Their gummy little milk-covered faces have turned into head-butting, hay-loving machines. Gone are the days of scanning the barnyard every fifteen minutes, checking to see which goats are in the beginning stages of kidding. Our clothes are clean—those that were laden with colostrum, poop, placenta and afterbirth. The mud room of the Fish and Game, our humble and sometimes-eerie abode, no longer contains mud. Of the 300 kids born on the farm, 22 doelings and 50 meat kids became our thrice-per-day companions. We hung out at 7 a.m., noon, and 4 p.m. In the end, we came to learn their voices, to know their horns, to recognize when they were sick. Sometimes they were. Some got better, some got worse. Several kids died; more lived, thrived.
Being only a few days on the other side of our internships, we are not able to describe quite what it meant to be interns at Consider Bardwell. We can quantify our improved strength, sure. We can show someone how to perform a disbudding, a castration, and a subcutaneous or intramuscular shot. We can milk a doe. Resumé boosters, surely. But what really sticks out is what we learned about ourselves.
Did we almost strangle to death unwilling, stubborn kids? Probably not to death, but it sure felt like we could have. The honest reality of spending upwards of nine hours per day (in the beginning) feeding baby goats is that at some point—usually when you need to eat, did not get enough sleep the night previous, and have just been head butted in the crotch—you imagine, in full color, the ways you could end a goat's life. You could, but you never would.
There were tears, and shouting, and walking far, far away to cool down. And after some time, there was the strategy that we found to be most effective for restoring our calm, caring instincts: grab the most bothersome kid of the bunch, pull it close to your face, and have a long look at that gummy little milk-covered face staring back at you. With lowered blood pressure and a renewed sense of mission, resume feeding. The fact is, we care for these young animals deeply; much like a parent cares for their own young (we imagine). Our bouts with frustration were mere expressions of our fervent will to keep the kids alive and well. No level of mounting anger could ever compare with the devastation of carrying the lifeless body of a previously mischievous kid out of the barn for the last time.
We wrote of life & death on the farm in one of our first posts during kidding season. Those sentiments carried forth as spring advanced and the days grew longer; as we took on greater understanding and ownership of our roles on the farm. We found fulfillment as caretakers. We savored each morning, afternoon, and evening spent outdoors and inside of drafty, old barns. We relished the feeling of being in tune with our bodies and their capabilities, and drank in the sensations of exhaustion, enlivenment, hope, and fear that flooded us all at once. We are learning, growing, and wrestling with what it means to live out a passion.
We have a bit of time to reflect more fully on what it meant to be a kidding intern. As we retreat to Greece to spend a few weeks with the family that we have longed to see every day for the past two years, we expect we will return to the farm anew. The kids will be stronger and increasingly aware of their place on the farm. So too will we.