Death is a natural part of life, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it when it happens. Last week was a difficult one for Ingo and the farm. The oldest dog, Kira, slipped and fell under the wheel of the car as Ingo was returning home on Sunday afternoon. She died instantly, and Ingo was heartbroken. I heard about it when I got back Monday, and was glad I’d taken the time to throw sticks for her a few times the day before she died. She was old, and Ellen and I are glad she died painlessly, quickly, and without suffering.

That wasn’t the end of the farm’s unlucky week. Two days later, the donkey died mysteriously – the neighbours told Ingo it might be a snake bite, but we saw no evidence of that. We just went down the hill in the morning to do chores, and the donkey was lying there, dead. I wonder if it was a heart attack, but she was a young donkey, and we have no way of knowing what killed her. Ellen could have dissected her, but we decided just to say a few words and bury her. You’d think two deaths in a week would be enough, but of course bad luck comes in threes.

Last Saturday, as I was taking Ingo and Genny’s daughter for a walk, we noticed that Anise, the final goat due to have kids, had two little feet sticking out of her back end. We rushed, as fast as I could convince a two-year-old to hurry, to tell the others so they could also watch the goat give birth. The other three does had had four buck kids between them, and Ingo had threatened that if this one came out with a penis, he would push it back in there himself. Luckily for Anise, Ingo had returned to the house when she gave birth to the farm’s fifth male baby of the week, a handsome brown boy we named Jackson. After giving Anise a few minutes to rest, we helped her and the baby up the steep driveway to the makeshift nursery.

I would like to take a moment to tell you about this nursery. Originally designed as a greenhouse, we built the structure with our own hands. We cut the trees in the clearing, hauled the logs down the hill, dug holes for them, cemented them in, cut and split bamboo to support the roof, put the plastic onto the roof, attached chicken wire to the posts to make walls, and then reinforced it with stronger wire mesh to ensure the goats couldn’t get out. It’s warm and dry, and can house the baby chicks on one side and the mother goats with newborn babies on the other. The babies stay up their with their mothers until they’re walking strongly and nursing regularly on their own, and then we put them back down with the other goats in the regular goat pen.

Over the course of a few days, Jackson figured out how to nurse, and his mother caught on to the idea that this was her baby and she should care for it. On Tuesday, Jackson and Anise rejoined the herd. On Wednesday morning, sometime before breakfast, Anise caught her head in the fence and died.

The dog’s death was upsetting, a sad end for a loyal member of the family. When the donkey died, we were puzzled and sad. The goat’s death, though, seemed to infuriate Ingo. How dare three animals die in one week? The most urgent matter, after burying the goat, was deciding what to do with Jackson, her four-day-old kid. Ingo didn’t want to sell him, because nobody buys newborn kids at the auction here. Ellen, Genny and I were willing to slaughter the baby goat for meat, but Ingo was sick of death and didn’t want another one on his hands. The other milking mothers weren’t producing enough milk to feed Jackson, so Ingo brought milk powder and a baby bottle home from town and Jackson became a house goat.


After a week of so much death, Jackson is bringing life back into the household. The little goat, the colour of dark-roasted coffee, cheerfully skips along behind us as we do our chores. He joins the dogs on their jaunts around the farm, bounces through the fields and along the paths to check out the pigs, and nibbles our fingers and clothes as we sit at the dinner table. Climb into a hammock and Jackson will clambour in, too, and snuggle into your lap as you sip a cup of coffee after lunch. The little boy is constantly underfoot in the kitchen, where he makes a comfortable home under the oven. Whenever I’m baking a batch of bread, I have to block off the goat’s access to the oven, or the little terror will emerge five minutes later, panting and stinking of singed hair. I think to myself, as I do every day, that it’s a good thing he’s cute.


This farm is full of life, really. The young chicks, who could fit in the palm of the two-year-old’s hand a few weeks ago, look almost like full-grown chickens now. They come running, flapping awkwardly, whenever I walk toward the greenhouse, watching me like a hundred miniature velociraptors, evaluating whether I’m carrying food. Whenever I stand at the edge of the cliff, I see the calf and foal playing in the field below, the other four goat kids prancing and gallavanting along the cliff’s base, and the horses, cow, and sheep grazing contentedly in the grass. Birds soar overhead, chirping loudly. Some of them are vultures – Jacob, the neighbour’s dog, has dug up the goat’s body again, and the birds are looking for a meal. As long as there is life, there is death, but the vultures remind me that the opposite is also true. For the fourth time this week, I take a shovel and re-bury the goat. The vultures perch in a palm tree overhead and watch me cover the goat’s corpse with sand, then roof tiles, then more sand. Finally, I am satisfied that the goat can rest in peace, and the vultures seem to agree. They take wing and fly majestically away.