Wednesday, April 16, 2014

to live in this world

“To live in this world, you must be able to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go”  (Mary Oliver)
I just ran across this piece of a poem.  Or it could be the whole thing, I don't know, I haven't looked it up and explored it, at least not yet.

But it sure as h*ll brought to mind life on the farm.  If you live life at all on the farm,  even pretend with a few chickens and a few veggies, you experience this.  I believe if you live any kind of connected life at all, aligned life at all, engaged life at all, you experience this.  It is like seeing that time is an illusion in that you can see it all happens at once, no before and after, all at once.

So why do people hold things, heartache especially, close?  Suckle it?  Keep it alive and fresh?

Why do people live vicariously, through sports or schools or fandoms?

I mean, I believe it is for lack of what I call a "real life".  Which I think is life on the farm.  I'm reminded of a video we have of Scott Nearing wherein he says, "This is the good life," (the title of his books) then amends it to, "This is A good life."  That's what I'd say but so far I see few other examples.  Ok, none I can think of at the moment.

Let me tell you, when someone says, "You can't grow anything in my yard, " I say, "You mean, you don't have the skill to grow anything useful in your yard.  Lots of stuff grows there.  You are just an idiot."  And if that is harsh, well, duh.  What did you think you were going to get from me?  Coddling?  Saying that making the same choices and being sad and stressed in the same way was ok?  No.  You always knew better.  Now be honest about it and quit hiding behind the chain link fence.

When Scott says, "There's nothing I need," he means it.  Now I'll tell you, sometimes I think, boy I'd like struts on my van but you know, I'm not thinking that "counts" as a want/need.  Sure, we'll have to do it, and we'll get there, but does it have to be done exactly now?  What for?  And sometime I think, boy, I'd like to go to that Buck clinic, or that McLaury clinic, or that Peter Campbell clinic, or go be a working student for Kathleen Beckham but with those, when it really becomes important enough for me to do, I'll do it.  Neither money nor the lack of it essentially changes my life.

What really changes my life is whether the pear blossoms got frozen off last night.  What brings meaning to my life is making a good meat and three supper for my family tonight.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

not what I think but what I see. from here. and now.

 undiscovered nest

 goat and violets

 senecio (rag wort)
I swear I take this photo every year.  This year's photo of coltsfoot, however, wasn't in focus!

 coon trap stands sentry

 girl weeds then puts manure on raspberries

 fava beans

The time of year I call All Hope and No Weeds and the thing that makes me laugh at people who tell me what all they are going to have in their garden.  Honey, you don't ever know.

 peach blossoms

 sun and sky shine in the willows

forest weavings

Monday, February 17, 2014

burning thought

The thought that has been burnt inside my brain lately is:

Are you worth what is costs for you to live in the world?

So, are you?  Am I?  It certainly isn't a foregone conclusion.  For any of us.

And there are of course two ways to approach this if it concerns you:  one is to be worth more, and one is to cost less.  Best is both.

I think this came into my head in this way because of someone I "met".  I met him at the Buck clinic last year.  I thought he was just a young cowboy overly eager to learn since he never even let the poor horse he was working with rest ever.  I knew he was going to several Buck clinics last year but, hey, there I was at my first one and I could imagine that one might figure out how to get to several in a year as a way to really learn something.

But more recently I found out that he graduated from Harvard some unknown time ago, spent a year at Parelli campuses (not cheap either), and is again this year planning on attending at least 5 Buck clinics.  How in the world does one do that?  Well, obviously, he's wealthy to begin with.  Jet here, jet there.  Is he worth what it costs for him to live in the world? 

Yes, I have to say, I very seriously doubt it.

And then I thought of someone else I know.  She used to be a bank teller, years and years ago.  I think most recently she "retired" from being a home health nurse and works in upscale women's retail.  Husband is, I think, with the county highway department.  And they vacation two or three times a year in New York City.  How in the world does one do that?  Because I know they didn't inherit money.

What world is it that I live in?

I look hard askance at one Buck clinic.  I look harder askance as to whether I am going to do it again this year or not.  I wonder sometimes at our level of luxury.

I am floored by the entitlement that I see.  Not what you hear about on talk radio but the entitlement of the rich (which includes, in all my poverty, me).  A doctor recently talked to me about her "just deserts".  Because of school.  Because of a debt she'd long long ago paid off.  As if I didn't go to school and didn't pay off my debt.  But she said this health care reform was "all about money" although I cannot for the life of me see how exactly has it not been about money before?  As long as she could say, "You can have any treatment you like, as long as you can PAY for it," it wasn't about money.  To her. 

Are you worth what it costs for you to live in the world?

I think I'll go wash some dishes and make some bread and maybe think about making a cake, and watch the goats bounce around and think getting some hay and maybe the Parelli clinic and . . . yep, go through the mail I've put back and organize the income and outgo. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

committed action rambling thoughts

This post was inspired by Alecto because she wrote this.  I begin the quote with what she said about her brother, and end it with what it is about, because my point here is that it is not about me.

"I admire my brother very much and it’s not because of what he does for a living. That part is hardly relevant. It’s how he is in the world.
"CG is another story entirely. It’s too much to go into here but a lot of years ago (it is now officially a lot of years) she decided she wanted to ride horses again. Given her life choices this didn’t exactly fit within the lines and there wasn’t an easy answer. There could be a lot of talking about it or even more easily a lot of talking about why not but that isn’t what happened. What happened is that CG started riding horses again in a really huge and incredibly empowering way. Seriously. And she didn’t have the answers either. She still doesn’t have the answers to how she’s going to get to what’s next. Sometimes she doesn’t even know what’s next, there’s just a what’s next because of how and who she’s being. CG is in a constant state of growth, movement and what’s possible. And people, here’s the most important part of all. This is effing earth shattering if you can actually let it in:
"The Contrary Goddess did not have the authority or necessarily agreement to do or cause any of this. She just reached for it. Period. End of story.
"I’m pointing this out because it is a way to live in the world. I might just as well tell my brother’s story or even part of mine or talk about what Elizabeth is doing right now and how we’re getting there (and how we have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what comes next or how we’re going to do it or how we might be crazy and how people look at us and blah fucking blah). CG’s is a really good story.
"Committed Action."

And so you see, the title of my post (and hers).  Which could also be, How does one get somewhere?  It could also be,  How does anyone get anywhere?  And it could also be, Wherever you go, there you are.  Except we're talking about not just floundering around aimlessly, and not just treading water, and not just failing.  I say not just failing because failing is what we do all the time and you better be able to look at it in some other way but at the same time, calling a failure a win is stupid.  Or counterproductive.  Or something.

Like debt.  Never say never, but debt is still bad.  If you have to "swing" something, you can't afford it.  Like school is the most inefficient way to learn anything so if you go to school and accrue that debt, it better be for something other than learning.  Usually it is for being smallerized -- you know, the peg made to fit the hole.  Like if a man is trying to smallerize you, walk, do not pass go, do not collect $200, walk away.  Power runs in a lot of directions and encompasses a lot of things so pay attention.

So what I was saying was about committed action, and getting somewhere.  I'll tell you up front that a lot of the time you don't know where that is, not really.  But something inside you does, actually.  And so you do it.  And it goes somewhere, maybe somewhere you never dreamed of, and maybe somewhere that you did or did NOT dare to dream of.

My riding, and my riding for Buck is an example of that.  There are tons of examples of that throughout this blog.  Another example, and honestly I don't know if the fuller story is on the blog or not, is us homesteading entire, finding this land, building the house I'm sitting in.  Who knew?  We certainly didn't, not these details.  But we did.  Kids are like that, at least well parented kids I think.  You know (as a parent) that the kid is calling himself into existence, but how it turns out, shockingly beautiful, heart aching too.  There it is, its own thing.  And maybe you are riding a raindrop, or maybe you are watching a bird fly, but there is an element of committed action and there is an element of letting go, no control, or as I have said, opening the hand

To not do whatever it is that makes your heart sing (if indeed you have something -- I'm not entirely convinced everyone does, but I'm certainly not convinced that everyone doesn't, and I'm pretty darn convinced that even those that don't sing, hum) is sad.  Tragic even.  And we know these people -- people who, when they touch, even see at a distance, that which they love, they cry, or rage.  And to some extent, who doesn't but I know that longing means I have to move toward it.  When something scares you, move closer, stay longer. Don't cry and say "impossible".  At least not for very long.

The other side is the expectation part, and it is the part I think that causes the avoidance of the heart singing thing to begin with.  Let's take Alecto's Elizabeth, a dancer:  She could be in the ABT or she could be a dance teacher for pre-schoolers in SW VA.  The best dancer I ever knew personally was just that, the latter, a dance teacher.  Is one "success" and one "failure"?  Take my own dreams at that age:  the Olympics.  Maybe I just wasn't good enough, that's a most likely possibility.  And almost certainly, I didn't want to live the life that one has to live to get there, the pressures, the compromises that absolutely will be made if one gets there.  (well, at a young age I probably would have lived anything and compromised anything to get there but I didn't know what and in old age I'm glad I didn't)  I didn't know until much much later that there was another possible success, or a hundred million other possible successes.  What I think causes the avoidance is the fear of failure, or the surety of it, when "success" is defined so narrowly.  When I was that age, I was afraid of mediocrity, I thought only those hyper sorts of goals would keep me out of that.  Even a good bit later, as a student, I made a 4.0 and not out of joy either, but fear.  But that is not where "excellence" is.

Gardens and bread and cheese, and horses for that matter, are great because they tell you right away and without prejudice if you failed or succeeded but without the competition.  So where I am now with horses (and I got there through this life that this family has lived on this farm) is seeking excellence with the horse, himself.  And it isn't a narrow thing, really.  I mean, you can chase it, but it is about improving the self, not the thing.  It is Robert Lundberg's idea of, one cut and good enough.  The Dorrance/Hunt thing of setting it up and letting the horse find it -- you improve how you set it up; there is no need to improve the horse.  Of course, the horse does improve.  Like the bread (mostly) improves the more you make it. 

Excellence is internal.  But it will show externally.  But if it IS internal, whether it shows externally at the Olympics or in the back field doesn't matter.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

cows and quiet

Our cows are missing.  They do this sometimes but never for so long (this is third day) and we've always been able to find them OR they came home and we even have HAY for them . . . sigh.  So I'm a little sick with worry, imaginings.  This is how I do it: with fear, with "we won't be able to do this again", with catastrophe especially as rifle season is next week.  And still hopefully it won't be any of that.  But that is my secret life.

So I went for a VERY long walk in the woods.  "Woods" being National Forest.  "Long" being like 3 1/2 hours of solid walking.  And tracking.  And listening.  And trying to figure.  So at this point I know some more places they have been, and some places they haven't been as of this afternoon.

But what I was really thinking about was how quiet it is.  The noise tells me there is a chickadee, there is a grouse, there is a crow, there is a deer moving almost silently.  At one point there was a distant chainsaw and every time it started up is sounded like "mooooo".  But it wasn't.  That was the only external to the forest sound tho.  No planes today.  And so much silence.  So much absolutely quiet.  I was thinking about how we generally live pretty quietly ourselves and yet this was so much more.  I was thinking about how it would drive so many batsh*t crazy to find themselves alone with only the noise in their heads.

Me, I loved it.  And as much as I was hoping to round a bend and find the cows and drive them home, I thoroughly enjoyed the tracking too.  The left palm was always open to feel it -- I noticed that.  The temperature varied wildly too -- in one spot, I'd be wishing I could take off my coat (bright pink a better choice than blue flannel for muzzle loader season) and then around the bend I'd be zipping it up to my neck and donning the wool hat and winter gloves.  Then soon enough, around a bend so that I wasn't strictly on the north side of the slope or the wind quietened, and I would be ripping the hat off my head and stuffing it into a pocket.

When I came out onto the road and walked the more public path home, I did not like it so much.  Two boys talking loudly at each other where George and Tina's old place burned down.  A truck pulling out of Coy and Roy's with a dog yapping after it.  Same dog approaching me eventually but easily turned with zero eye contact and gentle speaking.  The mailman -- he was the good part.  A white truck with old tires in the back driving past me then turning -- but he had not dumped them at the turnaround when I got there.  Finally sounds from our closest neighbor's house where he is trying to make a one house suburbia -- the one sodium vapor light was not enough so now he has two, and all sorts of spot light things on every corner of his house and building as though, as though.  But the our land, ours.  Safe.

Cows, please come home.  There's hay.  I know you want a bull.  But there's hay.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

helooooooo out therrrrrrrrrrrrrre . . .

I got a call this morning.  I don't do the phone much.  Give me e-mail.  Give me blogs.  Give me facebook.  Nice lady.  She and her family are getting into homesteading.  Lots to her story (as there is for all of us, and I do love people's stories).  She was asking a lot of homesteading questions and, you know, I'm no expert -- we've just done it for years.  It is a YMMV thing.  What we've done works for us, and yet we are always changing it.

Anyway I am not on the phone going to try to answer the question, "How do you slaughter a chicken."  Actually the question was more on the lines of, "How do you eat a goat."  I don't actually think I've handled that particular one on this blog although we've done it, many times.  Goats, even females, even slaughtered right, even aged right, can taste a bit "strong", can be a bit stinky.  Then you cook by boiling adding vinegar every so often and letting that smell vaporize, mostly.  And maybe add barbeque sauce.  People are accustomed to bland.  Food from your homestead isn't bland.

Anyway, she had questions so I said, "Hey, I kept a blog for years.  Why don't you go there and see what you can find?  I don't write much over there anymore but I did for years."  So this post is to say, "HI KIM!"

And this post is to say, does anybody besides me still make the no knead bread that was so popular some years ago?  Here's the link to my version back then.  My version today looked like this:

Yes, they are that big.  I used 10 cups of flour in each loaf.  Just look at that crust curl on that front one!  Woohooo!  I'm thinking it was 5 cups of water, five tsp. of salt of course, a bit of yeast, and actually, a bit of whey off of yogurt to give the bacteria a good start.  That is probably supposed to kill you or something when you are leaving the stuff sitting out for a whole 24 hours or more.  But it is what I did.

This is how I cooked it:

Our outdoor caldron with a lipped lid is BIG, thus the big loaves.  Before I did 8 cups in it -- 10 is better, fits better.  It is a trick to cook like that because it is pretty much by instinct.  You have no real idea how hot the thing is.  I added coals, I guessed, I measured both loaves at about 40 minutes and neither was done in that time.  I think they both took more than an hour, and lots of added coals.  If I'd had a better bed of them to start with maybe.  The second fire is to keep coals coming because I cooked not only both loaves of bread but also am even as I write this roasting some chicken and carrots with cinnamon.  We'll see how that comes out.  I just try to see how much I can cook in there at a time once I get it going.  Today was about the limit as I'm tired of fire tending and cooking.

I was thinking as I was fire tending, though, how I used to think a lot about peak oil and how cooking like we do is so independent energy wise.  It is scrap wood, all around us.  Even burning it ads nothing to any environmental impact as it was going to rot anyway and that is just rapid oxidation vs. slow oxidation.  I don't think much about it anymore probably because we are so used to living it.

And in thinking of that first paragraph up there, how we are always changing what we do and yet mostly doing the same things -- you know I have this thing that people don't change, not really.  Not that it is impossible but it is rare.  There was this liar in our lives once a long time ago and she said, I won't lie any more, and we said, if you haven't lied to us in the next three years, then we'll believe you.  I think that stability allows for real change which is transformative.  Changing all the time, flitting this way and that, hither and yon, that's only surface change, not substantive.  And not getting anywhere.  Not that I want to get anywhere, but there are places I don't want to be so perhaps what I am doing is moving away from those.

And I was thinking about conformity and how I just can't do it.  And how the people I truly appreciate have never been able to pull it off either.  Neither to the mainstream nor to the counter-stream as it were.

This was my favorite photograph --

well darn, can't get it to load it right now but it is the deaf cat, supervising, from the tree that fell down just a few days ago, with the caldron and the fire in the background.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

no one is watching because no one can see

The free range old man horse of the farm came and stood in the wash rack.  Since his companion died he's become one of the barn hands rather than bond with another horse -- he comes and "helps" with chores.  Or maybe he just wants in a stall with a fan for awhile, and some carrots.  One day he stood in the wash rack.

He has some sort of metabolic thing and is on some sort of thyroid supplement but still grows long hair.  He has been clipped but could use another this summer.  I looked at his breathing.  I asked him if he wanted a shower.  He just looked at me with that way he always does.  If you could only imagine what a person he is, and I'm not anthropomorphizing.  I told him (because I do swear he understands English) that I would have time that day to hose him after I finished chores.

And when I hosed him down I told him that I'd be glad to do it anytime that I had time.  If I weren't rushed (and it is rare that I am), all he had to do was stand in the wash rack and I'd hose him off.  So pretty much every afternoon that I've worked since then, that's what he's done.  Then he usually goes to find something that looks dirty (like old shavings) to roll in and then goes somewhere shady and near a field with equines in it and hangs out.

This morning during chores, for the first time ever, he left a stall and went and stood in the wash rack and watched me.  I looked at him and said, "I hear you."  When I was finished with the stalls but hadn't swept the floor yet, I hooked up the hose to the cold water, turned the sprayer to "shower", and hosed him down.  Then I turned the sprayer to "jet" and did it again.  Then I put it on mist and did his face.  Then I scraped him.  And as soon as I was done, he walked out of the wash rack and out of the barn.

But it was while I was hosing him that I had deep thoughts.  Or feelings.  This old man horse, with the sway back and the spinal arthritis, with the propensity to buck if your leg is a bit off, with the eye that tells you that he's on equal terms with you and you'd better know that, I love him.  And not just love him.  Hosing him, I have huge feelings of gratitude that he allows me this service to him. 

It is I believe what they call compassion.  And I have it toward everything, all the time.  Although anyone who knows me would laugh at that because I have huge issues with people.  There is in people, in me too, this illusion of self, this ego.  And it gets in the way of, I swear, everything.  This horse, he is just perfect.  Perfectly himself, perfectly the universe, perfectly the microverse.

And I hose him and feel gratitude.

And my friend hugged me.  She said I encouraged her but really all I said was, "Let's ride."  And I'd like to tell her how precious friendship is to me, how I don't trust it, how I am likely to not be able to live up to it.

And my husband says, "I like you," and I really hope that is true although 24 years would lead one to believe it and not believe it too.

It is all this ego crap.  All this not BEing.  When I feel longing, it is longing to be past that ego crap.  When I feel full and whole and at peace, it is what is beyond ego crap.  When I am afraid, which is a lot, I am afraid for my ego, no doubt.  When I am mad, likely I'm mad at your ego.

Then I go back to that hosing that horse's ribs.  I go back to the blade of grass, the aqua sky backdrop to clouds.  I go back to the person before spikes, under armored plates.  And the heart there is open.  It doesn't open -- there is no act or process of opening.  Where there is no ego, it is open.  It is closed where there is ego.

There is no process, there is no path.  There might be practice.  There is certainly habit.  And resistance.  It is like surrendering when giving birth -- there is no way to DO it except to let it happen.  And deal with what comes up in the mean time.  There are choices to make that increase it or decrease it.  And yet still, no process.

You choose the method, you choose the results.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

I do not run the show

What would I write if I were to write something right now of my homesteading life?  I would probably write that my kids do most of it.

I'm doing a lot of horsing now.  I still make cheese but the kids do most of the milking.  I still make bread when I have an oven going.  I still cook, or help cook, and clean, or help clean.  But I don't run the show.

I do not run the show.

Used to we'd have some friends up and they'd get "the tour".  Now the kids might have some friends up, and they are amused to find themselves giving "the tour".  And cleaning the bathroom beforehand!

I think about the chicks they had and how they learned that if they didn't take care of them, the chicks DIED.  That's a harsh lesson.  Some lessons are harsh, plain and simple.  They have compassion that isn't an idea in their heads but actions in their lives.  Choices.  But yes, they do wear helmets and seat belts without fail.

And yeah, I'm proud of them.  They are fun and funny and smart. 

I hope they are also proud of me.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


I find her eyebrows to be incredibly unfortunate.  But really, this talk is worth listening to, worth considering.

One thing I know about this is that people will give you just about anything.  All they have to have is some idea that you might need or even just want something, and some idea that you'd be gracious about being given a gift.  I couldn't even begin to recall all the various and sundry things we've been given, by various and sundry friends/acquaintances/strangers.

Another thing I know is that very often, far too often, people "give" you stuff with strings attached.  Either refuse that "gift", or cut or ignore the strings -- that's the ONLY way to live with that.  And for goodness sakes, don't ever "give" someone something unless you are really free in your soul to GIVE it to them.  And that even means, frankly, what you sell to them -- quit trying to control every.little.thing.  You are not in charge.

I know that there is a lot of . . . pressure is not quite the right word . . . disapproval is but doesn't capture it all . . . disdain . . . dismissal . . . derision . . . more sorts of things like that, a lot of that directed at alternative choices.  Of all sorts.  Everyone has their version of the folks driving by shouting "get a job", or the internet critics of your success.  The further away you are from the dominant paradigm, the freer people are to subject you to this.  Of course, you are a participant and so can, by and large, not participate, but it is still in the background.

But the overwhelming thing in Amanda's speech is the fair exchange.  It is something that, in my mountain culture, I'm accustomed to -- we want to do business in a way that each person participating feels like they got the best part of the deal.  And there is, of course, a large portion of "no skin off my nose" that goes on -- you need some gravel and I've got some, sure I'll bring you some buckets, you've got some extra hay . . . .

Sunday, February 24, 2013

& what is "community"?

I ask that in all seriousness.  I'll listen to your answers but I am likely to not agree with many of them I think.  Because community, a false sense of community, is what I have fallen out with perhaps the most people about.  And maybe I'll come back and talk about it later.  Or maybe not.  Who knows.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

what are our principles?

More baby goats, another set of triplets, and of course, one of the coldest nights of  the year.  We weren't particularly expecting these -- her bag hadn't gotten noticeably larger.  And that may have been one of the problems.  But that isn't my story.

My story is this:  One of the babies was smaller and got weak within the first 24 hours.  I tried to help her nurse, as mom has great milking teats but they are a bit large for newborn nursing.  She was past wanting to nurse.  Oh well, I thought.  Then one of the kids asked, "Can't you do anything?"  Well, yeah, I could tube milk into her.  I have a friend who's had expensive goats who's done this, so I asked him.  Yes, he's done it, and he's never had one live.

And it made me think.  Those goats were born, all girls, and I have to admit that one of the things I thought about was how much I could sell them for.  When I knew that one would die, I thought, hmmm, I've "lost" money in the same way the Enron et al. folks "lost" money.  That is a paradigm that we've actively moved away from, this something from nothing, this money-centeredness.  Although you'll have to admit a goat baby is about as real as you can get.  Still, infanticide is natures favorite form of birth control.  Still, don't count your chickens before they hatch.

And that made me think about how easy it is to start with the interventions.  All it takes is that certain knowledge that this goat will die if you do nothing.  After all, last month that knowledge made me reach into a goat's uterus.  This month, will it make me tube feed a goat?  And if I tube feed a goat, and it *still* dies (as the stuck goat eventually died), will that make me certain that getting goats to live is indeed a difficult thing to do and so I need to buy all the more into interventions to prevent such?

And that made me think about a Pat Parelli quote:  "Keep your ambitions tempered by your principles."  It is my personal opinion that Mr. Parelli didn't think too much about principles as they relate to consumerism, but that doesn't mean he didn't hit the nail on the head.  Lawd knows we all fall short.  But what ARE our principles?  Is it to turn goats into money?  Or to have a herd that produces healthy meat and milk naturally without intervention and basically for free?

What ARE our principles?  It is a question that we must always ask ourselves, always.

ps  This is post 666 of this blog.  There are no coincidences.

Monday, January 14, 2013

New Year 2013

My new year morning was greeted with these words:  "Mom, Bobbie is in labor and one leg is sticking out."

I had my own babies at home.  "Birth: as safe as life gets."  Etc.  In all the years we've kept goats, I've had my hands in exactly one uterus and that only because I knew she was dying and was just making sure it wasn't something I could do something about.  We've also had kittens, puppies, and cows born on the farm.  Zero intervention.  Sometimes I've been allowed to watch, sometimes the mother preferred to birth alone.  The old Belgian loved playing midwife, LOVED babies, it was so funny.  Every female dog we've had always wants to mother everything too it seems.  But the thought of birth intervention, well, I truly do know how rarely it is truly needed.

But when you hear "one leg sticking out" you know what that means.  The likelihood of death is high.

It was a front leg, and after washing my hands several times and using the iodine I had leftover from the "just in case" stash I had when I had my own babies, I gently put my hands in her uterus and rather quickly found another front leg.  But it didn't match the one that was out in that it was skinnier than the one that was out.   I put it back in.  I took some more time to feel around.  I could feel that one other  leg, a head, I could feel a heartbeat and rather assumed at that time that it was an umbilical cord so I knew at least someone was still alive.  What I was afraid of with the "other" front leg was that it was somehow another baby goat and I'd end up getting two in the birth canal at once and get them really really stuck and everyone would die a slow awful death.

So I did the thing that has saved me and my animals on more than one occasion:  I stopped time and listened.  Essentially I ask the universe, "What can I do?" and then I know.  Yeah, I know what that sounds like.  But considering that I used to be *the world's worst* at picking good produce until I learned to form the question in my mind, "Which of these needs/wants to go home with me?  Which do we need?" and then hear the response, well, yeah.  So anyway.

My hands were just slightly into the birth canal, on the shoulder that was presenting.  I waited for a contraction and when she had one, I provided the slightest amount of traction.  And a baby came out.  And the momma was entirely intact if a little dazed.  And to my great and huge surprise, the baby was alive and trying to breathe.  I cleaned out it's nose, dried it a little, stuck it in the dry corner with a little extra hay and left mom and baby alone while I went to . . . figure out what to do next and wait for the next thing to happen.

I was concerned about infection since I'd had my hands in her uterus, so I called a friend who'd raised high dollar meat goats to ask him about prophylactic antibiotics.  We talked for awhile, his experiences, which antibiotic, blah blah.  He'd said he'd done it on high dollar nannies but he'd also not done it, after intervening, and as long as they'd cleaned out (their uterus) fine, he hadn't had a problem.  He also talked for awhile about getting the babies warm.

By the time I got off the phone, she'd had two more babies.  I actually thought for a minute that she was having a forth but very thankfully it was the afterbirth.  We helped the babies dry off.  Mom was interested in them.  All was good.  Except it was a cold, drippy wet day and I knew the stuck baby would take awhile to heal up from that birth.  How to manage?  How to choreograph life so that everybody has a chance to live?

We have a couple of giant dog crates.  I told the kids to bring one in, put it where I usually sit to eat, in front of the kitchen fire.  There was some incredulity but no one wants baby goats to die and I just knew, this was our best shot to get all of them to live.  I'd watch for infection but wouldn't give antibiotics unless there was a reason to.  They'd be warm and well fed, which was what WE could do, and the rest would be up to them.

The stuck goat didn't die that first night, even though we all really expected that he would.  He didn't stand so we held him to nurse several times a day.  We let momma out during most of the day.  We let the mobile baby goats out with her for a bit.  At 48 hours, the stuck goat stood on his own.  Walked.  Nursed.  Even competed to nurse, but it is competition for food and comfort that will kill things so we also made sure he had some time when his momma's udder was full to nurse, alone.  As the days passed, he did increasingly well.  But he was always lighter and slower than the other two.  He'd also ask each and every chicken if she didn't have an udder.  Each person.  Each dog.  Even the occasional tree.  He seemed to not entirely know he was a goat.

Now one thing I am absolutely sure of is that if we'd taken him away from his momma and siblings, he would never have lived through that first night.  When I was talking to my friend with the meat goats, he'd said, "The darn things don't have a will to live."  I knew what he meant, but I've found that family, mommas of the same species, make all the difference.  And there is no form of replacement milk or colostrum as good as your OWN momma's.  When he couldn't stand, sometimes he'd get stepped on.  He'd complain.  Not to be too anthropomorphic here but I think that essentially gave him the motivation to get up.  Maybe without that he wouldn't even have known he was supposed to.

On day six they took up residence outside full time, overnight included.  Momma gathered them on the porch ready to come in, but we made her a hay bed in her corner and she was ok with that.  During the day sometimes the stuck goat would get stuck again, when his sibs would clamber over a log that he couldn't figure out mostly.  But he'd figure it out, or sometimes raise enough fuss that we'd go see what was wrong and reunite him with his family.

On day eight we woke up and he was dead.  Peacefully in their corner.

That was that.

Now know, that is life on the farm.  It IS sad.  But I was surprised when he hit the ground and was trying to breathe; that he wasn't already dead then.  I am grateful to have been able to get him out at all, so that his mother and his siblings could live, because very easily they could have all been dead.  We have two live healthy bouncy capricious baby goats, and a sweet momma.

People still ask me how in the world we eat our goats, or our rabbits, or our chickens.  We just do.  Like I just put my hands in that goat.  Like we pull a carrot out of the ground, or cut a cabbage off.

2013.  I remember a very specific incident in 2006 when I said to a person that by 2012 the world would not be recognizable to her.  I still think that is true.  I said last year that the world HAD ended, just that people were too stupid and too entrenched in their need for the status quo to notice.

Do you remember being 13?  I do.  I've set some challenges for myself this year.  Riding for Carol.  Riding for Buck.  I've got a lot to work out.  Maybe I'll find my old confidence without ego.  Maybe fear and hurt will be resolved.  And then there is family, the eternal blessed creation dance of abundance.  And the farm, the sustenance.  I do not promise to blog a lot, but when I have something to say . . .