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Monday, March 11, 2013
Roses and Old Christmas Trees
I want a goat.
I have wanted one since the eighth grade when my math teacher told us she had one in the back yard and got fresh milk from it.
I had my first carton of goat milk at the Los Angeles County Fair when I was six. It was like, 'Where have you BEEN all my life???' when I tasted it. Unlike cow's milk, goat's milk tasted vibrant and full of life. The only time I could get it was once a year by going to the fair. It cost fifty cents a tiny kid-sized carton, and it was the highlight of my trip. To imagine unlimited goat milk at your home was to imagine Heaven!
I had my first taste of goat milk from a back yard goat in 2010 when I was in Puna District. Aurora lived next-door to one of my best friends. She offered me a cup of cool, fresh milk she had gotten that day, along with a homemade cookie. This milk was light years BETTER than anything from the county fair OR the carton at the grocery store!
Although I have no zoning in my neighborhood to allow for a goat, the one in my dreams looks just like this one in the photo. I am sure I would have friends for it, of course, but in my dream I would feed it and clean up after it and milk it every day. In a field that was just like this!
Strangely enough, I have no such desire for a cow. Cows and I are not on the same 'wavelength'. But give me a goat and I will hold it and brush it and pet it contentedly for hours. Yes, when I go in to the petting zoo with my little ones, it is not just for them! I enjoy being there immensely, and fortunately for me my children have 'taken after me' in the LOVE of animals department.
I got this same vibration yesterday from the folks at Redwood Hill Farm. www.redwoodhill.com. Due to some magnificent twist of fortune, I had the amazing opportunity to go talk to them. (More on this later). I spoke with the couple on the left hand side of the flyer, the man first (did you notice the 'goat'ee???) and then the woman who appears to be his wife in the picture. I asked her, 'What do your goats like to eat?' She said, 'We feed them seventy-five percent alfalfa hay and twenty-five percent grains--but they graze too.' I repeated the question, gently, with all the persistence of Le Petit Prince, 'What do your goats LIKE to eat? What are their favorites?' She had to think about it. After a long pause she said, 'Roses'. 'The whole plant with the thorns?' I asked, remarking to myself how the chapter we are reading at bedtime that night IS the one with the 'war between the sheep and the flowers'--the kids fall asleep and I sneak one chapter ahead each night. 'No,' she said, 'Just the petals'. Then her mother piped in, 'And they like old Christmas Trees too!'.
Goat milk is incredibly healthy. And at this dairy that has been in operation for forty-five years, every goat has a name. People know who they are, and love them. And you can taste that love in the milk. This is the one I buy in the carton at the store. And this is the one whose cheese I tasted, loved, and am looking forward to buying.
Now, for those of you who are vegan, and are male, I wouldn't make the assumption that any of this 'milking' thing is necessarily 'cruel'. I have supported my young nutritionally with my body, exclusively so for the first six months. I nursed my young for three years. I am a big supporter of the La Leche League community. Because of my work, I had to pump. It is not bad. If anything, it is welcome. When you are not around your little one, it gets uncomfortable when your milk supply 'builds up'. For me, it was a blessed retreat from my work for about twenty minutes, where I could relax, talk with friends (I met one of my best friends in the room at work, and our boys have grown up together). In an entirely male-dominated world, this 'legally sanctioned' break was much welcomed in my life. My work frowned on my taking the time to pump after one year. However, my 'supply' was ample enough that I could go to work, and not need to pump. The experience of nurturing my own was incredible. When they were sick, they wanted me and nothing else. That is a sign of our connectedness to each other, as well as to our mammal brothers and sisters. Only the goats can answer for them if this is cruel or not. Not even the 'certified humane' people with the clipboards can know how the goats themselves feel about it. But as a woman who has lactated, your life experience is so much more vast than the 'pump room' that it is hardly a blip on your 'radar' when it comes to the quality of life. Except perhaps in my case where it genuinely enhanced it--I got to be a woman instead of an anesthesiologist--and just that, for twenty minutes twice a day. If you know how my training in the heavily male dominated fields of chemical engineering, consumer products development, medicine, surgery, and cardiac anesthesia has required me to adjust so much of my soul to be accepted in those fields, and compete successfully, you would understand how allowing my body to do what it was made to do is empowering in a huge, huge, huge way.
So let the goats decide if they like being in the Redwood Hill Farm family, or would rather fend for themselves out in the wild. And if they choose Farm, I am going to be one happy camper...except perhaps for the one day where I might get to have my own and feed them roses and old Christmas Trees myself.