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Pathetic Bulletin Board Moron of the decade, goat milking and the nobility of self-sufficiency

Tom Winnifrith
Friday 19 July 2013

I see that on the ADVFN Bulletin Board one poster has spotted that I was planning to milk a goat and comments “I hope that a member of the paparazzi catches him engaged in this degrading act.” I really do not know where to start.

Firstly, I doubt the paparazzi has any interest in me at all. Secondly I ensured that the whole thing was captured on film anyway – I will load it up later - and thirdly why is it in any way degrading?

At one level, you should try everything once except incest and folk dancing. Heck, how narrow minded is this creature that he would not wish to seek out a challenge? But more importantly as we do our jobs in the Great Western cities, shuffling paper around to no great end, I sit back and contemplate the life of Stavros and Stavroula, the seventy year old parents of my partner’s brother in law.

They receive a tiny pension from the Greek state. They have raised two sons one of whom has a degree but both of whom now have jobs in Athens. The parents still farm a few hectares of land here in a gorgeous part of southern Greece as they always have done. The goats provide milk six months of the year, most of which is turned into cheese which is a source of protein all year round, as are the eggs from the chickens. The vegetable patch provides goodies all year round. From their cash crop (olives) and the tiny pension they make enough to pay for sugar, coffee, flour etc.

They are dependent on no-one, almost entirely self-financed they live a solid and healthy lifestyle largely free from the intrusions of the state.  At 70, Stavros works his vegetables every day. Water comes from a well but at this time of year it can run short forcing hard calls. Thus, this week, the beans – having yielded most of what they will do, were culled so providing bonus food for the goats.

Stavroula gets up at 6.45 to trek down the hill carrying a sack of food on her back and with buckets with more food in each hand to  feed the goats and then to milk them.  45 minutes later she returns with an empty sack and buckets but with a bucket full of fresh milk which, at once, starts the process of becoming cheese.

The family owns three ewes and once a year they take them to someone else in the village who has invested in maintaining a ram so that they can be serviced. Ram meat tastes bad so there is a community effort here. One farmer owns a ram which is utilised by the other farmers who give him some beans, milk, whatever. A community at work but individual freedom in one.

Occasionally the sons come down from Athens for onerous tasks – like the olive harvest at Christmas. But generally it is two 70 year olds living as free people, reliant on no-one as part of a community of other self-interested but mutually dependent folks.

I grew up in a family that tried self-sufficiency. We had poultry not goats but grew all the fruit and vegetables we needed.

Maybe Stavros and Stavroula would seek another life if they could. I doubt it.  Maybe it is a bit patronising to laud the nobility of their lifestyle, in a way that a character from Anna Karenina might. It is a hard life and I am not sure I could hack it.

But is to milk a goat degrading? Who do I admire more: Stavroula or some pathetic man spending his days posting anonymous abuse on a Bulletin Board? There is just no contest.

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About Tom Winnifrith
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Tom Winnifrith is the editor of TomWinnifrith.com. When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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