Go get your goat!
I’ll admit it. I used to be scared of goats. It’s not something I am proud of either. I put off living with them for a long time because of it, too. Let me be clear though. I wasn’t scared of the animals. I loved goats. Goats are cleverness on the hoof. They are wily and bold. If you haven’t been outsmarted by a goat so far in this short life it is only because you probably haven’t owned one yet.
No, I wasn’t scared of the animal but the idea of a dairy. The fear was not based in logic either. I knew that I had zero problem with the idea of twice-daily milking. Honestly, the idea excited me. I looked at catalogs with milking pails, udder balm, and antique glass quart bottles the way some women look at handbags. I bookmarked chèvre recipes, researched breeds, and found that the goat farm memoirs were some of the best modern farm writing out there. (I’m talking to you, Josh KP). I wanted goats in my life and I didn’t care if they meant a tight leash on my area code. My home is my paradise and having animals that I get to work alongside daily is nothing short of magical. I wasn’t scared of the work, the commitment. What I was scared of was disappointing other people. Hear me out.
That may not make sense to some of you seasoned homesteaders, but for those of us who had to jump the fence and start from scratch in country living the idea of having to be home to milk every twelve hours is a foreign one to our family, work, and friends. It is a lesson in proximity even the most idealistic farm-dreamer finds daunting. You can leave a flock of chickens, sheep, or a few horses in the care of neighbors and friends while you go on vacation or to your cousin’s wedding. But finding someone to milk your goat at 6AM and 6PM isn’t so easy. Not just milk either, but strain and store the milk, feed and raise the kids on a bottle schedule, sanitize and care for the equipment, and THEN take care of daily chores….. that’s a lot to ask people.
The idea of having to be home and turn down family or work obligations was scary. When you are living in the corporate world and all your coworkers are staying late in the office and you can’t? It looks bad. When you aren’t at that cousin’s wedding that requires a six hour drive (one way!), to some folks there it looks bad. Not everyone grasps the deployment that is agriculture. You can’t leave all the time. Like a soldier at war, you are at your post. You can leave sometimes when you arrange care in advance through neighbors or farmsitters, but for those of us living alone with dairy animals and limited funds? You don’t go places. I am more than okay with that, but it has come with a lot of guff. Since getting dairy goats (my third season milking) I have heard everything there is to hear about goats from non-goat friends and peers. I have been told it is unnecessary, restricting, unrealistic, overly-romantic, and irresponsible. Since milk and cheese is at the grocery store and farm stands, I am being willfully selfish having animals of my own that take away my time and energy.
Friends, if someone tells you that doing what you love is selfish, they are the selfish ones.
I got my first milking goat when I was at a place in my heart and mind that no longer required permission from others to be happy. I wanted to have that beautiful loop of birthing, milking, kitchen, craft, and growth. Raising goats is like watching the seasons, like seeing the history of the world in the spin of one wheel of the year. You see sex, birth, bounty, and feel the warmth of blessed babies in your arms. You can make cheese so creamy and pure it melts in your mouth and stuns guests. You never run out of food! Lord! To have a milk machine in the backyard is insurance in these times. And not just milk and cheese but cream for coffee, soaps, meat, hide, horn, carting animals and backpacking companions. Goats are a blessing and I can’t imagine living without them. I can’t imagine not having that need of my person every twelve hours to offer another soul relief. I can’t imagine not having a fridge full of real food and springs without the anticipation and thunderjoy of kids. I have no regrets. I don’t need to go on vacation for the five months of the year my goat is milking. It’s worth it.
So I raise to you this piece of homemade bread, garlic and basil chèvre, and firelight. Goats are good. Being needed is good. Milking in the backyard is good. And doing what makes your heart sing in an angry world is very, very, good.
Now get your goat.
This post originally appeared on Jenna Woginrich’s blog, Cold Antler Farm, on Friday, March 28, 2014.
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