Debt free! Sustainable! Vegan! Sinless! It’s what the eco-friendly people say about rural living. It’s what utopian idealists have always said and on a pretty late spring evening when the goat kids are murmuring secret things in their pen and the chickens are perched outside their coop preening themselves one last time before sundown I almost believe it.
But then there’s reality. You’ve all seen the deep wrinkles in the leathery faces of the farmers pictured in Ford commercials–they’re not just from smoking.
Debt-free: Always buy used cars and trucks and things that go. Sounds great until the truck’s brakes give out on the highway, the minivan’s wheel bearings go all crazy and the Jetta’s timing belt, windows, brakes and air conditioning all threaten to go on the fritz.
Sustainably independent and self-sufficient: Hmm, what about shoes? We have clay soil so maybe I should check to see if hemp grows in these parts but I think it’s illegal. I don’t want to kill the deer that leave the dear ticks that kill the goats but not before a painful death . . . Okay, maybe I can make shoes out of tree bark. But you know, I really like writing and when will I ever have time for it if I’m felling trees and making shoes and underwear (after raising sheep and spinning wool and weaving cloth). I’m allergic to wool.
So maybe I’ll just be a vegan–low carbon footprint and all that. Again–clay soil. We need to truck in tons of manure since six goats hardly change the soil composition. What grows in clay? Buckwheat maybe if you can turn over the soil. Did you know buckwheat is a protein?
Well, maybe it’s just best not to think of it all. Maybe it’s just fun having cute little animals . . . and milk. Milking is therapeutic, right? Until mastitis hits and you feel like the scum of the earth for missing some cleanliness issue. Now you bring buckets of bleach water for each goat, you wash up over and over, you massage udders–every few hours . . . and then the next doe goes into labor. It goes on a bit long and you worry, wait and wonder if at 3 am you should get the vet over. Things turn critical fast when you see two kid heads bursting out and one is terribly stuck.You glance out at the mountains and the way the moon is lit for romance, before slipping your hand and then your arm deep inside the very upset mother goat. You feel a tiny chest with a tiny heartbeat and for a moment think, “This kid has no front legs!” Then you feel some more and realize the front legs are in the wrong position. You find a tiny armpit and just like that the kid slips out onto the floor.
While I love my life I find that it’s not so simple. But it can be cute. Here’s the two little darlings who made life a bit crazy this week: