Sunday, March 6, 2011

Seeing Goats

This weekend Matilda chased me in the pasture. Again. When that heifer comes at you it's horns down, snorting (bellowing), kicking, and head tossing. Her constant heat cycles, access to grass, and the cool, sunny weather are to blame for this weekend's bad behavior. But I keep finding excuses, and at some point enough has got to be enough.

The thing is that I'm real good with animals. In fact, after reading Temple Grandin's book, Animals in Translation, I felt sure I must have a mild case of autism which she says accounts for her inexplicable ability to understand animal behavior. Although I'm not a bona fide animal whisperer, I've rarely had trouble taming ornery creatures. But that damn cow refuses to be tamed; at least to a level that makes me comfortable. And no, if you wondered, I don't take for granted the fact that 90% of the time she allows me to drape myself over her back, scratch her ears, and inspect her udders (to get her used to milking - not because I'm creepy). What concerns me are the intermittent explosive bursts of kicks and screams and head-down-chases through cactus. It's just not how I like to spend a Saturday. Add to this that we just learned the cows have been frequenting the neighbors pasture via a small hole in the fence, and you have a very unhappy cattle wrangler.

Let's be honest, for someone who's always dreamt of life in the country, cows were never part of the love affair. They came to us purely out of a need to get hooves on the ground to begin work towards an ag exemption, and anything smaller would be a free meal for the neighborhood coyotes. Goats have always been the plan and the dream. Now more than ever I can see them ambling in the pasture, standing on piles of logs, and running to the fence to greet me. Unlike cows, goats DO wag their tails and ARE genuinely happy to see you, with or without a bag of sweet feed. Unlike cows, they're not prone to terrorize the donkeys, eat an entire round bale of hay in a week, and chase me into cactus for no apparent reason. Am I done with the cows? Yes please.

In typical fashion, craigslist brought me a lovely vintage stove, nicely refurbished and ready to rock on propane. The price was right and, although I already have a vintage stove for the new house, it requires more costly repair than anticipated. As luck would have it, the stove I found was owned by an old family friend who also, coincidentally, owns Pure Lucky Dairy, where I'll be attending goat cheese-making class in a few weeks. As a person who believes in signs, I told him I'd be over the next day to pick up the stove, which apparently was meant to be mine.

We made the trek yesterday and, from this outsider's perspective, it's evident that my old friend and his wife lead an idyllic life complete with chickens tumbling about the yard and a gorgeous little ringlet-haired son. Their beautiful home is a restored cottage moved from downtown Austin. It's all hill country sunsets, sprawling live oaks, gurgling brooks, and finally, a pasture filled with goats. They were kind enough to offer a farm tour, something coveted by local cheese and goat groupies for whom this farm represents a beacon of light. It's possible to scratch a business from the dirt and make a truly stellar product. Doing what you love - it's possible.

Along the tour we were led to the "nursery" filled with about 20 doelings meant to replenish the current herd. We were ushered inside and immediately covered, literally, by baby goats. Jeremy was absolutely grinning, completely smitten with the baby bleetings and big personalities. At one point five baby goats were sucking on each finger of my left hand. Have you ever experienced this much incredible cuteness in one sitting? I thought my head would explode just from the joy.

Much too soon, it was time to leave. Our ride home was almost entirely silent. You know when an experience occurs that is so unexpected and so perfectly timed that you need silence to break it all down? I'm still silent. It's too soon to articulate what I'm thinking or to begin knowing how to get from here to there; wherever there ends up being. But of one thing I am certain. There will be goats at No Name Farm/Ranch, regardless of what the house looks like, if we sell the parcel, or where we land - there will be goats.

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