An Agricultural Adventure

April 6, 2009 - 1,073 views

Clyde Willard owned the only grocery store in Alfred Station. Memory fails me on how he and I developed an interest in raising goats. He did own fenced pasture land and an unused poultry house a short distance from our parsonage. Our conversations about goats soon led us into a partnership agreement in which we would purchase goats to be kept on his land and be cared for by me. We would split the cost of feed and share in any profits. Each of us would have milk as the goats produced it.

From a newspaper ad we purchased a doe goat with horns and a bad disposition. She was blind in one eye but she did give milk. I had never milked a cow so it was interesting to learn to milk this goat. Clyde took a pint of milk a day and soon came to me with an amazing disclosure. He had been troubled for years with a serious skin condition on his legs for which he could get no help from doctors. Since drinking goat’s milk, the condition was cured. A man in Alfred with stomach ulcers was a regular customer for our goat milk.

Over a period of time we added several does to our herd and with the acquisition of a registered Toggenburg buck started having kids. Madeline often had the chore of feeding the kids with a bottle several times a day. We sold male kids at premium prices at Easter time.

At one time we had fifteen goats and were having quite some success with them. Mrs. Carl Sandburg, the poet’s wife, raised blue ribbon Toggenburgs and we began negotiating with her to purchase a young registered doe. We didn’t complete the transaction because our family moved to Maine in 1943. Clyde and I sold our goats to Mr. Milo Palmer who was successful with them.

Raising goats was really a rewarding experience. They are clean, beautiful animals that are not difficult to care for providing you have a good fence. The kids are fun to watch in their playfulness. We were entertained when two or three kids would jump from the ground onto the hood and then on to the top our car parked in the driveway. We trucked several goats to Dad’s farm on Bug Ridge in West Virginia. Dad had great enjoyment in raising them.

Another farm experience I enjoyed in Alfred Station was helping in Robert Ormsby’s sugar bush during the maple syrup season. We waded through snow from tree to tree emptying the buckets of sap and putting them in the tank on the sled to be hauled to the shed where the sap was boiled into syrup. Tasting the fresh, warm maple syrup was delightful and having “sugar on the snow” was a special treat.

Since many of the church congregation were farmers, Madeline and I decided to accept an invitation to join the Grange. We have never belonged to any other fraternal organization and membership gave us the opportunity to fellowship with community and rural people in the area who did not relate to our church congregation. Perhaps the rituals practiced in the Grange did not have as much meaning for us as they were designed to have.

We raised wonderful vegetables in the small garden between the parsonage and the church. The soil was very rocky but also rich and productive.