Get a baby goat & never worry about anything ever again…

What if I told you my friend Ann has had 76 kids and that I’m being completely literal, no metaphor or hyperbole? Scout’s Honor, I say w/a straight face and in completely good conscience. Flabbergasted, you’d exclaim, Get the hell out of town! Her uterus would implode after the 20th birth! What if I were to casually remind you that a baby goat is also referred to as a kid? Again, you’d slam your fist on the table, What kind of sick freak gives birth to a goat anyway!?? I’m calling the cops! Chill, I would say, put away the switchblade, I really only mean she owns 76 goats, raised or bought them, like a normal person. Your heart rate begins to settle, rational thoughts forming in your head. Sorry about that…

Still friends?

My first visit to Montana was to stay with Ann, who runs her own cashmere company she gathers from her quite-bountiful goat farm, again, 76 of those bleating bucks and does altogether. If you’re like me, I didn’t know that cashmere came from goats, but honestly never gave where it came from a single thought to begin with. Quick trivia, a buck is an uncircumcised male goat, like a stallion to a horse, but a circumcised male goat is a wether, like gelding to a horse. Then a female is a doe, like a mare to a horse.

101_0691Ok the kids. The really small ones are so cute, it is literally impossible to worry about anything in their presence. I tried really hard to fret on something, but I couldn’t. I’m not sure who of the smaller goats was a “kid” per say, and not some tween goat, so I will just focus on the small white one who I spent lots of time staring at and chasing around to hold. Whitey, who, wait for it, was all white in color, was simply the pinnacle of adorable in my imagination. In fact, he raised that ceiling by miles. He was a little larger than a cat, would get excited and do this bucking around the yard and when bleating (a goat/sheep’s call) would sound almost like an actual human child. Heart breaker, all day. In fact, most of the goats would never shut up but have really interesting noises. It wasn’t super loud or piercing, like a chicken/guinea, but the sort of background noise that was soothing. You know how those weird people buy CDs of the ocean or river sounds at Target or something? I would buy a CD of goat noises, find the “Kids Only” track and put it on repeat, living the dream. I suppose that makes me even weirder than the previous weird people I was just making fun of…

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Ann has names for all of her goats and a great relationship w/the little buggers. You might think that’s hard to remember 76 names of similar-looking creatures, but to Ann they are her kids, to use the term more literally than I have been. She talks to them just like I am talking to you right now. And no, I don’t mean she writes a blog post that she later hopes her goats will read, I just mean her dialogue w/them is comically casual. Oh! Well don’t you look comfortable. Bart, get out of the broccoli! Ya dumb goat! Orville, quit being a bully! This farm was a gold mine for a classic sitcom involving one woman and a bunch of ornery goats. You would watch it, trust me.

Further, let me make a case for goats as farm animals. Their milk is much better for you than a cow’s is. Think about it, a cow is feeding her calf to grow into a 700 lbs beast, whereas a goats usually don’t ever weigh more than a 100 lbs. This makes the fat content much lower. This principle also transfers to the meat content, which tends to be much leaner than cow meat. Further, goats have a much shorter gestation period than cows, meaning more kids! Do a little research if you like. I found goat products are usually much better for you than of a cow.

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Ann’s property was super rural. One of my more secluded gigs yet, no doubt. The town of Kila, which totaled to only a street w/a post office and school, was over thirty minutes away. There was a long, wavy road to make your way down, then a gravel country road (that just killed my car) that was about five miles deep as well. I wouldn’t mind living off the beaten path, but it was much too secluded for my tastes. If Ann had ended up being an axe murdered, she would have had no problem disposing of this city kid. Though, to be fair, if I had been the axe murderer, I could have pulled if off w/o much trouble as well:)

But Anne was so cool. We hit it off right away and I knew I was going to be fine here. She may even be my favorite person I have met in my HelpXing adventures. She was funny, chill, didn’t talk all the goddamn time and was quite engaging to be around. Fun gal no doubt. She makes her living (or rather, is in the process of doing so) by selling the cashmere she gathers from her goats. It seems like a pretty lengthy process from goat’s hide, then spun into yarn, then crocheted into a design worth wearing, but ann does it w/ease. She has a huge de-hairing machine that somehow separates the unwanted hair from the from the “oh, so soft” cashmere. Also, she gave up showing her cashmere years ago because she told me she was bored with winning.

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My main reason for being there was to help Ann w/her thinning project. She has about 20 acres all together, but was only thinning about 5.5 acres of it. This included cutting down live trees, de-limbing them, and putting them into slash piles. This may sound damaging and immoral to you, but thinning a forest helps to deter forest fires and allows the remaining trees to grow better. It’s so helpful, that the state of Montana will cut you a fat check just for doing it. It has to be done by a certain date, so that is where I come in. Spending five hours a day piling brush can be quite therapeutic, zoning out covered in sap, the sound of the chainsaw patiently lulling you into some dream state. I forgot how much I enjoy totally mindless manual labor. And it’s exercise the whole time, which I normally absolutely hate doing.

I asked Ann the best way to get sap off your skin and she says, let time pass. Nice.

I asked Ann the best way to get sap off your skin and she says, let time pass. Nice.

Down the hill of Ann’s property was a nice couple around my age helping out w/the thinning going on around the property in exchange for rent. Daniel, a bit older than I, Hanna, a bit younger than I, and their genuinely cute cute baby Piper Rose. I’ve never seen a baby who smiled so much. Also weird, this baby had a very deep look within her. They said she had an “old soul” which was totally fitting, but I was thinking something along those lines b/f that term was even introduced to me. She would look at you and you could tell she knew something you didn’t. Or rather, that she knows something about you that you didn’t know. It was a really strange vibe but not in a threatening way at all. It would be interesting to meet her 20 years from now. I can tell she will be quite pretty.

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The last exciting item of business was Glacier National Park. Slightly disappointingly, I saw no glaciers. Seeing those isn’t exactly a day trip I was told. However, I did see w/o question the most beautiful scenery of my entire life on the drive in. It was called the “Driving-to-the-Sun” road, and aptly named at that. Carved out of the side of a mountain and overseeing canyon dips miles wide, it seemed like one could see clear into Canada. We had a baby w/us so couldn’t do anything serious as far as hikes go, but that was fine. We got in a nice 6 miler down a ravine and back up, so I was happy we got to do a little bit of sweating.

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101_0807Actually, that’s not all! I almost forgot about the super-friendly polydactyl cat that was there. That’s a cat w/extra toes, which isn’t too big of a deal, but the Ernest Hemingway House in Key West, FL, is known for breeding these types of huge-footed felines. That said, there’s a decent chance (maybe? maybe not…) that this guy’s lineage traces back to the sandy tourist-filled beaches of Key West. If so, he, or rather his parents and parent before, have come quite a long way from South Fla all the way up to Northwestern Montana. Poor guy did a lot struggling so I could get this quite-boring picture of his paw. But this is proof he was there dammit! Also, you may only count five pads there and wonder why I just wasted your time w/this paragraph, but remember that cats have their “thumbs” down below, conveniently covered up by my index finger. Totally worth wrecking this cat’s afternoon.

Thanks again to Ann for hosting me, I had SO much fun at your place. I shall return someday to see your progress around the place which I am sure you will achieve. Good luck w/the the business and those ornery goats! 101_0808

Now off to the 1899 Inn located in Deadwood, SD, which sounds pretty promising as far as working gigs go.

More to come!

We drove 300 miles across Idaho & didn’t see a single potato.

This post is co-written by momma Keyne Stanford

There I was on the back of some ATV at the mercy of the 13-yr-old driving. From my vantage point, clutching the rear support, I can clearly see the warning label that states this vehicle is never suitable for more than one person, no one under 16 should operate & the driver should always wear a helmet. We’re zero for three on the rules & clocking 37 mph. I’m thinking about ditching my iPod so I can use my left hand for proper support, but after five years of precious music compiling, it seems worth the risk.

From another vantage point we probably look pretty funny. ATVs are pretty huge & James is a skinny youngster. Imagine Barbie jammed into the front of Ken’s Jeep. Then there’s me on the back, naturally as uncoordinated as they come, barely holding on as the hillbilly teen from hell tears across potholes as if some avalanche is closing in. It’s hard to tell if he’s naturally this reckless or ups it a few notches when a wide-eyed city slicker comes through.

Either way, bury me w/my iPod.

My first visit to the weirdly-shaped state of Idaho was the stay w/the Meyer family in Kooskia. W/me in tow is none other than Keyne “Big Momma” Stanford, who I scooped up in Spokane, WA & together we made our few-hour trek into the countryside Idaho. 101_0687The Meyer family is made up of 8 kids, w/a 15 yr age span – just like my mom – who is one of eight too (formerly, Mary rest her soul). Each of the kids is confident/delightful & the older ones especially took us under their wing w/farming tips & family lore. They really enjoy Keyne’s similar sibling situation & inquired how they were disciplined. Stories of spanking w/a ping-pong paddle (rumor has it that my Grandma’s name was labeled on it) or a hairbrush or whatever was close by brought smiles to my mother’s face as this old-fashioned discipline is not frowned upon in this house either.

After a quick tour of the farm, the first evening we were taken to a country potluck of about 40 people. The whole thing was a little awkward for us, as the only people we “knew” there we had met about three hours ago. My sister Claire would have just died. Ha. I forgot to ask why later, but in the main room where we gathered had about 10 queen-sized beds all lined up in a row. Maybe the house moonlighted as a orphanage? An elderly woman played the accordion & we were taught, of all thing, the Virginia Reel. We of the Stanford/Kennedy crowd all have our roots in VA:)

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101_0682The farm is hilly & careworn w/the comings & goings of such a large family. They have a few turkey tractors here, which are small, movable structures that turkeys (or chickens) live in. One would move this structure around to allow the grazing animals to feed in specific locations only, while they also spread out their manure for fertilization effects. Google it, it’s a great concept. There are also ducks, chickens, roosters (a blonde one’s personal mission – to wake us up at 5 a.m. w/a dozen consecutive cock-a-doodle-doos, the rat) & pigeons which get released daily. Marian, the eldest of the Brady Bunch kids, lets us do a little milking, then proceeds to effortlessly tenfold our five-minute effort in a matter of seconds w/her superior method. I dug the goat milk but I could tell Keyne was holding out for her cow stuff back in the city.

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Keyne mostly helped Elizabeth (the mom) in her huge garden – weeding, planting, watering & harvesting. What a treat just to pick & eat tender raspberries. The ladies picked all the kale to clear it for a new crop and mum juiced the leaves. We would shake the wild plum tree – plums the size of cherry tomatoes – gather the little guys, juice them & make jelly. They had hundreds of cans in the back room, mostly jellies & such.

We fit into our gender-specific roles pretty well here. Again, Keyne in the garden/kitchen & me outside w/the dad (Jim) on some carpentry gig. The men (besides me, who is probably not considered 100% A MAN out here) are never ever seen in the kitchen & the women never work w/tools or build anything. Jim is the patriarch of the family & his word is law in a way you have never seen.101_0665 The kids wait on him bringing him water/food & whatever else he asks for. There is never a please, a thank you & he never needs to repeat himself. His opinions are those the entire family restates. He carries a handgun at all times & is very outspoken about his faith/politics. One weekend the whole family gets stomach flu, one by one; Keyne & I eventually succumb. The day Jim gets it, the whole farm shuts down & the coveted videos entertain the kids who otherwise never watch TV. They just LOVE The Beverly Hillbillies, which I think is pretty dated, but I gathered the mom likes those old-fashioned views for her kids. They ate it up, even though they had seen every one what seemed like a number of times.

This raccoon, otherwise minding it's own business, was shot and killed late Saturday evening. There are no current leads on the murder.

This raccoon, otherwise minding it’s own business, was shot & killed late Saturday evening. There are no current leads to the murder.

000_0029The youngest kids are extra fun. Hally, the one-year-old, pictured to the left, is quite active for someone that young. I didn’t think much of it, but my mom seemed nothing short of amazed that someone so young had the run of the entire farm to herself, toddling out to the garden or sauna to find her parents. How different her experiences & motor skills must be compared to a toddler growing up in an apartment. The three-year-old Amanah, we noticed had super-short bangs & we kind of knew why (she cut her own hair) but didn’t want to ask as fashion doesn’t seem important way out here. The five & seven-year-old boys (Barack & Talon, great names) we almost never see as they fish all day in the pond up the road. What a life.

We grow very fond of the 10-year-old Margaret, who tells long (but cute) stories punctuated w/ “and guess what happens next?” & won’t move on until you’ve guessed at least three times, though that’s usually a rhetorical question. She & I moved wood one morning and I was right below my capacity for the lifting & noticed she was having a hard time too. Apparently I am only a little stronger than this ten-year-old girl. I’d also like to note here I beat every older child in arm wrestling, albeit mostly girls. I’ll take it. 









Marian, the oldest -far right in the picture above- hopes to become either a chef or a midwife (indeed she’s attended the births of the younger siblings & knows all the birthing language) someday unless she “gets married early” she says. My mother noted it’s hard not to think such a bright, attractive, mature young lady could have a brilliant career. Whatever those kids do, they just need to leave Kooskia & Idaho for a few years. They have great parents no doubt, but only a small selection of view points survive on that farm.

101_0669We probably didn’t work as hard as we could have w/the flu cropping up all week, though everyone had it at some point so they were understanding when we did. In fact, Keyne got a cake but was so sick on her birthday (happy 57th Keyne!) that we only got a quick pic w/the cake before rushing off to the airport. We did appreciate the way the whole family embraced us city slickers & hope in turn we were able to somehow bring in the outside world to such a hardworking clan.

Plus, Keyne didn’t flee East via Greyhound day two on the farm, which means brother Bret owes me $20 cash:)

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