Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Four Legged Parenting

It's been awhile since I posted here. Most of my writing has gone to blog entries on Farm2Yarn, or the Siyeh Glass website or Facebook page, or the Farm2Yarn website Facebook page or Etsy store, or the Finley Point soap Facebook page. I haven't had much Life leftover to post anywhere else. but now there's something that has to go here. Something that deserves more than a one-off on Facebook and is more private than an ultimately commercial chatty posting on Farm2Yarn. I am in love.

I was not expecting to fall in love again this year. Gallifrey in April was a special gift, the like of which I have not had for years—probably since Jessie was born (though obviously not to that level). And I never _ever_ saw a yak entering into my life. I’m not really a livestock person, you see. But fate brought Princess Buttercup my way, (she started out "Inconceivable!" and is now "As you wish.") and I am overwhelmed by how I feel about her. I am sitting writing this out in the backyard while she is curled up at my feet. She called me out earlier (and there is nothing funnier than a baby yak’s call: It sounds like a duck call that you would buy in a sporting goods store) not because she was hungry (she just played with the bottle), but because she wanted company and scritches. So I obliged and loved on her, and scritched her, and thought how I would like to clicker train her--and I know she is smart enough!

Today I spent the morning visiting a ranch in Kalispell as a possible forever home for her, and honest to God it felt like touring my child’s first school and interviewing the teachers! I looked at the  other “kids” there, and I listened to the rancher manager’s philosophy of breeding and developing their lines, and all I could think was, “They’re not going to appreciate her for the special being she is.” They value size, and she will always be small. When I talked to them about the way they price their calves, they said that if she had been theirs, they would sell her for the very bottom of their range no matter how good her coloring, fiber and conformation atet because she was bottle-fed so she will be smaller and is really just good for a pet. But she is so much more!!!

I looked at their animals—and I was able to look really closely as they are so amazingly gentle because that’s another thing this place breeds for—and their coats seemed of lesser quality than I had seen at the ranch where I got Buttercup. Maybe that’s something you sacrifice when you breed for a large (meat) animal, though they claim to breed for fiber too. I’m also not sure why they are breeding for larger size as that seems to go against the true domestic yak phenotype. The males aren’t supposed to be 1700 lbs, and the females aren’t supposed to be 800 lbs so why is that what they are going for? I can see why they wouldn’t want to add Buttercup to their herd and their breeding program because to breed her to one of their bulls would result in a calf that would be too big for her to carry and deliver. Their calves are usually 35-40 lbs when they are born. She was 34 lbs when she was a week old. She’s a month now and their two-week-old calves are her size.

And yet, the people who run the ranch are kind and generous and would love and cuddle her as we do, and I know they would seamlessly take over the bottle-feeding when we have to go back to Atlanta (she won’t be ready to wean for a month after after we’re gone). I have more confidence in them to care for her well than the other ranch option I have here—through she would fit in better there long-term as the rest of that herd is her size and I think she would be valued there.

It breaks my heart that I know I’m going to have to leave her—Atlanta is no place for a yak—and at the same time I know absolutely that I cannot keep her. This is a time out of time. This summer is not real life, and there is no way to integrate Buttercup into our real life even if Dave were willing to do so (which he is most decidedly not). Even I know that what I am doing with her now is not something I can sustain. I have homeschooling and a glass businesses as well as a life which is somehow just busier in Atlanta than it is here. She would be lonely and neglected with us—she needs her own herd that she’s with all day and night. Long-term I can't meet her needs. So I'm still looking for her forever herd. They don't have to be yak, they just need to live outdoors and be of comparable size and inquisitive, mischievous, energetic temperament.

"YFY seeks herd. Loves dogs, kids, wading pools, running full-out around the yard, playing in the sprinkler, dancing, and scritches. Not a big eater, quiet, social, very clean, and most beautiful eyes you've ever seen. Seeking high-altitude, cool dry weather, 24/7 companions to nestle in with at night and romp around with during the day that can stand up to being butted with horns."