Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Goats Next Door!

Last spring, several months into our relocation to the Amish farm, our pastor and his wife stopped by on a gloomy Sunday afternoon.
They own a home several counties away and had been commuting to a rental in our county.
The rental home [a beautifully renovated house which had formerly belonged to an Amish 'bishop'] was now in the process of being deeded to new owners.

We were asked if we would consider a five year lease on the lower farmhouse with its 
barns and pasture.
I remember sputtering in surprise, "But--you do know we haven't yet installed electricity or modern plumbing!"
We all walked through the empty house with its two large downstairs rooms, eight [!] bedrooms upstairs, a pantry, a large back entry.  Our footsteps and voices rang in the dim unfurnished spaces.
 An agreement was reached and shortly Jim transferred his attention to making the lower farmhouse suitable for 'English' living.

The large space on the end of the house toward the barn was divided to become a kitchen with adjacent dining area. 
The pantry was best suited for conversion to a downstairs bath and laundry room.
The room down the hallway was designated as a 'study'--light and pleasant with windows to south and west. The 'living room' remains as a large rectangular space on the north-east end of the house, facing our lane.
Rooms upstairs were reconfigured to provide a spacious master bedroom and walk-in closet, a large bathroom, a library, a guestroom.
There are still several unfinished small rooms ranged dormitory fashion along a hallway which runs the entire upper length of the house. 

Pastor F. valiantly 'camped' there several days and nights each week while the installation of kitchen cabinetry and appliances, bathroom fixtures and electric lights, went on noisily around him.
When he could spare the time, F. changed into his 'work clothes' and very capably gave a hand with laying out water lines, pulling up flooring, whatever needed done.
I was recruited as a painter.
By the time winter set in, the bulk of the renovating was accomplished.

Soon after the holidays F and B's youngest daughter was able to take time off from work to spend several days assisting in the conversion of the stable to accommodate B's small herd of dairy goats.
The stable originally was designed with roomy box stalls for the Amish owner's horses and previously a cow or two.
Now there needed to be separate arrangements for two billy goats at the far end of the stable, three pens for the nannies and their attendant Pyrenees guard dogs, a milking area, a safe space for the kids.
Finally all was ready, a moving date was set.
The January storm blew in and on the scheduled day of arrival this was the look of the farm!

As soon as the roads could be safely traveled, B and daughter H set out for the farm, each driving a pickup truck with its covered bed loaded with the goats and three Great Pyrenees.

Jim strokes the babies in their warm 'pen' near the kitchen fire.

Several of the goats were heavily pregnant, so there had been concern to have them safely moved and comfortably installed in their new quarters.
At the other end of the move, F and friends wallowed through mud and melting snow to load a rental van with furniture and endless boxes.
It was after dark when the van finally lumbered in and Jake Miller and two of his strong sons came down to off-load the household goods.

F and B had a few days to settle in before the first of the nannies gave birth.
We were called down to admire the twin boys!

This little girl was born later in the week--a single birth.

Over-used adjectives come to mind: 'darling', 'sweet', 'adorable'.
My favorite descriptive term for these cunning small creatures is 'winsome.'

Twin 'does' the color of cafe au lait soon joined the nursery.
All five babies were moved to a pen in the stable last week.

Taking photos of goats is challenging!
Someone always wiggles or bounces at the crucial moment.

There is considerable competition for attention.

If B is in the barn when I happen to walk down the lane I detour to enjoy the goats.

On a grey afternoon last week, plodding along the lane, I became aware of excited clamor coming from the barn.
The Pyrenees often give a 'woof' or two when they hear my feet on the gravel, subsiding as I pass down the lane.
On this day I realized a great volley of mad barking was nearly raising the roof.
I stood still at the edge of the driveway, wondering at the uproar.
Bleats, bellows, hoots and snuffles were adding to the commotion of the dogs, along with an alarming intermittent clatter as of objects knocked about.
The sliding front entrance doors of the stable were closed, but the racket was deafening.
I could hear the patter and skitter of many hooves on the concrete floor.

I walked round to the side of the barn, its opening into the stable blocked with a wire mesh panel.
A calico cat gave me a wary look from her perch on a shabby chair, but she seemed unconcerned by the cacophony inside the barn.

I reached the wire panel in time to catch it as several nannies skidded wildly around the corner of the main aisle and bounced against the panel.
Escape foiled, the ringleader, a large brindled doe leaped onto a bale of hay, kicked her hind feet at the wall, trumpeted loudly.
All she needed was pompoms!  She pranced and bounced.
I imagined a cheerleader: 'Go, girls, go!' 

B slid around the corner, propelled on a wave of goats.
She collared one, wrestled open the door of a stall, hoisted the nannie inside, using her knee to block those surging against the gate.
The dogs barked deafeningly.
Two more goats were intercepted and hauled into the milking area to be snibbed to the hooks where feeding buckets dangled at goat face level.
As she dashed by again, snatching at another goat, B managed to explain that she intended taking 4 of  the pregnant does out the back door to a small fenced area where they could have fresh air and a nibble of grass. 
Several other goats had rushed the gate, raced up and down the main aisle of the stable, knocking feed buckets and grain containers aside.

B propelled two more goats into the milking area and fastened them.
From the other side of the partition came a clamor of frustrated caprine vocalizations, punctuated by stamping hooves, the jangle of feed buckets being slammed against the wall.
In their secure pen the baby goatlets added high-pitched bleating cries to the hullaballoo.

One of the bearded billies suddenly stood on his hind legs to look over the gate of his pen.
He let out a thunderous bellow of disgust.  [I could imagine him inquiring in the tone of voice my Dad sometimes used, 'What the hell....???']

Still bracing the wire gate in place I had a fine view of the uproar.
One by one the recalcitrant ladies were nabbed.
The din began to subside, bleating and shrieking fading to muted mutterings and snorting. 
B cautiously slid open the door at the far end of the stable, clipped a lead to the collar of the 
Pyreness, Munchkin, sorted out the four nannies, now meekly ready for their airing.

A black and white cat slid cautiously out of the shadows to curl on the hay bale which had so recently been a platform for the excited 'cheerleader.'
I pushed a cement block against the base of the wire panel to keep it in place and trotted around the barn to 
join the outing.

I am not surprised to find that goats have distinctive personalities and quirks.
I knew that they are filled with curiosity, inclined to mischief.

I am delighted to find that hand-raised goats are very sociable, clamoring for attention.

The three dogs also want attention.
This is Munchkin.

The dogs have managed to 'photo-bomb' my attempts to take photos.
This is Aneto, named for the highest mountain in the Pyrenees.
She is the mother of Munchkin and Blue who guards the goats in the third pen.

Another pair of twins was delivered last evening.
I went to meet them this morning.
F and B [Kentucky Gothic in their farm garb] hold the squirming babies for photos.

The little buck--about 14 hours old.

B is the surrogate mother, hand-feeding the babies, caring for them in the warmth of the kitchen for a week or more until they are ready to join the older kids in the stable.

Little sister, fed, wiped down and needing a cuddle.
The new babies were brought in last night, rubbed dry, fed their dam's colostrum, tucked into the clean bedding of the pen.

The little buck settled quickly to sleep after the exhaustive process of being born, but the tiny girl cried pitifully.
B. pulled on a large T-shirt of her husband's, rolling the bottom up to improvise a sling. She tucked little girl goat into the shirt, snugged her against her front and went quietly about her evening tasks, while the baby, lulled into calm reassurance, fell asleep.

F and B are good neighbors.
Having goats next door as well is a delight.


  1. Your new neighbors sound delightful, and the goats too.

    1. Terra; They are! Humans, goats--and mustn't forget the 3 Great Pyrenees! We are blessed!

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  2. nice write-up. Enjoyed reading, and seeing the pictures.

    1. Orion: Of course you can picture the setting and all the participants--other than the newest arrivals!

  3. Goats! When I was young our village seemed full of them, so many families kept two or three often grazing them on the verges alongside the village road. They had no legal right to use this land but nobody ever objected. These days one never sees a goat anywhere round here. My childhood was also haunted by an enormous Pyrenean dog that howled on nights when there was a full moon.

    1. John; I'm trying to imagine verges lined with grazing goats! I grew up in New England farming country, lived much of my life there, where dairy cattle were the thing--a few sheep, but very few goats. Fenced cow pastures often bordered a road. In Wyoming there is 'open range'--livestock can be pastured un-fenced with impunity. There are huge signs announcing that one is driving through open range--which means if you hit a bovine it is your own liability!

  4. What a lovely post. It sounds like you will enjoy having new neighbours. The goats sound like they are will regularly be plotting naughtiness! The kids are lovely and B has obviously brought up more "kids" than you can shake a stick at as she knew just what to do when the wee one was missing mum.

    1. Jennie; Although it is early days, it seems this property rental will work well for both families.
      B is a marvel with the goats--very caring, meticulous and knowledgeable. I am enjoying the goats and having none of the responsibility.

  5. How sweet! Melts your heart. Glad they are all settling in nicely. Such a beautiful farm.

    1. Karen; Baby animals are almost all captivating. With some of the exhausting renovation behind us we are really enjoying the farm.

  6. What a lovely read, so exciting with all those goats rushing about, exciting new neighbours as well. Goats are so pretty but obviously a handful of trouble.

    1. Thelma; I suspect that, on the whole, goats have earned their reputation for mischief. They are handsome and intelligent, but quite canny.

  7. What wonderful neighbors and what a delightful tale/post. I can imagine that there will be many more.

    The photos are great.

    Have a lovely day ~ FlowerLady

    1. Rainey; We are blessed to have good neighbors! The little goats grow so fast and are such fun to watch.

  8. My goodness, they are cute. I'd be over visiting, too. :)

    1. Deb; I try to remember my camera when I walk down the lane. If B is in the barn I have a chance to pat all those heads that pop up over the gates. Not that they are especially cooperative about photo ops.

  9. Looks like you are getting a real farm now. I didn't realize that there were two houses on your property. Wow! What a deal!

    1. Jane; This property was indeed a 'deal.' The Amish owner proposed a straight across trade by which we gained 60+ acres, plus two houses with their out-buildings. The caveat was the necessity of installing electricity and plumbing as well as proper kitchens and bathrooms.

  10. Too cute for words! I have to ask though, why goats, do they make cheese?

    1. Janet; B kept goats when her 4 children were growing up as part of a country lifestyle. When the time of the 'empty nest' arrived she decided to continue with the goats as a rewarding interest.
      I believe she has sometimes 'loaned' a milking goat to families with children who can't tolerate regular dairy products.
      The milk is very scrupulously handled and pasteurized and yes, she does sometimes make a delicious soft cheese similar to cream cheese.

  11. I love the goats long floppy ears! What fascinating neighbours and I was most interested to learn that those huge dogs have the job of guarding them.

    1. Kath; I think that Nubian goats are the handsomest breed--the long soft ears and the Roman noses!
      We were introduced to the dogs a few days after the move and they were told we are 'friends.'
      The dogs are very possessive of their charges and would attempt to drive off a human or animal predator.

  12. A lovely post, - I thoroughly enjoyed it. Marvelous photos and sweet babies..

    1. Hildred: Jim and I spent some time yesterday in the goat barn. The babies have grown astonishingly and are becoming distinct personalities.