On keeping one’s feet on the ground

T-bell says “Happy December solstice:  make sure you see the lunar eclipse on the night of the 2oth/21st.”

Actually, she says, what’s with the camera?  Get me my breakfast already.

A long discussion with some girlfriends recently:

One friend had recently resigned from a board position at a worthy organization and it was really gnawing at her, guilt-wise.  “I know,” she thought, “I will invest the 6 hours a week that I had been spending on the board by doing something to help me instead:  yoga.”  So now she was in hot pursuit of finding a yoga class six days a week, no easy challenge out here in the boonies.  “I swear I am getting more stressed out in finding the classes than I was on the board,” she opined to us.  “I am thinking about wearing my F*ck Yoga t-shirt, but out here in the pre-ironic world we live in, I doubt people would see it the way it was intended,” she said.

So on and on went the oft-repeated type of conversation between first world, upwardly-mobile women.  How to alleviate stress, juggle responsibilities, yadda yadda.  And then the conversation came around to me.

Buck rags,” I said. “I worry about buck rags, and the state of estrus in my goats.  THAT is what makes me both stressed out and sanguine.”

Being so intimately involved with the reproduction cycles of one’s animals is, if nothing else, very grounding.  And humbling.

You want milk, you need your milking animal to get pregnant and give birth.  No way around it, really; and somehow, this one factoid certainly escapes most (bipedal, big-brained) milk-drinkers.  So, yes, estrus, parturition, colostrum and lactation…this is my world.   All for a refrigerator full of quart jars labeled B, K, and Y (buttermilk, kefir and yogurt, respectively) and a big water-filled tub housing refreeze-able ice packs and bobbing half-gallon jars of milk.  A basement cheese cave filled with wheels of cheddar, colby, gouda, parmesan and swiss…and another root-cellar cave filled with molding camembert and brie-type cheeses.  And another closed tub hiding elsewhere with molding blues.   And me, doing the milking dance early every morning, rain, show or shine.  Is it worth my time and effort?

Well, I am the least stressed-out person that I know.  Am I advocating a home dairy as a method of stress relief?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  But I do know something:  it beats yoga.

It’s all about what goes in the pail

14 responses to “On keeping one’s feet on the ground

  1. Buck rags: Wow. I had no idea. I knew bucks were stinky, but had never heard of using the scent alone to bring does into estrus. I learn so much from your blog, El! Maybe some day it’ll be put to good use.

  2. You were born a farmer. Meant to be!

  3. Very jealous of the dairy goats. Very… as well as the cheese cave.

  4. Speaking of interesting conversations and milk, fate and my wife joined forces the other day and I somehow managed to find myself in the midst of a group of “vegetarian’s” that were having a discussion about how they could never harm or kill an animal. Later on the topic changed to where they all bought their organic milk and eggs from. I didn’t say anything but had to smile to myself about how far some people are removed from the reality of it all.

    I like your form of barnyard yoga.:)

  5. El, I believe that the eclipse is TONIGHT, starting at about 12:30 am EST and being full at around 3:40ish am EST. Please don’t miss out on it, thinking it’s tomorrow night.


    There is also a meteor shower that you can see during the eclipse.

    Happy viewing!


  6. This blog sounds so familiar to me. I have conversations with very well educated people who adore cheese/milk and they are very troubled by the revelation that an animal must be burdened by pregnancy in order to lactate. Mother nature is quite adamant about this process. There’s no shortcut or pill-popping answer. I think the animals understand this and enjoy being mothers while our own progressive human counterpart is quite put-out by it as an inconvenience. I love your blog!

  7. I’m still debating whether to wake up at 2:30, get Milo out of bed, and schlep outside to look at the moon.

    Chickens I can visualize. Goats aren’t happening at this location.

    Good for you, though. In my case, it’s easy to state unequivocally that yoga is better for me than cheese.

  8. Okay, so now I know what a buck rag is, and I’m not at all sure I’m happy about that, El…! But I can certainly see how your life keeps you focused, and feet firmly planted on the ground–which is the source, of course, of many, many good things, so that’s a fine place for them to be.

    Wishing you joyous holidays, and a splendid 2011~ Brett

  9. Kate, I bow deeply: I am here to serve. Actually, all these little tidbits tend to have me say to myself “uh, really?” so I figured I should share ’em as I get ’em.

    Sharon, hah! Hey: check out the new quote on my sidebar. I think you should read that book. She’s so…practical? funny? erudite? human? something.

    Hello Mr Jorgen. Yes, they’re fun; it’s work but it’s work with a tasty payoff.

    Mike, yeah, it’s not that uncommon this ignorance. But ask them a tv lineup and they’ll tell you exactly, or what star is married to whom. Gawd, give me a barn any day, frankly, or a garden…! Hope you had a great holiday.

    Jules, did you see it? It was (surprise!) snowing here at the time. Oh well. I remember being kind of creeped out when I saw one: take your eyes away from the moon and see how spooky the red light has made everything else, yeeps!

    Christine, you had me howling at the critters being “burdened” by pregnancy. I think my goat thought her bucklings were a pain but she, you know, liked them! They definitely really get into it, especially critters like my turkey hen: she is a fool for sitting. But yeah. We have the added “burden” I suppose of educating everyone. “What do you mean you don’t need a rooster to get eggs,” if I had a nickel…

    Peter, I would believe you would be in the doghouse if you said you didn’t like yoga. Ahem. But yeah, chickens. Great thing for the garden, chicken poo. Let me know if you need any advice…but actually they’re darned easy, and are great leftovers-consumers.

    Brett! I was going to say I felt very wistful when someone brought some MN smoked walleye to a solstice fete last week, but then I remembered I was veg when I lived there so in point of fact I have never consumed MN fish within MN…but yeah, it made me think about your herring! Hope your holiday was wonderful, smoked goodies and all.

  10. “Maybe yes, maybe no. But I do know something: it beats yoga.”

    This made me happy.

    I often feel disclaiming yoga will make me look ignorant. This comment makes me feel the same way I felt when the metaphysics professor (philosophy, not the other kind) said he didn’t think skepticism was really very rewarding or sensible.

  11. I didn’t get to comment when I first read this post, but I’ve been wondering if you can enlighten me: what exactly is the difference between yogurt and kefir? They taste the same to me. Is it just the consistency? Different cultures? This information is not on the side of the bottle for some reason.

  12. Jesse, hah! Yoga is not for everyone, despite the claims. Neither is skepticism come to think of it. Both require a certain amount of discipline to maintain: personal discipline, that is. I don’t know; I find both rewarding in certain doses. Yoga less so. Shoveling out a goat stall? Infinitely more rewarding for me and the goats physically, mentally, and the garden overall.

    Hiya Julie. Yogurt and kefir do taste similar, don’t they? The difference really is culture. Yogurt requires a thermophilic set of bacteria to culture it; kefir is more mesophilic and the actual kefir culture, called grains, are actually live colonies of bacteria and yeast…they look like lumpy cottage cheese. (Thermo- and meso- simply mean is the milk heated up? Yes in thermo- and no in meso-; the culturing happens in a warm setting (100-110*) for yogurt and kefir just needs room temperature.) Kefir is decidedly more bubbly and you’ll see when you pour it it seems more, I don’t know, thick…as opposed to yogurt which pours more lumpy. The bubbles in kefir are actually mildly alcoholic. Of the two, kefir can be considered a raw milk product but yogurt usually is not, the heating process required to make the bacteria “stick” requires heating the milk to a degree to kill all other bacteria within the milk, so the yogurt culture have a clean slate in which to do their thing. Gosh, windy. Hope that helps!

  13. That does help! Thank you!

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