An Urban Farm Tale
I didn’t know how to milk goats, but it didn’t worry me. I could google it.
The irises I planted the year before stood tall and proud and happy, stretching their lavender petals and violet middles upwards towards the sun. Thick trails of deep almost-black ivy and purple lantana trailed at the base of the irises, along with a $5.99 bare-root rose-bush I had rescued from the Walmart clearance bin years earlier. Today the rose bush was almost as tall as me, and it stretched its prickly branches upwards from the tangled gathering. The tiny rosebuds provided a contrasting burst of red that Maggie-the-goat annihilated each time she found an opportunity. Or, to be more specific, when her gate was left open.
The whole mishmash was held captive with thick and sturdy railroad ties that had been half-submerged in dirt for decades, long before Mickey and I ever moved into the farmhouse. The gnarled ties were the children’s prized balance beam, even with the skinny strips of splintered blades that erupted through their bare skin as they walked across from one end to the other, their shoes kicked off, forgotten and scattered across the yard.
The irises were Maggie’s favorite, second only to the rose buds. The year Nichole learned to walk, spring came early, and Maggie escaped twice before May was over. Each time, she sauntered out the gate to the railroad ties and was absent just long enough to deadhead every rose bud within reach, leaving the long and prickly stems sad and drooping. It took about a week and a half for the bush to generate replacements, with a little help from the California sunshine and the garden hose. Then, a new sprinkling of haphazard blood-red recruits would reach up towards the sky like their long-deceased brothers and sisters.
That year, the flowers bloomed all through May and June, and busy thumb-sized hummingbirds flitted back and forth from blossom to blossom. Even the one chicken who sat on her eggs — Henny the Rhode Island Red — took to nesting in a forgotten corner of ivy, hidden away from little fingers. And with the warmth of the spring, and the purples and pinks and yellows and greens, the children would burst forth, leaving the screen door to slam against its dented wooden frame. Or on little Nichole, as she toddled behind, diaper sagging.
The goat pen comprised one-half of one-half of the acre that surrounded our house. The week before Maggie arrived, I told Mickey that my friend needed a home for Maggie the Nubian and her goat-twins, Melanie and Snowball. Yes, I agreed with him, it was short notice, but the goats were absolutely free — no strings attached. And we had a big yard after all, zoned for agriculture. and the only livestock we owned were a handful of chickens, Mr.Goose and his mate, Lucy, and a lop named Charlie Wilson. It was meant to be.
So without hesitation, I volunteered.
The day before my friend arrived with the trio, Mickey picked up a twenty-dollar bundle of wire fencing from Home Depot in Modesto. With this and a forgotten stack of redwood-fence planks piled in the corner of our yard, Mickey put together a goat pen and a shed.
While Mickey worked, I crouched beside him, passing him the wire clippers and the u-nails and hammer, pausing to help the the kids hold the posts firm until Mickey circled back and stretched the fencing tight. With the heels of my Birkenstocks sinking into the dirt, I thought about tomorrow’s schedule and the twice-a-day milking that would add fresh Nubian goat milk to our diet. I didn’t know how to milk goats, but it didn’t worry me. I could google it.
“And we’re doing this why?” Mickey would stop from time-to-time and ask.
“So we can milk Maggie.” I would answer.
“I don’t like goat milk.” Then Mickey would wipe the sweat from his brow, or take a sip from his Pepsi Big Gulp.
A couple of minutes later he would pause and raise his eyebrows. “What about the goat babies?”
“Melanie and Snowball? I read somewhere that goat meat tastes good. My friend usually has the boy butchered.”
I didn’t believe the words even as they spilled from my mouth.
Read the conclusion in the FREE ebook Hopes and Dreams for Our Future: A Collection
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