Monday, March 17, 2014

Adventures in Goat Farming - Part 1

My first husband was 25 years my senior, and had 2 adult children when we first met. He became a grandfather within a year of our meeting, and for about 15 years I was a stepmother and step grandmother. When we divorced, just prior to his death, (long story) the granddaughters were 11 and 15. We moved from Florida to North Carolina in 1989 and set up residence on property that had been in his family (maternal side) for almost 100 years.

The once large farm had through the years been divided through inheritance and was at that time reduced to about 17 acres of mostly pine trees, rocks and gullies. He had an aunt that lived in South Carolina who actually owned the house and had rented it to us for a very reasonable amount. While most of the land was not usable, there was a sizable yard, a few derelict out buildings, an area that had been fenced off previously with hog wire when his family had kept hogs and chickens and milk cows,  and a beautiful spot to have a good size vegetable garden.
One excellent benefit to living in his hometown was the opportunity he had to rebuild relationships within his family, and to get to know his grandchildren. My stepson and his wife and daughters lived about 90 minutes away and visited often.
One February, I think it was probably about 1991, Eric and his family showed up early one Sunday morning with a gift for Moe. A female (nanny) goat. I know that this was Eric's was of indulging the girls desire for livestock without having to be responsible for the livestock, and it was brilliant. We named her Sally and were quite pleased to put her in the lot and laugh at her antics. Two weeks later, the reason for her low cost to Eric were evident - she was pregnant. As happenstance and whimsy would have it, Sally delivered her kid early one Sunday morning and Eric and the family arrived soon after, with the girls running to the barn to see the goats as soon as they arrived.
Many humorous things occurred connected to the goats, so I am just going to hit on a few of the highlights. We started out with Sally, then acquired Jenny and Arnie (male, or billy, goat - BIG mistake - goats breed like rabbits so to speak). At one point we had almost 20 African pygmy goats. Now that is important, because they are small, and not the breed usually kept for milk, which I believe are Nubian or Milch goats. At any rate any milk produced by the females went into the bellies of the seemingly endless supply of baby goats. We did not milk our goats, or slaughter them for food.
Goats will eat anything:
  • The labels off of cans (though not the can itself - that is a myth)

  • Privet hedges

  • Tree bark in a circle around the tree, killing it. Especially fruit and nut trees, though pines and cedar seem to be safer from the vociferous appetites.

  • Particle or OSB board, fiber board, any type of wood used for shelter walls and roof sheeting

  • Tobacco, including but not limited to cigarettes, cigarette butts and cigars

  • Newspapers, cardboard, magazines, the mail out of the mailbox if the door is not closed

  • Wreaths on doors, plastic-grapevine-live it doesn't matter the material, and they eat the ribbons, bows and embellishments as well

  • If you wear nail polish they will try to eat your fingertips

  • Their absolute favorite thing to eat is sweet feed from the feed store, so if you buy it you have to keep it locked up and well hidden and secured

Goats apparently really are social creatures, and do best when they are around other goats or animals. The first few weeks we had only the one goat, Sally. Goats are also very adept at escaping any type of enclosure devised by man and she was constantly leaving her ample lot to explore our mostly rural neighborhood. There was a pasture at the end of our road where show horses were often grazing and we had to retrieve her from there several times. Things got marginally better after we obtained our second adult female, Jenny, but then they came to an understanding that they could both escape and head in opposite directions. I was not working at the time, and was awakened one morning by a call from a local pastor's wife. Our goats were in the church cemetery eating the floral tributes off the gravesites. I placed an urgent call to my husband at work, got semi-decently dressed and headed across the road to the scene of the crime.

Well. Sally and Jenny saw me coming, and the pastor's wife was waving a towel around saying "Shoo!" and they bolted in no time flat. The pastor had been to a prayer breakfast and drove up in his vintage VW bus (I swear I am not embellishing on any of this) and joined the chase. So there we were, the preacher in a three piece suit, his wife in a housecoat waving a towel, and me wearing ratty sweats and a t-shirt, chasing a goat down the middle of a two lane road. Meanwhile, my husband arrived, went to the barn, retrieved a coffee can with a few handfuls of sweet feed thrown in, and lured first one then the other back to their lot.

I shall pause at this point, and share further adventures and the sad tale of how our goat farming came to an end later, but I promise-the goats were not killed, they were just re-homed!

No comments:

Post a Comment