Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Polyface -- Day 3

While it has become painful for me to relate my Polyface tales, knowing that I will most likely never return there, I know that my own memory won't remember the small details of the visit in a few years time. So I shall finish up my adventure, in spite of the heartache.... 

 Thursday morning found me feeling sore, and with a headache. Nice way to start the day. Lydia admitted to being sore as well, and we both took some painkiller before heading outside. She took two pills, I took three. ;) Morning chores were just the same as the day before. Scattering oats, filling feeders and waterers, throwing hay to the hogs, and seeing to the rabbits. While throwing oats in hoop house #3, my boot kicked something hard. I looked down, and to my surprise I found that I had just kicked a rib cage; the remains of a deer carcass that had been thrown in for the chickens. As I looked into the rest of the hoop houses, I saw other random bits of the same deer. One hoop house had the legs, one had the neck/head, one had the extra bits... Since the chickens stay "cooped up" (couldn't resist. LOL.) during the winter, they don't get the protein that they do in the summer (in the form of insects and carrion). So the Salatins provide raw meat for all the birds, to insure that they still get the protein. I must say the chickens did an excellent job at cleaning those bones.... LOL.

On our way up to Sheri and Daniel's house to have breakfast, Lydia and I met Michael. Swoon, faint; what a cute guy. Oh, and let's not forget the adjectives 'big', 'handsome', and 'friendly'. ;)

 Okay, okay... Truth be told, Michael is actually a dog. A BIG dog, at that!! Sorry to disappoint,  if you were thinking it was a human I was pertaining to. Hehe. Michael is one of Polyface's three "LGD's" (Livestock Guardian Dogs), and is a monstrous sized, white Anatolian/Akbash cross. I'm 5'7", and Michael's head came up just past my hips. Big guy. While he is fiercely protective of his territory at night, he is a friendly, people-loving galoot during the day. Whenever he hears the tractor being fired up, he is right there, waiting to head out with you to do the latest farm job. Which is exactly what he did, as everyone loaded up into the tractor trailer to start clearing the woodlot, after breakfast...

 Michael has been clocked at running 35 mph, and he certainly had no trouble loping alongside the rumbling tractor as we climbed uphill.

 That day, I worked harder than I ever have in my entire life. Picking up and throwing huge stumps into the trailer bed; running enormous branches and tree tops through the chipper; bending, stooping, lifting, chucking.... Hour after hour, after hour. You work at a frantic pace, trying to keep the chipper fed, and attempting to make a dent in the workload. You find yourself working so hard that you think you're going to be sick. Then you find yourself working so hard that you wish you would be sick, since that might grant you a few moment to rest. After a few hours, your mind takes on a different view of looking at wood. You no longer see something as "too big for me to pull", but instead look at it as "that needs to come out next, and I have to move it." I took on a two-word motto that day: Just pull.

 While tackling huge tree tops that were almost too heavy for me, I learned to simply put one foot in front of the other. I mentally chanted, "Just pull. Just pull." as I felt the limbs beginning to move, and after awhile it actually became a rather addicting bit of work. I grew to enjoy that feeling of a heavy, inanimate object beginning to slide and shudder, as you shoulder the work like a draft horse. We all worked like a team though, and kept a watchful eye on each other. If someone had a branch that was too big for them alone, someone would jump in and help. More than once I gratefully sighed as Ches, Geoffrey (who was from Africa and had just come as we started our work), or Lydia came to my assistance when my "just pull" motto failed me.

 One 'o' clock came, and Daniel declared lunch break for the guys while the girls stayed and worked a bit more.


The guys get to have lunch break first!?!?! And we girls have to stay behind and keep working!? 

Then it got better as Daniel pointed at where we would be working: A small gully lay ahead, and it was filled with large branches and tree tops. Neither the chipper, nor the tractor could get in there, so our job was to get down there and pull those hefty pieces of wood out.

 We girls were too tired to sound enthusiastic, so we mentally buckled down, and went back to work.

I swear those guys took an extra long lunch break on purpose.

That gully actually proved to be rather fun in the end. I squirreled my way down to the bottom, jumping and balancing on branches, before working on getting each branch pulled away from the mass, and sent up to the other girls (Lydia, Savannah, and Leanna) who were keeping the chipper fed. Daniel worked his forklift a few dozen yards away; moving logs into a pile. Staying true to my typical fashion of working style, I burned out after about 30 minutes of working down in the gully. I have never been very good at pacing myself, and always throw myself headlong into whatever I'm doing. Down in the gully, I had been pulling branches out at a pace fast enough to keep three girls hopping; now I was paying for it. We all switched spots, and now the three girls were handing me branches, and I was feeding the chipper. On went the work, until a glorious sight met our eyes: The guys were back. Whoohoo!!! Leanna turned the chipper off, and the silence seemed deafening at first. The guys surveyed our progress and Eric made our day by saying, "Wow, you gals got a lot done. Good job!" The others nodded in agreement. 

 The four of us beamed as much as one can when you're exhausted and starving, and then turned to go have our lunch break. Sitting down had never seemed so delightful to me. As we drove up to Daniel's house to have lunch, I became aware of a painful sensation on my shins. I had been wearing my jeans tucked into my boots, so I assumed the pain was from all the chafing, and promptly ignored the problem.

After lunch, everyone gathered 'round to discuss the next project. Daniel decided to split the group into thirds. Group #1 would go gather and wash eggs (which amounted to 10 dozen!), group #2 would go lay down fresh bedding in the cow barn, and group #3 would start building pig gates. I was more than grateful when I found I was chosen to go to the cow barn... No hammers involved there!

Before everyone scattered, we all said goodbye to Ben. His time at the farm was up, and he was headed back to Oregon. I don't like it when people leave....

After many handshakes and well-wishes to Ben, the rest of us (Savannah, Lydia, Jeremy, and I) found ourselves headed to the cow barn on the tractor, with Daniel driving. I am ashamed however, to say that I was so sore (painkiller had worn off!) that I couldn't get up on the tractor. [blush, blush]. Jeremy had to give me a hand and help pull me up (what a pal... LOL.). Work in the cow barn went a little slower than it normally might have, as the four of us dealt with aching muscles. While I can normally pick up a 60 lb. hay bale in each hand, I was finding to my dismay that I could barely pick up one bale with both hands! But even if we were a little sluggish, the work got done, and soon the cows had a thick layer of bedding awaiting them. I borrowed Daniel's pocket knife as I went to go cut the baling twine that held the gate closed, and the cows out of the barn. As I walked to the end of the barn to let them all in, Daniel jokingly hollered at me to "not lose his good knife." I laughed and told him I wouldn't. The afore mentioned twine was cut, and 50 huge beef cows thundered all around me, as they eagerly went to check out their new digs. That was a neat experience, being in such close proximity to flying bovine heels, and dodging being trampled. After some slow maneuvering, I managed to get out of the pen, and immediately went to give Daniel his pocket knife back. Or, I started to at least. I realized in horror that I had lost a leather work glove, AND Daniel's knife somewhere in the throng of those beef cows, and I had no idea where they were. In a panic, I jumped over the gate and began frantically searching for the knife. I had to slap cow rumps and and was continuously saying, "Move over, Beef." (for some reason I just called 'em all "Beef") The cows were nervous with me winding through their pen, and I had to watch out for the rambunctious steers who were more than willing to kick me. The glove was found halfway down the pen; mucked up, and filthy. But where WAS that knife??? I was just about to give up and buy Daniel a new one, when my eye caught a glint of metal, in the midst of mud and muck. The knife was right where I had opened the gate, and a huge cow was about to step on it. "HEY!! BEEF!!" I shouted, and dived towards the bovine. My ploy worked, and the startled animal sped back in reverse. Ha ha! Victory!! The knife was disgusting, and I certainly wasn't looking forward to showing Daniel, but at least I had it. Thankfully, Daniel had the patience of a Saint, and simply hosed the knife off before sticking it back in his pocket.

When we got back to the farmyard, Daniel told us we would join group #3 in building gates. I groaned inwardly; there was no way of getting out of the job. Savannah went to go help wash eggs, which left Lydia and I to fumble on our own amidst the guys who were expertly going about the work. I tried telling Daniel about my severe lack of skills when a hammer was involved, but he simply laughed and said, "Show me." as he handed me a hammer and a nail. Lydia and I looked at each other, and then started. We both bent our nails. And then we bent the next ones. And the next ones. I watched in amusement as Daniel's 6 year old son, Andrew, hammered his nails in straight. That just didn't seem fair.... A six year old was doing better than I was! I think I must have ruined five nails when I threw down my hammer in discouragement. I asked Noah if I could admit defeat; I didn't want to completely ruin their gates! Noah smiled, handed me my hammer back, and gave me another nail. "You're doing good," He said, "You just need to keep on practicing." Noah and I repeated that sequence three more times, as I tried giving up. But slowly, I started seeing a change. I got my first nail to go in straight.

 And then a second nail went in straight.

And then a third.

I smiled to myself as my hands finally figured out what they were supposed to be doing, and soon I was wailing on those nails as hard and fast as the guys! Whoohoo! Noah grinned as he looked on. "See?" He remarked, "I told you, you just needed practice." My arms were beyond aching as we put together 10 gates. I had been working since 7 a.m. and it was now 5 p.m. It felt like they were going to fall off, or like at any moment they would just stop working. I felt like a mechanical robot. As we neared the last gate for the day, my movements were becoming increasingly jerky. When we finally finished, I found that my hand wouldn't open up to let go of the hammer. It was so sore and stiff that I had to pry the hammer out with my other hand. 

 Lydia and I leaned against each other, hoping that Daniel would call dinner break. Nope! Now it was time to unload the delivery truck that had just returned from restaurant calls! The back of the hauling van was filled with boxes and coolers that needed to be stacked in the farm store. I was okay with this job. Empty coolers are light. 

 Once that was done, THEN Daniel called dinner break! Lydia and I voted to clean up before walking over to Daniel's for dinner. Fifteen minutes later, Lydia and I felt somewhat human again, and began the trek uphill to where food awaited us. I took one step and felt a searing pain shoot up my legs. I had been so busy that I had somewhat forgotten about my hurting shins. I looked down, and saw thin trickles of blood running down towards my ankle. As I had first suspected, tucking my jeans into my boots had chafed my shins badly, and now both were bleeding. My neck was also rubbed raw where my Carhartt collar had rubbed. I was a hurtin' person. I tried limping my way along but every time my boot touched my shins I wanted to scream. I'm such a wimp when it comes to pain. So I did the most logical thing there was to do. I walked barefoot. The temperature outside was 26 degrees, and we were walking up a gravel road in the dark. Talk about a memory! But the dinner and fellowship was enough to make up for the discomfort. We all stayed up until 10 p.m. laughing and joking together. Brie had cooked up some beef heart, and we all bravely sampled it (it wasn't too bad, actually.), but the main meal was tacos. Yum! 

 I was a little envious of Savannah, who was staying with Leanna and Brie, down in Daniel and Sheri's basement. She wouldn't have to walk in the pitch black darkness, like Lydia and I were preparing to do as we called it a night. Just for the record, my night vision is terrible. I can't see anything in the dark, and I feel like I'm blind. Lydia wasn't altogether sure about walking in the dark either, so we followed our ears. We figured as long as we could hear gravel, then we were obviously on the road. I walked along in the dark that night, not able to see a single thing. It was like someone put a bandanna over my eyes. More than once I stopped and asked Lydia where she was; I couldn't see her! We eventually made it back to Grandma's house, and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Just the fact that I could see it was enough to make it seem like a grand mansion in my eyes. LOL. 

I guess I somehow got in my pajamas and went to bed. I don't remember doing it though. All I remember is falling asleep instantly and sleeping like the dead. I vaguely wondered what we would be doing the next day.... My last day at Polyface...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Just In, From Polyface Farms

I just received this e-mail this morning....

Dear Caitlyn,

Thank you for making the investment to come for the two-day Polyface intern checkout.  It was
an extremely strong group and we are blessed to know so many passionate and goal-oriented
young people are out there.

As you know, we can't take everyone.  The fact that you did not make the final cut certainly does
not reflect negatively;  the field was very strong.  We appreciate your commitment to clean farming
and healing the land and trust that whatever your next step is, you will pursue this vision with
enthusiasm and integrity.

As you pursue your farming endeavors, be sure to check the Polyface Opportunities page for other intern or job opportunities.

We wish only God's richest blessings on you and trust you will find the best fit for your talents.

Best regards,
The Salatin Families

I've been crying ever since I first read this. I'm not going to Polyface, after all. My hopes and dreams have come crumbling down around me, in a dusty heap. I'll put on a straight face eventually, and continue on with life. But not today. Today is a day of mourning.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

And Her Name Will Be 'Dulcie'

Someday, I will have my own farm dog.

 I dream about my canine working partner as often as I dream about my own future farm.

 It will be a female English Shepherd.

She will be a sable and white color (think "Lassie's" look); either light or medium dark is fine.

She'll be a small dog; weighing in at roughly 45 lbs. Small and agile enough to dodge flying cattle hooves, but big enough to take on stubborn rams, and bossy goats.

Her coat will be medium length. Just long enough to give her that "farm collie" look, but not so much that she'll get burr overloads when working.

She'll have a long tail; although, I think the bob-tailed shepherds are nice too. :)

Photo credit goes to Snowy River English Shepherds
She'll help me drive the cattle to new pasture;

And herd the sheep when I need her to.

She'll keep grumpy hogs in line,

But will be gentle with the newborn livestock.

Photo credit goes to Walnut Ranch English Shepherds
She'll be energetic enough to work at any time, for as long as it's needed;

But she'll also enjoy the lazy inside days.

She'll guard my back when I need it;

And keep everyone on the farm in line.

In short, she will be everything the English Shepherd has been bred to be.

And her name will be 'Dulcie'.

The Latin word for "sweet".

I don't exactly know why I chose the name Dulcie, but for some reason it just sounds right.

Some things you just know to be true, and this country girl knows that she needs a farm dog named Dulcie.

And someday, this dream will become a reality.

Someday I will have a sable colored, female, English Shepherd pup in my arms.

 And that will just be the beginning of things....

Friday, January 27, 2012

Polyface -- Day 2

I woke up at 4 a.m. on Wednesday.

 Woke up thinking that Grandma Salatin's home was about to blow away, like in Wizard of Oz. The storm from Tennessee, Missouri, and Georgia was blowing its way north, and Swoope Virginia was getting some seriously high winds from it. I sat up in bed and peered out my windows, hoping to see something of the farmyard. Alas, my night vision is pretty poor, and all I could make out were shadowy figures. I laid back down, thinking that this would be the longest three hours until 7 o clock....

Turns out it wasn't. 

I was dressed and ready to go at exactly 7 a.m. and with my new friend Lydia, who was also there for the 2-day checkout, I braved the still-dark morning, and the chilly temperature of 10 degrees. Brrr! It seems I'm not used to the cold weather all you east coasters get!! We were told to be at the hoop houses for morning chores, so we wisely followed our ears to the sound of clucking hens. The hoop houses are exactly what they sound like: Five big, greenhouse style buildings that had the typical greenhouse plastic over them. But instead of being home to exotic plants that needed warmth during the winter, these buildings housed laying hens, meat rabbits, and some hogs. I very quickly grew to love working in the hoop houses during my stay; they were comfortably warm, first and foremost. Second, they were bright and airy, and it was just plain fun being surrounded by all of those animals! LOL. Chores begin with scattering whole oats on the hoop house floor. The hens all have feeders that stay full of grain for most of the day, but the oats were to encourage the hens to scratch around in the bedding, and keep it fluffy and clean. It was interesting to see the difference in temperament among the hens. The Salatin's have mostly Barred Rocks and Rhode Island Reds. When you tossed a handful of oats in a hoop house that had the Rhodies, they would all panic and fly at the plastic walls. The panic would of course, cause dust to be stirred up, and the noise from so many birds was almost deafening. Not fun. With the Barred Rocks though, you could throw handful after handful while they calmly stared at you. You pretty much had to wade through the Barred Rocks, since they were too calm to run. :)

Hoop houses.

After scattering oats, all feed hoppers had to be filled, next boxes opened up, waterers checked, grit and oyster shell bins had to be filled, and we would usually re-fill the nest boxes with new hay. On the left side of the hoop houses were Daniel's rabbits. All sitting quietly in cages above the ground. Now, I've been raising rabbits for about eight years, but I can honestly say I have never seen such good looking rabbits as what Daniel had. Wow. Absolutely beautiful stock. Some of the hoop houses were split into thirds. Two-thirds of the structure would house the chickens, and the last 1/3 would have hogs. I must admit that out of everything I did at Polyface, I loved working around the hogs the most. I liked listening to them, and watching their goofy personalities as they went about their day. This country girl wants her own hogs someday...

 While some of us worked in the hoop houses, others went to throw hay to the cattle, and take care of the rest of the hogs that were in various places. Morning chores took about an hour to an hour and a half; depending on how many people were there that morning. After morning tasks were accomplished we all eagerly went to have breakfast. We switched out so that one day the guys would eat with Joel and Theresa, and the next day they would eat with Daniel and Sheri, and then we girls would eat with Joel and Theresa. Wednesday morning happened to be when the girls got to eat at "the big house", and I was excited. I had read all of Joel's books, watched all the footage about him, listened to audio books by him, but I had never yet met him in person. And now I was about to go eat breakfast with him! 

The inside of Joel's house (er, Theresa's I suppose I should say?) was delightfully old fashioned and homey. It's just one of those places that you immediately feel at home in. Lydia and I took off our coats and boots and were greeted warmly by Theresa (who actually prefers to be called "Missy"). I could smell sausage frying, and already the table was set with warm breakfast breads, raw milk, and scrambled eggs. They feed ya' good at Polyface, let me tell ya'. Five cats lounged around in the kitchen/dining room. These weren't just any cats either: these were Theresa's cats. It brought a smile to my face seeing how she doted on those fluffy felines. A few minutes later, Joel himself came cheerily downstairs. Clad in a faded shirt from a thrift store that had the name tag, "Sam" appliqued onto it, he didn't much look like someone who just pulled in a million dollars from his farm that year. And for that I smiled. As luck would have it, I got to sit right next to Joel for breakfast. Yeah, I'm a tad pathetic; being excited to get to sit next to Joel Salatin. But hey, it's not every day you get to sit next to your hero in life, right? ;) Joel is a very friendly, very down-to-earth person who is extremely easy to talk and laugh with.; and laugh and talk with him, we did. Good times....

After breakfast, we went straight back to work! Here's a tip though: if you ever go to Polyface to work for a few days, brush your teeth before breakfast, and before morning chores! You won't get a chance after breakfast. Ask me how I know.

 Winter is when the Salatins focus on doing wood work. Trees are felled, chopped, split, stacked, made into boards, and/or used for building projects. So our Wednesday project was to finish clearing and stacking some wood that had been chopped earlier in the week; as well as running branches through the chipper. As Lydia and I climbed into the tractor trailer, we were able to get acquainted with the rest of the group that was there. There was Eric of course, who is the Polyface Apprentice Manager (think right hand man). Noah, who was an apprentice, and used to live in Antarctica! Leanna, who is a Polyface employee, and I probably shouldn't forget Daniel.... LOL. There were only 5 people there that morning for the 2-day checkout: Me (duh), Lydia from Virginia, Liz from New Jersey, Jeremy from Texas, and Ben who was also from Oregon! I must admit, that it did me good to have another Oregonian around. I don't know why, but it just did. ;) We bumped and jolted our way up an old road that even the tractor had a hard time maneuvering through, and then finally made it up to the field where our work awaited us.

 The work was easy, thankfully, and it didn't take long before our trailer was heaped with the first load of chopped logs. However, I was sorely regretting my choice of clothing for the day!! I usually wear skirts, and am used to working hard in them; but every time I picked up a log, I mentally berated myself for not wearing my jeans. Work would have been tons easier had I worn my jeans instead of the skirt! Ah well, live and learn I suppose... Riding back to the farmyard was FUN! We had literally piled the trailer as high as we could, and our ride back down to the farmyard was on top of all that wood. YEEHAW!!

The woodpile we built!
 Four hours and many more trailer loads later, we finished clearing that particular field. Lydia and I were feeling pretty good about the accomplishment, until Daniel mentioned that this was nothing compared to Joel's latest tree felling. All the Polyface folks exchanged knowing glances and rolled eyes when someone mentioned the area that Joel had just cleared. Puzzled, Lydia and I asked what was up with Joel's latest bit of work. Daniel simply smiled and said that Leanna would show us the spot later in the day....

After lunch break, the guys went to spread some of the fresh wood chips in the cow barn, and we girls got to help Joel run the saw mill! FUN! ;) Truth be told, I don't know how to work a chainsaw. Or an ax for that matter... But I DO know how to use a saw mill now! I'm not sure who had the most fun that afternoon: We girls, watching Joel play with his "boy toy"; or Joel, who was having obvious enjoyment using his beloved piece of machinery. It was like watching a kid with a new toy, as Joel expertly turned rough pine logs into 8"x8"'s for raised garden beds. We finished our work just in time to meet the newest guy who had come to the 2-day checkout, Ches from Ohio, and say goodbye to Liz, who had finished her time at the farm. Daniel mentioned making some pig gates now that everyone was finished with their afternoon tasks, and I felt momentary panic well up inside me. I did not want to do anything that involved a hammer and nails! Making pig gates was the last thing I wanted to do; for I knew I would be sure to bend my nails and embarrass myself. I had been feeling pretty good about my work all day; I didn't want to blow things now by letting Daniel see just how lousy I was at building!

Joel's saw mill. AKA, his "boy toy"

I breathed a sigh of relief when Leanna mentioned taking us up to see the woodlot that Joel had cleared, and the cottage where the girl interns stay. Agreeing with the suggestion, Daniel and Joel told us to clean up for supper after the walk up to our destination. Turns out that the cottage is 4/10's of a mile from the farmyard, and while that's a pretty small distance, it sure seems a lot longer when your legs are complaining, and it's all uphill! But the view up at the girl's cottage was lovely, so I think the walk is worth it. ;) Directly behind the cottage was the clearing.... Lydia and I stared at Joel's handiwork, and could each only muster one word as we stared at the scene before us: "Wow."

 Roughly 2 acres of land lay in front of us. What was once forested terrain now looked like no-man's land from a WWII movie, or an aftermath scene from Chernobyl. You looked at the staggering amount of downed trees and brush and wondered how on earth one single person could do all of this in only a few short mornings. I had heard what I thought were jokes about how Joel loved his chainsaw, and I realized that they weren't jokes at all. Joel loves his farm, cows, pigs, and chickens, but above all he loves his chainsaw, and his saw mill. As we surveyed the impressive panorama, Leanna told us that this would be the next day's work. All of the trees and brush, every single bit of it, had to be cleared. By hand. Frankly, the job looked impossible.

 But there was little time to dwell on the next day's agenda. It was supper time! Wednesday night is when everybody on the farm has dinner together at Joel and Theresa's, and I was looking forward to resting, good food, and getting to know everyone who was there. Upon entering the farmhouse, I found that another new person had arrived for her 2-day checkout. This time it was a gal from Ohio, named Savannah. I was delighted to learn that Savannah was a children's librarian (come on, how often do you meet a librarian at a farm??), and I quickly found a "kindred spirit" in her. ;) She and I became close chums in a very short time. And that, dear readers, was the start of what became one of the most memorable nights of my life... Stories were in abundance as each person shared his or her tales; the food was hot and plentiful; the laughter was contagious... I didn't want the night to ever end. After the meal was cleared from the table, Noah broke out the puzzle toys, magnetic balls and other such amusing doohickies. We all watched with mirth as poor Ben tried to figure the brain teaser out. After a few minutes of watching, Joel walked over to the bookshelf and pulled out a very old looking children's story titled, "Kermit the Hermit". He had been talking with Savannah about children's books, and was shocked that she had never yet heard of Bill Peet, or any of his books. He looked at the rest of us around the table and asked how many of us knew who Bill Peet was; no one raised their hand. I think Joel's expression at that moment is best described as "mortified". No one knew who Bill Peet was?!?!?! So he took it upon himself to educate us poor heathens, and that is how we found ourselves being read a children's story, by the world-famous Joel Salatin. The following fifteen minutes were priceless as we all howled with laughter over the silly rhyming story that sounded similar to Dr. Seuss. Joel would change voices for each character, which only added to the hilarity of the moment. Ben was still trying to figure the brain teaser out, and Theresa's cats had found laps to sit on. We were all warm, and feeling good from a hard day's work. That night, I felt like I was in a great big family. We may have not been blood kin, but we were bound together by the mutual love of farming and growing/raising food. Our common interest was enough to bring us all together from the far parts of the country, and as I sat there fellowshipping with Joel, Theresa, Noah, Rachel, Lydia, Leanna, Savannah, Jeremy, Ben, and Ches, I felt so blessed. It was such a simple evening really, but the people who were there made it a wonderful memory. If this sounds sappy, I apologize. This is a memory that I have a hard time putting into words. Some things just can't be explained, and that evening may very well be something that I will have to just treasure in my heart, and know that no one else can completely understand, except those who were also around that table...

 We all parted for the night at 9 p.m. The guys went upstairs to the attic, and we girls headed back to Grandma's house.

Two acres of land to clear the next day? Bring it on. We could do it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

FRESH The Movie

The Movie Food Inc. has been called the "wake up call" to what's going on in our food system. If that's so, then FRESH the movie is our call to action. For one week, from 1-26-12 to 2-1-12, you can watch FRESH for free on their website at: I just finished watching this awesome movie and I love it! Very informative, very clear, and very inspiring. And of course, Joel Salatin plays a big part in it. LOL. ;) You should watch it too.

P.S. I am not being paid, nor do I receive any benefits from this post. I am putting this news out on my own accord, simply because I feel that this is a film that everyone should watch. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I miss my Strumstick.

There. That's a really random post for today. ;) Here I am in MD, exploring Baltimore, Lancaster, and D.C, and I'm finding myself hankering for my good ol' instrument.

I'll be flying back home on Wednesday, so not only will I then be reunited with said Strumstick, but I'll be home again and ready to get back into my daily blogging routine. And tell y'all the rest of my adventures! :D

But for now, I must needs go get my boots on. I hear the Smithsonian museum calling my name...

Meanwhile, my fingers are doing invisible chords; yearning for that little instrument... ;) 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Polyface -- Day 1

Polyface Farm. Photo courtesy of my Aunt

As planned, my Dad and I left for the airport at about 3 or 3:30 AM. It was dark and cold, and the snow was flying; adding to my nervousness. My stomach was churning at the thought of being on a plane, and I was badly wishing someone was coming with me. I almost wished that I could cancel everything and just stay home. I was being a chicken. But most humans seem to have a knack for pulling through daunting tasks and I neither fainted before boarding my first plane, nor did I get sick. ;) LOL. I pretty much played "monkey-see-monkey-do" at the airport. I did whatever the folks in front of me did. Waiting in line for my first plane bound for Atlanta GA. I found myself with a US Marine in front of me, and a dozen french teens behind me who had come all the way to Oregon for a fencing match (judging by their T-shirts, and their conversations). The word "tuna can" came to mind as I got on the plane. My goodness, I didn't realize they packed you in so tightly!! I was secretly hoping that I wouldn't have to sit next to the french folks, or a guy during the flight, and my wish was granted. I was seated next to a very sweet lady whom I chatted with, and next to her was a man who was a professional fiddler. I enjoyed talking about folk music with him too. :) Take-off was --- stressful. I found out that I have a fear of heights. It just seems wrong that something so huge as an airplane can stay in the air! Anyway, I don't want to think about that... I still have the flight home to endure. The sunrise was absolutely gorgeous though, and I have some pictures of that but I don't know how to get those on this particular computer so that will have to wait. The Colorado Rockies were stunning with their white peaks and valleys, and I loved seeing all the ag-land in the mid-west. I may not like airplanes, but it was neat seeing the lay of the country from that view.

 All seemed to be going well during the flight, until I spied a monstrous pile of clouds as we flew through Missouri. I thought of Pixar's movie 'UP', where Russell the boy scout says, "See? Cumulus nimbus." As I realized I was looking at a brewing storm... The captain of the plane asked all passengers to buckle up tightly since there was no away to go around the fast approaching mass of gray clouds. We seemed to hit the storm suddenly, and the turbulence was something to be reckoned with. For a moment, I thought about shouting "YEEHAW!" But thought better of it... I peered out my window in fascination and saw the clouds churning angrily. I felt bad for the captain, having to steer this flying umbrella. Thirty minutes later, the storm grew worse and our plane was forced to a higher altitude. Ten thousand feet.... Fifteen thousand feet... Twenty thousand feet... Twenty five thousand feet.... At twenty eight thousand feet, and 600 mph, we were finally somewhat above the storm. There was still a lot of turbulence, but not as much. The bumpy ride lasted 2 1/2 hours before we FINALLY landed in Atlanta. I was never so overjoyed to see land!!

When I stepped into the Atlanta airport, I actually stopped in my tracks. I couldn't believe the size of that place and the amount of people! Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore. I quickly asked an employee for directions and was told I needed to take the shuttle. Shuttle? I have to take a shuttle? I had never been on one of those before, but okay! After much walking, and encounters with escalators, said shuttle was found. Now, you have to remember that I had never been on one of those contraptions before, so I really didn't pay much attention to the recorded voice that says, "Please hold on, this shuttle is about to leave." I stood there, thinking "Ooookaaaay, the thing's about to move, so what?" Ahem, they are actually quite fast. Let's just say I thoroughly embarrased myself, and the securty guard helped me retrieve my strewn luggage. [blush, blush]. but once I learned that you have to hang on, the shuttle was actually rather enjoyable! ;) Oh I felt like such a country bumpkin though... Being amused by shuttles, and sporting my Carhartt. As I sat down to wait for my next flight to Charlottesville VA. I noticed a lanky, blonde lad sitting a few rows away from me. Now, normally I don't pay that much attention to other people (especially guys; they scare me in general) but this fella' stuck out since among all the other people wearing their tight, black clothes, chains and peircings, this guy looked normal. He wore faded work boots, and an equally faded brown Carhartt coat. Maybe that's what got me... Someone else was wearing a Carharrt! LOL. I wondered if by any strange chance he was headed to Polyface as well...

 Thankfully the flight to VA was uneventful and relatively quick. I almost laughed though, when I saw who I would be sitting next to. It was a girl about my age, but that's all we had in common. She was dressed in very stylish clothes, her makeup was perfect, she was reading a 'New York Times' magazine, and her iPod was blaring, despite her headphones. I plunked down next to her, trying not to laugh at the ridiculous contrast. My Carhartt had little muddy hoof prints on it, from where Poppet had been jumping up, and there were still some rogue bits of hay here and there. My hair was a helter skelter ponytail, and I don't even know the faintest thing about applying makeup. I glanced at her choice of reading, and then mischievously pulled out my seed catalog. I really couldn't resist. ;)

I DID laugh out loud though, when we pulled into the Charlottesville airport. I had just left one of the biggest airports in the nation, and I was now landing at something that was smaller than my local grocery store. The runway was surrounded by cattle fields, and to exit the plane we had to scurry down a ladder, like what you see in the old movies. I gathered my luggage and walked inside, noticing the lanky blond ahead of me. As I entered the airport (if it's not too bold to call it that!) it hit me that I really had no clue as to who to look for. Would Joel pick me up? Sheri and Daniel? One of the employees? The clock read 4:30 p.m., and the Salatins knew I would arrive at that time. I saw no one that looked like they were waiting for someone, so I hesitantly sat down in the lobby. The lanky blond was sitting directly across from me, waiting for someone as well. I tried to work up the courage to ask him if he was going to Polyface too, but I couldn't do it. My nerve kept on failing me.

 Ten minutes later, A young man strode into the airport. His aqua colored T-shirt was a dead giveaway, as I recognized it as one of Polyface's. I could only assume this was my ride home. He turned to the lanky blond, and asked if he was Jeremy, whom he was supposed to be picking up for Joel Salatin. The blond fella' nodded, and the Polyface guy said, "Great! I'll take you home in just a minute, but I'm also supposed to be picking up a girl, so I'll have to find her real quick. Her name was... It was... Oh man, what did Joel say her name was?!" He craned his neck to look into an adjoining room, looking for me. Trying not to laugh yet again, I stood up and said aloud, "Was her name by any chance, Caitlyn?" The Polyface guy whirled around and grinned. "Yeah! That was her name!" And that was really all the introduction the three of us needed. The lanky blond was now known to me as Jeremy from Texas, and the Polyface guy was Eric (click highlighted words to read Eric's Polyface story). We loaded up our gear and headed off to Polyface, which was one hour away. The drive to the farm flew by as we chatted about cattle, hogs, grass, and homeschooling. Turns out all three of us had been "home eddicated" [wink].

We pulled up to Polyface Farm, and my first look at the place was -- dark. Really dark. I couldn't see a thing. Eric informed me that I would be sleeping in Grandma Salatin's home, but tonight I would be eating dinner with Sheri and Daniel, so to Daniel and Sheri's we went! Daniel built his own home, with Joel's help, and they lived just a hop and a skip from the farmyard. When we entered the house (oh yeah, Jeremy had been dropped off at Theresa and Joel's to have dinner with them), Sheri greeted me warmly and invited me to sit at the table for dinner. Eric took his leave, and I found myself cozily installed with the Salatin's at last. :) Their house was an adorable log style, southern-themed home, that was warm and friendly. Sheri and Daniel's three kids were playing in a bedroom, and two other girls named Lydia and Liz were seated at the table. Like me, they were here for the 2-day farm checkout, and were hoping to get the internship position. A few minutes later, Daniel came clumping down the stairs and greeted me with a big smile. It was all downhill from there... I have never felt so welcome at someone else's home before. We all fellow-shipped and joked together around the table; enjoying Sheri's delicious homemade meatloaf (it was awesome).The time seemed to disintegrate, and before we knew it, it was 9 p.m. Daniel drove me and Lydia down to Grandma Salatins house, and told us that chores started at 7 the next morning, before driving back to his own home. Lydia and I looked at each other, and then went inside...

 Grandma Salatin was a very sweet lady, and went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure we were comfy and had everything we needed. Once in our pajamas, we both sat down in the living room; I on the floor and she on a squishy chair, and we visited with Grandma until 10:30. I loved that night.... Grandma was a good listener as well as a good story teller, and between the three of us, there was never a dull moment. I learned that Lydia was older than me by four years (although she looked like she was 16!), and she luckily lived only two hours from the Salatins. By 10:30 my eyes were drooping without my consent, so I politely excused myself and went to bed. Lydia followed suit.

I was asleep before my head hit the pillow, and that was the end of my first day....

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I'm Back -- Sort Of

Hey guys!! It feels like I've been away from here for eternity! I'm writing this post from Maryland right now, and a beautiful blanket of snow is outside my window. Very nice. :)

 The full Polyface story IS coming, so don't get too far; hopefully it'll all be posted later today or within the next couple of days.

 But wow.... Polyface Farms.... It has completely changed my life, my perspective on things, I've learned so many new skills, made friends, every part of my body is achingly sore, and quite frankly, I'm homesick for my Polyface family. The visit was awesome, and I loved getting to be a part of the Salatin's family, even if it was only for 3 1/2 days. I am blessed with so many memories from that place... Memories that I will hold close for a very long time... Learning to use the saw mill; listing to Joel read a children's story out-loud to everyone during dinner (and no children were present!); listening to Noah's adventures he had while doing construction work in Antarctica; Walking barefoot up a gravel road at night with Lydia towards Daniel's house; Moving cows; sitting with a cat in my lap while Theresa made breakfast; staying up late talking with Grandma Salatin; moving 20,000 lbs. of frozen chicken; everyone gathered 'round the dinner table together, and laughing our heads off at various jokes...

 I miss Polyface.

 So yes, full story coming up, and I believe I even have a few pictures to share. :) Alas, I did not get one single picture of my own, since I was literally working from dawn 'til dusk, but my aunt and uncle have a few that I can put on here. 

Monday, January 16, 2012


Well folks, this is it:

I leave in exactly 12 hours...

My bag is packed (and yes, it's under 40 lbs!), and I believe I have everything I'll need for the week...

Directions of care for the animals have been put in the hands of a sister, so they should all be nice and comfy while I'm gone...

Everything of mine in the house is tidied, I even cleaned my closet out this week!

My Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog is packed, and I am eagerly awaiting to read it on the plane tomorrow...

When I come home next Wednesday, there just might be a new Nubian doe waiting in the barn for me. Her name is Eleanor, and I've been waiting for her for a long time now...

Plans are made, dates are set...

I rise at 2:45 a.m. tomorrow to leave...

Next stop: POLYFACE FARMS!!!! 

I'll give y'all updates as often as I can!

(And yes, this post is really disjointed. I'm in no frame of mind today to make it sound nice and poetic. LOL.) 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Snow Day

I awoke this morning to see the world gently blanketed in white...

It finally snowed.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I Can Just See It Now...

Airport man: "Excuse me ma'am, but dogs are not allowed on the plane."

Me: "Oh that's okay. This isn't a dog anyway."

Airport man: "Ah, I see. Would you mind telling me exactly what that ball of fur is?"

Me: "This 18" ball of fluff is in fact, sir, a goat. A Nigerian Dwarf goat named Poppet."

Airport man: "Goats aren't allowed on the plane either, ma'am."

Me: "This one is."

"Airport man: "How's that?"

Me: "This little lard barrel just so happens to be a -- um -- uh -- a specially trained Seeing Eye goat! Yes. A Seeing Eye goat."

Airport man is not convinced.

I try again: "A Service goat?"

 "A Therapy goat?"

 "A drug sniffing goat?"

 "A bomb finder?"

 "Will any of those titles work?" 

Airport man's expression does not lighten noticeably. 

Sigh... No goats allowed on airplanes... Poppet can't come with me on Tuesday. :-(


Let it be known to all who read this blog: I hate packing.

I despise it above all else in life. I do not like puzzles, riddles or mysteries. And to me, packing is the worst puzzle, riddle and mystery wrapped up into one horrendous chore. 

I do not like packing.

So, guess what I've been doing all day! Yup, packing.

I have every intention of taking my duffel bag as a carry-on piece of luggage. Saves me forty dollars!! But, with this goal in mind, I have to abide by the strict rule the airport has laid down.

It has to weigh no more than 40 lbs.

I scoffed when I first heard that. Who on earth needs 40 lbs. of clothes for the week??? Shucks, I can get my bag packed and stay way under the limit! And so I thought, until I realized that I needed to pack enough clothes for 8 days, shoes, rubber rain boots, a nicer coat than my Carhartt, and lets not forget the pajamas. I forgot those the first time I packed the bag.

At first, I really did think that I would be able to do it, and still have room in my bag. But then my sisters and mom came in the room and started pelting me with, "You can't take that!", "You can't wear that!", "You have to take something nicer than that!!"

Confession: I am neither a fashionable person, nor am I a clothes horse. When I go shopping, I can't look at the nice, fashionable clothes that my sisters so dearly love to wear (and they look quite nice in them). No, I look for sturdy, sensible clothes that can withstand goat onslaughts, adventures with barbed wire, dirt stains, blood stains, hay stacking sprees, and other various things such as that. I joke that I wear designer clothes: much of what I have is ripped or stained. My favorite tiered, denim skirt has a 5" square rip at the bottom of it from barbed wire. The navy blue T-shirt I'm wearing right now has bleach stains on the hem, and a tear in the sleeve. My denim blouse had a 3" tear. As I tick my clothes off on my fingers, I sheepishly have to admit that nothing is in good condition. When I want to dress up, I just go get something from my sister's closet, since there's nothing good in mine.

So as I viewed my clothes for the week with satisfaction, my family was looking on in horror. My beloved John Deere shirt that says "Farm Raised" on the front may be a slightly funny shade of yellow, but I love that shirt! I've had it for almost five years, of course I'm going to take it with me on the trip! If I had my way, I would probably clump through the airport wearing my trusty brown linen skirt, yellow John Deere shirt, rose colored Carhartt, and my black rubber boots.

But for some reason my family said I couldn't wear that... I must be behind on fashions these days... 

So the afore mentioned mother and sisters took over the decisions of clothing, and I must say that I will look much nicer now! But getting it all in that duffel bag.... Oh good heavens. 

After who knows how long, I did finally manage to get everything in, and the zipper closed (for a few moments, I thought for sure it would break!). And then, oh the horror!! I realized that I forgot to put pajamas and socks in there!! Back out came everything, and it took much repositioning before that zipper was closed once again. 

But then I picked the bag up.

It's really heavy.

Something tells me it weighs at least 40 lbs. Most likely more. I groan just thinking about going through everything again. And I'm not even going to think about the fact that my pajamas that I need tonight are at the very bottom of the bag; stuffed inside the rain boots.

I hate packing.

And I'm going to look utterly ridiculous as I go through the airport with my rose colored Carhartt (it wouldn't fit in the bag, so I have to wear it), nice clothes, and cherry red duffel bag. Fashionable, I am not.

I will try and continue to post on here daily, until Tuesday, but I won't make any promises. Between trying to get ready to leave, and still going about daily life, I am tuckered out! 

Toodle pip and cheerio, my friends. :) I should probably go and try to get my pajamas out of the bag now...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Black and White

I had the delightful pleasure of creating an Alpine goat this week, and I thought I'd share some pictures with y'all. :)

Below is what a real Alpine looks like:

Photo courtesy of Iron-Rod Alpines

 And this is my rendition:

The only part I wasn't able to replicate was the white patch on the hind legs. Knitted goats are just too chubby to be able to do that... ;)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Led By A Goat, Part 3

Life was certainly interesting with Heidi around. In her underweight condition, she was roughly 150 lbs. Capri, who was my second biggest animal on the farm at the time, weighed only 130 lbs. Heidi frequently used brute strength to bully the others away from the hay manger, and sometimes even out of the barn altogether. Her instincts were in overdrive, and she was trying to eat as much food as possible. All other creatures were looked upon as competition for food, and she was determined to climb her way to the top of pecking order, and keep all the food to herself. I kept the 8’ long, 3’ wide, and 4’ deep hay manger full at all times, but that didn’t deter her from aggressively commandeering the entire structure. Capri and Ivy rebelled towards this big, white goat. Fights broke out. Heads became bloodied. Heidi was like a ticking time bomb; you were always waiting for the moment of explosion.

Each day I tried to tame my new wild girl. It was late December now, and she was due to kid in February. I needed her to be calm and trusting enough by then, that I could milk her. Despite my daily efforts, Heidi remained stubbornly introverted. She was untouchable, and flighty; insecure and distrustful. At times, I could see a spark of something different flickering in her eyes. As if perhaps she wanted to trust me. But those moments were fleeting; lasting only a minute or two before being once more veiled in doubt. I tried feeding her choice tidbits by hand, I tried brushing her, I tried talking to her without making eye contact; I tried everything I could think of! I don’t know what her past was like, and most likely never will, but something obviously happened to her that caused her life to shatter. What I beheld now were shards: Broken, seemingly irreparable, cracked, destroyed… And yet, amidst the ruin I saw beauty. Even broken glass will still reflect light. I felt like there was still hope for her, if I could only figure out how to reach her. How do you try and make a goat understand that she is finally safe, and will not be abused again?

As I watched and cared for her in the following weeks, my memory was still trying to figure out why her story seemed so familiar. Why was I perpetually haunted by the look in her eyes? The answer was on the tip of my tongue, and yet forever dancing just out of reach. Like trying to remember the name of your first childhood friend, or your favorite candle scent when you were young, such memories can be hard to resurrect, but they’re there; hovering in the back of your mind.

The answer to my plaguing question dawned on me one afternoon as I watched Heidi in frustration. I had just spent the last couple of hours groveling for her attention but it was to no avail. The Nubians circled me like land sharks during this time; eager for affection and back scratches, but I waved them off. I wanted Heidi. Couldn’t she see that? Couldn’t she see that I wanted to hold her, scratch her behind the ears, and be her leader? I was frustrated to the point of being angry. She wouldn’t open up to anyone! She no longer trusted humans! What happened to cause her to lose faith?! That’s when it hit me. As if punched in the stomach, I gasped, and had to sit down on the damp ground as the realization dawned on me.

Why did her looks of fear and mistrust seem so vaguely familiar? Why did I feel like I had seen it all before? It was so obvious that I missed it until now:

I was seeing a mirror of myself.

Resentment, bitterness, pride, fear, pain… When I looked upon Heidi for the first time, and saw those emotions fleetingly pass through her, I was unconsciously harking back to my own memories of the same feelings. I bought her, wondering why she seemed so familiar to me, and now, in a dumbstruck manner, realized that I was seeing my own reflection in a four-legged animal. I understood her now...

This has been really helping me, to post parts of my book on here. :) Makes me write it faster! 

January Movie Review

Food, Inc.

A Robert Kenner film

Rating: 10
Watchability (bear with me on the term): 10
Impact: 10
Recommend It? Yes!
Watch it again: Yes!

What to expect: Food, Inc. lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing how our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers, and our own environment. Food, Inc. reveals surprising and often shocking truths about what we eat, how it's produced, and who we have become as a nation. ~ Excerpt from back cover of movie case

 My Thoughts on it: Watching Food, Inc. was a big happening for me. For about a year and a half now, I've listened to folks endlessly telling me that I HAD to watch this movie. People were saying things like, "You'll never want to eat food again!" "I almost threw up watching it!" and "You'll want to go off-grid after watching this, and grow every bit of your own food." Amid all these comments on the film, I kept on wondering in the back of my mind how it could possibly be more graphic than things I had already seen, concerning the food industry. And I've seen some pretty graphic stuff.
So upon being told that I needed to watch this, my mind was expecting a horror movie. Something so graphic and grotesque that it would send me reeling. And that, in short, is one reason why I hadn't watched it until now.

I actually watched this on Christmas Eve... Probably not the best day to do it, but we weren't celebrating Christmas Eve until the 25th this year, and I had the movie already! So I popped it in the laptop and watched it...

If I had to sum the entire movie up in one word, I would call it: Excellent.

 It was an excellent, spectacular film, and nothing what I expected. This wasn't a horror story, it was an informational documentary. I had no desire to throw up at any time while watching it, nor did I run to the kitchen when it ended, and start madly throwing all industrial foods out the window. Watching Food, Inc. was basically a recap for me. In it were things I already knew, had already seen, and was rather desensitized to. I could see though, how it could be a jolting film if you are unaccustomed to how our food system works behind the scenes. 

 I think Food, Inc. did an exceptionally good job at showing both sides of the coin as well. Another thing I had expected was it to be the whole, "Buy organic, locally grown foods, and if you don't then you're a terrible person" sort of spiel. I am 100% for organically grown, local foods, but I'm not so naive as to think that such a thing is possible for everyone at this time. But back to the movie... I liked it how they showed interviews with people who were for CAFO's (Confined Animal Feeding Operations), as well as those who were against it. Those who were for fast food restaurants, and those who are against it. The film was well balanced, and leaves the watcher to really make the end decision about things. 

 Thinking back, if there was one part of the movie that really stuck out to me, it was the part about illegal immigrants who are working in the industrial food factories. I had always known what it was like for them, and what they went through, but to actually see it was a different ball game. That hit home. 

 I definitely recommend watching this movie. This is not a horror story intended to make you feel guilty about your eating choices. It's an educational, extremely informative, accurate documentary that was filmed so that you might better understand how our nation works, how our food industry works, and how everything is ultimately intertwined by what we eat.

You can find out more about Food, Inc. by clicking HERE

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Of Songbirds and Warblers

Time for introductions.

We were blessed this Christmas with a lovely new hammered dulcimer from Songbird Dulcimers (click highlighted words to be taken to their website), so my dad and I thought we should introduce y'all to our newest addition in the musical world. :) This particular dulcimer is called the 'Warbler', and is fully chromatic, as well as handmade. 

The first video pretty much explains what needs to be explained, so I'll leave you now to enjoy watching them!

Hehe, and now y'all know my name: Caitlyn. ;) I don't think I've ever given my name on here, so there you have it!

Does anyone else here play the hammered dulcimer?

Want To Know Something?

At this time, on this day, in exactly one week, I will be pulling into the driveway of Polyface Farms.

The sun will be setting on the Salatin's home place; only a few streaks of finger paint will be lingering in the sky, as we drive up. Before dusk engulfs the entire place.

That's gonna' be torture. I'll have to wait until the next morning before I can really see the place!! 

I am beyond excited for this trip. Excited to work, excited to meet Joel and his family, excited to stay with my Aunt and Uncle in MD for the rest of the week, and just plain excited! 

The Equines Have Landed

Two of them, to be exact. They're quite small though. Much too small to be ridden, as they stand at a petite 2 hands high (1 "hand" = 4"). These two stable buddies are about to be sent off to Kentucky, but I thought I might first share some pictures of my latest creations. :)

The flashy black and white is a Tennessee Walking Horse named 'Spirit'...

And the sorrel is a handsome Quarter Horse who goes by the handle of 'Montoya'...

I have to admit that I'm a little pleased with how these two turned out. Spirit especially. These were both custom orders, and I had to use some pictures as my guide to their colors, markings and build. 

Now, back to making goats! LOL. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Led By A Goat, Part 2

 Having paid for what was now my goat, we worked quickly to load her into the bed of our red pickup truck. With most goats, once you get their front half up there, the rest follows. Not so with this girl. She fought us with whatever strength she still had; blowing and snorting loudly. Her eyes flashing anger and fear. Finally, the man went back into the decrepit barn and brought out a bucket of grain. I watched silently as the poor goat zeroed her gaze on that bucket, and with no help at all she scrambled into the truck bed; eating as if it was her last meal. Just before climbing into the truck to leave, I turned and asked the man if she had a name. He was silent for a moment, as if trying to remember if she did or not. Then he looked at me and said, “Tina. Her name is Tina.” And with that, we parted. He with one hundred dollars in his pocket, and I with a bedraggled caprine named Tina.

The ride home was fairly quiet. Tina seemed too busy trying to stay upright, than to be voicing her opinions on being shanghaied. Forty minutes later, we pulled up to the barn. My barn is certainly nothing fancy, what with its metal walls and roof. Not to mention it leaks on the left side and floods on the right. But it was good enough for me, my goats, and my rogue Jersey calf whose name was Poppy. I opened the main door and hollered to my goats whom I affectionately call “the girls”. “Girls! I have someone new for you to meet!” At that time, there were only two other does: Capri, an Oberhasli/Nubian cross who was my star milker, and Ivy the purebred, registered Nubian. Capri was the color of rich chestnut, with ebony accenting her legs, face and spine. In the sunlight her coat shimmered and rippled like rays of light dancing upon a brook. She was my sweetheart, with her placid temperament and perfect manners. Milking over one gallon a day also helped increase my appreciation for her. Ivy was still a gangly yearling, but managing to put ¾ of a gallon into the pail each day. Her strawberry roan color clashed somewhat with her two buff hued “badger stripes” on her face, but I didn’t mind too much. Her fancy pedigree and potential as a show goat were enough for me.

As I walked in the barn with Tina bucking and thrashing at the end of my lead rope, it hit me, just what a stark comparison there was between her and my two other does. Capri and Ivy were plump, sleek, elegant, and had their own unique style about them. Tina looked like a crow among the swallows; a dandelion with the roses. A Volkswagen Beetle next to a BMW. She was as out of place as a draft horse at a race track. Capri, Ivy, and Poppy pushed against the flimsy wire fencing that created their pen inside the barn, trying to get closer to the newcomer who was infiltrating their home. Getting Tina inside the pen proved to be a challenge on its own. With the two milkers trying to nose the gate out of my hands so they could escape, Tina still plunging to get away, and the cow bellowing for her evening bottle of milk, the moment was anything but reflective and calm. But somehow, in a moment of supernatural strength, I managed to charge through the little gate, drag Tina with me, and keep Capri and Ivy within the fenced premises. HA! Victory is mine, you mischievous fiends! I barked at Poppy to be quiet, who then slunk into a corner and batted her big doe eyes at me. I untied the rope that was still anchoring Tina to me, and anxiously wondered what this wild gal would do now that she had her freedom. Her first move was to get as far away from me as possible. I could see her indecision as she tried to decide if she should run to the farthest part of the pasture, or stay inside and eat hay. She chose the latter, and began stuffing her face; eyeing me warily the whole time.

Family members came out to the barn, excited to see the new addition to the herd. They came in with smiles and questions, but stopped short in steps and words when they saw my miscreant. “You paid how much for that thing?” They all asked. Other comments floated around as they each came and went. “That is the ugliest goat I have ever seen.” You’re actually going to keep her?” “She’s so thin, why did you even bother with her?” On and on the opinions came; like torrents of water, they eddied and swirled around me and Tina. I was a little sheepish at this point; slightly regretting my purchase and wondering if I had been too rash in my actions. But it was too late now. I had to make the best of the situation I was now in. I looked Tina up and down, trying to figure out what I should do first about her looks and state. Perhaps I’m a vain person, but one thing that was really bothering me about her was her six inch long beard that she was sporting. Something in me just doesn’t like beards on my does! It almost seemed to be throwing the symmetry of her face off, seeing as it was so long but her ears were so short. In the end, I let the beard stay as it was for the time being. She had been stressed enough already; there was no need to overdo things.

 But there was one thing that I DID want to do before the night was over. She needed a different name. The name Tina really didn’t seem to fit her, and it harbored memories of her past in those two syllables. What we needed was a new name for a new start here in her new home. We needed to start completely over. Unfortunately, when it comes to names, I tend to get so overwhelmed in the process, that it takes forever to make a decision. Should I name her Pfeffernusse? Snow White? Lily? Greta?

Like I said, I’m bad at names. One name, however, kept on coming back to me: Heidi. She reminded me so much of the Saanen goats in that Classic tale, “Heidi”. I figured Heidi was better than Pfeffernusse (which is a kind of cookie, by the way), so it stuck.

Heidi had landed at Goat Song Farm. What had I done? And what would become of this adventure?

This is yet another excerpt from my growing story. :) This chapter is perhaps not as good as the first, but it's serving as the bridge into the rest of the story. It gets better. ;)

Playin' Hooky Today

Hey guys; just wanted to let y'all know that I'm playin' hooky today, so there won't be any earth shattering posts written on here until tomorrow or Wednesday. It seems I caught some strange bug, and all my body wants to do today is sleeeeeeeeep. I actually just woke up from a five hour nap, and thought I should give y'all a heads up here. Between shaky knees, lightheadedness, and a fuzzy feeling brain, I don't think I could come up with anything good to say today anyway. :-/

 Would anyone on here be interested in hearing more of tale I wrote yesterday? If y'all wanted to hear more of Heidi's story, I could keep on writing excerpts of it. :) Or I could just keep it all under blankets as a surprise... Hehe.

 Okay, I'm off to go sit down somewhere before I fall down.... Oy. I despise being sick...

Sunday, January 8, 2012


 It was something in her eyes… Resentment, bitterness, pride, fear, pain… As if she had irreversibly locked the tumbler to her soul, she stood there: staring scornfully. Not caring about anything anymore. I was looking at the forsaken shape of a white goat, that chilly winter day. The sky was blanketed with gray clouds that looked like damp wool, and a soft mist hung in the mountains. I had come to this dilapidated farm to be shown what I was told to be a Saanen doe, and it appeared that I was looking at her. Her fur coat was a shaggy, three inches long, but even that couldn’t hide her bones jutting sharply from her gaunt hide. To my sorrow, I learned that this destitute creature was heavily pregnant and due to kid in less than two months. She looked hardly capable of surviving, let alone being pregnant. Her eight month old buckling came trotting up to her and began nursing eagerly. Poor girl, I thought, she’s practically being eaten alive as this buckling, and the kids in her womb steal her preciously scarce nutrients.

My heart went out to this horridly ugly excuse for a goat, and I gently reached out to stroke her. She looked at my outstretched hand and hurriedly moved out of my reach. Despite her impoverished condition, her eyes still glowed with feeling. I saw hatred smoldering like embers in her expressive face. Though she stood in a quagmire of filth and was disgraceful to look at, she stood with her head held high. Like a princess locked in a concentration camp, she knew in her heart that she was more than her prison mates. Trying to not let my emotions get the better of me, I rationalized buying such a creature. It was possible that she could die during labor, due to her critical state. Or she might not be a good milker, which is what I was looking to buy. I was on the hunt for a purebred, preferably registered milking goat, and here I was staring at a neglect case. This goat was by no means purebred, either. She had the build and look of a Saanen, but her ears were a dead giveaway to her other lineage: They were only one inch long. Those ridiculous looking ears screamed La Mancha blood, so I could only presume she was a Saanen/ La Mancha cross.

But her eyes haunted me… Where had I seen something like that before? As if groping for a forgotten history, my mind searched for an answer to this riddle.

Meanwhile, the owner watched my silence and took it for hesitance in buying her. He reassured me that it didn’t matter if I bought her or not. If I didn’t, his hunting buddy would come over the next day and just turn her into sausage. It didn’t matter to him; it was just a goat.

I looked at the wretched creature before me, again, and I thought about the $100 in my pocket. She was too proud, it seemed to me, to be turned into sausage. Not to mention her unborn kids would be killed as well. I sighed, and handed over one hundred dollars. Not only did I want to see what was behind her layer of filth, but something in me also wanted -- or maybe needed -- to figure out where I had seen such a haunted look before. Why did her eyes seem like such a familiar memory in the back of my mind?

This small blurb is from something I've been working on over the past week. Just thought I'd share, and ask y'all for some feedback. :)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Hunt Is Over -- At Last

There are 22 new bales of hay in my barn right now. Bales that were not there yesterday.

As I've mentioned to y'all, I've been having a hard time finding hay this month, and the steadily dwindling number of bales in my barn were proof positive of that. My search seemed futile. Everything I found was either too expensive, or they wouldn't deliver, or I had to buy at least five tons, or it wasn't good quality... Ugh. But I needed something, so I was getting ready to spend $245 on a ton of hay that was an hour away from me. I had really hoped to stay in the $150 to $160 range, but there just wasn't anything available!

Then a friend e-mailed me, saying there was a pretty good hay dealer 30 minutes away, and their prices were good, somewhere around $8 per bale. I was intrigued, and called the hay people immediately. 

Less than five minutes later, I had bought myself a ton of clover mix hay. I hadn't even seen it, hadn't run any of my tests by it yet, but I bought it. The gal I spoke with was very confident that I would like it, and I appreciated the fact that she stood behind their hay quality. The fact that the hay was organically grown was the cherry on top. I took her word for the hay's quality, and said I would see them in my barn the next day (Friday).

Unfortunately, it rained on Friday, and the hay people said they would prefer to wait until the next day. I still had hay from my last batch, so I was fine with that.

This morning came, and along with it came my load of hay. 

Hot dawg, I found my permanent hay supplier! 

The hay was just as good as they said it was, and the goats went absolutely berserk trying to get to it, despite their overflowing hay manger full of their breakfast. The husband and wife who own the hay farm were very friendly, and their prices really couldn't be beat. I paid $150 for this stuff, and they delivered and stacked it neatly for me. I'm easy to impress. ;) 

We talked about hay, cattle and goats for awhile, and then they hit the road again. But I'm saving their phone number for sure. I've been hunting for a supplier like them for five years; now I hope to buy from them for at least another five. 

This video is of the girl's third helping of the new hay. Normally all hay goes into the manger, but said manger was still full of their breakfast! So I figured they could go ONE day with eating snack on the ground. LOL.