Friday, November 14, 2014

Asking some hard questions

I'm heartbroken about not having goats in my life anymore. The past few days have been sunny, and I've been outside more, walking by the glaringly empty, quiet goat barn, without anyone maahing at me as I stroll by. Our homestead feels fake without goats, like we are not real farmers anymore. I feel freer now, less busy with milking and making cheese, but I'm also emptier.
Balancing homesteading with our freedom is tricky. We love growing our own food, raising animals for milk and meat and eggs, but it takes a toll: You have to be there. Or if you want to go away, you have to arrange for people to milk the goats, feed the pigs, ducks, chickens, and dog, and water the huge garden. That's a tall order.

So here's the thing: Both my husband Steve and I have a lot of adventure and adrenaline in our genetic makeup. Steve grew up in Papua New Guinea for the first ten years of his life, and later he traveled the world, trekking for days in the Himalayas and other exotic places. He was a rock climber and got a thrill from dangling down for hundreds of feet off a slap of rock, secured only by a rope. He also (I shudder to imagine it) loved exploring deep, dark, scary caves.
Myself, I had plenty of my own adrenaline seeking going on. My only mode of transportation for years were various motorcycles, and I toured to faraway places like Alaska. I took off alone on a motorcycle trip around the country with my Honda 800. (Where I ended up creating an organic farm in the Ozarks in Oklahoma, for a millionare who was scared of Y2K and wanted to be self sufficient. But that's a story for another time.) Also, I was a hang gliding pilot, throwing myself off various mountains in the Pacific Northwest.

So you see, both Steve and I have plenty of adventure in us.
When you are homesteading, however, you have to be a homebody. When we met 13 years ago, we were both ready to settle down. And we did. We grew our roots deeply into this land of ours that we transformed from an overgrown alder forest into a productive homestead, nurturing all kinds of vegetables, fruits, berries, animals, flowers, herbs and eventually, three children.
We are lucky that we have an incredible community of friends and neighbors, and these people happily took on regular milking shifts for a decade. A decade! If it hadn't been for their help, I would have never gotten goats. Our family of five would have resented being tied down to the homestead. We were able to get away a lot: hiking, backpacking, road tripping.
But still... we had to come back.

I got rid of my goats so I could decrease my work load and stress. Because as much fun as goats are, they also deliver plenty of stress, say when a goat decides to give birth in the middle of the night, but things don't progress in labor, and then you have to push your arm into the screaming goat's uterus and pull out babies. Sometimes they are dead. That's hard. That's stressful.
And our children are getting older. They want to do things other than stay at home to play with baby goats (why, oh why is there anything more important than playing with baby goats???).
So for now, we have our freedom back, and that's okay with me, and maybe even a little exciting. And sad.

To celebrate our freedom, Steve took the boys on a canoe camping trip on the Skagit and Sauk River last week, in the beautiful sunny but bitter cold weather. I wasn't there because I really, really like my wood stove and soft bed, but the guys took pictures, and we want to share them with you, so you can celebrate our freedom with us.  And celebrate Luke's seven pound silver salmon!!!

And then you can come over for tea and cry with me, and let me show you pictures of the baby goats.

Packing the canoe.  Mama makes them all put on life vests immediately.
They packed massive amounts of food.
Dad kisses Eva goodbye.  Sorry, girl.  This is a boy's trip only.
There they go.  I let them go with a nervous heart.  Rivers scare me a little.
Bye, bye! Be safe!
They found this rotten King salmon head.  This is a size nine boot, so it's big.
Do you see the two eagles in the tree?
That's my boys, paddling in a side channel.
Steve, the best Dad in the world.  Really.
Pretty, yes?  There's fish in that water, I tell ya.
Did I tell you that the purpose of this trip was not only Dad-Sons bonding time, but fishing, fishing, fishing?

Looking at this picture makes me wish I had been there.
It was cold, really cold.

Luke, the fishing champion, has a big silver on the line. Steve stands guard with the net.
He got him!!!  He got him!!! Seven pounds!!!!!
It's a monster!!!
The mighty hunters and gatherers paddling home...
... to show off their prize to the women!
And tonight, my family is cooking me dinner (see salmon on the left).


  1. Life meanders like the river. It takes you to many different shores and with that there is loss and birth, a cycle that inevitable. This transition time of not having your goats is always the most challenging as it leaves a void. Yet, it is also freeing as you can feel. Being with all of it as you are doing is honoring the truth of your life's trajectory. It's good to write it out and recap it for yourself (and for all of us). You have such a rich life with your family and Mother Nature. May your inner guidance connects you always to your heart's desires and your soul's unfolding toward her potentials. Hugs!

  2. Thank you for your wise words, Tuyet. This process is like a meditation... a continual letting go and being present with what is NOW. It's a great practice!


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