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Farmwomen's Apprentice

by Tara

Today, Tyler and I went back to Cold Antler Farm once more. I wanted to be there in case Bonita and Francis decided to have their babies, and I was eager to help welcome two twelve-week-old pigs that Jenna had purchased. So, while Tyler programmed at the dining room table, I became an apprentice farmwoman, helping out with chores, and preparing a pigpen for an imminent porcine arrival.

As we were putting the final touches on the pen, a truck pulled into the driveway: pig delivery! The new arrivals were plump and pastel pink, spotted with dark grey splotches. We brought the softly snuffling, oinking piggie sisters water and food, and then left them to burrow into the hay, acclimating to their new home.

Rye and Whiskey, as Jenna named them, were small enough to be fairly cute, in a jaunty sort of way, but not so tiny as to be unbearably endearing. Given that in three months' time, the pair would likely be slow-cooking in a crockpot, I was glad of any excuse not to become immediately attached.

Rye the Pig Rye the Pig

In the afternoon, Tyler, Jenna, and I hopped in the truck and headed over to Common Sense Farm for a visit. This peaceful Twelve Tribes Community is where Yehsheva lives. They welcomed us, curious newcomers, with open arms. Soon, we were all in the kitchen (gorgeous, full of old wood and and glass cabinets) talking and laughing over mugs of mate sweetened with honey and enriched with fresh goat's milk.

After a few minutes, we took our mugs to go, and began our tour of the farm. First, we visited their all-natural soap-making operation, housed in an old, beautifully well-kept barn. It smelled wonderful in there. On our way out, Yehsheva asked one of the workers to grab us a few "seconds"—products rendered unsellable due to misprinted labels or wonky packaging. YAY for free, all-natural body products!

After the soap shop, we went to the animal barn, where the community raises goats and rare breeds of chicken. There, we were warmly welcomed by Yeshiva's husband, who promptly asked me if I'd like to milk a goat. I said yes, of course, and for the first time in my life, I sat down, buried my head in the soft underbelly of a goat, and took hold of her teats.

After a brief instruction by Yeshiva, I began milking, squeezing firmly with my thumb and first finger, then closing the final three fingers in succession. Squirts of milk streamed into the metal bucket, and I beamed with pride. Apparently not everyone is able to milk on their first try, but I took to it easily. It felt so natural, and I could imagine myself doing this every morning. Maybe I was a milkmaid in another life.

Tara Milking a Goat

The more time I spend around farmwomen like Jenna, Yehsheva, and Patty, the more at home I feel in my boots and work jacket, hanging out with goats, pigs, sheep, and chickens. I always knew, intellectually, that I wanted animals to be a part of our homesteading life here in Vermont, but now I feel it in my bones. Someday, when our home is made and we're more settled, we will have a veritable menagerie on Maple Hill!