The Garden of Eden is a frequent metaphor used by gardeners for their experience of working with nature to stock up on food and bring beauty to their surroundings. If so, the image must be of the expulsion from the Eden, for farming requires cycles of toil, as well as cycles of life-death-life. Paradise is lost with each aching joint at the end of a productive day. Paradise is lost with each animal that turns up dead in the barn or field, or has to be put down for its health and productivity have passed. Farm life is harsh. Even being “put out to pasture” has its limits. Yet, paradise is regained when babies are born, the seed sprout, and the first ripe tomatoes slice open to brilliant red wedges.
Late in winter, we lost Granny, our oldest goat. She was old when our neighbor purchased her at an auction. Obviously someone else was culling their herd. She has always been Granny. She came to us as a garbage goat, to clear a few field of brush. We do not recall how many years she slept in our barn, trimmed the field, and ate any vegetable matter that we tossed over the fence. She could even down a whole corn cob.
Two winters ago, I found her down in the field. She had a flare up of her arthritis and needed assistance each morning to get up for a couple of weeks. The weather warmed up and her knees loosened up. She limped from then on. About February of this year, after a couple more brief bouts of arthritis, her knees fused. She could bear her weight, but not get up or walk. Twice each day, I would lift her up to her feet, bring water and food, help her hobble around the barn for a lap or two, relieve herself, then lay down again. She never complained. When her legs did not improve, we had our neighbor-vet put her down. Paradise Lost.
Generations replenish themselves. We had Isabelle, Granny’s last daughter with us. A while later, our ducks hatched 10 ducklings. Seven survived through the summer to full size. Our neighbor’s milk goats had kids. They have all been growing and fattening up before winter sets in.
This past weekend, we had friends bringing two and four year old children up for a cookout before going to the rodeo. That morning, our neighbor was going to bring the three female goat kids to our fields for stocking up. When they are old enough, we will breed them for more kids and milk. Meanwhile, when I went out to feed Isabella and the ducks, I noticed that one of the hens was collecting five newly hatched ducklings in her nest. Children, goat kids, ducklings. Paradise Regained.