The Legacy of the Sunday Drive

This morning my husband came to me and said “let’s go for a ride.” It is a bright, beautiful and clear Sunday morn in the brilliant Bitterroots of Western Montana. Still, in late May, you can see frost on the tender spring grass, a hint of nip in the air, but the sun rising in the cerulean blue sky holds the promise of an earth warming breeze.

As we packed up water, pups, and a few snacks, I was reminded of the days of long ago, when a Sunday wheeled adventure was the norm, not the exception. As a child, it was a family ritual to load the car on Sunday to take our “Sunday Drive.”

In New York, that drive took on different hues, depending on the season. In summer, it meant heading to Jones beach with a blanket, watching the sea and stopping to grab an orange Nehi and a Coney Island. In spring we’d head to Connecticut to visit my grandparents, who ran a cottage motel. In the fall, the Catskills were alive with autumn splendor.

And my favorite ride, in winter months, with ice skates and a broom packed in, was a trip to an iced pond – either nearby, or if we had time and funds for fuel, to Westchester county. My Dad would spend considerable time and energy brooming snow off the frozen surface to make way for a day of skating, followed by an afternoon of hot cocoa at a nearby coffee shop.

When we moved west, to the mile high city, I fondly recall visiting the Rockies for the golden glow of autumn aspens. Or my most cherished place to visit, Tiny Town. Tiny Town is now a park, with train ride and admission charged, having been rebuilt after a disasterous flood destroyed the town in 1969. But back in the 1959 Tiny Town was a hidden place of magic and wonder, a place to spur the imagination of the 6 year old I was back then. A complete pint-sized town created in the foothills just west of Denver, we’d ride through the streets admiring the intricately crafted homes and businesses, and I would imagine what fairies and elves inhabited the buildings.

Once we landed in San Diego, my mother’s favorite Sunday Drive was La Jolla. A new navy wife by then, she would take careful note of the stunning homes, jotting down her ideas, and snapping photos on her Kodak Instamatic for future reference.

When the folks finally settled into the desert of eastern California to forge their forever home, the Sunday Drive became less frequent, with more babies and bills, swim meets and school projects, life and responsibilities taking its place.

Years later, when I moved home to help Mom when she fell ill, she’d look at me on Sundays and say “let’s take a drive.” Into her Buick we’d go, driving the streets of her desert town, looking for new housing developments, “scary” roads, stranges structures, and trying to get lost and found again. A faded memory revived, and looking at the glean in Mom’s eye, a memory that perhaps she missed as much as I did.

As we drive through the ‘Roots this fine Sunday morn, watching the river run, water rushing down sides of mountains and hillsides, feeling the sun on my face, crisp scent of pines and firs, I can’t help but feel that this lock down has taught us something important. It’s not the grand gestures that make life special. It’s the little, inconsequential things that, once you look back on them, you remember how grand they truly are.

So turn off the TV, stop streaming, posting and tweeting, and take a Sunday drive. Be free and make memories. Revive the Sunday Drive.

Zillow lies … and other fables

Armed with our RV packed with 2 adults, 2 big labs, and a reams of paper printed from Zillow on the perfect pieces of heaven, we drove off to look for America.

At first I was smitten and wanted to look at all the small towns that dotted north central Washington. The names drew me – Tonasket, Chewalah, Metalline Falls, Oroville, Okanogan, Loomis. They looked adorable. Small and picturesque. Friendly!

I could live here!

I joked with Brad that perhaps the Alaskan Bush Family, who moved there, could help him build his dream log house. And he could be on TV! YAY!

They were small. And far away. From anything. Remembering last year when Brad was butchering chickens and somehow forgot that it was the chickens he was butchering, and not his forearm, which resulted in me tearing down the highway to get him to the nearest hospital for his gazillion stitches, leaving me to bag up 50 warm chickens … AND knowing that the closest large hospital in north central Washington was 3 hours away from these cute small towns, I decided to pass.

And Eastern Washington gets hot. Like really hot. Like hot, desert hot. I don’t do hot. I don’t sweat. So we tossed those Zillow sheets in the trash.

Brad loved Montana. I swore I’d never live in Montana. I pictured myself living amongst survivalist Mountain Men. Guys stashed in shacks with double aught shotguns pointed out a ripped screen of the front window whilst spitting tobacco into a spittoon on the front porch with a banjo playing the sound track from Deliverance in the background.

Howdy, Neighbor! Welcome to Montana!

But, in doing further research, I stumbled upon Missoula Montana. Missoula! Missoula had upscale shops. Missoula had downtown flair. Missoula had a 5 star French restaurant. I can do Montana. I can live amongst the smart and trendy!

With glee, practically rubbing his hands together, Brad put together about 100 properties in Montana. All the while telling me how much he loved me and my adventurous spirit. We could have it all – in Montana.

We spent weeks going through the Zillow sheets. One property topped both of our lists. We knew we had a limited budget and this came in below it. Brad wanted to build, but this one had a building we could comfortably live in while he spent time building his dream log cabin. It had water, power, it was on a river, it had 20 wooded acres. It was PERFECT.


Our perfect Montana Eden

As we crossed over the border of Montana, I begged Brad to stop, first, to see our dream property. It had everything on our check list! Timber, woods, river, a place to live, and a hot tub to boot!! I wanted to look before someone would swoop that up. It was gorgeous.

Until it wasn’t. As we drove across the small country road that backed the property, we came to the next door neighbors. The neighbors who shared a common chicken wire fence with.

Oh, hello, we are your new neighbors. Can we borrow a cup of sugar?

Something that Zillow neglected to mention – your next door neighbors are hoarders. But it’s OK, just plant some trees and you’ll be fine.

When we arrived, I looked at Brad and said “this can’t be it.” Because, it was not on a river. Or close to a river. And you couldn’t just “cut some trees” to get a river view. Because the trees were not on your property. The river was not on your property. But what WAS on your property was a railroad track. Yeah, the house sit right by a functional railroad track.

Welcome home. Don’t mind the mess. And grab your dinnerware because the train’s a’comin’

To top it off, the 20 acres were not. There were about 2. The rest were up the mountain. Unusable unless you wanted to raise mountain goats. And never wanted to see them again.

“Let’s not be discouraged. Let’s explore Montana. We’re not on a timeline, so let’s just drive around.”

And we did, and I discovered Whitefish. I could live here! These people could be my people! I loved this town! Whitefish is calling to me, and I NEED to live here! It’s at the entrance of my absolute favorite national park. It’s a sign!

Yep. My view, My town.

We tossed through our Zillow sheets and found one (only one) listing that was within our budget. Whitefish is not a budget town. Whitefish is where the rich and famous come to play. So buying the worst house on the best street has GOT to be an investment, right?

Armed with the Zillow stats, we contacted the listing agent and took the drive to our cabin in the woods.

Cute, eh?

Pictures showed a cute wooden cabin. Pictures showed log interior that was cozy and oozing with charm. Pictures lie. Zillow lies.

So the house, on first glance, looked great. But upon entering (which took several tries by the realtor to try to shoulder into the door. Because the concrete foundation had somehow moved from under the house, to over the bottom of the house) the interior was more like this:

Yeah. I think the floor is slightly uneven

Not only could you roll a marble from one end to the other at breakneck speed, but what was equally troubling was the fact that there was a bathtub inside the living room. Inside. The. Living. Room. Is that considered entertainment for guests? Who bathes out in the open in full view of everyone? Oh, wait …

I wanted to go home. Unfortunately, there was no going home. There was no going back. There was only adventures ahead. And I wanted no part in it. And, I’m seriously considering suing Zillow for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Trailer Trash

Montana Living. To Brad it means, finding raw land, building a house with his bare hands, and after a year, moving into the incomplete home while still constructing and finishing it. All the while doing chopping, sawing, digging, dragging, cutting, nailing, hammering, sweating, cussing and yes, there will be blood involved.

My vision was finding the perfect little house that needed a bit of “gingerbreading” but where everything is already in place. A bit of paint, a bit of furniture, and maybe constructing deck in the back and veranda in the front. And drinking coffee at sunrise and red wine at sunset. Done.

Being that our budget is more conducive to Brad’s dream than mine, it came to pass that we might need somewhere to live between the sawing part and the moving in part. So we started the process of “Finding the perfect yet temporary home on wheels.”

First off, just have to say, people on Craig’s List lie. I’m less willing to accept things on face value. Brad gets excited and I have to play the Eeyore role and burst his pretty little bubble.

Because, inevitably, RV’s and travel trailers on Craig’s List are pictures like this:

Oh so nice – I could live here for a year!

But end up in reality looking like this:

I think I’ll stay in a hotel, thank you

Or the words sound wonderful, pictures pristine, and Brad wants to drive down immediately to take a look. And then you get “the story.” We’ve had “the story” many times on Craig’s List. It is almost identical, whether you are looking for a 5th wheel, a puppy, or a used car. The recent ones went:

The RV is in a container. It’s ready to drop ship directly to you. Just pay via Amazon pay and I guarantee you’ll be happy. It was my husband’s, who died a year ago and I just can’t look at it.”

Unfortunately, this is just a variation on a theme. It can be a purebred boxer, who was owned by her son, who died in a car accident 3 weeks ago, and all you have to do is pay for the cargo flight for the dogs from Alaska, even though I posted the ad under the Lancaster California Craig’s List site. Or a car that she can’t use because she’s serving in the miliary and is currently overseas serving our country in Afghanistan, and it’s in a container ready to ship directly to you.

Brad gets excited about the listings, because “it looks nice and clean and the price is incredible.” And I always say “write and see who died to make this incredible deal possible.” And I’m always right.

We searched. Going from one Bubba Gump

…Does the slide out work?
…Can we see it work?
…Fumbles with the buttons, nothing happens, Fumbles some more
…Um, it works, I guarantee it.

To the next

…Why is there a bed in the front yet a dirty mattress and pillow on the floor in the back? And has the stove ever been cleaned? Or the shower? Or the toilet? And I’m sorry, but is that something living in the oven?

…Um, it’s my sons. He’s not real clean. But he’ll include the TV.

Until we finally hit pay dirt with a really nice 33 foot trailer from a really nice young man who got it from his grandparents who were really nice and everyone was really nice. It didn’t smell like 3 month old body odor, everything worked, and they threw in a Keurig. I mean, what’s not to love?

Yep, Mama’s got herself a sweet ride!

So, we hitched up in Washington, loaded up with a few essentials, tossed the two labs in the back and hit the road. Heading across 3 states. To live in an RV park until the perfect piece of Montana heaven would fall squarely in our laps.

It was 7 p.m. when we finally started on the road – Brad driving the truck and pulling the trailer, me bringing up the rear with our SUV. We were to drive “as long as we can.” For Brad, it meant driving at least 12 hours a day. For me, not so much.

Armed with long range walkie talkies so Brad could communicate every minutiae with me, we set off. As soon as we hit the road, Brad radioed “I just want to get over the pass and then we can stop anywhere.” Being that we both woke up at 4 in the morning, I sucked it up and replied that I’d give it the old college try. But not really feeling it.

After a few hours (and many many hours less than the “just over the pass) I was struggling. It was really dark. And really cold. And my eyes started to do that weird thing that eyes do when they have trouble focusing on simple things – like the car in front of me. The side of the road. The steering wheel. I told Brad I would continue but I was having trouble focusing. He told me that we “only” had another 2 hours, and to roll down the window and put in a CD. I had 3 choices. I picked the loudest, an old Jimmy Buffett best of CD, and sang out loud. Blinked a lot. And talked to myself.

Thirty minutes later we turned off the side of the road. At the top of the pass, not over it, thank you very much. There was a gas station and convenience store in the distance, and I drove there so I could wash up and go to the bathroom. Because, I was belatedly told, the RV was “winterized.” Which meant I couldn’t use anything in the RV except for the bed. I didn’t sign up for that part.

“But – I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. At least once maybe twice. What am I supposed to do?”

Brad was pretty sure it would be ok if I peed in the toilet. I just couldn’t use the water in the sinks because the RV had antifreeze in the pipes.

Like clockwork, I was up 2 hours after falling asleep and used the toilet. Got back into bed and it felt like my arms had Ben Gay on them. Icy hot. I just KNEW that somehow that antifreeze jumped out the toilet and the fumes wrapped themselves around my forearms.

I shot out of bed and took a bottle of water, VERY COLD water, and rinsed off the entire top part of my body. And went back to bed.

5 a.m. And I had to pee. Bad. The kind of bad where it’s either now, or NOW. And I wasn’t going to pee in Satan’s toilet again.

Just no

So I planned it out. I would pee outside. Yep, me. On the side of the trailer in full view of every trucker from here to eternity who stopped in front and back and on either side of us. I could do it.

But how could I accomplish such a feat? Without being discovered? Well, I had a plan. A very good plan. The best plan that had ever been planned.

I slipped a sweatshirt over my nightgown. I pulled off my underwear and slipped into my warm Ugg boots. My plan was to casually sit on the outside RV steps and act like I was gazing at the sunrise. The steps are metal, so I sat on my nightgown in the event that it was so cold I’d freeze my butt permanently to the stairs. At the very, very edge of the steps, gazing and donning my newly discovered Mountain Mamma persona I casually peed.

Proud and satisfied, I climbed back into the trailer. Only to discover that the back of my nightgown was soaked. And my cherished Ugg boots? The ones I bought while visiting my friends Annie and Glenn in Sydney? Authentic Australian made and purchased in Australia and carefully transported from Sydney to Fiji to California to Washington and soon to be worn in Montana? THOSE Ugg boots? Drenched. Soggy. Sodden. Sopping. Danked. Waterlogged. Trashed. Ready for a Valhalla Viking burial.

I was so despondent. My Ugg Boots. I’ve had them for years. And they kept me warm and cozy. I told Brad that I was going to start a Go Fund Me page for new Ugg boots. Thinking he’d have pity on me and try to find replacements, or at least offer words of comfort, he turned to me and said:

“If you’re going to do a Go Fund Me page, do one for something important. Like for a new tractor.”

Every Day is a Winding Road

So, it done happened again.

One minute we are milking goats, collecting eggs, making soap. The next minute we are loading up boxes and storage containers to move to yet another “forever home.”

Everything was running stunningly. Until it wasn’t. To make a long story shorter and less complicated, our investment and retirement that would not quite allow us to live in the lap of luxury, but would at least allow us to shower daily, fell through. Kaput. Splat. A sale that happened, but on paper only. A change of government that suddenly decided Americans were not their friends. But American money was. Good friends. Such good friends that they would not let the said Americans part with their money. They’d keep it safe. For a long time. Like, forever.

Money? What money?

Goats and rabbits and chickens all found new homes. Our house found a new owner. And we found ourselves on the road in an RV looking for the next great adventure.

Sounds exciting, yes? A 33 foot trailer, towed to bright new horizons. Count me in! On the road again. The road less taken. Take me home, country roads. Down the yellow brick road. We’re hitting the road, Jack. The long and winding road. Why don’t we do it … ok, maybe not that one.

My husband was optimistic. “It will be fun” he said and we loaded up the essentials to get by for a few weeks – enough until we found something that suited both our fancy, and our wallets. Those essentials also included two rather large Labrador retrievers.

Me, the big guy (6’4″ and all beef) and two large animals. As a friend coined it “that’s a heck of a lot of flesh.” In a space that seemed to get more crowded as the days turned to weeks, turned into a month.

Labs are wonderful dogs. Until you spend a month stepping over them, smelling them, trying to keep them quiet in an RV park that has “quiet hours.”

Tui, our chocolate lab, has issues with potty time. He can’t go if he’s on a leash. Or if you are looking at him. Or if the stars are not aligned. So we have to suss out a place where he can run free, but be contained, and be secluded enough so nobody sees him do his business.

You’re not looking at me, are you?

Barley, our yellow lab, has issues with everything else. He barks at whatever sound is “unusual.” He eats anything that’s on the ground. And he has digestive issues that makes the RV smell like bad salami and rotted vegetables.

Yes, I’m stinky. But I’m your stinky.

All in all, life is not a highway, and as it turns out, I have no desire to ride it all night long. I wasn’t born a ramblin’ man. And, shameful as it may seem, I wasn’t even born to be wild.

Officially, we are out of the evergreen state. We thought, for a New York minute, that we’d settle in the central/northeastern part of the state. Towns are too small, land too dry, in no close proximity of anything I was looking for, and I was sure I saw the Alaska Bush People howling on the side of the road.

So east we go, to the Big Sky Country, which has been one of Brad’s dreams for as long as we’ve been married. We’ve got at least 30 possibles from Zillow, about 10 cans of my homemade pasta sauce, 4 old, dusty CDs in case the radio doesn’t work, a bag of salt and vinegar chips and a Keurig in the RV. What possibly could go wrong?

Let Her Make Cake…

When we bought our 16 acres, I reveled in the gorgeous scenery. Green rolling hills, that were MINE ALL MINE, backed by a thick forest of cedars and firs, fronted with lushly wooded mountains. All that green and not a sprinkler in site. It’s Washington! Mother Nature waters our yard. Totally self sufficient and not taxing the planet. Were we cool or what?

I thought my lazy mornings would always look like this.  I thought I would greet each day with a cuppa joe and a sunrise. And that the property would remain untouched and virgin …


Nice, eh? Well, Brad wanted a barn. A BARN? Are you kidding me? I don’t want a damn barn on this pristine landscape. Why?

“For the tractor.”


“And the animals.”

Wait. Animals? We have 2 labs. One has a touch of OCD, the other is totally ADD. Do we really need to add to the mix?

“Yeah, we’ll start with chickens.”

Ewww. Chickens smell. Everyone tells me chickens smell. Do I want to sit and drink a fragrant Earl Grey or a robust French Roast and smell chicken shit? Is that how I envisioned paradise? Not especially.

Then Brad brought me to the farm store. The Farm Store. If this was his idea of foreplay, he was sorely driving down the wrong side of the road. Macy’s? Better. The Farm Store? Not only is it not the right exit, it’s not even on the same freeway.

I entered the Farm Store with a major New York attitude. I’m like Superman, but I don’t need a phone booth. I can don that attitude in 10 seconds flat. Kinda like Sybil. It’s just that fast.

But I have a sweet spot under all that Bronx. And after 28 years, Brad knows how to find it. Because this is what he showed me at the Farm Store …

barred-rock-chicks chicks_barred_rock_bantam__MG_8748

BABY CHICKS! I WANT BABY CHICKS! Magic little black puffs of wonderful!

We went home, with a box, shavings, some food and 8 baby chicks.

Being a writer for so many years, I thought it fortuitous that I picked the little black chicks I did. I heard “Bard Rock” and I thought, OMG how cute is that? Bard? Like The Bard himself? How Shakespearian of me. As they grew, it hit me that Bard was really Barred, as in, their barred stripes. I’m now realizing just what an idiot I sounded like to the Farm Store Lady.

We went back a week later, and found the little fuzzy yellow ones, and I HAD TO HAVE THEM. So cute and puffy and just aching to join our little family. So we added 6 of those to our box.


Then, a month later, the cutest little Rhode Island Reds appeared. I needed those! Anyway, I figured the group could use a little diversity. We had black, the yellows turn white, and these would be brownish-red. The circle of life would then be complete. So we picked up 6 more chicks …


And then it kind of hit me. We have 20 chickens. I didn’t want chickens in the first place. What happened? What kind of Vulcan mind meld did Brad pull on me? What am I going to do with 20? I can’t bring them back, I’m too attached. But 20? How many eggs to they produce? 1 a week?

No, more like 1 every day or two.

And … I don’t really eat eggs.

I envisioned myself like one of those “friends” who try to sell you on Amway. “Oh My Lord, Lester, there’s that Neighbor Susan again with her damn basket of eggs. Close the curtains and don’t answer the door!”

Brad then suggested that I can start “baking angel food cake.”

I had a flashback. 14 years ago, on a house in an acre of bush on an island in Fiji, I wanted banana trees. Lots of banana trees. Brad planted PLENTY of banana trees. The bananas in Fiji are exceptionally sweet. But me, being the City Girl, thought that the bunch of bananas you buy at the market are the same amount that grow on trees. Au contraire. A banana tree, growing bananas, starts out looking like this …


And produces this …


And I had 10 banana trees, all producing at essentially the same time.

To which, Brad said “well, just make some banana bread.” There are literally 100 or so of bananas per stalk. My house was 2200 square feet. If I removed all the furniture, I could possibly fit all the loaves of banana bread I would bake from the seemingly endless supply from those 10 trees.

Quiche takes 3 eggs, angel food cake takes 6. I’m pretty sure I’m going to need a bigger house.

Welcome to the Neighborhood?

As an adult, I spent most of my life living in a typical modern American neighborhood. The kind where you nod, or occasionally wave, to your neighbors as you are pulling out of your driveway. I’ve never had that piece of Americana that enjoyed 4th of July block parties or Christmas cookie exchanges.

I was fine with this, but Brad is more colloquial. I’m happy knowing I had neighbors, but not knowing anything really personal about them. Brad would love to have every person he’s ever shook hands with come and have dinner, and stay for a week. He’s just that kind of person.

So when we moved here to Western Washington, to a country community, I was under the impression that it would be quite the same. After all, we live on 16 acres, and it’s a quarter mile just to get up the driveway to our house. So I knew we wouldn’t have any unannounced drop ins – no pamphlet-clutching religious zealots, no magazine subscription hawkers, no “can we come inside and clean your carpets, then later come and steal the family jewels” scam artists. We were off that proverbial beaten path.

Then, after a week, the doorbell rang. Neighbors bearing gifts. Gifts! A plate of apple crisp, made from apples out of their orchard. Sweets! I love sweets, so I instantly loved our neighbors.

The next day the second neighbors came over. Bearing fresh salmon, zucchini, and a basket of home grown tomatoes.

The third neighbors came over when we were gone, and left 2 dozen chocolate cupcakes on our front door.

My Momma raised me well. I knew I would have to reciprocate. So I whipped up several batches of muffins – zucchini, banana, pineapple coconut, carrot raisin. I brought my basket to the neighbors, to thank them for their kindness. And, dammit, they all went into their “back rooms” and came out with even MORE gifts for me. And asked us to “sit aspell.” Not quite being sure what “aspell” was, I sat, and the whole time planned my exit strategy.

.I went home and made a batch of mini crumb donuts. Worrying because my skills were limited, and  had over reached their limit. Brought those damn donuts down. I came back with more salmon, an onion braid (don’t even ask) an ivy plant, and a plaque that reads “Friends are the Flowers in the Garden of Life.”

It’s been nine months since we moved to Reluctant Farm. And we still keep getting “Welcome to the Neighborhood” gifts. Our neighbor will come up the drive on their riding lawnmowers to see if we need help with a project they can’t help noticing Brad struggling with ..

10952465_10204926641819506_1057459931516416274_n Yep, here’s neighbor Bob coming to see if he can help, and bringing me a batch of halibut from his last fishing trip.

I can’t possibly bake anything else. I don’t make stuff, I’m not a master gardener, and I actually have to ask people what I have growing in my yard.

So I thought, this week I’m doing it up good. It was Cinco de Mayo, and Washington, unlike California, does not pull all stops. They don’t celebrate. So I invited the neighborhood to my house for a little bit of Mexican heaven. I cooked all day, and wowed them with enchiladas, a taco bar, 4 kinds of salsa, a vat of guacamole, and a tube of sangria. And as a grand finale, pineapple coconut cupcakes.

They were amazed and impressed. And, come to find out, they had never been in my house before. After 20 years with the old neighbors, who were quite insular, they were over the moon that they actually had the chance to see inside the “house on the hill.” So “us kids” as they called us, were the novelties. We had come from Fiji – an island they only vaguely heard of. I was a born and bred New Yorker, an “Eye-talian” which is even more odd in these parts. I talk fast, I admit I don’t know nothin’ bout birthin’ nothin’, and I’m like a curious bird that nobody has seen before.

My veritable plethora of south-of-the-border culinary feats would surely save me from furtively trying to learn a new craft, or, dread the thought, ask my mother in law for some baking tips. Bev is very “homey” and when I first met her, knew that for the rest of my life, I would never have anything in common with her. She made her own soap, and mayonnaise. Something that both impresses and frightens me all at the same time.

But – as soon as the neighbors walked in the door, each had a gift. Something to hang on the wall, something to hang on the chicken coop and the highlight – a 5 foot high copper rooster weather vane.

I’m  thinking that maybe the old owners were not antisocial. Maybe they hid up at the house out of pure self preservation.

But … I kinda like it …

Goats milk and more

A while ago I mentioned to Husband Brad that it would be nice to make our own goat cheese. Heck, I love Feta. I love any kind of cheese. So he said, sure, we can get a couple of goats and then have a virtual unlimited supply of cheese.

I didn’t want chickens, I didn’t want a pig, I didn’t want any cows. I wanted cute little goats. Goats that looked like this:


I told my best Washington friend, Bridget, that I was going to raise goats on our pasture, make goat cheese and sell it at the local farmers market. I spent days dreaming of the lovely fresh cheese combinations, dreaming of putting on my best Heidi apron, stirring a pot of fragrant milk with a well used wooden spoon, creative culinary perfection. Oh, I was going to make fresh herb goat cheese (tarragon and dill, basil and garlic, oregano and chili – oh the possibilities were endless!). Since we were going to have a blueberry “orchard” I thought that a blueberry chevre would be nice too.

Bridget promptly gifted me with Margaret Hathaway’s book “The Year of the Goat … 40,000 miles and the Quest for the Perfect Cheese.” I literally inhaled it.

But… wait…  While I was glued to the pages, I came to a full, screeching stop. Goat milk just doesn’t free flow on its own. You actually have to breed the goats. They have to be pregnant, give birth, then will only produce milk for a certain time afterwards, when you have to them breed them again. I know, it sounds logical, but I don’t think linearly. I’m kinda all over the map with my thinking. Remember, born in the Bronx, no goats on the sidewalks of New York,  just learning to negotiate this whole brave new world.

So – this meant that in addition to cute little nanny goats, I had to have a billy goat as well. Sounds good. Until I read further. In order to attract the nannies, billy goats lower their head and … pee on their beards. Seriously. They take leaks on themselves which I guess the nannies find fetching.  Because of this, they smell, Hathaway said. I can imagine they smell like wet diapers that sit for months on end. In the rain. Getting more and more ripe as each day goes by. So I would be walking down to the pasture, and greeted with this …

thThis yellow bearded, smelly thing. My hopes were dashed. I wondered, could we just rent a billy goat for a day or two, then give it back? I wouldn’t need to be around it, just let it root around, do its thing, and go back to whence it came.

Brad said sure, no problem. “But you do know, Susan, that you are going to be the one milking the goats, don’t you?”

I hadn’t really thought about that. Because, well, all those kinds of things are usually Brad’s domain. Anything to do with animals’ nether regions was the realm of his expertise. Dogs have worms? Call Brad.  I mean, he was formerly a chiropractor. He was used to touching alien flesh. Me,  not at all. Not a hugger, and sometimes when I shake a stranger’s hand, all I can think about is what the hand had been doing prior to grasping mine. I then completely lose concentration and have to stop myself from running full throttle to the nearest bathroom sink. I write about shit. I don’t actually touch it.

I’m still marinating on this. Can I actually reach down and touch the breast of a goat,  and yank on it until milk comes out? Can I do this without urping back up in my mouth?

I think maybe I’ll get some alpacas. Alpacas are cute! They make wool! I can sell the wool. And, as far as I know, they never urinate on themselves, or anyone else. The adventure will surely be a lot less messy with a few alpaca on the farm.