Monday, April 14, 2014

Kindness, Paying it Forward, and Goats

Alpine Goat in Paris, France. Photo by Eponimm. I was told by a local goat farmer that the Alpine goat is a great milking goat. 

When my children were young and I was suddenly a single mother I was determined to do everything I could to make their lives beautiful so the pain and grieving experience of losing a relationship would not affect them as it was affecting me. Some things I tried worked well, some did not. I tried writing them letters to tell them about my life, but they ended up expressing a bit too much pain, but I would still highly recommend journal writing as a healing tool. I also played subliminal positive affirmation tapes while they were falling asleep, tapes that had a man's soft voice telling them they were strong, intelligent, amazing people speaking behind music that generally put them to sleep within minutes. Oddly enough, I believe that was effective. Although they were sleeping when he spoke, they can still recite the introduction to those tapes 30 years later, and yes, they are strong, intelligent, and amazing!

And now I'll bet you're wondering what this has to do with the goats...

Nubian goat. I love Nubian goats. I think it's something about those ears! Photo by TTaylor.

During this healing phase I also decided I was going to teach my children to appreciate the many gifts God has given us, including the gift of animals. In order to do this I obviously could not raise my children in an apartment in the city. I lived with my parents for a short time and they generously cared for my children while I looked for a new home. This was a great decision because my parents taught them that family supports each other. However, I still prayed for a home of our own, a place away from the city where we could rest, heal, and live with nature. 

I was at work when I found the ad in the paper. It was like a miracle you would see in a movie! At the bottom of the page, just a few lines, a two-bedroom farmhouse with fenced yard and barn for $300 a month. I think I actually started crying. (Yes, I'm getting to the goats!)

African Pygmy Goat. Photo in pubic domain. I have read that milk from the Pygmy Goat works well for making butter--and they're just so cute! In fact, according to a book I found online, Pygmy Goat milk is the best for making butter because milk from the other varieties of goats is not as rich. This, however, makes their milk good for different purposes, which I will discuss in a moment. 

I met the woman who owned the rental house--the original homesteading house on the historic property. She owned all of the land around, and a much larger house down the road so she would be fairly close in case of an emergency. The house had a chicken coop for night safety, a barn, a rabbit hutch, and a small pond that I built for ducks. It had trees, and birds, and wild animals that crept about at night. It was across a field from the train tracks and we could listen to the trains and sometimes walked along the tracks while I told them stories about the history of Colorado. It was perfect.

Layla Lou, my house bunny, in her hutch. My current bunny lives in our dining room because her hutch fits perfectly by the back door and she can look outside whenever she wants. 

My older sister, who lives in Arkansas, tried to give me advice. We started with the rabbits and they seemed very happy, but my sister disapproved. Apparently we were supposed to eat the rabbits, not pet them. That idea didn't go over well with any of us! We then bought chickens and unfortunately ended up with a few too many roosters. One of the roosters tried to attack my daughter every time she wore a certain pink coat. A friend took care of the rooster problem. I had a few Running Ducks and the chickens and ducks roamed the yard, ate all the bugs, and left us a large supply of eggs. The house also had a huge kitchen and I made all of our bread. I then found a goat, Ivy. She was registered and had a pedigree, performed little dances for the children, and her milk was delicious. There was only one problem: I had too much food! In fact, I had so much milk and eggs that I had to throw some away because it was spoiling.

I loved our Running Ducks. They remind me of little people, get along great with other animals, and they make great guard...ducks. Photo by Lantus.

Then my world changed again. I was offered my old job back in Denver. The pay was fantastic, and we needed to get back on our feet financially, but I didn't have money for a babysitter saved up yet and I had already asked so much of my parents! My mother tried caring for my children for awhile, but she had a job, too, working with my father. It was time to pray for another miracle, and the miracle came with the help of Ivy, the wonder goat. 

Look! It's a kid! Photo by Lionel Rich.

The miracle was not what I expected! My mother met a woman who recently gave birth to her fourth child, but the baby would not take her breast milk or formula. She did, however, drink goats milk! The young woman told me that she also went through a time in her life when she could not pay for groceries and a stranger helped her out so she and her children could start over. She offered to babysit for me in exchange for goats milk and chicken eggs. I couldn't believe it--a babysitter who actually needed our excess goat's milk and chicken eggs! It was too much, really! I mean, I knew how much she could have charged me for watching my children, but she didn't charge me--she was paying it forward.

Take Five! What a cute collection! Chicks are so adorable, and they are useful in teaching children to be gentle. Photo by siehe Lizenz.

It wasn't easy. I was a single mother working a full-time job. I had to milk the goat at sunrise, feed the chickens, dress the children for daycare, drive half an hour one way to the babysitter then drive 1 1/2 hours to Denver to work. It was a challenge, but a fun challenge. Every minute of every day was fun!

And oh how quickly life changes. My children's father returned to the state and we decided that even though we could not make our marriage work, we were going to do all we could to make our divorce work with joint custody and equal support. I realized I had to make a choice between being able to afford to support my children and pay for college, or work in Denver and sacrifice the college education. But the education was a learning experience that I wanted for my children, too! I wanted them to see me succeed! I told them, always, that they could be anyone the wanted to be, that they could do anything they wanted to do! I had started working as a journalist at 18 years old with no college education, just determination and the desire to succeed. Now, I wanted the education to back up my journalism career, and more than anything, I wanted to show my children I could succeed.

Life is a series of decisions and choices, and so, my little farm came to a sad, painful end.

The farmhouse was torn down years ago and replaced with a subdivision as we moved on with our lives. However, none of us has ever forgotten our little farm in Berthoud, Colorado. In fact, I still hear my children talking about it to their friends and their own children, and my children are now in their thirties. And I have a debt of kindness to repay to society. I need to pay it forward.

Herd of goats in the Greek highlands/public domain. I may need a herd this size to fulfill my dream!

I now have a new dream, and I will make this dream happen. I want to raise goats and chickens and donate the milk, cheese, and eggs to single mothers and low-income families. My grandchildren are strong, intelligent, active, and growing older, and they can help me with the animals the way their parents helped me, and they can learn about these wonderful gifts from God. 

It is more than a dream, it is something that I know in my heart I must do, so once again, I am praying for a miracle. We have sold our house in New Mexico and we are moving back to Colorado to live close to our children and grandchildren. I know, in my heart, that this miracle will come true.

African Pygmy Goat. Photo in public domain.

So I am praying. I am praying that all the pieces will come together. I am praying that I will find the perfect home, and the goats and chickens, and the strength and energy to run this small enterprise, and the people who need my help with the gift of milk, eggs, and cheese. I am praying for a miracle. I am praying for the chance to pay it forward after all these years in memory of that wonderful woman who helped me so generously with her gift of kindness by trading goats milk for child care.


Afshan Shaik said...

That is a wonderful page from ur life. I read each line carefully letting it sink in me and I time traveled with u all. U r one passionate and brave lady. May god bless u all. By ur post I understood how delightful it can be if you are near to nature
dropping by from A to Z

Darla Sue Dollman said...

Thank you--that was very kind of you! Thanks for stopping by and reading--I do love to share!

Stephanie Faris said...

Colorado is such a beautiful place. It's great you're getting to move back to be near your children and grandchildren!

susan e. schwartz, ph.d., Jungian analyst said...

Being with the animals is so healing and necessary for life...
Thank you,
Garden of Eden Blog

Darla Sue Dollman said...

Thank you, Susan! I also write a blog called http:/ and I think you might like that one, as well guessing from the name of your blog. I'm off to check out your blog! Thanks for stopping by. --Darla Sue

Darla Sue Dollman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sheri Oz said...

This is a wonderful story. I learned to herd and milk goats (and make cheese) while woofing in the Pyrenees. Great to live off the land!

Darla Sue Dollman said...

Yes it is! It's hard these days to find a place where you can do so, but that's why I'm trying to move back to Colorado, to find a little place to raise goats and chickens (and be with my grandchildren!)