This is one of a sequence of short pieces about life on the small-holding. The copy I have is in a notebook, with the nearest dated work being 1985. I suspect that these were writing exercises rather than final pieces.
It seemed so simple in the books. Did you know that size for size a goat produces more milk than a cow on poorer grazing and less food? That the milk can be frozen and is more easily digested? Well that seems very sensible doesn’t it? Add to that a keen gardener with plenty of garden scraps and you have several good, sensible reasons for keeping goats Or that is how it seemed to us three years ago when we bought our two acres.
Laughing disdainfully at those who told us that people who drink goats’ milk smell, we bought our first goat. She looked like a barrel on skinny legs as she was due to ‘kid’ in a matter of days. Placidly she chewed her cud while the children excitedly stroked her. “That’s the goat for us. Definitely a beginner’s goat.”
She came to us after kidding. Could that explain the personality change? Manual in hand I set out to milk her and she demonstrated her capricious gymnastics. She jumped, sat, knelt, bucked, twisted and turned magnificently. I did not get one drop of milk. After two weeks of tearful despair a new determination took hold. I pinned her cruelly to the wall with one shoulder, shouted nastily when she threatened to move and got half a pint of milk! That was how I learnt that goats have a sense of humour. Now Polly is placid, reliable and easily milked but she does enjoy a good joke.
Of course, everyone knows that goats eat anything. Or do they? I know now that goats are like Tiggers. They thnk they might like a variety of foods but they need to be sampled first don’t they? Forbidden fruits and fruit trees taste the sweetest as do strawberry plants, broad beans and vegetables from the garden plot. Strangely these things don’t taste quite so good from the manger! Rhododendron, sycamore and potato tops despite being poisonous (according to the books which goats don’t read) make a tasty mouthful. Hay is boring in comparison.
Friends are often amused at the Fort Knox style security on the goat stalls: triple bolts, several hasps and two doors. All for these gentle, sloppy creatures that dangle their heads over the doors wanting to be tickled and caressed. But wait till you’re out of sight! Yes that goat really did undo the bolt with her mouth. She really did jump onto a ledge half an inch wide and leap to freedom. They are amazing creatures and yet they are such loveable animals.
We now have three goats, all characters and all affectionate. It is surprising, too, how many more goatkeepers you meet once you start. Most of them have a good sense of humour, luckily.