lactation at large

We’ve been milking this sweet young goat for nearly two months now and I have hardly written anything about her. There’s a reason for this. The learning curve is steep and round. Annie is new to milking, and so are we.milking 4

Here’s how it has been: First thing in Lulahs’ morning, she and I load up a yogurt cup of warm soapy water, the same amount of goat chow, and a stainless steel bowl. Because Lulah is not an early riser, Annie is always ready for us. She has a view of Lulah’s window from her sleeping shelf and I think she watches for Lulah to get up. She hops up on her stanchion and Lulah dumps the chow into her feeder box. I squeeze out a dishcloth of soapy water and wash her udders down. Then I pick up her right rear leg and Lulah milks her. We get about a pint of milk. It’s not very much. Some days, the kids (human ones) drink it straight away. Whatever little portions don’t get consumed immediately sometimes add up to a nice batch of sour milk for cornbread. Nothing wrong with that.milking 2

It is quite a lot of do-ing for a pint of milk each day. But I don’t mind too much yet. We’re learning a lot. Lulah is a horse girl. We waited quite awhile, to see if she would grow out of her horse love, but she hasn’t. We found a very good mentor for her, and that’s been wonderful, but the truth is, we cannot house a horse on our property right now. The goats are our compromise. Lulah gets some at-home hands-on experience with working four legged mammals that are larger than the cat. We get some milk. The goats get to browse to their heart’s content. Everyone wins.milking 1

And this week, we had all went for the gold. Annie has begun to stand for milking without me holding up her leg. She gets feisty when she runs out of chow, but we’ve usually tapped her out pretty good at that point, so as long as we pay attention to how quickly she’s eating, no harm done. Besides, as a mother who breast-fed for a long time, I am sympathetic to her feelings about this. I would have to be fed something really wonderful, too, to allow another species to take my milk. Maybe.

I heard this story once, about villagers in some remote location who would, when necessary, nurse an orphaned goat kid. At the time, I thought it was kind of funny. I couldn’t relate, not one bit. But now, having established a relationship with a goat, her kid, and her milk, I am beginning to see the light.

It’s practical. There are probably no farm co-ops or Tractor Supply Co. stores in these villages. No farm stores means no powdered milk replacer for orphaned livestock. Also, take into account that it is largely the women who tend to the goats and that these women, by and large, breast-feed their children for quite awhile. Given this, someone in an extended family will be lactating almost all the time. If the orphaned goat kid doesn’t make it, it’s one less milk goat, or meat goat, coming along. One less milk or meat source matters to these folks more than most of us can imagine. It is well worth the effort of cuddling up to another kind of critter, and sharing your personal abundance.milking 5

I am grateful to live where we do have access to farmer’s co-ops and the like, even if we don’t use them much.  I am grateful for Annie and Pepper, for the good experience we are sharing, for the fresh milk.  And even though I still cannot imagine myself nursing a baby goat, I am also grateful to share the world with people do.

the farmwives kitchen :: pop

Does anyone remember the part in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy when Almanzo eats popcorn with milk? He wonders at it.  He ritualizes it. He relishes it.

We’ve recently learned why.

We get popcorn from our friend Susana at Salamander Springs Farm.  It’s real good.

We get our milk from Annie.milk from annie

Combine the two, and they become an entirely different kind of treat.  Puffed grain cereal is the nearest thing in the standard American pantry reminiscent to it. The popcorn absorbs the milk, but leaves a satisfying crunch in its core. You can have all the snap and crackle you want.  We’ll be eating popcorn.  popcorn cereal

lonely no more

If you’re running short on trouble…

If you’re life has too little drama…

If you’re lonely…

Or just have too many rose bushes and honeysuckle vines…

get yourself a goat.

thanks to lisa and dale for the photo

thanks to lisa and dale for the photo

I feel silly gloating over our two little goats when our fellow radicals have milk cows and triple digits of lambs on the ground, but we’re gloating none the less.

We don’t have room for big flocks and herds of ruminants on our little property.  We also have jobs in town, which means time constraints at home.  The bottom of our property is flat and open and completely consumed by the garden.  The middle strip is taken up by house, chicken yard, and some thornless blackberry vines.  This area is also seasonally extremely soggy, as the hillside above it drains down through wet weather springs.  But above those wet weather springs, there is a tangled mass of autumn olive and honesuckle that has begged to have some attention from a goat, or two.kidding around1

Enter Annie and Pepper.  Annie is a year old.  She is a dwarf Nubian cross.  She is curious and vocal and shows a distinct taste for young rose bushes.  She was accidentally bred too early but is proving to be a good mother to Pepper, her little black spitfire of a girl-kid.  They come from a healthy loving home herd of some friends, an easy car ride away.

I’ve spent a little bit of time around goats, but not much.  With their quarters right outside our southern windows, I’m mesmerized by them now.  They are sensitive critters.  They stand and watch Wowee the farm cat cross the woodpile.  They pay attention to the noise of trucks on the road.  They make sounds of contentment and twitch their tails as they eat their way through the field of wild greens, their first assignment here.kidding around6

They want to be with us.  They watch everything we do, and call to us with curious voices when we walk away.  They gently taste our clothes and put their noses to our pockets to see if there’s anything good in there when we approach.  Mostly, that’s Annie.  Pepper is too busy climbing the milking stand to pay very much attention.  She leaps off stumps and twists in mid-air.  She puts her hooves on her mothers back and nibbles her ear.  She runs and jumps and clicks her hooves together before landing.kidding around4

Every time I’m around animals like this, I am amazed at their company.  I love to watch them eat and hear the rumbles of their bellies.  I love the eyes that are not human, but still willing to find my own, if only for a moment.  We share our world with them, and they share theirs in return.  Ours is an old relationship.  People and goats have shared common space since the dawn of agriculture. We find common language in gesture, instinct, and good will.  There is some kind of trust here, and if we can be wise enough, and humble enough, the relationship will serve us all.  I cannot recommend it enough.

These goats have been a long time coming.  The land has been lonely for someone who can eat what it has to offer in such abundance.  Our big girl has been hungry for some responsibility on four legs.  They will keep us at home.  They will keep us busy and sometimes make us worry.  They will eat the brambles and thrive.

Welcome to the family, Annie and Pepper.  We’re glad you’re here.kidding around2