2005: I’m taking a break from spring planting to
run a maternity ward and breast feeding clinic....for goats.
Growing vegetables for our community supported agriculture program
is my business but caring for a flock of goats is my hobby. If my
wife ran the numbers on what it costs the farm to maintain my goats
she’d probably object, but I rationalize the expense of their
upkeep because they eat the poison oak that grows around our property.
Goats don’t have many problems kidding but it is a good idea
to be around for them in case they need help. I’ve constructed
nice rain-proof sheds for the goats to sleep in and filled them
with piles of clean, fluffy, yellow straw. When a doe kids I like
to be right there. I steal the kid from the doe for a moment and
dip it’s umbilical cord in iodine to disinfect the wound,
then return the kid to the dam and watch. If the mother seems reluctant
to bond to her kid or the kid seems confused I’ll restrain
the doe and plug the kid on the tit until it sucks.
Nothing is cuter than a baby goat so this year we’re planning
to have a “kid day” for our CSA subscribers. Our approach
to helping our vegetable box subscribers bond with our farm is to
offer frequent small scale events that are designed to appeal to
different types of people. When we have only a few people we can
engage them on a more personal level and answer their questions.
This weekend we’re having a winter soup event where people
come down for a small class. With the help of a friend who is a
professional chef we’re going to teach people how to prepare
delicious soups with the winter vegetables we all take for granted,
and just for fun we’ll do all the cooking in giant cast iron
cauldrons outside over an open fire. I’m going to enjoy myself.
“Kid Day” with baby goats is going to be a bit more
work for me. Our goats really do eat poison oak and they walk in
it and sleep in it too. Plus, while my goats know me, they are more
or less wild and not easy for a stranger to catch. My first idea
was to invite our CSA subscribers' children to pet our poison-oaky
goats then sell the worried mothers herbal soaps to wash off their
children clean, but Julia assured me this wasn’t even something
I should joke about. So this year, as soon as my tamest doe kids
I’m going to move her to a new, specially constructed poison-oak
free-petting-zoo pen. Then my own two kids, Graydon and Magdalena,
will be charged with the responsibility of playing with the baby
goats every day. This is one farm chore they’re going to enjoy.
That way, when our CSA’s “Kid Day” rolls around
my goat kids will be ready to handle the affections of our CSA subscribers'
Besides eating poison oak and teaching children respect for animals,
my goats serve as my therapists. Every once in a while I’ll
get a farmers' market customer who enjoys underpaying farmers for
their work. I won’t bargain. If I sense a customer doesn’t
have much money I may figure the price wrong so they get a break,
but other wise I set my prices as reasonably as I can and stick
to them. One afternoon, as we were cleaning up our market stall
after a day’s sales, a fellow came by and filled up his bag
with beautiful red and yellow corno di toro peppers.
“That’ll be six dollars,” I say, weighing his
“How about three”, he replies.
“How about six?” I answer.
“If you don’t sell the peppers to me, “ he says,
“you’re not going to sell them to anyone. Three dollars!”
“You’re right, “ I reply, “I won’t
sell them to anyone. By the way, what do you do for a living?”
“Oh, I’m a doctor,” he says proudly.
Wrong answer. I remind him that if I show up as his office is closing
I don’t get my check-up for half price. As for the peppers...
“I’m going to enjoy throwing these peppers over the
fence to my goats,” I tell him as I empty his bag. “Maybe
goats can’t pay for their meals but they’ll crowd around
me bleating and take so much pleasure from their feast that I’ll
feel like a gourmet chef looking across a dining room of satisfied
customers. You value your time, but you don’t value mine.
If I let you beat me down three dollars that I deserve, just because
you’re cheap and I need the money, I’ll feel bitter
That was three years ago when I had five goats. Now I’ve
got eleven mature does and ten doelings. I have two kids romping
in the green grass of the maternity ward and three fat does ready
to kid at any moment. Before we’re done this spring I may
have as many as eighteen more new kids. My vegetable prices have
never been firmer and I feel good about what I do.