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Essay: Heidi's Goats Love The Farm As Much As She Does


Heidi Friedrichs reads her essay, Heidi's Goats Love the Farm As Much As She Does.

A city can be a magical place, even to a somewhat cynical grown-up like me.

Living and working in Milwaukee for what seems like eons, I have discovered lots of secret, wonderful places that are hard to describe with words and are better seen for oneself.

For instance, did you know that downtown there is a parking garage with a meter that spits out shiny gold dollars at the touch of a button? Have you ever looked up at the tall glass office buildings and noticed men dangling from long threads like so many spiders? They're even more amazing when they're right outside your office window! Unless your timing is spot on, I bet you haven't seen the starlings that form "clouds" over the Milwaukee River in perfect synchronization, or the Jesus-mobile which crawls around downtown city streets blaring messages of salvation for all to hear.

These are only some of the many fascinating things I have seen on my daily jaunts into the city. But this city girl also knows that from time to time, it's good to get out of Dodge before sheer craziness sets in. And so one weekend this past summer, I found myself inexplicably drawn to the rolling grassy-green hills of Green County, and a small farm overlooking New Glarus, about a half-hour southwest of Madison.

It was here that I discovered goats have rectangular pupils (it's true!) and roosters crow in the afternoon. There is a sun that continues shining well past 7 o'clock in the evening, and pigs who like to hide in the woods when strangers approach them (I never knew!).

This is just some of what I discovered while staying at Lucky Dog Farm in New Glarus. The town is home of the Heidi Folk Festival, New Glarus Brewery and the Sugar River Bike Trail. I plucked the bed and breakfast farm out of a Google search online, and got lucky. This one-time 205-acre dairy farm is now a fraction of its original size, but it is a practical farm that is home to numerous Berkshire pigs, goats, chickens, cats, and two very lucky dogs.

What possessed me to drop everything one weekend and head west to this area, to stay on a farm with strangers: the two women who owned it and two other couples? Could it be...hmmm...too much traffic noise, exhaust, people, and way too much work driving me away? That was part of it; I confess I have a thing for farms, which must be in my genes because no one in my family has farmed for generations.

But sit me down and feed me roasted root hash, eggs over easy, soft goat's cheese and warm homemade bread with real butter and my heart slows down to a crawl and my snarled world unravels like a ball of yarn tossed across the floor. Throw grandma's block quilt on my bed, fill the claw-foot bathtub with hot soapy water, and wait for a heavy thunderstorm to whip up over the hills and I'm a born-again country girl. Let me walk alone on a mowed path through whispering oaks and pines and all is right with the world again.

While playing in the country, my claustrophobic cubicle becomes a distant memory, my routine ride on the bus is replaced by swift bicycle jaunts through acres of cornfields and meadows, and blaring horns and sirens are replaced by - nothingness.

Unplugging from my life in the city is one of the sanest things I've ever done for myself; if I didn't venture out of my comfort zone once in a while I know I'd lose myself in the worst way ever - by becoming numb to my life.

But as always, reality sets in sooner or later. When the weekend ends and Monday rolls around, I am powerless to stop the merry-go-round and find myself back in the shout and stomp and thrill of the city.

Milwaukee, you've really got a hold on me.

Lake Effect essayist Heidi Friedrichs lives and writes on Milwaukee's west side. She holds a degree in Journalism from UW-Milwaukee has been published in numerous newspapers, magazines and websites in Florida and Wisconsin.