Sunday, February 7, 2010

Farewell, My Lovelies

This afternoon, Blossom and Virginia Slim left, never to return. My goat herding days are done, this time for good.

It is the end of an era that began in 1975, when we bought our first house and with it an orchard, a garden, berry bushes and a few chickens. My mother visited and said "Now all you need is a little goat..." And in a week I had a little goat, only because goats are herd animals I had to get a second goat for company.

Over the next thirty years, whenever we lived in the country, I had a couple of goats, for milk, for cheese, for company. These last two were Nigerian Dwarfs, the reasoning being that little goats would be easier to handle, would not drown us in daily gallons of milk, would require fewer bales of hay, less work. But when I had to stop milking at Christmas because of shoulder pains that are still with me, I couldn't see myself going through the whole breeding/kidding/milking cycle again. The chronic fatigue syndrome that dogs me is not getting better with the years. I finally had to admit that keeping goats no longer made sense.

As I agonized over the process of putting Blossom and Virginia Slim on the market and letting them go to some unknown place, the heavens sent me the ideal buyer--a gentle woman seriously dedicated to building a Nigerian herd, knowledgeable, and recommended by my long-time goat guru. I took it as a sign and went ahead with the deal.

This afternoon I put collars on Blossom and Virginia Slim and led them up the dog-ramp into their new owner's Jeep, where a thick bed of hay awaited them. I took a last look into their bright little faces, those eyes that--unique among ruminants--sparkle with cleverness and intelligence, and wished them well. I know they'll be happy. For one thing, they're going to a farm tht has bucks, and that is what they have literally been screaming for the last few weeks. So they will be fine.

Me, on the other hand...There is no question that I will not miss the 7 a.m. expeditions to the barn in sub-zero weather, nor the milking that crippled my arm so that every move was painful. But oh, the smell of the place, and those bright eyes, and the way they stood still as if hypnotized when I brushed them. I will miss them in the spring, when the dandelions come out and I would let them gorge themselves while I picked blossoms for dandelion wine. I will miss the uniquely peaceful feeling that you get sitting in a field with goats grazing around you. I will miss the milk and the cheese and generally being a goat lady.

But it's time to let it go. I've been reading Buddhist texts lately, which helps. And I remember what Colette said: "On ne possede qu'en s'abstenant." You can only possess by abstaining. If so, I will forever possess Blossom and Virginia Slim--their lithe little bodies, their perfect udders, their long, refined necks, their upright ears, their cleverness.

This time, it's time to let it go for good. I have asked my spouse, if ever he sees that goat-gleam in my eye again, to sit on my head and not let me fall prey to my obsession. To everything there is a season, and my season for goat keeping is past.

I will still have my hens, and that is all I need to provide compost for the garden, which will feed us, and them, and they in turn will feed us with their eggs. With chickens and a garden, you can still have a homestead, right? Those four Buff Orpingtons better watch out--there's a whole lot of loving coming their way.

11 comments :

  1. I am sad to hear this--I'll miss them--but glad you found a good buyer for them, and hopeful that your shoulder pain resolves soon!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Here's to a new era in your life. Can you visit them at least?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm so glad I visited you and met them. They were very sweet animals and we have the great pictures of them too :-) But all living creatures take work to maintain and three dogs and four chickens and each other are enough for you two. (I thought there were seven chickens, though?)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Aw, it's hard to let go of an era in life. I hope the chickens suffice. Although I must say that your king charles spaniel would be plenty for me.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Alison and Dona, thanks. I've been invited to visit, but not sure I should. Better a clean break.

    mrb, yes, too many critters. Re:chickens. The elderly seven have been transmuted into heavenly chicken stock. We now have four lovely Buff Orpingtons, young and laying well.

    Bridgett, I must say that some days I think Bisou is plenty around here too.

    ReplyDelete
  6. And I, who never had to take care of them, will miss them too.

    I am having trouble believing you. I am looking forward to seeing Ed sit on your head.

    ReplyDelete
  7. If he does, we'll call you so you can be a witness. But I don't think he'll have to.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I've so enjoyed reading about your goats.
    You've been a surrogate goat owner for me as I can't have them presently.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anonymous, we can still be goat ladies in our hearts.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Lali-
    I am sad to hear that your goat herding days are past. I know from reading about them here just how much you loved and cared for them.

    Partly inspired by you and this blog, I brought home my first goats last night. They're nothing fancy-- no papers or anything. The doe is a mutt of a goat, I suppose. She looks like a Nubian but is only 24 inches high at the withers. The buck is a tiny African pygmy several inches shorter than she is. We got them both at auction. Hopefully we'll have a couple of tiny kids running around the yard before too long.

    I only hope I am half the goat-mama that you have been!

    Joya

    ReplyDelete
  11. Joya, Congratulations! A new era is beginning for you, and one that I hope will be full of joy, milk, cheese, and other good things. If your doe has African blood, which sounds probable, she'll come into season year round, so you may very well have babies five months from now. I'll be glad to answer any questions, and I will be looking forward to goat-related posts on your blog.

    ReplyDelete