Goats get a bad rap. People say they are destructive, hard to handle, a nuisance, but it’s all about knowing their ways and habits. One of my favourite books as a child was “Heidi”. She lived with her Grandfather in the Swiss Alps, slept in the loft with a little round window and ran the meadows with Peter and the goats. This might have engendered my interest in goats and been the trigger for my incarnation as the Goat Lady.
Our two first goats (both girls) were named after a colleague I’d had, Geoffrey Goad and his wife. These goats became ours in an instant. One minute we were enquiring about raising goats, the next thing we had two and we were not prepared.
Goats are social creatures and they like nothing more than to be where you are; in the house would be preferable and you have to watch their wily ways. Goats prefer to browse on this and that, giving no thought to whether those lilacs are heirloom stock that have grown on the farm for the last 100 years, or that the tulips you planted were something you’d like to look at a while longer. They browse and munch without regard for esthetics or history. They do not, however, eat anything. They are quite fussy but also tactile creatures. The laundry on the line might get a nibble, (or a pull down) but that is their way of feeling it out and deciding to munch or spit and move on.
Goats do need good fencing. We had fences, but they were corral type fences and Geoff and Elspeth scrambled over them in a heartbeat. They seemed particularly fond of the woodpile outside our door, allowing them to peer through the kitchen window. No matter how many times we trotted them back to the barn and penned them in, they’d be back, scrambling up the restacked assemblage of wood, tumbling it down yet again, leaving their little cast off poop pellets all over the porch. We built fencing pretty darn quick.
I think it might have been Lurk who suggested the slab wood. It was a cheap and useful solution, offering some shade and a barrier they could not breach. The girls would rub against the rough bark, soothing any itch and nibbled and tore at the bark; hours of fun. It wasn’t the prettiest fence, but it sure worked. Worked so well that when we built the corral around the barnyard at Wigry Road we lined it with slabwood too.
Elspeth’s first birthing with us produced twins and we named them Edie and Ursula, after my childhood (twin) friends. Elspeth was a good Mom and gave us sweet delicious milk although not copious amounts. Geoff gave us boys, I think. She wasn’t a great Mom and was lacking in the milk production department so we didn’t keep her very long. We raised up Edie and Ursula to let them breed once or twice but they too were not outstanding mothers and we soon learned that there were reasons to choose breeds and buy carefully. But we were just learning. We delighted in having baby goats and spent hours watching them leap and play. We built them structures to climb on and leap from and I cannot think of anything more delightfully entertaining than the leaping frolic of goat kids. They were a joy to watch and gave us hours of pleasure. My parents in particular got a real kick out of their antics.
It did seem baby goats were regularly born on the coldest day of the year and because our barn was so far from the house, we did have a few disasters. If I knew the birth was imminent, I sat up in the barn with the girls and midwifed but sometimes we’d go out in the morning and there would be a new baby goat or two. Sometimes it was so cold that the wee little things would have to come into the house. Some people still talk about coming to visit and finding goats in the warming oven. All in the day of a farmer.