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Archive for February, 2014

Luck

Last week, I spoke about choices, and I maintain that most of the folks who have the internet connection to read this blog have plenty of them, whether they recognize them or not.

 

But…

 

But there is also a matter of luck.  I was born in Canada, to middle-class-ish parents.  That’s luck.  I could have been born in Afghanistan, where girls aren’t allowed to get an education, or to parents too poor to put food on the table, let alone encourage me to go to university.   I could have been born in 1700, when there was no birth control, and my choices would be to be a wife (broodmare), a spinster, or a nun.

 

I met my husband on the internet.  He searched for women within 20 miles of him who had listed Scrabble as an interest.  I enjoy board games, but it is mostly luck that we ever encountered each other.  Luck.

 

We do need to give some credit to the luck that put me in a time and place where there is plenty of food for the table, educational options for women, and a middle class at all.

 

Beyond that, though, it’s still choices.  I met my husband by luck, but I chose to marry him.   I was born in Canada by luck, but going to university, slogging it out on the less-than-fulfilling lower rungs of a career ladder in order to have the job security and paycheck I currently enjoy, and moving to an acreage were still all choices.

 

If you were born into a place and time that offers you many opportunities, thank your luck.  Then go out and take advantage of all those choices that your life has to offer!

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Choices

Most people have a lot of choices that they don’t recognize.  Especially if you are a middle-class-ish person living in North America at this point in time.

 

Now, I understand that there are choices people don’t have, due to real physical or mental limitations, environment, or other personal situation.  Someone with no legs probably doesn’t have the option of becoming a long distance runner.  A person in dire poverty with limited education and kids to feed can’t very well quit her job to pursue her dreams.

 

However, I would argue that most of us have options.  Lots and lots of them.  Most of us don’t recognize most of the choices most of the time, but they do still exist.

 

I was chatting with some colleagues in the lunchroom at work a few days ago, and this kind of came up.  Someone asked the group:

 

“If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?”

 

The usual answers followed:  Spain, Mexico, Paris, etc.

 

Snorkeling in Belize

Snorkeling in Belize

 

I said “on an acreage in Saskatchewan”.

 

rainbow at the acreage

 

Of course, nobody believed me.

 

The thing is, I have lived in other places, including a few months in London, UK.  I have traveled quite a bit, and spent weeks or months is various other countries…long enough to get a feel for how life goes in those places.  I have honestly and truly concluded that this is where I want to be.  I like the space, the price, the quality of life, the clean environment, the medical care, and the low crime rate.   I don’t like every minute of winter, but I do appreciate the lack of malaria, dengue fever, hand-sized bugs, and such, which is really a result of the climate.

 

Camels in Jordanian desert

Camels in Jordanian desert

 

I recognize that I have other choices.  I have been through the application process for jobs and permanent residence in other countries, and know I could earn a living in a lot of different places.  Knowing that living here is really a choice makes me a lot happier about it than some of my colleagues, who ‘wish’ they could live in Mexico, but don’t recognize that they could sell their big fancy house and live there off the proceeds for a couple of decades.   Or open a hostel in some nice little Spanish coastal town, like a friend’s parents did as a retirement project.  Or buy a little farm in France.  These are high-earning people, with good educations, strong work ethics, and a lot of motivation…people who truly do have a lot of choices in the world, and are not constrained by poverty, illiteracy, or disability.  They just don’t see what their choices are, and they are unhappy with their perception that they are ‘stuck’ where they are.

 

Portugal

Portugal

 

This applies to so many things.  I can’t count how many times people have told me they were jealous of things I was doing, whether it was travel, buying an acreage, or having my husband stay home to raise our son.  I shake my head…these are people with as many resources as I have, or often more.  They could choose to do any of the things that I have done, but don’t.   They are scared, maybe.  Some of them only want the results, with none of the sacrifices, so they won’t pursue these things, either.   A lot of the time, I get the impression that it’s never occurred to them that they could really do something different from what they’ve always done.

 

Tikkal, Guatemala

Tikkal, Guatemala

 

When I start feeling ‘stuck’, I try to brainstorm my options.  All of them, no matter how outrageous.   I could quit my job and become a stripper.  I could go back to school and become an architect.   I could run away and join the circus.  I could go to Mexico and start a business giving trail rides on horseback to tourists.  I could sell my house and farm, buy an RV, and become a traveling salesman.  Will I really  do these things?  No.  But remembering that I am living in this place, working this job, and spending my time as I do by choice helps me feel less stuck and more grateful (and therefore happy) for my situation.

 

Home sweet home.

Home sweet home.

 

If you’re unhappy with your life right now, it is worth some thought:  What are your choices?

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I live east of town.  Almost due east, actually.

 

It wasn’t planned that way, it just kind of happened…the place we wanted was east, so east we live.  If I had it to do all over again, though, I would purposely look for a place east or at least south of wherever I was going to work and shop.

 

You see, I drive to work at 7am, and, for a good chunk of the year, the sun is just coming up about then.  My friends from west of town spend several months a year battling the sun in their eyes while they commute…but the sun is at my back.  I’m comfortable.  I’m at less risk of hitting a deer or moose that I couldn’t see due to glare.  It’s a smooth-sailing commute.

 

sunrise 1

I drive home sometime starting around 4 or 5, and guess what?  I don’t have the sun in my eyes then, either, since I’m heading east when the sun is west.  It makes a huge difference.

 

resized sunset1 mod1

You’d think I planned it this way.

 

resized sunset 2

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Bottle babies are a pain in the behind. It takes a lot of extra time to mix the milk replacer, fill the bottles, feed the babies three or more times a day, and clean up all your bottles and nipples and and bowls afterward. A lot of dairy breeders pull the babies right at birth, as this can help prevent the spread of a disease called C A E, which shortens goats’ lifespans and reduces their milk production, often dramatically. Out of seven goat births here on our place, however, we’ve only managed to attend one.

 

The only bottle babies we’ve had from here were kids rejected by their moms. Between day jobs, the garden, house renos, and the human baby, it’s just not something I would willingly sign up for. Besides, all of the goats in our original herd were raised on CAE prevention, so we should be covered on the disease front.

 

However, in spring, 2013, we bought a few more goat kids, to broaden our genetic base a bit. We bought from a reputable breeder, one who raises her kids on CAE prevention. That’s good, because it means we won’t introduce anything to our clean herd, but it sucked, because it meant bottle babies again. Trekking to the barn four times a day in the cold and dark was no more fun in 2013 than in other years, and I have to admit, there was some grumbling on our part.

 

The doeling on the left is three weeks old, and the one on the right is close to three months.

The doeling on the left is three weeks old, and the one on the right is close to three months.

 

The 2013 bottle kids were born at the end of February and beginning of March, so they were a couple of months older than our farm kids. We really noticed a size difference – at three weeks, the dam-raised kids were as tall as the bottle babies, but much leaner and glossier. As well, they seem more energetic and curious.

 

Even now, almost a year later, the dam-raised goats are still somewhat bigger and sleeker; those bottle babies still haven’t caught up. Our little female bottle doeling hasn’t really put on the weight the same way our dam-raised doeling did, and seems to have entirely too many ribs, especially compared to the other yearlings, who are verging on being fat.

 

Almost a year later - dam raised on the left, bottle baby on the right.

Almost a year later – dam raised on the left, bottle baby on the right.

 

While I understand the reasoning behind CAE prevention, I do have to say I am happier with dam-raised kids overall. They seem healthier, and are considerably less work. Sure, we don’t get to milk right away, but it’s only a few weeks before you can pen the kids at night and milk in the morning. It also gives us a bit more freedom – if we can’t be here to milk, we can leave the kids with the does, and let them do our milking for us, which makes finding a farm sitter a whole lot easier. In 2012, I couldn’t milk with the birth of our baby, but we let Titan keep milking Saffron right up until the middle of September, when I felt up to taking over. It let us get a couple months’ worth of milk that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to deal with.

 

The one disadvantage to the dam-raised kids is how skittish and shy they end up being. We can catch and handle every goat on our farm, but the dam-raised does, in particular, only come for a bucket of grain, unlike the bottle does, who come for ear-scratches and attention. Interestingly, the dam-raised bucks seem to get fairly friendly once they are separated from their moms and put in the buck pen. It will also be interesting seeing how the yearlings and two year olds are for kidding and milking in 2015 – I expect those dam-raised does to be a challenge on the milking stand, but maybe I’ll get a pleasant surprise. On the bright side, having been raised by their moms, those skittish yearlings should (theoretically) turn out to be pretty good moms, which will save us the hassle of bottle feeding, or even coaching a nervous first-timer about how to stay still to nurse her kids.

 

goat lineup

 

We’re hoping that, with the exception of maybe (maybe!) a buckling every couple-few years, we are done with bottle babies. We did not breed any first-timers this year, as we know our springtime will be crazy-busy, but most of our yearlings were dam-raised anyhow, so they should do okay when we do breed them in 2015. I’ll be sure to provide updates!

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