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It wasn’t an easy Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

We lost Peaches Goat.

I’d been worried for days, not that something was wrong, but that she would have her kids on the coldest day of the year like she did last year.

So when she started acting close a day or two before Christmas, I was relieved, but still worried.

She wasn’t progressing the way I thought she should.

I left the place in the afternoon to go see John Bennett. He doesn’t have a phone, so I call him in the morning while he’s at Harris’ Grocery having his coffee, or I drive way over to Lake Luzerne and up toward Fourth Lake.

We had to review our plans for Christmas Day with the family, after all.

Anyway, when I got back home, Peaches was alone in the barn, lying on her side, not moving.

I started patting her and she got up. I guess she just didn’t know where I was when she needed me.

Well, Boy Unit and I jumped into action. He brought blankets and a small heater into the birthing room while I massaged and encouraged Peaches.

But, as I said, there was no progress. We ended up in a corner. I sat in the straw, she lay with her head on my lap.

After several hours of no progress in the barn, I remembered we had a house full of guests. Of course, that didn’t matter.

I finally decided to see what was happening. She had bleated a few times and seemed in pain, so I went in. I have small hands designed for this kind of thing. I found two kids and brought them out as carefully as I could.

They had no life in them.

Peaches had only bleated a few times during this process. She bleated once more.

I thought she would get up. Instead, she started to fade. Maggie had been leaving the house to help as she could, but there were guests. When she came next, I asked for Nathaniel, the boy.

We put Peaches on a sled and brought her to the downstairs bathroom in the house, a room that has served this same sort of purpose forever.

One time, years ago, I put an apparently frozen hen in there on a hunch. The cast iron radiator casts a lot of heat in that little room. My hunch was correct. In the morning, that hen got up, clucked and lay an egg.

That’s not what happened this time.

Peaches cuddled her head into me. She has always been a very shy, loving creature. She was covered with a quilt. I was her pillow. I sat on that floor asking Maggie to bring me beers, which she did.

I patted this goat who trusted us, brought many kids into and onto this place, and more than paid her way by giving us milk to make cheese and yogurt with.

This place, in the end, is a farm that makes money. The animals are farm animals. They are always treated with kindness, because that is how it should be. They are also very important to the economy of this place.

Peaches died quietly after some time. I had to stay there on the floor patting her head for an hour, or hours. When I came out, the guests who were just rooms away had gone to bed, not really aware of what was happening nearby.

Every muscle in my body still aches, and my soul feels empty. I spent the wee hours of Christmas morning cleaning, mopping, disinfecting.

I cleaned up and, to my credit, attended all the traditional morning events without being a jerk.

I went into town and washed all of the blankets and clothing and what not, after everyone went out visiting.

That’s farming.

Forrest Hartley is still surviving the dream in Hadley. You can leave him a message at new_americangothic@yahoo.com.

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