This journal has moved back to the old site: http://www.touchyphiliac.com/chiaroscuro

See you there.

Life has been delicious since I last posted. I’m smitten with some new folks and playing with them has been taking up most of my free time. It’s completely yummy and I feel embodied, radiant, comfortable, and cared about.

I was cleaning up goat shit yesterday, working hard and sweating in the sunshine, and I felt profoundly happy to be doing what I was doing. It pleases me to know that we put so much effort into maintaining clean, safe, and pleasant spaces for our animals. I like that my bosses care and that we care enough to be thorough and attentive.

A friend of mine’s father has two first fresheners from our farm. They are tremendously adorable and, for weeks, I went on about how sweet and peaceful they were. I relate so intensely to the goats, but I love our puppies, too, and the cats. Ramses comes out to feed with me on Saturday mornings–bounds in from the pastures to hang out while I scoop grain. It’s adorable to see the horde of yearlings rousing themselves from chewing cud to come get breakfast and there, among them, is a small gray cat moving as if he’s one of them. The puppies are growing into themselves. They love to play fight in front of the Golden Girls in the mornings. The boys wrestle on one side of the fence and all three girls stand on the other side, watching intently, stepping back if they get too close, completely focused on the performance.

I’m really happy.

flapper Life is so tranquil, lately.

I have been seeing a lot of Gluten-Free Maui and her Nerd. They’ve had three parties in as many weeks, so I have been spending even more time in their fun company than usual. She is an amazing cook! Recently, her carrot-ginger soup with coconut roasted shrimp (Wednesday lunch) and sweet and sour chicken (Thursday dinner) blew me away.

Last Friday, we all went hiking at Twin Falls, which was the perfect amount of exercise and soaking-in of the scenery. I confess that when I hiked the Waihe’e Ridge Trail a few weeks ago, I sat for ages on the bench at the first switchback, just staring out over the valley and listening to the forest. It’s a five-mile hike, so one of these days I’m gonna go back and finish it, but even sitting can be enough.

I love the ambiance of the outdoors more than I enjoy the exercise. I like to imagine that I’m the kind of person who hikes 12 miles just to get warmed up, or that I ride my bike 40 miles just for a relaxing day at the beach (I know someone who does this–she has very nice legs), or even that I will get up at 5 a.m. and go for a run. In fact, I abhor exercise. I shun exercise in favor of sleeping. I do, actually, wake up at 5 a.m. most days, but I prefer to lie in bed with my eyes closed for as long as possible. The work I do is pretty physical, but only in a certain range of movements, and my back has been bothering me lately. Starting up yoga again would be the smart choice. I think about going to Spreckelsville’s baby beach with my yoga mat at night and stretching as the sun goes down. I’ve done it and it was glorious. Unfortunately, I may be too lazy to ever do it regularly. Self-discipline: I lack it.

This past Saturday, I left the farm early in the morning to go to Kihei. I txted my friend who lives in Maui Meadows and we ended up meeting for breakfast and then going to Makena under the pretense of watching the skim board competition. The surf wasn’t really up, so the heats were somewhat nonexistent, but we swam a little and it was nice. While I was on the South side, I made the final payment on my car, which felt good. I love having a vehicle.

This coming weekend, I’m going to drag my lazy self out of bed early to go watch the sunrise from the top of Haleakala.

Sometimes, it’s still hard to remember that I’m not on the mainland, that this is Maui, that life is safe and sane and slow here.  It’s nice.

doctor rory

I didn’t get a good photo of Colt cuddling up to me before he moved to his new home. Fortunately, my boss thinks like I do: time to make a house call! In three weeks, my boy will need his vaccination booster shot. Typically, people bring their new goats back to the farm and we administer it here. In this case, however, I can offer to go to them. How very exciting. Now, all I need is a lab coat!

His new family is super lucky to have Colt as their stud. He has a fantastic temperament (thanks to me, I like to think) and his mama is our best milker. For how frantically he searched me for milk whenever I cuddled him as a wee babe, he certainly is mellow as a pre-teen.

colt aka seabiscuit Life has been busy since I last updated.

Monday, one of our goats with CAE, had her disgustingly cute kid on April 24th. Prior to birth, Monday looked like a C-141 ready to take off and we placed bets on how many kids she was going to pop out. Most of us figured at least four, but then she went into labor and had one scrawny little boy, featured in the photo. To prevent transmission of the disease, we took the kid away immediately and hand-raised him and oh hell! I fell in love. Of all the kids we’ve had this year, Colt is definitely my boy. Sure, Funny still remembers my smell from when I slept in the barn stall with her when she was sick, but Colt would come running when he heard my voice. He followed me all over the farm and we could spend whole afternoons just chilling in the shade somewhere–me reading, him chewing on my book and napping with his head on my lap. Now he’s all grown up, gonna be a stud and get all the ladies. I wish I had a zillion photos and videos of him at all different stages of his life and our relationship. He’s my baby and I’m so proud of his gentle disposition. Lately, he’s been living with kids a month younger than he is & he hasn’t been a bully at all. They chew on his ears and climb on him and, sure, sometimes he pushes them away, but mostly he tolerates them.

Eight of our nine yearlings had their kids toward the end of last month. For a while, they were just a pain in the butt because they are still teenagers and knew nothing about being milked. One really cute thing was when Tsunami would drink her own milk–she’s small enough that she could just reach back and suck her own teats and the thrill that went across her face when she discovered this was hilarious and sweet. Used to be that I dreaded milking the yearlings because they balked and kicked and didn’t know where to put their heads, but lately I find myself appreciating how adorable they are. They’re so little, still, and kind of stupid and precious.

We decided to hand-raise the yearlings’ kids because the moms weren’t doing so well. What’s really funny is that a couple of the kids–one in particular, still–look like victims of famine. One girl is so tiny and her eyes just bulge out of her head and are pink all around. Her belly is always full, she just has the appearance of a starving creature. And one of the boys refused to drink out of the bowl for weeks, so we bottle-fed him and it was insanely cute. He was such a good drinker and his tail would just get going, and then our little Rosebud with wattles discovered that she could push him off the bottle and drink it herself and we kinda encouraged that because it was so cute. Now everything’s business as usual. Easy. Everybody’s growing up.

I’ve been trying to go hiking on my days off.  This has been met with limited success.  I went to Twin Falls and Waihe’e Ridge so far, and I’ve been at it for three weeks.  My social schedule kind of interferes.  I want to be the kind of person who goes hiking, the kind of person who goes to the beach and gets some sun.  I do go to the beach from time to time.  This weekend was the Maui Film Festival and I volunteered, went to some shows at the Celestial Cinema.  I was kind of disappointed by the lineup this year, but it was fun anyway.  Life is busy.

sorting it all out

Photo of me, at work, sorting out the goats. In this instance, one of my girls was too slow finding the food and got zoomed by another goat. I’m about to move everyone down one so she can have a spot.

Not much new going on.  This afternoon, I lay on the hammock out in the orchard and read a book.  We’re getting two border collies next week, so I’m trying to learn about training herd dogs.  I’m also engrossed in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.  Massage tomorrow, as usual.  Life is full.

kid i pulled out Today, I assisted with the birth of a kid. The kid in this photo, in fact. She’s about eight hours old. Her mom, Burberry, had been in labor for a while, but was not dilated and had an unusual discharge. We brought her into the barn and waited a while, but still nothing. Eventually, concerned that we had a stillborn kid on our hands (the baby initiates birth in humans as well as animals), my boss decided it was time to help.

She got clean, scrubbed in, and lubricated with wheat germ oil, which we have on hand in our birth tote for the witch drink we feed our new moms. Then she massaged Burberry’s vulva and eventually worked her hand inside. The kids were tangled, so she had to sort out which legs belonged to which kid, and which kid was in front. Then she started to pull. I held Burberry, who was pushing and groaning, and my boss pulled and pulled on the kid. Eventually, a hoof came out. Then another. She pulled, but the kid wouldn’t come.

She told me to come help, so I grasped the slimy legs and tried to keep a grip as I pulled as hard as I could. Two grown women yanking on this kid, who wouldn’t come.

The next part was terrible, but is also what makes all of this so amazing. Ideally, the first part to come are the front hooves, followed by the nose, followed by the rest of the kid. This girl came front feet first–all right–but her neck was next. Her head was down by her umbilical cord.

I was sure the kid was dead. If she wasn’t dead when all this started, then surely the trip through the birth canal–complete with both of us pulling on her fragile little infant legs–should have done her in. She seemed more limp and more slimy than most of the kids I’ve seen at birth. My boss knew, though, that she was fine. She wiped the mucus off her face, we rubbed her vigorously with straw, and we stuck her in front of mama, who started lick licking. In a few minutes, she made the tiniest cry I have heard to date.

I absolutely never would have dared to pull so hard on that baby goat if my boss hadn’t been so insistent. I mean, sure, she had to come out somehow–she couldn’t stay in there forever–but ack! Apparently, they are quite flexible and resilient! She seems completely undamaged. Perhaps a bit stupid about where to find the teat, but I gave her a few lessons this afternoon and she seems to be catching on. Who would have thought.

It was amazing. Insanely amazing.

The other day, I went into the pasture to find two mamas licking three wet, newborn kids. Both moms were vigorously licking all three kids, so my first thought was, “Oh shit, how am I going to figure out which kids go with which mom?”

Fortunately, I realized that one of the moms was Macke*, who likes to “help” when the does give birth. She had some discharge and I couldn’t feel any legs when I pressed her belly, but there was no blood and she was still pretty fat. I decided she was just the acting midwife and went to put Jumpy–the real mom–in a stall so I could give her a nutrient-rich “witch drink” and write the births in the book. I took two kids in hand, Jumpy chasing eagerly to lick her kids, while Macke licked the remaining kid until I could come back for him. Of course, all that licking creates a bond between goat and littler goat: I heard Macke calling those kids for two days afterward.

When I brought in the herd this morning, Jumpy was sitting with her boys out a ways in the pasture. She stood up when I called for her and the three kids stared at me like a bouquet of violets, their tiny stripey faces all nestled together. Then they hop hopped toward me as their mama came to be milked.

* the first goat I fell in love with here–she loves licking my fac

I wake up every morning feeling so grateful.

Grateful that I get to sleep as late as I do (5 am!), grateful for the softness of my blankets, grateful for the good smells and the wind and the maaah-ing of little kids next door. I’m so grateful that I am here, in Maui, where I can actually breathe and be alive. The sky is so fucking beautiful–every moment of every day–and I am surrounded by good people and peace. I am so grateful that I work on a farm where words like “organic,” “free-range,” and “humane” are not abstract concepts, but the natural byproduct of the love we have for our animals. I love the way Spinstuwhol, who is alpha, stops to rub her head on my belly every time I’m herding. We stand there, me scratching her nose and neck, her big brown eyes gazing up at me, as the rest of the goats move quietly past us, and I remember to that everything is okay.

I am grateful that I continually move into the flow of life, where everything that needs to happen is allowed to happen with ease and grace. I could think hard, weigh the pros and cons, worry, and really work to make a decision and make something happen. Instead, I dream my desires, say what I want, and make myself open to what wants to happen. Invariably, it is perfect–the timing, the details, all of it. I bought a car on Wednesday and I can’t enumerate all of the ways the process was magical.

My life is full of magic. It’s not so much the facts of my life that are magic, but how I choose to look at them. I am such a gift to myself when I keep a soft attitude.

I moved on Friday. I’m putting some of my art supplies in storage, but I brought some with me–the sandpaper and files, the cedar bark, the needles. I want them close as I begin to awaken again after the long winter.

I am settled in all the important ways: my art is on my bureau and walls, my altar is prepared, and surfaces are covered with cloths I have carried with me for years. I feel cozy and safe. This is the way it’s supposed to be.

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