Tag Archives: brushing fleece goats

The Goat Gig

He’s watching me.  I’m brushing Sage (He-Who-Reared-Up-At-Me-Again-This-Week) and the Bearded One keeps coming in and out of the barn, making sure Sage behaves.

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I’m so new to this goat gig, I know nothing.  I accept the Bearded One’s protector personality and I accept the responsibility of monitoring my own cavalier-tending attitude toward capricious wild animals and I am uber-careful and will not keep brushing Sage after he turns and looks at me.  And in exchange the Bearded One will not mention getting rid of Sage again.

Earlier this week, I was brushing our biggest Pygora goat Sage in the upper pasture when he gave me the eyeball and body language that he didn’t like where I was brushing anymore, but I didn’t quit soon enough because he carefully backed up, then stood on his hind legs and challenged me to a whacking of horns.  It was affectionate and playful, despite the situation.

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Still, among goats, that rearing up is a very short-term prelude to charging ahead and ramming something.  Other goats, barn walls, people.  They can do it way gently or way hard.  I yelled at him to get down, which he did, but the Bearded One saw the whole thing and said, “We might have to get rid of Sage.  Gotta put a stop to that.”

I agree that a solution must be found, but I also know that I was more in control of the situation than the Bearded One credits me for.  And I was untouched.  Still, in a love relationship you take care of yourself at least partly because of and for the other, and my other is concerned.  His own mother was rammed hard by her own billy-goat when she was 80.

He keeps checking on us.  At least that’s what it seems like he’s doing.  There he goes again.  Probably making a crate to transport Sage back to Vashon Island, I think.

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I’m using the new tail-and-mane brush we bought at the feed store.  Sage’s creamy fleece floats above his thick brown guard hairs like foam, and my job is to brush it out so we don’t have to shear him.

Shearing would require buying or renting equipment and restraining the goats, or hiring someone to do it, and since the goats shed their fleece anyway, and since it’s still freezing some nights, we’ve elected to just brush it out.  Then wash it and maybe stuff pillows with it.  Or learn to card and spin.

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We have a good bunch of it this year.  We started daily brushings when we saw them rubbing it off on the fencing.

I pull another inch-thick patty size chunk of Sage fleece from the brush tines and add it to the pile.  And continue brushing.  And pondering my relationship to the goats, how to embrace them without embracing them.

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Both the Bearded One and I brush all three goats now, but Pearl is partial to the Bearded One.  Sage can’t stand to see Pearl being brushed — he can’t stand to see LaLa brushed either — he charges over and butts them out of the way.

So the Bearded One carries a walking stick with him when he brushes Pearl.  He’s never struck Sage with it, he just holds this 5-foot pole in one hand and Sage doesn’t approach.  “He respects the stick,” says the Bearded One.  Which amazes me, but it works.

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Sage’s eyelashes are so lovely and long.  I think of him as my buddy and companion.

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As I brush, I want to show affection to him like to a dog or cat.  Not kissing, though.  I haven’t kissed LaLa since I promised I wouldn’t — over a month now.  Sage turns and stares at me with his square pupils.  That’s enough, he’s saying.

I follow him out of the barn, carrying the pile of feather-soft fleece in a plastic bag to take to the house and clean.

And that’s when I see what the Bearded One’s been doing when I thought he was checking on me.

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Setting up to pour concrete as a finishing cap on his latest goat toy, the four-ramped Goat Gig.  There’s not much chance of Sage leaving any time soon.

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Fresh Apple Bark

The Bearded One has been troubled this week by the prospect of pruning the top off of our Spartan Apple tree, which is full of little green and pink buds.

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I’ve watched from the window as he’s studied it, taking pictures from every angle with plans to send them to tree specialists on-line.

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“All I want is to walk around the tree and pick the apples,” he says.  He is very serious.  “I could really mess it up, stunt its growth.”

I can’t believe the big deal he’s making over this.  There are two 6-8 foot branches sticking straight up beyond the reach of Goliath, and every intuitive cell in my body says to just cut them off, the tree will be fine.  “Just cut ’em off,” I say.

He then explains the octopus shape he envisions, that it’s just a 4-year-old tree, that he’s not ready to cut yet.  It doesn’t get enough sun here to be super hardy.

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I am a natural cutter and trimmer.  When I head into the yard, I grab the hand pruners to cut some huckleberry or salal for the goats.  I am the one who usually mows.  I trim my fingernails regularly and I use my kitchen scissors almost as much as my knives.

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The Bearded One is a digger, and goes for a shovel or pick every time.  He likes to dig and plant and build and is a whiz with the hose, lassoing it down calmly into the grass.  He doesn’t like to cut anything, though.  He wants it all wild.  He needs lots of reassurance.

If I even mention the possibility of cutting my long hair, he says he will cry in the night.  Likewise for perms.

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He himself hasn’t had a haircut since we got together in 1996, and he hadn’t cut his dark brown hair for a couple of years before that, when he left the law practice for good.  The kids, who were ages 6, 10, and 13 when we married have known him only as a long-haired hippy.

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And now he’s a goat-whisperer, gray-haired hippy, the only person on the planet who can actually pet and brush the wild goat Pearl.

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All three of the goats’ fleece is as long and thick as it will get, but it’s still freezing some nights and they need those coats for another couple of months.

The Bearded One patiently brushes each goat every day with hopes that we never have to sheer them, that we can just pull the fleece out with a brush as it sheds.  I like that idea, too, but mainly because I don’t want to restrain them.  I’ve read that it’s possible to pluck Angora cashmere and mohair fleece.  We’ll see.

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If we do nothing, they’ll just rub it completely off by endless scratching and shoving against the fence.

Before I have a chance to download the apple tree photos, I look out the window again and see two long apple tree branches displayed on the grass.  The Bearded One waves happily for me to come and see.

“What happened?” I ask, and step out on the deck.

The Bearded One is so pleased he doesn’t seem to even remember the tree consultant idea.  “I saw Lou on the road and he said to just cut ’em off.”  Lou has a nice orchard.  He knows stuff.

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“Yay!” I say, relieved that he is relieved.  And then I notice all three goats peering down the chute to the lower pasture, watching the Bearded One carrying around fresh-cut apple tree trimmings.

He holds them up and waves them at the goats.

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They have superb eyesight, and it’s the Kentucky Derby in an instant.  Down the chute they race for all they’re worth.  Anything for fresh apple bark.