The goats on this farm have developed a tendency to hold a grudge or
harbor an attitude of intense antipathy to one another. That
makes my life as their herdsman a bit complicated. And more than
a bit difficult. Take Belinda, as an example. She is the
surviving sister of the two Sable goats I bought last year from the
Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery. Her sister was killed by Lucinda
MacDouglas last year. Lucinda, my best milker, was promptly sent
on the truck. That means, to the auction. Belinda has,
herself, become aggressive to Adelaide Merriman, a Toggenberg with
horns and her daughter. Cameron MacDouglas, half Nubian, half
Tog, is aggressive to the yet to be named daughter of Belinda.
And they all would love to trash the new about to be returned, from
Camp Rebecca whose last name has not as yet been chosen. She is a white
goat looking like the Saanen. However, is registered as “Experimental”
as she is half Sable. The Sables are an offshoot of the
Saanens. And are a brown goat. I have developed an interest
in the Sable and intend to move my herd of Toggenburgs into becoming a
herd of Sables. There are four here on my farm. A buck on
loan. A buck born here, Belinda and her daughter. I had
three goats mowing some lawn for me below the perennial border.
They did their job and now have been moved to a pasture below the barn
that has begun to be invaded by the most dreaded plant on my
farm. Sedge. They are in agreement with me that it is
preferable to live outside rather than living in the carriage house and
are remarkable in their restraint in managing to graze with a minimum
of entanglement with their long lead cords. They were obviously
delighted with the crisp flavorful seed heads on the sedge as well as
thick tall leaves of the plant and had a grand old time upon being
introduced to the field. It is removing them from the field that
presents a problem. They must go in for the night. There
are coyotes here. A tethered goat is a very convenient dinner
indeed for a coyote or two. No work. No fuss. Instant
dinner. And so they have to come in for the evening.
At first I was worried about taking more than one at a time in on a lead into the barn. Would they attack each other and tangle their leads, in the process tripping me or even worse, strangling me as I reached down to untangle them? Would they go with any interest back inside a building? The question that didn’t enter my mind was would they stay in. It was with gratification that I realized they would let me proceed, two at a time, into a relatively clean place in the lower level of the barn, because there was a fresh bale of hay and clean cold water. They, initially, agreed to stay. Except Adelaide Merriman. Complete with horns. Very large horns. The ones that she arrived with many years ago. She was promptly attacked by Belinda. Large black Sable goat. And, in turn, attacked the big doors in an effort to escape. Outside she went to be tethered to an ancient apple tree by the barn bridgeway, near the house. So be it. The Sable buck on loan from the Monastery has been interested in exploring the farm after living in the confines, very spacious confines, but confines nonetheless of the carriage house. I’d like to put him in with these three does in the barn nights after beeping him, days, in the field of sedge. With any luck, they will cycle upon seeing him, absence makes the heart grow fonder. In the case of sheep and goats, that is, and they can be bred to freedom in January when I must need the milk. And when of course, will be the most difficult time to milk them. However. The Sable and the young Toggenburg also fight. Sables are much larger than Togs, and, I’m afraid that the battle is uneven. Today is the day. He shall be introduced to this new set-up. And I shall find myself making at least six trips a day back and forth to the pasture and the barn.
It would seem that the summers would be easier on my farm. Somehow, I think it so. But I never have even a spare moment to think that alone do any of the nice projects that I hope to do. Why? Six trips back and forth with four of the goats. Special grain and beaten eggs twice a day for the little goat that survived. And where is she keeping herself? The goslings drink inordinate amounts of water. Back and forth with a gallon jug in each hand. And grain. And crumbles. Their droppings are on the slimy side and so their portable coop needs to be adjusted and moved with frequency. Lime is then sprinkled on the grass that they fouled.
Of course there then are the chickens. They are enticing rather than a chore. Of course all of the aforementioned livestock are enticing as well, each in their own way, but the chickens have an added attraction. Eggs!! The Welsummers lay pink through brown colored eggs. Sometimes with cinnamon colored spots. The six Araucana lay robin’s egg blue eggs. The store which buys the brown eggs is not interested in blue green ones. A neighboring farmer has no such prejudice and knows that a fresh egg is a fresh egg is a fresh egg. I save them for him.
The Welsummers and their Araucana house mates number seventeen pullets. There are two fairly ancient broody hens as well. An older Coco Maran and an even older Buff Orphington. The latter shall be given to a friend to help hatch some of the fertilized eggs in her coop. They, my two broody hens, are not laying these days. And so it is with both delight and immeasurable joy that I count between fifteen and eighteen eggs a day out of seventeen pullets. I can only presume that the pullet who misses a day while on a twenty-five or twenty-six hour cycle drops an egg at the last hour of one cycle and somewhere in the inside of the next one. You can imagine my intense delight on those eight days this summer when I come upon eighteen eggs. All of this means very frequent trips to the portable chicken coop. Fresh cool water is essential. The wakers are next to the outside wall of the coop and so I usually pour from the outside and spilling some, of course. They probably drink four gallons a day. I bring them six plus two large containers of grain. That and the fact that I move the coop once or twice a day necessitates a number of trips into the field. And as the coop is moved further and further away from the house, it is a longer and longer walk.
None of this describes the additional work, or rather a distraction created by my two Border Collies, Glencora MacCluskie and Nelly Zolotoroffski. A neighbor’s dog has occasionally wandered into my pastures. It is neither a herding dog nor a hunting dog, however Glencora sees it as a threat to my flock and has taken to chasing even when it is minding its own business in its own yard. The dog has been known to come into my house, a time when I would have welcomed it being driven out by Glencora, but that, as I know it, at least, has not happened. Yet, the upshot of all of this is that I spend some very excitable moments running to the road to be certain no cars are coming and yelling my lungs out for Glencora to come every time I hear a doggy disturbance.
Nelly is another story. She barks and carries on like a Tartar sentinel when anyone with a dog or a cane in hand walks by the house. Both dogs obey within reason. But a dog racing in the road is dangerous to all. And I suffer moments of fear throughout the day.
Nelly has sadness in her somewhere and appears broken hearted if I don’t pet her immediately on request. And that leaves me wish what? Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. Who am I to want to enjoy a cup of coffee? The perfect temperature. The right cup. From my favorite coffee beans. Unspilled all over my lap or the arm of my chair. Or the book strewn floor, anywhere but where I want it. Knocked over by an eager sweet, loving dog.
Last but not least are the erratic, interruptions caused by sheep. There are three impossible lambs here. Impossible to intimidate, restrain, command or to keep in the field. A slight rattling noise in the wood room altered one, only moments ago to their current escapade. I’ve yet to discover the point from which they escape the confines of the fenced in pastures. It is of course, apparent why they decide to escape. Grain in the wood room, clover on the lawn, the sheer joy of being the only ones who know how to do it. They are fat little things. Round. Plump. Fine to look at. I think two are brother and sister. The brother is fond of racing over to me to be petted that moment. I race, shouting, towards them. We meet somewhere in the middle. He has the absolute temerity to lift up his face to be petted.
And so, I never quite understand what I do all day. Summer.
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