Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Do Better.

Posted on | November 8, 2016 | 2 Comments

So this is what happens when you sell your dairy goats.  When you cut that powerful tether to the farm and cast off into the wide weird world where no one milks twice or day.  Or hurries home from the store in case a doe is kidding.  Or rushes off for dewormer after checking eyes and lips with the FAMACHA charts.  Or doesn’t bother to leave the farm at all because one reeks of buck odor by 6am.

Without a dairy operation to check in on every minute of every day, I didn’t bother with hatching eggs and just let the grown hens wander around under the care of livestock guardian dogs.  If they managed to hide eggs and hatch chicks then they were also responsible for raising them.  I sure as heck wasn’t going to bring in a ram for the ewes when I had already shipped out all my own bucks to other farms for breeding purposes. My last remaining Muscovy duck, at 10 years old, was way too old for fertile eggs so she and her male runner duck companion simply wandered around calmly between the pond and the barn.  If they showed up in the front yard while I happened to be outside I tossed them some dog food out of the container on the deck.  The freezer was way too full of pork to bother raising pigs.  That’s all folks.

Once the dairy goats were gone, I only needed to stroll into the barn once a day.  Just once a day—-morning or afternoon or night or whenever.  Check the waterers, feed the livestock guardian dogs, drop off the chickens’ scraps and pick up their eggs, pull down fresh hay for the sheep.  15 minutes max.  Usually less than 10.  Such a short period of time that it wasn’t enough to hold me to the farm all day.  And I had plenty of time to explore that strange and all-consuming world out there.  You know, the one everyone else is living in.

And…really, people,….what the hell?

I threw a back-to-school party in August and instead of going with just the usual, I tried branching out.  Because I had the time and the energy to do something more, something different.  I actually stood in line at Lowe’s with a bunch of 2X4s and waited patiently for them to make a hundred million cuts in those 2X4s so I could have giant Jenga! game on the deck.  Which I will never use again and that sits there looking at me and that I have to straighten up every time I walk by because, you know, I have time for worrying if the Jenga! pieces are crooked.

And I set up some long tables with SOLO cups of water for Battleship Pong, which Pinterest said was a great activity for preteens and their friends.  Too bad that as parents dropped off their kids, they peered into the backyard at long tables laid out with SOLO cups and said in astonishment,  “Are you playing beer pong?”  So I had a lot of explaining to do, thank you Pinterest.  Plus the kids were horrible at Battleship Pong.  Apparently you have to be drunk to get that little ball into the cup.  Or at least drunk enough not to care if you miss again and again and again because sober preteens don’t handle that kind of frustration very well.  I’d show you a picture of the set up but it’s not a fond memory so I did not record it for prosperity.  I imagined people looking at my photo album in the future and saying “Look, the kids played beer pong at the back to school party!”  Meh.

My final hurrah was the  idea of human pinata.  Which, in hindsight, should have turned me off right at the beginning with the name of the game.  But, no, I calmly spent an afternoon gluing candy to old t-shirts so that a kid could run around the backyard frantically trying to avoid the children chasing him and trying to yank candy off his shirt.  I told those kids that you were not allowed to tackle. I told them that.  Although I did forget to mention it was also unfair for one kid to hold the human pinata down while everyone else surrounded him like a pack of hungry wolves and ripped candy off mercilessly.   Human pinata.  Starts off with smiles.  But play at your own risk.

Remember when I had milking to do and baby goats to separate for the night and lambs to bottle feed and all the kids got was a bonfire and the ingredients for smores left piled on the kitchen counter?  Yeah.  I remember it, too.  I remember it fondly.

When school started, I thought I would have plenty of free time.  Which I did.  And it was horrible.  Because, of course, the kids’ class schedules were messed up.  And, of course, me and The Other Half spent entire days going from school to school and office to office to get them straight.  The Other Half actually heard a receptionist arguing with a father whose kid did not receive his high school class schedule.  Receptionist kept insisting the kid go to his classes as scheduled and the counselors would fix it later in the week.  The father kept insisting this was impossible because his kid did not get a class schedule.  Receptionist asked if he was sure his kid actually attended that high school.  Father replied that yes, he was sure because the kid attended that high school last year as well.  Receptionist asked again if father was sure because the computer did not show his son enrolled there.  As if a grown man would take a day off of work to stand in a line at the local high school with 100 other disgruntled parents to insist on a class schedule just for kicks!  Just for the hell of it!!

I asked The Other Half if he intervened in this nonsense but he said no because he had just bypassed that receptionist.  When she told him none of the counselors were present that day to adjust class schedules (“Everyone is in training sessions off campus, sir”), he left her office and went directly to the counseling department.  When the counseling department receptionist told him that the counselors were not present because they were in training sessions off campus, he bypassed her and went right down the hall to the counselors’ offices.  And found all the counselors sitting at their desks.  And he got one of them to fix our kid’s class schedule.  Of course, The Other Half had already pissed off enough receptionists for the day and didn’t feel like taking on another one.  Good luck, Father With Pretend Kid Trying To Get A Class Schedule For No Reason.  Good luck.

Ordinarily this hoopla is just a blip on my radar screen.  Once the classes are fixed, the kids go to school, and I go back out to the barn to set up a breeding pen for visiting does and drag a milk stand into the buck pen to give the boys a hoof trim and reattach whatever roosting poles fell off in the chicken coop and cut comfrey for whichever sheep ate too many fallen oak leaves.  There isn’t time to obsess about messed up class schedules and receptionists and school counselors.  But it’s harder to get over things when you have time to think about them.  And I thought about things for days.  We can do better than this computer system that messes up the class schedules every year.  We can do better than counselors hiding in their offices. We can do better.

With the barn chores done for the day at an early hour, I had my afternoons free.  Well, besides working my 24 hour shift, housecleaning, grocery shopping, meal planning/making, small home repairs, MD and orthodontist appointments, laundry,  lawn mowing and yard care.  But I was already used to doing all that inbetween massaging udders with mastitis, cleaning chicks with pasty butt, and rolling in new round bales of hay.  So, I also had time to notice the 6th grader sports team managers were no longer allowed to work out with the athletic teams.  Middle worked out with the team as a manager when he was a 6th grader and now Little wanted to do the same.  But there was a new rule or an old rule that was now being enforced and 6th grade team mangers could not participate in athletic activities at all.  They could not run laps, or do push ups, or take goal shots with the team.  Then it crossed over into pure crazy.  For example, instead of kicking a ball back to to a soccer player after he took a goal shot during practice, the 6th grade team mangers had to pick up the ball and carry it to the player.  Anything else was considered “participation” and 6th graders were banned from participating in middle school sports by state law.  What. The.  Heck.

In a fit of newly discovered no-dairy-goat-freedom, I objected to the crazy.  The crazy that, in the past, just made me sigh on my way to the milking barn.  The crazy that just made me shrug as I put the kids on the bus before heading out to check for birthing discharge on one of the does.  The crazy that was annoying but too minor to worry about when it was time for disbudding or banding or CD&T shots.  I tried the coaches and school athletic director and the principal and finally ended up with the district athletic director.  Who told me the rule of non-participation was set out in the State Department of Public Instruction athletic guidelines and the State High School Athletic Association eligibility rules.  However, when I read those rules (Yes, I read through the state DPI and HSSAA rules and regulations.  Because I don’t have to milk twice a day) I didn’t find anything that denied 6th grade participation.  As a matter of fact, I found out the state recently changed its position to allow 6th graders to participate as full team members on middle school teams, not just team managers.  So I went back to the athletic director with my no-rule finding and he went to the school board and the school board decided they would take a year to study whether or not 6th graders should play and how to incorporate them into the athletic program.    In case, you know, incorporating them means something other than just letting them play!

People, what is going on out there?  Is this what you have been living with?  For years???  And I thought it was stressful when Josie got an injection site abscess which for 4 entire days I mistakenly thought was the dreaded and highly contagious caseous lymphadentitis.  The off-farm world makes CL look like a minor head cold.

So with 2 boys in middle school sports and a frightening lack of knowledge or control over the athletic process, I decided I could do better.  I volunteered to be part of the middle school athletic boosters club.  I was actually working the night that the boosters club switched hands and officers were assigned.  That’s OK, though, because The Other Half attended on my behalf and signed me up to be President.  If Pretty and Big found it odd that when they were playing middle school sports I only managed to roll up just in time for (most of) the games in dirty barn clothes and mud boots but had time to be President of the athletic boosters club when Middle and Little were in middle school sports, they didn’t comment.  I suppose they are saving their take on that for their therapists when they are adults.  Or maybe they are just enjoying the fact that I have to rush out of the house in the afternoons to get the popcorn machine started and 25 years after I thought my waitressing days were over I have to stand calmly in the concessions stand, with a smile on my face, while an 11 year old with a dollar waffles between Skittles and BBQ potato chips.

It wasn’t enough, though.  Without an overwhelming load of barn chores, I finally noticed that the family room couches were torn and filthy.  2 of the couches were pretty much reserved for the dogs and they had torn the leather with nails and left dog-shaped dirt imprints on the seats.  Yet until the dairy goats were gone, I was perfectly happy inviting my guests to sit on that mess.  I surveyed my family room and decided, I can do better.  I dragged my mom through my favorite thrift stores for a couple weeks until I found the perfect teal leather couch, hauled it home, and set it up.

As soon as the kids got off the bus, they informed me that I could definitely do better.  Kids are not adventurous when it comes to interior decorating.  So I sold that on craigslist (at a profit!) and continued to scout around until I found a new couch that someone bought but didn’t fit their space.  It was black leather and had a chaise lounge and I promptly bought an old black and white comforter from Goodwill for the dogs to lounge on whenever they were on the couch.  Because I know I can do better but I am realistic about my odds of keeping those spoiled pooches off the couches.

I was still longing for that teal couch, though.  So I picked up some fabric, pulled out my sewing machine, and recovered all the couch pillows in black and white and teal.  Which looked great.  So I recovered the window seat in black and white and teal.  Then I realized it would be awesome if the curtains used as cabinet doors in the kitchen matched the family room decor.  So I redid them in back and white and teal.  Now the space just needed coordinating art so I pulled down my old nature prints and made some new ones—in black and white and teal.  Finally, I got out my piles of fleece (the fleece I never had time to do anything with when I had dairy goats) and made large felted balls in black and grey and teal for a garland over the window.   When the kids came home, I asked them what they thought and they stretched out on the new couch, next to the dogs, and smiled carefully while cutting their eyes at each other.  Because it might have looked like I had a mid-life crisis and tried to fix it with teal.

This is what happens when you sell your dairy goats.

When you sell your dairy goats, you’ll hear more than 5 minutes of weather from the television before dragging yourself out to the barn in the predawn.  You’ll hear the entire morning newscast while sipping a second cup of still hot coffee.  (Hot coffee!  A second cup!)  When you don’t have to troll the internet for “100 uses for extra raw milk” or “how to make mozzarella that doesn’t taste like licking a goat” you’ll read not just the local news, but the national news online.  You’ll read every Facebook post, check your work email, and open the school’s newsletter, which is sent as an attachment and no one with dairy goats has time to download and open attachments.  You’ll be involved in school politics and work politics and politics, politics, politics and, holy freaking crap, we can do better!  No wonder the rest of you are walking around scared and angry and frustrated.

Without dairy goats, there is time for ranting and raving and hostile emails and, OMG, if I had been in the bleachers instead of at work when Pretty, one of the bass drums, was playing on the field in marching band and the football coach let football players walk out onto the field and start kicking practice field goals. In the middle of the marching band’s performance.  So that the marching band had to walk around the athletes to exit the field. It doesn’t surprise me that American citizens seem on the cusp of a furious explosion.  There are a million reasons to be upset.

And, at first, I thought the broken shower was just another reason.  When it leaked all over the bathroom and the mudroom and the office because the shower drain was cracked.  When the plumber came and said the entire fiberglass shower had to be cut out and replaced.  When he suggested a tile shower that would take time to frame and grout and dry.  But having a plumber redoing the downstairs bathroom was almost like having dairy goats again.  I had to be there all morning until he showed up, I could only scoot out for quick errands while he was working, and by the time he finished for the day the kids were home from school and it was time for sports, dinner, and homework.  I was back to being tied down to the property.

So I returned to my old dairy goat ways.  I got up, put on barn clothes, and headed out to the barn and the garden each morning and tooled around the farm for most of the day.  I planted the fall garden, watched Hurricane Matthew wash it away, and replanted it.  I harvested peppers, pulled down the commercial food sealer, and spent an entire day sealing whole peppers and roasted peppers and chopped roasted peppers.  I cleaned out the coop, rehung the roosts, and dusted the nest boxes with DE.  I fixed the broken feed trough and reattached it in the feed room.  I scrubbed the bird feeders, weeded  the creeping jenny and vinca vines, cleaned Harvey’s bunny cage, gave him a trim, and left him hopping aorund the deck eating acorns. Which is apparently something Angora bunnies do.  I carved pumpkins for Halloween and set up my pinecone zinnias on the deck. I brought up last year’s gourds from the garden and ooohed and aaahed over this year’s crop forming on the vines.  I milked for a friend who was at an all day seminar, comfortably milking away in the barn while a thunderstorm pelted the tin rook and lightning flashed in the sky.  I helped another friend load up TS and drive him away for breeding at her farm.  I pulled out my old crates and rinsed them out for a friend taking chickens to the state fair.

Turns out broken showers are for the best.  And I can do better, a whole lot better, right here.  I think everyone would do better here. ‘Cause it’s hard to be scared and angry and frustrated when this is going on:

Fall "weeds"

Pepper harvest

Michael taking the girls into the woods for the day.

Isaac getting in the way, as usual.

Autumn sedum

Broccoli and lettuce.

"Zinnias" that will last through the winter.


Summer tomatoes still holding on.

A study in white.

The flock catching morning rays in the milking barn.

Last year's crop....

...and my first long handled dipper.

Roses still blooming.

Last chance for pesto.

Looking for more acorns.

Fall salad.

I had no idea it was so rough out there and I have no idea what it takes to fix it.  But I bet we could do better with more dairy goats.  Probably a few sheep.  Definitely chickens for everybody.   After all, around here, when the sh*t gets too deep, we just shovel it up and make compost.

So let’s do better, people.  Put that fear and anger and frustration into a 3 season garden.  And if that doesn’t fix it, may I suggest a vigorous round of paintball?  According to the middle school crew, that’s enough to straighten out anything.

Good luck, America.  Do better.


2 Responses to “Do Better.”

  1. Jill Hallenbeck
    November 9th, 2016 @ 6:21 am

    We sure didn’t do better yesterday.

    Pretty pix and you are doing a lot for your family and community; kudos!

  2. Jane in Hawaii
    December 24th, 2016 @ 9:07 am

    I miss your regular posts. has this goat free life gone to your head? Seriously, you are a fantastic writer – please keep sharing!

Leave a Reply

  • Archives

  • Tags

  • April 2024
    M T W T F S S
  • Meta

  • Humor & Funny Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
  • Best Green Blogs