Crofting: Goatplay

Vanilla

I don’t think that George and Wanda, the goat gang’s previous owners, let goats into the house. They are responsible, serious, professional goat ranchers, and goats in the house probably isn’t a frequent occurrence. I have never let goats in the house. My experience with bottle-fed lambs taught me very quickly that ruminants, in general, need to be outside of the house unless they are small enough to be confined to a big cardboard box. That isn’t long because even very young lambs and kids can jump out of the average Charmin case after about a week.

So why did Vanilla think she should come inside with me?

She is the friendliest and smartest of the three goats. Tara is the most goat-like and the most agile. She can clamber over the dividing wall between the goat stalls, and can squeeze through narrow gaps around the gates. I suspect that if she were allowed to run free, she would soon find a perch on top of the truck or the neighbours’ shed. Bucky, poor thing, is a mere lame-brained buck. He is now sporting a nice lump of a contusion from trying to crawl through a gate gap in Tara’s wake. This is his second nasty lump, although this one is not as inflamed as the deerfly bite/bee sting he had before. I expect this one to be reduced internally rather than breaking like the last one. That was an awful job to clean and bandage, although he was good and stoic about all his treatment.

I left them in a barn stall all morning as we were headed to the farmer’s market, which was a disappointment. I remember it as an active, packed market, but today there were just a couple of vendors with produce – a late spring had stalled most gardens – and a few women with baked goods. I don’t often buy other people’s baking, as mine is usually better and certainly cheaper. A number of ladies had tables covered with knit goods and sewing, there were some woodcrafts, and a couple of flea market type vendors. There is a pork dealer and a beef seller, but their selection was small and more than I could afford. Perhaps it will pick up later in the month, but I came away with only a quart of strawberries and a pound of tomatoes. I do believe a greenhouse operation that could offer salad greens, hothouse tomatoes, peppers and herbs early int he season would do well here, if the cost of keeping the greenhouse was low enough. And I’m dubious about baked goods. I expect artisan bread to be presented beautifully, not shoved into plastic bags and stacked like cordwood. My standards are high after working beside Nick and his family at the Moncton Farmer’s market, and after the artistic displays of home baking at the St. Jacob’s Market. Laying out a dozen pallid, plastic-wrapped pies on a folding table isn’t an appealing presentation either. There were no artisan cheesemakers, maple syrup or honey vendors, and no herbalists, just a couple selling greenhouse flats of petunias and other annuals. There’s no tea blender or gourmet coffee emporium. If anyone had been selling eggs, they must have finished early and left. There’s lots of room for growth there, and the managers should be soliciting for vendors, not  relying on the same old country band every week to amuse the shoppers and give people a reason to show up. I’ve been hearing that same band for about fifteen years now, and I can honestly say that a little variety would spice up the event. Maybe the Mennonites could send their choir, or the local folk-rock singers could take a gig. Farmer’s markets are the growing trend, but I know from experience that when they stop being markets where people can buy from farmers, they might as well call themselves craft shows or flea markets and give up.

When we returned, I put goats out on their pickets. Tara was clipped to the clothesline to give her more scope and less chance of tangling her own silly feet in her tether. Instead, she got the tether wrapped around Vanilla’s neck. Vanilla managed to get free of her own clip, and sat down patiently to wait for me. I check on the goats every few minutes, and Tara sensing that something was wrong, stood over Vanilla. I went out and untangled them. This is the one of the reasons why animals cannot be left unattended on picket. They get tethers wound around legs and necks, or they they tie themselves tightly to a post. They get stranded in hot sunlight, or can’t reach the water bucket. I will never tether an animal and leave.

Vanilla had been ecstatic about getting out in the fresh air and sunshine. She actually gambolled as she came across the lawn from the barn. I’ve never seen her act so frisky. Bucky came at a trot behind her. I had Tara on her lead, as she is a pest to catch once loose. The other two will stand and wait, most of the time.

I moved Tara to a picket farther down the lawn, and clipped Vanilla to the clothesline. This allowed her to investigate the doorstep. She was pleased to find a little grain in a bucket, so she ate that. Then she hung out on the stoop, craning her neck to look in the window. She knew I was on the other side of the door, and she may have deduced that this is the place where the grain is kept.

The wind came up after a couple of hours, and with it there was a suggestion of rain and a few wet drops. This is a little known fact of natural history we were not taught in school: Goats are made out of sugar. If goats stay out in the rain, they will melt into sticky puddles of sweet goat syrup. No one knows this until they have goats, who panic and stampede if four drops of rain should touch their precious, precious spun sugar goat bodies.

So I let them off their leads and ordered them to the barn. It seemed, though, it wasn’t raining on the barn side of the road, and this allowed for browsing the hedgerow, and checking to see if the bean plants in the garden were as delectable as they looked. I drove them out of the garden and they settled for raspberry foliage and rosebushes. A small amount of grain shaken in a pail, and they remembered the impending disaster of a downpour and got themselves into the barn, lining up in the stall before the feed trough.

And though the shower has blown over, there they will stay until I have the gumption to risk another go-round with goats.

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4 thoughts on “Crofting: Goatplay

  1. What a cute picture and story! I spent some time on a farm around goats when I was a child, but do not have any now and probably never will. I enjoy reading about yours! 🙂

  2. Sadly, I am finding more and more local vendors are forgoing the local Farmer’s markets for the really large ones. If I want to buy produce from one of the plain families up here, I have to travel an hour south to the Fredericton market. Apparently, they can make the same amount of money in one day, that would take a week of selling up here. Consequently, that frees up their time during the rest of the week for all the other work that needs to be done on the farm.

    • That makes sense. On the other hand, maybe it opens up a market for us if we can get the croft up and running next year. I simply am not going to travel 2 hours to Fredericton to sell spinach. The markets up this way (Edmondston to Woodstock) need to get coordinated, too, so that the vendors don’t have to make choices about where they are going to be Saturday morning. If they would stagger the days and hours of operation, some of us could do 2-3 days of sale. Better that they would be open 8-12 or even 6-10 so real farmers could sell produce rather than being some kind of temporary craft mall with a food court. What happens then is that the same old crowd comes through, buys prepared food, and then they stroll around killing time, They are not buying much. Every market has to have some prepared food sales, but so many of them focus on that rather than being genuine produce markets. This does not serve the public well.

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