Monday, December 2, 2013

Kate McBrady Had A Farm

I always wanted to live on a farm. Instead, I grew up in a trailer park in northern California. 

I did my best to pretend it was exciting.  There weren’t any trees to climb, but there was that tongue on the front of our mobile home. We couldn’t have any pets with personality, but I still think tropical fish are kind of cute.

At least we didn’t wake up every morning to the smell of manure.
That was the main thing I noticed when I visited my great-uncle’s pig farm in Kansas as a kid - the "fresh air." The thing is, I only noticed the odor when we arrived. By the next morning, I couldn’t smell anything at all, which might mean I had permanent sinus damage or I myself had begun to smell like a pig.
I can’t believe I still like pork chops after that visit.
Anyway, we never did find a farm of our own to live on. We left the trailer park when I was eleven and moved to Phoenix.  I guess I was never meant to live in the country. Farms have too much responsibility for a lazy person like me.  I like fresh dairy and eggs like everybody else, but if animals are as smart as some people think they are, why can’t they take care of themselves?
See? City girl. If the grocery store is five minutes away, why should I have to milk a cow?
When our kids were growing up, my husband and I tried to find a way to buy a house on some land where the kids had plenty of room to play. But it never quite worked out.  So we signed up our daughter for horseback riding lessons and let our son watch “Old Yeller” until the video wore out.

That way the kids could learn about the joy and hardships of a rural life, but I didn’t have to get up with the roosters every morning.
But now that they have young families, turns out our kids both like country living. They each own houses with more land than we’ve ever even tried to mow. Last year, Katy and her husband bought the perfect home—close enough to us that I can still drop by and torment my son-in-law whenever I want, but with enough land that he can hide in the backyard and never have to hug me. 
It’s heaven.
They walked in to the place of their dreams—out in the country but close to Target.  It’s an older home with lots of space, but the property is what made their jaws drop. Acreage, outbuildings, raised gardens, mature trees, and a third garage where in-laws could potentially be locked up someday.
They’re like the Israelites who walked into the Land of Canaan right at harvest time. The gardens were loaded with tomatoes, carrots and onions (no garlic), and the tack shed conveyed with a riding lawnmower and every tool a handy guy like my son-in-law could want. Best of all, they bought the only pasture in town that’s self-mowing.
See, the house came with two goats. Cutie Patootie and Pipsqueak.
One afternoon, Rob and I drove over to babysit the kiddos for a few hours. Katy gave us the rundown for the kids and then casually mentioned, “By the way, there are two extra goats in the pasture. I’ll tell you about it later.”
Since I’m a city girl, I figured out goats must multiply at the speed of rabbits. But Pip and Toot are both females, so I was confused. Too impatient to wait for answers, we waved goodbye to the parents and then got the scoop—from the grandkids.
“Where’d the new goats come from?” I asked five-year-old Allie, who munched on her snack at the counter while I stared out the kitchen window trying to spot the new tenants.
“Daddy got them from his friend at work.”
Weird.  Daddy is a firefighter. 
“Well, what are their names?” I asked.
“One’s a baby,” Allie said casually while pulling her string cheese apart, “and the other one’s called Gomy.”
Sounded kind of biblical to me—Gomy could be short for Gomer, that woman in the Bible who was unfaithful to her husband, Hosea. Are goats monogamous? Then again, she could have been named after country bumpkin Gomer Pyle, but that made it a 'boy' name.  Either way, it looked like Dan and Kate had gone into the goat business.
“So, Gomy,” I said casually to my son-in-law when he and Katy returned. "That’s an interesting name.”
Dan grinned. “She’s nursing her kid,” he said. “My buddy bought her so he and his family could have fresh goat milk. But he forgot to ask his wife, and their back yard is too small. Right before his wife told him to get rid of it, she named it GOMY.  It stands for Get Outta My Yard.”
I spewed ice water down the front of my shirt. 

So Dan and Katy brought Gomy to their place on a trial basis. They learned to milk her twice a day and I got to taste fresh goat milk for the first time. I liked it. But one short week later, my daughter texted me that Gomy had worn out her welcome. Once again, she was living up to her name.
“What happened?” I said, surprised at this turn of events.
“The owner came and picked up the baby this week, and Gomy started being mean to Cutie Patootie and Pipsqueak. She wouldn’t let them get any hay, so they started fighting with her. I can’t have mean goats in our backyard—then my kids won’t be safe.
“Yesterday afternoon I went out to feed them all, and Gomy went out of her mind! She started ramming the other two goats and then she turned on me! I tried to keep her away from Patootie and Pipsqueak, but I was all by myself out there with just a pitchfork. I grabbed a shovel with my other hand and started yelling at her!  You should’ve seen me, Mom, running all over the pasture chasing a stupid goat with a pitchfork.”
I could picture it, but it’s hard to sound sympathetic when you’re laughing that hard. Maybe it’s not so bad to be a city girl. I never had trouble like that with tropical fish.
Two days later the she-devil goat was gone and Cutie Patootie and Pipsqueak went back to being sweet again. Last month Katy and the family inherited twenty chickens from Dan’s parents and now every day is an Easter egg hunt for omelets. Yesterday they discovered that one of the chickens is a rooster.
That’s not good news. Katy prefers a digital alarm clock.
“Gonna make some cock-o-noodle soup?” I asked.
“Not as long as he keeps his mouth shut,” she answered.
Katy only took the chickens because they were all single. Now there’s a fox in the henhouse. Goats in the pasture. Dogs in the backyard. And, now, after a few unsuccessful attempts to trap the two fat cats who’ve never known another home but this one, the previous owners finally turned custody of the pair over to Katy and Dan, too.

I'm just waiting for Dan to start building an ark for his growing menagerie.
“It’s fine,” Katy said, even though she’s never liked cats. "We need some mousers anyway.”

Right. I forgot about the resident mice.
Country life is a lot more work than I thought. Especially since Katy and Dan got more than they bargained for at closing—cats and mice and goats all conveyed with the house. Now they’ve got a herd of chickens, a rogue rooster and subversive scorpions. All they need is a horse and a cow and a mule for good measure, and then they can rename their property Green Acres.
I thought Katy summed it pretty well up after her hand-to-hoof combat with Gomy.
“I guess we bought the farm,” she said.

Photo courtesy of ruffin_ready at


  1. You ain't lived till you can say you stayed on a farm in Iowa in years past. Back when they had outdoor toilets. Every house had something similar to a bed pan on the back porch. That made trips to the outhouse in the middle of the night unnecessary. All you had to do was find the pan in the dark and a private spot on the porch. By the way, I had a friend who had a goat. For a joke, she made jewelry out of the goat droppings!

    1. Wow. You've rendered me speechless, Frank. And that's saying something. ;)

    2. That IS saying something!