Free-Range Kids

I have a friend with a lot of kids.

I’m not talking about the expensive human kind that begs for stuff at the mall and drinks directly out of milk cartons. Nope.  She and her husband are childless by choice which I find foreign and fascinating, primarily because  I would have sold most of my organs (and practically had to) in order to become a mother myself.

They live together in a white turn of the century farmhouse on acres and acres of land in the Red River valley where they raise livestock and vegetables and believe in the importance of sustainability and leaving small footprints on Mother Earth. Most of what they consume they either grow in their own garden or raise.   She makes yogurt and cheese from her goats’ milk and gathers eggs from her chickens.  They raise pigs and have one butchered for themselves each autumn. Her animals live free of the filth and poor living conditions that most livestock today is forced to endure.

Their lifestyle (and the hard work that goes into it) is foreign to me, too.  I do my best to avoid dealing with most things that, um, poop. Especially horses, because I am convinced that horses hate me. Three times in my life I’ve been on a horse. Three. And all three horses decided that I was either too boring or too scared to haul around and they stopped to lay down. I’m sure this must be a record for bad equestrian experiences. So while I remain convinced that dogs are actually just little people in fur coats, and think turtles and hummingbirds are generally pretty awesome, I have to admit that I’m pretty much a person who prefers to hang around creatures that are potty trained.

I’ve told my friend this, but she loves me anyway. She wanted me to visit their farm, and so off to the farm I went. While I was there I even helped her clean out her horse barn. Next, she introduced me to her rooster as well as a  black horse named Fabio who seemed to be sizing me up. Finally, in the goat barn, I got to meet her kids.

Goats are interesting creatures.  She has several who came booking it to the barn as soon as they heard her voice.  She greeted each  one by name and as she started to put them into their pens, one of the boys decided he’d rather hang with the girls for the night.  Apparently, this is frowned upon by my friend.  Maybe they are adolescents.  Time and again, she tried to get him into his pen and he darted away.  Finally, in her best “You’d better knock it off and get over here” Ticked Off Mom-Voice , she strode up to him and looked right into his little goat eyes. He looked at her..looked at the girls, and then, grudgingly did exactly what she’d told him to do.   I was amazed.  I’ve used that same voice hundreds of times with my non-goat son. I wasn’t aware that the Mom-Voice could be used with four legged boys, too! Is this universal??? Then, she knelt down next to her favorite girl goat named “Princess” and gave her a hug and kiss on the cheek and told her goodnight. As we walked toward the house,  she told me about all of their different temperaments..their quirks…their specific needs.   The woman clearly “gets” goats.

Her kids will never go to college, and she’ll never have to pay for a goat wedding.  She’ll never have to attend a parent/goat conference or wait up for them, worrying about what type of goat shenanigans they are getting into uptown.  And she may well end up selling one of them to someone who thinks goat meat is just the ticket.  But for now, she is their nurturing, loving, patient caregiver.  They depend upon her to have their physical needs met, to learn,  and to grow into the best  darn goats they are capable of becoming under her guidance.  And if she’s lucky,  Princess might give her grand kids someday, too.

When my dear friend told me that last part, she beamed.

Maybe she is a mom, after all.

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