Empty Nest Syndrome: It’s Not All Goats and Berries


So, I mentioned we put Joey on a plane to go live on a farm in Washington near the Canadian border. My understanding is he would be spending a few months tending goats and picking berries.

The original flight didn’t happen because a flight was delayed which caused the whole fragile ticket system to fall apart. We had to reschedule everything and I had to take him back to the airport the next morning before going to work.

He made it across the country, just one day late.

Randy’s college roommate picked him up at the airport and showed him around Seattle. After a busy day, Joey spent the night and, the next morning, Joey boarded a bus to the middle of nowhere.

He made it 48 hours at the farm before becoming violently ill.

The first day, I got this picture of these goats. All seemed right with the world.


Then Friday, I got a call and the second I heard his voice, I knew something was terribly wrong.

He’d been vomiting for hours and couldn’t even hold down water. The family he is staying with were concerned and discussed taking him in to town to an urgent care.

Empty nest syndrome kicks hard

I just wanted to go and get him. I can’t begin to describe how helpless I felt not being able to hop in the car and make everything okay.

He told me he was just laying on the floor in the bathroom because it was easier that way.

I was ready to book a flight, but Randy convinced me to let him rest over night.

He wasn’t perfect the next day, but better. I could hear that in his voice right away.

By Sunday, we was back to his normal self.

I’m not sure what the issue was, he could have picked up a bug on the plane or the bus. Or, it’s possible, that his diet did him in.

Joey has been vegan for about half a year now. Then he went to this farm and was eating cheese and drinking unpasteurized goat milk. After no dairy for months.

I suggested that it might be best to slowly change his diet to the land of vegetarianism from veganville and take it easy on the unpasteurized milk.

The empty nest gift that keeps on giving

We spoke Sunday evening. He said he took a long hike with the family and he felt a lot better.

Joey: I heard a rattlesnake.

Me: Oh god.

Joey: Apparently, there are a lot of rattlesnakes here.

Me: I was worried about bears. Holy shit.

Joey: No worries, they give you warning and you just steer clear.

Me: I am never sleeping again.

Joey: Maybe the rattlesnakes will protect me from the bears.


Joey: I could make a belt from a live rattlesnake.

Me: Go drink some milk.

So, the good news is, he’s made it nearly a week and didn’t die from dehydration or from snake bite.

He did tell me that one of the goats head butted him. He survived that as well.

Only two months to go.

I included links to some other goat stories I’ve written. This is not ALL the goat stories. I think I write about goats too much. Weird. 

About the author


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • He’s a funny guy all right.

    Once a mom, always a mom though. My son tells me he doesn’t want me to worry about him. Well… it’s 22 years too late sir.

  • We never stop being a mom, I’m afraid. My 32 year old daughter is 900 miles away and she still calls when she needs her momma. It is tough to let them manage on their own, I bite my tongue A LOT, letting her figure things out for herself. Truth be told she’s smarter and more mature than I’ll ever be!

    The farm job is very cool though. I volunteer at a farm sanctuary (Rooterville, in Melrose Florida) once a week. Goats are awesome. Rattlesnakes are not, though and yes we have those in abundance here in Florida! (and a few bears!)

    He’ll do fine, mom. Stop biting your nails.

  • It never stops…..my babies are 30 and 28. I shouldn’t have to tell them to put a sweater on or get to bed early. They know and do this. But there I am…texting them that rain is coming and be sure to bring a sweater.

  • OMG! I know exactly what you are talking about. A week before my daughter was 18 we thought she was mature enough to stay at home while we went on vacation with friends for a week. Two days before we were due to come back we got a call from the hospital that she was in there and her heart kept stopping. We were 39 hours away in North Dakota. The guys drove constantly only stopping for gas and switching out. It was horrible. I was a wreck talking to doctors every few minutes. I actually think I got some sort of PTSD from it!

  • My youngest son, a competitive swimmer all his life, went off to college and after his first season swimming there decided he’d rather be a climber. Now I get regular texts from him that begin “Hey, Mom! First off, I didn’t die.” I guess it’s his idea of leading with the good news.

  • First of all, I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you; Future You, that is.

    Second—on the off-chance it will make you feel any better to laugh at the misery of a six-month resident of this particular boat—I can tell you that Offspring not only gets sick without me there to take care of him but refuses to seek appropriate medical care. So our conversations go a little like this:

    OFFSPRING: Yeah, I’ve had this cough for a few weeks now.
    ME: For the love of… go to sick call already, will you?
    OFFSPRING: No way! My roommate did that and they gave him a medical profile because he had bronchitis.
    ME: The roommate you live with, spend all your time with, who shares all your exposure conditions…?
    OFFSPRING: Yeah, but his cough started after mine.

  • Isn’t it fun to parent long-distance? The rattlesnake would’ve shook me, but people live with that stuff in their backyard all the time, God bless them. I go through the same worries with my two grown sons. It never ends.

  • It does NOT end, the worrying…they get older, and it sort of mellows out to just being never-endingly concerned, with little bouts of OMG! I would like a text when they get to work in the bad weather, and each time one of them passed or failed a test, I celebrated or bummed with them. I feel like I’ve been through nursing school four times, and when my son was deployed in Afghanistan (a medic! He was a medic! How is a mom supposed to NOT lose it every time the phone rang during those months?!)….blah. There are still 8 at home, but honestly, I worry more about the 8 who are off on their own…
    And your poor Joey, that sounds awful! So far from home and sick like that. 🙁

    • Oh man, it really doesn’t ever end, does it? I worry about the older kids as well, but I’m more used to them being on their own. Joey is my baby. I’m good with him living his adult life..it’s just I wasn’t ready quite yet. Not my call, though.

  • He’s funny, smart, and from the sound of it with good people. And he’s not holding anything back to spare your feelings. I know that may not exactly be reassuring but at least you can trust him to be honest with you about what’s going on. He wouldn’t do that if you hadn’t done a fantastic job raising him. Maybe that is reassuring: Joey shares the best and the worst with you because he knows you can handle it and he wants you to be a part of his life even when you can’t be there next to him.
    Especially when you can’t be there next to him.

  • That’s awesome! That he made it, and is surviving in the wilderness of Washington, and that you managed to let him somehow do it! Have fun sleeping the next couple months.

  • As they say: once a mom, always a mom. I hope he feels better soon. In passing, I LOVE goats and even came home with two pygmy goats once. At the time we lived in suburbia so my boyfriend at the time wasn’t very happy with me. Neighbors complained (of course!) and I ended up giving them to a petting zoo. They had a nice life there 🙂

  • As a mom whose teenage son is planning to graduate from high school a year early and go to college in CA (we live in FL), I feel your pain. Since we all survived leaving the nest, we have to assume our offspring are capable of doing the same.

  • I refuse to be called “Empty Nesters”. We are older parents with two kiddo’s in college. The new term for us, “Free Birds”! Way more our style and era. We also refer to them as “boomerangs” because right now they still come home. It is horrible when they are sick so far from home.Congratulations on the new house and beautiful kitchen-to-be!

  • Hi Michelle! I’m using my friend Rob’s hotspot at the auto recycler where he works. We brought him lunch here because it’s his birthday.
    Goats can be assholes, really. I saved one from hanging after he ate through the bottom board of the fence and crawled under only to slide down an embankment and get hung from his tether. I was coming home from second grade and found him like that.
    After I got him back up the embankment and under the broken fence, he just laid there and panted, so I set to fixing the fence he had chewed through, and while I was doing so, he came back around, got up, and butted me into the goddamn fence.
    I’m not proud of what I did next, but I was only a second grader and he was as big as I was. I took a chunk of the broken board I had been trying to reattach to the fence and stood right at the edge of the circle of eaten grass that marked the limit of his tether and waited for him to come at me again, and when he did, I clocked him on the top of his head with the board and told him what I thought of his behavior.
    I used a lot of words that second graders are not supposed to use.
    That goat was a dick.
    Never had any problem with rattlesnakes, even with all of the time I spent in the wilderness. My dad told me to be careful when stepping over things, because sometimes they hide in the shadows looking for their dinner. He said to step on the top of the log or rock so your next step wasn’t in the shadow of it where you can’t see and the snake could be hiding.
    Anyway, hope you are having a good time in your new house by yourselves for a while, I’ve gotta go.

    • Thank you, Doug! I hope your internet situation gets sorted out soon! And yes, that goat was a dick. I also feel slightly better about the rattlesnakes. Not a lot. But a little. I will take what I can get.

  • OMG my heart goes out to you. I know exactly how you feel – there have been two occasions when Alan has had to stop me booking tickets to fly to the other side of the world because K wasn’t well and I felt like I had to be there for her. But, she survived without me (which makes me feel a little un-needed) which is a good thing because I can’t afford to be flying around the world every time she is sick or upset or not handling some shit that has come her way. She is fine and more than capable of looking after herself and her husband is excellent at looking after her if need be – but it does make me feel a little redundant !!!

    I’m so glad that he is doing OK – those two months will fly by and he will be home before you know it. We have under 5 months until we see the children – I am more than excited !!!!!!

    Hang in there – I won’t say it gets easier because I don’t think it does – I think we just learn to deal with it differently.

    Love from Australia xox

  • This brings to mind a trip to New Orleans my husband and I took with his parents one year. We were both well into our 40’s. We decided to go out for the evening leaving our 3 year old daughter in the care of gma and gpa. All was well until we returned to the hotel around 2 am, mildly intoxicated. Mom waiting at our hotel door.
    “Where have you been? Do you know what time it is??? Husband and I look at each other, both remembering our teens when these questions were more frequent and appropriate. Hubby looks at his wrist….where there is NO watch and says…ummm. no?! At that point after hearing about the fate we could have met in the dark New Orleans streets….blablabla…… we couldn’t even make eye contact with each other without laughing…..even now, 20 years later, we laugh about this. So. No. It never ends.

By Michelle


RSIH in your inbox