“Gather round,” the Goat Owner says, and from different angles in the muddy pasture the Bearded One and I and our Twenty-Something son and five of the Goat Owner’s family members — 8 of us wranglers in all — close in on the 3 fluffy little goats. “They know something is up.”
The plan is to herd the freaked goats into a smaller pen, then tackle them individually and haul them back across the pasture to the trailer, two men on the horns and me pushing the rear, each goat braking the entire way, hooves digging in. It works, but not before I lay out gracefully in the mud.
Pearl, LaLa and Sage — our gorgeous new Pygora (Pygmy/Angora mix) goats — were not hand-raised. They have never been sheared. They’ve lived their entire 4 year lives brush-clearing this beautiful 5 acre farm on Vashon Island, a short but complicated ferry ride from the Farmlet (the Bearded One had to BACK the truck and rental trailer onto the ferry both ways. He is my hero).
“They’ll come right up to you,” the Goat Owner had told me over the phone. “They’re easy to grab or wrestle, but they aren’t petting goats.”
“Like chickens?” I asked. I have experience with not picking up chickens, then eventually picking them up, mainly when they are asleep. I rarely grab them anymore, however, somehow content with vicinity.
“Yes!” she said. “They’re farm animals. They really don’t want to be caught. They’re not cuddly.” I’m learning this. Farm animals aren’t pets in the sense that Ruby and Garfield are. They’re bonded to each other in their chicken and goat ways, not to me. No hugs, no walking the road together, no brushing their thick coats. Not yet, anyway.
And they come and go. Steve and Tux, our 21-week-old roosters, will be moving on to auction this month.
Pearl, LaLa and Sage were welcome to return to the neighboring alpaca and sheep farm on Vashon Island where they were born if we didn’t want them. My role it seems is to provide food and shelter and health care as needed. And be here. Theirs is to be goats and chickens and provide goat and chicken type insights, and hopefully, eventually, fiber and eggs.
I want to touch these goats, though. At least have them eat from my hand. They did this for the Goat Owner. Everyone says to offer carrots, which I’ve done and they haven’t approached yet. I’m a bit sad about this.
The Bearded One reassures me. “They’re making friendly gestures, semi-approaching,” he says, “and it hasn’t even been a week.” That’s all true, I think. Sage, especially, is clearly dying to get a carrot from me but he gets in trouble for it from his sister and the indisputable boss and brains, Pearl.
Sage and I have a connection because I am the wrangler who first tackled him in the muddy pen on Vashon Island last Friday. I had him, too, my fingers deep in the gorgeous, inches-thick cashmere fleece. And then he bolted away and I hung on long enough to flop flat in the muck. “I looked so good when I arrived,” I said, closing the 5×8 rental trailer with all three goats successfully loaded. The Goat Owner agreed and apologized for not having mentioned it.
That first night the goats were here, the Bearded One dreamed he set up a huge tent and the Occupy Wall Street movement came and took it over. Then last night, just three nights later, he worked in the barn for a couple of hours, playing the radio and talking to the goats. They hung around and watched him the entire time, each species enjoying the other.
Then Pearl butted the gate. Hard. Like a car. Like a car wreck. Then she did it to the inside planking on the barn. Wham!
I knew something traumatic had happened when the Bearded One came in. He was diplomatic, though, and didn’t come right out with it. Instead, he talked about the goats sticking around in the barn and Pearl finally nibbling some hay. He called them damn-near friendly.
When he started talking about reinforcing the barn walls and making stops for the sturdy gates I knew we were getting close to what was on his mind. “If Ruby weighs 60 pounds, them sheeps weigh 180,” he said, and then told me about the blow to the gate, which hadn’t hurt it one speck, but impressed the Bearded One nonetheless.
“The goats are going to knock the farm down,” he says.
And then we both are laughing so hard we slap the kitchen counter and have to wipe tears from our eyes. What on earth have we done?