Mothering the Homestead

When we moved to the farm, children were 4 years away as I tackled my fertility issues naturally. We both worked in the city and commuted the 50 minutes one way every weekday, leaving little time for us to call ourselves homesteaders. While Ryan was on a work trip, I answered a kijiji ad for $2 chickens, and casually let him know we would need a coop when he arrived home — little did we know, chickens were gateway drugs. By that summer, one of the bantam hens from our little ragtag group had made herself the proud mother of a flock of 9 peeping ground-scratchers. The ferociousness with which a bantam hen could go streaking across a yard upon seeing our bulldog (who had no interest in farm animals despite having never encountered them) was unrivalled.

Shortly after the purchase of our farm was finalized, we acquired large animals: 2 cashmere cross does who rode home in a large wire dog crate in the back seat of our Ford Fusion one weekend. 4 months later, on a warm May day, we arrived home to find the normal free-range greeting missing and we rushed to find a proud mother with her first son. I had never heard a goat chortle before, and the pure love fostered from her nickering lit our souls on fire.

Another month later her crate-mate would make the same noises, but not with the happiness and delight I had heard that day. She would give birth to stillborn twins, and I would find her over them, softly talking to them as if pleading for them to just try to lift their heads, to blink or take a breath. There, we would witness our first deep heartache and the depth at which a goat could feel it.

For more than half the year, every year, we left home when it was dark and arrived when it was the same, starting supper, doing chores, making repairs etc., as soon as we got back only to sit exhausted and half defeated on the couch around 8pm to eat a cold (and possibly burnt) meal. Those hours became later as we forged ahead into pigs, turkeys, sheep and cows. Out of a bout of sheer luck, I landed myself a casual position locally and a work from home job that made up a shortfall of quitting my job outright to be on the farm.

We have had dozens of mothers since then, including myself, and while some have been better than others they have all shared an unsnuffable light. Our first quads have been a joyful experience. Her first twins were weaned at a really young age, before we owned her, and she weaned her twins of her own accord around 5 months, but her dedication as a mother has been remarkable in all 3 kiddings. She is the most aware of the location of her babies and the proximity of other goats (or Ferdinand) to them, and she keeps a solid 3ft radius!

Of the quads, a tiny buckling I fretted over the first couple days named Tim, seems to get a bit of extra love from Jet than the others. She is often licking him when he is near, and she will stand a little longer for him than she will the other three.

A mother’s love, no matter the species, is an incredible force of nature as well as nurture, and our homestead relies upon the skills of caring mothers (and fathers alike) as well as Mother Nature.

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