Crofting – the Goats

Tara, and the nether half of Vanilla

Isn’t that a sweet face? (Disregard the tail, it isn’t Vanilla’s best feature.) Tara came to us as “Sara”, but in a family that is overbalanced with Sarahs/Saras, we had to quickly find a sound-alike name for the goat. So, Sarahs/Saras, no she is not named for any of you beautiful ladies. I like the name Tara, too.

Vanilla is all-white, round in the belly, with the possibility of a kidding in the next couple of weeks. She has black spotted ears and nose, and she is dishy in the hips, like a good goat-mama. She is shedding winter white goat hair on everything – spring. We both needed an immediate change of clothes upon reaching home, and our wool jackets are hanging in the shed as too goaty.

We had a good trip north, up by Mount Carleton, across the Road to Resources, the one of the connecting roads across the mountains from western to eastern New Brunswick. We filled up on petrol – $65 – before leaving, and refilled on the other end – $35. We met the seller, went back to his farm, and had a good look at the girls. Vanilla, is tall and lean and even gaunt in the shins, but she has an alert attitude, a smart look in her eye, and is curious and friendly. Tara is smaller, marked like a dark little deer, and has the sweetest curving horns. She is expressive and has a bit of her own mind, but knows how to walk along like a good goat. Her half grown buck kid was with her, but she is dry now. Vanilla has been milked until lately, and is quite good about the milking stand. We took her down the aisle of the barn, and she went right to the stand.

And then there is Randy. (Yes, Randy Buck! My friend Betsey thinks this is hilarious, and that it sounds like a Monty Python joke. Betsey used to have goats, so she finds this as funny as things get.) I didn’t intend to buy a buck, but the seller explained that this boy had been with the two girls right from when they were kids, raised together on their farm, and is very close to Tara. He is the last of their mixed breed goats. They are all about three years old; and it did seem hard on the boy to leave him. So I agreed to take all three, with just a shrug from the husband, as long as I thought I could handle the buck.

I went into the pen to get him, and all he gave me was a look over the shoulder – he was busy eating. He allowed me to pet and move him, and even walk him out to the truck without any fuss. He rode back imperturbably, a happy goat.

All three were very good about going into a strange barn and stall, and very happy to see hay and water. They settled down quickly. We will get hayricks and the second stall finished later this week, but Nicholas says he needs a bit of rest first.

We had a bit of an incident on the way back. The Road to Resources is mountainy – beautiful, wild, isolated. It is fairly well travelled, though, despite its potholes and soft shoulders. There is no garage or telephone between St. Quentin and Bathurst, about 140 kilometres, except for the sugar camp more than half way across, where in season one might find a phone. I had a cell phone and these seem to make more and more sense as we travel the wild distances, although there are lots of dead spots where there are no cell towers.

The red gauge warning light came on, and I could see that the engine temperature had risen. I pulled over, waited a bit, and started out again. Nicholas turned on the heater and opened the window, venting some of the heat through the cab. The temp dropped, but climbed again. I pulled off, and noted that we seemed to be out of coolant. Nicholas pointed out a snowbank close by (not unusual at that altitude this time of year – the roads were mostly still banked with snow) and I found a spot just beyond where there was a clear-running brook. I had an almost empty washer fluid jug in the cab, so we emptied that, I rinsed it in the mountain stream, and scooched down on the crumbly bank of ice, using a plastic soft drink tumbler as a bucket. I filled the jug and conveyed it to the radiator, which was indeed dry. (Coolant will get used up – evaporated – in winter driving here, especially when we must do much of it in four wheel drive.) A couple of trips to the stream, which was cold and still bearing minute chips of ice, and we had a full radiator. There were no burst or loose hoses, and we had an uneventful trip down to Plaster Rock and across to home. My husband was impressed with my McGyver like inventiveness. As Bernadette says, country girl practicality.

We saw dozens of deer, out feeding on tiny herbs in the fields and meadows; we saw three moose in conference, consulting across either side of the road, and it took several loud taps on the horn to move them out of the way. The journey we took today takes us from our St. John River Valley, across a ridge to another long river valley, the Tobique, and up the glens and passes of the fingers of the Appalachians. My ancestors came from country like that several generations ago, and it is like home to me. The trees are just budding, the stands of birch and maple clouded  with pink and scarlet among the black green pines and spruces. Snow lies thick on the hillsides, and on the mountain meadows. The farm we visited was till snow covered in the shaded areas, the goats all barned until fence posts can be reset in thawing ground.

It is a little farm of about fifty acres, on the outskirts of a small industrial city. The owners are a young couple, looking to provide for their family and make a little money on raising meat goats. Their barn is a a growing concern, with a new wing thrown out each year. It is sturdy, well-appointed, and seems like a palace compared to our converted garage and workshop. No matter, as goats don’t read Architectural Digest and set their standards by the quality of hay and the freshness of the water. I hope they were impressed with their shiny new pails.


7 thoughts on “Crofting – the Goats

  1. Magdalena,

    Good news, I’ll likely be graduating to a cane to help me walk today!! yes!! we’re getting there with little victories day by day! Praying for you also…

    The goats sound wonderful – as for an over-abundance of ‘Sarahs’, my hubby had a chuckle and a very aussie (our sense of humour baffles North Americans at times) thinks we’re doing quite allright with one ‘Sarah goat’ in the house down here… 🙂

    he’s cheeky funny, and gorgeous!! 🙂

    Are these beauties for milk, hair or meat?

    I’ll gladly put my paw up for all three…

    We also have a ‘Bathurst’ here in Aus; just West of the Blue Mountains around 3 hours drive away.



  2. wow sounds like quite a day.. I thought you were going to tell me you had to wait for a goat to go pee to help you out… LOL.. Glad you had your thinking cap on… How are they doing in there new place? Be Blessed

    • You know, I did think of the nuns and the bedpan joke…Goats are happy as goats with lots of good eats and a draft-free stall can be!

  3. Okay, I’m very city. We know this.

    What does one do to a garage to make it goat-worthy? If I were in the country, could I keep goats in my garage? Or are country garages different somehow, so I’d need a different type of garage?

    • Well, that gave us a laugh – This is a homebuilt, metal sided building – just old sheets of corrugated steel on an unprofessional frame. It was sort of a garage and workshop for the previous guy who lived here, who drove a transport truck for a living. The back has a shed built on, with a sliding barn door, so we built goat stalls in there. It has a dirt floor in most of the building. There is a “garage” door on the front, but it is bent and doesn’t close well; eventually, we will replace it. You could build some wood-framed stalls in a regular garage, put straw down on the concrete floor, and just sweep it out; very neat, very tidy. We have straw down on the dirt floors, and will clean it out with a pitchfork. I’ve heard of someone keeping two urban goats in her garage, just swept up every morning, used the droppings on her roses. Goats have fairly dry droppings, so it isn’t smelly or messy.

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