Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Three months gone

by Sarah
former Antiquity Oaks apprentice

I cannot believe I left Antiquity Oaks almost three months ago already. But I guess that is what happens when you come home and almost immediately begin working a 43-hour work week as a farm hand on two farms. It has been very intense, and I already have a decent farmers tan, but it has been so enjoyable.

I can honestly say I will never forget my time on Antiquity Oaks. I learned more than I could have imagined in those nine weeks.

The first time I milked a goat I never thought I would be doing it on my own, but I did, every evening after a while. It was awesome being so thoroughly trusted and knowing I was doing a good job. Mike said it too and I wholeheartedly agree, one of the best parts about milking is getting to spend a little one on one time with each of the milk goats. I got to learn their personalities; who wanted a quick milk, who would complain if you squeezed a little too hard, whose hooves grew fastest. The cold nights were the best because many of them would let you snuggle right up against their side while you were milking them.

I can honestly say I never knew that the wool that clothes are made out of was not the same thing as what came right off of the sheep. Once I felt the difference however, there is no mistaking it. Washing makes all the difference, and I can no longer remember how many fleeces I washed into wool those last couple weeks. It is amazing how a little bit of dish detergent and hot water can change a matted mess of fleece into beautiful piece of wool to be sent off to be made into rugs.

Before I arrived on the farm I was incredibly excited about being the bottle-fed babies nanny. I fell in love with bottle feeding, and the babies. I got to spend time holding each one, learning their color differences, learning their voices, and learning their eyes. In the end I had 8 I was in charge of. At that point, on the very cold days, it became more of a chore, but I loved being able to tell everyone who asked about each ones personality, their colors, their habits, and their eyes. Losing one of my babies was one of the hardest times I have ever gone through. Not only did I learn how to feed babies, wash bottles to prevent mildew, and all about the digestive system changes that happen within the first few days of birth, I learned more about love from those 8 little babies than just about any one person has taught me. A TV show I was watching a few days ago said, “The bond between bottle baby and Mom is stronger than almost any other bond on Earth.” Boy do I believe that. I never thought I could say I was proud of an animal, but boy am I proud of how those babies grew, and hope to keep tabs on them throughout their lives and treasure their accomplishments whether it be milk production or show titles.

I started a phrase a while through my internship; “I dislike intact males.” There are a few animals who made me say this. 1, the one old rooster who has large spurs, and HATES people. As soon as you turn your back on him he would be attacking you. 2, Dolce the intact male lama. He had free roam of much of the property, like all of the guardian llamas, and so I was never quite sure where he was, and he could sneak up on you without making a sound. He was the only llama who stared you in the face, and it was kind of creepy. He made me nervous sometimes. 3, Pegasus, the oldest buck (male goat). He was a bottle baby, so thought people were like him, and he LOVED to rub the top of his head on anything he could reach. The only thing he could reach was the lower part of my legs. Not bad if he did it on the calf, felt like a massage, but it hurt SO BAD on my shins. He also loved to jump on the door and make it almost impossible  to open the stall door. 4, Molly’s bull calf. One day Molly decided to bust down the gate and go in with the goats, and in the process of getting her back in, her bull calf went in with the goats and then got VERY upset he was away from his Mom. No injuries, nothing even close, but just unnerving. In reality, this was just a funny expression I started saying. What these 4 especially taught me is that nature needs to be respected, and that getting lazy and not being careful every time you are working with animals could get you hurt.

I learned a lot about minerals, their importance, what forms and how much each animal needs, in order to keep them as healthy as possible. I have learned the signs of certain mineral deficiencies. I have learned how pasture grass plays into their mineral needs.

I learned all about fencing, how especially how no fencing is appropriate for all livestock. It amazed me how some animals could just blow through or over fencing when they were really determined to get onto the other side.

There are so many more things I learned, that will have to be made into another post.

I miss the farm almost every day. I miss how much the animals needed me, and how excited they were to see you every day. I miss milking, the intimacy of it, the skill required, and the quite time to think. I miss how much I was learning. Almost every single day there was something new to be learned and experienced. It will be an experience I will never forget, and something I will cherish the rest of my life.

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