I was squatting in a corner of the goat pen, hand outstretched with a carrot resting on the end of my fingertips, softly trying to negotiate with the goats. “It’s okay girls. You can trust me. I have carrots for you.” It turns out that’s not enough to convince adult goats that a complete stranger is safe. Those that know me best would tell you patience is not my strong suit, but it’s going to take a lot of patience for me to get to know my new goat… and for some reason that feels okay.
Twelve years ago I started asking for a goat as a negotiation tactic. My parents told me we were moving from our perfect, happy, SERIOUSLY WHY WOULD WE EVER LEAVE HERE suburban life near Raleigh, North Carolina down to a farm in the middle of nowhere in South Carolina. My brothers weren’t going. They were both old enough to live on their own. I was the only one still in school. For reasons best explained by teenage angst and inability to see the big picture, I thought this whole thing was terrible. I decided moving by myself to South Carolina was, at the very least, a strong enough negotiator for getting a pet goat. So I started asking. I pushed hard for a while. I was a 14 year old girl with her dad wrapped around her finger (why deny it?). It didn’t take long to get a yes to the goat… but then she never actually arrived.
I bit into one of the carrots to break it into smaller pieces. I can’t be certain, but I think one of the girls gave me the side-eye as I put my teeth around the end of the carrot.
I looked down at my dusty boots and laughed quietly at myself; I waited twelve years to squat near some goats, for what seemed like forever, while trying to patiently coax them into sharing a carrot or two.
I named my goat Oprah — partly because I used to love watching Oprah after school with my mom… but mostly because I think it’s a hilarious name for a goat. Oprah can’t live with me right now. She lives at my mom and dad’s farm because I don’t think goats love apartment style living and my dog is going to murder me in my sleep if I bring another animal into her life.
Twelve years ago when I asked for a goat it was because I was a goofy 14 year old who appreciated the novelty of owning an animal none of my suburban friends had seen outside of the state fairgrounds. It’s probably best not to get a living, breathing pet for a reason that ridiculous. This year, when I renewed my request for a goat it was because this farm thing is real. I’m in this. I love the lifestyle. I love living off of and learning from the land. I don’t get to live it every day, but I benefit from it most days of the week. I cook meals made from vegetables grown in my parents’ backyard. I bake, scramble, and boil eggs from their chickens.
When I need a place to just get away and breathe fresh air, the camping spot down by the creek is the best spot I know.
I know… as I corner Oprah and her sister and get just close enough to rub their backs, while they watch me with suspicion… that this is all going to take a while. I know, as I drive down the gravel driveway and turn out onto the road that carries the address I used to call home… that the farm is not my reality right now. I know that in 35 minutes I’ll be pulling up to my apartment two towns away from my family’s land, and that is where I live right now. That is where my bills arrive. That is where my dog sleeps. That is where I get ready for work each day. I know I still live in an apartment in another county, but the family farm’s influence is real and it’s shaping me.
Oprah is my best way to really take some ownership in the farm right now. She’s my ticket to spending more time enjoying what this land… our land… has to offer, if I can ever get her to trust me enough to share these carrots I’ve already bitten.