Friday, January 6, 2012
Once Weaned, Twice Naughty
If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that in November our family brought to our farm three baby Nigerian Dwarf goats. We immediately feel in love with these furry, affectionate bundles of energy. For the next several weeks, we bottle fed them 2 or 3 times each day and spent quite a bit of extra time holding them and petting them. (My girls often talked with them, sang to them, and gave them math and reading lessons as well.) They ate up the attention, kissing our noses, dozing in our arms, climbing all over us like so many human jungle gyms, and wailing pitifully whenever we left them behind to return to the house.
They grew a great deal in November and December, and Tutu even got plump. Little did we know that they were also storing up great reserves of naughtiness. During the past couple of weeks--beginning suspiciously close to the time we weaned them from their milk--they started exhibiting all those classic goat behaviors we had heard so much about but were convinced (time for all you experienced farmers out there to chuckle) were grossly exaggerated. Most of their antics are simply comical, or at worst annoying (e.g., escaping from their stall into the main part of the barn every time we crack the door open). But some of them are maddening--especially their stubborn insistence on eating the chickens' feed.
You might ask: What's the big deal? So what if the goats eat some chicken feed? I spent a week or so trying to comfort myself with that very thought. But it turns out chicken feed is actually quite bad for goats, at least in significant quantities (it is much too high in protein and can harm their ruminant stomachs). Goat food isn't great for chickens either. (I'm afraid the chickens have gotten a good bit of revenge by their own raiding in the goat stall.)
We are determined to make our little farm as integrated and natural as possible, and to give our critters the chance to spend most of their lives outside of stalls and pens. But this free-ranging thing turns out to be a bit more complicated than we expected, full of unexpected challenges and quirky crises. In fact, it reminds me a whole of trying to parent. And while that adventure is the toughest I've ever faced, it has also been the most rewarding. That gives me the courage to stay hopeful (and reminds me to keep a sense of humor!) as we stumble and trip our way through this new adventure. But right now, I've got some naughty little kids I've got to go feed.