It’s hard to imagine that one month ago I was traveling down the California coast preparing to drive back east on Route 10 with the anticipation of visiting New Orleans. Now, I’m sitting in the cabin with Oliver as if we’ve been here all along. It’s like we never left. Plugging back into working at Rawson Brook Farm has been full of new experiences already.
First, the weather is a bit different from the southwest. It was sunny when I moved back allowing for a wonderful blueberry pruning party on Sunday, but then it turned to freezing rain and cold temperatures. The mud is upon us and will only get worse. I limit the number of trips up and down the driveway, which is actually fine with me since I have no desire to drive anywhere after a 12,000 mile trip.
March 13 was our first due date and the babies just keep coming more and more each day. We have over 80 kids from the 35 that have freshened, meaning given birth. It varies as to how many each goat has- one, twins, triplets, quads, or quintuplets. Andi had quintuplets last night! Clara was the cutest girl yet and we’re keeping her for sure . We are feeding the kids three times per day- first by individual bottles with nipples, then we add a straw to prepare them for the lamb-bar which they eventually graduate to when they move to the other pen.
Holding a warm, wet newborn is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. They are so fragile, yet often begin walking within minutes of taking that trip down the birth canal. As I wipe the kid off with a towel before putting it into the warm box, I say, “Welcome to this world, little one.”
The hardest part is separating the baby from its mother before they get too attached. We don’t let them nurse from their mother’s teat because then they won’t know how to drink from a bottle. This is where the business side of the dairy production is prioritized. A long time ago, Susan would allow each kid to nurse, but it was so confusing and many of the kids would nurse from other mothers. Kids would be fought over in the barn. When the time came to make cheese with the milk, mom and kid cried so loud and were very upset. A constant headache I’m sure. It was nearly impossible to train them to be milked on the stand twice a day when their longing for the child was so deep. While it would be lovely to be in line with the natural processes of reproduction, it is not practical at this scale.
Susan warned me it would start to feel like a factory with so many births at once and babies to bottle-feed. There were a couple of days when my stomach felt tight and my adrenaline rushed as I had to quickly learn how organize each kid’s milk and make sure they weren’t over fed. This is the first year Susan is matching mom’s milk to babies in hope of preventing CAE, a form of arthritis that can be passed down through colostrom. Once we got our system in place, the process was much smoother and I could relax a bit.
I feel very alive and happy to be working again after a long time away from farming. New beginnings are everywhere as spring is here once again. The births of over 100 kids will surely prepare me for another season at Rawson Brook Farm.
Welcome longer days. Welcome back birds. Welcome soft ground beneath the snow. Welcome buds on trees. Welcome tee shirts and iced tea. Welcome baby goats, welcome to this world.