As a farmer, one thing I’ve come to terms with is that goats will always have the upper hand. The sooner you accept this fact, the easier your life will be.
Take my Frannie, for instance. (Please, take her!)
No, not really. But sometimes, when I forget that goats are quicker, smarter, and have much more of a sense of humor than me, it feels like it would be a good idea to have a time-out space for Frannie. Last week I decided I’d take a day and bear down on goat foot care. Just trimming hooves, really. So, I grabbed my tool bucket and filled it with my trimmers, brushes, knives, iodine spray, tube of zinc ointment (something I swear by to keep things healthy), and a wad of paper towels. The herd was already out in the pasture for the day. It was sunny, a bit of a breeze—another perfect Maine end-of-summer day.
Dollie was first in line. She was already lying down, and she’s such an easy girl to work with, I decided to just crouch down next to her and do the job. Dollie is what I would call the perfect goat. She has the most docile disposition, never argues with anybody, isn’t a food hog, is always gentle with the little ones, and chews with her mouth closed. (Not that I mind Frannie’s chewing, even though it’s “Katie bar the door!” on things flying out of her mouth in all directions while she munches away on her daily ration of grain. But I digress.)
Dollie came to me when she was a year and a half old from a herd where she had been bullied. I think having been on the receiving end is what makes her such a nice girl. I worked with her for four months when she first came, as she hadn’t been handled much and wasn’t interested in being touched. Now, she can’t get enough of it. Not in a demanding way. She’s just always so happy to have an extra pat or kiss on the top of her head or nose.
We began the job with her front feet, with her lying calmly next to me while I worked. I had finished the major part of the trimming and was checking things over, getting out the iodine spray to give her a quick dusting, when I pulled the tube of zinc from the bucket. I keep the paper towels in the bucket so that when I finish with the zinc, I have something to wipe my hands on before moving on to the next hoof.
Suddenly, Frannie, who had—dare I say—sneaked up behind me, snatched the wad of towels and took off. She didn’t go far. Just out of reach. I yelled her name (yes, sometimes I do that in the case of Frannie) to no avail. She was munching as fast as she could, and by the time I got up off of my knees and started towards her, I realized it was hopeless. “Oh, well. It’s only paper,” I laughed to myself. At least, I think I was laughing.
I watch these girls chomp their way through brush and piles of hay every day, but I swear I’ve never seen a wad of paper towels inhaled before. I’ve never seen anything disappear so quickly. What was even more remarkable was the expression on Frannie’s face. She was grinning—or maybe it was a smirk.
Since I still had 59 more feet to go, I decided to proceed without paper towels. I guess you could say, “Why didn’t you just take the goat you were working outside the fence and do the job?” But for me, the lesson is in taking things as they come. If I try to outsmart the girls, I usually end up with the short end of the stick. But I sure am having a lot of fun in the process. Goats are like human kids: Every one is an individual.
I like that. Most days.
Dyan Redick calls herself “an accidental farmer with a purpose.” Her farm, located on the St. George peninsula of Maine, is a certified Maine State Dairy offering cheeses made with milk from a registered Saanen goat herd, a seasonal farm stand full of wool from a Romney cross ﬂock, goat milk soap, lavender woolens, and whatever else strikes Dyan’s fancy. Bittersweet Heritage Farm is an extension of her belief that we should all gain a better understanding of our food sources, our connection to where we live, and to the animals with whom we share the earth.
ALL PHOTOS: DYAN REDICK