In my dream, I’m standing at the beginning of a long horizon, full of low grass, the wind whipping around my face and enticing me to move forward. I walk into the vast expanse of land, empty but for dark shapes dotting the landscape. Slowly moving, sometimes briskly jumping forward, tails flicked up in a stream as they run, then swishing down unceremoniously as they urgently go back to nibbling the grasses.
These are yak, moving silently through my thoughts, through the plains and mountains. Grunting softly, calling to their calves, echoing a low guttural warning to the herd, grunting as they push each other in passing. These are yak, slowly chewing, dappled still shadows in the dawn, resting in amorphous patterns through my sight line, their earthy scent and belches piercing the crisp air.
I turn the brim of my felt hat down, the braided rim of yak hair collecting the dew and sliding down onto my shoulder. I watch them, my loves, my dear creatures, my work, my charge. I watch them, alone, silent. A bird flies overhead. The sky seems limitless, slow shades of flax blue and charcoal lightening to a creamy glow near the edge of the land. No distractions, no people, no need for time.
Then I wake up.
The big dog pushes me to rise. The little one is still snoring. Rubbing my eyes, I look at the mess of things to clean up. The wind threw tarps destined for the dump in all directions, as if mocking my bad timing with yet another task. Creature, the bottle baby yak, is grunting feverishly outside, wanting his milk. It’s not even fully light out. The milk cow is sleeping in the outdoor kitchen. Again. I haven’t yet had the time to fence it off.
Wake up, wake up. Why am I so tired all the time? Thinking of my To Do list, I go to make some coffee.
And of course there are the yaks. The real herd, not the ones in my idyllic dream. They came back up to their small winter pasture near the containment area. They come back often, knowing treats, scratches, hugs and adoring remarks come from this direction. I watch them for a moment, admiring them traipsing by each other, scratching on a fence post, abruptly laying down, babies spinning their tails and lunging around each other or drinking milk from their moms.
I have to milk Faith the cow to feed the the bottle baby yak. Then I wash some dishes and gear up to go hang out with the herd for a few. But they’re gone, down onto the lower field. I don’t have time to go find them now. On to other things.
I sit down to write my list for the day. My thoughts inadvertently wander to yak felt hats and making some cool yak leather clothing. Wouldn’t it be nice to... Then Mary calls and I hear about her business of the day, with a staggering level of complexity and more moving parts than I’d like to admit possible in one small farm business. I get a hurried update on all the current insanity/achievements before she signs off to go direct harvest and manage the teenagers.
“I couldn’t do this if I had kids” I muse to myself, and get back to my list.
Crap I gotta go.
I shove the chair in and down more coffee before making sure I didn’t forget anything and all the animals are in the right place and have everything they need. And I shut the water off. Right? Yes. I did. Totally. Whew.
As I prepare to leave, I look out at the sea of star thistle that has erupted with thorny and savage abandon. Everywhere. Everywhere I messed with the soil in development, and everywhere there was no competition for it to thrive. Fluffy orbs of native bumblebees slowly dance around the loathsome star thistle. “Well that’s one good thing” I mutter grumpily.
I trip over a box that blew into the path on my way to the truck. The dump run will have to wait a day. Creature (the yak bottle baby) pounces towards me, blocking me from forward motion for attention. I give him a squish and, looking back at the sea of thorns, remember how people congratulated me on creating such a “magical” place. I snicker sardonically, shaking my head. That’s what I get for posting cute pictures on social media.
I drive off and jump out to open the first gate. “Well at least it’s better than the mud” I think to myself, then shudder at the thought and put winter preparations out of my mind.
There you have it. One of many mornings in my life with yak. In this blog I will be sharing my experiences in starting a farm, the imagined romance, the realities, beauty, hardship, stress, anguish and rewards of my experience. Oh, and there will be recipes. Because sometimes we all need to just get in the kitchen and make something that nourishes us, and our creativity. So stay tuned for more revelations about the enchanting moments and incredible challenges of being a woman farmer in Southern Oregon.