Ah, youth, when all the world is a buffet of dreams and you can just as vividly imagine yourself running your own organic farm as inhabiting a high-rise apartment in a glittering city with rent as high as your Manolos. Last night, from the snug warmth of my fluffy bed nested inside my humble but cozy house within a spectacularly October-festooned Michigan woodsy suburb, I dreamed of stepping onto a plane to Australia, about the longest trip I could possibly take on a flight. I remember the thrill of flying itself and the excitement of visiting a place I have never seen, smelled, or tasted. Then I woke up and remembered that we're in a pandemic and Australia is now pretty much constantly on fire like California, and I am very, very lucky to have a healthy little family in a humble little house in this sleepy Great Lakes suburb during what feels like an apocalyptic time to raise a child.
I also have a more realistic understanding of what it takes to raise livestock responsibly. Backyard chickens, legal and otherwise, have taken off in my area and many other parts of the United States, and it has led to outbreaks of avian flu and other diseases that kill off wild birds because backyard farmers don't tend to provide thorough or appropriate veterinary care due to expense, lack of knowledge, or simple unwillingness to deal with yucky stuff and the decision to destroy and discard infected birds. There is a very Marie Antoinette attitude among ignorant city people who think having farm animals in the backyard is cute, or some kind of God-given right, but aren't mature and knowledgeable enough to understand the true responsibilities that come with raising livestock.
Nevertheless, as far as wacky dreams go, starting a goat farm still seems like a promising choice for anyone drawn to that lifestyle who understands that farm animals aren't pets. Goat farming that replaces some of the world's cattle farming is good for the environment, wholesome, and accessible. Goats can thrive in a wide variety of locations and conditions. They're incredibly cute and popular on social media. I know people who live not far from me who joyfully, successfully, and responsibly raise goats.
I stand by the idea of goat farming--but just the idea at this point, for someone else. After becoming parents, my husband and I came to reckon with the importance of living close to supportive family, within a solid global bug-out zone, and in an urban-enough setting that we can walk or bike to almost everywhere we need to go. Also, to be fully honest with myself, I enjoy having a physically comfortable office job and the leisure time to watch weird art films, write creatively, doodle, cook complicated and messy meals, and play long games with my family without having to worry about caring around-the-clock for a bunch of animals.
We sometimes have goat milk and meat in our fridge, and though I still
prefer the moo cow dairy that my milkmaid ancestors evolved to live
upon, we stretch our grocery budget every month to purchase milk,
butter, and ice cream from small, local, and more ethical dairy farms such as Moo-ville, where you can actually go and visit the cows and witness their happy bovine lifestyle.
When I wrote the post below, my husband and I were still child-free and fantasizing about migrating overseas and committing to the labor of farming. We've settled upon different choices for ourselves, but I still think goats are cool and cute and just might help save the world. If you dream of raising goats, I say go for it!
I have a confession to make. I'm an environmentally-conscious, health-conscious woman who LOVES dairy. Milk, butter, cream, cheese. MMMMM!! When I have a cold or a stomach ailment and have to go dairy-free for awhile, it's a huge problem. This is a moral and physical dilemma for me.
Not only is bovine cattle farming one of the greatest threats to human and environmental health on Earth, but cows themselves are at risk from global warming. In warmer weather, they produce less. So what does this mean for the cattle industry and my delicious morning lattes?
Scientific America reports that "researchers in Brazil are so concerned about climate change, they've suggested the country set its sights on goat milk."
This idea is considered crazypants nonsense by American dairy farmers, but I think it's a fine idea. Goats pollute less, use fewer resources, and produce milk that is more easily digested by humans. Did you know that goat is the #1 meat eaten in the world? It's tasty in a stew or curry, let me tell you.
Goat milk makes delicious cheeses. Mr. G and I often buy goat's milk at the grocery store to put in our morning coffee. I admit, I do not prefer it to cow's milk. It tastes... well, goaty. And we can only buy it in whole milk form (which is really greasy) and ultra-pasteurized. However, it will do in a pinch. It lasts longer in the fridge, and it's easy to digest if I have an upset stomach.
But if we had our OWN goat! I imagine fresh-from-the-goat milk would taste better, and we could skim off the cream. And we could make our own cheese. Yum! And the goat would subsist happily by trimming my grass, noshing weeds, and eating table leftovers.
My first homestead livestock wish is to have chickens. The township says they're not legal where I live, but I can hear a neighbor's rooster crowing every morning. I keep meaning to knock on their door and find out what loophole they're using or whether they've just made a clandestine agreement with their immediate neighbors to keep quiet in exchange for eggs. But I have a feeling that some years down the road, backyard chickens will be legalized in my area. It's just such a good idea!
Call us communists... but if the U.S. doesn't shape up by the year 2018 (when I'm 35) and allow backyard chickens, and maybe small goats, Mr. G and I have this crazy plan to move to the Netherlands and start a small farm with goats, chickens, sheep, tulips, and all manner of vegetables and fruits. Maybe a hash cookie bakery out front. Ha!
But there is plenty of time between now and then to see how history plays out. Things are changing quickly at this point.
Reader friends, what do you think of goat dairy and dairy in general?
I dream of goats!