I never really thought I would own goats, as my heart was set on purchasing a horse as soon as financially feasible.
Unfortunately, that looked like it would be a long road. Goats eat a lot less (and they actually produce something) so that route made a lot more sense for our fledgling homestead.
It was early spring when we drove to a farm down the road to look at our prospective addition. Cupcake was an Alpine/LaMancha cross and already in milk. I had never milked an animal in my life. However, being a breastfeeding mother, I was familiar with the concept and figured that every breastfeeding mom innately knows how to get milk out of an udder. We left with Cupcake riding happily in the backseat of our pickup.
We decided to temporarily house her in the old chicken coop pen with access to a fully enclosed stall. New to the whole goat thing, we made some classic mistakes early on. First, she was alone, she had quickly grown VERY attached to me, and the chicken pen was far away from the house. Second, the fencing was a measly four feet high. Ha! Within minutes, she made her first escape, soaring easily over the fence. I think she added an extra 12 inches to her leap just to mock me.
We didn't have time to think long about this predicament before it was milking time. Of course, it made the most sense to milk her in our kitchen. So, that's what we did. After five minutes, one shattered bowl, splattered milk, and many barely suppressed naughty words, Cupcake went outside to finish the milking session. One very troublesome half hour passed before we had successfully milked our first full quart of milk straight into the ground. Yay, team!
The next day, my husband drove an hour to another farm and picked up a goat friend--the first goat listing that we could find on Craigslist. I believe the ad had referenced a goat available for milking or Easter dinner, and we were too pressed to ask questions. Husband soon returned with Nibbles, a salt and pepper LaMancha doeling. Apparently, the farmer had also given him the opportunity to take home a free rooster, but Husband graciously declined. Nibbles clambered out from the backseat of the truck, serenely munching on saltine crackers.
We led her back to our pen, glad to have quickly solved the source of the problem. It had been a long, tense 24 hours of worrying over the anxious state of our goat, on top of the stress of milking and adjusting to a new animal on the farm. With relieved smiles, we stepped back to survey the new herd mates. The goats looked so happy together, and the chickens curiously wandered in the background; it was the picturesque beginning to a new farm. And then Cupcake jumped the fence.
The next day, I went out and bought six foot fencing. Late that night, Husband and I drove the truck out back and pointed the headlights on our working area. Our daughter was sound asleep in a mound of blankets in the backseat. We worked until 1:00 in the morning, in 30 degree weather, turning our old chicken coop pen into an impenetrable fortress. We emerged victorious and finally able to enjoy the entertaining companionship of our newest additions.
Our goats have added so much joy and laughter to our humble farm these last few months. Many mornings, our daughter is out the door and playing with the goats before breakfast. Cupcake and Nibbles now have a much larger pasture, and the ducks and chickens love to keep them company. I thoroughly enjoy glancing out my window to see them lying in the sun, calmly chewing their cud. Those first few distressing days are now nothing but a distant, somewhat humorous, memory and the subject of a recent blog post. Yay, team.
Together with her husband and two young daughters, Tara-Sky Alford began homesteading in 2012. Read more about her early experiences with raising goats, chickens, and children at www.FidelityHillFarm.Blogspot.com.