1. a person who owns or manages a farm
2. a person who tries to keep alive a thing which wants to be dead
3. a person who tries to kill a thing which wants to be alive
Ugh. Spring. Ugh.
After Deluxe died, we bought a couple of Nigerian Dwarf Goats. One of them was bred, the other not. We were hoping for a milk-source come mid-April. But goats can be finicky when it comes to being moved late in their pregnancy…or any other time that they see fit. The pregnant doe succumbed to pneumonia, despite the best efforts of our vet and myself. I kept saying to my husband…”If this goat dies…if this goat dies, then I. Am. Done.” Wellllp. She died. Two rounds of antibiotics, bovi-sera, fluids, nutri-drench, hay, water with electrolytes, and around-the-clock-care. And she died. It was nobody’s fault. It. Just. Was.
I remember my second drive out to the vet’s house. I wanted to kneel at her feet and beg her to tell me that I was doing everything I could. I wanted to NOT feel like a complete and utter failure. First, two cows in two months…now this. When I arrived, I was in tears. I try not to “react” in front of the children and this drive was the only time I had to myself, so I let loose. I apologized to the vet for being so emotional. And then she said it, she said the thing I wanted to ask her to say, without me even asking.
“You know, I’ve come across situations like this when people either don’t vaccinate their animals against something routine or they loose their animals to something unexpected. And they ask me, ‘Why is this happening to me? We were good. We cared for our animals properly and lovingly and yet still we are hit with these losses. Why is this happening to us? We were good.’ And I tell them that everyone who deals with livestock, everyone who commits to this life of raising animals for food, everyone who sacrifices their time to the care of these animals IS GOOD. They. Are. All. Good. … But it just happens. To all of us.”
I knew then, that the goat was going to die. Just like when Deluxe died and the vet pulled me aside to look at my new piglets, full of life. She knew what to say and when to say it, she knew how to say it without breaking my spirit. I am so grateful for that.
So, I decided that maybe it wasn’t my fault. That doesn’t make it any better, but sometimes you try even when you know your attempts are futile. I waited with her, I sat with her until death came. I suffered, but not as she did.
A couple of weeks later, and we have another goat here to replace the doe. The breeder was willing to help us acquire another doe because all of us goat-owners know that goats ARE like potato-chips; you can’t have just one. Now both does will be bred to kid this fall. Perseverance pays off, even if you don’t quite believe in yourself at the time.
Now I am spending my days trying to rid myself of a yucca patch which has inserted itself into the middle of my garden. Well, part of it borders my garden, while part of it borders my childrens’ play area. Can you imagine jumping off a swing, only to be met by a sharp yucca spear in your rear? Ouch! I don’t want to spray it, so I am trying alternative methods, one after the other…none of which seem to be working. Ugh. This is the part of farming where I try to kill a thing which insists on being alive. I try and I try and I try…but to no use.
Combined, these two are the essence of farming. Will I ever find a balance? Will I ever get it right? A friend pointed out to me that these questions are useless.
“You cannot stop being a farmer because it is not what you do, it is who you are. If you stop, you will be a farmer without a farm, an artist without a medium. I’m not being romantic here, this is the truth. If you cut yourself off from the wellspring of your creativity, your joy, your gift, you will be more miserable than you are now. The loss of an animal is sad, sometimes grievously so when we love them. But it is not a punishment to you or them, it is just life, or a part of life. If our best would keep them alive our animals (and families) would be immortal. You are a thoughtful and conscientious caretaker of your charges, learning an art that was once passed down by culture and family. An amazingly complex and difficult (not to mention under appreciated) art, that you are learning experientially. Show yourself the same patience and solace you do your animals. Immediately, the choice to practice your art or not is one each of us makes each day, it is entirely personal. I would be deeply saddened to hear you were no longer farming. As would your animals. Holding you all in our thoughts.”
These are the words which make farming bearable. Whether you are trying to keep alive a thing which wants to be dead, or kill a thing which wants to be alive. These. Are. The. Words. I figure I am simply blessed, with animals that are willing to teach me the easy lessons and animals that are willing to teach me the hard ones. And friends to prod me on, no matter the difference. Because really, if you look it up in my dictionary, it’s all the same anyway.