A little over two years’ ago, I brought home a trio of Nigerian Dwarf goats. They were “free to good home” but, before any fellow goat farmers cringe, Felicity, at least, is a registered doe…and I have the papers to prove it. Domino and Chester are both quite large for the breed and, because of this, they were both wethered so that they do not pass along too-big babies to future generations. They are here simply as pets and companions to Felicity. She has been bred at least once. Her previous owners did not keep the single male. But I do have plans to breed her again. Fresh goat’s milk, cheese, yogurt and even soap would be a nice addition to this homestead.
For now though, I am simply enjoying them, learning all of the myriad ins and outs of their care and getting to know their unique personalities.
I am remembering when I first brought all of them home, I was ecstatic! Anyone who has known me for longer than five minutes knows how much I love goats and how long I waited to get them. However, at the dealership, this love and longing wasn’t as widely known yet; I hadn’t been there that long. But, I had to share this elation with somebody…besides Mom, of course. So I chose Sean, our then-service manager. Sean and his wife frequently rescue and adopt older dogs from the local shelter. And I commend and applaud them for their kindness, their generosity, their beautiful hearts because of it. Sean’s an animal lover; he’ll get this. So, with a huge smile on my face I announced that today one of my biggest dreams just came true. Somehow, though, I don’t think Sean was expecting my acquisition of three goats to be the answer to his question about what that dream-come-true was. His blank stare that so clearly read: “how do I respond to this?” was priceless. But my goats are a dream-come-true.
So, without further ado, meet Chester…
He obviously likes his kibble…and his carrots. He was that round when I got him. Though he wasn’t quite as camera-happy as Tank the Silkie Rooster, he really is a sweet boy and every morning after feeding we have to cuddle for a few minutes. He will saunter over to me and start rubbing the stubs where his horns should be against my skirt. I’m guessing it’s an itchy spot so I oblige by giving him a good scratch. Eventually he will raise his head and blow goatie “kisses” at me.
Felicity is the true boss of the barnyard. I know I said last week that Sargent Feathers was…and, in many ways, he is. But even he defers to Felicity. She is very protective of “her” flock. Last summer we had a skunk find it’s way under a low spot by the back gate and there was no holding her back. She charged. And, yes, it sprayed. But, amazingly, she managed to avoid most of it…even if the barnyard smelled pretty rank for awhile afterwards.
Felicity is also the most empathetic–if one can attach such an emotion to a goat…and I do. When I lost my Bear two years’ ago, the following morning I trudged out to the goat barn as usual but she must’ve sensed that I was “down” and a bit out of it. She has what I call the upside-down Madonna grin. Madonna has always had that bit of a gap between her two front teeth. Felicity has it, too, but in the lower jaw and there’s just a slight hint of an overbite. Nothing too detrimental to keep her from eating but, when she’s curious, she juts that jaw forward a bit, turning her head from side to side and sniffing intently. That morning, I got the full upside-down Madonna grin. As I sat down on the bench for a moment, Felicity came forward and then, as sweet as can be, gave me the gentlest little head-butt and rested her forehead against mine. I remember blubbering over the sweetness of it, though I’m guessing that wasn’t Felicity’s intent.
Domino took a little longer to warm up to us. He’s lovable, too, but a bit shier than the other two. His coat is like spun silk though. Where Felicity and Chester are a bit wiry to the touch, I could run my fingers through Domino’s coat all day and never get tired of it. He’s a bit of a dandy about it. He loves being brushed. And I don’t mind obliging him.
And, yes, that’s a lot of hay on the floor of the goat barn. They scatter it everywhere. And, because New England winters are so brutal, I leave it there until spring. Many farmers do this as it provides protection against cold floors and the slow decomposition of hay, wood shavings and, of course, their waste, actually helps warm the barn. There is no odor. The top layer is dry. And come spring, I clean it all out and toss it into the compost bin where it will dress the garden in the fall. Then we start all over again.
…although next winter will see them in different quarters as this old shed-turned-barn is being semi-retired; the attached garage and former workshop will become the new barn. Our current barn has wooden floors. It’s not so bad on the goat side. But, in the separate “room” that houses the chickens and ducks, the ducks’ perpetual play in the waterers is rotting it out. I put my foot partially through it recently so it’s time to relocate them and, as time and funds permit, cut out the wooden floor and replace it with cement.
There’s always a new project with this journey called a homestead.
May God bless you & keep you!