Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cloven Hooves

A goat’s characteristics are many rolled into one – the curious nature of a cat, the playfulness and energy of a puppy, the antics of a good comedian and the stubbornness of a mule. With all of that going on, we just had to get goats. We decided to get Nubians and Toggenburgs, not the typical ugly white Saanens.

Nubians have long, floppy ears that hang like a lop-eared rabbit, a roman nose, and they come in a vast array of color combinations, both solid and patterned. Our first two Nubians – Ginger and Emma – had solid brown bodies with black and white markings on the legs, face and ears.

Like a human baby, a Nubian will call for its (mother) owner when it needs something. It will call simply to acknowledge your presence and to engage in social interaction. High pitched and loud, they always sound like they are complaining. Click here for a sample:

Our first Toggenburg – Elsie was a light fawn color with white markings. Toggenburgs are from Switzerland and have a very gentle disposition. They look like deer; in fact, I had to put red bandana collars on all the goats as a safety precaution during hunting season. The Nubians kept neurotically busy trying to get their own and each other’s collars off; the hunters wept when they realized that it was not Bambi within their sights.

Sometimes my kids took their kids (goats) for walks on dog leashes. It was more cool and challenging than purposeful. Since my kids are free spirited and goats have minds of their own, it was debatable as to who took whom for a walk.

I gained many valuable lessons from the most unexpected experiences on the farm. The goats were no exception. And yes, what you see in the cartoons is true; goats eat cans, flower pots…you name it. Goats will eat anything.

At first, the goats had a separate ramp leading from the barn into the yard enclosed by a nice white picket fence. They roamed around with the chickens and our very freaked out cats. We were inside the house engaged in a homeschool project or doing what people do, when we would hear the clip clop of cloven hooves on the back deck followed by two short intense bleats.

We raced into the kitchen to see Emma and Ginger pressing their Roman noses into the screen on the back door, their bleating rising in both pitch and frequency at the mere sight of us. Gentle Elsie stood behind them watching and waiting. My kids would then lead them into the yard. Pathetically, the goats always beat them to the back door. It was no contest.

A picket fence? Wow. What was I thinking? Nubians are originally from the mountains of the Middle East and North Africa. Not only did they hop that picket fence effortlessly, they could scale the woodpile and make their way onto the roof in less than thirty seconds.

I tried rigging chicken wire on the top of the fence to increase its height. As much as I am an advocate of chicken wire and staple guns, it is not even worth explaining the failure of that idea.

The following afternoon, we heard the clip clop of cloven hooves, only it was on the hardwood floor of the kitchen into the living room. Emma (I am guessing, as she was the ringleader) came up with the idea to chew through the screen and crash our party. Nothing a little staple gun action couldn’t fix, but the boomerang goats needed a solution.

My three children went to a homeschool camp three times a year in Vermont. The session lasted for a little over a week. I always had a creative or monumental task planned for this time off. It was time for the carpentress to erect a fence.

What took a skilled carpenter a day or two to complete, took me ten days. I built a fenced in yard for the goats just outside of the barn, off the ramp. I was proud and relieved that it worked.

The goats added a completely new level of intensity to our farm.

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