It's really feeling a bit more like Spring lately, huh?! Well, as you might imagine, we are feeling Spring strongly here -- from the bursting greenhouse of vegetable and herb seedlings, to the faint green of leaves appearing in the trees, to the... oh my! hehe ... the long awaited baby goats in the barn! Over the last few weeks we have welcomed 9 baby goats into the family; two of which came last night, both healthy boys, making the tally 5 bucklings (boys) and 4 doelings (girls) so far, with 3 or 4 more expected by the end of March.
I am so grateful to have the gift of being present to midwife our goats, as every birth is a truly timeless and humbling experience to witness, always a lesson in the powerful wisdom of mothers. The birth last night was of a first-time mother, Gloria. Watching and supporting her through labor, then in the first day of motherhood, it has obviously been a huge rite of passage for her -- a transition that demands focused learning and transformation -- what feels to me a mix of an activation of the creature's innate knowing, integration of modeled behaviors from their mothers aunties and grandmothers, and just plain figuring it out. For the first week after birth we keep the mothers and newborns in their stalls to allow for deeper bonding. Separation from the flock for a week tends to ease the whole process, as the mothers for a while are very concerned whenever they can't see their newborns. So by a week old, when the new goat's legs have developed enough, they are integrated back with the rest of the flock. Currently, the small red barn is our nursery, where the three mothers sleep with the 7 two-week old kids and everyone curiously peeks in on the new mother's stall. A few times in the night, the mothers wake their babes to drink, and of course the kids go into late-night play -- chasing each other or trying to jump on their moms or aunties, before getting woozy and snoozing away again.
To ween the little ones from their mothers milk, in stark comparison to a "conventional" dairy, we strive to make the process as gentle as possible. It starts three weeks after birth, when the kids are naturally getting curious about solid food, by taping the mother's teat for a portion of the night. This portion slowly becomes longer until after three months, the kids are fully eating solid food.
Today I was reminded of a story told to me by one of our beloved board members on his return from backpacking in Tibet. It was an image of a steppe nomad family that he stayed with. The family's cozy black tent of woven Yak-hair protected both the family and their animals from biting winds -- you can imagine a small pit fire in the middle of the tent and toddler Yaks fidgeting next to their cud-chewing but otherwise still mothers. It was in this setting that their host went into labor with few human companions present, and after having a normal birth, she returning not long after to the role of host. For me, this image summons a sense of grace, perseverance, and loving tenacity of motherhood, something I witness in the barn, too, in a goat kind of way.
Here's to Spring! Wishing you all the tenacity and perseverance of Spring in all your good work in the world. Let's celebrate the strength and beauty of our diversity.