Regretfully, whenever I have to say that I cannot attend an event, or meet a friend or come to a party because I need to go home and milk my goats, I next feel the need to explain that this is not a ridiculous brush-off.
Likewise, trying to explain to people what it is like to work at getting a handmade goats milk soap business off the ground so you can pay off your student loans, put a family room addition on the house, or just take a vacation once a year (but never during kidding or milking season) is very difficult.
When you tell a new friend, or even an old one that remembers how you used to love to dance/eat out/drink Kir Royales during Saratoga Racing season, all that your after work life entails, their eyes glaze over. Tell a stranger that you have a herd of dairy goats and they think you are a “weekend farmer” or one of those 4H people that go to the county fair once a year.
Raising goats for milk is year-round work. It requires daily attention and close monitoring to do it well. It requires continuous investment. Even if you’re not a certified dairy - which means opening up a whole world of paperwork, state testing, expensive machinery and meticulous cleanliness - I still consider it important business. Because you are doing something to be self-sufficient and ecologically efficient. You are either providing food for yourself and your friends, or goat-scaping property until the tick population or brush fire risk declines dramatically, or making soap and lotions, and other useful things. You are saving money on gas and carbon emissions, because you’ll be too busy taking care of the goats to go to the movies or take a day trip. You’re investing in some animals and doing your freaking part to reclaim that feeling of living by the seasons, valuing something you can’t buy on Gilt, and enjoying the simple pleasure of a day’s hard work. I hope you own a heating pad.
I have so much respect for full-time goat farmers. That’s an even tougher job that my 40 hours at day job + 3-4 daily hours of home dairying. Full time goat dairying is a day and night job. It’s a blood and sweat and tears job. A friend of mine has a goat dairy and cheese making business and I still shudder when I think about the time she told me her regular schedule meant doing 2 am milkings. Whoa. Add children under age 3 to the mix. My mind was just now blown all over again!
Also, during kidding season, goat owners are known to sleep in their goat barn overnight, just to make sure everything is ok. In JANUARY. In Minnesota. True story. That was almost me this year, in February. It was every bit as cold as January. That is dedication, not weekend farming. It’s a little more than a hobby, in my opinion, even if the tax man doesn’t think so!
I think what I am trying to say is that every effort deserves merit, whether it be growing an impressive vegetable garden, erecting a hoop greenhouse, marketing your own natural skin care products, keeping alpacas (they are cute, eco-friendly, provide wool AND poop in one designated pile. Easy clean-up!) These things take major resources and require work every day, not just on the weekends. Applaud and respect your farmer friends, even if you think it’s a little silly!
We’re seriously in danger of succumbing to factory farms for our main vegetable and fruit sources. Aside from being very sad, this brings a lot of other trouble with it. What the world really needs right now is a bunch of young people making farming look good and viable while they’re breaking their backs at it. Hug your farmer friends and go visit them with snacks and cold drinks and maybe a helping hand (as long as you aren’t a pest or want to talk about relationship problems while digging.) They may not have time to come to your event, your dinner, or your party during the busiest season, but they surely miss and love you.
By the way, I repay kindness with soap and chevre.