Copy writer, editor, and…goat milker? Totally! I believe that life stays spicy when you forget fear and pursue your passions…and last summer was a hot one! Naturally, that was the record-breaking heat wave summer I spent busting my buns on a goat farm. Do I have any regrets? None.
Since I was very young I’ve wanted to grow my own food and raise animals, which matured into an interest in running an independent homestead to escape the fast and fussy hustle of too-much-city. So, my fiancé Curt and I enrolled in the WWOOF program (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), packed the car with all our worldly possessions and left the cubicle world of time-and-a-half to slow life down and connect to something more vital.
Where we went
We loved the idea of learning about goats, so we headed to an Animal Welfare Approved establishment in North Carolina called Prodigal Farm. When we arrived, they showed us how to milk goats by hand. A month in, we were using a neighbor’s bucket milker (a pressurized milking machine) and by the time we left, their industrial dairy was up and running – it was quite a transformation and a truly unique experience to help it happen.
Goats are people!
When we got there it seemed impossible to tell any of the herd apart from one another and we were scribbling notes everywhere we went. By the end of the summer I knew all the “milking mamas” because they have unique personalities, markings, and quirks that set them apart and are easy to see when you’re together every day.
The most loving was Corazon, who never missed a chance to snuggle. Daylight was hilarious and didn’t follow goat rules because she believed she was human. The toughest goat in the field? The herd queen, naturally! Jo-Pye doled out indiscriminate punishment to remind everyone who was boss.
What we learned
We learned how to milk goats, store the milk, administer vaccinations and medications, trim hooves, and much more. We also made artisan goat cheeses that owners Kat and Dave began selling at local farmers’ markets near the end of our stay. If you hop over to their website you can see the blackboard sign they take to markets posted on October 16th…Curt and I made that sign!
One of my favorite stories to share is of two young male goats named Douglas and Draco. “Dougie” and I became fast friends on the farm, unlike Draco, who loved to run at me from behind to take me out at the knees, then lift his head and stab my butt with his horns as I fell. Brat.
One day I saw Dougie racing across the field, so I followed his progress to find Draco charging toward me from behind again. With shock (and delight) I watched as Dougie head-butted Draco at full speed (thwump!) then stood between Draco and me, bristling. When Draco turned away, Dougie came over to me and rubbed his head on my leg. I can’t believe he protected me like that…my sweet, fearless defender!
At the end of the summer we missed our families and friends and wanted to return to a more modern lifestyle to reboot our financial and social resources. Curt and I learned the importance of how we work best: with support from great people and enough flexibility in our schedules to manage the lifestyle we crave. Rise ended up being the ideal fit!
When Rise was looking for a writer, the contract work we started with was right up my alley and with Dawn’s mentorship and some more of my time available, we’ve reached a balance that allows me to address Rise’s needs while also meeting my own. Together, we’ve risen to the challenge and I have support from great people and the flexibility I was looking for!
We still use what we learned on the farm in our “city lives” here in Orlando. We shop locally, bake bread, compost, attend farmers’ markets, and keep our working lives at a manageable pace. I love writing for Rise and feel lucky every day for having such a great work-life balance. All we need now is for Orlando to let us keep a goat (or three…) in our yard!