Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.....

Meet Twister Veronica ........mother to Trixie and Gus, sister to Vanessa, girlfriend to Vincent and alpha goat as far as The Uncles are concerned. It is difficult to get a good picture of Twister, and as I haven't yet been able to make all the pictures I do have transferrable to this blog, this is the best I could right now. This picture, taken about three days before the babies were born, does show how pretty she is though. She is somewhat standoffish in nature, softening somewhat after Vanessa's tragic labor - enough to stand next to me and push against my leg for me to rub her neck. You are never in any doubt as to what kind of mood she is in or whether or not she wants you to touch her. She was bred with Vincent not long after we got her so I never really got a clear picture of her personality, but as her pregnancy went on, she became more reserved and as I mentioned before, standoffish. She cracks me up because when you try to rub her head or neck and she doesn't want to be bothered, she has this way of twisting her head around to give you the warning - DO NOT BUG ME. That said, she is an incredible mother. The way she takes care of her babies just fills me with respect, admiration - and love......... which initially took me completely by surprise. I mean - who knew?! I'd never seen so much as a kitten being born before she had her babies and watching her with Trixie and Gus has been both an education and a great source of joy. Watching her call to her them when it is time for them to nurse, or rest or just get closer to her is absolutely amazing. (If she was my mom, ain't no way I would pretend not to hear her!) When they're nursing, she's nuzzling and inspecting with the thoroughness that only a mom gets away with. When they're sleeping, she's got them nestled up next to her on one side or another with at least one ear and one eye at all times. Which sort of prompts me to digress, because it has suddenly occurred to me that some humans could take lessons from goats when it comes to parenting.

Vanessa Van Goat

Vanessa is a beautiful little girl and I have to say that she is maybe a little bit my favorite.Truly I love all our goats, but Vanessa was the first goat we got and she and I have a special bond. Of course, it couldn't have anything at all to do with the fact that I sat with her in the back yard off and on for three days after she had a very traumatic c-section and lost her baby. Or the fact that I cried with her when she was sad because she saw her twin sister's babies frolicking and didn't have one of her own. Oh I know, people think I'm a lunatic because I am insanely in love with my goats and I fancy that they have all these thoughts and feelings (and I KNOW that they do) but if that is lunacy then go ahead and check me in the nut hut because I am certifiably CRAZY about my goats. You know, there is a lot that people just don't know about goats. Most people don't know that they are loving, loyal,and hugely entertaining - they just think that they are lawn mowers and fertilizers.(One cannot deny the value of those qualities.) People think that they are extremely destructive (okay, I've made a few repairs.)But - there is just nothing like the miracle of goats. I love to watch them eat the goat feed and the hay that they love; I love to watch them romp on my daughter's play set and in her little playhouse ;and I love to watch them sleep - they all have their own particular sleeping configuration. I love the way Vanessa comes up and lays her head down on my arm when she wants some attention - Vincent comes up and pushes his head against my leg (some pushes are harder than others.). Twister will absolutely let you know when SHE wants your attention. Wallace and Gromit are the most shy of all, but they too let me know they enjoy life on the ranch. Trixie and Gus are Twister's babies and their joy in life is evident in every thing they do. That is a whole "nother" story. All of the goats have their own individual personalities and they all give love and receive it in their own way which just draws me to them more and more every day.

Trixie and Gus, about three days old....

These are the babies for which the Van Goat Ranch has been waiting. I'm not sure how much tragedy and sadness this blog can manage, so for the moment I'll just say that Trixie and Gus weren't the first babies we were waiting for, but they were the first to stay................and their arrival was worth every minute of the wait. Trixie, also known as Little Bag of Tricks, looks like her daddy (Vincent) but her personality is all her own. Augustus, mostly known as Gus, Gussy and GusGus, looks like his mommy(Twister), but he too has created his own niche in the Van Goat family. What they have in common with each other is that every single thing they do is just absolutely the cutest thing you've ever seen , it is necessary to kiss both of them several times a day, and they grow waaaay too fast. My sister recently told me that the way I was talking to one of the goats was sickening it was so sweet and for pete's sake I never even talked to my daughter like that, to which I replied , "Well, she's not a goat." I mean, you want your children to grow into adults, and wonderful though they are, my goats are never going to speak to me in English or any other language other than "Caprinese", so why should I talk to them like they're humans. Besides, they get extra points for not talking back to me like my 16 year old son does.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Meet the man.........

Handsome, yes.........but don't be fooled by my good looks!

This is, of course, Vincent Van Goat. There is a story behind his name. Hopefully not one that will get me sued. About 9 months ago, my husband got a little doeling for our daughter. When I asked her what she would name her, she said "I'm gonna call her goat." " You don't want to give her a really cool name like the goat in Baby Einstein, 'Vincent Van Goat'?", says I. " Nope - her name is 'Goat'". "Mmmmkay."

A couple of hours later - "Mommy, I've decided to call her Vanessa Van Goat!" To which I reply, "Now that's a real name for a little girl goat."

Now, being somewhat (okay- totally) inexperienced in all matters caprine, my husband later realized that Vanessa shouldn't be alone - goats are herd animals after all. Next thing you know, one Vincent Van Goat has taken up residence with the adorable Vanessa, and the rest as they say, is history. Things got really amusing when we decided to acquire Vanessa's twin sister only to find out that she already had a name - Twister. So.......her official name is Twister Veronica Van Goat. Things sometimes get a little complicated.

Vincent is an extremely handsome pygmy goat with a somewhat dubious reputation here at the ranch. He is, in a manner of speaking, the caprine version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, alternately rubbing against me and standing to receive as much attention as I will bestow, then later rearing up on his back legs and charging. This practice of his never has caused that much distress as far as I'm concerned, but the day he learned the dreaded "Hook" was the day I started looking like a leukemia patient. (Don't think the colorful pattern of purple black and blue hasn't raised some eyebrows either!) When he decides that it isn't all going his way, he swings that head around to hook a fairly sharp horn around whatever isn't up to snuff. The rearing and charging act is pretty much all a game but the hooking thing is for keeps.To put it put it succinctly, Vincent is a spoiled brat who wants what he wants when he wants it and he isn't printing out any schedules so it's up to us to guess what's on his mind. Obnoxious buck that he is, I love him every bit as much as I do the others.

And by the way,we give complete and total credit for the name Vincent Van Goat to Julie Aigner -Clark and Baby Einstein. Our daughter started watching Baby Einstein DVD's at a very early age, and even in this day and time in the midst of all the TV/DVD/whatever else bashing, I like to think that it was a good thing for her. Of course, we have the Vincent Van Goat puppet as well as the dragon puppet, some books and several DVD's from Baby Einstein. When my husband (unbeknownst to myself) got Vincent and Vanessa for our daughter, it wasn't even a fragment of an idea in my mind that I would talk about our goats in a blog on the internet someday, but a deep and abiding love for these animals has awakened the desire in me to share what have I have learned from them. So thank you Julie and Baby Einstein for the special names of our goats.

Wallace and Gromit.........the Uncles

Wallace and Gromit came to us from a farm on the mountain and I must say that the girl that I got them from is one of the neatest people I've ever met. If there is someone out there who is living the life that I would like to live, it is this girl. For her, it is all about her goats. Yet another story.

Anyway, the boys came from this fabulous herd of goats and just looking at the quizzical expressions on their faces is enough to make me feel the laughter bubbling up inside. They have so much to say, but mostly they say it to each other. They definitely have the twin thing going on. Wallace - the one on the left - is extremely shy, and wants so badly to eat out of my hand - he's tried, but he just can't quite make himself. One time I snuck up behind him when he was lying out on top of their little red barn and started scratching his butt and his back gently, and he just kept lying there, not for one second looking at me. He would sort of glance over his shoulder, but his whole countenance said " This is heaven, but I'm not looking...just in case......". It is very hard to catch him when I have to give him wormer or a shot, but once I am actually holding him, he likes to be petted and loved.

Gromit is more outgoing than his twin and he likes to loved on and fed and he will spar with any one of the other goats every chance he gets. I rarely see one of the boys without the other and they are fun to watch because they do all the things together that I mentioned before - eat, sleep and play. They scratch their chins on eachs others horns, they use each other for pillows when they sleep and they'll play king of the mountain with any thing onto which they can climb or jump. Wallace has gotten more outgoing , but he took things slowly, starting out occasionally attaching himself to Vanessa, who apparently was a mother figure. Now they butt heads and chase each other around like everybody else.

Even though these guys didn't start out as "original " Van Goat family members, they easily blended with the rest of the family and we affectionately refer to them as the "The Uncles." Everybody should have such cool uncles.

Siesta time!!!

The Van Goats resting in the shade. That's the life!

This has become one of their favorite spots - the one where they go to cool off because they have gotten it nice and smooth. The drawback - Vincent Van Goat is wearing about a pound of dirt in his coat. Vincent was our herd sire, but now even though he is no longer able to breed, he remains the king of the dirt pile. He is lying to the right of the tree, the larger goat. He too, knows who he is.

Ahhh......the summers at my grandparent's house.

In reference to the picture of the future goat farmer of America, my sister and I used to spend the summers with my grandparents because we were too young to stay by ourselves while our parents were attending graduate level classes , acquiring their advanced education required for teachers. They attended the University of Georgia, which was several hours away from where we lived, so they rented and apartment for the summer and we stayed with our grandparents in south Georgia. The afore mentioned picture was one that my sister took of me when we were playing dress up one day. I fancied that I was some type of bohemian farmer girl. We're all allowed our moments of dorkdom. Mine will apparently last well into my senior years.

Someday I should write a book about those summers because even though I missed my parents, most painfully at times, a person cannot buy a vacation or pay for any time that would be as priceless as those days are to me. We did our fair share of manual labor.....planting, weeding, mowing miles of lawn and anything else that our grandparents thought we should do. Sometimes it seemed like we'd been signed over for slave labor, but deep down inside it felt good to be a part of something that produced so much good food, and kept us outside where it was just us and the hot sun. There's something about being outside all day when it's so hot that you feel that the sun is burning out anything in you that doesn't belong there. Eventually, we didn't even notice the heat anymore because whatever was inside us that made us feel the heat was gone. There were of course, enormous payoffs such as playing in the mud and sand, both of which became glorious rivers and pools of muck after one of those summer monsoon rains. I can remember my grandmother being completely traumatized when I taught the pristine neighbor kids how to spend an entire afternoon in the mud and render their clothes unrecognizable just like mine. I remember wading through the mudholes around the sprinklers out in the gardens after it had poured down rain and all I can say is that it felt so good, that if adults were doing that kind of thing, you'd see a lot of people standing around in fields smoking cigarettes. To err is human, to spend the afternoon wading around in a mudhole is divine.
The tree houses.( I'm taking some freedoms here with the word house) - A tree house was wherever we decided we would perch for several hours , and it usually involved pulling up and lowering down any number of necessary items in the tin bucket we were allowed to use. My grandmother used to fix lunch for us and we would lower the bucket down, mouths watering in anticipation of what was coming back up - it was usually a ham sandwich but it never disappointed. There is no food that tastes better than food raisied up in a bucket and eaten while sitting on the big branch of a pecan tree. Speaking of eating, it would be very remiss of me not to mention how I set out to eat every watermelon that they grew in their garden - and believe me - they had some watermelons. I would sit on the patio and eat the melon right off the rind - no fork, no knife, no spoon - just me and the melon. I always looked like I'd been caught in a tragic accident that involved the explosion of watermelons.

And of course, I can't forget the endless stacks of Harlequin romances my sister and I read because my grandmother belonged to the monthly Harlequin Romance Club and she received a box of books every month from them. Eventually it seemed as though Harlequin romances were breeding in my grandparent's house because you couldn't swing a dead cat around without hitting a a romance novel. On rainy days, upon finishing our chores, we could consume any number of those books! Our acquisition of reading material was limited to weekly trips into town, visits from the book mobile ( which was second only to getting ice cream as far as I was concerned) and of course, the ubiquitous Harlequins. I haven't read a Harlequin Romance in years, but I'm thinking maybe I should. Would I return, if only momentarily, to a simpler, more lighthearted time? Maybe if I made a sour cream pound cake and some lemon curd sauce to go on top and ate it while I read the books it would be the magic formula for time travel back to those days. It's worth a try.

Looking back on these days, I might have known that someday I would be destined to return to some type of communion with that past life. Now I work in my yard where there is no fabulous south Georgia sand or dirt............plenty of rocks and clay, though. I plant flowers spring, summer and fall and as you read this, I am preparing a raised bed to try and escape the crummy dirt problem, so that I can grow some vegetables and flowers together, minus the rocks.
I try to cook some of the same things that my grandmother cooked - this morning it was buttermilk pancakes. and bacon. I've tried my hand at her waffles, potato fritters and in the past when I flung good sense to the winds - fried chicken. I'm realistic - talent such as my granny's went to the grave with her, but I do okay. Lately, I've been experimenting with not measuring things - just dumping ingredients in whatever I'm cooking - just like Granny did. So far, so good - no scary outcomes, it's been rather liberating. I recently acquired a Dodge truck, which is nothing like Pa's old Chevrolet , but a girl can dream. I am searching relentlessly for the place to live where my children can roam and play in the dirt and wade in the mud; where I can have grapevines and tomatoes and hopefully a patio where I can sit and eat watermelon right off the rind.
I don't fry chicken any more, like Granny did ( she did that a LOT),but I like to bake bread, which I cannot recall my grandmother ever doing because they ate store bought white bread. My grandfather would eat no other. He also ate eggs every morning, souse meat and the fat off of every piece of meat he ever ate and everyone else's too. He also drank a little watered down whiskey just about every day and he lived to be 96. He knew a few things.

Monday, May 28, 2007

My first post!!!!

I am so excited to be here in the world of cyber sharing!! Yippeee! I love looking at and reading other people's blogs and I am excited to finally be putting my own out there. Thanks to all you people who have inspired me, and there are many out there who have inspired with their creativity and willingness to share themselves and their ideas. Here's to you Jennifer Schmoo and The Vegan Lunchbox, Dreena Burton and Vive le Vegan, and last not but not least, Lucy with her vegan family and By Other Means. As I recall, it was Lucy's website that introduced me to The Vegan Lunchbox, thereby igniting the fire in me to start my own blog. Alas, I didn't start my own blog until well over a year later, but hey - all in good time.

So......todayI have made my introduction...........tomorrow, I'm going to teach myself how to add the pictures and make this thing come to life! Cheers!