We have been talking about goats in recent posts; it’s time to meet Ruth, Boaz, and Moses! (Or Bo and Mo, as we like to call them. Or Bobo and Momo. Take your pick!)
Goats were not originally part of our plan. Somewhere, John read that goats “spend twenty-three hours a day plotting their escape, and one hour a day attempting to execute the plan.” He did not want to chase a herd of Houdinis, and I was noncommittal. One word changed our minds: Dairy.
Done right, goat’s milk is rich, creamy, and delicious. (The secret is keeping the does separate from the billys.) Goat milk can be transformed into yogurt, soft cheeses, and soap.
While I was working at Murdoch’s, our local ranch and home supply store, I began chatting with anyone who was buying goat chow. (Yes, it’s a thing!) What breed of goat do you have? How many? What do you do with them?
One chilly fall night I talked with a vivacious silver haired lady who had three Nubian does (females.) Nubians have the long floppy ears, they are excellent dairy goats, and they were the breed we were considering. “Do you breed them?” I asked. She’d bred all three of them the previous fall, but none of them “freshened,” which is the caprine term for becoming pregnant and sucessfully delivering kids. She and her husband were having them all bred again, in hopes of better results.
I am not in the habit of giving my phone number to strangers, but I had a good feeling about this woman. I wrote down my name and number on a scrap of paper and pressed it into her hand. “If they all freshen and you have any extra kids, will you call me?”
My phone rang one balmy evening in April. It was Susan. Did I remember her? Barely. All three of their does freshened, and they had six kids! They had one male/female pair they wanted to sell–did we want them? They needed to know quickly because they had someone coming out in a couple of days to disbud everyone (remove nibs of horns) and wether the males. (Another caprine term= castrate). They’d need to know what we wanted.
John and I talked. Getting goat kids is like having human babies- if you wait until you are 100% ready, you will never have them. We decided to go for it. We did not want to disbud any of them, but they recommended that we disbud the female, because many breeders will not breed a buck with a horned female, due to the risk of the buck being injured during mating. We agreed to disbud the female, and we definitely wanted the males wethered. We declined to have the males disbudded. (You will notice in pictures that Ruth has horns. They grew in, anyway. We are glad they did!)
Such excitement! They invited us to come visit “our” babies, so of course we made the first of several trips to their farm just a few days later. Susan and her husband, Lou, turned out to be absolutely delightful, and y’all, the first moments you see tiny baby goats- there are no words. And they were ours!
Susan and Lou had named our goats Ruth and Boaz after the Biblical characters. They were milking the mother and bottle feeding the babies, so they wanted to keep them for a couple of months.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we had a barn to build! The previous owner kept horses and had built a run-in shed for them, We don’t have horses, so we decided to convert the shed into a goat barn. This kept us busy!
Finally, in late June the big day arrived! Belle, of course, rode with us to bring the new family members home. John drove, Belle rode shotgun, and I rode in the back with Ruth and Boaz. We built wooden railings for the sides to keep them from jumping out. Turns out we needn’t have worried. They did not know what to think of riding in the open truck bed, and they stood, one on each side of me, with their heads tucked under my arms.
We did not know what to expect. Would they run off? Would Belle chase them? We kept everyone on leashes for a few minutes, but again, we needn’t have worried. Belle considered them hers to guard, and they stuck close to us. Here they are with John, on a rock that quickly became a favorite toy.
After two weeks, we called Susan and Lou to tell them that the goats were thriving and that we were all having great fun. They surprised us: Did we want one more? They had decided to sell the other wether, Romeo. (His sister is Juliet.)
We bought Ruth and Boaz for two reasons: dairy and weed control. I am very sensitive to chemicals, so we don’t use pesticides or herbicides. Noxious weeds are an issue, and goats are known for loving weeds, so they are our weed control solution. That, and pulling them by hand. One more weed eater? Yes, please. And so there were three. All have the same father.
When we brought Romeo home, we decided that he needed a new name; we dubbed him “Buzz.” Would you please tell me what possessed us to name two goats “Boaz” and “Buzz?!” That did not last. Later, after we bought Esther and Sara, Buzz was the only one without a biblical name, so I suggested Moses. It wasn’t exactly rolling off the tongue, but then one morning I called him Momo, and we knew we’d found his name.
Recently, I posted a picture on Facebook and mentioned Bo by name. My brother Clarke grew up as “Bo,” and he commented, “Did you really name a goat after me?” Then I realized that by shortening the names to Bo and Mo, I had subconsciously nicknamed them after my brothers Bo and Monte.
The winter of 2016-17 was one of the coldest on record. We had two multiweek cold snaps where daytime temps hung in the single digits and nighttime temps plunged below zero. Ever the protective parents, we bought men’s fleece vests at Salvation Army and cut them to size to make “goat coats.” We had fun with a few Facebook posts that we called “Goats in Coats.” I think those coats were as much for us as for them!
The next spring, Susan called. They had four more kids and wanted to sell a pair of female twins. Did we want them?
John is all about more animals- his reaction was , “Of course! More babies!” I am the pragmatic one when any sort of financial expenditure is involved. I hesitated. Did we really want more mouths to feed?
You probably know that we have five goats, so obviously we brought those two home. More about the conversation that convinced me when you meet Esther and Sara in an upcoming post.