They Call Me, “Maah-ma”– Meditations from Miracle Hill Farm



After twelve years of raising Nubian dairy goats, I’m calling it quits. The thought brings mixed feelings ranging from freedom to despair. Fifteen years ago, if you’d told me I’d become a “goat person,” I’d have laughed in your face. Me? Yeah, right.

But then my son got involved with the 4-H FRESH program at the Carl Sandburg’s National Historic Site, then my other son followed in his brother’s footsteps. Sandburg’s wife raised prize-winning dairy goats (Nubians, Saanans and Toggenbergs) and the rangers continue the tradition, raising goats that are direct descendents of Mrs. Sandburg’s original Conamara herd. The first time I saw a newborn Nubian kid, with those long floppy ears, I was hooked. I had to have some of my own. The thought of fresh milk only sweetened the deal.

It seems like I learned everything the hard way (as is often the case with me.) My goat mentor, Lisa G. tried to warn me about caprine capabilities. “Think of them as two-year olds…” she warned. “Anything a two-year old can think up, so can a goat.” Boy! Was she ever right!

I think back to the first week or so after I’d gotten my first two doelings, Lily and Grace. I knew that mountain laurel was poisonous to goats and I thought we’d cleared all signs of it from our pasture. Unfortunately, there was still a piece of root left from one of the hundreds of laurel trees we cleared out when getting the land ready to be a pasture. One little tuft of about 4 or 5 leaves showed up amid all the blackberry briars and, of course, they found it. The vet still can’t believe I was able to pull Grace through that ordeal. It was something I never want to go through again.

Then there was the time that both goats got their heads stuck in the same 6”x6” opening of the fence panel we used as a hay manger. To this day, I can’t figure out how they accomplished it. We had to use bolt-cutters to cut them out. They never tried that again.

We’ve raised quite a few kids in our small herd since Lily and Grace: Daisy, Snickett, Faith, Hope, Lazarus, Oreo, Mercy, Solomon, Saul, Skeeter, April, Bonnie, Bella, Bee, Turner, and Hooch; each one with a uniquely different personality, all long spindly legs and ears when they’re born. There have been some scares, several that I had to bottle raise, which entailed setting an alarm and stumbling down to the barn in the cold and dark to make sure those rejected babies were able to grow up. There were a couple of occasions when I had to play midwife, reaching in and pulling a stuck kid out into the world. We were fortunate to never lose one. I learned to give injections, both intramuscularly and sub-cutaneously, became a pro at clipping hooves and dosing wormer, and could milk faster than anyone I knew. It was a lot of work, but there were a lot of rewards. There’s nothing like having an entire herd coming when you whistle, galloping happily toward you, long ears flapping in the wind. Fresh mozzarella cheese is a pretty big plus, too.

But my sons are grown and no longer guzzling gallons of milk a week and I can’t justify the cost anymore. It’s time to sell my last two girls, to let some other family discover the joys of being called, “Maah-ma.”

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