52 Weeks ~ Looking Out (35/52)

RSiegel_Week35 - Like Mother, Like Son

I was one of those horse girls.

One of those thousands of little girls who dreamed of horses all the time. I saved my allowance to buy plastic models of my favorite breeds, then spent hours playing with the models, hand-sewing saddle blankets for them, and collecting lawn clippings to dry and make into “hay”.

I somehow missed out on a lot of the standard children and teen literature, but name a horse book and I probably read it. In sixth grade, I checked out Walter Farley’s Man O’ War from the library every two weeks. Really. I checked it out, read it, returned it, and then renewed it right on the spot.

I reread and re-cried over the ending of Marguerite Henry’s The King of the Wind more times than I want to admit here in public. I belonged to “The Horse Book of The Month Club”.

When I finally badgered my parents enough to let me take riding lessons, I was at the barn every possible moment, taking lessons, mucking stalls (for free!), and, later, leading trail rides and teaching beginner classes.

I wanted to live and breathe horses all day long. I got high on horse smell. And the creak of saddle leather.

I was one of those horse girls.

Which partly explains why we have goats.

When, in my last year of high school, I finally got the chance to have a horse all to myself, I met my first goat. His name was Petey and he belonged to the barn, company for an older horse there. Petey charmed me. He was sweet, intelligent, and always good for a laugh. He was inquisitive. And cuddly, too.

I always imagined I’d have horses when I grew up, but as it turned, horses (at least so far) never really made sense for me, requiring space, money, and time that I never seemed to have all at once.

But goats seemed doable, and when I developed a love of goat cheese, and then developed a love for a man who also saw the merits of goats and cheese, well, things just naturally evolved.

Now, we have these darling goats, who bleat gently at us every time we step out onto the back porch that faces the barn. They crowd around me when I’m feeding hay, nibbling at my jacket, looking for cookies. Westie always meets me first, trying to get a good head rub from me before the others push her out of the way. Wellesley rubs her head against my legs, as if she’s a big cat, owning me. Willow nibbles my nose and gives me goat kisses. The boys, Albus and Lars, jockey for position near the hay bag I’m carrying, trying to sneak mouthfuls of hay as I make my way to the feeder.

As I do chores around the barn, they follow me.

My herd.

If I have a tool (a screwdriver, a shovel), they must sniff and inspect it. Wherever I am, they must be, too.

On winter mornings, I’m loathe to leave the warmth of the house. My boots are out there on the porch, cold. I put on my coat. Sometimes my hat. Certainly my gloves.

I step out into the frigid air and mutter grumpily to myself. Then I look up, and toward the barn. There they are, looking out their window, watching me, waiting for me. I smile, step off the porch, call their names, start my day.

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.