Tuesday, July 19, 2016


The other day Katherine and I had to take yet another goat to the “pit of doom.” It was a big fat doe who got stuck on her back, couldn’t right herself, suffocated and died. Sadly, this sequence is not all that unusual. Dumb goats. This one was fat for two reasons: 1) she was being prepped for a show next weekend, and 2) she had two babies. Of course it’s always sad to lose a goat; but this was particularly sad because of the babies. We now have two orphan kids.
We bottle feed baby goats all the time. In fact, I’d venture to say that we have at least one bottle baby going for at least 8 months out of the year. Different goats, of course. So Katherine is all set up for it: nipples, bottles, milk. I won’t go into the details…again. Instead, I refer you back to "Kitchen Goats".
They are 5.5 weeks old, have been nursing well, and, in theory, could be weaned in 2.5 weeks. So what’s my problem? Being an orphan is sad. Or is it?
Goat - sort of
ANTHROPOMORPHIZE: “to attribute human form or personality to things not human.”
Do goats have emotions? Sorry to say that the answer is probably NO. At least not emotions that most of us humans have. They feel fear, but maybe not love, affection, anxiety, sadness, contentment. They get hungry – they eat. They don’t worry about it, or look for a pal to go to the hay feeder with. They “like” another goat and they try to have sex with it; no wining, dining, or texting.
When we found the dead mama goat (Kacie) in the pen, her two babies (Sock and Yogurt) were wandering around with the rest of the herd. Yogurt was looking a bit thin and was whining about milk, but other than that, nothing. They didn’t curl up with Kacie or stand vigil. Did they know? Besides having lost their food source, did they care?
On The Goat Farm, we see mama/baby relationships goat both ways. Little One is Blaze’s mom and those two are inseparable, even now that Blaze is 18 months old.
Little One  & Blaze (et al)
At some level, do they recognize each other as being “family”? Do they stay together because they look alike? (“Hey, you look like me. I think I’ll hang with you.”)

Maybe. But Blaze also has a BFF: Mark. Does she know the difference? And does Mark care?
Blaze & Mark
Some mamas and babies work as groups, a la “It-Takes-A-Village.” Mamas will babysit packs of babies. 
Sometimes The Babies go off in large packs, ditching The Mamas altogether (ok, that is like humans… just sayin’). On a side note, that baby in the front there is a bottle baby as are two others deeper in the back of the pile. They get integrated into the baby pile quite nicely. It’s all about heat from the group – like penguins I guess. 

Romantically, though, us Humans would like to believe that The Mamas and The Babies bond at birth. Imprint on each other for life. And, if they are lucky, they will live out their goaty-lives munching side-by-side at the hay feeder forever and ever. Like human families staying together. The End.
But things happen (with goats and people…). Usually, either The Babies or The Mama get sold and that’s the end of the relationship. Or, the baby/babies die. (Mortality rates in baby goats are very high – but that’s another blog post). Or The Mama dies. Like this time.
So, back to reality. Katherine made a pen for Sock and Yogurt in the garage with some straw, a bucket of water, a bowl of grain, a flake of hay, and a cozy little blanket. Every hour or so she took the bottle to the pen to teach the babies to eat off of it. The basic idea here is that goats WILL eat from a bottle when they get hungry enough.

And they did. So, now Sock and Yogurt will join our ever-growing ranks of bottle babies. (Lucky for me, it’s summertime and they can live outside instead of the kitchen – hooray!)
While Katherine has been acclimating these orphaned goats to their new existence, I have been pondering the concept of ORPHAN in general.
[I joke that my most attractive feature is that I am an orphan. Granny used to say, “When you marry the man, you marry his family.” As usual, Granny was right. In fact, she hit it out of the ballpark with that advice. Anyway…]
I was (am?) an only child of parents who separated when I was 3. My grandparents took a turn raising me for several years, so I became especially attached to them, too. (Probably more than my parents...)
When I was a mere 23-years-old—a veritable “babe in the woods”!—my father died after a six-month illness. Yikes. Life is fragile. Four years later, my grandfather died of old-age-related stuff. When I was 33 my grandmother died of more old-age-related stuff. Within the course of 10 years I was down to one parent: Mom. My least favorite parent at that. (Don’t worry, it’s not a secret. She and I came to terms with it in our own way).
Grandaddy, me, Daddy, Granny (ca 1984)
Six years later I got a phone call from Mom’s husband that she had died suddenly of some weird-ass thing. I won’t go into details.
Even, though I wasn’t particularly close to my mom, I was devastated. For about 12 hours.
For half a day, I wallowed in my laundry list of regrets:
I am sad that my father didn’t met ANY of my 7 children.
I am sad that I didn’t have an adult relationship with my father; he was a fascinating person and wickedly funny.
I am sad that I didn’t listen more closely to my grandfather’s WWII stories.
I regret not asking my granny what it was REALLY like to live on Guam in the 1950s during the Cold War while my grandfather was out doing secret Naval investigative stuff.
I regret not knowing enough to read-between-the-lines and ask Granddaddy about that secret Navy stuff in the 1950s.
I lament not asking Granny more about her life-changing bout of polio when she was 25 – when she had to abort her second child because of the virus wreaking havoc on her nervous system.
Yes, I’m even sorry that my Mom and I didn’t apologize to each other for being rotten to each other during my teen years. 
Boo hoo. Whoa is me. I cried myself to sleep.

And then the strangest thing happened. I woke from a deep sleep, sat straight up in bed, and said out loud, “I AM FREE!”
Somewhere in my subconscious, while processing my loss in my sleep, I realized that I didn’t have to live my life to please anybody else anymore.
My marriage of 18 years was in its death throes. My husband wasn’t at the house when I got the news about my mother’s death, and his response was “Ugh. Do I really have to come up there?” My response was a hearty: “NO.” I meant it. He was certainly not the person I wanted to console me and I didn’t have to pretend anymore that he was. (On a side note, he moved out of the house 31 days later. Hallelui.)
I didn’t have to be the hostess-with-the-mostest anymore. No more Opera Balls, Symphony openings, cocktail parties, client dinners.
I didn’t have to win the Mom Competition. No more over-scheduling the children. No more “Travelling Sports Teams.” No more horse shows. No more voice lessons. No more drama class. No more over-pressuring the children to beat their peers in EVERYTHING.
Done. I was so, so done. And no more parents were there to judge me about it. “Divorce, here I come!”
Seven years later, I live on a goat farm, with 7 children -- two from a man I did NOT marry -- and engaged to a man who’s religious preferences would’ve thrown my family into a hellish rage. Hah, take that!
I live my life as my most true self, and I couldn’t be happier.
Becoming an orphan was, hands down, the most liberating event in my life.
It is my most heartfelt wish that my own children (and you, too, of course) find that freedom, liberation and authenticity, too – preferably, without becoming orphans.

I'm sorry Mom.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Body Image, Goat Style

Does my butt look fat?
It's everywhere: Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Skype, Pinterest, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Twitter. My God. It's 24/7. It was hard enough to be a teenager when we were NOT physically attached to our camera. Now there is an unwritten expectation that kids will put themselves out there, literally, every single day with a continuous string of selfies to stay connected with their (loosely defined) “friends.”
In the process, they primp and preen and practice bizarre looking facial expressions from every angle. If the zoom function on their phone detects the tiniest flaw in their complexion, they delete the take and start all over again. And, wait, adults do it, too!
My thoughts, exactly
I have 2.5 teenage daughters (I’m counting the 12-year-old as a half teenager). One is currently obsessed with her body, which worries the other 2 who wonder if they should stress too. Monkey see monkey do.
Man Brain (sometimes)
Why do we do this to ourselves, girls?? To impress men? I got news for you: men are myopic. When they glimpse flesh, their brains go all fuzzy and they can't focus their eyeballs. And then, sometimes, they focus on some body part that you never even noticed - like your feet. But that's a story for another day.
Stop the madness. Stop taking pictures of yourself and dissecting your flaws! No one is lookin' that closely at you - I guarantee it.

Where am I going with this? Oh yeah, goats. I've been observing the herd and we could all learn a thing or two about body image from our caprine friends.

Fat goats <---> Skinny Goats

Yes, it's true. Some are fat and some are thin. Sometimes the fat ones get thin, and then the thin ones get fat. Go figure. Does it stop them from eating? No way.

Big Boobs, er, Udders

This is goat porn in the Pygmy Goat world. "Milking Doe Class" here we come.

Little Boobs, er, Udders

Eyeball asks, "Why are you looking at my butt?"
Yeah, so what?

Lopsided ... Udders

We can't all be perfect.

Bad Hair Day

Same feed, same hay, same environment. Way different coats. We all have bad hair days.

And sometimes we have good hair days, too.

"Ugly" Noses & “Pretty” Noses

Really, they are just DIFFERENT noses. It's comparing apples and oranges. Or, in this case, Boers and Pygmies.

Goats (and, ahem, people) come in all different shapes and sizes. Some days they are in "better" shape than other days. But that can change tomorrow!
Goats snarf down hay and grain with no concern for "getting fat." 
Goats don’t try to impress anyone. 
Goats make friends and live their lives. 
Goats are content with their imperfections and their authenticity.
We should be, too.