Tuesday, January 24, 2006

My Misadventures with Goats

I thought I would continue my story about our goats.

In May 2005, a friend of our son Jonathan decided to give us one of his best milking goats; her name was Shalom. I haven't been around farm animals much, so that was a whole new ballgame for me! Jim and the boys had created a makeshift goat barn ahead of time, which was mostly of tarp and rough cut logs surrounding some live trees just down the hill from our basement, and near the lake. There was enough room in there for the goat to get out of the elements, and a milking stand that Shalom enjoyed sleeping on. I left the milking to the boys. Every morning and evening they would milk her, and she gave quite a bit of milk.

One Sunday Jim and the boys drove over to some friend's for the day. (There are times when I feel very ready for a day of peace and quiet, so I elected to stay home.) We didn't have any fencing yet for Shalom, so the boys staked her in the valley with a collar, chain and thing that screws into the ground. Needless to say, Shalom must of had it figured out how to unscrew the thing, and she would make her way up the hill and stick her head by the door and bleat, asking for company.

At this time we had just acquired an older dog (maybe about 10 years old), who was Pyrenese/Australian Shepherd. His name was Shiloh. We had another female dog named Selah who was 8 months old and 1/2 Border Collie, 1/4 Blue Heeler, 1/4 American Eskimo, but Shiloh immediately took over as top dog. Selah is a very timid dog, but felt it her duty to try to herd Shalom around; however, Shalom didn't take kindly to that notion. Shiloh kind of stayed away from the goat, but kept a wary eye on her.

Jim and the boys were gone quite a while, and I wondered when they would get home to milk the goat. All of a sudden, Shalom's head appeared in the screen door window, and the dogs started barking fiercely. I ran outside and grabbed the goat's chain, and she took me for a run around the house and down the hill, trying to get away from the dogs. She ran right into her shed and up onto the milking stand -- which was an indication to me that she was more than ready to be milked. Because of my lack of interest in milking I didn't know what to do! So, I called my trusty friend Paulette, and she came right over to help out.

Apparently goats get used to someone's way of milking them, and we weren't doing it the way she liked it. The whole time Paulette was trying to milk her she kept lifting her hind leg; I tried to hold it down, but then she would kick out both hind legs! The milk was spilled, and we kind of gave up after Paulette did the best she could. We fed her some hay and left her in the shed for the night. Turns out on the way to our friends' farm our van had lost its transmission, so Jim had to borrow a vehicle to even get home that night.

My niece was getting married Memorial weekend over across Minnesota, so the boys and I took the trip over there. Jim stayed here so he could work and take care of the animals (we also had chickens by this time). The day we were due back Jim had to make a trip to a city about 3 hours away, so there was a space of time when no one was here. Unfortunately, Jim forgot to put Shalom in her shed before leaving, and somehow after he left she had gotten her stake loose again and came up the hill. Shiloh must have decided it was time for him to do something about it, as when the boys and I got back the poor goat was dead.

There was a mystery about Shalom's death. Though there were claw marks on her body, there wasn't much blood. Some people were wondering if Shiloh had actually killed her, or if she had fallen and broken her neck. The boys and I were so upset that we didn't feel like doing an autopsy but just buried her, so we couldn't go back and reconstruct the scene of the crime. We gave Shiloh the benefit of the doubt, and kept him.

More friends heard about what had happened, and offered to loan us one of their goats. They even brought her over to us! Her name was Esther, and she was a smaller goat than Shiloh had been. She didn't give us as much milk as Shalom, but we were thankful to have her.

One Saturday Jim and the boys had gone somewhere and I jumped in the shower. Esther was staked closer to the house, more in a woody area and she was enjoying eating the brush. As soon as I shut the water off I heard Selah barking hysterically. That meant something was going on, so I rushed to get dressed (not easy to throw on clothes when wet!) and ran outside. What I saw was Esther's head pressed tightly against a tree trunk and Shiloh attacking her! The poor thing had tried to get away, and instead had become even more of a captive. All I remember is getting very angry, and grabbing a walking stick that one of the boys had left outside, I started beating the dog. He ran off a few paces, but then tried to go back at the goat. Finally he ran off. I was shaking badly by then, but managed to free the poor goat and ran with her down into the goat shed. It was then I noticed that Esther's back was torn from Shiloh's claws, and she had cuts in her neck from the chain being wound so tightly around her. I knew Esther was badly frightened and hurting, but what I think is so strange about goats is that they have absolutely no facial expressions to reveal their emotions or physical well being.

About this time our son Peter showed up after cutting grass near an old Norwegian cabin we have on our property, and I asked him to help me do something with Esther's wounds. This is when yesterday's blog comes into action, as it explains about using People Paste to take care of her. Esther quit giving milk that day, and it was the last day of Shiloh's life. Esther's wounds healed up with just a bit of scarring. We gave her back to the owners later in the season, a bit worse for wear.

I want to make goat's milk soap, so we'll have to try again with another goat or two. This time I guess I should learn how to milk!


HomesteadHerbs said...

OH Lynn! What experiences you are having! Just think of all the stories you'll be able to tell your grandkids!

Anonymous said...

you killed the dog? for doing what you breed him to do?