Farm Meditations is a series based on events that happen on Whippoorwill Creek Farm in South Central Iowa. We raise grass fed and finished beef, goats, foraged mushrooms and some veggies. We will also soon have farm stays and space for small events!
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A few weeks ago, we had a goat with a bad eye. I could see the eye was very swollen, but I couldn’t get near enough to the goat to see how bad it really was. The animal must have scraped its eye on a thorn or gotten something in it, I reported to John, insinuating that something had to be done to help her out.
John decided he would catch the goat to inspect the offending eye. He had just purchased a very biblical-looking goat-catching staff, a long stick with a little U shaped end in which you can supposedly catch a goat by the leg, and was eager to try it out.
The paddock the goats were in was quite big, maybe a 200x100 square-foot space, with the 50 or so goats of various sizes and ages roaming around. John attempted to “corner” the goat against the electric fence (which really didn’t have any corners at all), but catching the goat—staff or no staff—was a bit like trying to catch a specific fish by hand in a swimming pool full of fish. There was just way too much space and too many other goats and trees in the way for her to hide behind and then to slip away from him at the last minute.
Yet John can be pretty persistent (obstinate?) and tried to catch the doe not once, but maybe 100 times, chasing it down into the gully, back up through the trees and in through the poison ivy, across the grass and back into the gully, over and over, swinging his staff now and then, his demeanor growing nastier each time he passed me in his chase. I tried to divert the attention of the herd to some tasty plant I cut down for them, but I too was growing irritated—the goat in question was becoming very stressed and, was this circus really helping things, John? John?!
It was about 30 minutes into the chase when I announced—with a fair amount of sass—that I was leaving. I stomped off and walked myself all the way back to the car about a mile away, agitated and annoyed.
The scene was arguably the antithesis of a “meditation,” loud and chaotic, with hectic movement and a whole lot of swearing. It was frustration personified, John peeved at the goat and me irritated with John. And, like in many bad situations, instead of taking the tension down a notch and getting on with things, we continued on with the unsettled feelings for several hours after the actual event, arguing about how he “always” does x, and I am like y.
So on one level, this farm meditation is a simple cautionary tale. Don’t be like us. Don’t lose your shit over a goat with a bad eye and then fight about it with your husband for the rest of the day.
Yet this story is to also point out how there are always a multitude of reasons, psychic landmines if you will, all around us, tempting us to lose our cool, to become frustrated with what is and to turn our lives into its very own brand of goat chase. We can spend our days being agitated and unnerved by the world, even when we say we want calm and peace in our lives.
But we must resist. Goats, like people, do better when things remain calm. We can make plans to be the person we want to be only if we are not already taking up all our brain space being bothered with the world, frustrated with how things are and wanting them to be different.
Even if you have already begun your own metaphorical chase—beating your head against that brick wall trying to make something into something else by shear force—there is always time to stop and regroup.
The next day John went to check on the goats and the doe’s eye was better. It turned out we didn’t need to intervene after all (another important teaching—patience). And this week it was time to give the goats vaccines and trim their hooves. John planned it out this time and kept his calm, even though a few goats eluded his capture.
Perhaps we are learning a thing or two.
How about you? Instead of chasing goats, how might you instead remain level-headed? How have you learned to cultivate the kind of person you want to be?
I'd love to hear about your experiences - email me your thoughts or go to my blog page to comment. As always, we love to hear from you!