Archive for the ‘Kids in the Stall’ Category

Once there was a way…

…to get back homeward.

But I’m afraid goats have become an irrevocable fact of life as long as I am farming. They arrived as a novelty and have somehow infiltrated into practically every aspect of my life. But I can justify keeping them…sort of.

We’re fast approaching our first year anniversary as goatherds (or as I like to call it, goatslaves) and have passed a lot of milestones: first kidding season, first vaccinations, first drenches for colic, first disbudding, first milking, first loss….We’ve learned to master goat cheese, goat soap and goat manure, the three byproducts from our dairy herd.

I have to regularly remind myself that the considerable investment in feed, infrastructure and veterinary bills will be paid out in rich compost for the market garden. As long as nobody forces me to sit down with a calculator I can continue to believe that.

Moving the steadily accumulating wealth of goat pebbles and bedding is the equivalent to the exercise classes I sign up for but never attend. There are savings to be had there.

Although it’s tempting to argue their worth based on practical considerations, I’d have to say their true value is entertainment.  I spend so much time watching goat antics that I’ve suspended the satellite subscription (which is kind of an argument for both practicality and entertainment). Goats are natural actors and rarely have trouble staying in character. They’re simply built to be hilarious/cute/obstinate/annoying/endearing.

Each has their own role. For instance Reeses Pieces (stage name Rhys or Coco) is by far the friendliest kid of the six offspring. Always the first to greet you, he loves to put his front hooves on you and nibble your collar or hair.  I often wear his hoof prints on the front of my shirt. He’ll occasionally stir my coffee with one of them. He’d make a great agent if we detoured him from his inevitable path towards buckhood.

Sierra Nevada prefers to play a supporting role. She is the barn daycare goat and doulah, who happily hangs with the kids when the moms are busy and accompanies her sister goats during their labour.

King, 170 pounds of shaggy, imposing-looking buck is the least aggressive of the lot with his understated little “meh” that barely registers on the bleating scale and the polite offering of his head over the paddock fence for rubbing. The only time he remotely resembles a leading man is during the rut, but to be honest, he’s mostly  ram without the ‘bunctious.

Cookies and Cream, an aging Nubian diva with a breathy moo she must have learned from a bovine pasture mate at some point,  is the self-appointed matriarch, always the first to the food and the loudest protester when the humans don’t keep to schedule. She has obviously had vocal training because she can project her  low voice from the stage (paddock) to the back of the hall (my bedroom) until she captures her audience (me, trudging down with grain).

Sunshine Girl, a nimble, good-time Toggenburg-Alpine, is the stunt goat. We’re almost certain she made her debut in the circus. She demonstrated early on that she is only behind bars because she so chooses. She easily leapt over the breeding stall gate  to escape the unwanted attentions of the suitor we chose for her and sprang back in with equal vigour when her preferred buck took up residence. She also catapulted onto the Christmas parade float as the fourth goat in the Three Billy Goats Gruff diorama and required some persuading to return among the goats who didn’t make the cut.

The remainder of the goats have walk-on roles in the daily soap opera that makes up the days of their lives. Aspiring starlet Peanut Butter (twin to Reese Pieces and the producer’s darling) delights in slipping her still slender form between the bars of the hay crib to dine at leisure from within and flaunt her privileged position by depositing goat raisins on everyone else’s dinner.

Cookie’s two-thirdlets (we lost a triplet) Marshmallow Creme and Chips Ahoy prefer cameo roles that showcase their sleek brown and white coats and exquisite Egyptian profiles. They’re often found posing with their heads tilted coyly, showing their long arched necks to advantage.

The baby Alpines, Capricorn and Capella are much too dignified to pose overtly, but excel at stealth photo bombing. They’re never detected until you upload the files. Various body parts litter the cutting room floor.

The remaining does watch from the sidelines away from the admiring crowds (unless the admiring crowds have carrots); Bubblegum Girl, Aurora Borealis and Eloquent Mist are backstage ingenues just waiting to be discovered.

No production is complete without the credits:

Cameron McGregor – Producer

Sheila Selby – Director

Joe Renaud – Key Grip

Angie Chaput – Script Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Company of Goats

It really doesn’t matter what kind of day you’ve had once you enter the goat barn. Gone the pressure to be somebody.

In the goat barn there are no bad hair days. You can wear the same overalls and mismatched rubber boots every day of the week and still be accepted.

In the goat barn, no-one expects witty repartee, a knowledge of current events,  or even that you remember their name. Just show up and you’re already a star.

Goats bust life back down to basics…food, water, shelter, companionship. The contented munching of hay, the nearly full-grown kids bulldozing under their mothers for milk snacks, the outstretched necks looking for a scratch, curious nibbles in my hair–these life-affirming goat barn reruns never get old.

The easily won trust and gratitude of a goat is a balm in a world where we too often have to prove ourselves.

When I leave the sanctuary of the goat barn, I am at one with myself and my world. In the goat barn I recapture my true essence.

Almost too big for snuggles

Almost too big for snuggles

Goat love

At one with the herd

Kids in the Stall

Kids in the stall

Triple Trouble

Beware of networking! I’m still coming to terms with the fact that a couple of tentative inquiries into acquiring a milking goat or two somehow escalated into me keeping a dairy herd of eight goats, including three pregnant does who’ve increased the numbers by another seven. I kid you not!

I’ll spare you the details…suffice it to say that someone had eight goats needing a home, and I apparently had a home needing eight goats!

There is a notable discrepancy between goat fantasizing and actual goatkeeping. While still in the grip of some Alpine-meadow-induced trance, I envisioned a quaint herd that would greet me every morning with goatly decorum and follow me devotedly to a designated grazing spot where I would sit on a rock (preferably Alpine) and sip my morning Swiss chocolate while they obligingly mowed my lawn. What I got was an unmannerly herd of caprine gangstas that crash gates, mob me when I carry in the grain and bleat deprecating commentaries when some imaginary contaminant fouls their drinking water.

After couple of days of crushed toes, one bloody nose (mine, not the goat’s), and multiple gate upgrades my head was out of the thin Alpine air and my trampled feet were firmly back on the ground. We hammered out a cross-species entente: they would train me in the ways of the goat and I would become their willing servant.

If I had secretly entertained thoughts about backing out on the deal, Cookies and Cream, a brown and white Nubian, vetoed that option by presenting me with  three little doelings the morning after she arrived. ‘Here’ she said, ‘I can’t possibly feed three kids. Check the undercarriage…only two nozzles. Why don’t you supplement them with a bottle, bond irrevocably with them,  and  then we’ll revisit your idea of returning us.’  After that bit of staged coersion, I succumbed. Now every farm chore includes a detour to the barn to “check on” the kids. Two sets of twins followed, providing further distraction, since kid cavorting trumps weeding every time!

We now have a workable routine: I let them out to graze in the morning and sprint after them through raspberry canes and logging stumps with my coffee sloshing down the front of me. After the mosquitoes have extracted a pint of blood, or  a half an hour (whichever comes first), I slink stealthily back to the paddock, locking the gate quietly behind me to shut the goats out. I then set out the grain and open the gate, simultaneously leaping backwards as they stampede in and take up positions at the trough.

Next I dump out three buckets of perfectly good water, refill them and leave the herd to make beds from all the clean hay in the feed crib so they can  bask in the sun.

At this point they agree that I can begin my day of gardening (this IS still an organic market garden after all) and that they’ll call me if they need me.

So far it’s working.