52 Photos ~ Fresh

Morning milk

This summer hasn’t been the summer I expected.

I’m not talking about the weather for the first six weeks or so, which, let’s face it, left a little to be desired.

It’s just… well, I haven’t been basking in the happy summer glow I inhabit most years from June to August. I don’t know what this is. Mid-life woes? Trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up? Realizing that we have only three more summers like this with H at home?


Maybe I need a sports car. Or a horse. Or a trip around the world.

Or lunch with a friend.

Here’s what I do know: the nights lately are hard. They’re filled with restless and even very bad dreams. I’m late. I’m lost. I’m trying to get in touch with family and I can’t. I’m in trouble. I’m cast aside. I’ve lost my shoes and the road is wet. I meet my mother in an abandoned train station and she tells me that she’s sick, and scared. And I can’t help.

I wake up most mornings frazzled and not at all relieved. In spite of the gorgeous weather we’re having. In spite of the sun. In spite of M by my side. In spite of everything I have and hold, and health and (relative) youth, in this peaceful and green valley.

I’m unsettled.

But here’s what calms me: I go down to the kitchen, and quietly, methodically gather the milk pail, the tote, the clean bottles, the funnel and its filter paper, the strip screen, the udder wash. I step out on the porch and Wellesley spots me and nickers. Then her babies start to cry, because they’ve been separated from her all night so that we can have the milk that’s collected overnight. And they want their mother. Now.

But the crying doesn’t bother me now the way it did at first because I know they’ll calm down as soon as I get Wellesley on the milking stand where they can see her.

And then I milk. I press my forehead against Wellelsely’s flank, while she’s grunting with happiness over her morning grain. Her milk comes easily and she never kicks. She’s a pleasure to milk. The babies watch through the slats in the gate of their stall. Quiet. Bright eyed.

For these ten minutes, I’m complete and competent. I know what I’m doing and things… work. The animal smells are sweet. The foam on the top of the milk fizzles as the minuscule bubbles pop. Nothing more is asked for.

The day and the milk are fresh, and unspoiled.

This photo and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.

One morning in May

We’d been on kid watch for a week, with Wellesley’s due date this past Monday. I’d cleaned the kidding stall down to the bare floor, swept it clean, filled it with fresh bedding, and assembled the “kidding kit” with supplies we might need.

Saturday afternoon, we read the changes in Wellesley’s body (softened ligaments, raised tail, hollowing hips) put her in the stall, turned the baby monitor on so we could hear her from the house, and waited.

But we’re still new at reading the signs, and had never gone through a kidding with Wellesley, so we were a bit premature. She wasn’t ready for another few days.

I spent most of Monday and Tuesday in the barn with her, reading and keeping her company. She got to listen to a lot of NPR. And we talked about some things.

Wednesday morning, we knew something was afoot. She was making different, quieter sounds. And she didn’t gobble up her morning grain. We made a plan: M would take H to school, and then come back to check on things and then decide whether or not to go to work for the day.

So, naturally, Wellesley had the first kid between the time M left and returned. Minutes after M & H left, I heard a different-sounding grunt through the baby monitor. Out I flew to the barn, where Wellesley was lying down, beginning to push out those little front hooves, and the first kid was born by 7.30 am.


Wellesley went to work cleaning her, and I helped where I could, wiping the kid clean with towels, cleaning up the stall, keeping an eye on Wellesley’s posterior to see who else might be on the way.

M returned in plenty of time to help with the second kid, who, like the first kid, came out in proper position: two front hooves, followed by a nose. This time, though, there was a little waiting period between the time the head emerged and the time the rest came out. Which was a bit odd looking. Two hooves and a face in one world, a body and two hooves in another.

And then there were two.


And then we checked. And found they were girls. And there we were, us two humans, wearing big grins and our blue surgical gloves, high-fiving each other with happiness.


Another step up the Guernsey breeding ladder. Future mothers of future daughters.


We spent much of yesterday afternoon glued to them. They grow so darn quickly, we didn’t want to miss anything. Within minutes of their birth, they were trying to stand. 30 minutes later, they were walking. Another hour and they were beginning to “spring” around the stall. Look away for ten minutes and you could miss a lot of development.

We even put them in a basket to take them on their first car ride when we picked H up from school.


Just like human babies, the gentle engine vibration made them soooooo sleeeepyyy.


This morning, they were fluffy and clean, and full of spring. They nap a lot. Then they eat. Then they explore. If you sit low, on the floor or near the floor, they’ll come over and sniff you, and then try to climb on you. Awkwardly, with those new hooves, but persistently, because they’re goats and they’ve got so much curiosity in them they’d put a cat to shame.

Sunlight after rain

And today, they also have names: Darcy and Dory.

Welcome to the world, little ones. You have a sweet, attentive mama and good genes from your gorgeous father. And those long, airplane ears. And those darling hooves. And those sparkly eyes.

Let’s PLAY!



Still and motion

A new place to play

52 Photos ~ Conversation

Wells talking

Like many people who write for a living, I sit here alone at my computer much of the day and mutter.

Not to myself, mind you.

The cats, with their interrogative tails and their insistent meows, are always making demands disguised as questions.

When are you going to feed us? What’s that on the counter? Can we have it? Now? Are you going to try to stop us if we get on the counter? Why did you have to buy that stupid dog? Can’t you get rid of him? Are you going to feed us now? Are you eating something? Can we have it? Will you give it to us if we walk on your face?

They don’t wait for answers. They just keep asking. I answer. No. Later. You can’t have that. Leave the dog alone. Leave each other alone. Get out of the sink. We keep up this exchange until they fall asleep in little cat piles on the sofa cushions, or until I boot them into the basement and shut the door behind them.

Our conversation is not very satisfying, but at least it’s reliable.

With the dog, it’s more a series of polite requests and assurances.

Dog: If it’s not too much trouble, I’d sure like to go for a walk. Might you have time soon to go for a walk?

Me: Don’t worry, we’ll go soon. I just have to write this thing.

Okay, I can wait. Oh, there’s a scary cat. Can you please make the cat go away? Also, I love you. So much.

I love you, too. Go away cat.

Can we go for a walk now? I mean, if it sounds good to you, it sure sounds good to me!

Soon, soon.

Now? I love you.

It’s a sweet-but-tiring sort of conversation. The walk would be good for both of us. The cats are scary. But I don’t want to talk about it all the time. Can’t we talk about something new? Like, I’d really love to know more about what he can smell when we go for a hike, or his opinion about which route we take on the walk, or why the toaster used to scare him.

The goats and I have a different patter. Every morning, I greet them with a bright, “Good morning” and they stare at me from the pen. Then one or two bleat in greeting. I know it’s a question. Have you got any banana peels, or artichoke leaves, or grain?

Once I’ve answered that question, the conversation changes. Albus talks to me by sniffing my hand and my hair, then exhaling next to my face, then inhaling my breath. Lars stands close, shyly, bends his neck, silently presents his forehead for scratches. Willow nickers, asking if maybe I have an extra treat, then sloppily licks my nose, regardless of my answer. Westie stand away from the crowd, stares, and asks me with those gentle gold eyes to come to her, to rub her forehead.

And Wellesley. A week from her kidding date, Wellesley and I talk a lot. Her bleat sounds like she’s softly clearing her throat over and over. Ahem. Ahem. She has expectations. They include being served grain, then being served cuddles. She rubs my legs with her head the way a cat might. She makes satisfied little grunting sounds. Sounds of contentment. I reply in kind, with little bleats and grunts and sighs. I don’t know what either of us are saying, but I get the gist. I remember, long ago, that feeling of waiting, and expecting, and wanting a snack and some affection.

So we talk about that. And then we’re silent. And we wait.

This photo and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.

Golden (Guernsey) Friday

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and what did we do? Drove two goats to upstate New York, of course. We’re traditionalists.

About a year ago, we dried off our milking goat, Willow, to give us all a bit of a rest. The plan was to breed a couple of our does again this Fall to start the milk flowing and to make progress on the Guernsey breeding program. Since there are no other Guernseys that we’re aware of in New England, we had to search around a bit for a suitable buck that was within driving distance.

Luckily, the breeder from whom we bought our girls told us about a couple goat farmers who have a buck in upstate New York. So we took a visit to their farm this summer and fell in love with handsome Brady.


He’s a charmer, isn’t he?

His owners, Bailey and Thomas, showed us around their huge farm. Goats, pigs, sheep, poultry of all varieties, cats. We hit it off right away with Bailey and Thomas, and loved all the work they’d done on the farm and the care they gave their animals.

Giant willow

The kids


After the tour, they fed us a wonderful lunch made from the bounty of their garden. We sat outside at the picnic table, watching the goats, and talking about farms and goats and cheese. You know: the important stuff.

After meeting Bailey and Thomas and their goats, we were sure we wanted to breed our goats with Brady, but their farm, though far closer than any of the alternatives, is still nearly four away from us. And here we were without truck or trailer.

Until, through the magic of the Internet, we found this tidy little trailer that would do the job.

New wheels

We prepared the trailer by painting it inside, covering sharp screw ends that the goats might bump against, adding air vents, duct taping a plastic tarp on the floor, and then laying down a layer of soft hay for bedding.

Trailer vents

We prepared the lucky girls by letting them sniff the “buck rag” that Brady mailed them earlier this Fall.

From Brady with Love

All of which led to today, when we coaxed Wellesley and Westwind into the trailer. With just the incentive of a handful of grain, Wellesely hopped right in. Westwind followed Wellesley without hesitation.

Westie stroll

Westie and Wells

We had a perfect, blue-sky day, warm and clear, and the goats tolerated the drive well. When we stopped at Bailey and Thomas’ farm, we found Wellesley lying down in the trailer, looking quite relaxed, and Westwind was up, sniffing the new scents through the air vents.

Maybe they could smell Brady?

We settled them in to their new stall and gave them reassuring head scratches and a banana snack, then went to see Brady one more time before we got back into the car for the trip home.

The girls will spend the next few weeks in New York, getting some time with Brady, before we fetch them home.

For now, we’re down to three goats around here. With any luck, next April will bring us the first buds on our new apple trees, and a few golden doelings springing in the goat yard.