It has been said that people with pets heal faster after surgery or illness than people without. Because your dog or cat needs you. You can't stay in your bed and wallow along feeling sorry for yourself. You have to get up, put on your shoes, and go outside. Fill that feed bowl. Take a walk.
And I can see where that comes from. You have something outside of yourself to get you going. Someone else to care about and care for, to get you out of bed.
Many of us have kids who do this for us in an enormous way, but the pets help, too.
I think our farm animals are like that for me. Exponentially so.
I've been a little under the weather (physically and energetically) for the past week, but the animals keep me on my toes. They get me up and out the door, every morning without fail.
Sore throat or not, they need me.
The goats and sheep, layers and meat birds, ducks and quail, dogs and cats. They all need us. And each day our family divides up the work of caring for them all.
Being the first to rise each day, I'm also the first to head to the barn.
I make my tea, write a bit, then grab my milk pail and head outside. Usually Lupine comes with me, often Pete, and sometimes Sage. Occasionally I go alone.
And this nudge out the door each morning is just what I need. Always. To feel the wind and the sun on my face, to root myself in this body, this valley and this life.
They make me close my computer, get out of my head and into the world. I can't think of anything better than that.
In the barn, the goats are always waiting. They begin to call as soon as I step inside, yodeling their "good-morning-did-you-bring-us-something-yummy?" song.
And we say our hellos and then – each morning – we set to work.
Melissa, our Nubian milk goat, is the first animal to be tended. She gets her dish of soaked feed (sunflower seeds, a bit of sprouted grain, alfalfa, and kelp) while the others watch enviously through the gate. She hops onto the milking stand, as eager as I am to get started.
Her udder is carefully washed and dried, and then we milk.
As we sit in the barn (in silence or softly talking) my day begins.
I find gratitude for the mist in the valley and the cranes in the marsh. I savor the sweet sound the milk makes as it zings into my empty pail and the froth that billows to the top by the time we are done.
I appreciate the abundance that our messy little farm provides. Even though we're still learning. Even as we stumble through.
And each new day like the one before, the need to milk this goat is my very first thought upon waking.
She gets me out of bed each morning.
And each day when we finish I thank her for her milk.
From my heart.
A pail full of gratitude and a pail full of milk.
She – like the others – relies on us to rise each morning and begin the work of the day.
And that steady responsibility, so deeply rooted in love, makes each of us a better person.
I'm sure of it.