We've spent several long days at the farm lately, and of course there is still more work to do. I feel like we're gaining on it, though, so that likely means we're fixing to do something stupid or attract the bad luck fairies. Goat farming can make one feel a little like Romeo, standing and crying, "O, I am fortune's fool!" Thankfully, Virginia is pretty cool with cruising the farm in the stroller, and the weather has been pleasant enough she can be comfortable as we rush around trying to get things done.
In the time between kiddings we have gotten a bit accomplished. We pulled barbed wire around three sides of the new field. We haven't fastened it at ground level on the longest sides yet, and an unexpected rain stopped us short today. The side of the fence down through the woods is temporary and made of goat panels we've accrued over the years. Eventually, this top area will be extended and the temporary goat panels taken down and used elsewhere on the farm. That is one thing about goat panels - they are pricey, but they are also darn handy. They hold up better than cattle panels and, being more rigid, can make a pretty strong fenceline with some t posts. We even got three "guinea pigs" in the form of three young open does moved into the new field to see if there are any major goat maiming or killing aspects of the field we have overlooked.
We are still waiting for the last few does to kid. All but one are unknown quantities. We have two that are new to us this year but have kidded in the past, one first timer, one who is a second timer and did fine last year, and then Kitty, who has kidded before but that was back in her four legged days. We need to move the bottom does to the new field, do "routine spring maintenance" to the doe herd once they are done kidding, and then clip the two fields goats have been in over the winter to see if it will stimulate some grasses to come up with the legumes. I am hoping the legume clippings will be some bit of natural fertilizer and again, add some organic matter to the soil. I snapped a picture of the forage in the new field. This particular area on the farm has been unused as long as I know of. It has been mowed each year to keep it tidy, but I don't think anything was ever specifically planted there. Last summer, it was full of "wild" lespedeza and the tobacco guys mowed it. This spring we have a little of this and that, but I don't see any of that lespedeza yet. I'm not sure when that will show up, or if it will since the goats will be on it. As you can see, the sticker bushes are there, and there is an overall diversity of species. It makes that field a real joy to walk across in sandals, but I also hope it means it will be resilient to whatever the summer may bring weather-wise. While I realize sandals aren't standard farm footwear, they sure are a lot more comfortable than the heavy boots I wear when I'm having to walk through the fields and woods and I imagine it is pretty apparent we aren't exactly standard farmers.
On these long days at the farm, which more often than not fall on weekends, we often end up driving home after dark. These drives are typically more peaceful than my normal running around with a car full of children. The kids play hard in the country, and on nights like this usually fall asleep as I drive. There is a reason the literary magazine up here is called "No Straight Roads." Stokes County roads are twisty and hilly. They wind their way sinuously through the woods and by the sleepy farms and quiet houses. I think this gentle sway helps to lull the children to sleep, and I remember distinctly the feeling from my childhood of laying across the back seat in the old Custom Cruiser station wagon, drowsy and peaceful and watching the bright, bright stars in the midnight purple blue sky. The vinyl seat was cold and slippery and I can still smell that dinstinctively man-made car seat smell, as my parents drove us home from Christmas at Grandma's.
These days, I try to listen to Back Porch Music on the public radio station, and I particularly relish hearing songs I fancy my father might have enjoyed when he was young. He used to tell me about the concerts at Sandy Ridge School - about Flatt and Scruggs, and Bill Monroe playing there. I think about what it might have been like, listening to those shows. It was such a different time, and I wish he had told me more so I wouldn't have to try so hard to imagine it. Going through the experience of having a loved one with Alzheimer's type dementia now has really changed how I see our memories. I observe her as she loses all those memories that have been created over the course of a lifetime. All the experiences that we believe are so permanently emblazoned in our minds - well, they are just like a spider's web. They connect us strongly to our loved ones and all that has come before, and help define who we are and our place in the world, but then, unexpectedly, they break and fall apart and just disintigrate into nothingness. The only way our memories truly last is when we share them with others. We share our experiences, our musings, our hopes and dreams, and certainly, our learned information with each other and we create something like an inter-generational memory, or a community memory. Maybe this sort of memory has some bit of permanence, maybe not. I truly believe that it isn't the memory that has the value, but only the sharing of it.
When my kids awaken to the scratchy sounds on the radio of a bluegrass banjo and a twangy singer recorded back when my father, or his father, may have listened to the same song and smiled and danced along to it down at the Sandy Ridge school, I try to tell them how it might have been back them, and give them the memories that help connect them to the family history in this community. I hope someday as they drive along a twisty road on a dark, quiet evening, they hear the strains of bluegrass in their minds, and they remember these good moments we have had as a family, catching bugs and butterflies for their butterfly house, among other things, and it makes them smile and brings them a sense of peace and joy.
We got one of the first items of spring goat maintenance done today - the worm balls with copper wire particles in the middle. Most of the goats think these are a wonderful treat and eat them willingly from my hand. I imagine it will be a long hot summer and with the warm, wet weather we have had already I want to set myself up against barberpole worms a little earlier than normal. Not only does the stroller transport Virginia around the farm, but also a lot of the stuff I need to take from point A to point B. Here, Virginia and I take the worm balls down to the bottom field to offer them to the does that have recently kidded. I had to include just a sample picture of the does and some of the kids. They are growing well and the evenings are the best - they bounce around like popcorn, leaping and twisting in the air for the sheer joy of it. A few of the little bucklings are already declaring themselves future herdsires, although none of the does take them very seriously. They've already learned some lessons in manners from the older ladies, though, but it doesn't seem to last long. Funny, that whole testing boundaries thing seems to be a phenomenon that happens in more than just kid goats. Hmmm.