Sunday, October 23, 2011

Goat Saga, chapter 3

Before I continue, my daughters have pointed out that they BEGGED me to go along. I did not draft them. They couldn't bear the thought of me being alone on such a long drive--and seeing something first! Thank heavens for their selfishness. Not sure I would have made it without them. Misery loves company.

They also both testify that when we passed the "Knife Sale" domicile, there was a man out front...with a long beard. I am not kidding. I did not see that gentleman, because I could not take one eye off the windy, curvy road. I only saw the knife sale sign because it was on a 4x5' sheet of plywood leaning up against the mailbox. And "Knife Sale" is not a sign one sees frequently. I think it was God's providence that I did not see that gentleman. Or else we might not be goat owners today.

And so I continue, we DID actually turn off the paved road. By this time, the road signs were just random numbers and letters strung together. In the flat counties where I grew up, west of Indianapolis, those numbers mean something. Usually they relate to the orientation of the roads based on the county seat. But down here, where all surfaces slant and sometimes you can't even see the sun, I doubted there was any plan to it.

We wandered a little on the gravel road and then, were to turn left onto a smaller road, that had a rickety little bridge, I kid you not. My daughters, of course, do not know anything about "Deliverance"; but I'm telling you, by this time, my heart is doing a little jig and the infamous music is playing in my head. And my mother's voice is ringing out, "Why would you bring two young girls out here, for a CRAIGSLIST ad?! Have you completely lost your senses?!" And I was agreeing with her.

Then suddenly the mailbox with the right number appeared, and there was a clean, modest little house with a barn. The cars looked like they were in working order. The sun was shining. My mother's voice faded somewhat. We got out.

There was nothing fancy, and nothing scary, in immediate view anyway. A nice, tall woman came out and she knew my name, so we had actually arrived, sans GPS even! As we entered the dark, cool barn, I had a small wave of fear, but was quickly settled by a healthy, shiny horse, and the ambient smells and sounds of a farmyard.

We met our girls, one of whom was relatively wild...a young 'un she hadn't taken much time with. She was the one going into the dog crate. The big girl was tame and like all goats, curious and bright-eyed. The girls loved them at once. The lady told us the goats had just taken a leak, so we might be able to avoid that in the car. (This had not crossed my mind really. Or if it had, I guess I thought goats wouldn't feel comfortable enough in a moving car, to pee. Too late now.)

We were able to load the little gal into the crate. She was about the size of a small German Shepherd. The larger goat wasn't too keen on jumping into the back of my Expedition, which I had stocked with hay, for eating or sleeping on. So the lady just gathered her up, all 85 lbs of her, and hefted her in. Down came the tailgate and the bleating began.

As with horses in a trailer, once they're in--you hit the road. I handed over the cash, we waved and back out on the gravel we went. And I reminded #1 that we now had to follow those directions backwards. I hope she had been paying attention because it might be important...I had absolutely no idea where we were.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Since it's my birthday, I will blog B4 I work!

So, it was a beautiful summer afternoon, as #1, #2 and I headed off in search of our next farm addition: The Goat Girls! We spent much of the time pondering what names would fit with our Jane Austen theme. I think we were pretty settled on Jane and Lizzie, or Eleanor and Marianne. Although Marianne didn't seem very goatish to me.

The drive was lovely and we soon arrived in Brown County, with its charming, windy roads. As we turned off the main state road, with which I felt familiar, it had started to rain. And as this is Indiana, the sun was still shining brightly and the rain was heavy enough for wipers. We continued to wind south, I think.

I had written directions off my email and had an address. We wound down past the Story Inn, which I have been to once before. I remembered that it was in the absolute middle of nowhere, and felt a little blip of anxiety as we turned away from Story and headed off in a new direction, on a smaller road.

Then I paid a little more attention to my written instructions and noted that it said 20 miles past Story. I gulped. Twenty MORE miles, on this road? I'm sure I spoke out loud at that point, because I am not known for shutting up at appropriate times. It was something like this, "Good grief! How much further now?!" At which point #2 asked from the back, "Are we in Kentucky?" and we all laughed. "Who knows? We could be close to it, at this rate."

The rain sort of ended, but the curving road did not. I'm sure if the roads were straight, we would have been on our way home by now. I really wanted to see this route from the air--or maybe not.

The homes got smaller and further between. We saw a mobile home on a sharp slope, with skirting that made almost a basement underneath the one end, seriously. Out in front of this place was a piece of plywood propped on the mailbox, handpainted to say "Knife Sale" ?!? I shrieked a little, and pressed on the accelerator harder.

And I drove a little faster and wondered what in the world was I doing, bringing two daughters into the hill-country on a Craigslist expedition to pick up goats from someone I have never seen and don't know?! What if it was a nefarious trap?! There isn't good cel coverage down here...what have I done?!? I had some confidence in the tone of the emails we had exchanged. The language the woman used indicated knowledge of dairy goats--I tried to soothe my anxiety.

I kept driving and driving and finally, and in Jeff Foxworthy's immortal words, "we turned off the paved road..."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Adventures in animal procurement

I haven't shared this hilarious story from last summer, and I want to do so before I forget it all. I am old, now. In 2010, I was far enough beyond breast cancer to begin a post-cancer mid-life crisis that for me, predictably, involved horses. I found a 5 year-old thoroughbred, with no issues, on the Internet, and obtained him--without specifically asking my husband--for free. The owner delivered him to the stable I where I've been connected for many years and I thought all my dreams had finally come true.

It was very exciting. I owned a TB. He was handsome and athletic and I was boarding him at a real stable. It was what I had wanted all my life, honestly. It was also over 90 degrees every single day from May on. It was quickly determined that he would need training that I couldn't provide. Then I started cleaning stalls to pay for the training.

I had learned in college that I could trade hard, honest work for whatever horse-stuff I couldn't afford. And I was eager to sustain my fantasy that I could be a good wife, mother, rural property owner and equestrienne. I would drive 12 miles one-way to clean stalls for several hours. Then I would groom my horse after someone else had ridden him and I would drive home exhausted, cook for my family, do laundry and clean my barn. Just what every girl dreams of...

Long story short, he wasn't quite the right fit for me. A terrific horse, a tremendous opportunity, but I couldn't sustain the training he needed, either financially or logistically. So I made other arrangements for him and began a descent into horse-divorce depression. Death of a dream. And in order to short circuit that mourning period, I decided I'd get what I'd REALLY been wanting--dairy goats.

I was sure that my horse phase had officially ended. I had had to work myself to the bone to pay off the training debts for a horse I couldn't consistently ride. I told myself that I was too old, too weak, too chicken and too poor for any more horsey adventures. Goats would be just right. They couldn't kill me. I didn't have to be brave and I didn't have to do a whole lot with them to prove myself to anyone. And, Handyman and I love goat cheese...

So, I found just the ones I was looking for on that mother-of-all bulletin boards: Craigslist. Two dairy does, under a year old. Specifically, an Alpine and a Toggenburg (which I had wanted since my first summer camp job in Michigan, where we had one.) Toggs are uncommon and so this convinced me that I was destined to be a great goat cheese maker. The arrangements were made.

These two little gals were down south, a little more than an hour away. In hill country. I had discussed with the owner about putting the smaller goat in our large wire dog crate. She thought that would work, but thought the bigger goat would not fit in a crate. I was not going to borrow someone's horse trailer to pick up two little, albeit not mini, goats. The dog crate would take up one half of the back of the Expedition and the larger goat would have to be loose, next to the crate.

I am not terribly knowledgeable about goats, but a little horse and dog experience, some riding instructor safety training and enough fear of the unknown to keep me wary, made me think that an unrestrained goat weighing almost 100 lbs., loose in the back of my Expedition might not be the smartest decision ever. So, Handyman graciously cut a piece of plywood to fit upright behind the seat of his Expedition. The Expedition with the rubber floor mat with the curved edges. (This will be important later.) Handyman is such a smart guy that he took the mat out and put roofing felt paper underneath the mat, to cover the holes where the seatbelt clamps are placed. I don't know why he thought of this, but we were all so thankful for this foresight.

I drafted #1 and #2 to go with me. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and we were driving to one of the most scenic areas of our state to pick up our new pets. What fun! (Why Handyman puts up with these sporadic plunges of mine that always involve money and more work, is beyond me!)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tumble Dry now set to low

Another gigantic change at will be home 3 days a week now! Happy dance!

We went from homeschooling 3, to breast cancer, to public school for one and free-range/homeschooling for 2, to public school for 3--mom working 5 morning hours/5days week, for a year. Then I had the summer off, along with 4H 2 nights/week. Then we gutted the kitchen, and the master bath, and invited the contractor in to do major work. Then I went back to work 2 weeks before the kids went back to school. Then the kids went back to school. Then #1 had 5 weeks of studying Islam, with a project on Islam. Then #2 had a unit on Islam, along with a paper OR a children's book on the 5 Pillars of Islam, to be donated to the local elementary school (!). Then the kitchen never made any progress because Handyman is never here and #3 cried one night that she missed the kitchen. Then I got a letter from the IRS saying I forgot to pay last year's quarterly payment.

Then I decided I had reached my limit...and that's a good thing.