EPISODE 1: Baku or Bust began on Wednesday November 9th and Trump’s surprise. We got up at 4am to watch the fall of the Blue Wall and then headed to the airport three hours later. Having voted with our feet in 2008, having double dipped on Bernie’s campaign, the result tickled my anarchist heart. Jane Marie, the humanist, thought differently until Azal Airlines charged us $30/bag to check-in when online it was free.
I have always had Baku – Tim Buk Tu – Kathmandu on my to du list forever, kinda-like this Texas Poet joke:
The finals of the National Poetry Contest last year came down to two finalists. One was a San Francisco State University graduate from an upper-crust family; well-bred, well-connected and all that goes with it. The other finalist was a redneck from Texas A & M. Go figure.
The rules of the contest required each finalist to compose a four-line poem in one minute or less, and the poem had to contain the word “Timbuktu.”
The San Francisco State graduate went first. About thirty seconds after the clock started he jumped up and recited the following poem:
“’Slowly across the desert sand
Trekked the dusty caravan.
Men on camels, two by two
Destination — Timbuktu.”
The audience went wild! How, they wondered if the redneck could top that?! The clock started again and the redneck sat in silent thought. Finally, in the last few seconds, he jumped and recited:
“Tim and me, a-huntin’ went.
Met three whores in a pop-up tent.
They was three, we was two,
So I bucked one and Timbuktu”
On the way in from the Baku airport – Jane Marie’s bestest airport – the taxi driver pointed out the Trump Palace hotel. Ivanka got $2.5 million for selling the builder on the value of the Trump name. The sliced Trump pickle is directly across from the Heydar Aliyev Center one of ten world finalists of 2016 architectural awards.
“Cathy Lee, don’t tell the police’ that tegory works at Da Hua and don’t mention Mr. Liu.”
That’s was Tony Diao’s advice, after Cathy Lee and I returned from our visit to the Henan Immigration Police. All I wanted to do was have her help me, to see if it was possible to renew my tourist visa here in Zhengzhou, rather than spend ¥2,000/$325 for a plane ticket to Hong Kong.
I thought my renewal date was January 8th but it was December 8th and today was December 20th making me 12 days late – oh my, what should we do? I knew that it was a ¥500 yuan per day fine – but the maximum even if I was five years and 12 days late would be ¥5,000/$900 – but in either case I didn’t have the money.
Cathy Lee, quickly negotiated them down to ¥1,500 but said the unsayable, the unmagic words:
– “tegory works for Da Hua.”
The pregnant lady sent us to the second floor, ‘alien office’ or the office of the alien – where Fred, a not too distant graduate of Zhengzhou Foreign Language School, when Ms Ma was his geography teacher, said we needed to get the form filled out by Da Hua. As we were leaving the alien office or the office of the alien, the short fat man boss asked me who I worked for at Da Hua.
“Mr. Liu,” I blurted out.
Tony called moments later to say, he just got a call from Mr. Liu, who had just received a call from the short fat man boss, in the ‘alien office’ or the office of the alien. “Whatever you do, don’t say tegory works for Da Hua or mention Mr.Liu’s name, ever again.”
That was Monday, and Sally Zhao went with me the next day to talk with Fred who said we had to pay ¥400 yuan to have the ‘form’ translated by a certified translator, plus the ¥1,500 yuan fine – after Fred hung up phone on Cathy Lee’s ethics lecture on the inequity of paying ¥400 yuan to have someone translate – Fred said he would let me know when to come back with the money.
Friday, I was having lunch at Nongda with my former student when Fred said come on over and bring ¥1,900 yuan. 20 red ink fingerprints later, Fred said, “It’s all over just give the paper work to the pregnant lady downstairs.” But, oh no it wasn’t over, it was just beginning.
Moments later, in the taxi ride home. Tony called to say that we had paid ¥400 yuan to officially translate that I worked at Da Hua for Mr Liu.
Monday, Tony joined me at the immigration police office to straighten this whole mess out. Tony and Fred agreed to tear up the ¥400 yuan translation. And substitute a short term 10-day visa that would let me travel to Hong Kong to renew my visa for a small additional charge of ¥952/$150, after I had purchased roundtrip air tickets for ¥1,600/$260.
But oh no, that was the good news. Not moments after Fred reassured us that it was all over, all we had to do was take the paper-work to the pregnant lady downstairs. She said no. The laowai needs to register with the local police station and have the ‘form’ back here before noon. So we can process his visa before the New Year holiday.
Do you know how many local police stations there are in Zhengzhou? Do you know where the Wei Lai station is? Not even the police know where the Wei Lai station is. Tony, Sally and I know now, but we didn’t get the ‘form’ filled out by noon.
After lunch, at 3:00, when the Immigration Police office re-opened, Tony and I got to meet ‘The Man’ the chief of police for immigration of all of Henan Province.
“Get out Tony, I’ll talk to the ‘laowai’ alone.”
“Mr. Gregory, you would be punished in the United States If you broke the law, right?”
“You got these two police ladies in trouble.”
“Because you didn’t register with the Wei Lai police, therefore they didn’t know where you were living.”
“Do you think you could write a letter of apology?”
“Oh. Yes, sir.”
“Pardon me sir how’s come you speak better English than my Toastmasters friends?”
“I worked for the United Nations in New York City.”
Friday afternoon I came back solo and picked up my passport flew to Shenzhen the next day, got off the bus in Times Square HK ordered a triple Americano at Xing Be Ke (Starbucks), went to the 9th floor Page One laowai bookstore bought at last two subversive Chinese political books – books you can’t buy in China – and a Monopoly board game.
Proceeded directly, did not pass go and got back on the bus to the Shenzhen border. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region agent stamped my passport that I had spent 4.5 hours outside of the country. 500 meters later, the Chinese Passport Control officer stamped it again, guaranteeing me 90 more days of employment at Mr. Liu’s Da Hua.
What is the moral to my story of spending almost a thousand dollars for a cup of coffee at Starbucks in Hong Kong?
There are three, well really only one, which is a variation of the line, “that every man who is his own lawyer, has a fool for a client.” After the, “I work for Mr. Liu,” caper I paid the Hong Kong/ Shenzhen agent, Nance Li, ¥8,000 each year, for the next four renewals.
Jane Marie likes to travel with a 55-gallon bucket list on her back. She set off at the end of March along with her accompanied senior to experience Sicily, Malta, Santorini, and Lake Van in eastern Turkey. Jane Marie spent hours and days researching planes, trains, automobiles and of course hotels. She collated and sifted all this info with her frugal-traveler JD Law brain. As her trailing spouse shuffling 50 meters behind I followed the trail of bucket leaks known among family and friends as Jane’s Travel Travails.”
Sicily: “How long do you want to stay in Sicily the largest island in the Mediterranean?” A couple of days should be enough, we can rent a car, like we did in Rodos, and see all we want to see. Our first day was spent in the Marriott Courtyard at the Istanbul airport because we were 15 minutes late for checking in two hours ahead of an international flight. Half of the second day was spent driving from the Catania airport to the Villa de Bosco Hotel. Blame it on traffic where a Smart car equates to a small limo in downtown Catania.
Malta: Following our two hour (international flight) + two more hours waiting to board the 15-minute inaugural service of Volotea airlines to Malta, things started looking good for the shuffler. We shared my kind of home away from home – a full service two-bedroom apartment with a harbor view and a TEX-MEX restaurant down below. There is tranquility in group travel with Jane Marie, the shared experience with others, allows me more sedentary quality time. Malta has many beautiful and historic towns to see, so while Jane Marie, Tamara James and Lawrence climbed every hill and stair; visited every venue and tourist attraction I enjoyed four days of bacon, pulled pork, rib-eye and steak filets downstairs.
“Com’on teg, we’re going to the Good Friday procession in Zebbug, we even have seats.” You can see how excited I was in the first hour of the four-hour cross dragging parade. I’m sure it was karmic payback for teaching Chinese ESL students the meaning of T.G.I.F.
Santorini: We were joined in Santorini by Lauren ‘the millennial’ James, here along with me, in my all weather North Carolina State blue knit cap, are watching Tamara Sandwick-James explain to Lawrence James the meaning of hyphenated surnames. Tamara’s for Hillary, even without the Rodham hyphen, Lauren’s for the Democratic nominee and Lawrence, who retires from the EPA December 31, is keeping his powder dry. No Tex-Mex this time but the James family hosted us in a most splendiferous villa accommodation.
All was going well until Tamara and I told Jane, the frugal traveler, that it was going to cost at least $600 to float or fly home to Antalya. On the map it looks like, and is, a straight shot but the ferry season starts May 1st and the plane has to fly to Athens, from Athens to Istanbul and then to Antalya. Santorini is Greek, Antalya is Turk, never the twain shall meet anytime soon.
Lake Van: When Jane Marie and I went for our residence renewal interview the immigration officer said don’t go to Van (pronounced like one or the Korean won). The Turkish Airlines check-in lady just laughed and our landlord said he had never been and never would. However, none of these people had had the opportunity to scan Jane Marie’s 55-gallon bucket list. Not to worry, the ferry boat ride, to visit the Armenian church was enough to make me change my Facebook cover photo.
Erzurum: After a six-hour bus ride we spent the night in the land of the swarthy-dudes or ‘mountain people’ or the ‘black beards.’ Didn’t see many beards and conversely never saw one without his ‘stache.’
Evening strolls with Jane Marie were a shuffler’s marathon for me, cheered on with whispered chants of “stay close to me teg, please stay close.”
The next day Jane Marie left me at the Erzurum railway station to wander around the neighborhood taking pictures. After all there were 55 minutes ‘til the overnight sleeper train pulled out for Ankara. When we passed the 30 minutes to go mark, I started festering ,like I used to do when I had to make sales calls on companies that wouldn’t buy from me even after hell had frozen over. Why did I let her go out alone in swarthy-dude country even in broad daylight? Foregoing life in the present I became totally focused on the future.
Forget the $80 tickets, how am I going to tell the police my dilemma with my 15 word Turkish vocab? “What does she look like, where did she go? Do you have free wifi so I can show you her Facebook page on my laptop? No I don’t have a smart phone and she took my dumb one to keep track of the time. Where did your leading spouse go? I have no idea and maybe Jane has no idea where she is. Hopefully, the ‘mountain people’ unlike our Native-Americans, formerly known as Indians, only attack at night. Faced with this very serious situation. Remembering the immigration officer’s advisory, “don’t go there,” I began to pray. Not in the Ted Cruz ‘Body of Christ’ sense but more along the lines of “Allah for God’s sake help me now.”
I took our luggage outside, sat on the bench and using by best military training skills scanned the horizon. Still no divine intervention, I turned to rummage Jane’s bag for her phone in the hopes that… Then I heard that sweet voice, “you weren’t worried were you? I got some great pictures.”
My overly extended-wear Duke sweatshirt attracts the admiration of a French teacher on the streets of Konya.
Train trip to Ankara, Ankara, train to Konya and Konya were great places to see, with many things to do but compared to my near-losing-Jane experience in Erzurum, totally uneventful. https://www.facebook.com/tegory
Everybody’s backyard is different. Fortunately I fought in the Vietnam War from the side of Mt. Fugi just above the tree line and a little too close to the snow. Five years later I was looking over my back fence in Sao Paulo at the ancient Incan home of Machu Pichu. The best thing I liked about living in Mainland China was visiting Hong Kong every thirty days to renew my visa. Now, living in Antalya, Turkey my backyard reminds me of back home in Indiana. At four, five and six I spent a lot of time playing in the dirt on my hands and knees. Every now and then I would find an Indian arrowhead, like the ones I saw on TV.
Three Christmases ago Jane Marie and I walked a couple of blocks of Old Town and decided to move here, where Alexander the Great spent the winter of 333 BC. Homer was storytelling Greek Mythology poetry long before the Greeks had an alphabet. Bellerophon the Greek hero rode Pegasus the flying horse until Zeus dropped Bellerophon out of the sky as a slave in the small village of Tios – two hours by bus from our front porch.
What is known of Termessos’ history commences principally at the time that Alexander the Great surrounded the city in 333 BC; he likened the city to an eagle’s nest and in one of few cases, failed to conquer it.
TERMESSOS (Greek Τερμησσός) was a Pisidian city built at an altitude of more than 1000 meters at the south-west side of the mountain Solymos (modern-day Güllük Dağı) in the Taurus Mountains (modern-day Antalya province, Turkey). It lies 30 kilometers to the north-west of Antalya. It was founded on a natural platform on top of Güllük Dağı, soaring to a height of 1,665 meters from among the surrounding travertine mountains of Antalya.
Because of its natural and historical riches, the city has been included in a national park bearing its name, the Mount Güllük-Termessos National Park.
Arrian, one of the ancient historians who dealt with this event and recorded the strategic importance of Termessos, notes that even a small force could easily defend it due to the insurmountable natural barriers surrounding the city. The location of the city at the mountain pass from the Phrygian hinterland to the plains of Pamphylia is described by Arrian, Annals 1,26,6. Alexander wanted to go to Phrygia from Pamphylia, and according to Arrian, the road passed by Termessos.
There are other passes much lower and easier to access, so why Alexander chose to ascend the steep Yenice pass is still a matter of dispute. It is even said that his hosts in Perge sent Alexander up the wrong path. Alexander wasted a lot of time and effort trying to force his way through the pass, which had been closed by the Termessians, and so, in anger he turned toward Termessos and surrounded it. Probably because he knew he could not capture the city, Alexander did not undertake an assault, but instead marched north and vented his fury on Sagalassos.
Alexander The Great’s yacht club, founded in the winter of 334 BC at Phaselis, an hour drive south along the coast from our home in Antalya.
PHASELIS (Greek: Φασηλίς) was an ancient Greek and Roman city on the coast of Lycia. Its ruins are located north of the modern town Tekirova in the Kemer district of Antalya Province in Turkey. It lies between the Bey Mountains and the forests of Olympos National Park, 16 kilometers (9.9 mi) south of the tourist town of Kemer and on the 57th kilometer of the Antalya–Kumluca highway. Phaselis and other ancient towns around the shore can also be accessed from the sea by daily yacht tours.
The town was set up by the Rhodians in 700 BC. Because of its location on an isthmus separating two harbors, it became the most important harbor city of eastern Lycia and an important center of commerce between Greece, Asia, Egypt, and Phoenicia, although it did not belong to the Lycian League. The city was captured by Persians after they conquered Asia Minor, and was later captured by Alexander the Great.
After the death of Alexander, the city remained in Egyptian hands from 209 BC to 197 BC, under the dynasty of Ptolemaios, and with the conclusion of the Apamea treaty, was handed over to the Kingdom of Rhodes, together with the other cities of Lycia. From 190 BC to 160 BC it remained under Rhodeian hegemony, but after 160 BC it was absorbed into the Lycian confederacy under Roman rule. Phaselis, like Olympos, was under constant threat from pirates in the 1st century BC, and the city was even taken over by the pirate Zekenites for a period until his defeat by the Romans. In 42 BC Brutus had the city linked to Rome. In the 3rd century AD, the harbor fell under the threat of pirates once again. So it began to lose importance, suffering further losses at the hands of Arab ships, until totally impoverished in the 11th century. When the Seljuqs began to concentrate on Alanya and Antalya as ports, Phaselis ceased to be a port of any note.
Aspendos was an ancient city in Pamphylia, Asia Minor, located about 40 km east of the modern city of Antalya, Turkey. It was situated on the Eurymedon River about 16 km inland from the Mediterranean Sea; it shared a border with, and was hostile to, Side.
The wide range of its coinage throughout the ancient world indicates that, in the 5th century BC, Aspendos had become the most important city in Pamphylia. At that time the Eurymedon River was navigable as far as Aspendos, and the city derived great wealth from a trade in salt, oil and wool.
HERE: ASPENDOS 45 minutes east of Antalya
The Persians captured the city again in 411 BC and used it as a base. In 389 BC Thrasybulus of Athens, in an effort to regain some of the prestige that city had lost in the Peloponnesian Wars, anchored off the coast of Aspendos in an effort to secure its surrender. Hoping to avoid a new war, the people of Aspendos collected money among themselves and gave it to the commander, entreating him to retreat without causing any damage. Even though he took the money, he had his men trample all the crops in the fields. Enraged, the Aspendians stabbed and killed Thrasybulus in his tent.
When Alexander the Great marched into Aspendos in 333 BC after capturing Perge, the citizens sent envoys asking him not to garrison soldiers there. He agreed, provided he would be given the taxes and horses that they had formerly paid as tribute to the Persian king. After reaching this agreement Alexander went to Side, leaving a garrison there on the city’s surrender. Going back through Sillyon, he learned that the Aspendians had failed to ratify the agreement their envoys had proposed and were preparing to defend themselves. Alexander marched to the city immediately. When they saw Alexander returning with his troops, the Aspendians, who had retreated to their acropolis, again sent envoys to sue for peace. This time, however, they had to agree to very harsh terms; a Macedonian garrison would remain in the city and 100 gold talents as well as 4,000 horses would be given in tax annually.
Aspendos is known for having the best-preserved theatre of antiquity. With a diameter of 96 metres (315 ft), the theatre provided seating for 12,000.
The theatre was built in 155 by the Greek architect Zenon, a native of the city. It was periodically repaired by the Seljuqs, who used it as a caravanserai, and in the 13th century the stage building was converted into a palace by the Seljuqs of Rum.
In order to keep with Hellenistic traditions, a small part of the theatre was built so that it leaned against the hill where the Citadel (Acropolis) stood, while the remainder was built on vaulted arches. The high stage served to seemingly isolate the audience from the rest of the world. The ‘scaenae frons’ or backdrop, has remained intact. The 8.1 metre (27 ft) sloping reflective wooden ceiling over the stage has been lost over time. Post holes for 58 masts are found in the upper level of the theatre. These masts supported a velarium or awning that could be pulled over the audience to provide shade.
Do you like to travel? Do you long to see the world? Do you want to travel alone, with someone, with two someones, three someones or maybe four someones? My favorite mother-in-law always said three-day visits were max. When Jane Marie couldn’t use her ticket, I went to Adana solo and it was like shopping getting to the store, asking “where was it that Saul converted to Paul and how do I get there?” In this latest episode of Travailing with Jane Marie we were a five some teamed-up with Tamara, Lawrence and Uncle Vic, in London at 39 Godfrey Street.
Previously, all except Uncle Vic, had occupied an uptown apartment in or is it on Malta with access through the Texas Bar & Grill. I’m not sure if we broke the three-day stay rule, because I could always go for another round of rib eye’s, bacon burgers and Zero while the other three were out there walking, climbing Olympian class steps taking ‘I and sometimes we, were here’ photos.
39 Godfrey Street in Chelsea was three floors, three bedrooms, two baths and homey touches like a real living-dining-kitchen first floor. Frugal chef Jane Marie stocked the lader before the Tres Americano’s arrived while I nestled into my sedentary perch at the dinner table.
I resisted all invites to tour the city-scape under the excuse that it could never measure up to the photos displayed in every ESL Training school in China.
However, Uncle Vic sprung for tickets to the Broadway musical Kinky Boots with songs by “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” Cyndi Lauper. Again, approaching our three-day expiration date, we took the ferry to Jersey. Somewhere between here and there we got the word that Turkey was not issuing visas to Americans. Thus, the frequent topic of conversation changed to, does that mean us? What if that does mean us? If money wasn’t a problem I think we all move to the island of Jersey, just for the ice cream.
The Original Jersey Shore
Doesn’t look like much when the tide goes out, but you must rent a car to appreciate the countryside. After conferencing with the Polish and Romanian hotel staff the key insight for me was all the street signs were in French and 80% of the population originated in Portugal. I swayed the where do we eat committee to go Portuguese because Tam and Lawrence fish & chips pubsters got the same tip.
Ever on the lookout for somebody stealing my food, I was thankful that Tam was a veggie lover and Jane Marie chose fish. I needn’t have worried I was awarded the Over-meat eaters Anonymous trophy, the churrasco skewer.
Jersey is named after the Jersey cow or more likely the cow is named after the island because Guernsey is next door and they don’t call their cows jerseys. My English neighbor has never been to Jersey, but he says they’re famous for Jersey cream and new potatoes. The ice cream and driving the Jersey Garden State alley parkway are worth a visit and a millionaire residency permit.
Three’s Company in the Frog Loft
We got off the ferry from Jersey to St. Malo and switched drivers from English right Lawrence to French left Tamara. I tried to help the navigator role reversal by informing all that Malo meant bad in Latin. This unsolicited message seemed to fall on deaf navigator ears both front and back. The Frog Loft destination in St. Malo’s old town was GPS’ed like astronauts on re-entry. The contrast between 39 Godfrey and our French accommodations were quickly spotted by Victor, “where are the doors?” The short answer, not since 1971 after “Light My Fire“, Jim Morrison died. The draw curtain motif for bedrooms and master shower gave it that, you’re no longer in 39 Godfrey Street anymore feeling.
The Bagged Lunch at Normandie
The gang of Clubs visited the Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach. Our adult leader, Tamara was nice enough to take us to a real live raw cheese factory where I purchased two months aged mildly stinky and three month ripened stinky-stinky varieties. After which we proceeded to look over the D Day cliff while eating my stinky cheese sandwich. Now, I have to re-watch saving Private Ryan and the longest Day.
Paris for Two, What Could Possibly Go Wrong
Uncle Vic, the James’, Tamara and Lawrence, left us for London and America after dropping us off at the train to Paris. Saying goodbye to our adult leader meant Jane Marie took over charting a course utilizing the all forms of public transportation, including walking, even up and down steps.
The second day plan: take the Metro to the Eiffel then an hour boat cruise on the Seine. Trudging up the steps behind Jane, the buzzer went off and a fellow straggler and I jammed ourselves in the closing doors in a lose-lose access situation. The look on Jane’s face as the train left the station – what could possibly go wrong?
First off, no cell phones, let alone smart phones; second Jane Marie had no money. Thus, began a personalized episode of What Would Two Semi-Adults Do if they got separated in Paris with no phones and no money? I got on the next train, however, it wasn’t headed for Eiffel. Consulting the onboard Frenchmen, I made a mid-course transfer and arrived 20 minutes later to no sign of Jane Marie. Maybe she had gone off to the Tower entrance. A kilometer later no Jane Marie at the North entry. Poured my sad tale of losing my wife in Paris to the non-English speaking security twosome- “can I walk under the tower to the south entrance?” Go ahead: “Do you have a knife?” “No wife, no knife.”
South Eiffel no better, maybe she went on ahead to the cruise ships? Had no idea which boat Jane had bought tickets but when the sign read 69€. My recollection was in the 30€ range and a Blink scan of the brochure of the logo. Walked bridge to bridge up and over the Seine. Thought for sure a blond sitting on the steps of the main boat ramp had to be the Jane Marie. Got within 30 feet spotted the white ankle socks – no Jane Marie I know wears white ankle socks. After my two and a half hours search I was ready to call it a French Mis-Connection go back to the hotel. I reached in my back pocket for my Metro all day ticket, retrieving two. Sure, hope Jane has money to buy another one. Up to the room 30 minutes later and there’s Jane Marie.
So, where were you? “I got off at the next stop, crawled under a turnstile because you had my ticket and I had no money. Got off at your stop but you weren’t there. Got back on the Metro to the Eiffel stop. Looked and waited, no teg, so I sneaked through entry’s and favor scanned exits – no ticky, no exity – for free return trip on the train back home.”
Outside of that Ms. Kennedy how was your second day in Paris? “Got to go on the boat cruise at dusk making for great photos. Did Notre Dame, the Arch de Triumph, Moulin Rouge, and polished it off with the best French meal right here at the hotel.”
Now all we need is for them to let us back into Turkey.
Jane Marie did her usual two weeks of research, spent six nights and seven days in hostel dormitories, took 700 photos, interviewed roommates, vendors, drivers and left a note for her mom in the West Wall.
The week after Jane Marie returned home, Trump announced he was moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
Jane Marie leaves a note for her dearly departed mother Mary Frances, in the West Wall (Wailing Wall). Once a week, they take the messages to Mt.Olive and bury them, so MF should have received it.
Yuppies Exit the Loop
By MARA SOLOWAY
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle
Shelby Brown and her husband Teg Gregory admit to being former yuppies who gave up high-income careers — Brown as a systems analyst and Gregory as an architect — for life on the farm. Married for almost nine years, Brown, 48, and Gregory, 59, are owners of Anala Goat Co. in Beasley. The company is named after Brown’s nanny, Anala Hebert. They live without satellite television and cell phones in a trailer on 18 acres.
They have been raising, breeding, and selling dairy and meat goats for five years. They began in 1998 on Brown’s 130-year-old family homestead in the Panhandle town of Follett. “My grandparents spent their whole married life on this (Follett) farm. After they passed away, my mom and her siblings rented the place out for several years. When I found out they were going to sell it, I got so upset that Teg and I bought the place ourselves,” Brown said. She and Gregory moved there, but Brown soon returned to Houston in 1999 for employment. Gregory stayed in the Panhandle to work their fledgling goat herd. In 2000, they bought their Beasley farm, and he rejoined Brown, bringing their 40 goats with him. Their working roles now are reversed, with Brown tending to the goats while Gregory works full time in management at the Richmond/Rosenberg Wal-mart.
While Anala Goat Co. is not quite at the monthly income level they made at the height of their yuppiehood, their calculations show that it is possible. Brown’s sense is that small farms are not a growing trend since they generally are not sustainable. Figures from the Fort Bend Extension Farm Service Agency show no trend toward smaller farms; 65 percent of the farms in the county are at least 50 acres. Brown said “hobby farms” comprising about 10 acres are popular where people can keep a horse and a few cows. “Goats are more profitable than cattle. They give you five times the return that cattle give, partially because goats have a shorter pregnancy of five months – cows have nine months — and often give birth to twins or triplets,” Gregory said. “We think about someday increasing the number of goats we have. But 100 is the most we can care for now.” Because their herd contains both dairy and meat goats, Brown and Gregory have added responsibilities.
Their pasture near the barn is divided into pens. For instance, male dairy goats are separated from females because their scent is picked up in the milk. Meat goats — the breed Anala Goat Co. raises is known as Boer — mingle during breeding season. Dairy goats are milked once a day. For now, Brown uses the milk to feed the farm’s goat kids and calves they buy. When the company receives its Grade A license to retail raw milk from the Texas Department of Health, Milk and Dairy Products Division by September, it will sell goats’ milk. Dairy goats are profitable because they can produce milk for up to six years. A goat farmer can keep the female dairy goat population static and keep milk production up. “The market for natural goat milk and cheese products is tremendous. Customers can’t find what they want in the stores. Certain diets advocate goats’ milk for a healthy intestinal tract,” Brown said. Brown and Gregory are intent on breeding Boer goats that are black in color with proper conformation to compete in the show ring. Nell’s Guy Noir is their male Boer who is sire of most of the farm’s Boer goats. “We’ve always liked the variety of the colored Boers,” Gregory said. “But from a marketing perspective, we believe the competitive black meat goat will bring more money at sale time, in the same way as the Black Angus cattle.”
In the Houston area, the main customers for goat meat are people from Mexico and the Middle East. Most of the couple’s breeding stock sales are generated from the Web site, www.analagoatcompany.com. Anala meat goats are sold live. “Folks from Ohio and Kentucky are looking at goat farming as a more profitable alternative to traditional crops like tobacco,” said Gregory. “Texas has 80 percent of the goats in the United States. Demand has been up for goat meat since 1996 when government support for mohair lessened.” The federal government for 40 years had price support programs for wool and mohair to ensure an adequate supply to make soldiers’ uniforms. Those programs ended in 1994. However, subsequent legislation has provided reduced levels of support. Students who take Gregory’s goat farming course through Houston’s Leisure Learning Unlimited take a trip to the farm to see it in operation. “Students are typically astounded at seeing all the components of a working farm, and many refer others to the class. But what I have learned and try to share with my students is that goat farming is the most economically viable agricultural family enterprise and only in its infancy,” he said. Goats from Anala won Grand Champion at the last two years at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and have placed in the top 10 with their male goats in performance tests that measure their weight gain and conformation under controlled conditions to select desirable sires.
Anala goats eat local alfalfa and corn, milo and cottonseed meal. They are fed no steroids or antibiotics. Each of the 100 goats on their farm has a name. “The goats that we’ve bottle-fed are very personable. But there is a great deal to learn about caring for any animal. Unfortunately, you get your practice on live animals,” Brown said. “Hopefully, you learn from your mistakes. You learn when to call a vet. We try not to assist during births. We want our animals to be the healthiest and most productive goats possible, because that translates into profitability.” The couple says they do not miss their life inside the Loop. “Our lives in the country let us commune with nature in ways we never knew. In the city, I had a dog and always had to be sure I walked him daily. Now we have six dogs who exercise themselves and are doing what they’re meant to do,” Gregory said. The dogs protect the herd from any predators. One of the livestock guardian dogs is Lady, a rescued Anatolian shepherd. “Lady is shy because she was mistreated early in her life. But I often find her in a pen with several of the goats, and I know she’s bonded with the goats and is always taking care of business,” Brown said.
Brown and Gregory have learned that running a farm is high-maintenance. But they are planning and working toward their economic goals. They are adding a milking parlor and milk room to their barn to meet the Grade A license-requirements and are planning to add chickens. Brown plans to soon sell products like goats milk cheese to local markets under the name Earth Mother Farms. Brown’s friends have been calling her Earth Mother for years. “I’ve wanted to do this since high school. I was raised to believe that farming wasn’t an option for a woman. When we’d visit my grandparents’ farm, my brother and the boys got to help Grandpa in the field, but I was supposed to help Grandma in the house. So I put farming out of my mind. Then, you get to midlife and things surface. I allowed myself to think about it. By the beginning of this year, I was very ready to do this,” Brown said. Brown envisions sustainable agriculture as a way for young people to stay in small towns. “It’s a shame to see young people moving away. Teg and I hope to demonstrate small-scale operations like ours can make a sustainable profit so that there will be work for small farmers,” she said. Brown has two adult children from an earlier marriage, a son and daughter who live in the Houston area.