The plans for a nice long bath (well, it is Xmas after all!) and a leisurely lunch were quickly abandoned as David and I got the old mobile milking machine together and scrubbed it all down. I still can't believe that we used to milk over 100 goats using this!
So, that was our Xmas morning sorted out ... Me standing in the rain holding tools and David ferreting about in a small cupboard trying to fix Mary's vacuum pump!
He did manage to get it going but wasn't happy with it, so that has come back to the farm to be stripped down and sorted out tomorrow. Meanwhile, Mary has our old machine to do her milking tonight and tomorrow morning.
The bonus of the visit was that I was able to visit my lovely Daramac and wish him a Happy Xmas! I took a couple of apples with me and he was very pleased to have those. However, Mary has moved him away from his little mate Casper as it seemed that he was starting to be a bit of a bully and beat the little fellow up. Can't have that from a visitor! So, Casper has his own house now that he shares with a couple of friendly geese to keep him company. No way he was coming out in that rain this morning though!
Meanwhile, back at the farm, we decided to dismantle the boys' pen and let the three of them out with all the milkers to give everyone more space. Everyone should be in kid by now and so there is no problem with letting the boys have free run in the barn. It is so nice to see them sharing with the girls! Fremlin is having a wonderful time and has a real twinkle in his eye.
Walking into the warm barn, coming in from the icy, windy dark outside, it’s easy to believe this lovely story. I look into the slender faces of my familiar, much loved goats, with their dark eyes and knowing expressions, and I can easily imagine them opening their mouths to sing at midnight. Glenda, Wandi, Patsi, Juliette – I know all their names, and I can tell them all apart, as identical as they might seem to a stranger. I can imagine just how each of their voices might sound, raised in the choir. Juliette rears up her hind legs to have her cheek scratched – just there, by the hinge of her jaw –and to rub her head lovingly against my shoulder.
I come here every day, twice a day, to milk these goats and commune with these lovely animals, and they have taught me a thing or two about miracles.
They have taught me about dedication, and patience, and discipline. Waking up at 6 am on a freezing morning, and going outside sounds like a punishment when I’m wrapped in my duvet. But as soon as I haul myself up and out, and into the barn, I realize the truth of it – coming into the barn is my reward. The teaching really is in the practice – putting my hands on the goats, tending them and receiving the healing milk that they give me, is all I need to know of magic.
The Christian tradition holds that the king is born in midwinter. The pagan tradition too, speaks of rebirth in the time of darkness. It is a principle as old as man, when we were frightened and crouching in the caves, waiting for the light to return. Peasants have milked goats as long as humans have been around, and I follow this time-honored tradition with gratitude now, as the warm streams of milk hit my pail in a fragmented melody.
In that song, I can hear everything I need to know about rebirth. These goats are pregnant in the darkness, gestating new life. In the spring the kids will be born, and the milk will be freshened. The life force dies back, and blossoms up again. New life. It is a miracle that we few – who are lucky enough to tend the farm – learn over again with our hands and feet, arms and eyes and hearts, every year without fail.
Christmas eve, in the darkness – the goats and I wait together in the silence. We wait for the rebirth that is certain. It is certain as life, certain as breath, as certain as the knowledge that someday, spring will come again and light will return to the world.