Moose River Farm Blog

Moose River Farm Blog
Finding My Way to Moose River Farm

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Goat Saga; from They Teach Without Words; The Animals of Moose River Farm


Good Morning,
My second book will be published and available this month! It has been a long and laborious project, but the end result gives me great pride. My animals have taught me so much about living a satisfied existence, how to extract joy out of every minute and how to accept what is out of my control. They Teach Without Words; The Animals of Moose River Farm is a collection of stories about some of my most memorable teachers. I have carried their lessons into my classroom and into my daily life. Enjoy!
Goat Saga
My acceptance of our aging goat Liam’s inevitable demise pushed me to a nearby dairy goat farm that produces artisan goat cheese from the one hundred fifty head that they raise. After searching all spring for suitable baby goats, I returned home with twin doelings of Nubian and Boer lineage. They were only two days old.
    I had enlisted friends, Vicky and Michele, to help pick out my next generation of goats. Michele volunteered to drive my car so that I could sit in the backseat and hold my new acquisitions on the way home. Vicky sat in the back with me to hold the other tiny goat. Frequently, we switched the babies back and forth. By the time we arrived home, we had christened them Audrey and Hazel.
    Audrey had a tan base coat saddled with patches of black. Tan markings randomly crisscrossed her black face, an atypical pattern for goats. Hazel’s coat was the opposite. It fluctuated between light and dark caramel colored patches distributed evenly from her head to her hooves. Her exquisite brown and tan striped facial markings assured that she would be a caprine beauty.
    Both doelings possessed amber eyes that promised mischief and all the fun that was about to begin in our lives. Their tiny nursing muzzles reminded me that four times every day for the next twelve weeks, I would be responsible for bottle feeding them. Nothing measures up to the advantages of bottle feeding goats on formula for ten weeks. A tight parent-child bond forms between human and kid. The goats see their people as members of the herd and crave human companionship constantly.
      Bottle feeding baby goats is a pleasure I love to share, especially with children. Every bottle that I prepare for babies delivers the building blocks for our future together. There is no possibility of forgetting to feed them. I can’t put it off until tomorrow or only feed them at my convenience. The clock dictates when the babies get fed. Sticking to a schedule means the goats won’t be stressed. By keeping the temperature and the proportions of the formula consistent, I eliminate factors that could harm my babies. I had forgotten how stressful it is when one baby doesn’t finish a whole bottle or the other bolts down the liquid so quickly it causes her to cough. It is a serious game, this raising of baby goats.
    Once we arrived home, I was eager to introduce the doelings to Rod. Unlike many of our animal acquisitions, Rod approved of adding these goats! He smiled at the tiny ones standing in our driveway. Their high pitched bleats sent me scurrying to the kitchen to prepare formula for our first bottle feeding. Rod kept an eye on the babies while I carefully measured and mixed.
    Maa, maa meaaaa!” they screamed making it clear that they were long overdue for a feeding.
    Vicky and I each secured a kid under an arm and inserted the nipples of the bottles into their infant mouths. Michele continued documenting this special day through the lens of her camera. Baby goats had arrived; and from this moment forward, they would be the focal point of life on the farm for the rest of the summer. The other animals’ routines were not interrupted. Their needs were never compromised, but the extra attention they usually received took a backseat to the constant demands of the nursling goats until they were finally weaned.
     The next day was predicted to be twenty­five degrees and snowy, a far cry from what is expected in mid­May. Rod and I agreed that the doelings should be kept in our laundry room for a few days until mild temperatures returned. We placed a large plastic tote on the tile floor and filled it with clean sweet hay. That first night I slept without worry, knowing that the babies were snug in our home as Mother Nature tumbled springtime progress back into winter conditions. The next day Audrey and Hazel shivered under polar fleece dog coats in which I wrapped them to go outside. They tended to business quickly and bleated at me to take them back inside, out of the blowing snow that dusted the landscape. We kept our house warm with blazing logs in our fireplace, the heat having been turned off for the season. Sitting on the floor by the hearth, I tucked each kid under an elbow and held them close to me while they drained their bottles. To be responsible for the upbringing of infants is a humbling experience. These two tiny life forms depended on me to prepare and deliver nourishment in a timely manner so that they could thrive and grow. I loved the dependency and was determined to make all the right decisions that would deliver them safely to adulthood.     
    The next day was Monday, a school day, and luckily I did not have to leave the babies at home. In preparation for their arrival, I had made arrangements with my school administrators to bring the kids to school every day during that first week.     
    “John, do you have a moment?” I asked our young principal, getting right to the point. “I am about to acquire two baby goats for my farm. They will only be a few days old and will need to be fed several times a day for a while. I suppose a maternity leave is out of the question.”
    “Yes, I think that is out of the question,” he chuckled.     
    “I thought so, but not to worry, I have a great idea!”
     I proceeded to tell him about the plan I had hatched with my elementary school colleagues. Each teacher had agreed to have the baby goats spend at least one day in her classroom during that first week. The babies would be integrated into lessons that allowed the students to handle, feed, and care for them. The teachers were excited to offer the children this opportunity. Not only was our principal in favor of this idea, but our superintendent became excited about it as well.
    The next morning I woke up earlier than usual. The outdoor temperature was still in the twenties, but the forecast was for sun by midday. After feeding the dogs and the pig and making Rod’s and my lunches, I prepared formula for the doelings. When I entered the laundry room, they stirred in their tote. I wrapped them in the dog coats and escorted them to the backyard. Snow still clung to the tender grass and the air was saturated with a damp chill. They peed and pooped quickly in anticipation of returning to the warm house. Back inside, I sat on the floor with my back against the door that shielded us from the cruel cold. The warmth of the babies’ bodies on each side of my ribs penetrated my sweatshirt as if I was wearing a goat vest. The pleasure of sitting with nothing to do but hold the bottles that nourished my babies was emotionally satisfying. I leaned back and closed my eyes in gratitude for this privilege. I embraced peace.
    The clock ticked away the minutes, but I sat motionless, tuned into the slurping sounds on either side of me. “Swerzzz, swerzzz, swerzzz.” They sucked so vigorously the formula rushed with every draw.
    After they finished their bottles, we returned to the backyard for a few more minutes to frolic and bounce off their pent up energy. Then I secured them in the tote so that I could go out to the barn and perform chores. An hour later the little goats and I were on our way to school.     

     I will always remember that magical week. The babies charmed the entire school community. Young students took great pride in caring for their every need, especially feeding them with a bottle. Teacher cell phones recorded adorable moments of child/goat interactions. Many images wound up on the cover of our local newspaper, The Weekly Adirondack. As educators, we were witnessing the effect that the babies had on students, particularly those who struggle to focus. With arms wrapped around a sleeping doeling, one young person with ADD (attention deficit disorder) was not only able to track a conversation with the teacher, but was also able to process information and reply in complex sentences that exercised vocabulary and comprehension. It was as if the tiny goat sleeping in the child’s arms quieted the chatter in the child’s head, preventing the cacophony of distractions from competing with the ability to pay attention. There is promising research in the field of animal therapy that supports the theory that animals can have a positive effect on learning.
     Empathy often surfaced during goat week at school. Children shared the goats, recognizing those who waited patiently for their turn to hold or feed the babies. Others, particularly middle school and high school students, were surprised by the emotions that the babies evoked. A senior girl holding tiny Hazel shared a revelation.
     “Wow, I feel like I am going to cry,”                      
     “Imagine how you will feel when it is your own child,” I replied.
We both giggled.  
     By the end ofgoat week, Audrey and Hazel were seven days old and thriving. The constant attention from the staff and students ensured that they bonded with people. They had been held, fed and played with constantly. In return they had delighted all who came in contact with them. The timing worked out perfectly because the baby goats were becoming more active. In the second week of their lives, they were not content to sit in laps for long stretches of time. They had discovered their dancing legs and were eager to practice their moves. 
Audrey, Pearl and Ivy
Best part of raising baby goats.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Llive Llama Cam!

Our llama, Bluff is due to have her cria between now and the end of April. You can tune in and check on her progress! Please keep the following in mind while viewing;
  • We are on the premises at all times and check on her frequently. Chances are if you see something, we are already aware of it. 
  • Bluff has been moved to our heated garage so that we can observe her during the night.
  • During the day, Bluff will be outside with the other llamas so don't be alarmed if she is not in view.
  • We will summon our veterinarian only if and when we feel there is a need to do so.
  • Bluff is not new to the birthing process having delivered 3 babies in the past. Therefore, we are expecting an uneventful delivery.
  • Every effort has been made to make our mama llama comfortable and to reduce stress.
We hope you enjoy the privilege of sharing this happy event with us and know that you are keeping fingers crossed so that all goes well for Bluff and her baby.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Season's Greetings from Moose River Farm

Merry Christmas to all,
Join a lighted procession of animals on Christmas Eve as they trek to the stable for a long winter's night rest. Horses, donkeys, llamas, goats, chickens, geese, ducks, dogs, tortoises and a pig share the peaceful space in which they live; much the same as they did during the miracle so long ago. Wishing you peace on earth.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Barn as Sanctuary

Good Morning,
I am happy to announce that the manuscript for my second book; They Teach Without Words; The Animals of Moose River Farm is finally finished so that publication can occur early in the coming year. Excerpts from my latest animal memoir will appear on this blog in the coming weeks leading up to availability of the book. Having retired from teaching in June, I now spend more time among my animal family paying close attention to the nuances of their interactions with each other. As I reflect on almost thirty years of teaching it occurs to me that so many of the strategies and management skills that I brought to the classroom were influenced by my experiences with animals. They also played a key role in developing my philosophies about relationships, acceptance, patience and loss. This book is full of unforgettable four-legged characters from my house, barn and classroom, who inspired my love of teaching.
To set the mood, this video introduces the animals with whom I currently share my life, as they go about their day in the barn. The following post shares the effect that the animals have on me during challenging times. Enjoy!

The Barn as Sanctuary

    Several years ago, my Aunt Anne’s memorial service was held at Gwynedd Meeting outside of Philadelphia. It had been more than thirty five years since I had attended meeting for worship. A familiar sense of calm settled upon me as I centered down in the early simple decor of the antique meeting house. Although the physical barrier of skin and skull prevented me from reading the thoughts of assembled friends and family, I was reunited with the connection that Quakers experience while waiting patiently for the inner spirit to stir.
    During the service, several vocal ministries interrupted the silence. I heard personal anecdotes that reminded me what a special woman and mother Aunt Anne was. Many delivered condolences to my cousins and dear Uncle Morrie. Others provided thoughtful messages of hope and community. Following meeting, we adjourned to the reception area. Nibbling on holiday treats, we received each other with embraces and smiles. After I exited the physical space of the meeting house, I remained enveloped for quite some time in the existential sanctuary of meeting for worship.
    Eventually, I returned home to the routine of caring for animals that live with my husband, Rod and me on our farm in the Adirondacks. My barn is a sanctuary for animals and humans alike, providing shelter for the many horses, goats and donkeys who live with us on Moose River Farm. In the days that followed the memorial service, I came to realize that each morning I attend a different sort of meeting for worship.
   I don’t sit in quiet contemplation, yet I perform all of my routine chores in a state of meditation. Before centering down, I am greeted by a glorious cacophony as I enter the barn. Shrill whinnies, wheezy brays and ravenous bleats demand sustenance. I oblige by severing twine on hay bales. Once released, pungent grassy flakes pop, making it easy for me to grasp three at a time to toss into each stall. Urgent animal chatter transitions to a chorus of peaceful mastication. The grinding rhythm soothes me in the sanctuary that is my barn. Here in the pale dawn, I meet with my creature community to prepare for my day. Nothing elevates my spirit more.
    Although a formal meeting house is silent, this sanctuary is not. A harmony of grinding molars, pawing hooves and the occasional gusts of breaking wind mingle into white noise. The sounds assure that the animals are well. That reassurance gives me permission to center down to a deeper level of prayer. While my body is busy with chores, my mind meanders, searching for strength that will lift my troubled mood.  
    Lowtchee, my portly black mare, chews her hay while I sift the piles of manure in her stall and toss them into a wheelbarrow. As if she and I are sitting next to each other on the wooden meeting house bench, I am aware of her satisfaction with life right now as she contemplates the forage in front of her. Once her stall is clean, I push my wheelbarrow to the next stall door. Joshua, a large paint gelding, swings his head to greet me as I enter. The black and white patches of his coat resemble formal evening wear. He too is content with his muzzle deep in hay. I allow my thoughts to surface long enough to greet him, stroking him between the eyes briefly before returning to deep meditation. How will I make a positive difference in a tumultuous world?
    My aunt’s funeral was held two days after the horrific shooting of children and teaching professionals at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The images are raw, the violence, personal. I am an elementary school teacher. This morning I am comforted by the congregation of Moose River Farm’s meeting house. In our sanctuary we unite as community. They meditate on a level of gastric bliss. I do so on heartache. It takes the mucking of nine more stalls for my mind to transition from despair to hope. Along the way I desperately seek answers to difficult questions, mostly why.
    My Quaker education has instilled tolerance and acceptance. I can make a difference today if I make a concerted effort to provide my students with the tools they need to be successful balanced citizens in a world that strives to knock them off balance. My teaching is a small counterbalance to heinous acts, but it is within my control. In the end that is all we have, control over our own actions. Although my hoofed society of friends can’t articulate meaningful messages, it occurs to me that I have been meditating alongside of them for decades and have borne witness to their peaceful acceptance of what simply is, this moment, now.  
     I agree with Gregory Maguire’s (author of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West) claim that “Animals are born who they are, accept it, and that is that. They live with greater peace than people do.”
    Eventually, the clock interrupts. My professional day begins in less than one hour. I grasp the long ears of one of my baby donkeys stroking gently. This is the handshake of sorts that will adjourn the meeting. I wish all my animals a good day. Later in the afternoon, the meeting will reconvene. After I serve their supper the animals and I will center down in meaningful meditation, enfolded into the barn sanctuary.  -Amen

Monday, March 26, 2018

Walk with the Animals; Winter, 2018

Good evening,
Spring break is three weeks earlier on the calendar this year. Although there is little that resembles spring, hints of its pending arrival appear from time to time. Birdsong, mud and geese laying eggs have all arrived on schedule. Nothing has been more welcomed than the daily dose of azure sky and sunshine. Despite too many inches of lingering snow, the brightness lures us outside to thaw our winter blues. We are not alone. Call it exercise, call it therapy, call it meditation. Whatever you call it, don't forget to include the word fun! 4 goats, 3 donkeys, 2 mini-horses and 2 llamas are determined to eliminate any remnants of the darkness from shorter days. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Fantasy Farm Shopping, 2018

Good morning,
Happy New Year everybody. The Adirondacks are about to heat up after a very long brutally bitter cold stretch of sub-zero weather. These are the conditions that make me rethink why I live in an area where these temperatures are even a possibility. Tomorrow when I am basking in the glow of 15 degrees Fahrenheit above 0, I will have returned to my senses of course. Until then let me share the latest offerings from Wellington, Florida, the winter horse capital of the world. Feast your eyes on properties that have more than you need and all that you want for a carefree equestrian lifestyle. Enjoy!

$6,850,000 This is the bargain piece. 5 acres to design and plan all to your own specifications. Don't forget to include a place to hang the pitchforks, shovels and unsightly wheelbarrow out of view. 

$14,000,000 There aren't too many barn details for this one but since the mounting block is near the pool your horse will meet you there when you are ready to ride him. It's all good.

$15,000,000 This is my personal favorite. I don't see a substantial house, but I do think there is a luxury apartment somewhere in the mix. Doesn't matter because the barn details are everything I imagine for luxury horse keeping. My fitness tracker might run out of memory after a few days of cleaning stalls and riding horses here. Hopefully updates and upgrades will keep my data accurate for awhile. 

$23,000,000 I like the idea that these 50 plus acres can be subdivided so that several of us can share the horse facilities; thinking along the lines of a coop. Let me know if you want in.

$28,000,000 Just like the the next one only cheaper. Use the balance to improve the lives of those of us shivering up north. Maybe invite us to visit with our horses so we don't have to worry about finding caregivers for them while we are away. Besides, they would love a week of green grass on which to graze. We will even bring a bottle of wine or two as a house warming gift. Surely there is a wine cellar there..somewhere.

$36,000,000 This is the masterpiece. Everything and more to pamper you and your horses while the rest of us layer our clothing for months on end. The only thing you will need to do is hire a HUGE staff to maintain everything. Don't worry, it will be worth it. 

Enough of Wellington dreaming. Truth is I am perfectly happy right here in the bitter cold and blowing snow. Just when I think I have had enough and can't take anymore, there will be a hint of warmer days to come and the magic and glory of spring will soothe once more. You can't have that experience without a few months of this. I know I don't want to miss the transformation this year...or ever. Stay warm.