Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Goat Theology


      Have you ever wondered why goats get such a bad rap in the Bible? I guess I didn't really either until I owned them. We have a herd of Nubian goats on the farm. My friend, Christy, owns Providence Farm, an amazing family farm that produces goat milk, cheese, goat milk soap, artisan breads and more. Christy is from Alaska and is one of the most fascinating people I know. Her goats are fat and beautiful and healthy. Of course I would seek her help when we decided that we wanted a healthier milk alternative. Goat milk has a smaller protein which is better metabolized by humans than cow’s milk. I was interested in trying something that had no hormones and that would be fun to produce. Marie and Susanna were game and Christy helped us get started.

     Goat milk is very creamy; it is naturally homogenized. If you want cream you have to have a special cream separator. I defy anyone to sense a “goaty” (caproic acid) smell in the milk, as long as the goats are healthy and NOT kept with a buck. Does (females) have an almost lovely lanolin smell. Bucks--well--not nice. We do own bucks and they are usually kept separate from the does. When we went to Christy’s to pick up our first goats I fell in love with a different kid, “Starbuck.” His name had nothing to do with the company or coffee. His mother was “Star” and he was a “buck,” and that’s how he earned his name. Fluffy and café-au-lait colored, small and snuggly and sweet, I did think of a warm, creamy cup of coffee. I was taken. He’s big and stinky now, but still sweet and quite a character. We had him pastured with the horses for a while. He was very affectionate with Snowball the pony. Snowball was barely tolerant.

     Thanks to Starbuck, we’ve had kids born on the farm now, too, and they are really adorable. They are such affectionate animals, really more like dogs. They call to Marie as soon as they hear her coming out to feed. Susanna soon lost interest in the work (it can be demanding when they‘re in milk), though still thinks they’re "cute." Marie is the goat farmer. Really, she gets the credit for any aspect of The Abbey Farm being called an actual farm. She feeds all the animals and manages their care…horses, goats, dogs, cats, chickens, assorted strays and injured wild. As to the latter, she has successfully rescued birds, turtles, bunnies and even a fawn.

     So back to my original question: Sheep vs. Goats. Lambs, I know, relate to Jesus in the Bible. He was the Pascal Lamb. He was innocent and loved by His Father who sacrificed Him for our salvation. In the Old Testament God promised Abraham, who for so long was childless, that he would have descendants that would "number the stars." Yet God asked Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. Of course God stopped him. The typology to Christ is all throughout the Old Testament. The Jews sacrificed lambs on Passover and at other times. They were instructed to pick the finest lamb of the herd and then have it live in their house for two weeks. Can you imagine how attached the children and even adults would become to this soft, adorable creature? The sacrifice, when made, was not easy. Christ’s sacrifice was not easy.

     Lambs are as cute as goat kids, but grown sheep to me are kind of flighty and hard to get close to. The goats are perhaps not as cloud-like or stuffed-animal-like, but just have more personality and affection. So why are they “separated from the sheep” like “chaff from wheat” in the Bible?

     I asked Christy. I figured she’d be a little indignant, too. She surprised me. “It makes so much sense, Suzy.” She wasn’t offended. Here’s the Theology lesson she taught me: “Sheep stay out of trouble by staying with the herd. They’re much harder to single out by predators. They listen to their master.” Hmmm, I had to think about that. “Goats, while more inquisitive--and maybe because of it--get themselves in trouble and sometimes don’t want to be together. Separated, they’re an easier target.”

     Made total sense to me.  I thought of the allusion to human behavior. Intelligence and inquisitiveness and passion are strengths. It is the desire to put one’s pride above caution and self above others that can lead to problems. There’s fuel for a year long course in Theology about this one. God made us capable and intelligent and quite amazing. We can change our world for the good or for the bad. The important thing, it seems to me, is foresight, caution, caring for the world we have, love of every person, and the consideration of God’s intention and design.

     All that from goats! I never thought I’d own them, but they’re pretty special here on the Abbey Farm. Good for milk and fun and affection and lessons in life and love.

God bless you!

The Abbey Farm

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