A Morning with Cows

I love the smell of manure in the morning.
I love the smell of manure in the morning.

Every year we look forward to our cow manure harvest just after the spring thaw with its muck moves north. Our good neighbor lets us take as much as we like. This year my husband brought only two shovels for three people (himself, son and me). He said I was no use to him with the cows about since I’d spend more time looking at them. And so it’s true.

HERE’S WHAT I SAW:

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040

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047

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Sapping Over

When the ponds and puddles start chirping and these appear, sapping is over!
When the ponds and puddles start chirping and these appear, sapping is over!
Blue skies!
Blue skies!

The sun finally arrived on our last day of converting sap to syrup. I was thinking this week as I gathered the last buckets to wash and put away that I’d much prefer the heavy lifting and slippery walks through the woods than Planet Fitness. I want to be able to complain, dress funny and judge others. The trees don’t seem to mind.

One night while picking up more buckets for sap at LOWES a woman was wearing her workout pants. I couldn’t help notice the way the shadows fell on her backside. It was obvious she put in good hours at the gym, but the shadows made it look like she was sweating in all the wrong places. In the woods the shadows fall and no one sees them–besides stretch pants would catch on stray branches. When will the stretch clothes go out of fashion? I feel I’m getting to know people too personally. At LOWES it just seems inappropriate.

Making syrup gives me hours to complain, get restless, complain again about the weather and cold feet, feel bad about unfashionable farm clothes and complain because I’m hungry. I’ve learned to keep most of this as an internal commentary but my husband reads my mind, laughing to himself and putting on more wood.

When-will-this-sapping-be-over? Even Nala's had enough.
When-will-this-sapping-be-over? Even Nala’s had enough.

Our neighbor came over to see if we knew anything about a dog mauling her cat. It’s paw was gone and leg broken. They had to put it down. Politely she asked about our Nala. Thank God, Nala has a new shock collar as evidence that she was with us during the brutal attack–looking as restless as I felt. We were finished with her chasing fitness people jogging by our house with their babies and dogs. The neighbor decided her cat was killed by a fisher–the ablest evil predator on land according to someone we heard somewhere.

Did I mention that we got TEN GALLONS of syrup this year? That’s nothing for some people, but for us it’s pretty great. Once the peepers chirp and the worst of the heavy lifting is over I begin to forget how much I don’t love sapping. I think back and say I really enjoyed the first frigid days of standing in ankle deep mud for hours drinking coffee until I felt like vomiting.

My husband does seem to really enjoy the whole thing. He likes tending the fire, estimating evaporation rate, making little improvements and providing syrup for his family. It’s kind of inspiring to see him take it so seriously. He never even complains. It’s weird.

A beautiful ocean of syrup.
A beautiful ocean of syrup.
Gallons and gallons!
Gallons and gallons!
Nala licking syrup  from the tree.
Nala licking syrup from the tree.

Loss, Loss, Gain

Some go down the road and we never meet again.
Some go down the road and we never meet again.

While there are many opportunities for pretty pictures and falling in love out here in the country, some seasons wreak havoc on your heart. Here’s a story with a happy ending for a change. People told us having goats would be hard. They told us it wasn’t the mucking the barn or morning milkings with frozen fingers, but the way they make you love them. When Daphne, a sweet, quiet doe with soulful eyes decided I was her baby she cemented my complete adoration of her. And then she died.

After the initial mourning process (you’re not supposed to feel if you’re a “real” farmer) my husband and I took stock. It became clear that there was no way I was going to eat the baby boys my actual children named. The idea was we’d slaughter them in the spring.  Instead my husband–who has a pretty big heart and secretly knew all along I was never going to be alright with the slaughter suggested I just find the two little guys homes as pets on Craigslist. (Hurray!)  I wondered if it would be a hard thing to do. It wasn’t. People came out of the woodwork competing with each other, trying to convince me that the babies would be well cared for and I was pretty sure they were telling the truth (I now understand why dog breeders act so snobby when you want to buy one of their pups–I almost turned down one couple because the guy didn’t seem friendly).

I was happy/sad to see the boys go especially when Holden gave me a nose rub before being packed into a pick-up truck. But we still had a possible problem. Our barn is small and because I wanted to save a boy and my husband had taken in a beautiful retired doe we had too many big animals and we happened to love them.

My husband's Sunshine
My husband’s Sunshine

I kept forgetting to take my ad off Craigslist and my husband kept asking if I wanted to keep disappointing people. Anyway, when I got the email from a girl needing a companion goat for an old horse mourning the loss of her horse best friend, I responded to her inquiry mentioning that while we no longer had the babies we did have Mikey, a big boy . . .

How could I say no?
How could I say no?

Cathy and her boyfriend drove two hours each way to find a friend for a horse! Okay. So I KNEW Mikey would have a great new home!

The next morning I mentioned to my husband that Sunshine seemed depressed without Mikey. My husband said, “Hmm.”

Then came this email from Cathy:

Hi, Mikey is so lonely he cries all day long. Any way you wanna get
 rid of another goat? Haha looks like Mikey will be getting a friend.

I replied:

Poor Mikey–and poor you. I know how that crying can be. Ugh. So
Mikey is not usually one of our noisy goats but when they get stressed
 they cry. Hmm. We do actually have Sunshine (an older doe who can no longer breed). She
 happens to be Mikey’s best friend. I was just telling my husband that
 she seems a little sad without him–but she’s not too noisy about it.

Immediate response from Cathy:

Mikey is a great goat, we are all in love with him! He helps with
 chores ( by being in the way, but he’s to cute so it’s okay) My horse
loves him and he loves her. But he cries when we leave and at night
 when he is locked in his stall alone, even though the horses are
 directly next to him. We just want Mikey to be happy too, It kills me
 hearing him cry! So we were thinking maybe he is missing his friends,
 even with new friends. This weekend we are joining the pastures so
 Mikey and Passion( my horse) can be together so we are hoping that
 helps. But if it doesn’t we would love to take Sunshine! ( I have a
 second horse named Sunshine also) haha. I will let you know if the
 pasture doesn’t help, because I would hate for him to always be stressed out! I wouldn’t mind having two at all, I fell in love with him so fast.

And a little while later:

Hi, I know this is such short notice, but could I come get Sunshine after school tomorrow? Mikey is soo sad and we want him to have his own friend too. I feel bad making him go even another night.

At this point I was in love with Cathy. I said:

You and your boyfriend make an adorable couple. Okay, so it sounds
 like I’ll be seeing the two of you tomorrow. Have a great day!

Sunshine relaxing in the back of Cathy's car.
Sunshine relaxing in the back of Cathy’s car.

Sometimes people do that thing–you know–make you feel happy to be alive again. We got this email the night Sunshine was reunited with Mikey:

It’s already a perfect story, they love each other. They cuddled up
 and went right to sleep! I can’t thank you enough for these two love
 bugs! I will send pictures tomorrow.

Cathy with her new best friends.
Cathy with her new best friends.

 

News Flash: Uneasy Animal Lover Eats Meat

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When I became a vegan years ago I eventually lost all ability to think rationally. It’s just the way I’m built–some screwed up serotonin levels or something. Let’s just say I was intense. At first I felt so light and guilt-free as a vegan, but it didn’t stop there. I wore leather boots and used fossil fuel and had the stray plastic container in the cabinet–my toothbrush was plastic and I began to really hate life.

After a brush with death, a gigantic loss of blood and some worried doctors urging me to eat the Wendy’s burger one of them ran out to get me, I ate meat. My mood improved and life went on–until we bought some land and decided to make cheese. In my fantasy world the milk would flow for years after a few cute little kids came along. But no. The cute little kids come along EVERY year. There comes a point when you can’t feed all of the animals and have to sell them–or kill them and eat them.

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Obviously I knew this all along but when you go food shopping you don’t have to deal with it. You pay more attention to the cart with the wobbly wheel than to the memory of the disgusting mistreatment of animals you witnessed watching Food Inc  

A few weeks back we spoke with a very kind, very decent cheese maker who suggested we throw our two bucklings in with his bunch. Our friend had tried for years to find homes for the little guys but couldn’t keep his business going feeding all of them and even selling them at a loss. Now a mysterious man comes and takes the babies and raises them for goat meat for the ethnic markets. Our friend was like, “I don’t know how he does it–I don’t want to know.” I understood exactly but when we got home I cried for our two bucklings.

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In the end here’s what we’ve decided: We’ll keep the boys and try to give them away as pets if someone is willing to bottle-feed them. But if no one comes along we’ll name them and raise them and love them with the lucky does and one day we’ll eat them. Every day will be good until that one last day. It sucks to be a guilty sinner, but then even vegans can’t escape contributing to death or dying themselves. What a weird world we live in.

 

A Walk In The Woods

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What a lovely day to be in charge of my kingdom. The girls all want me, no matter how they deny it. I walk through the woods, every inch my own.

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The trees may be tall, but I am beautiful.

The trees stand, leaves falling, as the ferns take their last look at the sun.

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But I own it all. I’m free as a bird. I’m beautiful. I am Alexander the Great Rooster.

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