Monday, June 16, 2008

Goat Notes

Goat Notes

by Aozora Brockman

Every morning, I open my eyes to the high-pitched beeping of my alarm clock. On a good day, reaching out my hand to turn it off forces my brain to operate, so I jump out of bed as quickly as possible, in a lame attempt to jumpstart my body.

Also every morning, I grab an empty re-used yogurt container and sleepwalk my way through the hazy morning air and into the fenced-in area housing our lovable goats and chickens. I grab a small white bucket and fill it with corn, oats and wheat. As I open the door to the pen, I swish the feed around with my hand. The door latches shut behind me.

A female black goat with white fur splattered randomly across her body waits for me in the goat shed. Right beside her is a brown-coated female goat, with a patch of white fur on her forehead resembling a star. Mandy, the black goat, had quadruplets in the early spring. I milk her every morning. Star, the brown goat, is pregnant. I will start to milk her after she gives birth, which, judging by the size of her belly, will be soon.

I open the shed door and Mandy trots down the ramp to get milked. I set down the bucket of feed to get my hands free, and quickly close the shed door to trap Star inside, much to Star’s displeasure. She brought this on herself, though, because of her immense loving of all things edible, especially grain. She would always steal feed out of Mandy’s bucket while I was busy milking her, causing Mandy to stomp her feet in annoyance. Disaster would sometimes ensue as Mandy’s feet came dangerously close to smacking the milk-filled container-- and often would, spilling milk all over. After a couple exasperating times of this scenario, I decided to get smart with Star and keep her locked in the goat shed where she could do no harm while I am busy milking Mandy.

Star is now safely out of the way, but Mandy is gobbling up grain at such an alarming pace that I am afraid none will be left to distract her while I’m milking. I try to pull the bucket away from her, but knowing this routine, she sticks her head into the bucket further. “Mandy!” I scold with a grunt, grabbing her collar and dragging, with great difficulty, her stubborn face out of the bucket. Finally she lets up. Grateful for this opportunity, I snatch the feed and put it on the milk stand. Thankfully, Mandy jumps up on the stand without hesitation. I breathe a sigh of relief and get to work.

The quadruplets wail without so much as a breath from inside their pen while my hands milk as fast as they can move. I put the baby goats in their pen each night so that they will not drink all of Mandy’s milk. Even though they are able to swallow grain and grass now, it seems that nothing can compare to their mother’s milk.

One of my nightly chores is to put the quadruplets in their pen. Star’s naughtiness comes into play here as well, since when she sees the bucket of grain- -meant to lure the baby goats into the pen-- the bucket lures her too. She eagerly hoists herself up into the cramped quarters, while I dump the grain into the metal holder. Suddenly I find myself stuck in the tiny pen with one huge goat and four little ones milling about. To make it worse, I am bent over, since the low ceiling makes it impossible to stand up. In this position I plow my way out, at the same time lurching Star forward toward the pen door and out into the open. I frantically push Star out of the way so that I can latch the pen doors shut before Star or the baby goats can think twice. Then I stand there, panting a little, and wonder how in the world putting fours little goats in a pen could take so much mental, emotional, and physical work. Star stands near me, no doubt muttering to Mandy, “I will get your grain in the morning.”

My yogurt container is almost full with fresh bubbly goat milk, and apparently Mandy has finished her grain, because she is starting to fidget in the stand and cries to be let off. “Okay, okay. We’re done.” I say to her, in mock surrender. I grant her wish and let her off the milk stand. Next I set my milk container down so that I can unlock the shed door. Star stares me down from inside, questioning with her piercing eyes, “How dare you fool me into not getting my grain!?” I pat her on the head, right on her pearly white star, “That’s life, Star. I’m sorry.”

The baby goats come scrambling out when I open the pen door. They are full of pent up energy, as usual, and run out to play and to explore. The chickens squawk from the chicken shed, calling Kazami to come let them out, let them out.

As I shut the fence door and make my way to the house and then down to the fields to work, I realize that another day has just begun.

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