You know, I've been thinking about Gene Logsdon's post, over at The Contrary Farmer, all afternoon. In it, he discusses the connection communication relationships between our livestock / friends and ourselves. I actually had this conversation over a glass or three of wine with friends a week or so ago. I, being a little quite left of center, contend that all is not as we imagine it: that it's quite possible for animals other than ourselves to experience the world through a sixth sense, and communicate psychically. I find it awfully shortsighted and speciest to imagine that everyone is equipped with the same tools we are, and that our sensory organs are the end-all measure to reality. My engineer friend, however (you know who you are!) contends that animals simply pick up our non-verbal clues, and are much better than we are at understanding body language. I'm not quite so stuck on empirical data; I believe there's more. That's just me.
The Day Fairly Was Born
Today, after teaching, I arrived at the farm to find that all of the yearling goats had escaped their pen and were busy grazing with the milkers. The kids did it last week; this week, the yearlings decided to jump ship. Just like that. This could have been an issue, had we panicked, but Kathy and the others calmly waited for me to arrive, and I separated milkers from doelings by opening a gate and inviting the "mommas" in. I said, "Come on, Mommas". The yearlings, appropriately waited outside. Then I opened the outer gate, and asked them to follow me. My favorite phrase for the 18 young does has always been "hurry, hurry!" when I brought them in from the fields, so I said, "Come on, kids! Hurry, Hurry!" They'd follow me anywhere. And they very sweetly followed me back up to the stall area, where I directed them into a waiting area. Was it my body language? Why didn't they follow anyone else? Do they know I expect it of them? Did they expect food? Maybe...all I know is that I know the ways of these goats; and they know the ways of this human.
Sleepy Kids After Last Week's Mutiny
When I was a little girl, one of my favorite books was "Heidi". Maybe it was because my mother is German, and she delighted in the story. Maybe it was the way I could see the story as it unfolded before me. But MAYBE (and by this I mean probably) it was because I loved Peter the Goatherd. I wasn't IN love with Peter the Goatherd. I was too young for that. I wanted to BE Peter the Goatherd. It's true. So now, I have a husband named Peter. But I'm the goatherd. Go figure.
Peter the Goatherd and Frankie the Goat
Gene Logsdon wrote about the interpersonal interactions between himself and his animals: the treats, the scratching, the conversations. He wrote that on a small scale, a small farm, your animals "almost" become friends and interacting with them isn't work, but visiting. I feel more like that in the summer, when I'm not so rushed; but I do understand the emotion, and I do feel the affection these animals bestow upon me. I know their moods, and their temperaments, and those blessed moments when they welcome you into their world are indescribably magical. There's nothing empirical about it. There are times when we connect on a purely emotional level. Just ask any goatherd. Or any lover of animals. They'll tell you the same.