A few weeks ago my 20-year-old daughter (who lives with us) realized she’d never actually seen our lambs. It’s a five second walk to the barn. Now she’s back in NYC for school so this post goes out to her.
Yes, after a glorious Friday night win the good-natured boys agreed to moving FIFTEEN TONS of rocks to the barnyard. The muddy yard was bad for the animals and ME. Water sat in puddles and turned to massive sheets of ice in winter. The animals made it through but I ended up with a broken arm, a dislocated elbow and emergency surgery during the NFL playoffs (the surgeon was less than pleased to be called in).
My husband weighed the options after having the rocks delivered and decided drafting the boys and paying them well was the better plan–the other being husband and wife with wife complaining about rocks all afternoon and how heavy they were.
The boys were animals against those rocks plowing through the pile in only a few hours (my husband gave them bonus money for speed).
The sheep and goats were a little spooked at first by the spongy rocks not quite settled, but after a few minutes I think they liked the noise under their feet because they started frolicking–a good thing to see in a barnyard because probably no one has a bad case of worms or some other mystery illness.
The chickens and ducks kept to the muddy outskirts of the yard more interested in their blended families–chickens mothering ducks, ducks mothering chickens and roosters ( the ones we bought who were supposed to be hens) chasing everything that moves.
As the evening sky darkened and threatened much needed rain, the boys finished their project with many tons of rock to spare for other Saturdays. Thank God for football players.
On a sunny Saturday a few weeks back we decided that after buying our little buck, TIM RIGGINS, we needed a friend for him. I asked my friend and Upstate New York goat guru Dottie Cross if she knew anyone selling a buckling to wether (castrate) and she gave me the name of her friend Lynne who happened to live a half hour away.
We arranged to drive out on Sunday and wondered if we’d made a mistake with the address as we pulled up in front of a brightly adorned old Victorian in the center of town. Surely this was no farm.
My husband who’d been a little grumpy this morning after a long work week brightened at the sight of an old truck in the drive. A red barn down a slope came into view. Lynne waved to us from the barn and jogged up telling us she’d move the old truck so we could bring the minivan down.
There’s Lynne waving in the truck. It started but stalled. She called out to us. “Oh, it doesn’t matter!” as the truck coasted to the bottom of the hill and she jumped out. We followed her down, parked the car and tried to keep up with our tour host as she showed us through the barn and into the back yard (about 7 acres) where ducks, rabbits, chickens and goats mingled happily on the bright green grass of spring.
A little mocha colored buckling with a broad face and big eyes followed me where ever we went (he was probably following Lynne, but I knew I was in love. My husband spotted another little fellow but then Lynne mentioned that our buckling Tim Riggins probably wouldn’t be old enough to get the job done with our girls this fall. She’d saved a white Nubian buckling from the previous year after talking to Dottie (the guru) about a nice family who’d wanted to take Dottie’s white buck Finn last summer. It seems the husband was laid off (briefly) and so Finn had gone to another home but just before that Lynne had her doe Nayla bred with him producing the white buckling (from great bloodlines) so, Lynne thought she’d keep him for a while.
Turns out WE were that family. It was my husband who lost his job for a few weeks last summer! My husband’s eyes lit up. “Isn’t that funny that our white dog is named Nala, too? I mean only the spelling is different. Maybe we should have TWO bucks instead of one. Obviously this is fate.”
I was hesitant for a second or two. “But we still need a little friend for the baby ram we’re getting next month,” I said.
The mocha baby stood there waiting but not for long.
Lynne laughed and talked and gave advice as she scooped feed into a huge plastic baggie for us to take home. I sat with the boys in the back trying to decide if I liked white goats while the white goat tried to decide if he liked white minivans.
At home LUKE CAFFERTY (the goat) and MATT SARACEN (the goat) met dear TIM RIGGINS while I admired my husband’s fortress-making skills. He’d dug post holes, hung fences and built a goat house on one long weekend and every night this week before he had to catch a flight to Oregon for work this evening.
The boys have just stopped crying. I’ll go check them before bed. Our chicken hatched a duck yesterday and I didn’t have a second to congratulate her, but there’s always tomorrow.
Phantom pregnancy. I thought that was something that happened only on daytime TV. But no. It happens to goats. Now this doesn’t surprise me. EVERY year so far Pixie’s been, hmm, difficult. She’s not the type to flaunt her sexuality. This means we never really know when she’s in heat. Pixie withholds the telltale signs behind a cool, Victorian exterior. So we fret and discuss endlessly. Was that tail flick a sign? Was that mucus a sign? In agreement we drive her to a friend’s and lead her into the buck stall telling her it’s an old-fashioned cotillion and her dance card is full.
This year we thought Pixie got the dance right. She looked to be in “standing heat” because she stood there and took it from a buck with great genetics. We assumed we’d have at least triplets. Phantom pregnancy. Zero babies, no milk. To cap the climax, our friend with the bucks nearby quit the business and dispersed the herd before we could utter a small cry—no! We need your bucks!
When shopping for a young buck, you don’t worry about their SAT scores. You want strut and style (I want style). You want a man to swagger and make the ladies take note. Who cares if he hasn’t read the classics? No long courtships, no waltzes. You want straight up sex (between the goats).
My husband found an ad on craigslist, spoke to a man on the phone and after a few minutes we realized this guy who knew all the same goat people we did was Brad Kessler, famous author of GOAT SONG (I think anyone who writes a book like his should be famous). We were pretty sure we wanted to raise Nubians and Brad’s description of life with them sealed the deal years ago.
His photographer wife Dona Ann McAdams took the photo for the book cover which was the reason I decided to read Brad’s book in the first place, because despite loving animals I usually hate reading about them. Dona’s black and white photo of a dignified doe drew me in.
As soon as I saw Dona and Brad’s herd I knew we found the right genetics (I mean looks). They led us into their whitewashed and cheerful barn full of well-taken-care-of (doted on) goats. When Dona called a name a Nubian with bright eyes responded. Here was relationship and love. Sigh.
Have you ever had one of those days when you think the highlight is going to be picking up a used washer on craigslist and then you end up having tea in a beautiful garden sampling the best goat cheese you’ve ever had? Long ago I’d made fresh chevre on a farm I worked at and remembered how smooth and almost sweet it was. No one in my family believed me. My husband figured we were doing something wrong with the acidity (or something) while I was secretly thinking that maybe I didn’t love goat cheese as much as I thought I did.
Turns out I still love goat cheese (done right). The stuff at the store is nothing like fresh chevre. Hope abounds now for next year!
And then there’s our bundle of joy. Brad and Dona had one little buck left when my husband spoke to them. I stood in the background listening in. Take him! Nubians I’ve been seeing recently have pointy-nosed thin faces. Not Brad and Dona’s goats. They have chunk. Their eyes are soulful and their noses Roman. And they’re BIG. My husband was impressed, too.
Brad and Dona named the young man Butch (but that’s my mother’s nickname for my brother) so we re-named him after Tim (Texas Forever) Riggins, the womanizing, drunken and adorable fullback of the fictional Dillon Panthers on the only TV show all seven of us as a family became sort of obsessed with for a while, Friday Night Lights.
Name it and claim it, young buck. There’s a whole bunch of women waiting for you to step up.
Thanks, Brad and Dona for a delightful afternoon!
For Tim Riggins fans:
For Goat Fans: