Tag Archives: goat cartoons

Not the Weaver

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I am on my knees beside a half-wild 150-pound goat plucking the cashmere from his hide.  With my pronged comb, I coax the mix of fluff and strands, tugging the silky lengths, rolling it like cotton candy.  Eventually a clump pulls free, I admire it and tell Sage how gorgeous he is, then drop the exquisite puff into a 5-gallon bucket.

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This is the preferred method for cashmere Pygoras, so as not to mix the shorter and courser guard hairs into the fine silvery cashmere.  Sage loves it.

And I love his musky smell, his curling lips, and his long straight beard.  I love his little bushy tail that gives away his feelings just like a dog’s, and I love his hooves, which are small, round pegs that trot and prance and are so strong they can grip the side of a mountain like pliers.

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Sage points to an itchy spot on his back with his horn tip, and I stroke it with the comb.  The skin is dry but there are no lice at all, the scourge of goats.  We watch that closely.  Sage rolls his eyes with pleasure.

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Pearl stands patiently with LaLa waiting her turn.  She is shedding a bit later than her brother Sage.  Her fleece is pure white, Sage’s is tan, and LaLa is black mohair.  His fleece is clumpier and more matted and doesn’t brush, so the Bearded One successfully introduced him to little scissors this week.

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Goats are one of the most beautiful creatures on the planet, I think as I bury my hands in the now full, 5-gallon bucket of raw cashmere fleece.  Two weeks’ worth.

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Then I stand, pick up the bucket, and trudge down the hill from the barn, past the hoophouse where cabbages and broccoli desperately cry out to be transplanted,

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and up to the house where the next step looms.  Literally.  I want to learn to card and spin.  To use a loom.  I’m sure I do.  I’ve been thinking about it for weeks now.

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I clean my boots with the hose and carry the bucket inside and upstairs to the work table where I have everything set up.  Here is the fleece.  Here are the carding brushes on this nice flowery tablecloth.  Here is the computer with a You Tube “How To Card Fleece” video ready to go.  And I am frozen.  I can’t do it.

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Who is making me turn this fleece into yarn, anyway?  I look around and see no one.  The Bearded One is outside working on the roof of the meat bird pen.  Sixty Cornish Rock chicks — meat birds — will arrive at the post office in two weeks, and we are getting ready.  Or at least he is.

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Then I have a deja vu moment.  I ran into this same wall last year, didn’t I?  I keep doing this to myself of my own free will, which is kind of insane.  I’m the same person I was last year, and I still don’t want to card and spin.  Maybe I really don’t have to.

I turn to the computer and close the video without ever having opened it.  And then I type an email to a Seattle spinner who expressed a lot of interest in the fleece a month ago, and who even offered to pay for some of it, especially Pearl’s.  But money is complicated and I’m not a fan.   Instead, I plead with her now to just take all of it.  I attach a picture of the fleece so she’ll know what she’s getting into.

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Within a half hour she squeals with delight through cyber space, “EEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!  YES!  That would be lovely!  It looks wonderful, and I promise to give it TONS of love!  Thank you so much!  I’ll be sure to send updates on what I make with it!  I can’t wait to see what it wants to be!”

I read her response and I, too, squeal with joy, and I am happily stuffing the gigantic pile of fleece into a box to mail when the Bearded One comes in.

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“It’s like an entire goat!” he says, smiling.

I need to explain.  “I literally set the table,” I say, gesturing upstairs.  “I’ve nurtured these goats all year and you’ve patiently trained them to be brushed.  I’m not lazy, but it’s time to card and spin and I keep putting it off.  You’ve seen me.”

He nods.  His eyes show that he is really laughing inside, but I don’t care.  I am at epiphany here.

“There is someone right for every task in the universe,” I say.  I look at the Bearded One, then point with my eyes to the itchy place on my back.  Scratch me.

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“You are the Goat Grower,” he says.  “Not the Weaver.”

I laugh out loud with delight and relief — he knows me so dang well — and trot back to finish boxing up the fleece for Seattle.

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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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A Goat’s Job

“We’re losing ground,” the Bearded One says when he comes in for supper.  “Can you google ‘Goat Barbeque’?”

He is still limping from his ladder work in the meat bird pen, and has been putting in long hours in the dusty barn making the meat bird coops.  Thirty Cornish broiler chicks will be here in less than 3 weeks.  But this is not what’s bugging him.

The goats have stripped off large patches of bark on three beloved, towering, hundred-year-old cedar trees in the pasture.

We’d been warned, but for the 4 and half months we’ve had them, our goats have seemed content browsing on a pile of small cut trees.  Big trees seemed safe.  For decades we’ve seen big oaks in Texas goat pastures stay unscathed.  But these aren’t hardwoods.

“It’s not their fault,” I say.  I’m as heart-broken as he is about the problem, but not as bothered by the solution.

“Yes, it is,” says the Bearded One.  “They must take goat responsibility.”  He smiles, but I can see that he is conflicted.

Goat experts say there is really no solution but to fence each vulnerable tree — which for us includes at least a dozen big cedars and Douglas firs.  The Bearded One doesn’t like that idea.  Fencing and/or hardware cloth or plastic screening is ugly, unnatural, expensive and a lot of work.  It’s no wonder he’s balking.  The Bearded One sees the givens, is irritated, and like any good goat, is exploring all the options in his arsenal.

He tried thinking like an animal and peed on the trees that were already being devoured.  I was there when he faced off to a cedar.  Leah the Rhode Island Red hen, who always wishes to be involved in any human activity, strutted between his legs.  The pee didn’t work, and neither did diluted bleach.  He’s still curious about vinegar and maybe dog poop.  Goats are surprisingly finicky eaters.

“No matter how much I pee,” he says when we go to bed,  “there’s no way I can put out enough to do this job.”

I say that we can surely give the goats away if this is just too much.

The next morning at 9am, our twenty-something nurse daughter arrives after her night shift.  She’s here for 24 hours, to recover and sleep so she can stay awake and have a normal day with her sweetie pie tomorrow, before she has to work the night shift tomorrow night.  Sort of an impossible task.  “I should stay nocturnal,” she says.  She sheds her blue nurse uniform and we do things that help her stay awake.  We walk the road.  We check on the unfinished coops in the meat bird pen.

15 Cornish broilers will sleep safely in this coop. They don’t use roosts, but hunker together on the ground.

The Bearded One says hi and limps around the coop showing us the ventilation windows.  He is feeling a bit better, I can tell, when he suddenly becomes Barry Gibb and sings out, “Oh, you can tell by the way I use my walk, I’m a chicken man, no time to squawk.”

It’s 10 o’clock now, and the nurse is still awake.  She laughs, but then she sees Sage and gasps.  She is appalled.  Disgraceful matted clops of fleece hang from his neck and haunches and tush.  Entire sections of his body are fleece-free, but they are coarse and dark, unlike LaLa’s wavy, shiny black underhair.  In some ways, the condition of the fleece left on LaLa’s rear-end is even more pathetic.

“You could be reported for animal neglect,” she observes and we laugh.  HaHa.  “That’s REALLY hard to see and not do something.”

We both want desperately to brush them, to pluck off all the unsightly wads, but, alas, it is not possible.  One of the 3 goats will let us scratch his head and neck.  Gently.  No sudden moves or he’ll bolt like lightning.  The other 2 will barely let us scratch their noses while being fed treats.

Like the tree bark, it’s a goat thing.  Sometimes I think it’s the goats’ job in life to push us into new discomfort zones.

“A lesson in self-restraint,” our nurse says, her eyelids growing heavier.

“Let it be,” I say.

“Acceptance,” she says.  “As in, I can’t possibly stay awake ’til 5.”

We head back to the house — me to the kitchen, her to her bed.  Maybe not losing ground after all.

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