size of her takes up a lot of space and so I have been leaning back against her as I milk her grandaughter Tweedle. Mae Mae doesn’t seem to mind, intent as she is on her eating, and it is a comfort to lean up against so capable a mother as she. It’s cozy and milking can be so dreamy, especially first thing in the morning early in the spring; it’s cold, I’m sleepy, the day’s not yet begun, the season’s barely begun, but for just this moment, things are going just as I wish they would.
As the goats are peacefully eating, the rhythm of milking is my meditation and leaning against Mae Mae is my comfort. While leaning against her, I sometimes feel against my back a sharp tap, a swift kick, or a larger, more sinuous movement, and then, just as I turn my attention to savoring both the surprise and the pleasure of this, it’s gone and I’m left with the feeling that I am at the edge of a dream and something magical I’ve barely seen has vanished before I’m sure that I’ve seen anything at all.
Any day now….
March 8th, 2011
She quietly counts heartbeats.
Spring will be here soon.
March 6th, 2011
I have been ruminating over the idea that within the barn is an ever-evolving landscape but then I decided that I did not really know what a landscape was. After visiting the Encyclopedia Britannica, I now know that a landscape endures “progressive changes in topography” towards an “altered form.” “The changes can only occur in response to energy available to do work within the geomporphic system in question…*.”
Sounds about right.
March 2nd, 2011
Coming in like a lion, our first spring storm brought us high winds, rain, thunder, and lightning, but it left us with crisp air, bright light and the other half of the proverb.
- Out Like a Lamb, March 1, 2011
March 1st, 2011
I would guess that the ancient genre of slapstick comedy evolved from the antics of people trying to outwit the animal who just wouldn’t be caught. If you are lucky, you may one day be entertained with stories about this adept and elusive animal, because anyone who has ever kept a few grazing animals on pasture has a story (or two) to tell.
We ourselves are tired of this story and so we decided to look for some help with the sheep. Beside the fact that it is really hard to get good help these days, it is admittedly difficult to find knowledgeable, intermittent, part-time help with sheep herding. But finally we found someone who was willing to work, willing to learn, and willing to be available around the clock. He’s small, but he has a natural gift for the work.
February 19th, 2011
He is handsome. I don’t like his perfume, though.
Hairy Potter, September 2010
September 28th, 2010
There is a spider in residence above my milk room door. I’m guessing that in this place the living is relatively easy; there are many, many small flying things in the barn. I’m not sure how the rules of real estate work in the spider world, but this space seems to be top notch — sheltered from the worst of the weather, a span across a large open space with good lighting. Things seem to be working out for this spider; she is fast and fat and her web is a thing of great beauty.
The biggest drawback to this exclusive space is that I walk through that door twice a day and my face goes right through the center of her web. This is not good for either of us. You can probably imagine why I don’t like it much and it is just as easy to imagine that my arrival is a great disappointment to her. She keeps her feelings to herself however, and in the intervening time between milkings, she repairs her masterpiece and continues to wait for what comes. Unfortunately, what comes is me.
Walking into her web twice a day has lost whatever charm it may have had and I have begun to ponder the intelligence of this spider. Why does she, day in and day out, continue to repair and rebuild this catch net in such a vulnerable space? Can’t she connect the dots, so to speak? Can’t she figure out that this piece of real estate is vulnerable to cataclysm every twelve hours? I wonder if her acquisition of this particular place was an impulse buy; after all, it should be pretty obvious to Everyone that I’ve been walking through this door twice a day for 21 years now. Maybe she moved here from out of town? Of course, the more I question her intelligence, the louder the shadow thought becomes: how can I, day in and day out, continue to walk smack through the center of her sticky web? Why haven’t I figured out that this piece of real estate is occupied?
I am relieved to report that, given enough time, she and I seem to be equally educable. The first day that I remembered that I was about to walk through her newly repaired glory, I looked up and found that she had altered the building of her web to include my entrance and exit from the room. It must have been the complicated building calculus that took her so much time. What took me so much time is still an open question.
September 15th, 2010
Three Waters Farm Bakery
It occurred to me last week during my Friday morning bake-in that I have made a lot of cinnamon buns. When my children were small, I would start a batch after dinner, let is rise overnight in the fridge and bake cinnamon buns for breakfast. It was fun and easy; the smell of rising dough and baking rolls improves the outlook on any morning.
This is our nineteenth year at the Market; for eleven of those years I have been baking cinnamon buns. Doing a quick calculation based on average sales, I have made more than 27,000.
June 16th, 2010
Tweedle is in a new mother’s daze. Newborn triplets are, after all, quite a responsibility for anybody. She keeps them clean and well fed and it takes up all of her time. We could say that she is “settled,” which is a happy situation for her and for me. Once upon a time, Tweedle was unmanageable, our resident barn lunatic.
She was handraised, which usually goes a long way towards making a goat a good barn citizen, but Tweedle was, apparently, the recipient of the ‘crazy’ gene that I find in some of my goats from time to time. ‘Crazy’ in this instance means extremely intelligent, highly reactive, and so, hard to manage — not the best ingredients for a calm barn scene. Typically, I move these types of kids to homes that revel in goat antics, and such was my plan for Tweedle.
She was probably practicing one of the tricks in her repertoire, like bouncing off the barn walls, but however it happened, there she was one morning with her rear leg dangling like it was broken. A goat on three legs can still move pretty fast, but we finally caught her and took her to the vet, who declared the tendon torn and put the leg in a cast, immobilizing it with the hopes that it would repair itself — in six months or so.
So now we had a crazy yearling goat in cast who needed a shot twice a day and just catching her was a job that took two people. It felt like a hopeless situation — we couldn’t send a crazy, gimp goat out into the world. So we kept at it, minimizing as best we could the trauma for her. She was pregnant, of course, which added to both the hope and trepidation we felt for her.
She kid one evening before dusk. I was alone on the farm, doing the evening barn check, and there she was, working on delivering her first kid. It soon became clear to me that this kid was not in a perfect position for easy delivery. I felt a wave of hopelessness; after all, I could never get within five feet of her without her bolting; it always took two people to catch her.
Time is the essence in a situation like this, at least for a positive outcome for the kid. I slowly approached her and in this miraculous moment, she stood perfectly still at my approach. I slipped my arm under her neck for security, support, and stability, and slipped my other hand to the kid’s emerging head, automatically clearing its nose and mouth, working my hand in slowly to find the source of the problem. Not a big problem as problems go, just a foot bent backwards. I straightened it out and she pushed out this giant kid. I ceased to exist for Tweedle as she began to know just what was the most important thing for her to do.
I was apprehensive about the coming battle of milking her but she never flinched, not once, not even in the beginning — as if she was born to to be milked, which, of course, she was. Tweedle is three years old now, with four sound legs, and she has developed into one of the best milking does I have ever had, producing more than one and half gallons of milk a day at the peak of her lactation and a steady gallon the rest of the year. She trusts me to do my job and I trust her to do hers. We don’t socialize – her preference – but we have a solid working relationship. All in all, a much happier ending.
April 4th, 2010
Every spring I work over the question, “Who is cuter, lambs or kids?” After a good ten years or more of pondering, I finally have an answer.
It depends who is looking at you!
March 31st, 2010