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A Blessing in Exchange for a Christmas Tree

Once Christmas turns to New Year’s Eve, it’s time to remove all of the ornaments, unwind the lights and take the tree down. When we lived in Hamilton, we used to drive our tree to a nearby Ipswich farm and feed it to the goats. Surely, here in the Valley, surrounded by farms, we could find a willing taker for our tree.

And, like a Christmas miracle, a story in the local paper gave us our answer: “Christmas Trees Sought for Goats in Amherst” was the headline.

Rich messaged the owner, Michelle Chandler.

R: I’d love to bring my Christmas tree by this weekend for your goats.

M: Did you just need my blessing or do you need directions or anything?

R: Nope, just your blessing.

M: Lol! Then you’ve got it.

This was the entrée to our visit with Michelle and her arc of animals. We went for the goats but also got to meet rabbits, two cats and chickens as well.

Our goal was a little afternoon entertainment dropping our tree off for the goats to chew on. Hoping maybe to pet a couple of goats for few minutes and be on our way, instead, we ended up having a really great visit at what is actually an unconventional farm.

We pulled up on the side of the busy road and waited for another tree donor to back out of her drive. As we pulled in, Michelle waved us up and went in to get her mask. We introduced ourselves, explaining that Rich was the guy she gave her blessing to the day before.

As she laughed, Rich gave her an ultimatum: She could have our tree if we could see the goats. Taking his playful demand in stride, she led us around the house, past a row of fat rabbits in many hutches. They were pretty beguiling but we were there for the goats, so we continued on to the barn. And, wow, we got what we came for!

Michelle has a whole herd of goats: mommas, kids, and billys in all colors and patterns. She actually breeds them for variety, there’s even a polka-dotted one named Chamomile.

Flapping and clucking around the goats are many chickens that add a sprinkling of good fun to the whole experience, twenty or more of them. While Michelle was introducing us to each of the goats, Rich turned over a half-eaten tree sitting on the floor of the barn in order to expose more needles. And the goats went at it, they really love their pine needles.

As they munched and the hens clucked, we learned the flower- and alcohol-themed names of the herd, I remember Kahlua, Rosie, Chamomile and Magnolia, there was one her son named that sounded like the title of an American Lit thesis paper and another named for Big Foot. She also told us where some of the young ones were headed in eight weeks, which goat was related to which, and all kinds of interesting facts about their breeding and care.

Our daughter-in-law, Anna, who is a trained doula and birth counselor, was asking some serious questions about goat birthing procedures. All of which Michelle answered without hesitation. She told us she considers her farm a teaching farm, it’s a responsibility she handles with generosity and humor.

Anna was offered to hold one of the kids. I was immediately jealous, of course! I had to hold one, too, and luckily there were babes enough to go around. They are sooo cute! We were in heaven.

We got out of there with all our buttons and shoestrings still intact. (Goats are nefarious nibblers!) We were indeed blessed. Thanks for a wonderful time, Michelle!

And as we drove away, past really pretty views of the sunset over fields and farms, I started reprioritizing our home improvement projects -- moving the goat fence and shed up the list, putting them ahead of everything but solar panels. Surely goats come before remodeling the bathroom or a patio redo!

To see the goats in action, check out the video below:

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