|Our Christmas was in the sign of goat.
Our excitement from Christmas parade did not last long. Right after, Lisa went down with a cold,
and a few days later she began taking antibiotics for sinus infection. It was bronchitis, the same
time a year earlier. Thanks to the antibiotics, Lisa missed our family outing to get a Christmas
tree at the start of December; we did not wish to drag her up the mountains with sinus infection.
Because of her illness, I had also canceled my original plan to invite a few friends and bake a
new set of ethnic decorative cookies. The only thing I managed was buying new tree decorations
— goats. They seemed to me awfully cute and rather humorous. When I bragged with my newly
hung goat decorations on my Christmas tree to my international girlfriends, I was told from Finland
that a buck was a typical Christmas tree and decorating the tree with them was nothing strange.
And indeed it is so — in norse understanding a goat belongs to Christmas the same way
tree or presents do.
Their history reaches perhaps to bucks named Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr, who pulled Thor's chariot.
Thor was known to often butcher his loyal servants, sharing his meal with other Nordic heroes
— knowing that Tanngrisnir a Tanngnjóstr would rise from the dead in the morning as if nothing
happened. A buck thus became a rebirth symbol, much relevant around winter solstice.
Christian church, naturally, regarded the immortal buck as devil, and for some time the Christmas
goat had been more of a corrupted wrong-doer pestering people for presents. Until there was another
kind of rebirth, where he began bringing the presents instead, or perhaps pull sleighs with
Christmas elves and treats for kids. And so, a proper Nordic tree must not lack a straw decoration
in the shape of a goat, sporting a red ribbon. Swedish town Gävle holds the record of the largest
straw goat, which in 1966 reached height of 42 feet. So, what began with us as a Chistmas joke,
turned out to be a normal occurrence with only a bit more northbound folks.
|Finnish Christmas card.
This year Lisa got to get back to school on the last week before the holiday break, including
concerts of the school choir, but only because this year the break was shifted by one week.
Usually, the kids get a week off before Christmas, then a week between Christmas and New Year.
It used to seem odd to us, but over the years we got used to it, and even later appreciated having
more choices of cheaper and less in-demand accommodations for our road trips or visits to the
mountains, with fewer crowds, traffic jams and service mark-ups. Which meant it went all wrong this
year — even the second, somewhat less festive weekend started with New Year's Eve, demolishing
any ideas of serious traveling. Still we reserved a room at Woodfords Inn for three nights around
New Year's Eve — we found the party at Kirkwood nice and merciful; dye-in-the-wool skiers
got to bed early and don't tend to hang out late at night, bothering neighbors with their petards
and hysterical cheering.
|Pacific Ocean from Wilder Ranch.
We had to get Tom a new set of skis and boots, and wanted to check out both on snow, before we
commit them to longer stay. And thus we set out, on a Saturday just before Chistmas, to a half
day of skiing. There wasn't much snow, but for me it was my first sporting day after my surgery,
Lisa was recovering from her illness, and Tom needed to learn how to control his now much longer
skis. Therefore, Tom rumbled through the first half of the day, and Lisa through the other half.
I was wimpering indiscriminately, but I found it nice that I was able to move a bit again.at.
Our Christmas even proceeded at ease, we have our set ways. Besides goats on the tree thee were some
goats among the presents. Even Tom got his goat socks, Lisa got her goat earrings — and I got
a book on making goat cheese. I got stuck on the simplest thing — when I find myself with
leftover milk, I curdle it with lemon juice from our back yard lemons, making paneer.
Now perhaps I shall try something more adventurous.
Then Lisa, having gathered her presents, went to bed, and on Monday woke up with a fever.
And since she complained about back ache, Sid took her to ER to check whether she had urinary
infections. She did not, so we guessed it a virus trouble, hoping that a few more days in bed
would fix it. We were quite wrong, the virus turned out to be very persistent, and it did not only
take Lisa out for the duration of both weeks of the holiday break, but eventually got us all.
|Wilder Ranch — one of the few small trips we managed to put together between sick times.
But I am getting ahead of myself — on Boxing Day my greatest Christmas present had arrived
— Craig brought me Neddie. Ned appeared content with his fate — decidedly stayed away
from Craig's trailer to avoid being loaded back — and welcomed his old neighbors, Icelandic
ponies. Instead of a mountain pasture with frozen water, he visibly enjoys our warmer climate and
lazy times with regular supply of hay. This time I did not ask any gear of Craig — I ride
on Ned only with a halter (without a bit) and hold for him an old light saddle, which is quite
enough for our barely hour-long excursions. We simply have our proven routines.
In the end it also works out in a combination with my goaties. I stop to see Ned in the morning,
let him out on grass, and quickly clean up his shelter and paddock, so he can get his breakfast
in a clean place. Ned sometimes returns on his own back from pasture to get his hay. Then I set out
to milk my goaties. Licky, I mostly only check, she had practically dried up. Apparently she weaned
off her babies and after pushing kids away there's no more milk. Twilight maintains her six hundred
milliliters, which covers Sid's and my breakfast and coffee. Both goats still react sharply to
changes in weather — whenever it rains of gets cold, their production drops off sharply
— perhaps they use their energy mostly for getting warm.
I was a bit worried, how they'd take winter in their new stable. In the old, they had a horse box
at their disposal, however decrepit and leaky. Their new stable is mostly a wire cage with a roof
and one wooden wall, which is great for the summer, as it vents well. I was not too sure about
winter, but then I studied that goats generate internal heat (rumen is a relatively powerful
microbiological lab), and they equip themselves with a cashmere layer. They even manage to bristle
their coats so that they look like fur-balls, and their "sweater" is between one and two
inches thick. Cashmere is a very warm wool, but its disadvantage is that is must not get wet or
exposed to strong wind. Eventually I wrapped goat pen with canvas, and added a piece of plywood to
one wall to make a wind-sheltering corner. Now my goaties are possibly drier than in the large
horse box, which was drafty and where I kept (in vain) nailing one plastic bag to the roof after
|A proper horse can wear pink.
On my way back home from the goats I can stop at Ned's place again, where he's had his breakfast
and would be in mood for suggestions of activity. And I can also do proper shopping in feed stores.
Besides food for all the beasts, I decided to get Ned some fashion — he came with an old
worn out halter, and so I said to myself, he deserves a new one. Tractor Supply in Gilroy offered
multiple shades and colors, but when I could not find a dark green that I like the best, I figured,
he would look well in wine red one, and bought it. But when I unpacked it at the stables,
I discovered that in daylight it really was pink-violet. So now I have an old work-horse with
pink halter. For riding, Santa brought me a side-pull, leather halter with rings to clip reins on,
and at least when riding we don't look like fools.
|Instead of sick Lisa, Tom rode on her pony Ljufur..
Ned flowed back into our old system and it seems he likes it with me. We went on a few trips around
the stables, and even the bad part of the road that goes through a gully filled with reflected
rumble of a freeway otherwise hidden behind a wall and trees, Ned mastered without fear.
He was not enthused (noise takes away one of the horse's sense — hearing — and he's
therefore much more nervous), but my quieting him made him overcome it and we passed through.
As we ride unaccompanied, riding here is harder for Ned than working in the mountains. Horses are
pack animals, used to protecting and keeping each other aware — a lone horse must trust his
rider to know what she's doing, and to not bring him into a dangerous situation. It would seem that
years of defending Ned from vicious enemies of the flying lunch bag type, had paid off and my horse
is willing to risk his life even in a scary gully.
Meanwhile, on home front, Sid had succumbed to Lisa's illness. So I thought that on New Year's Eve,
only Tom and I would go to Kirkwood. Horns were supposed to be there, and we thought that it could
be fun. Alas, on Thursday evening Tom began complaining about sore throat, and on Friday morning
woke up with a fever. I canceled our Saturday Woodfords reservation, emailed Horns that none of us
would make ti, and canceled milking helpers. I made a good choice, for I started feeling ill on
New Year's Eve, although I went down with it only two days later. I must say that we haven't had
such rotten Christmas break for a long time. This way, we just kept plopping around at home, more
or less (but rather more) unable to take care even of ourselves. In one moment, even the milking
helper had to step in, when I recognized that it was not in my power to drive up to the mountains
and stumble between the stable and the milking stand. Let us hope that the year 2018 would be a bit
more pleasant — we can't do much more that wish ourselves good health.