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June 16 1998, Tuesday



things to do on the internet live

What if I went out and bought me one of those QuickCam globes, a little putty, and a small 40 watt halogen lamp? What if I took that putty and used it to attach that QuickCam globe to the inside of my toilet, and puttied that 40 watt halogen lamp right next to it, both pointing up at the center of the circular aperture of the toilet seat when it swings down?
But I'm ahead of myself here, fellas. First would come the press releases, the hype, the advertisers, the sponsors, the URL on the side of every bus, Oh fuck it, this isn't even funny.
The point is, I guess, that doing something first "online" isn't really interesting. The fact that it's news at all is also a yawn. The fact that I'm typing stuff about it is downright depressing. Next subject...

one goat closer to goatless

My parents have owned goats nearly since they fled the Washington DC suburbs some 22 years ago. At first the goats were part of some sort of back-to-the-land idealism. We raised goats, we milked them, we butchered them, my mother made circular loaves of goat cheese, and our freezer was stuffed with goat meat (euphemized by the restaurant industry as chevon - when in doubt, translate to French - the purveyors of rape seed oil and ostrich meat nod approvingly).
But raising farm animals is a lot of work. All summer we raised field corn and harvested hay. All winter we'd go on excursions to collect pine boughs (a goat delicacy) from the piney woods. Beyond that, getting up early every morning before school to milk goats was a pain in the ass. I know what it's like to go to school with the smell of goat teats on my hands, even though I only did a fraction of the milking. Eventually I went off to college, my parents grew old, and the stud goat died, was replaced, and the replacement died. Without baby goats there was no milk, but that was just as well. Nobody felt like living the back-to-the-land ideal anymore. Everyone had better ways to spend his time.
But my parents were charitable towards the animals that remained, allowing them to grow old in a long retirement on green fields and in lush woods. Without being put through the arduous task of childbirth, the nanny goats (or does) experienced health unprecedented in caprine circles, as did their castrated brothers.
They lived much longer than expected, gleefully destroying the native flora to sustain their hearty appetites. My Dad was growing interested in botany during this period, and as much as he'd wish for them to peacefully pass on to their rewards, they'd keep on living robustly. In desperation, he and I erected a special fence explicitly to protect a part of the woods from their depredations.
But now it seems the Grim Reaper is sneaking up on the retired goats. They've all grown skinny, and their joints creak as they walk. They don't venture as far up the hill as they used to. In April, one of them was found dead in the barn, the first goat death in years. Yesterday Fred the Dog discovered another goat lying still. He'd been ailing for days and his death was not unexpected.
The task was given to Don and me to dispose of the dead goat. I pumped up the wheelbarrow tire (which has had a slow leak for well over ten years) and rolled it up to the barn. The goat was in the manger stall, lying stretched out on his side in the eight-inch accumulation of grapelike goat droppings that blankets the floor. He was cold and stiff, and touching him made me feel unhealthy. I tried not to look at him too closely. He was lighter than expected, maybe even less than a hundred pounds.
We took turns pushing the wheelbarrow to the disposal site my Dad had told me about, in the chert talus near the edge of the swamp, above its farthest embayment inside the base of the Muellers' Mountain double hill. My brother dragged the goat the last thirty feet and lay him behind a Black Oak tree. Mission accomplished. As we headed back, I saw the place where the other goat had been dumped two months ago. The ground was blackened and the plants had been killed off in a small patch less than a yard across. A crust of hide and a few articulated bones were all that remained.

a storm blows through

In the afternoon, my Dad left to go botanizing in the distant mountains, and I would have been content to sit in front of a computer all day making various assemblies of data groovier than they used to be, but a terrible storm built up in the west and soon thunder, lightning, and incredible rainfall had come in to raucously occupy the usually unremarkable air of this little hollow. I was sort of hoping for the stream to jump its banks and cause massive destruction, necessitating a visit from Bill Clinton and the public signing of an emergency relief package, but alas, the rain only continued for about an hour and a half. This overabundant rainfall happily served to dilute the funky brown water in the cistern, which, being collected off the roof, had been contaminated with decaying maple and oak catkins from the exuberant Spring. Unfortunately this brown water is the only potable water on this place; I just hope tannic acid doesn't cause long-term health problems.

This is a picture I took today of the floodplain only a hundred feet from my childhood house (which is behind me). We're looking southwest. When I was a kid I played many games here. Those of you (used car salesmen, church pastors, etc.) scoping this out as a potential building site should know that during Hurricane Fran, twelve feet of swiftly-moving water sat on top of this field.


one year ago
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