Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Alba's birth and a mantra for milking a goat

We made it through another successful kidding season. The does are reaching peak production and the kitchen is full with the sounds of sudsy water sloshing and the gentle rattle of glass bottles boiling for most of the morning.

This year our Sannen does were bred to a mini LaMancha. For most of the herd white coat and gopher ears were dominant.

Our girl, Alba, had a surprise for us. She was the last to kid and had two mostly black bucklings. She is the only doe with wattles, so I’m curious if this had something to do with the genetic roll of the dice.

Here she is in early labor with gentle contractions.

These get more forceful over the next fifteen minutes.

The does like to have us close while they're in labor. They occasionally reach over to lick us on the cheek between contractions.

This year my older daughter was able to help more. She now has a basic understanding of the birthing process. This knowledge applies to most mammals, so she's ready to help in a variety of situations.

If you would like to see a more detailed account of kidding look here.


After we clear the airways and help dry the kids, we observe as they struggle to get on their feet. In my experience, this usually happens within 20 minutes. The doe coaxes them toward the teat and we watch to make sure they get to the colostrum. This is important and we’ll have to step in and help if it doesn’t happen quickly enough.

The new babies spend the day bonding with their mom in this smaller kidding pen. The next day they join the herd. Within 24 hours they are frisking around with the rest of the kids.

During these busy days, I writepaintsculpt in my head. I’ve gotten pretty good at making detailed “notes” as I milk and feed....trim hooves... I call on them later in the afternoon when I have some time in my workspace. Following the natural rhythms around me has been a lesson in how I create. I am able to honor parts of the process that are valuable, but often get overlooked. I’m more patient (a little more) and I settle down through daily tasks. My mantra is: there is an abundance of time for the things that are important. If I bring a nervous energy to the milking stand, I’ll get a kicked bucket in my lap. It has happened.

The Zen of milking a goat.

Monday, March 25, 2013

start with the pockets

No signs of spring around the chicken coop. The chicks are still tucked away under a heat lamp.

It's quiet.

The winter coats on the horses and goats are ready to fall. The animals are still, joints locked, hooves in the mud, hoping to hold those extra hairs a couple more days

I'm ready to welcome April. She can run right up the mountain like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

I'll start some spring cleaning while I wait....

starting with the barn coat pockets.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


The other day I was thinking about communication vs.conversation. Not only the conversations between folks in a room, but how conversation works in the visual arts and social media.
This train of thought has sparked an intense interest in museums and curating. I’m thinking about the relationship between the viewer and the observed. I guess this started with the Paper People. When I look back at the first couple pieces I can see that I was exploring this relationship. I wanted to turn the secret room perspective on its head. It was more about interchange than imparting.

The other day one of my pieces was featured on a blog I enjoy. I was able to read about the viewer’s reaction to the piece. I’m always curious to hear the stories that the Paper People bring up. More than anything I’ve created before, I’m hesitant to tell people “what they mean”.

At my artist’s talk last summer one of the artists in residence said that she found the collection “generous”. I’ve thought about that a lot since then.  

At this time much of the art we’re exposed to is through the Internet and social media. This introduces yet another element. I’m thinking about that. What are the advantages? What are the disadvantages?

You can see the blog post here.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

photo found

I found this image on the papier-mache magazine blog a while back. They didn't know the source, so neither do I.

I do feel like I've been there though - leaning against that bus in shades of mustard and brown -- cradling a bunny.

This image could have come from one of our family's old shoe boxes full of photographs.

When I was in high school I would go sifting through antique stores and thrift shops looking for discarded photographs. They would give me ideas for paintings and stories. I enjoyed that process of discovery. I liked holding the actual picture in my hand, feeling the texture of the paper, spotting the folds and finger prints. Quite different than a Google image search.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

communication vs. conversation (and a poem)

I just had to take a minute to share this bit of writing Garrison Keillor just read on The Writer’s Almanac (my blog could just consist of sharing the day's Writer's Almanac if I'm not careful) My ears really perked up when I heard this line:

“…where each is eager instead to share in the task of moving the theme along.”

Good conversation feels good. Like a dancing partner, it won’t happen with everyone you bump into, but when it does those exchanges are as satisfying as the hum of bees in their hive.

String Quartet
by Carl Dennis


Art and life, I wouldn't want to confuse them.
But it's hard to hear this quartet
Without comparing it to a conversation
Of the quiet kind, where no one tries to outtalk
The other participants, where each is eager instead
To share in the task of moving the theme along
From the opening statement to the final bar.

A conversation that isn't likely to flourish
When sales technicians come trolling for customers,
Office-holders for votes, preachers for converts.
Many good people among such talkers,
But none engaged like the voices of the quartet
In resisting the plots time hatches to make them unequal,
To set them at odds, to pull them asunder.

I love the movement where the cello is occupied
With repeating a single phrase while the others
Strike out on their own, three separate journeys
That seem to suggest each prefers, after all,
The pain and pleasure of playing solo. But no.
Each near the end swerves back to the path
Their friend has been plodding, and he receives them
As if he never once suspected their loyalty.

Would I be moved if I thought the music
Belonged to a world remote from this one,
If it didn't seem instead to be making the point
That conversation like this is available
At moments sufficiently free and self-forgetful?

And at other moments, maybe there's still a chance
To participate in the silence of listeners
Who are glad for what they manage to bring to the music
And for what they manage to take away.

Lately I'm thinking about communication vs. conversation...visual, verbal, and written. What responsibilities do we have? What's our motive?
What about social media? I believe conversation is possible in social media, but we need to remember, we’re still animals.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

farmers, farmers, farmers

I did see the “farmer” commercial, and I liked it (as far as commercials go). I thought it was nice that it might plant a seed in someone’s head to think about the farmers who wake up at 4:30 in the morning to milk, care for their animals, and tend their crops no matter what the weather - from sub-zero ice breaking to scorching summer heat. Kinda nice to see a commercial have a secondary message that was something other than, women are objects, baby animals are cute, and MSG is the nectar of the gods.

When I heard the words in the commercial I thought of folks like Joel Salatin and Wendell Berry.

"We’re members of each other—all of us—everything. The difference is not whether you are or not, but whether you know you are or not. Because we’re all under each other’s influence. We’re all are affected by one another’s others lives and decisions. And there is no escape from this membership."

I understand there are a lot of people who have no idea what’s going on with their food, and, sadly, there’s a group of people who know about the damage factory farms are doing, but still throw all farmers into some paddock full of uneducated rednecks looking for a handout. This is proof that they’re doing nothing to back-up their complaints, because, if they had, they would have found a farmer’s market by now. Those guys with baskets of fresh eggs and winter greens can’t get those subsidies you’re talking about. Sorry my misinformed friend, but there are many people who care and sacrifice to keep ethical, time-honored traditions alive. These people deserve our respect.

Now, this second one is snarky, but hits at another truth – what have we let happen?! Maybe if we honored the farmers' work, the family farm wouldn’t have been decimated. Maybe a parent would pass on with pride that their child was apprenticing at a farm instead of going into computer programming. It is one of the hardest jobs there is and it’s a rare alignment of factors that could even allow for the chance that the farm could keep a family out of poverty. People who carry on despite the challenges are devoted to preserving this way of life for US. If you aren’t supporting family farms I don’t think you get the right to laugh at this parody.
Find link to the second here:

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Onward ho!

I read this today:

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”   

~Neil Gaiman

*deep exhale*

Let go of fear of failure.

Here's the first image I ever posted on the blog:

It was a time when ideas were becoming Truth:

There's no way of getting around change.
Life is either an adventure, or trying to hold back a wild horse. 
Success looks different than you thought it would.
Fear will be conquered.

As true then as it is today.

Still making mistakes? Always.

Onward ho!


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