The New Normal
Sunday night I shoved my body against an injured goat and pinned her to the barn. She screamed angrily at me as I shook bright blue blood stop powder down onto the wound that leaked into her eyes and down her neck. The sound of four other goats slamming their bodies against the fence for a good view competed with the sound of an angry Jolene. She bucked and bleated. It was near pitch darkness, and I could only make out the outline of her head and smell the pungent metallic scent of blood. This wasn’t working. So for the first time, I’d have to bring a goat inside the house. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner.
I jogged towards the house knowing she’d follow me. A well-loved goat forgives her owner quickly, and she trotted along behind me. Still screaming. Annoyed and bleating. I opened the door to the mud room and she ambled in, instantly mesmerized by the assorted shoes she could sample, the dirty laundry bin she could raid for something possibly delicious. “JEREMYYY!” I screamed down the hallway, “NEED GOAT HELP. NOW. HELP. NOW.” In under a minute he appeared at the door, yawned, stretched. What would it be this time?
With his help and the light, we cornered the frustrated animal whose little horn bud (called scurs, if you’re interested) ripped off in her pregnancy-hormone fueled attack against the baby buckling we’d brought home that evening. She was mad at the intruder, then mad the horn ripped off, then mad that I tried to doctor it, then mad that I was petting her, then mad that I wasn’t. That’s goats for you. We finally wiped her face, applied the powder and wound spray. The bleeding stopped, and she was given a cookie for (relatively) good behavior. Since then, Jolene’s decided she rather likes the baby buckling who we’ve named Atlas. My sister said his belly looks like an interpretive map of the world, and since I’m all out of creative energy, the name stuck. Cleaning up later, I wiped the bloody hand print off the blood stop powder container and scrubbed my hands that were stained purple and blue for two days. The blood that soaked into my favorite jeans appears permanent so they’ve been added to the pile of “farm clothes” that’s slowly doubled over the course of this year.
And that’s how this week began and continued. I had a feeling it would be a doozy between the addition of a new goat, my aggressive attempts to extract milk from the cow, and a rather dodgy work situation – the combination of all this mixing as well as oil and water. Add to the drama two guard puppies (one in particular) who have decided that enough is enough and it was about damn time to sample a chicken. So we lost another to our own dogs, and although the hawk attacks have subsided, the coyotes have picked up where they left off. The addition of cows in our pasture has lured chickens out to pick through the resulting cow patties – a wonderful little system. However, it’s made the coyote’s work easy. Too easy. They simply lounge in the brush and pounce when a hen gets close.
So yesterday – yesterday I came home from the office early and set up shop downstairs at the table. Jeremy was home not feeling well but went outside for a minute when a coyote sprang out of nowhere (and right in front of him) to grab a hen pecking at a patty. The hen managed to escape, and Jer came running inside. “Coyoteeeee!!” He yelled after grabbing the rifle from its case and bounding up the stairs into the attic, a spot that provides a pretty great vantage point of the back pasture although it happens to be (as his friend pointed out) a fairly un-classy way to shoot an animal. Classy or not – there’s only so much coyote predation one little farm can take.
As I sat at my computer, setting up a conference call for the following morning, a gunshot cracked out from above. I blinked. The dogs looked up at me and blinked. Then I hit send on the email and stood up from work to go track a coyote in the pasture.
There’s a lot more to say, I feel, about the many varied moments of drama we experienced this week here sprinkled in between the many varied moments of drama we both experienced at work. This week, more than ever, I feel like our life’s a big ball of dough that we’re kneading, adding this and that, squishing things together. Just when I feel it’s settled, the ball starts to rise again slowly, all the yeasty stuff inside it doubling and growing, until we have to punch it down, knead things back together again.
For the foreseeable future, we’re not adding any more animals, thank goodness, although I expect goat babies here in about six weeks. Is six weeks enough time to relocate the bucks into a new pasture and finally (good lord, finally) learn how to efficiently milk a cow? Is it enough time to finish the goat barn so there will be space for the new kids? Enough time to hook it up to electricity? Enough time to figure out how to make this place tick with the busy day jobs? This is all, all of it, wishful thinking, and I get that patience is a virtue and all that. But for right now – consider this my white flag waving up above the list of unfinished tasks, dirty floors in the house, broken pasture fencing, the weedy garden. Even as I write this from a chair on the front porch, three dogs sprawled out beside me, one cat purrs and rubs against my feet and Winston growls in jealousy. The resident porch chicken (the only old hen left from our Austin house), is perched on the antique Coke cooler eating cat food, the front yard sprinkled with The Chickens Who Lived, scratching at calf patties where Rodeo spent the day in separation from Madaline. A chorus of five goats comes pouring out from the forest since it’s one hour until their dinner time and they fear I’ll forget, and six donkeys compete for hay at the round bale, kicking and snorting. I’m answering work emails and setting up meetings for next week in between writing sentences here. Between the nights – sleepless with job worry or sleepless from running out to chase coyote – and the days alternately cleaning up after animals or creating power points – it’s not boring.
It’s not easy, either.
|I fought the farm. The farm won.|