Goats. No substitute for sheep.

I’ve been thinking: goats are no substitute for sheep. Not in meat, not in fiber, not in herdibility and certainly not in lawn maintenance. Goats pretty much just have personality and around here, that just isn’t enough – you’ve got to be able to contribute something. Jumping goofily into the pepper garden, despite it being enclosed by bird netting, and proceeding to go to town on the Scotch Bonnet peppers I have been coaxing along for the better part of a month; or finding Jenn’s potted flowers to be the most delicious delicacy their goat-y little goat lips have ever nibbled will not endear them to anyone around here, no matter how cute they may think they look with our most prized plants hanging out of their mouths as they ponderously chew them. And since I am discussing the merits of the goats here, you should know that when I say ‘contribute something’ I don’t mean those little pellets that they leave all over the place; I don’t need the yard any more fertile than it is, and despite the grass being lush, full and in abundant supply, they – those finicky ungulates – won’t eat a single blade. Their little personality quirks are enough to get them sold, and quickly. Maybe someone else will laugh at their antics.

Jenn told me once that ever since she was young she has wanted goats. And since we have had them, Jenn has doted over them so much that they follow her on walks around the property, they follow her into the house and they follow her into the car. We can’t eat outside because they are worse beggars than dogs but, unlike the dogs, the goats have no problems climbing on your chair or butting your hand off of your plate to get at the food. No, goats are not about subtlety or finesse. And, as I am on the subject of dogs, the goats, when they are not eating our garden to over-grazed nubs, they are feeding on the willow shrubs just on the other side of the dogrun fence while the dogs lose their minds and bark the whole time. Through all of this, however, Jenn has defended her goats as I count the days until butchering. Until last week, that is.

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The new lambs.  Both are three-month old rams and both are Rideau Arcotts if that means anything to you.

It may have been the three goats in the back seat of our small Ford Focus wagon, driving their cloven hooves into the new groceries Jenn was unloading that did it, I’m not sure, but one day quite unexpectedly Jenn announced that she was selling her goats. I was surprised to hear her say this and I wondered at her sincerity (quietly and to myself because, though I am lot of things, brave isn’t one of them). I mean, in the heat of emotion, people sometimes say things they have no plans on seeing through. A day later, though, when Jenn announced four of the seven goats were sold and were going to be picked up in two days, I found myself eating the words I had quietly (and fortunately) said to myself. If you can imagine idolizing a movie star all throughout your teen years, only to get a chance to meet them later in life and find out that they are really kind of a jerk, then I think you have come to as close an approximation of how Jenn feels about these goats as is possible. Now we have three goats left – all males – which are slated to be butchered in the early part of September; or sooner if they don’t stay out of the garden.

The only problem with selling the goats is that Nature abhors a vacuum. The departure of the four goats created a void in the animal matrix so Jenn decided to fill it. With lambs. She lamented the fact that Gilligan, a Border Collie, didn’t have any sheep to herd, and she has assured me that sheep are ten times the grazers that the goats were, to which I retort that multiplying anything by zero is still zero. I blame a lot of this new acquisition on Gilligan, for it were not for his unblinking eyes and his slinky walk around anything in numbers greater than two, Jenn would have been less prone to buying sheep. But, buy them she did and it wasn’t long before I was shown what I am in for with these new additions.

It happened as I sat alone in the parking lot of a late-night grocery store. We were on our way back from picking up the sheep, just south of North Bay, and we needed gas and something to eat. Jenn went into the store with Hunter while I stayed in the truck with the dog and the sheep (just to clarify, because it is Jenn we are talking about, the sheep were in the box of the truck, not the actual truck.) The lambs would bleat – loudly – every two minutes and it wasn’t long before half of the grocery store’s customers were crowded around the back of my truck and bleating back at them. Slowly, so as to not attract any attention, I eased my seat wa-a-ay back and tried to hide inside my truck. Then later, when were home, we unloaded the sheep into their new area. I grabbed one and put it on the ground and came away covered in smeary lanolin and smelling like a pair of wool socks that have been left to sit damp in the old hay and manure pile for a few days. The best part, however, is these sheep have been raised in a barn and don’t know what grass is. They can’t find out, either, because if they eat too much, they will get scours which is just an agriculturally-tongued way of saying diarrhea. Ten times the grazers, you say?

But, they are here to stay and if I know what is good for me, I’ll just keep my mouth shut, pull on my Wellies, a cable-knit sweater – wool, of course – and grab my crook as I head out into the early morning mists rising off of the heath.

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This one has been dubbed “Moe” which is short for Mohawk.  Hunter likes his little tuft.

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This one has been called “Spotty.”  I shouldn’t have to explain why.

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The sheep like to stick together.  I think one of them is made of the hook-y part of Velcro.

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Gilligan tries his mind tricks on the sheep as he tries to get them to bend to his will from the other side of the fence.  The wee idiot Ginger just stood in the muddy area and barked.


6 Responses

  1. I can see the goats following Jenn everywhere, I used to know someone who had a bunch of goats that wouldn’t stay out in the field if it was buggy unless she sat out there with them. So she’d take a cup of tea and sit with her goats…and the bugs.

    Did you have to post lamb pictures? Now I have lamb envy.

    • It would seem, then, that all goats are idiots. The goats follow Jenn everywhere. One came in the house once and got spooked by the cat so we had one of those cartoon running episodes where the legs are going a mile a minute but the body isn’t moving because the goat’s hooves wouldn’t grab on the linoleum floor. This made the goat even more spooked, so it tried to run harder and got even less traction.

      The lamb envy thing is how we ended up with some. Jenn had it pretty bad.

      • I just looked again at the pictures, they hadn’t all loaded last night (joys of dial-up!). I now see Gilligan doing his thing. Did he have any luck getting the lambs to move from on the other side of the fence?

        Take a look at this blog entry, scroll down a bit and you’ll see some lambs getting a real staredown at my friend Shona’s.

        Oh, btw, she wants the goat…thinks maybe since he’s a pygmy her husband might not notice if she slips him into the menagerie.

      • Gilligan did sort of get the sheep to move a bit, but they knew there was a fence between them and the dog, so they were not overly concerned about following what Gilligan was suggesting.

        Collie stares are pretty intense.

        Glad to hear the goat has found a home.

  2. Know what else like to eat grass? Bears. They like to drink beer too. I just saved a co-workers supply by throwing rocks and sending in the hounds.

    Any word from the mag?

    • Every spring, just down the road, we can see several bears eating the tender grass shoots and dandelion roots in a friend’s field. I don’t know if they go after his beer – he has dogs too, so the bears tend to stay away from his house. I threw a rock at a bear once and it only made it come into the campsite faster… won’t do that again.

      No word from the mag.

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