“This is not a drill.” The Bearded One checks the sloping flat roofs of the barn and aviary and thin plastic of the hoop house as the record-breaking 10 inches of snow falls. “A cubic foot of this wet snow weighs 20 pounds,” he says, quoting the TV, and I believe it.
The snow is crazy heavy to shovel. The tarp (and poultry wire) roof on the aviary is about 800 square feet. That’s — no way — about 15,000 pounds?? The road is impassable, the decks are ice sheets, and the top 30 feet of a Douglas Fir snaps and falls across the path up to the barn as the Bearded One watches from 20 feet away. He says it sounded like dynamite.
No critter wants to get their feet cold and wet. Garfield complains loudly, tiptoes across the crusted snow and then repeatedly shakes each moist paw as if he’s stepped in sap. Ruby rolls in the snow, but hesitates before plodding through the deep, hard-crusted stuff in the backyard. The chickens step out of the covered aviary and race back in.
The surprise is the goats. I thought snow wouldn’t faze them, but they have hardly moved from the barn and the covered breezeway. Which is nice since I get to hang out with them in close proximity. They’ve been here a week now, and they’re getting their appetites back, nibbling at the grain mix and the orchard hay. But they still won’t approach and eat the supposed goat delicacy — carrots — from my hand.
Then one afternoon the Bearded One comes into the kitchen — I am examining a seed catalog at the table — and announces that Pearl and Sage have both just eaten a bit of blueberry muffin from his hand. I am thrilled, and then a bit concerned — could they get the dreaded bloat we’ve heard happens in goats who eat too much grain? And goats can’t handle much sugar. We decide it was just a teeney taste. In fact, I make a note to take half a muffin up next time.
But, of course, I forget. Assembling and putting on snow clothes takes all my brain power.
Once in the barn, the goats keep their distance until the Bearded One reaches for the jar of dried peaches (homemade, no added sugar) he keeps on a shelf and shakes it. Sage and Pearl look up. LaLa instantly walks over to the inner fence and accepts a dried peach slice from the Bearded One. Sage and Pearl line up, and then LaLa gets a second slice from my hand. Joy!
Goats have relatively small mouths, rows of even teeth and they chew side to side. I can hear the crunch crunch, the grind, even with a chewy dried peach. LaLa’s eyes are dark, but they still have those distinctive horizontal slit-shaped goat pupils giving them increased peripheral depth perception to detect predators. They are smart animals.
I try to touch Pearl’s beard as her lips reach for a peach. She hops back light as a feather, tipped off by the merest flick of a finger. A trick! A con! Snow job!
I apologize. I compliment her on her gorgeous cashmere fleece, which I am sure, I say, is coming in handy in this weather. I assure her we won’t attempt to shear her until it warms up a bit. She scratches her back with her lovely curved horns. She is ignoring me.
The Bearded One calls for help taking down a tarp. It’s strung between trees covering building materials including 4’x8′ plywood sheets, and is now full of ice boulders. We’ve been wanting it gone so as to get a better view of the barn and the goats from the house.
We work together, raking off ice, pulling out support poles, and then lifting — 1, 2, THREE! — plywood through the gate and into the barn. I am in the barn angling the plywood through an inside gate when I see Ruby just outside the barn door smelling the new goat poop. She is not allowed in the goat pasture or barn — for a while, anyway. And then I wonder how she got here. I race out of the barn.
“THE GOATS ARE OUT!” I cry. There they are, walking down the snowy tractor trail toward the road and Port Orchard and Seattle. They jump a bit and speed up at my screaming.
This is my nightmare. These aren’t chickens. These are huge livestocks! We could be chasing them for the rest of our lives. Even though the farm hand on Vashon Island said they love to get out but they don’t go anywhere.
Okay. But what can we do?
“The peaches!” The Bearded One gets the jar and shakes it.
The goats stop in their tracks. Pearl spins and leads the way as the three fluffy goats jog back to the barn and, unbelievably, right through the gate to the Bearded One’s outstretched peachy fingers.
We’ve got to start shutting gates around here.