Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

The Big Stink.

Posted on | October 14, 2012 | 8 Comments

It’s the time of year when our commitment to sustainability is truly tested.  No, I don’t mean when we have to choose between the seedless or seeded watermelon—convenient GMO produce vs. old-fashioned spit-as-you-go produce.  That’s the June test of our commitment to sustainability.  Although this summer, after several years of seedless-watermelon-consuming guilt, I discovered seedless watermelons are not genetically modified but simply an infertile hybrid. Jeez.  Guilt is bad enough.  But needless guilt is such a shame.  If I was into that feeling I’d be Catholic instead of Baptist.  Although that Saturday night church and sleep in on Sunday morning thing they have going on is pretty tempting.

And I’m not talking about our decision to keep roosters with our chicken flock.  Yes, roosters mean fertile eggs which means hidden nests which means unplanned chicks and, eventually, a surplus of new roosters that have to be butchered in the fall.  Those roosters just make for good eating over the winter.  The only real downside about flock sustainability is the constant reassurance to egg buyers that just because they’re eating fertile eggs does not mean they’re eating a chick.  Not usually anyway.  I only know of one occasion when someone cracked an egg to find a half-developed chick inside.  Or maybe twice.  Or, I don’t know….how many times is a few?  Anyway, just remember that balut is a specialty item and I could charge extra for that in Cambodia.

No, this time of year the true sustainability controversy is our decision to keep bucks for our goat herd.  Well, the neighbor would say the real controversy is our decision to keep the bucks pastured on his property line.  Because once fall arrives, the bucks change from quiet, unnoticeable, hay-munching lumps in the buck pen to squealing, blubbering, malodorous lunatics.  It’s all part of their attempt to drive the does into heat and propagate their genetic lines.  And the louder and stinkier they are, the more their approval rating rises with the does.  Which means even the neighbors on the opposite property line (the ones that usually only have to deal with the squawking guineas in the garden) begin to notice, too.  Actually, anyone who makes it halfway up the driveway notices.

I know they’re appreciating my virile and vigorous bucks when they get out of their car with wrinkled noses, and ask, “What is that smell?”

That, friends, is what sustainability smells like.

And it’s a bit difficult to describe.  Obviously components of urine.  Strong tones of Eau de Musk.  Nuances of sweat and semen.  Combined with the scent of all the dankness and debris carried in the bucks’ wooly beards, manes, and undercoats.  It is an aroma to be reckoned with.

But even more impressive than the actual stench is its amazing permeation power.  Sillage is a perfumery term that refers to the way a scent lingers or trails behind its wearer.  Sillage doesn’t even come close to describing the power of buck funk.  Their odor billows out from their bodies, from their pen, and forms a farm-encompassing cloud of redolent fecundity.  I’m not trying to impress you with my vocabulary (Which is actually just skillful use of  As if you didn’t already know that.).  A powerful scent requires powerful words.

Buck-to-skin contact will require at least 3 showers to remove the smell.  Those showers must include either charcoal soap or a baking soda scrub.  Otherwise, no amount of showering will remove the lingering traces and you’ll just have to wait until the scent fades away.  You’ll know it’s gone when people are willing to sit next to you at the dinner table again.  Usually takes about 3 days.  Sounds bad but being a social pariah at dinner time is not so bad when it means The Other Half has to cut up the children’s meat, enforce the eating of green vegetables, and get drinks spilled in his lap for 3 days.  There is a silver lining to buck sillage.

Consider any buck-to-clothing contact the same as buck-to-skin contact.  No article of clothing is a sufficient barrier for buck odor.  I sent several emails to Carhartt suggesting that if they invented such a product, they would surely have buyers.  I have not yet received a response but I am sure they have already passed my suggestion along to R&D.  Meanwhile, in order to avoid spreading buck odor to the couches, curtains, and other furnishings, we settle for stripping off our barn clothes on the deck and entering the house naked on our way to the showers.

Really, nothing good is ever indicated by someone shouting through the back door,

“Everyone, close your eyes!  I’m coming in from the barn.”

When the pile of clothes is big enough, we’ll carry it in off the deck with some grill tongs (hard metals are reasonably resistant to the stench) and place it in the washing machine on a hot water wash with several cups of vinegar.  A pile of dirty stinky clothing on the deck is hardly a welcoming sight for farm visitors, but luckily all this occurs at the same time of year that anyone with a hunter in the family also has a pile of dirty stinky laundry airing on their patio furniture.

Because the doe urine and fox pee used by deer hunters to disguise themselves in the woods is almost as unappealing in the house as goat buck funk.  So we are not as weird as much as we are just another redneck family.  Sometimes it’s good to be a redneck and instead of just weird.  Redneck is 1 or 2 steps away from weird.  I think.  Probably.  Maybe.

Entering the buck pasture without going into the actual buck pen will expose you to the smell but not mark you indelibly.  As long as you don’t brush against the sides of the pen or the pasture fencing or the gates or the feed troughs or the hay rack or anything else that has come in contact with the bucks or is within range of their urinary stream (Which is surprisingly farther than most people would think.  Unless you have 3 boys like I do.  Then you wouldn’t be surprised at all by how far the stream reaches.  Or by the random things they will urinate on.).  Think of yourself as Tom Cruise in his infamous cable drop scene into a room full of lasers.  Except you’re attempting to enter with feed and water without touching anything except the items you carried in.

Oh, and there’s a time limit.  Pour out grain, dump and refill the water bucket, fork hay into the rack—all in under 8 minutes.  Anything longer than 8 minutes and the buck funk gets into your hair.  I’m sure you think I’m making up that whole 8 minute thing.  Like I can’t possibly know whether my hair will smell after 8 minutes or 6 minutes or 12 minutes.

8 minutes, friends.  If you think you know differently, c’mon on over for the 5pm feeding.  I’d be happy to sit on the deck, sipping some mocha cappuccino, while you test your own theories on buck funk permeation times.  Oh, and gather the eggs while you’re at it.  And don’t forget to give Bruno his tartar control bone.  Plus, CC likes a handful of grain at dinner time.  You know since you’re in there and all.  I’ll keep your mocha cappuccino warm for you.  But you might end up having to drink it sitting downwind from me.

By now you’re probably wondering why we bother with keeping bucks.  So I’ll just remind you that in order for there to be goat milk, there must be goat babies.  In order for there to be goat babies, there must be goat breeding.  In order for there to be successful goat breeding there must be males and females.  I just want to make sure we’re on the same page with this.  Because several years ago, a friend was here with her middle school aged boys when it was milking time.  I asked one of her boys if he wanted to take a turn miking a goat.  He shuddered and said,

“No way!  I’m not touching that thing’s penis.”

Oh my.

And they say kids don’t need sex education in school.  Either they do or they need a really explicit farm tour at a dairy goat farm in the fall.  I’m just sayin’.


We have already tried keeping only female goats and borrowing a buck when the time is right.  That is not sustainable.  Nigerian dwarf does experience a heat cycle every 21-28 days and will usually stand (literally, stand still) for a buck to mate them at some point during their heat.  Some does will stand for just an hour and others are amenable for several days.  Good luck getting a buck “when the time is right.”

The does love to come into heat just as you’re on your way to work.  And the owner of the buck that said you could borrow him is always out of town when your doe is in the mood.    Even if you can get up with the a buck owner immediately, you will have to put together your largest animal crate and flip down all the seats in the car (that do not actually flip down in the simple manner that the commercials show it happening) or strap it down with bungee cords in the back of the truck in order to pick up a buck.  Or get the trailer out, which means inflating the flat tires, cleaning out the hay and manure you swore you were going to clean out immediately after your last trip but didn’t, and hoping the rotting floor boards you were supposed to replace will hold for one more trip.

Simultaneously, you must set up another pasture or pen for the buck and doe with fresh hay and water and a gate strong enough to contain the buck once he sees all the other lovelies walking around.  By the time you have arranged for a frantic pick up, completed a pick up, and dropped the buck into the arms of his waiting beloved; and have crates and cords, trucks or trailers to clean and put away; all the while screening the continual messages on the answering machine from the neighbors regarding the bleating and bellowing going on in the back pasture; you will be suicidal, homicidal or, at the very least, drive through McDonald’s for dinner and order the Supersize.

Of course, you could agree to keep a buck at your farm for several months each fall so he is available for breeding whenever the mood strikes the females.  This means you will be able to easily bring any doe to him immediately when she comes into heat.  And if a breeding doesn’t take then he can have another chance with the same female when she comes back into heat in a few weeks.  An extra bang for your buck.  So to speak.

But keeping someone else’s buck for an extended period of time also means worrying that he might get sick or injured or escape or a million other things that are bad enough when they happen to your goats but a hundred times worse when they happen to someone else’s buck when you’re in charge of him.  Consider that we breed twice a year (spring and fall) in order to have a year round milk supply and that’s a lot of worrying and wondering and stressing and Supersize McDonald’s.  The year that a visiting buck died while he was here for breeding was the year that I finally folded.  I sat in the barn, dreading making that phone call, while The Other Half hauled off the 200 lb body and carried out the burial arrangements (why do I always get the hard job?), and thought to myself,

“How hard could it be to keep our own bucks?  They don’t really smell that bad….”

Enter the smelly and sustainable years of our dairy goat operation.  And I was right, “bad’ isn’t even close to how they smell.  Not even close.

But it all has it advantages.

The resulting adorable goat kids, playing in the sunshine.

The fridge full of sweet, fresh milk.

The lovely way that Brianna, the herd queen, immediately turns on the buck once the deed is done.  5 seconds after ejaculation, she begins slamming him against the sides of the pen, T-boning him viciously, while hollering, “We’re done here, mister.  Now BEAT IT!!!” until we release her from the pen for the safety of the buck.  It’s impressive sight.  And as she saunters out of the pen, leaving the buck, confused and conflicted, squeezed under the hay rack, she flicks an ear and calls over her shoulder, “See ya next year, sweetheart.”

Love it.

Who knew goats were feminists?


8 Responses to “The Big Stink.”

  1. Anne Kimball
    October 14th, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

    You had me at “farm-encompassing cloud of redolent fecundity”.

    I have smelled buck funk.
    It has permeated my clothing.
    I know of what you speak.

  2. lin
    October 14th, 2012 @ 6:24 pm

    Oh, the things I learn here. I can’t wait to share this knowledge on some folks at work when the time is right. We city folk have no idea about this stuff. No. Idea.

    And we think our trash cans smell bad as we haul them to the curb. Sheesh.

  3. sherry
    October 15th, 2012 @ 2:50 am

    Sounds like you are writing a romance novel. I love your posts. Keep them coming.

  4. Adri Fair
    October 15th, 2012 @ 7:23 am

    Every word of this post is true! Thank you for putting words to this. I borrow a friend’s buck. I always set out with the intention of borrowing him for 6 weeks, but my hubby gets lazy about returning him, so it always turns into 6 months. Ewww.

  5. Rose
    October 15th, 2012 @ 7:27 am

    Buck funk can be removed by washing with toothpaste, believe it or not. I so agree with your sustainability problems. Bucks are a lot of work for five minutes of benefit!

  6. ayan
    October 15th, 2012 @ 8:08 am

    Succulent prose–if I was 20 yrs younger I’d go get me a buck. Delightful posts. Love ’em!

  7. sista
    October 15th, 2012 @ 10:28 am

    I love goats. Can’t stand the bucks. I decided years ago that as long as I can do it I will take my does to my breeder. I don’t care that I have to drive 150 miles round trip, twice. Once to get them there and once to pick them up. Then give the girls a dry dog shampoo three times before they even get out of the truck and into the barn where they still smell for at least two weeks, just not as bad. I don’t care that I pay the breeder a $1 a day boarding fee on top of the breeding fee. Just think of all the water and soap I am saving. Right? I figure to buy and maintain a buck will cost what I pay her anyway and I don’t have that disgusting, gagging stink. Your blog was a hoot by the way. I laughed all the way through.

  8. TexWisGirl
    October 31st, 2012 @ 3:12 pm

    came over from peggy’s place today. she’s right – you write very well and keep the humor firmly in place. 🙂

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