I spent Friday driving across Austin first to load the car with animal feed, then to load the car with human food, then to load the car with a broken goat. She stood in the backseat of the car and swayed gently against the motion for the duration of the drive. Loretta hobbled up beside me and nibbled at my ear, looking bright and alert out the windshield, a caprine co-pilot. It looks like Loretta Lynn’s broken leg will heal. Maybe crooked, but still. The vet was pleased to see her progress at Friday’s checkup and X-ray, and although these types of injuries expose the animal to the possibility of bone infection, it’s not likely. After her X-rays the vet conducted an ultrasound to determine that she was, in fact, pregnant. We counted two babies, already so developed that I could discern their Roman, Nubian noses and long ears flapping as they tossed their heads. The last ultrasound I had viewed was my own. Also, twins. And exactly 7 months later, here I was in a vet’s office inspecting the future babies of my goat, who limps with dignity on her broken leg. It’s a strange life I have chosen.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading a book before bed time about education policy, my old profession. I don’t know why, exactly, maybe because it feels familiar, is a comforting distraction and escape from the worries that wriggle in during the witching hours of night. I dove into the text as if zipping into one of my old suits, tried it back on for size. But it didn’t fit. Every morning I wake up again to the expanse of this place, a chorus of screaming goats, step squarely into the pile of “Good Morning!” chicken shit that my rooster, Pierre, always leaves at the back door, trip over my muck boots as I pull them on in a blur of exhaustion, fumbling through the haze of anxiety and doubt that litters the mind of anyone on the verge of starting a new business, amidst the chaos of motherhood and the uncertainty of livestock and The Weather. It still feels good, and the book was the gentle shoulder-shaking that I still require sometimes. I am more myself when clutching a mud-encrusted bucket then when stuffed into a suit inside a conference room. Give me hay over heels, for eternity.
I have also forged ahead with planning for spring kidding and the inevitable license I will earn for this damn dairy. This means a flurry of activity keeps me (but mostly Jeremy) busy in every single spare moment. In fact, a whole wonderful pile of friends came out this weekend to start construction on the expansion of our milking pens. While the men hammered and sawed and augered, the ladies chased toddlers and fed babies inside. We all agreed the ladies’ job was probably tougher.
And last weekend it was cold, finally. Cold enough that Jeremy made a bonfire in the pasture behind our house. One by one, the members of our goat family ambled slowly towards the flames. In the shadowy firelight, we watched their ears flop backwards as their eyes followed sparks up into the night sky. We ate soup from a thermos, and Loretta hobbled towards me, pawed the ground with her good leg, and slowly laid down at my feet, groaned happily as she leaned her head against me. I sipped rye whiskey from the flask and wondered why the hell any creature would spend a Saturday night in any other way.
Surrounded by burping goats, shrouded in the heavy darkness of a star-spattered night, hot soup in our bellies, and the flicker of a fire fueled with whatever limbs Jeremy had pulled from the woods – well – that suits me just fine. I am exhausted and terrified and thrilled, and daily try to pick manure from my fingernails before feeding bottles to my babies, but I gladly submit to this dichotomy. So long as God keeps some sunshine on the horizon, our backs strong, and rye whiskey in the flask, then I guess we’ll just keep going. Digging, building, mucking, scheming. I thought the utter exhaustion of parenthood might force us to re-align our priorities, but instead it’s reinforced our desire to show our kids the world outside these windows. To hope they choose gloves, and dirt, and hard work. And firelight.