Notes from Windward: #56

Moon of Parting

Michael Carroll
1946 - 1996
The last moon of fall is a time when we bid farewell to the colors of life, the greens of summer and the golden hues of fall, and settle in for the stark whiteness of winter. This year, this time of parting is especially sad since we've had to say good-bye to two who contributed so much toward making Windward what it is.

Mike came to Windward some six years ago as an "urban refugee". Having become completely disenchanted with city life, he was determined to strike out into the country, and Windward rapidly became his home base. With a life history of epilepsy, Mike was determined to find a way to avoid the stress of city life in the hope that he would thereby avoid reliance on continuing medication.

After being symptom free for years, his condition started to catch up with him. When he suffered a grand mal seizure this summer, we were able to help him through it. Afterwards we insisted that he receive medical attention; he did consent to see a doctor, but refused to take any medication for his condition. The tradeoff between quality of life and quantity is a very personal one. Since he was aware of the risk, we respected his right to choose. Sometime during the night of November 15, he suffered a seizure in his sleep and passed on.

Mike helps Magic
care for her new borns
In spite of the epilepsy, Mike was an important and valued part of our organization for more than five years. Windward consists of 106 acres of raw and rocky land; the establishment of needed water, power, phone and sewer lines was a prodigious task. Mike kept plugging away at the job and accomplished wonders. Over the years, many people have come and gone; Mike stayed and made a difference.

Most people take their life-support systems for granted, but those who braved those first winters here will always remember and appreciate the work he did. Mike was a good friend, he did good work and will be missed. He made a difference for the better, and I don't know a more manly epitaph than that.

Sunshine Wake Robin
The second old friend we've said good bye to was our herd queen, Sunshine. Almost the first goat to join our herd, Sunshine had been offered to us because she wouldn't settle for any status less than herd queen. Rather than have the contest go on indefinitely and disturb her old herd's tranquility, Sunshine came to Windward where she could found a herd of her own.

Herds have a pecking order, something which the does take very seriously. Each knows her place, and defends it with determination and vigor. I remember the first time Sunshine gave birth at Windward. It was taking longer than it should, and Sunshine was holed up in one of the smaller, more private, goat shelters along with Lotus, one of her ladies-in-waiting.

I went in to check on Sunshine, and she was making an odd rumbling sound. That's when I made a serious error; I bent down and tilted my head in order to listen more closely. From Lotus' point of view, she was guarding her queen, and I had assumed a position which expressed a challenge of her right to be there. Without even getting up, Lotus leaned back and bopped me on the head. Although it wasn't much of an effort on her part, it set me on my butt and left me seeing stars. That experience stands out in my mind as a reminder to respect the dignity of the herd queen and her attendants.

A sweet fall apple
too tasty to pass up
Looking through my box of pictures, I came across this set showing Sunshine with one of her favorite goodies, apples. We glean food when we can, and often get a chance to gather apples from trees that have gone unattended. When an apple tree isn't pruned, it lays on too many apples, with the result that the size of each apple is smaller than you'd find in the grocery store. That's a problem for table apples, but no problem at all if you're going to make cider. It's also just the right size, in a goat's opinion, for a goat to enjoy.

Country life has its amusements, and one of them involves goats and apples. The problem is that goats and sheep don't have any upper-front teeth. They've got an awesome set of molars, top and bottom, in the back of their mouths, but in the front, they only have lowers. That's okay when you're ripping leaves off a bush, or grazing some fresh grass, but it's impossible for a goat to take a bite out of an apple.

So a goat has to get the apple positioned into the back of her mouth so she can get a chomp on it with those molars. If they would pick the smaller fruit, then it would be an easy trick, but for a goat caught in the throes of fruit-lust, only the biggest apple will do. Watching a greedy goat struggle to mouth an apple that's just too big is one of the country amusements that we get to enjoy.

persistence and talent
always pays off
Sunshine suffered a stroke this past May and lost the use of her hind legs. Bob2 fixed up a pen along side the barn, and she spent the summer with her daughters and friends. We expected her to pass on fairly quickly after her stroke, but since she didn't seem to be in any pain and was enjoying her time with her friends, we decided to let nature run its course. With the onset of cold weather, she developed a respitory infection and went very quickly.

At Windward, we have a grove of tall pines that overlooks the gorge. We buried Sunshine in the grove and will plant more lillies in her memory. Sunshine was, and always will be, a special part of Windward. She will be missed.

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