Monday, February 28, 2011

Little Bumps Along the Way

It can be challenging to capture the stunning beauty of snow fall with a camera, but then I am not a professional but an enthusiastic amateur. The willows were particularly striking against the vivd blue of a break in the storm. Each little node just budding out was a landing spot for the super soft light snow that fell. There are little bumps in the life of goat watching too. Several months were spent making progress creating new goat pastures fenced carefully. Who knew (obviously not me) that baby goats would simply jump through those holes in the fencing perfectly sized for goat exploration. Oh! I guess I could say at this point that baby girl goat is now officially named. Fittingly it seems as she was born on a full moon. Luna. Latifa and Luna. I like it. When I had first thought to call baby goat "Brownie" I told Frannie (who calls herself infamous for my quoting of her in the blog), Frannie said ( and you have to know her and understand that she has the most loving heart and a total sense of honesty), anyway she said  "That's terrible." I had felt it too so a certain relief came with her candidness. I appreciate that quality in a friend very much.

Yesterday I was going about my work and heard frantic Luna calls. Sydney was coming in from the pasture as I was going out to explore. "Luna is on one side of the creek and Latifa is on the other. They'll figure it out." Being a new goat grannie (another terrible name) I could not quite let it rest so I went out a little later with my big boots to see exactly what was happening. Another thing to learn: goats are definitely curious. And the pasture is full of thickets of blackberry caves along with some open grass land. the goats are tunneling through the blackberry and there is Luna in the middle of it with her little sweater stuck on the thorns. I thought I was sore last night from a wonderful wellness class workout but I suspect that it was more from hiking over and under and through those blackberry canes that left thorns in my hair, my boots and all manner of scratches everywhere else. I carried Luna out of the thicket and back to the safety of the smaller penned area. Now I can rest. For a moment anyway. New work to be done figuring out baby proofing the fencing. Lessons learned. I rather like that I do not have it all figured out.

Luna is quite friendly. She will hop up onto my lap and lean into the body scratches she has grown to love. She also puts her head into my hand indicating the desire for a head scratch too. Warm Velvet Softness. That's the feeling.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Silence Shattered by Symphony

I've been waiting. Wondering if they are late this year. Worried that they might not come. That something is wrong. I have heard one or two here and there. But not the deafening surrounding sound I thrill to every year. What am I talking about? Frog chorus. Tonight at about 6 PM they gave their first concerto out on the pond. How is it that they wait until a certain time and then start? Is it the right temperature? Is it the right amount of daylight? Does it vary from season to season? I do not know. I only know that I adore frog song and the way they dominate the forest when they are mating. Full orchestra builds from that first voice or two and then under guidance of unseen conductor: a sudden stop. What mysterious clues do they follow to begin and cease? I've never studied their ways thoroughly except to enjoy the brief weeks of song and delight in their varied colorations and sizes. Frogs are special. Water bound beginnings. Transformation. Land life. Higher notes of winter tree frogs change to the deeper groanings of bull frogs in summer. I'll sleep well tonight serenaded by this wonderful indicator species.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Awaken to Silent Beauty

A Full Moon shone through the departing clouds last night illuminating snowy meadow creating surreal landscape. No power this morning and a silence deeper than usual. Stillness. I walked on snowshoes on top of a foot of snow before the sun was up. I feel I am somewhere else in time. Alone, quiet, carless, powerless surrounded by astonishing beauty. The snow is so transitory here that it is delightful rather than onerous. Clumps of snow release from branches once sun hits. Suddenly the giant old fir outside the house drops a large branch. The dogs run barking to investigate. Goats browse from branches hung low with snow and Latifa takes a little walk outside of the kidding stall leaving me with her baby. These rare few hours of total detachment from the way the world works is an oasis.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Snow Adventures

The snow continues. A foot has accumulated now. Latifa and Baby are getting along. Baby is beginning to kick up her heels then fall over because she is still wobbly. I enjoy these early newborn days in the kidding stall. Latifa likes to come snuggle up next to me when I visit. The way it works is wonderful. The night Latifa gave birth was the night I had the Net Flix movie The Business of Being Born. Great documentary. How appropriate it was to be reminded of the work of a doula. I can now say that among the many other things I have done at Quail Meadows over the years as 'firsts' I am now a goat doula. I like to think I am an honorary goat but I am not sure the goats would go so far.

As the snow continues to pile up I begin to get a little cabin fever so I decide to take the Geo Metro to town and mail a package and get mail. My neighbor Phil said he wasn't so sure I could do it in a car without 4 wheel drive. When I called him later to report that I made it down the hill he raved about the amazing little car. Not so fast. Coming up the hill was another story. At that point I became convinced that the Geo is a soda pop can with wheels. I slid around and carefully picked my way back down to a safe spot in the road where I parked the car. I began the one mile walk up the road to my driveway. As I was walking another neighbor drove by. I waved. He waved and continued on. I guess I could have flagged him down but the walk was so beautiful and good for me and he does not drive a tow truck. I am currently car-less but where would I go anyway but back out to the goat stall to check on the baby and momma?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I'm a Grandma! Sort of....

Feeling along the spine above Latifa’s tail yesterday both Sydney and I knew birth was near. The pencil shaped ligaments had finally softened and disappeared, readying the birth canal. Sydney had a flight to Los Angeles this morning and a storm is dumping showers of water all over the state. We decide Sydney should go to Redding and stay overnight to be sure she could get out of the mountains. Good call. 8:30 PM and Latifa is dripping a little fluid. Rain pouring down. I go back inside and sleep until waking suddenly at 2 AM. Three inches of snow on the ground and fat flakes flying. Down jacket, rain coat, heavy boots and layers. Out to the stall with a flashlight. The birth kit is already nearby just in case. Goats have been at this for thousands of years and sure enough a little kid is standing wobbly and dry near her mom. Earthy fragrance of birth sweetly pungent attracts the other four goats who poke their heads into the stall to meet the newest member of their herd.

What does an expectant goat granny do while waiting for her doe to kid? I join women through the ages and knit little goat sweaters. Really. I’m not so sure generations have been knitting sweaters for their goats, but I have been accused of having grandma baby fever so I’ll cast aside denial and admit that perhaps knitting goat sweaters could be a sign. Good thing I followed the urge to knit as temperatures are below freezing. Now I’m sure that goats have been figuring out this one too, but truthfully my nervous hands were happy to have made something useful. I put the 4 pound velvet soft darling into the sweater and stayed with them for three more hours while Latifa labored without results. We all curled up together and slept in the hay until 5:30 AM when I came inside to put myself into a hot tub and then sleep for half an hour. Consulting with my ‘experts’ I figured out there must be another baby but what to do? Bouncing.

Layering up once again after a cup of hot tea I returned to the stall. ‘Bouncing’ is like hugging a goat from behind and holding her belly just in front of the udders. When there is another kid there will be knobbly bits to feel. I bounce and don’t feel knobbly bits but soon after the bouncing another kid begins to emerge. This one is not alive and very tiny. I scrub up and then pull the kid from Latifa and carry him/her away. The baby must have died some time ago for it is not fully formed.

Latifa eats, baby nurses and everyone seems happy. Six inches of snow on the ground and still falling. The evening was surreal. Latifa let me know there was another baby.  Communication happens even without words. We all know this and yet to live in relation to others who never use words is a gift. I am so blessed to have time to  learn the rhythm, the sweet scents, the ways of goats. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I watch the trees.

I do. I look out my window and look at their branches reaching out to the sky. I notice the silhouette against the sky, sometimes pink with sunrise. Or like now when the light comes bursting through leafless branches onto my keyboard casting twiggy shadows as I type. Blue jay calls. Red Wing Blackbird joins the chorus. The drum beat of a pileated woodpecker takes me outside to hear the early symphony even though the world is still frozen here.

I watch the trees for signs of new growth, for the turning of the earth into spring time and summer. I do love summer. Full leafy ripeness and hot shady swing. But the frozen quality of winter invigorates with her beauties once I force myself out with proper bundling and booting!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Waiting for Sunrise

The world is still frozen here each morning. It is hard, at times, to force myself to bundle up and go out into it. Once I do I am rewarded by the fresh air and the urge to explore. Walking the familiar path each day gets stale. I stop seeing things. I went right instead of left today and found that my entire attention was woken up just by going into unfamiliar territory. Seeing the new velvet soft growth on willows, hearing...oh great delight the call of red wing blackbird has returned, and the scent of violets on the air all remind me it is good to be alive.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Simple Life

My sister-in-law recently wrote me and spoke of my choice to live a simple life. I have been thinking about her words for a month now asking myself if the word simple really defines the life we live out here in the wilderness. I can't quite answer the question. I ask myself what is the complex life? I drove to the San Francisco Bay Area this past weekend to celebrate my father's 80th birthday. Drove down late friday. More driving saturday morning to retrieve my son from his home in Santa Cruz. Party number one. Sleep. Drive up to SF to retrieve my daughter and then drive down the peninsula to party number two. Drive to Santa Cruz to stay the night with my son. Monday morning drive seven hours back to my home. Wonderful gathering with family. So much time in the car.

Home again I walk to do my work. Goat care. Walking dogs in the foggy moist forest. A construction project underway here at my home. Up on an orchard ladder in the winter sunshine cutting branches from an ancient apple tree. Computer work for an art installation. The actual art for the installation. Wheeling loads of firewood. Sorting seed for the garden plantings. A night of  music with Beeeaters. Awesome young musicians. This is a four mile drive away. The longest I make since my return home.

Some answers to what is a simple life: less driving. Less noise.