Boobs, Beer, & Sardines

Ok, I’m not gonna sugarcoat this: things right now – here – are hard.  Like, hard, hard. It’s not as if I wasn’t warned, not as if countless kind souls didn’t urge me to “enjoy” the final months of pregnancy (yea right) before the sh*t hit the fan. But hearing, reading, anticipating is far from experiencing the actual truth of newborn twins. On a farm. It’s been hard to wade through the earliest hours of morning, the darkest stretches of night, the hottest parts of these July afternoons knowing that 150% of life now, suddenly, are two foreign creatures who cannot be appeased and who need, need, need.  I’ve shed many tears over the sight of my goat herd marching through the forest – my 22 original babies. I used to march with them. I knew the old routine would change, I just never anticipated how conflicted it would make me feel.

tiniest cowboy

But none of this is unusual or unexpected. And we don’t have it any harder than anyone else who’s ever had a newborn (or a farm). It’s just, well, different shades of gray at this point, and as with any transition, we have to pick our way through the weeds until a new “normal” is clear.  I know that, Jer knows that, you know that. However, what is unanticipated is the inordinate amount of time that I’m shamelessly, openly topless. I’m not gonna sugarcoat that, either.

The side effects of caring for newborns are similar to narcotics: nausea, drowsiness (don’t operate heavy machinery!), euphoria (followed by deep melancholy), and general confusion, and conversations here have switched dramatically from discussing the future of our tiny goat/cow dairy to having daily, state of the union addresses about my own boobs and milk production. It was in a moment of this blurry confusion one morning that I asked Jer to “hand me the pump” so I could “milk my teats.” That’s verbatim. That’s the side effect of mixing newborns with life among dairy animals. The primary benefit being that I now have a comprehensive understanding and empathy towards my dairy girls.  I will honestly never consider their pregnancies and lactation cycles in the same, nonchalant way and – I’m not joking around people – urge each and every one of you to think long and hard about what we ask animals to do on an annual basis so that we can pour a little milk over our corn flakes. When it comes to food production, the dairy animals have it hard, so much harder than me. It’s something I think about often, now.

I also think more about finding peace and happiness in the few  moments I can steal for myself – to have one, spectacular, ice-cold beer on the porch. A beer that I will, likely, enjoy while topless. Yesterday I spent 60 solitary minutes with my animals, first in the pasture with the female goats, scratching each head and belly before moving on to the buck pasture that is now filled with the baby wethers we kept this season to help clear the land. Finally I squeezed in 15 minutes alongside my cows, scratched noses and necks down by the pond where the hay bale sits. For now, this is the new normal. For 35 years I’ve put me first with six of those years being entirely devoted to gathering a sizeable livestock family. Slowly, I’m letting go of some old priorities, but it will take a good, long time before I figure out how everything fits together.

jolene meets babies

Since the (human) kids arrived, I’ve had to stuff myself with any protein possible in order to make enough food for two very hungry bellies. In desperation I even took the advice of the doctor who suggested popping a can of sardines for a quick and easy burst of much needed protein. Most afternoons around 5pm, I’m on the porch. Wedges of lemon, a carton of salty crackers, a can of sardines, a cold beer and me. Boobs out, the sweltering summer breeze blowing from south to north across a porch we built what feels likes epochs ago in order to live exactly this life. As always, I remember to be careful what I wish for, a phrase that courses through my brain while chasing little pieces of mystery fish with beer, watching with one eye the goat herd I dreamed so long and hard to shepherd, while my other eye checks on the miraculous babies that appear on the monitor beside me. I do think that a person can have it all without understanding how to have it all work together. At first. But with enough pilsner, protein, and patience I know everything will find a new place in what has suddenly become a very crowded, very tired, very lucky life.

goat milk


Barnyard, Cows, Dairy, Goats


  • Joan

    September 4, 201510:17 pm

    You’re right on all points. I nursed two kids at the same time…and they weren’t twins. That exhaustion makes everything harder…even breathing. And as a 30 year vegetarian who was just recently introduced to what the life of a dairy animal is like…I feel so stupid for thinking the cheese was the right choice.

    Hang in there. Every moment is precious. Even the ones you can’t or don’t want to remember!

    Oh, and you’ve got yourself a couple of ridiculously cute babies :-)

  • Michele

    August 24, 20155:01 am

    Bless you. It does get easier. Thanks for a glimpse of what we tend to forget as time passes.

  • Erica

    August 3, 201510:02 am

    I don’t think people talk often enough about how challenging breast feeding can be. There is so much pressure – “breast is best!” – and so little understanding that for many women it is very challenging. For myself, I finally found what worked – a mixture of breast feeding and formula feeding. (And I only had one infant! I can’t imagine two!) But with it, I had to let go of the guilt that maybe I wasn’t doing the absolute best that I could. In time, I did let go of that guilt and when I went back to work, I stopped breast feeding altogether.

  • Linda

    August 1, 201512:55 am

    They look beautiful. Hang in there… as the saying goes.. “this too, shall pass” (and you will, indeed, find the new normal.

  • Joe Young

    July 31, 201511:34 pm

    Babies are beautiful. Take care and God will look over you all.

  • Andrew Siemer

    July 31, 201511:28 pm

    Reach out to my wife Jessica Siemer for twins stories…shoulder to cry on! I can’t imagine babies on a farm.

  • Rachelle Clark

    July 31, 20158:51 pm

    Your babies are adorable! Congrats!