Tuesday, March 13, 2012


From the voice of the one indoors, watching from the kitchen window as Greg tends to and cares for our little .17 acre and that which is nourished from it... I have been absent from our goats and garden ever since our own human baby was born, and that has been intentional. I have much less room in my consciousness for others' young. And I have been wary of this preparation for the goats' kidding, keeping a distance from it this year, having some small idea that bad things can happen (to other people's goats, of course).

I can't help but think about our child's birth since Mabel's early kidding and death. How forceful and sometimes violent entrance into this world can be, and how dangerous. How my child is such a miracle, as is each of us, who comes through that threshold safely.

Think of this: each one of us is here because a woman sacrificed her body's safety and comfort. There are no exceptions. And we are, each of us, before we are able to become anything else and from the moment of our first breath, evidence of astounding sacredness.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

more bad news

Mabel is dead. She developed a prolapsed uterus and serious infection. She spent the night at the veterinary hospital but we had her put down this morning on the doctor's recommendation.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sadness and Disappointment

(Warning, this post deals with death and has a sad picture)

Each morning I get up and put the coffee on to brew. While it is brewing, I feed the goats. This morning, my brief foray into the out of doors brought with it unexpected and very sad developments. Mabel was in labor, about six or seven weeks early. Given that goats have a roughly five month gestation, this is very premature. I'll spare you the truly gory details but suffice to say there was much blood, sticky icky and heart wrenching sadness in my day. All told, she had six(!) babies inside her, all but one of which were delivered dead. One had a weak heartbeat, which I could see though its tiny ribcage. Unfortunately, at such a young age the babies do not have the ability to breathe and thus cannot live in the outside.

I have spent the day searching around on the internet and reading about what causes miscarriage in goats and what to do. The internet is a great place to find terrifying information about diseases that can spread from goats to humans and hide in your brain tissue for years (true story), but a really bad idea on cold rainy days when you've just buried six baby goats in your yard and need to watch your own baby all day. I've never used so much purel in my life. I even pureled my cell phone.

It's interesting and unexpected how the more time I spend with livestock and growing/raising food at the small scale, the more I understand how we have come to have the gigantic scale modern american industrial food system. There are so many authors out there who decry corporate agriculture/factory farming/etc, but when you have animals dying in your backyard and you don't know why, reliance on expert opinion and powerful medicines is very appealing. In the least, this has been a very discouraging and frightening experience.

I am reminded of some dairy cows that lived on a farm where I once worked. The farmers loved their cattle and had been raising them for a number of years, and had two cows, a steer and two calves. One cow had a pendulous udder that would sometimes touch the ground and was prone to mastitis. This cow, had she been living on a big, heartless, corporate farm, would likely have been hamburger long ago, but on the small, loving family farm got an udder bra and special attention. Unfortunately, she also developed a botulism infection in the udder, which spread to all the other cattle and killed them slowly and horrifically. The week or so of decisions and dying cattle that I watched the farmers and animals go through is etched in my mind as a particularly significant and difficult time. Now one of my own dairy animals is out in her pen, having delivered six dead babies and still no placenta, and I am worried about toxosis and all manner of possible scary diseases potentially oozing out of her into my backyard.

Buying milk in a little plastic carton with a sealed cap and expiration date is so reassuring, so simple, so disconnected from the emotional and physical fact that this liquid is coming out of ANIMALS that have given BIRTH. There is blood, mucus, noise, sadness and joy, work and pain, hoping and waiting, and sadness and disappointment in every ounce of milk from your own animals. Now we have to make the decision of whether or not to keep Mabel in milk. She is producing milk now, since giving birth. Monday we'll take her and PJ to the vet to be screened for TB and Brucellosis, both potential abortive agents and milkborn diseases, but both very rare. If she is clear, will we consume the milk? Even if we know it is safe, it will never be cleansed of our knowledge of its origin: the body of an animal who had a miscarriage in our yard. When you remove consumption of something from the market you suddenly see the many complicated other costs and values associated with it, the multiple connections between where the food comes from and where it goes. It is more complex, more multifaceted, more interesting, but it is not easier and does not (always) bring peace of mind. It is richer, but more costly.

Rest in peace, little goats.