Skip to main content

TBT: Backyard Goats

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!


Backyard Goats

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!

Comments

  1. From the sounds of things sliding into the media, folks will be prohibited from having their own gardens before long, much less be able to raise goats for milk. It's seemingly the intent of big government to take over the food supply as well as the banks, car makers, etc. Maybe the Netherlands would be a good idea. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Didn't Michelle Obama plant her own organic garden on the White House lawn and encourage homeowners to do the same? I don't see government coming after my gardening ever. But the goat might be far-fetched. I can imagine my neighbors downhill not being too pleased with the idea.

    ReplyDelete
  3. In my town, Farm Animals aren't allowed unless they are PETS... lol so I've always had plans to get some chickens as "pets"... and you don't have to have a rooster to get eggs. Hens aren't loud like Roosters, so my neighbors would be clueless.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yeah, every district has its own loopholes. My township said "livestock animals" are not allowed, even as "pets." That means I couldn't even have a pet rabbit. And I definitely wouldn't get a rooster if I got laying hens. I really should get up the courage to knock on the rooster people's door... if only they didn't yell a lot and have a Sarah Palin sign in their yard! Freaky.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Genie:

    In spite of many of our differing opinions, I love you. You always have such compelling logic for your opinions and choices.

    I've been telling my wife for years that I'd love to get some chickens. Unfortunately, we just don't have the yard space for them. Back when I was a kid, growing up in a huge yard next door to a bonafide farm, we did have chickens. Let me tell you, they are messy, dirty, and noisy. But, if you've got the space, I too think they're worth it.

    The idea of moving to Europe is politically horrifying to me; however, what bothers me more is that the policies and socialism of Europe seems to be moving here to us. :-( If that trend continues, I'm not sure there will be any place left in the world I'll really want to live.

    It grieves me when I hear friends say, "Well in Europe they have..." In Europe they have 50% tax rates, limited freedoms, and none of the history of individualism we have. I don't want to be compared to them and I don't want our systems compared to them either.

    Bring back the old days when the government was smaller and you didn't need to ask anyone's permission to put a goat on YOUR property. That's what the US should be like today.

    -Gleno

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

35 Great Things About Turning 35

The prime of life starts at 35! It's the best-kept secret from younger people, but your 35th birthday is a major cause for celebration. For mine, I have made my own listicle of 35 reasons why experts agree that 35 is the best age to be: You get to say, "I'm 35." The number 35 carries so much more gravitas than 30, but you're only a few years older. At 34, I've started fudging my age--by adding a year. People automatically take me seriously, and if they don't, at least they tell me I look young for my age. (Eye roll, hair toss, "whatever.")    35-year-olds DGAF. Inner chill reaches new heights at 35. Despite its #2 status on this list, it's the #1 response I hear about what's best about hitting 35. My gorgeous friend Nerlie was beautiful and resilient and wise beyond her years in high school, but now, at age 35, she gets to fully enjoy being herself on her own terms. She writes,  "I've survived so much that I don't

TBT: The Magic of Essential Oils

Oh essential oils, beloved friend of loopy-goopy women of my own demographic marketing cohort, along with magic crystals, mystic doulas, organic pesticides, multi-level-marketed leggings, anything labeled as "herbal supplements," and alternatives to vaccination. The essential oil craze is something that has a basis in scientifically verifiable reality but has been endowed with magical, holy, pseudo-scientific properties for marketing purposes. I bought into it wholeheartedly before I learned that not all that crunches is harmless. All too often, legitimate fears based in reality (of toxic chemicals, unnecessary medical interventions, pharmaceutical side effects, etc.) are stoked to induce women like me to jump from the frying pan and into the fire of an "alternative" that may be at least as harmful as what it is supposedly protecting me and my family from. I still use certain essential oils for cleaning and other purposes, and I think everything I've stated in t

$Monday: Bog Witch Style on a Budget

Autumn in a pandemic is the perfect time to tap into your inner bog witch with wild hair, cozy clothes, forest rituals, creepy cats, fire, books of spells, and Dark Cottagecore home decor mood boards on Pinterest . You don't have to live in a literal swamp. The word "bog" comes from a Gaelic term for "soft," and it sounds nearly identical to Slavic words for gods or divinity with Proto-Slavic roots that refer to earthly fortune. Bog witches burrow into the true goodness of life nestled beneath all the hustle and polish and show of making a living. They focus on soft wealth and spiritual power. The vibe is slow, earthy, comfy, moody, sneakily seductive, maybe sticky, wise rather than smart, preferring old things to new, charming rather than impressive. It's about harmonizing with the natural environment, blending, melting, enveloping, and sinking into earthy, downward energy. Bog witchery vibes with hygge, friluftsliv , and the indigenous earth wisdom of whe

The Pandemic Turned My Church Outside and Online

The pandemic might have permanently pushed my church outdoors and online--even after we can come inside again. The radically inclusive church that I work for, UU Lansing , has adapted so successfully over the past year that we've learned how to make better use of technology to reach more people; we've found creative ways to accomplish more effective community care without putting people at risk of disease transmission; and we've connected more deeply than ever with our land and local ecosystem.  As Molly Costello has illustrated with her generously shared activist artwork : Crisis expands our imaginations around what is possible. I'm so grateful right now to be a part of a respectably longstanding faith tradition that never wastes an opportunity to learn a hard lesson and transform itself from the inside out. Unlike some centuries-old religious institutions, Unitarianism (and its more recently evolved form, Unitarian Universalism) had open-mindedness and adaptability

Pocket of Joy: Coming Out

Happy Pride Month! Has it ever been a better time to come out? Lil Nax X has died for our shame, descended into hell on a stripper pole, and slain the devil with his lap dance. Tig Notaro has conquered the undead and possibly usurped Kate McKinnon as most badass comedic lesbian paranormal action hero, which is now A Thing. "Schitt's Creek" has normalized pansexuality and revived America's faith in all kinds of enduring romantic love. Elliot Page has freed the trans man nips in joyful thirst traps on Instagram. After a year in quarantine, drag queens Trixie and Katya have become everyone's imaginary best friends. And my Instagram feed is sprinkled with videos of happily married, openly HIV-positive Jonathan Van Ness doing the happiest gorgeous little back flips. Kids today have all of these pop culture examples of people of every gender identity and sexual orientation living their best lives, creating joy and sharing it with others. Sadly, the danger in coming out

Pocket of Joy: Human Touch

Are you vaxxed, relaxxed, and ready to satiate your touch starvation ? It is time! All human persons need skin-to-skin contact sometimes, even those who value their personal space. It doesn't have to be sexual or intense, but we can't do without it indefinitely. The gentle, electric exchange that occurs between two animal bodies that meet in meatspace boosts our immune systems. It calms the vagus nerve, the heart, experiences of both physical and emotional pain, and the release of the stress hormone cortisol. It stimulates the release of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. Going without touch for too long can lead to depression, anxiety, and behaviors that exacerbate social isolation. And loneliness can erode bodily health faster than cigarettes. All humans need touch, but it doesn't always have to be human-to-human. Pets can provide beneficial snuggles and wrassles to a person who lives alone. Volunteering at an animal shelter and petting kittens and puppies to socialize th

Vaxxed and Unmasked for Margaritas with Alice

My dear friend Magdalena has always had a special talent for sniffing out delicious secrets. She's an outgoing, bold, colorful woman, but she keeps an eye on the quiet people. She has a knack for glancing over a bunch of same-same-looking folks, breezing past all the dull sad sacks, and picking out the socially camouflaged, melancholy few who seem to be harboring some kind of romantic ennui, guarded eccentricity, or rich private life that they aren't eager to share. And then she goes after those people with the focus of a truffle pig on the scent and won't stop until they reveal themselves to her and let her love them! I had the pleasure of meeting Magda's latest conquest, a silver-haired lady I'll call Alice the Archivist, last weekend in my very first post-lockdown public group hangout (everyone 100% vaccinated!). The following is my understanding of how Magda infiltrated her personal bubble and founded the official Alice Fan Club. Alice is Magda's next-door a

Pocket of Joy: Close Grandparents

One of the best decisions I ever made in my life was to settle close to my parents before having a child. I even convinced my parents to move right into my neighborhood after they retired, a ten-minute walk from my backyard, and everyone in my family has benefited from the arrangement . Grandparents and grandchildren are great for each other's physical, mental, and emotional health. And the support grandparents can provide in helping to care for and raise a child benefits the child's parents. Over the past year, I think we all realized just how important it is for parents to have reliable and safe childcare, and unfortunately our nation has some work to do to provide for the needs of working class families. Those of us fortunate enough to have parents who are willing and able to help us care for our children are blessed indeed. Close relationships between grandparents and grandchildren create well-being and resilience in every generation of the family. It is wonderful to have

How to Make a Grill Out of a Log

Over the past few years, our local power company has had to cut down several trees on or near our property that someone in the past had, according to an inexplicable mid-Michigan tradition, planted in a row directly beneath a power line, resulting in a very slow-motion disaster. By the time the power company finally cut down the trees, some of them had already died, and some had been severely damaged in the past couple of ice storms. We were grateful to see them taken down at no personal expense to us, and we were also glad to have the firewood left on our property because we have both an indoor wood stove and a backyard fire pit. But it turned out to be a lot, and the utility workers left the tree trunks in hearty slices about the size of end tables, which have proved laborious for us to split, especially as a couple of the larger trees were tough old elms. Happily, we have found a couple of uses for them that don't require us to wrestle with their knotty old fibers: outdoor end t

Endo Belly Dance

Later this summer, I have an ultrasound scheduled to begin the process of maybe, finally, diagnosing the endometriosis that I believe I have. Sometimes I feel like my belly is busted. At different times in my life, I've had different abdominal issues at varying degrees of severity. They started in my teens and changed with different stages of biological development, different dietary habits, different exercise routines, and different levels of stress. They were relieved by pregnancy but made childbirth tough. They returned a couple years after I gave birth and have evolved over the past decade. And now that I'm in my late 30s, I have collected some strategies under my belt (yeah that's a mom joke, ha ha) for managing my belly issues in between medical interventions. The most fun and consistently effective practice I've tried is belly dance. I first tried out belly dance in college, when an older friend taught a brief workshop. I only learned a few basic hip movements, b