Thursday, June 17, 2010

Shorn and Thorn

Ahhhhh. Much cooler now. Our poor little sheep have endured record heat, wearing wool coats, for too long... until today. Greg Gilman & Son came and delivered them from their suffering.

You have no idea how hard it is to find a sheep shearer. I have heard horror stories of the temperamental nature of shearers. Some require meals (not just a sandwich) prepared at a certain time and in a certain way. Some arrive and find things slightly different than they asked and promptly leave - without shearing the sheep. All I can say is they must be doing very well if they can walk away from money like that.

I was lucky, Greg is a local Agriculture teacher in our county who was recommended by our vet. He and his family have been showing sheep for quite a few years. They came into the light and now show goats too. Greg left with a kind comment, "Those are very nice ewes." He wasn't talking about their manners, he was talking about their appearance and sheepness. For someone that doesn't know sheep, that was a big relief. I had no idea what kind of animals were lurking below all of the textiles. His comments were a far cry from the condescending ones that our ferrier makes about our goats - every- single - time - he - visits. You can talk about my kids, but don't talk about my goats. I fired him and then had to re-hire him (which only makes him more full of himself) because ferriers are also in short supply, and they temperamental folk.

In other news, I'm preparing to have fun. Nicholas and I are headed to Louisville this Monday and will return home on Thursday. We are going to the American Dairy Goat Association's national show. This is the big one, but, we aren't taking a single goat. We are simply going to be bystanders - and babysitters. Our goat friends Will Pearson and Paula Reisdorf have a bang-up herd of Saanens who will be requiring a lot of attention - and they have a human baby- so, I am their "national's nanny." I will be bouncing the baby girl while they focus on winning the highest goat honors known to American goat keepers.

Preparing to have fun isn't easy for me. When you are raised by depression-era parents you have to balance fun with responsibility-or something unpleasant. Eating a disgusting food is an example, "Because you never know when you'll have to." My parents were great at doing really hard and unpleasant things like giving you the last bite of their dessert or letting you have their lawn chair at the parade because you didn't bring one (while insisting that they just needed to stretch.) I will never be that person. If you reach for the last bite of my dessert you will meet with the wrong end of my fork. If you don't bring your lawn chair to the parade that's too bad. I'm a Libertarian and I believe in personal responsibility. Suck it up.

Some of what they taught me sunk in, enough that I generally feel guilty when I'm having fun. So, I began my penance yesterday morning by pressure washing the inside walls of the barn, that is, after I fried my eggs on the sidewalk first! It was hot at 7 a.m., I'm not joking. I stayed out until 9 p.m. I cleaned and arranged, built a new fire pit from field stones, stacked fire wood, mowed a small patch of grass, mowed between the garden beds, fed and milked the caprines and on and on. I got up this morning and did it again, but stopped to meet the shearer and the graphic designer for our milk label (scuse me, aesthetic) at 9 a.m. They were both gone by noon and I collapsed in the air conditioned house - for 10 minutes. To make positively certain that I have good-and- earned my fun credits for next week I picked blackberries with Hannah-Jo AT 4 IN THE AFTERNOON. An air conditioned Kevlar suit would have been nice. If you look closely you can see that I allowed my child to wear flip-flops. She's child number six...I've become lax in my watch =) The thorns and the solar flares pretty much secured my guilt-free travel next week. Oh, the real torture? The theme from Underdog was stuck in my head THE WHOLE TIME!

I should be good to go now, suffering and responsibility complete, in fact, I've probably earned an Alaskan cruise worth of fun credit. The voice of prudence (and my parents) says, "Go to the goat show and be grateful. What does Alaska have that we don't have right here in the lower 48?"

Um, I should probably make the jam before I go... just to be sure.


Can I go now? Without guilt?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Another Teat, Another Dollar

Here we go! We can now legally sell our milk!...for pets. It's kind of anticlimactic I know, but still, maybe we can get these goats to pay for themselves.

After a simple application process and having our label approved (and paying $75 for the year) we are in business. We are having a graphic designer create an "aesthetic" for our label. Not a picture, heavens no! Not a logo, uh uh. It is an aesthetic. Something that, as she says, "Doesn't show the person what they expect to see, but draws them in." I believe what folks expect to see are flies and goat poop, the things that a barn always has. Here's where it gets tricky, we are going to show them a goat in a super hero's cape. Yup, that's Jen's first idea. Our slogan is "I make milk (that's the goat speaking). What's your super power?" Genius. I hope it works, because this year the flies are numerous enough to lift the whole operation off the pasture and carry it away... and the poop, we've got some.

I'll let you know if it works.

Want to buy some milk?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Happy Birthday #12 Chloe!

Today my beautiful daughter, Chloe, turned 12. I can remember being 12. In fact, that is really where the bulk of my memory begins and is pretty solid. That’s where I begin to remember emotions and feelings, as well as images. I hope that this year will be the beginning of really great memories for her too.
Giving birth to a baby is wonderful, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. However, when you adopt a baby you feel as if you have robbed a bank, pulled of the heist of the century. You come to a building and someone says, "Here she is, you may have her." They give you a human to keep. Instead of an obstetrician, you share this moment with a judge…and you are fully clothed.
We chose the name Chloe should we ever have a little girl. When we saw her on the internet, and her name was already Chloe, we knew she was our girl. Then when her foster mom told us that her middle name was Ann (my husband’s mom’s name) we knew God was at work. All the way home from Birmingham on March 18th, 1999, I felt sure that blue lights and sirens would show up in the rear-view mirror. I was certain that the officer would say, “Where’d you get that baby? I think I need to take her in.” I still can’t believe she is ours. Everyday of her life I feel honored that I get to share life with this remarkable young woman. I admire and respect her so much.
I was commenting to George the other day that I don’t remember teaching her to read. We struggled to remember which curriculum we had used. I frantically searched my memory for some image of being at the table or on the couch practicing phonics rules…nothin’. There was no memory because Chloe taught herself to read while I was busy chasing down and wiping things off of her baby sister, Hannah-Jo. She did this through an obsession with D’aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, so today I gave her a brand new copy of it (the other one is in pieces from over-use.)
Chloe asked for a purple full length sun dress, and I found one! Here she is in the lovely little number. Last year and this year we had bookshelves commissioned for Chloe’s birthday gift. We have a man in Gainesville that creates wonderful things from reclaimed barn wood. Chloe’s shelves are made from a barn c. 1930 from Banks County. They have a lovely rosey hue in the grain of the wood. The second one in the picture is for George’s birthday which is next week. Finally, a place to put all of their books!
This evening she is playing Sims with the new expansion pack she received from Ethan. Sunday she plans to shop with Joseph and Joni. On the shopping list is a wig and high heels (she and Hannah-Jo play dress up almost everyday. I found them pretending to be spawning mermaids the other day.)
Chloe is my right-hand farm girl. Should I expire tomorrow - she can do it all. She gets up at the crack of dawn because she is a chronic insomniac…too many books in bed. As soon as I scuffle out of my room in the morning she is ready to join me on the porch for milking and feeding. She has a natural gift with animals and is very intuitive. Now that I have said all of that she will want to be paid.
Happy Birthday Princess. I think we will keep you.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

On the heels of such sadness...

...we had a red letter day. God promises to bind up our wounds, and so He does.
The Gooneybush herd (George, Keri Jo, Hannah Jo, Nicholas and goats) participated in the Georgia Dairy Goat Breeders Association's annual goat show today at the Monroe Agricultural Center. It is a tremendous amount of work to prepare livestock for a show, and I always wonder why I do it. Especially once the goats are lounging in their suites and I'm the only one sweating and red in the face.

I was wondering that very strongly throughout the morning as my two senior does and my "senior" self came in last, or almost last, in every event that we entered. I thought that I would try my hand at the showmanship competition. Ha!. Myself and three other similarly aged women placed in a dead heat for the end of the line. As the judge commended the winners and the people in the mediocre range, he came to us and said, "Thanks for coming out, you were very brave." Let me interpret, what he really said was, smoothly like silk so as not to feel the piercing of the knife, "Considering your skill level you had nerve to enter the ring with the other folks." We (the three at the end) congratulated one another and agreed that we should celebrate at Cracker Barrel. That didn't happen, but the thought comforted us.

But after lunch this herd came back in power.

I knew that we had a hot lineup of young goats that could be competitive, but they are very young. Typically the awards go to the older does because they have had time to develop the desired characteristics, but sho' nuf, Enterprise, daughter of Discovery, mopped up first place in her class in both rings. She then went on to be grand champion in one ring, placing higher than does much older than herself. Hannah-Jo did a stellar job of showing Enterprise and the other goats, and received kind words from the judge. Her day was further brightened by the presence of her new friend Christy (to Hannah Jo's left in this picture.) She and her family, you will recall from a previous blog, acquired one of our Pyrenees puppies and two of our goats this past month. We were reunited for the weekend with those sweet animals and people. Our younger does Blossom and Buckets had respectable second and third place wins as well. To cap it off we won second place for herdsmanship, which is the award given for the way that you manage and present yourself and animals during the show. We are looking forward to watching this year's crop of kids grow and mature. In 2010 the herd holds promise. As usual, we pause to give credit to the two great herds from which the Gooneybush herd descends, the Dzimianski and Jug-Tavern herds. Thanks to to our goat mentor and strategist Sara Dzimianski. To our goat club and all of the folks that make these shows go...thanks guys!

In Memorium - Buddy Kouns1998-2010

Today has been a sad day. We are mourning the loss of our beloved Buddy, Himalayan extraordinaire. The loss is doubly hard because Buddy was my mother's cat. As long as he was living I had something tangible and living that had been precious to her. He slept at her feet with his poodle friend, Penny, every night until her death in October of 2003. Buddy made getting used to missing my Mom much easier for the last six and a half years.

Buddy had two close dog friends in his life, many dog friends, but two close ones. He loved his poodle friend Penny, my parents' dog. They were separated after the deaths of my parents which occurred only a year apart. Penny has continued to send Buddy Christmas cards and photos each year. They are a high point to our holiday season. His more recent canine pal was his Corgi friend, Dinah. Dinah could tell that her friend was not well and cleaned his face for him last evening. She slept for several hours beside him while he struggled to get comfortable. Buddy was never a companion to another cat.

Buddy liked children - sleeping children. Here he is holding vigil with our grandfriend Ben as he sleeps, he had a passion for quilts too.

Buddy and his litter mates were born in a patch of mint in our neighbors yard in May of 1998. They were the best smelling kittens ever. His mother, Vespa, was the meanest cat on wheels. I'm sorry to say that no one mourned her passing. My mother chose Buddy because she had a weakness for long haired cats and underdogs, Buddy was a bit of a weakling as a kitten. He flourished under my mother's care and became a thing of beauty. Piercing (very crossed) blue eyes and smokey fur, with a dark mane around his face, Buddy was the cat's meow.

We are grateful for our dear veterinarian and friend, Dr. Debbie Dzimianski, during times like these. She has laid three of our elderly animals to rest in the past couple of years. It's very nice to have a friend to administer this mercy. Buddy has been laid to rest here on the Gooneybush Farm, under the trees - right next to our departed dogs Jenna and Zena. A memorial bench is planned to mark their resting places. He is survived by his sister Sassy, who lives in Indianapolis, IN.

Rest in peace sweet boy. We will miss you terribly.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Promise Land

George, Nic and myself picked up the badly needed livestock trailer on Sunday. We got a late start for a same-day, round trip to the northeastern most tip of Tennessee (didn't get home until 2a.m and I had a twelve hour shift to look forward too.) Typical. I found the trailer on Craig's list. It's former owner is a fine and impressive young man with a name like a romance novel character, Clint Steele. Rail thin, blond, with a deep southern drawl and old-timey words, he is a biologist for the EPA and does something with mining permits. I admired a crate that he uses to transport goats in the back of his truck. "I cobbled that together," he said. WHAT?! Who says that? Apparently folks just miles from one of the oldest colonies in this great nation. Clint must be livin' right because he lives in one of the most beautiful places that I have ever seen, Bristol, Tennessee. He is a most hospitable individual and I'm sure he makes his mom proud. He offered us food, drinks and sent me home with some garden seeds, actually, lots of garden seeds. He gave me half-runner beans and peaches-n-cream corn. For all of his generosity he would not part with his greasy bean seeds. "I need those," he said. That, of course, made me want them. Never you mind Clint Steele, I found them at for $6/pack. They have seeds grown in the same family for the past 100 years or so, families from Clint's very county. These are the beans that my parents grew up with in eastern Kentucky too, they have no fuzz on their pods and it makes them look shiny. After cooking with a chunk of pork they look greasy-and taste delicious. My mom called this "cooking the beans down." We like them shriveled and salty.

On the table right next to the seeds was an old fashioned six shooter, disassembled, ready for cleaning. It had been a recent implement of mercy for a goat who had suffered two days and was making no improvement. He apologized for its presence. We assured him that we intended to pay for the trailer, firearms would not be necessary. It lightened the moment as he remembered shooting the poor goat.

We went to the barn to visit the goat's orphaned twins. Clint has a barn, a real barn. His barn makes mine look like a dog house. He and his wife purchased their property about a year ago. They recently painted the barn, and it is beautiful. Designed as a tobacco barn, it has spaces between the slats wide enough for me to stick my fingertips in. Those are there to allow a gentle breeze to come and dry the leaves which would hang in the upper stories of the barn. [If they were still growing tobacco that is. The government made rules against that for these farmers and they are having to come up with new pursuits. Clint went to college on a scholarship for the children of displaced tobacco farmers. That's nice of the government to do -after they tell you what to do with your land.] This barn might very well be four stories high. Looking up from the ground inside makes me feel like a tiny flea. The barn is put in perspective by the mountains which dwarf it. It is big to me, small to the mountains.

After making acquaintances, counting and recounting the money and signing the necessary papers, Clint got the truck and trailer turned around for us. He offered me some chicks on the way out. I declined because I am tired of chicks right now, they require too much babysitting. I have to raise chicks in early spring when my optimism is high. After a few of them drown in stupid places and get flattened for failing to see the thousand pound horse in their path, my optimism fails. I need a break from chicks in June.

The trailer is more than I'd hoped for. Clint and his wife are horse people who need more trailer than this. I am a goat person and it is perfect. Thanks Clint. Hope to see you again someday.

I love this land of promise. The Appalachian region is my favorite kind of place, so I might see him again someday. I love everything about these mountains. The mountains of my parents home-place look to cold and aloof for me, they dare you to live there. Eastern Tennessee, northwestern North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia are as good as it gets, their mountains say "Come hither," and they are green and friendly. One day I hope to live there with my goats, and George can come too - if he is nice.