|Our entire goat herd in 2002. Star (left), my first milk goat,|
is still with us at age 12.
Nine years ago, our gardening success amounted to a few tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and lettuce in our suburban Chicago backyard. But I saw no reason why we couldn't grow most of our vegetables.
Nine years ago, the only homegrown fruit I'd ever eaten were cherries from our Nanking cherry bushes, although we had certainly planted a variety of fruit trees and brambles in our suburban backyard. They all died, but I wanted to try again.
Nine years ago, our livestock consisted of two cats and a poodle. But I figured that goats, cattle, and chickens couldn't be that much harder. Right?
|One of our first buff Orpington hens at 3 months.|
Nine years ago, we thought the old fence around the east pasture was "good enough" to keep Katherine's horse at home. Then we learned -- again and again -- that if the words "good enough" ever pass our lips, it's not really good enough to do the job. Fences and gates have to be excellent -- period -- or you'll find yourself retrieving animals from all over the countryside.
Nine years ago, I'd never seen a goat give birth or a chicken hatch from an egg. I'd never made cheese or soap. I'd never sheared a sheep or spun yarn from wool. I'd never plucked a chicken.
|Katherine, age 10, assisting at our first goat birth in 2003.|
But nine years ago, we also didn't realize that pain and joy are two inseparable sides of the same coin. Life is not perfect. It never has been, even though advertisers would have us believe that we can have everything we want, just the way we want it. After all, "you deserve a break today!" (and tomorrow and the next day and . . . )
In the last nine years, we've learned that the most joyful goat births are those that were the most difficult, but somehow we managed to get through them with live babies. We've learned that we sleep best after a long, hard day of work outside. We've learned to appreciate eating seasonally. We've learned that joy isn't one big destination like Disney World. Joy is all around us, every day. It's in the bouncing of a baby goat, the taste of a stalk of asparagus eaten in the garden, the chirping of a chick trying to hatch itself, the heavenly feel of wool from a sheep that you know personally, the smell of a stew hen cooking on the stove all day.
Nine years ago, I knew I had a lot to learn. I expected to eat healthier, get more exercise, and have fun. But I had no idea how much richer our lives would be after we moved to Antiquity Oaks.