Monday, March 5, 2012

The Story

I feel that we need to grow as a farm this year, and the way to do that is to add an animal (or two or three) that does something other than lay eggs.  I love my egg layers--don't get me wrong---but I think that it's time to move on a little bit and try some new things.  But how to decide?  The thought process went something like this....

Hmmmm....cows.  I love me some Brown Swiss (How could I not?  Those big brown eyes!!), but the truth is we don't have enough cleared land to keep one, and I don't have enough pasture.  I also dread the feed bills.  And the gallons and gallons of milk.  So no cows. 

Horses?  Nah.  They don't do anything but eat, and I don't need one to plow, since the garden's not plow size.  The horse would be bored.  No horses.

Sheep?  I like sheep.  Sheep are wooly and fluff-tastic.  But they're nervous.  And they're grazers, and again, I don't have the pasture area.  So no sheep.

But goats....hmmmm..  like big dogs....friendly and inquisitive, they eat things that sheep and cows won't (which I have plenty of), they can be trained to a leash, and they give milk.  Bingo!

So after this deep thinking process that you can see above, I decided goats would be the way to go.  Goats around here for some reason (I think because of the number of dairies?) are hard to come by and very expensive.  Wait....let me rephrase.  Does around here are hard to come by and very expensive.  If you want a buck, you can have one for very little money.  The dairies are practically throwing them at you.  But does, no.  If you want one (if they'll even sell her), you'll pay top dollar because she's the progeny of so and so and so and so the third, and her dam gives 1 1/2 gallons each milking session of 6% fat milk, and blah blah blah.  It's all lovely.  If I owned a dairy, I'd be all over it.  But I don't.  I own a homestead farm.  I need milk for my family.  And cheese for me.  ....Oh right, and my family.  So I don't need a goat that's related to the Queen of Sheba.  I just need a goat.

I put an ad out and found someone with nice paperless Alpines about an hour and a half from me.  Alpines are a nice goat.  Good milkers, nice and hardy.  So the kids and I piled in the car and took a trip.  On the way, we saw some of this:

And went over this:

It was a nice drive.  We got to the farm, which has on it a ramshackle old barn and went inside with the owner to see the kids.  Now I don't know what kind of animal looker-atter you are, but for me to look at the animals, I have to get right down there with them.  Sit right in the hay and touch them and talk to them and see who talks back.  That's me.  So, after I asked if that was alright with the farmer, I got in the pen, got down in the hay, and talked to the kids.  Some didn't talk back--those are the ones I didn't want.  Others wanted to talk to me right away.  Some didn't want to talk at first, but then changed their minds.  Those last two are the type I'm interested in.

Of course, the ones who wanted to talk to me the most were the bucklings.  This one in particular:

As you can see, he wouldn't stand still for the picture.  My little friend here was the first to come over and say hello.  He wanted to nurse from my fingers (he has nice little teeth and a good suck, by the way) in the worst way.  Then, when he realized no milk was coming out of them, he decided to play with the zipper on my fleece vest instead.  First he just mouthed it to see if it tasted good, but then he accidentally discovered it moved.  And that was it, he was off.  He pulled the zipper up, he pulled the zipper down, he pulled the zipper up, he pulled the zipper down.  Smart little guy!  He wanted to sit in my lap, and any time I tried to get a look at someone else, he would butt right in and put his face right in my face to look at me. 

I swear, if I could own a goat for no reason, I would have taken him Saturday, put him in the car, and kept him as a pet.  I could rub his belly (he was getting nice rumen development--they are being weaned right now), I could touch his ears and horns--anything.  He just wanted attention.  When he realized that I couldn't always look JUST at him, he decided to stand on me.  He'd put his front legs on my shoulders and look me straight in the eye.  Or the ear, depending on where he was positioned.  Then he figured he'd gotten that high, he'd just climb up the rest of the way and maybe sit on my head.  I'm sure he thought it was a good idea at the time.  Since it wasn't, I put him back down, but it didn't mean I didn't think he was smart to try.  Too funny.

Back to goat looking.  Anyway, I had the little buckling still climbing on me and sticking his face on my chest to get the zipper, and I'm looking around to see which doelings we'd like, and this one is mouthing my daughter's jacket.

Can you see her over all the heads?  She had come over to my daughter while I was busy with buckling-boy, and was wanting her attention.  She was by far one of the larger females in the bunch and turned out to be sweet and gentle and nosy as all get out. 

See the buckling's head again?  He wanted to be wherever I was.

She's real pretty and I love the swirl on her head.  I watched her nurse from the milk bucket (they're a CAE preventative herd, so no one gets to nurse from mama, unfortunately), and she was a hungry girl.  While we talked, I touched her ears and horn buds (she's been disbudded, as all the girls have) and felt her midsection.  She wouldn't let me touch her feet, but I understand that's pretty indicative of goats--they just don't like it.  However, she was sure-footed.  She was eager to talk and very curious.  I like spunk in my animals, so that works for me.  She seemed great, so yes, definitely her.

The black eye patches either make her look a little evil, or like Spider Man.  I can't decide.

But we need two--at least.  There were so many to choose from.  Most looked like this:

And it was hard to tell which ones I'd talked to and which wouldn't give me the time of day.  But then again, I saw another one talking to my daughter:
And she's climbing a steep, steep hill.  Stupid Blogger.
Now if the kids are going to talk to my kids, that's pretty good by me, so I took a look.  While still working around my buckling friend, I looked her over.  She was sweet and gentle and curious, and she let me touch her all over, even her feet--to an extent.  She's a little smaller than the first one, but not tiny, and not weak.  She really seemed to like my daughter and kept around her as I watched.  So, ok, that was two.
And she smiles!!
I could have taken most of them, really.  By the end of our time (and it was only the end because I'd been in the yard an hour and a half, and we still had to drive back to the farm), the two we had chosen were stuck to us like glue, the little buckling was still trying to stand on top of my head, and another little buckling was standing behind me trying to climb onto my shoulders.  It was a good visit.

After the farmer and I had exchanged a down payment and signed a contract of sale that I'd brought along (I like records for everything), we agreed on the date of April 15th for me to come and get them.  He wants them weaned and on food for a week or two before pick up to reduce stress.  Sounds good to me.  So I have until April 15th to get ready for them, and learn everything there is to know about goats.  Ok, I know a bunch already.  But I don't feel prepared enough, you know?

Yikes!  This is a big step, and I am nervous and excited all at the same time.  Stay tuned, because there will be a lot more to this saga, I just know it!
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  1. Congrats!! Seems you caught the 'kid fever' that's been circulating the blog-o-sphere these days! I was secretly hoping you'd pick the 'fluff-tastic' farm animals, but that's okay. Next time. ;) For now, have fun!!

  2. Oh my goodness, how exciting!! I don't know how you managed to leave without them. : )

    Can't wait to learn along with you. I'm interested in the Pygora breed, but we're still a few years away.

    They really do look like fun!

  3. My husband and I are renting right now, and we share 12 acres with our landlord. We plan to buy a place next summer (which will, unfortunately, be in the city, as that is where life is determined to take us next) and my darling husband keeps asking if we can get chickens... or pigs... or rabbits... and I have to keep saying "I don't think that's a good idea, I would love to but we are supposed to be saving money, and as it would be our first 'livestock', we will be inefficient and therefore we will loose money for sure." After reading your post... I want goats. They're so cute and friendly! (Well, most of them, anyway.) Now I get to tell myself "No, I don't think so...."

    I thoroughly enjoy reading about your adventures, and I look forward to living vicariously through you and your blog while dreaming of the day we are back in the country and we can have goats... and chickens... and rabbits...


  4. So happy for you. Goats are great animals to be around and I know just how fun it is to go pick them out. What will you do for a buck? Too bad you couldn't take the little boy too. I have never had alpines. This will be fun to follow.


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