If you think your goat is not acting like itself, one of the first things you do is take its temperature. Unfortunately, a goat doesn’t let you rest a thermometer under its tongue until the beep. So, the only way to take the temperature of a goat is to lift up the tail with one hand and slide the tip of the thermometer into its rectum with the other. Thankfully, my husband does plenty of rectal temperatures on people in the ER so off he went to the barn with a thermometer in hand when our goat seemed under the weather late one evening. He returned shortly after with a worried look on his face. “103.7, she’s sick,” he reported confidently. For some reason, at that moment, I had a flashback to when one of our children was very sick with a temperature of 103 degrees F in the middle of the night and how we had flipped out – it’s a scary moment when your husband who is an ER doctor says we need to get to the ER. I was thinking of that memory as he opened the refrigerator and read the labels of the bottles on the top shelf of the door where we store all the vaccines and medicines that help keep our animals healthy and happy. Our sick goat was pregnant with twins so her babies were on our minds too. He finally found the right antibiotic that could be safely used for pregnant does and gave her the first dose that evening. Her fever didn’t break the next day. My husband and I were worried about mama goat, our kids by that time were worried about the unborn baby goats, even the goat herself looked wary of all of this extra attention. Early the next morning before he went in to work for his scheduled ER shift, he upped the cc’s of the antibiotic and injected her again after the thermometer gave the reading of 103.5 degrees F. My husband is always subjecting his poor colleagues to his re-tellings of all the daily happenings on the franch – so, after one of his fellow doctors overheard the tale of the sick goat, he had said matter-of-factly, “Maybe that’s the normal temperature of a goat.” My husband pretended to take offense, and gave him a hard time, “Don’t you tell me about my business of farming.” But, my husband grew up with only cows and the occasional horse on his family farm and he learned only about treating people in medical school. A temperature of 103.7 degrees F is indeed considered a fever for cows and people. But, he had to admit that he had never treated a goat with a fever before. So, he quietly asked Siri, “What’s the normal temperature of a goat?” In less than 2 seconds, Siri responded, “The answer is about 104 degrees Fahrenheit.” Our goat wasn’t so sick after all.
It’s summer time! It’s time for sipping lemonade in the shade of a live oak before lunch, lounging on a pool float during the hottest part of the day, and leisurely walking at the nearby state park in the cooler evening hours. We do some of that every summer. But, summer time on the franch is also a time our children can earn more spending money doing extra chores with their extra time. How much more is up to them. There’s a percentage of what they earn that goes to savings for college and another to give on Sunday mornings. But, how to spend the rest is always theirs to decide. So, they carefully write start and end times, rounded to the nearest minute, on self-made time sheets. It’s sweet to see our kindergartener proudly write in her best handwriting, 10:08 – 10:23, for her time in the garden picking ripe cherry tomatoes. Early in the summer this year our son lacked any real motivation to do extra chores until a trip to a pet store with my husband and a conversation with a clerk in love with bearded dragons. He came home to tell me he was going to have a bearded dragon by the end of the summer. An hour later, he dusted off his overalls and work gloves and asked for a list of chores. Thank you, pet store clerk. That’s sarcastic, by the way. I mean, I’m certainly glad he’s motivated…but, even if this lizard is completely his responsibility, I really don’t want to think at all about yet another creature on our franch, and in the case of a lizard, in our home. I know a good mother wouldn’t say to her young son, “How ‘bout saving for a toy? Or a video game? That way, you can throw it away when you’re done?” Okay, I know – it wasn’t my finest moment. And he’s only following in my footsteps, as I look at all the animals I’ve brought home to the franch. When my son calculated the final cost to be nearly $300 for all the supplies and the bearded dragon itself, I did breathe a sigh of relief. I figured by the time he earns that much, he’ll hopefully be on to some other thing – something that doesn’t breathe. But, he’s really excited about this bearded dragon and getting closer to his goal every day and it isn’t yet mid-summer. He has read four books from the library on lizards already. He even came up with new ways to earn enough money like making my bed every day for a couple more bucks a week. Well, I guess all I can do is leave some Lego catalogs open on the kitchen counter knowing Legos are his only Achilles’ heel in this situation…and start making my own bed.
Living on our franch was, is, and always will be a family decision. It’s not something we are doing to our kids, it’s something we are doing together with them. It can’t be done without us all doing our part. So, periodically, we approach our children and discuss whether they still want to keep livin’ the franch ways. I even make the choice to instead start living a suburban or urban life very enticing. I tell them how their life would be different. No more early mornings with an alarm clock startling you awake to do chores before school. No more heading out to the barn to do evening chores after a long tiring day off the franch. No more sweaty brows from working out in the garden and repairing fences in the summer heat. Instead, there’d be more sleep, more time for watching television and playing video games, more vacations, and less baths. I make a life far away from the franch sound so good that I’m even tempted to start packing up. But, every time, the children choose to stay. Every time.
Every year for the last several years, my husband has traveled on a medical mission trip to the mountains of Guatemala. One of his fellow team members for the last two years has been our daughter, now 11 years old. We, of course, hem and haw about letting her go each year, but know it’s an incredible opportunity for her at a young age to serve and love the children at an orphanage and its surrounding community in a place unlike anything she’s ever known. We’re also aware there’s a world beyond the franch with it’s own life lessons to teach. Even though our daughter speaks very little Spanish, she’s learned from all of our non-English speaking animals over the years how to show love and compassion in ways that aren’t verbal. If you’ve ever witnessed a child grow up with an animal, you know what I mean. Words can often get in the way anyhow. It’s truly something how children can easily bond with other children even though they are worlds apart. My daughter and these precious children smile and laugh and play within seconds of meeting. My husband sends me what I call “proof of life” photos knowing I worry if he’s caring for her like I would. And, it’s precious to see what a blessing she is to these children and what a blessing the children are to her. From her perspective, the children she meets in Guatemala are happy and it brings her heart joy to be with them. Unsurprisingly, it’s the so many skinny stray dogs roaming the streets that especially sadden her heart. It became an unplanned mission of hers to feed as many strays as the leftovers from the team’s meals allow. She expresses how happy they’d be living on the franch. One day after her first trip, we were sitting outside on the franch together and she was deep in thought. She broke the silence, “What direction is South?” Random. I reminded her where the sun rises on our property and she figured it out from there. My heart smiled a few days later when she showed me a note she wrote to a new special friend from the mission trip. It read, “Whenever I miss Guatemala, which is a lot, I look South.” Words can’t explain how thankful I am that my daughter is growing up to love well way beyond the borders of the franch.