The Virgin Goat of Goatalupe

One of the reasons that I raise Alpines is that they come in a variety of colors and patterns. I would get so tired of looking at goats that all look the same. Every year I hope to get spots and stripes and bands, and am disappointed when I don’t. Any goat that is born on my farm with spots or splashes has a guaranteed place on my farm. Forever. Even if she is fat and non-productive. I yearn for the goat with the Mickey Mouse pattern on her side. I pray for a Virgin Mary image. A map of Maine would do.
I am constantly tempted to add Nubians to my herd. Not so much for the butterfat, and certainly not for their hideous voices or frost-bite prone ears, but for the possibility of spots and frosting and new colors. I need to be able to look out the window and see a canvas of patterns in the herd.
Last year we added a Nubian buck. Of course we claimed it was for the butterfat his daughters would add to the milk. Secretly, though, I was hoping for those spots. His kids turned out to be oh, so cute, and oh, so marketable. Of course, those kids went first, and we’re left with monochromia (if that’s a word). So, this year, we’re adding a Saanen buck. Perhaps next season we’ll have little white babies running around. With spots or an image of Jesus.
But our farm is still not open to the public, so the faithful need not stop by to check.

A disturbance in the force


Zelda is gone. She had the best life a barn cat could have: born in the barn, loved by a 6-year-old as a kitten, loved by many adults as a cat, food every day, hot water in the winter, hot snacks (as many as she could catch and eat), a warm bed to sleep in, a job, and a peaceful end after 14 years. She was about as useful an animal as you could ask for. She will receive the highest honors awarded at the farm: a place in the memorial garden, a shrub planted for her, and Brad will play the pipes.
She is survived by her mother Genny and her brother Maynard.

The best animal on our farm


The best animal on our farm is Jenny the barn cat. She came to us 13 years ago, pregnant, and had to be at least two years old at that time. She has seen several generations of goats come and go, and outlasted most of them, as well as three dogs. She never asks for a thing, except for a full bowl of crunchies. When her bowl is empty, she will gently remind me with just a look. She has given us six kittens, lots of loving, and squeaky purrs. She never complains, always comes home, and loves to show off the hot snacks she catches around the barn. This winter, perhaps I will allow her to come in from the cold. After all, we are both old and gray, and the winters are getting colder.

Silence of the Kids

 


The kids shipped out on Saturday, to Easter Auction. This is the dark side of dairying, and most people usually don’t make the connection. For every dairy animal that gives milk, she has given birth to at least one offspring. It’s an even chance it’s a male, which makes it useless as a future milker. These unwanted males have to go somewhere, and that somewhere is usually an auction, sooner or later. I don’t make any money on it. I never get back the value of the milk it has taken to raise these kids. It’s just one solution to the issue. I would rather have them take a short trip to the butcher and end their life in a useful fashion on someone’s Easter table, than the longer trip as a possibly abused pet tied to a tree or chased by dogs.
In any case, it’s much quieter and calmer in the barn, and I’m getting lots more milk to make into cheese. I don’t miss them — I still have my bottle babies that will be next year’s milkers. The moms don’t even miss them. Fiona just surprised me by saying that when the kids ship out, it’s like Jody Foster’s character’s experience in Silence of the Lambs, and that made me sad.

Special Needs Kids


Every year we have a kid or two that needs special attention. This year is no different. One little twin, born to a first freshener, was abandoned shortly after birth, so I’m bottle feeding him. Of course, he has now bonded to humans, so whenever I go out into the goat barn, he glues himself to my feet and follows me around. But lest I get too attached to him, he’ll do this for any set of legs walking into the barn. The other day he followed Brad down into the woods when he was checking the fence. He got stuck in the snow so many times, Brad had to carry him out. Somebody stopped to take pictures of the goats the other day, and the next time I went up by the gate, there was a polaroid photo of him left for us.

These kids always get goofy names. This guy has been dubbed “Teeny little super guy” after the long-ago Sesame Street character. A couple of years ago, we had Peggy Eileen, who had a broken leg, and stumped around on her peg leg, with a definite tilt… Last year’s was Moaning Myrtle, who would try eating anything once, and managed to rip a piece of rubber off Laura’s rain pants.