Monday, December 22, 2008

In Teats We Trust

I know I am not getting out enough; I spend my evenings cooking and zoning out to primetime TV (it's free!), my afternoons playing guitar and doing crossword puzzles, and my early mornings talking to goats as if their floppy ears and misshapen pupils process my silhouette and the sounds that emanate from my mouth into a comprehensive personality with which they knowingly interact. I refer to them as "people" and "folks," apologize to them when I slice off parts of their hooves, and thank them when I return them to their pens. I am grateful to them for providing me with both a meager income and all of the near-expired cheese I can imagine consuming.

Biding my time at the farm is giving me time to work on my bilingual comedy routine; my audience is perfect: contained, relatively sedate, and a hair smarter than a chicken. They listen especially well when I wield a flake of alfalfa or a bucket of grain. The latter is the best; while my fellow goatherd sneakily fills the grain tray I can guide a flock of hungry kids in circles with an empty blue bucket to avoid her being trampled by extremely cute hooves. You see, I get very excited about the blue bucket as if there were grain in it, and the silly kids think it's true.

So I've done a lot of goat-related things lately. I have more goat friends than people friends. My right hand can now be officially described as "bigger than my left." My relationship with poop has become more intimate than I think it's reasonable to imagine. When I feel a nibble on my pants or have my hand slammed against a wall by the hoof I'm trying to clean, it's just another day at the office.

I talked to my brother on the phone the other day; he's still in that "disposable income" phase, the phase that would be heaven if not for the hormonal imbalances. He asked me why I had worked on so many farms (3), and why I was doing it. My response was, "well, I have to pay for food and housing and stuff." Something in the way he repeated what I had told him tipped me off: "So you mean you have to pay for housing and all your food and stuff??" He is in Fiscal Flatland; the third dimension of money is a nonentity to him; all he knows is that money is gotten and spent in straight, easy lines. The third dimension, obligation, has yet to be imposed upon him, and is finally coming upon me in ways I had hoped would never furrow my brow.

When I realized his cluelessness, I remembered being that way, giving my paychecks from Olsson's right back for CDs without worrying about gas or food money, much less rent money. Even after being bailed out by my folks for fiscal irresponsibility, it took a few years (and paying rent) for the concept to dawn. This last year I had a job and a living situation that afforded me plenty of extra money for both saving and spending proudly; I left that job and that house and that money (that three-month-long trail of money) to seek a fortune, and my fortune's embryo is a goat. Life is a goat. I'm not dismayed. I like goats well enough. My only hope is that my fortune's larva makes a little more money.

Monday, December 15, 2008

This Morning

3: 40 a.m. First accumulation seen since a glacier in Colorado.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Buxom Does Really Get My Goat!

I woke up at 4:00 this morning, grabbed a hunk of (delicious garlic rosemary) bread, put some muesli in a cup with some rice milk, and ran out the door. I drove past the exit where I was supposed to get off the highway and ended up being a half hour late for my second day of work at Fern's Edge Goat Dairy.

Goats. Where do I begin? My first glimpse of them was yesterday when I came in (right on time) to the milking room and was faced with six goat asses, dangling udders, teats being sucked into pulsating vacuum tubes, milk flowing into a tank. Somehow this didn't phase me, and I learned right quick how to clean, strip (get the juices flowing), and insert the teat into the tube. It's not a very complicated process, and although it's only about 80 goats that get milked (of 200 on the property), it's a very factory-like process. I suppose that's what happens when you mechanize. My prior farm experience involved nothing more mechanical than an auger I used to drill post holes. This is high-tech modernity!

I don't know if you know this, or want to, but teats are far out! Have you ever looked at 80 different sets of teats before? Probably not. They're like snowflakes, but more squeezable. Some of them are large and dangly. Others are small. Some are wrinkly. I think I must have very wide palms because I can only use two or three fingers to squeeze an average sized teat or I spray milk all over my hand. Some teats are in just the right place, and others you might have to search for and pull back a little bit. I don't know how the goats feel about this; they have their heads stuck between metal bars, munching away on grain and kelp powder or trying to bite their neighbor's ear.

The morning shift takes between five and six hours, and involves feeding the multiple pens, milking two sets of goats, twelve at a time, and then feeding all the goats and the cows. It's crazy how fast time passes when you get to work two hours before the sun. I still have most of the day ahead of me. I don't really have any gripes about this job, especially since I got rubber boots. I just gotta go to bed early. Well, my hands smell like goats right now, which is a strange combination of raw milk, hay, and ammonia. You have to deal with a lot of goat shit, which is a small step away from dirt. Also, goats use urine as a sign of posession. I haven't been peed on yet.

It's a relief to know that somebody needs my work in exchange for their money (and they really need me-- very short staffed-- though the pay's not great), and I'm looking forward to hearing the same thing from the U of O (if you take out the "of" it's just You Owe...) pretty soon. I'm pretty sure they're gonna want me.

Goat pictures coming soon.