Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I was boy-crazy when I was in middle school. Actually, it’s probably more of an understatement. I was boy-obsessed. My diary teemed with fervent oaths of undying love for at least seven or eight of the boys in my class. My little preteen heart fluttered with excitement whenever any of them looked my way, and if one of them actually spoke to me – well, that was a matter that called for several hours of intense discussion on the phone with a friend.
So I suppose I should have expected that eventually, the chickens would come home to roost, and I’d have to put up with a boy-crazy kid of my own. I just never anticipated that the kid in question would be Buttercup, our little Nigerian Dwarf doe!
My first indication that all was not as it should be came on a busy Saturday morning. When I rushed outside to feed our little backyard herd of three does, Buttercup came completely unglued. I’d never seen her in such a state before – bleating her little head off, at the top of her lungs! Still being relatively new to raising goats, I thought maybe she was just extra hungry for some reason, so I gave her a little more grain than usual. To my surprise, she took barely a nibble, and started the noise right back up again! Now she had me worried – was she sick? Or maybe injured? Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to dwell on the situation right then; my two sons were waiting impatiently to be driven to their various Saturday morning activities. All I could do was look her over quickly – she seemed fine – and then hurry to the car. My concern faded as the morning went on; surely, by now, all was well at home.
When we arrived back home later that day, however, my husband emerged from the bedroom with a wild, desperate look in his eyes.
“She’s been screaming all day,” he told me, sounding a bit panicked. “Every 30 seconds. ALL DAY!”
Being that my husband can sometimes be given to exaggeration, especially where my beloved goats (or, as he affectionately calls them, my “stupid sheep”) are concerned, I took this with a grain of salt. Surely it couldn’t be that bad.
But then I heard her. And then 30 seconds later, I heard her again. Not only was she incredibly loud – she actually sounded hoarse! This was completely out of the ordinary for her, or for any of our goats, for that matter. We had gotten them about eight months before, and they had fit beautifully into our quiet, suburban neighborhood – only our next door neighbors were even aware that we had them, and that only because they could see them over the fence. We’d never had a problem with noise before.
I ran for my stash of goat books. What could possibly be wrong with my sweet little Buttercup? After a few minutes, I had it. She was in heat!
On the one hand, this was great news – she wasn’t sick or in pain. I could breathe a sigh of relief on that front. But on the other hand, it was terrible news – this would be happening every three weeks from now on? And it would last two or three days each time?! If no one on our street had called the police to report us yet, I was sure they would soon, if the peace was disturbed like this on a regular basis.
Panic set in. We had to find a way to quiet her down. I went outside to talk to her – maybe she could be distracted somehow. But she became even more agitated at the sight of me, and unbelievably, managed to call even louder! I let her out of the pen, reasoning that some free time loose in the backyard might calm her down. No such luck. I peered into our neighbors’ yards, nervous. No one had appeared with an ax or a shotgun yet – I hoped I could keep it that way.
Maybe a little exercise would wear her out. I started jogging around our yard in circles, and Buttercup followed right along, bleating with every step. After about fifteen minutes, I was out of breath, but not Buttercup – she was yelling just as desperately as ever.
I didn’t know where this sudden passion of hers had come from. We didn’t own a buck, and Bonnie, our oldest doe, had never made a fuss like this when in season. It must have been a love story straight out of a fairy tale – the lonely princess pining from afar for the handsome Prince Charming. Maybe I had sung one too many Disney songs while milking Bonnie nearby. I went inside again to share this new insight with my husband. He suggested a muzzle.
At first, I was horrified, but after another half-hour or so of her frantic hollering, the idea started to grow on me. I took an old pair of soft, stretchy nylons outside and wrapped them gently around Buttercup’s little snout. “I’m so sorry, sweetie,” I crooned. Miraculously, it seemed to work. Buttercup calmed down a bit, and ambled off to a different corner of the pen, fiddling with her new fashion accessory all the way. I could hardly believe my luck. I tiptoed back inside, not wanting to do anything that might disturb the sudden, blessed silence. After an hour of quiet, we were ecstatic – we had found the solution! I hoped the neighbors were slowly lowering their torches and pitchforks. Evening came, and the sky grew dark. I went outside to undo Buttercup’s muzzle so she could sleep comfortably. She gave one little “Meh!” to celebrate her freedom, and then ran off, silently, to rejoin her little herd. I sent up a fervent prayer of thanks, and went to bed myself.
11:30 pm. A sudden, ear-splitting, insistent noise startled me from my sleep. Buttercup was calling for her prince again. I held my breath, begging God to quiet her down, but I think He was laughing too hard to hear me at that point. My husband took the pillow off his head long enough to let me know, in no uncertain terms, that we couldn’t keep the goats if they were going to wake the entire neighborhood once a month, and that if I didn’t get rid of them soon, he would – and it would probably involve a barbecue. I got up, teary-eyed and sniffling, and listed them all for sale on Craigslist right then and there.
The next day, Buttercup seemed repentant. Now that the panic had subsided, I could think clearly again – and I realized that I didn’t have to sell them! I sent a flurry of emails to every person who boarded horses in the area. Would they ever be willing to rent me pasture space for my goats? Within a day, I had a response. A wonderful woman, who used to raise goats, told me they’d be welcome on her land. I was ecstatic. The next weekend, we loaded the goats into the truck and trundled them over to their new home.
The pasture was beautiful. We caught glimpses of majestic white horses half-hidden behind the trees, and little brown bunnies scampering from bush to bush. It was not so much a pasture as it was a fairy forest wonderland. Our three little princesses were immediately at home in this new environment.
As we gathered up the leftover fencing materials and turned to leave, Buttercup started bleating again. Not nearly as loudly as before – but either way, it wasn’t a problem now. She could fill the woods with her love song in hopes of attracting a passing prince, and no one but the woodland creatures would hear it. Now that I didn’t have to worry about angry mobs of neighbors, I smiled indulgently at her. I understood the intensity of young love, too - especially the unrequited type – my old middle school diary was a testament to that. Though I hadn’t bellowed at the top of my lungs every time I developed a crush, I’m sure I drove my parents crazy, just the same. Buttercup was just following in my footsteps.
I waved goodbye, and quickened my pace to catch up with my husband. As we drove away, I saw Buttercup jumping and frolicking around her new home. Her exuberance was catching, and soon, all three of our little goats were playing happily. Everything was as it should be. And they all lived happily ever after.