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A change from landscapes today…goat snuggles! Goats can always make me smile, and this Spring, I had the pleasure of attending the Mountain Flower Dairy‘s Goat Baby Shower with Kelsea and her lovely friend Skye. Baby goats, alpacas, small children racing small goats, old trucks, fiddlers, spring flowers, a beautiful day — what more could you ask for?

The roots of my fondness for goats lie in my teenage years. At 16, I went away to Governor’s School in North Carolina – my first time away from home alone. I was gone for six (or eight?) weeks and made some lifelong friends (love you, Lisa and Beth, Mark and Ken), but I was definitely homesick during the early days. So I would take clandestine walks around the surrounding neighborhoods. And on a hill above a sidewalk situated so that it reminded me of my own home, I met a goat. He hung out at the very edge of the ivy at the top of the small hill above the wall. He would appear every day when I walked by, and we would chat. I would tell him that I was homesick and that he was handsome and share my teenage angst. He would usually eat something in response – trash, clothing he had stolen off the line, a bloom from the landscaping. I think he looked forward to seeing me as much as I looked forward to seeing him. I still remember him, and how he kept my homesickness somewhat at bay until I found my little tribe of human friends.

And so. Goats.

Goat Snuggles - 1
Boulder, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “One day I will rule the world with a goat by my side!” — Jhonen Vasquez

Daily gratitudes:
Goat cheese for dinner
A pretty new dress
The Laws of Attraction
The softness of the air today
That Issy is feeling better

On my Mother’s side, my Grandpa was a sometime farmer.  He was a soldier during WWI – I don’t recall if he ever went overseas, but my brother might know.  I do know that he received a most unfortunate wound when he backed around the corner of one of the barracks, right into someone’s poised and ready bayonet.  How embarrassing.   A sometime schoolteacher, he was a comfortably restless soul, who liked to buy land, build a house on it, live in the house, get the itch, sell the house, buy land, build a house on it…you get the picture.  My Mother grew up moving a lot and loving it.  She loved meeting new people at every school as a child and was always excited to see a new place.

Clearly, I inherited his restlessness, though that came from grandfathers on both sides – another story.

I’ve always had an affinity for the land and for animals, as my Mother’s parents did.  Grandpa was very happy having a small farm, my grandmother had an amazing green thumb, which skipped a generation and which I have inherited.  By the time I came along, my grandparents were living sometime in the mountains outside of Boone, North Carolina, in a barn my grandfather had turned into a home, and sometime in a big old white house in Dade City, Florida (which, by the way, is the scene of my earliest memory, which happens to be of my Grandpa) and so there was no farm, no animals, no garden.  So my affinity for such things is decidedly genetic.

Since I left home, I’ve lived in cities, in the mountains, in small towns, and in rural-ish areas.  When Pat and I bought our house, I was delighted that there were cows across the street.  We’ve had the house since 1991, and the cows are still there. 

The owner of the small farm is a single woman who has run the place for some 35 years with just the help of a part-time hired man.   She is a woman who is totally content to keep to herself.  Silver-haired, skin as tough and lined as that of the cows, she walks the fence line every morning to be sure its secure.   She smokes like a chimney and has a soft, small voice, unless she is cursing a blue streak at the livestock, at which point she can be heard for blocks.  She’s hard of hearing but won’t wear a hearing aid.  I’ve never, ever seen her dressed up, and she’s never had a gentleman caller.  Actually, as far as callers go, they are just not allowed.  She has never even let anyone onto the porch of her small house, which is cluttered to the point of appearing abandoned.   I learned early on to stand outside and “hallo the house” if I needed to speak to her.  

I have only touched her once.  I came to tell her that one of her horses had died, as I could see him lying stiff in the pasture one early morning – she already knew, and had called the renderer.  He had been one of her favorites and he was very old.  She got teary and choked up telling me about him and about how he had tended the younger horses, and I impulsively gave her a hug.  You could feel the shock emanating from her body, but she relaxed for just a few seconds, and seemed to sink into me, as if she hadn’t felt a human touch in decades.  The next time we met, I gave her a gentle hug, thinking a barrier had been broken, and felt that shock again, followed by a corpse-like stiffness – she held herself as still as if her response to my touch would kill her.  I released her immediately and never tried again.

She’s been trying to sell the farm for years, as in the community, they tax unbuilt land at a higher rate than built land (to discourage small farms and increase their tax base by building businesses and Grey-Poupon communities in their customary greedy fashion).  But she has been stubborn about what she wants done with the land, and while she’s come close to selling several times, it has always fallen through, as the developers, in their endless greed, refuse to honor her wishes about housing density, open space, and residential/commercial balance.  I think they’ll have to wait her out til death.

The cows have been a source of entertainment, odors, noises, and education for me over the years, and I am so happy that Kelsea has had the chance to share this.  It’s rare in this world to grow up literally across the street from livestock.  While we’ve missed the actual births, we’ve seen calves less than an hour old (and I’ve heard cows birthing in the middle of the night).  We name each new baby.  We rejoice when Dude, the stud bull, is allowed into the front pasture.  And we’ve witnessed his passion.  In fact, he’s been incredibly prolific in the past year.

Every so often, the cows have gotten lose and made a break for it.  We’ve found ourselves herding them back to the farm from the small streets in town, heading them off at the pass, so to speak, before they hit the real world of the SuperTarget parking lot – though that would be a novelty, wouldn’t it?

What does all this have to do with the subject of this blog, you may ask?

This morning, as I was drowsily gazing through the slats of the bedroom window blinds, two cows came trotting quickly by the cottage in the open space just on the other side of the split-rail fence.  They were followed by nine calves, charging through the grass, with a few more adults bringing up the rear.  It was a surprise and a delight, as I have missed the cows since I have moved out.   The folks at the Big House are total environmentalists and animal lovers, but they told me when I moved in that they had come to an agreement with the neighbors that they wouldn’t use the open space behind the fence to graze their cattle, because they didn’t like the smell.  I don’t know what happened to that agreement, but I love that it’s being violated.

I got up to see what the cows were doing, and just outside the kitchen window, a love scene was taking place.  Not something as romantic as Romeo and Juliet, but a tender courtship – dare I say it reminded me of some of my own? 

A sweet (albeit booty-full) brown-and-white heifer was complacently nibbling on the dewy grass, and carefully wooing her was a huge black bull.  He was snuggling up to her side, sniffing her, gently nuzzling her flanks.  At one point, he reached up and tried to bite off a lilac bloom.  She was coyly ignoring him, but not running off as I have seen unwilling females do, and so clearly receptive to his delicate attentions on this fine spring morning.  It was as if they were flirting, as if she was special to him.  It was lovely to watch.   When I went outside to see them without windows in the way, they both looked at me as if I was interrupting, and moved slowly away together.

And so, livestock love.  What a perfect way to start a beautiful day.

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