Goodbye, summer! Goodbye super-apprentice, Louella! Goodbye daughter Fiona, off to college! Goodbye summer customers at farmers’ markets. Goodbye warm nights and owls hooting and crickets chirping and Perseid meteorshowers.
Goodbye flies in the barn, and goodbye summer traffic!
Welcome crisp fall mornings, red maple leaves, geese flying. Welcome pumpkins, apples, squash, cranberries, turkey. Welcome Orion in the early morning sky.
The best animal on our farm is Jenny the barn cat. She came to us 13 years ago, pregnant, and had to be at least two years old at that time. She has seen several generations of goats come and go, and outlasted most of them, as well as three dogs. She never asks for a thing, except for a full bowl of crunchies. When her bowl is empty, she will gently remind me with just a look. She has given us six kittens, lots of loving, and squeaky purrs. She never complains, always comes home, and loves to show off the hot snacks she catches around the barn. This winter, perhaps I will allow her to come in from the cold. After all, we are both old and gray, and the winters are getting colder.
I have to admit that I am a little puzzled at the new excitement surrounding eating locally. This is what I have done all my adult life. This is my family legacy modelled to me by my grandmother, who raised a large family during the depression and wartime, and continued by my uncle on the farm in NH. I can’t remember the last Thanksgiving we ate a turkey purchased other than from the local turkey farm or grown on ours. One of my greatest pleasures in life is to sit down to a meal grown totally by us or by our friends and family. I got into a huge argument last summer with a man at farmers’ market who insisted that I must go to the grocery store for something, and all I could come up with was detergent, olive oil and salt. And even salt I could get locally.
Worried about food contamination? Eat local.
Worried about disruption to the food supply caused by weather extremes? Eat local.
Worried about real flavor in your food? Eat local.
Worried about your carbon footprint? Eat local.
What a difference a week makes! From five inches of snow and obscenely cold temperatures, to 70 degrees, shirtsleeves and crocus blooming. The bees were swarming in the crocus yesterday, which valiantly took up where they left off three weeks ago when the snow buried them. The goats are lying around, soaking up the sun. My wonderful apprentice Louella did not run screaming when the power went out during the storm, and we had to hand milk for a day.
Maybe I’ll make it after all.
April 13, five more inches of snow. April 15, snow and rain. April 16, wind and rain and power outage. April 17, snow and rain. April 18, rain. Will this nightmare ever end???
Fifteen inches of “poor man’s fertilizer” on April 5, for God’s sake.
The kids shipped out on Saturday, to Easter Auction. This is the dark side of dairying, and most people usually don’t make the connection. For every dairy animal that gives milk, she has given birth to at least one offspring. It’s an even chance it’s a male, which makes it useless as a future milker. These unwanted males have to go somewhere, and that somewhere is usually an auction, sooner or later. I don’t make any money on it. I never get back the value of the milk it has taken to raise these kids. It’s just one solution to the issue. I would rather have them take a short trip to the butcher and end their life in a useful fashion on someone’s Easter table, than the longer trip as a possibly abused pet tied to a tree or chased by dogs.
In any case, it’s much quieter and calmer in the barn, and I’m getting lots more milk to make into cheese. I don’t miss them — I still have my bottle babies that will be next year’s milkers. The moms don’t even miss them. Fiona just surprised me by saying that when the kids ship out, it’s like Jody Foster’s character’s experience in Silence of the Lambs, and that made me sad.
Here goes my first rant… I hate the telephone. It is the biggest time waster man has invented. It is disruptive, rude and intrusive. Perfect strangers think all they have to do is pick up the phone and get some of my time for free. I run my life on a pretty tight schedule: I am in the barn milking twice a day for two to three hours, and can’t pick up the phone, even if I could hear it while the mlking machine was running. While I am making cheese, I am using my hands, and can’t pick up the phone. God bless caller ID and the answering machine, both of which can screen my calls, should I even be close enough to the phone to pick it up. I don’t have a phone in the barn, which is where I spend most of my waking hours. When I get done in the barn at night, all I want to do is eat my supper and enjoy a modicrum of family time before it’s good night Irene. I certainly don’t have the brain power to talk to anyone in the evening, and who calls farmers after 8 p.m anyway?
The message on my machine states “please leave an email address for the fastest reply”, yet people continue to leave messages with their phone number asking me to call them back. When would this be? 5 a.m. while I am drinking my morning coffee? I don’t think so. My day job in the school system isn’t very conducive to making phone calls, either, even if I wasn’t on the district’s dime or if there was a phone to use. Of course I have a cell phone, but for now, it serves more as a family walkie-talkie than a business tool.
Four separate times in the past month, I have agreed to take a scheduled phone call, only to be stood up. Waiting and waiting for the call that doesn’t come in. Two instances for phone interviews for potential jobs (them applying to me), once for an interview (when will I ever learn?). How rude is that?
So, if you want to communicate with me, please send me an email. I would be happy to answer it at 5 a.m.
And don’t even get me started on Sunday visitors.
Every year we have a kid or two that needs special attention. This year is no different. One little twin, born to a first freshener, was abandoned shortly after birth, so I’m bottle feeding him. Of course, he has now bonded to humans, so whenever I go out into the goat barn, he glues himself to my feet and follows me around. But lest I get too attached to him, he’ll do this for any set of legs walking into the barn. The other day he followed Brad down into the woods when he was checking the fence. He got stuck in the snow so many times, Brad had to carry him out. Somebody stopped to take pictures of the goats the other day, and the next time I went up by the gate, there was a polaroid photo of him left for us.
These kids always get goofy names. This guy has been dubbed “Teeny little super guy” after the long-ago Sesame Street character. A couple of years ago, we had Peggy Eileen, who had a broken leg, and stumped around on her peg leg, with a definite tilt… Last year’s was Moaning Myrtle, who would try eating anything once, and managed to rip a piece of rubber off Laura’s rain pants.
I’ve always wanted to do this, so I think I will begin.