Birthday Party in the Barn

“Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.”
Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

Luna; our soon to be champion milk producer

We know we are there…we pass the stone sign that says Poplar Hill Farm and head down the long driveway towards the many red barns in the distance. My anticipation is killing me. There are two baby goats, born just days ago, ready for us to be their new family. Of course, they know nothing of this new family. They are single-mindedly waiting for the warmed bottles of milk to show up again and fill their hungry bellies.

As we pull up near the main house, we see two barns. I notice right away the adult goats peek their heads out of the barn door. They are curious. Despite the frigid temperatures, we roll down the windows and take in the eclectic mawwwww, mawwwww, mawwwww coming from everywhere. There is another barn that is full of younger looking goats and I wonder if our kids are tucked away in there somewhere.

The owner of Poplar Hill Farm meets us by one of the barns and asks us if we want to take a tour. As we wander from barn to barn, room to room, I am listening for our baby goats. He has still not told us where they are. As we enter the last building, where the goat’s milk is pasteurized, I finally hear the first maw that is like nothing I have ever heard. The farmer just keeps talking over the calls, but I am barely able to contain my joy. They are in that room, right there, behind that very door.

He finally grabs two bottles that have been warming in the sink, and we walk through the door into an office and a makeshift nursery. The choir of baby goats begins the second we walk in, each having a distinct and heart-wrenching call. There are 3 kids, two of which will be ours, Luna the Saanen and Areida the Alpine.

He hands Caroline and Sabrina the bottles, and gives them some basic instructions, and off they go. They are feeding their Luna and Areida, a moment I will never forget. It was over in a matter of minutes. We sign the papers, hand over the cash and we are heading to the car. The farmer asks, “What are you putting the goats in?” “Ahhh, we have some towels,” we answer. He tells us that should be “interesting”. We get a clue on the way home and buy a plastic laundry basket that they both fit into with room to spare. They quickly curl up and fall asleep.

One year later…a birthday party in the barn. Carrots, pine tree branches and vitamin C tablets for all! We sit in the straw, scratch their chests, and let them pull our jacket zippers up and down, up and down, up and down…

LunaNewest Iphone 020

Katniss the Rooster

iphone fencev 029“A sense of calm came over me.  More and more often I found myself thinking, “This is where I belong.  This is what I came into this world to do.”
―    Jane Goodall

This story begins on a cold morning in December, but not too cold, and shortly after what I consider to be early. I am standing before the sliding glass door, peering out at some of the telltale signs of winter. I am ready to brave the elements. As I walk to the barn, one thought is flooding my mind… ROOSTER; our little Katniss, the bantam cockerel with the ever-growing ego. He is not unlike the “surprise” baby that results from a moment of spontaneous passion. This rooster resulted from a moment of spontaneous shopping at Tractor Supply, without thought of the repercussions of the unsexed chicken. We lucked out and only ended up with 2 roosters out of the 10 chicks purchased, one being a peaceful and somewhat androgynous little guy.

On this particular day, I made my way into the barn without any trouble. I began my chores with the sprinkling of the scratch grain for the chickens. The grain hides in a grey plastic bin that I need to bend over to open, leaving me particularly vulnerable to rooster attacks. I have to admit, each time I lift my head triumphantly with the full container of grain, the bin’s lid securely shut, and the possible attack averted, I am lulled into a false sense of rooster confidence. This is when I begin telling myself the story that our unspoken agreement of civility and friendship, due to my watering, sheltering, and feeding him, has finally settled in and attacks are something of the past. Denial is a powerful thing.

As I began my usual struggle with the God-forsaken lock on the goat gate, the foot-tall monster overpowered me. Katniss fully seized this moment of distracted frustration with a stealthy jump onto a haystack, giving him the running start for nothing other than my head. I have to admit, I have had a head attack before, but nothing like this one. It was as if I had a saddle on my head and he was riding the mechanical bull. He hung on tightly as I shook vigorously and screamed profanities. I was wearing a knitted hat, which gave him a sturdy place to dig into.  The climax came when I noticed the goats staring at me with a look of terror. Looking into their eyes, I knew this had to end. I gave him a very powerful wallop as I swung my head towards the ground and off he flew.

You know how “they” say never discipline your children when you are angry. Well, “they” are right. I had my newly sharpened pitchfork in my hand before he had time to mutter cockle-doodly-sorry. I imagined myself doing the 1, 2, 3-pull slaughter technique, with his head on the ground, under my foot and his feet tightly gripped in my furious hands. Deep breath…

Amazingly, Katniss is still living happily in our barn today and probably will for the rest of his days. You know… he could change.