Friday, July 23, 2010

Of milking goats and snapping beans

"What you're doing is cool, but it's an awful lot of work."

I've heard that refrain more than a few times when people learn about our lifestyle. Why would anyone want to milk goats or have a garden when we can go to the grocery store and buy everything we need? Because there are some things that you can't find at the grocery store.

I could buy goat cheese at the store, but making my own cheese gives me a sense of pride and independence. I also feel secure knowing how my goats live, what they eat, and what they do NOT consume, especially in the way of drugs. This morning, as I watched the yearlings browsing on willow trees, I realized how much I enjoy teaching them to be milk goats. Because they're raised by their mothers, I often don't have a very close bond with them when they're babies, but once they become mothers, we become best friends. I offer them a pan of grain and coax them onto the milk stand. They learn that I'm their friend, and it's okay to share their milk with me. Because I used to be lactating myself many years ago, I feel a special mom-to-mom bond with them. Within a couple weeks, the milk goats that were raised by their mothers are just as friendly as the ones that were bottle-fed by humans. It probably is a lot of work for people who get paid to work in a dairy, but my goats are not a job.

This afternoon, Mike, Katherine, and I sat around the table and snapped beans that they had picked from the garden. I remembered my mother snapping beans when I was a little girl. Although we lived in town, my parents always had a garden. My mother would sit in a porch swing and snap beans, while I played in the yard and talked to her. As my husband and daughter and I snapped beans this afternoon, we talked about things that we probably wouldn't have talked about if we hadn't taken the time to snap beans. We didn't solve the problems of the universe or make any grand plans. We talked about the beans and Japanese beetles and complained about the lack of rain as the sky darkened with clouds. Some people might say it's a lot of work to snap almost five pounds of beans, but I don't think so. How often do we just sit and talk about the little things in life?

When people today talk about feeding their family, they're usually talking about working at a job and making money, so they can buy groceries. But what we do out here is literally feeding our family. We take care of our animals and our garden, and they feed us. But they feed more than just our bodies. They provide us with beauty, companionship, exercise and a reason to get out of bed every day. Yes, you can buy goat cheese and green beans, but that's all you get for your money. Once you've filled your stomach, there is nothing left but an empty package.


Sarah said...

I love this post. You make such an essential point about the true 'cost' and value of food.

Anonymous said...

Well said. I grow my own produce, raise my own bees and livestock for much the same reasons. I'm looking forward to the day my almost 8 month old son and I can sit around the table snapping beans and discussing the finer points of our own homemade goat cheese. Keep it up!

The Tidy Brown Wren said...

I find that raising a lot of our food makes us more greatful. Because we're so involoved in the production and harvest of our food we understand just what is entailed in its making. We know we are blessed to have such valuable and healthy food.

LindaG said...

My husband grew up on a farm in Louisiana. It was a dairy farm then.
When the price of milk dropped so low they were one of the small dairies that dumped the milk in the ditch because of the price.
His grandmother raised the chickens. I'm not sure how much he remembers about them, but I've seem pictures. A huge flock of big white chickens. I think they gardened, too, but I don't remember.
I, on the other hand, grew up in the 'city' in Michigan and missed so much by doing so. Now I wish there were so many things I'd had the sense to have my grandmother teach me.
Thanks for sharing this with us. :)

Leigh said...

Well said! :)

Mama Pea said...

We only have chickens, geese and honey bees now but in the past we've had horses, lambs, pigs, ducks and a small dairy goat herd. Our large garden provides us with year round veggies and fruits. A homestead, even a small one, is a way of life.

Whenever there is food on our plate, whether it be a fresh egg or fresh frozen beans in February or a roast goose, we have a very special feeling knowing it is there because we grew or raised it.

All the work (!) provides invaluable healthy outdoor exercise, too.

Lovely post.

joven said...

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