Getting My Goats


| 9/13/2011 10:23:42 AM


Tags: Homesteading, Goats,

Andy and the goatsThink back to your last car purchase. As soon as you drove off the lot, weren’t you suddenly aware of all the other cars of the same make and model on the road? You’d never really noticed them before, but now they seemed to be everywhere. I recently had the same experience, though not with cars – with goats! What started out seeming to me like a fun, but eccentric, choice of pet for a city backyard, has turned out to be a growing trend across America. According to the US Department of Agriculture, there are over 3 million goats currently being raised in the USA, and of those, the number of dairy goats rose by 6% from 2009 to 2010. When I started telling friends about my new pets, I learned that many of them had either had goats in the past or knew someone who still did. Craigslist is teeming with goats for sale, and Yahoo! groups for goat fanciers abound online. The Cooking Channel recently ran a program featuring goat dairies that produce gourmet ice creams and cheeses, and even children’s cartoons and TV commercials seem to be including goats more often these days.

But why all the hubbub? Why is a goat such a great addition to an urban or suburban homestead? Besides the fresh milk and homemade cheese, and the relative ease of care, goats can be some of the most affectionate pets you’ll ever own, and provide hours of entertainment as you watch their antics. I know my own life has been changed forever by these adorable animals, as they’ve allowed me to connect with nature more deeply than I ever imagined possible, and all in a smallish backyard near Dallas, Texas.

I’m a city girl. I grew up in a series of rental houses – nice ones, but rentals nonetheless – in big cities: Seattle, San Antonio, Dallas. Our landlords didn’t look kindly on vegetable gardens, and I wasn’t allowed to have a pet, except for one brief but passionate love affair with a bunny, which I cared for with the fierce love that only a 7-year-old can muster for a member of the rodent family. All I knew of farm life was that African violets need to be by a window, and that bunnies will sometimes eat your Barbie’s hair. But then we moved.

Jon Jon and BonnieMy father got a university position teaching abroad, in a small town in Austria. I, ultra-worldly 13-year-old that I was, was horrified by the move…until our plane touched down in Vienna. At that moment I fell in love with the place – the trees, the hills, the farms – the cows! Cows were everywhere – across the street, near the school. Sometimes they even escaped the confines of their fencing and wandered into our backyard. We were still renting, so even here, pets were off-limits, but the woman who owned our house was a gardening genius. Our backyard was like Eden – kiwi vines growing over the pergola by the pond, a huge vegetable plot near the cherry and fig trees, a berry patch close enough to the back door to pop out and pick a few glistening raspberries for your cereal. Everyone in Austria had a garden. Going over to a friend’s house to do homework meant picking some fresh spinach from their yard for dinner. They were so matter-of-factly connected to the land; it was completely integrated, seamlessly woven into the lives of even the city dwellers there. Two of my best friends even had farms, and taught me, with amused patience, how to milk a cow. I longed to be like them, to have that intuitive link with nature that seemed to be their birthright, so I threw myself wholeheartedly into working in our yard. For a few brief years, I was – almost – a country girl.

In college, I made up for lost time in the pet department. My roommates put up with a string of animals sharing our dorm room –a tree frog, a crawfish, another bunny. And it was there at college that I found my husband, who, having grown up on a ranch in Arizona, aided and abetted my attempts to connect with the natural world. One of the first gifts he bought for me when we were first married was an adorable little cocker spaniel puppy. I was in heaven.

While my husband kept me in a steady supply of kittens and puppies, he indulged his own passion for birds. For years, the walls of our tiny one-bedroom apartment were lined with miniature quail living in plastic tubs. Once we bought a house - in a nice, normal, Dallas neighborhood, mind you – we acquired a whole flock of chickens, several fancy pigeons, and a few ducks. I didn’t especially care for them – mammals are more my thing – but I definitely didn’t mind the fresh eggs! While I tried my hand at breeding rabbits (pretty unsuccessfully, too, which is really pitiful, considering they’re rabbits), my DH brought a new obsession with fancy goldfish to the mix. Then came the snails. Tubfuls of them. In our living room. The neighbors thought we were insane. We dreamed of escargot.




dairy goat

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