At the edge of the room in our apartment that I call the mudroom, the room where we milk Bebe, store tools, keep seeds, make vinegar, house crusty jars of canned goods, right where the door opens onto the backyard, lingers an odor of Farm. Bill’s even noticed it. I’ve wondered where exactly it emanates because I harvest the goat turds and sawdusty clods of urine every morning before milking. Then I saw Bilbo pee on the back porch. Ah-a! Goat pee plus wooden deck plus sunlight.
It’s an unbearably delicious smell as far as I’m concerned. It means good things, to me. Maybe I’m remembering my parent’s farm in Idaho or an old goat barn visited in the 1970s. The odor to my mind speaks of good things–goat cheese, dirt dappled potatoes, thick slices of multi-grain bread. Promises of coffee ground with a handmill in the morning, and marijuana smoked in the evening. Of course those days are gone, and we’ve all gotten over those silly pleasures, right? I guess some of us have not.
This past weekend I took Orla and three rabbits to Berkeley Fun Fair. The Berkeley Farmer’s Market manager asked me to bring some baby animals for the kids to pet, to be a one woman band of urban farming.
When I arrived, I unfurled my ghetto fence made of chicken wire and wooden stakes, put Orla on a leash, and sat under a tree. So many kids and their parents came up and told me stories about having farm animals, some of them in the city! Of wanting their kids to grow up knowing animals. One little girl cradled a baby bunny, and I told her it was destined for someone’s plate.
“Oh,” she said. “When will he be ready?” Matter of fact, she was. It might be the parents and our culture that socializes us to think that cuddly creatures can’t be meat.
“What about the goat,” she said. Orla was curled up in my lap.
“She’s going to be a milker,” I said, “But if we have boys, well, we eat them.” A Berkeley vegetarian lady heard me say that.
“So you eat the boy goats?”
“Yeah, I mean, how many boys can we have if these are milk animals? Or how many boy pet goats?”
She nodded, handed me a benediction in the form of a Stop the Spray flier, and went on her way.
I only stayed for a little over an hour–the noise of the music freaked Orla out–but I felt like I had done my work for the day.
When I came home, the adult goats came running, as is their habit, along the concrete corridor that separates our house from our neighbor’s. Bebe sniffed Orla, let out a sighing Bah, and she was welcomed back into the fold. Where she can piss on a falling down backporch with a view of downtown Oakland. Ah, the life of urban goat!