Here’s to you, my rambling boys


We often joke that we live on a micro farm, but it really is no farm. It’s an old farm house, a tiny barn, a handful of goats, a beehive, some inside animals, a scattering of fruit trees and bushes, and a sometimes garden.

We take our bit of farming seriously, love our land and animals, but we also realize we’re sort of just playing at it. That’s fine. Neither of us are from farming families. We have day jobs in the land of technology. What we do outside of those jobs we do for love, for curiosity, for learning, for attaching ourselves further to our home and our land and our lives.

Even playing at farming brings us close to some of the realities of true farming, those moments and days when our already considerable admiration of farmers increases: Listening to the baby monitor all night to detect sounds of goat labor. Springing out to the barn with the “birth kit” to assist with a delivery. Hoof trimming, hay stacking, mucking, worming, vaccinating. Milk bottles stacking up in the fridge. Milk demanding to be made into cheese or cajeta or yogurt or something before it goes bad. The sick goat kid in the bathroom (and the car).

And then there’s the day when you see that you have more goats than you want to feed. Or, more accurately, more than you want to feed when you plan to breed more goats, birth more kids, to start the milk flowing again.

They’re not pets. They’re farm animals. We’ve named them all. Cuddled them all. Held them in our arms and on our laps. We’ve scratched their ears and horn buds, tended their wounds, smelled their warm breath, slipped them treats, toted hot drinking water out to them in the middle of a nor’easter. But they are not pets. They are farm animals.

And so, to make room for more, to continue to breed these Guernseys, to continue to work on our cheese- and cajeta making, we’ve sold Albus and Lars, the first two goats born in our barn. We sold them to a retired man who loves them and whose only hobby is to care for his herd. They have a nice barn and pasture, several new goat friends. It’ll be a fine goaty life.

To tell the truth, our goat yard is fifty times calmer now than it was a month ago. Without the boys’ energy and horns, the remaining girls seem more settled and there’s far less pushing and shoving when I go to fill the hay feeder.

We stopped the milking, too, for the winter. None of us needs the winter milking experience again, at least not this soon. We’re talking about breeding a couple of the girls this fall, for fresh babies and milk come spring.

Right now, though, we, the animals, and the land have all come to a quiet halt, a slow exhale, just before the winter locks down.

From the window by my desk, I can see the bare branches of the blueberry bushes that gave so prolifically this summer. I can see the freshly shorn lawn, neat from the last mowing of the season. I can see the quiet hive; whoever is left in there is hunkered down for what’s to come.

I can see the goat yard, the girls nibbling at what’s left of the green, taking sips of water at the stock tank. And I miss those boys. I truly do. I miss Albus’ sweet face and the way he’d sniff noses with me in greeting. I miss Lars’ gorgeous feathery coat and the way he’d tip his head quietly down so I could scratch between his horns.

I miss them, but I’m happy for them, and for whatever’s to come to our little farm when the snows melt in the spring.

Lars' hooves

Sunshine boy

Lars' feathers

Albus in his classic pose


November goes out with a cup of tea

It’s not quite a marshmallow world yet, but this morning we woke to a frosting of snow lying quietly over everything and there was a definite almost-Decembery feel in the air.

November, get gone. December, how do you do?

The colder it gets, the more grateful I am for that heated stock tank we have for the goats. I get a little shiver of happiness every time I walk past that tank on my way to the barn and see beautiful, ice-free water shimmering in there. Still, even though it’s unfrozen, it’s probably only about 40ºF. The goats don’t seem to mind, but it always seems to me that they need a nice warm drink.

So, on a morning like today, I make tea for me. And “tea” for them.

Lars Fluff Face

Lars inspecting the bucket

Theirs is just a bucket of hot water with some molasses mixed in. They don’t need the molasses, but I figure a little bit of sugar is a good thing when you’re trying to stoke your internal fires on a cold Vermont day. When I first started doing this, I wondered if the water I was taking out was too hot for the goats, but they don’t seem to mind it hot from the tap.

Lars taking tea

Did I ever mention here how satisfying it is to watch a goat drink? None of that annoying, painfully slow lap-lap-lapping that cats and dogs have to do. No. A goat just puts her lips into the bucket and drinks deeply. Ahhh.

Tea pot


My usual tea is green, but today I started my day with a dark black Ceylon, steeped for four minutes, then served with a little bit of honey. It was just enough of a kick start to get me out to fetch logs and build the fires.

Tea leaves

When I finally sat down to work, the old song, “Sweet City Woman”, came drifting into my head. Who knows why this silly summery song came to me on this bitter cold morning, but it was a welcome warmth for my brain. Say what you will, hate it or love it, it’s not a sad tune.

Who was it who said you can’t play a sad song on the banjo? Billy Connolly? Steve Martin? Willie Nelson?

Well, whoever said it was right.

Now that I think of it, maybe I ought to trade that cello in for a banjo?

In lieu of birthday cake, broccoli stems

As I remember it, last July 21 was dang hot.

Lars Horns

We’re in the middle of a heat wave now, but it seems to me this week last year was even hotter. Or maybe it just seemed that way because we were empathizing with Willowherb, who looked big enough to be containing triplets, and who spent a lot of time lying in the birthing stall, panting and looking mighty wide.

As new goat owners, we spent a lot of time watching Willow, trying to figure out when, exactly, she might give birth. Her due date was July 23, but we had no idea if she’d run early or late. We kept feeling those tail ligaments, but they said nothing to our unschooled hands. We watched her for signs of labor: was she “talking to her belly”? Was she pawing at the bedding to make a nest?


You know what she did to signal that her time was nigh? She binged! She stayed up until midnight of July 20 and ate and ate and ate and ate and ate.

Favorite seat at the table

We know this because, after giving up sitting in the hot barn watching her sleep peacefully, we sat on the couch with the baby monitor next to us, and listened to her eat for nearly four hours straight. Somewhere about midnight, she stopped munching and I guess went to sleep — and M and I drifted in and out of sleep for the next six hours, waking at the slightest sound on the monitor.

Lars - Shy boy

Somewhere around 7 am, bleary eyed and convinced that we were still at least a few days away from baby goats, I went upstairs to lie down for a bit. M stayed put on the sofa. We both slammed into deep sleep.

And at 9 am, H (who, lucky for us, it turns out, was home sick from camp that day) called out that she heard a “BLEAT!” over the monitor.

We moved quickly. M was out the door first since he was at ground level. I think I remember he called up to me through the open bedroom window to tell me he was checking on her. I don’t remember a lot of those first few moments except that I was supposed to give her an injection when she went into labor and I was evidently a bit late for that. I somehow made it down the stairs and into my boots and out the door, when M came running back from the barn, yelling, “Baby goat!”

Albus was there to greet us as we came into the barn (we called him Primo for the first several days of his life); Willow had licked him clean and he was already struggling to get up onto his spindly legs.

Albus - 1 year old

We had about twenty minutes to marvel at Albus, when out came Lars (Secundo). Willow’s attention was still on Albus, so I opened Lars’ sack and we tried to wipe him clean with newspapers and rags. We snipped their umbilical cords, tied the cords off with dental floss, and dipped the cord ends and their perfect little hooves in iodine.

Lars-Goren - 1 year old

We put the babies in a cardboard box with bedding. We’d read that the kids would be tired and would likely sleep for awhile, even a couple hours, before trying to explore.

Nope. Not these babies. They were crawling out of the box within minutes.

I remember many disparate details about that day: The heat. The little baby bleats. Frustration when the kids struggled to nurse and then failed (Willow’s udder was so big and so low to the ground, the kids couldn’t figure it out for a couple of weeks, so we had to help them). Fresh, soft fur. The way two little goats could fit on one adult lap. The little, happy grunting sound Albus made as he fell asleep.

A whole year has passed. It’s a hot night, and all the goats are out, browsing the lush leaves or chewing cud in the cool run-in beneath the barn, dreaming their goaty dreams of broccoli stems and watermelon rinds.

Tonight we’ll sleep without a baby monitor on, and tomorrow their fresh little faces will greet me in the bright morning light of July. Lucky me.