Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. ~ Katherine Mansfield

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Getting ready for the KIDS!

We are in the crazy final days of prep before our first kidding. I haven't been this beside myself since I cranked out my own kids! I've dreamt goat births for the last three nights, with last night being the best - a perfectly beautiful Nubian doe (weird that I am dreaming the wrong breed) stepped out of her mother and into my lap, ready to play. If only.

In an effort to offset my fears, I've decided to do what I do best - rely on my inner nerd and do some research. A lot of reading, and asking questions, and then more reading.

The best resources I've found:
  • My goat breeder and vet. I'm so lucky to have gotten these goats from Lil Bleats, and a breeder who is so willing to share her knowledge. I'm equally lucky that our vet doesn't mind working a goat lesson into every visit. 
  • The Fias Co Farm website. This is the absolute best source of information on the web, and I encourage you to donate to the site if you find it as useful as I have. 
  • Real books. From the store. Books you can read, mark up, and then have on hand during the kidding, even if all you can do is hug them to your chest and feel more capable by way of osmosis. "Raising Goats Naturally" by Deborah Niemann is my favorite text, along with "Storey's Guide to Raising Diary Goats." Brad Kessler's "Goat Song" is a moving memoir about embarking on a life with goats - such beautiful, candid writing; it made me love my own goats even more.
Speaking of my own goats, let's get to the nitty gritty here at Pare Down.

This is our pretty Ella before she lost that girlish figure. She's still a little wild, but has reached the point of tolerating us and will love us soon enough. She was bred on 9/2 and 9/9, so with a standard 145-day gestation for miniature goats, she is due 1/25 or 2/1. I'm pretty sure that this will be our first and last winter kidding - everything is harder in the snow.

(Side note: After sliding around our icy, hilly property for a few weeks I just discovered YakTrax for my muck boots. How did I not know about these? Google them if you don't already own a pair!)

Next, I needed to assemble my own Goat Kidding Kit for the big day.

We have the following on hand:
  • Surgical soap wash for hands and instruments, if needed
  • Iodine replacement spray for sterilizing (haven't decided yet if we are dipping the navels)
  • Old bulb syringe from my babies, in case we need to clear noses of birth gunk (it's a technical term)
  • Surgical scissors (please, dear sweet baby universe, don't make me have to use these for anything)
  • Emergency tubing and colostrum replacer (ibid)
  • Old feed bags and pee pads to catch the goo (things are getting real now!)
  • Clean towels, paper towels and tiny hairdryer (to help mama clean and dry these babies in the bitter cold) 
  • Kid coats made of second-hand sweatshirt sleeves
I'll have warm water with molasses and grain on hand for the Ella when she's done, and a shot of something stronger for Gabe and myself.

Now, where to kid? 

Our goat shed is small, with most of the space being taken up by hay bales for winter insulation, so Ella will be kidding in the milking barn (formerly known as "the garage"). We've set up a pen using a dog exercise kennel and fresh hay. 

This is the cleanest it will ever look. We've also tricked it out with a small space heater for super cold nights. No need for a baby monitor - we'll be able to hear Ella AOK, as our bed is directly above the garage...which is equipped with excellent acoustics.

Scout and Rascal are looking forward to having a visitor to keep them company at night - Ella is their favorite goat since she's the least likely to head butt them when they want to hang out.
So...Ella will start sleeping here this weekend to make sure that she's used to it. It's tricky, having 3 goats. If she can't stand being by herself, we may bring little Tess up as a sleeping companion and leave Lucy alone in the shed.

Nothing to do now but wait. This will get easier each time. Um, right?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Internet, aka That Great Tamer of Expectation

Every once in a while I am thunderstruck -- gobsmacked if you will -- by the overall change that the internet has wrought on our lives. It affects us on a grand scale of course, with real time world events, online banking, and a constant stream of ADHD via Twitter et al. But sometimes I am still awed by the effect it has on the little things, such as the unchecked arc of expectation that used to make up our daily lives.

Take, for instance, this story from my youth. It came up last night and I was hit with the realization that it never would have happened today.

Our story takes place in 1983. I am six. My family of five is embarking on a 2-day, 18-hour car trip starting in the fire ant infested bowels of Dallas, TX and ending with Jello Pudding Pops at our grandparents' house in Salt Lake City, UT. I am sure our car sucked, as these were the lean years. Personal Blu-Ray players hadn't been invented even if we could afford them. There was no infinite distraction of Game Boys or YouTube or streaming Netflix. All I could count on were 2 annoying little brothers guaranteed to make anyone crazy, and a motion-induced puke about three hours in. Awesome.

But wonder of wonders -- this trip had a new adventure built in! If we were good, and promised not to fight or breathe or ask to go to the bathroom for the whole trip, then we would make a detour at...Four Corners National Monument! (Quick aside: Maybe my poor parents didn't realize how crappy this stop would actually be. They grew up in a time that charts even lower on the thrill scale than my own childhood. My mom saw The Wizard of Oz for the first time on something like a 12-inch black and white TV. It's all about context.)

Cue my wild expectations. With no concept of Four Corners other than the unfathomable idea of being in four states at one time (just imagine!), I transformed this sad roadside attraction into a live-action version of the "It's a Small World" ride. I would tap this stop for all it was worth; wandering from state to state, eating a giant caramel apple, chatting with the abundant local children of one state before I moved on to make new friends in another. And I was fairly sure these kids would ply me with gifts indicative of their local culture. I held my breath, and my urine, and aimed my hopes at unattainable heights.

So we loaded into the car. And we drove. And...finally...we arrived!

Imagine my enchantment.

"FourcornersMonument". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
I know, right? Even the picture radiates heat, boredom, and the deafening silence of wind. And this picture was taken post-1992 renovation, so it was even more rundown when I was there.

My sad six-year-old self took one look at what Four Corners actually entailed, burst into tears, and refused to get out of the car. The rest is family history.

I will say, with absolute certainty, that this never would have happened to my kids. Not that I am a better parent - I'd probably use the same "attraction" on said drive if for no other reason than to extract myself from the car, escape the constant chatter of two competing video players, and snap an appropriately ironic picture for Facebook. No, this wouldn't happen now because my 5-year-old would be able to see Four Corners via a simple Google Image search (like the one I did to find the picture above), realize how bogus the stop would be, and choose to focus on his Transformers instead. Tears averted.

But my story isn't unique. I'm not the only one who suffered from ideas born in a time when ignorance fueled imagination. Take this tale from 1996. I'm 18 years old, the world is still a few years shy of widespread internet use, and my family takes their first real vacation to the Bahamas. (Which beats the pants off of Four Corners, by the way, and was unlike anywhere I'd ever seen.)

While on said vacation, my mom and I met a local woman who was enchanted to learn that we were from Denver. (Who wouldn't be, right?) It turned out that her church group would be traveling on a ministry trip to Denver at the end of that year. "The Mile High City!" she marveled, "Aren't you ever scared that you're going to fall off?"

Wait. What?

Living at sea level, on a flat little island in the ocean, the poor woman had absolutely no concept of elevation. We tried to explain, but words don't do justice when what you picture in your head probably looks a little like this:

and reality looks a lot more like this:

Cue the crushing disappointment.

I don't have any big wrap up here, just a weird nostalgia for ignorance that might have been. And also this warning: If you visit Denver any time soon and happen to lose your footing, try to fall wheat-side.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Hey! Me! Ugh, shut up.

WARNING: This is one of those "F-bomb" posts that I refer to in the "About" section to your left. If you aren't into F-bombs, then you can skip this and go HERE to read about that time I made jam. The pictures are pretty, and it's good jam. I just pulled one out of the freezer this morning. And now, for the rest of you, a blog in F major.

I am a self-proclaimed genius. And like most self-proclaimed geniuses (geniusi?) I am also an expert. An expert on what? Glad you asked. I am an expert on your life.

That's right folks, after knowing you for five years, five months or five minutes, I am the kind of expert who feels totally at ease doling out unsolicited advice on what books you would enjoy, the type of supplemental formula your finicky baby would probably stomach, the color that would look good in your guest room or on your wooden stairs (hey, Kate), and how many chickens you could probably fit into your small urban backyard.

Not only that, I am really in tune with the bigger questions. Want to change careers? Come and see me, I'll have a dozen suggestions. Need to organize your living room or downsize your belongings? I can point you towards a darling book and a killer website. Need to know how to better communicate with your spouse or child? Step up friend, this font of knowledge is here for you.

Wondering how I have any friends left? too.

When advice is solicited, I do love to help out a pal. I mean, who doesn't have opinions on how their friends should be living? As a people, we make a thousand judgments a day about the choices of others, and it's okay. How else would we know where to position our own lives if we didn't have the barometer of our friends', family's and even total strangers' decisions to test out changes in the atmosphere? A judgment in this sense isn't a negative, it's a necessity. And when a sentence begins with, "Hey, I could really use some help with..." then we are well within our rights to tap those everyday thoughts and let the opinions flow. But sometimes, yes sometimes, I open my mouth and out pours a flood of advice that was neither asked for nor, most likely, appreciated. It is at these times that I would do well to heed the voice in my head, which is saying (not too quietly), "Hey! Danielle! Shut the fuck up."

Seriously, self, do us all a favor and give those thoughts a rest. No one likes a know-it-all. (The irony of making this statement in the form of a public blog is not lost on me.)

If you are at all like me, wouldn't you also benefit from a nice round of Shut The Fuck Up? Or, as my family says, Shelta.

Quick detour: When we were young, my uncle lived with us for a while one summer and worked construction. The guys on the job were always telling each other to "shut the fuck up," as good natured young fellas will do, but this wasn't really appropriate job site language. As a result, "shut the fuck up" was shortened to the colloquial "shut the." When my uncle was relating this story to my parents, one of my little brothers (who were totally interchangeable at the time) misheard and asked them all what "shelta" meant. And from that day until this, "shelta" has been my family's loving way of telling each other to zip it.

So, how do I move forward with this newfound self-awareness? As an opinionated thinker who is constantly mulling over the activities going on around me, I'm not going to change my core self. I wouldn't want to. I like that I'll never be at a loss for a position in a lively debate, and truth be told, I'll probably always be trying to get you to read the last great thing that I read (Wiley Cash, A Land More Kind Than Home). But when you come to me as a friend and want to share a story or thought about your life, or we are just hanging out with our kids on a random afternoon, I can find a way to keep my personality intact and also refrain from telling you what you should do.

In order to keep myself on track I have created a mantra, complete with special font and faded overlay, that is directly influenced by the motivational posters found in break rooms across America.

I should have added a fourth: Occupy your mouth with food or drink. Until I master these new skills, perhaps we should only meet up for Happy Hours?