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Getting your goat. March 25, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Just this morning, our friend Ben finished reading The Year of the Goat, a new book by Margaret Hathaway that chronicles a yearlong journey across the U.S. (with occasional ventures abroad) in search of all things goat. Margaret and her then-fiance, now-husband Karl left their big-city lives to see if their real vocation was goat farming and goat cheese-making. After a year’s worth of colorful adventures, they found that the answer was yes.

Now, our friend Ben has always wanted a pair of milking goats. The hands-down best yogurt I ever had was made (by me) from goat milk, and then, of course, there is the cheese. It seems as if milking one goat (I would “freshen” them by turns so one would be producing milk while the other one rested up and kept the milking goat company) would not be too overwhelming, and how much space would they need?

More, most likely, than our friend Ben’s one-acre Eden, Hawk’s Haven, could provide, bisected as it is by Hawk Run and with the greenhouse, Pullet Palace, studio, fruit trees, and veggie beds, as well as the cultivated wild meadow, already in place. Still, the fantasy refuses to die. Our friend Ben’s copy of Your Goats* is dogeared from numerous readings; any homesteading or farming magazine with a goat on the cover will instantly get our friend Ben’s goat—I mean, attention—and subsequent purchase. (Our friend Ben is probably the only person who goes to Tractor Supply to buy magazines, but really, where else can you find Mother Earth News, Back Home, Hobby Farms, Backyard Poultry, Taste of Home, Acres USA, and numerous other specialty garden- and homestead-related publications in one place? Including, of course, several goat specialty magazines.)

Perhaps it has something to do with our friend Ben having been born in the Chinese Year of the Goat, like Margaret Hathaway’s husband. (This is also translated as the Year of the Sheep; apparently separating the sheep from the goats is not a Chinese priority.) Our friend Ben was not initially enamored of the idea of being a goat, or especially a sheep, instead of, say, a tiger or dragon. But after reading that “the sheep is elegant and artistic,” our friend Ben became insufferable for quite some time and had to be frequently suppressed. And anyway, at least it wasn’t the Year of the Rat.

Our friend Ben still wants a pair of milking goats. Perhaps Nigerian Dwarfs would be a good choice? (If anyone out there is raising these diminutive but reputedly excellent milkers, please tell our friend Ben what it really takes.) And I highly recommend The Year of the Goat to anyone who’s ever longed to break away and follow their dream. Maybe it will inspire you to go for it!

* Your Goats is part of an excellent series from Storey Publishing. Ostensibly for kids (pardon the pun in this case), these books are excellent overviews of livestock care. I have pretty much every book on raising chickens known to man, and Your Chickens gets my one-Ben award as best overall chicken-raising guide. If you raise or want to raise animals and don’t know this series, or have dismissed it because it’s aimed at kids, you owe it to yourself to check it out.      



1. Betsy Stevens - March 25, 2008

I’ve wanted goats* too, since seeing them at the 4-H tent at the county fair, and I’m hoping Ben will get a pair so that I can learn vicariously how goat raising works. Will look for the year of the goat book, sounds like a fun read.
Just now subscribed by rss to your blog, excellent writing!

*and chickens, and bees

Thanks, Betsy!!! If I do get goats, you’ll definitely hear all about it. I love my chickens and think they’re a great place to start into small-scale livestock, along with earthworms and bunnies. Earthworm castings and bunny “pellets” are great organic fertilizers, and of course, chicken manure packs a huge nitrogen punch (best to use it tempered with straw or shredded paper). They all love kitchen scraps, too–no more guilt about “wasting” anything! (And of course, what they don’t eat–with the exception of fats, meat, and a few other “bad” things–can go into the compost pile.) Oops, guess I just can’t stop proselytizing when it comes to small-scale critters. Sorry! I, too, would love to have bees–some friends are actually taking the plunge this year after taking some workshops, and I’m so jealous. But I think I’d like to start by “renting” an organic hive from a local beekeeper. My fruits and veggies would get pollinated, and at year’s end I’d get a share of honey, too! Hope I can find a nearby beekeeper who’d be willing to bring me a hive…

2. Becca - March 25, 2008

Hi there, I couldn’t find your email address (if I ever had it) so decided to leave this reply here in the comment section. I ordered my cotton seed from bountiful gardens and all they had available was “Atlas,” which I believe is a white variety. I would love some of the brown cotton but didn’t see it in their catalog. I grew cotton several years ago on my parents’ land in Louisiana and it did really well. I’m hoping for a good crop this year as well.

Hi Becca! Hmmm, I know there are organic cotton cultivars that produce green and pink as well as brown cotton–much like Araucana and Americana chicken eggs! But where can one buy them?!! If I were you, I’d query Mother Earth News (there’s a link on this site)–if anybody can source those seeds, they’d be the ones. Good luck! And what will you do with your cotton harvest?

Okay, I of course couldn’t resist searching for seed of colored cotton. The best source I found was Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (www.southernexposure.com), which had green, brown, and bronze cottons, as well as an ornamental red-purple cotton plant with white fibers. I also checked Native Seeds/SEARCH (www.nativeseeds.org), and they had seed of a Hopi and another Native American historic cotton, but it appeared that both were white. Anyway, check ’em out if you’re interested!—Our friend Ben

3. Cindee - March 25, 2008

Thanks for commenting on my blog. I thought I would check out yours too(-: I had a goat for a while. I raised her on a bottle. She had a best buddy that was a duck whom we hatched around the time we got the goat. They hung out together all day long. Wherever Lillee went Lucky followed and vice versa. They were inseparable. One day while I was at work a hawk swooped down and grabbed the duck and took him off. We found his feathers etc later that day. Anyhow the goat was so sad and of course we were too. We kept trying everything to help our goat adjust to the loss. Nothing seemed to work. Finally I asked a friend if Lillee could come and live at her house because they had several geese and a couple goats. She said we could try it and see how it went. Well of course Lillee was a lot happier to have a bunch of new friends to play with. We missed her but we knew that she would be happier living there. (-: I would suggest having two goats so they become best friends and can keep each other company. Of course if you don’t have any hawks around a duck might just do the trick too(-:

Goodness, Cindee, what a story! I know that goats are herd animals and are happier if they have some company–that’s why I was thinking of two rather than one–but I wouldn’t have thought of a duck! And yes, there’s a resident Cooper’s hawk here at Hawk’s Haven, so if I had ducks, I’d enclose them in a kenneling fortress like the one currently surrounding the Pullet Palace. (I not only put up kenneling panels around the chicken yard, I also put them over the top to keep out raccoons, hawks, and the like. They not only protect the hens, they provide support for the wine grape I grow up one side of the fencing, which in turn shades the chicken yard.) I’m glad you were able to let Lillee go to a happier place. I know how hard that is!!!

4. deb - March 25, 2008

I want a goat or two. I also want a chicken or six. Unfortunatley, manly man has put his foot down. He thinks it would be unwise to try to have livestock on a quarter acre lot. He is so mean.

Ooohhh nooo, Deb! You *must* try harder to get him to come ’round to chickens. Maybe no goats on a quarter acre, but there’s plenty of room for a little yard and coop full of colorful chickens. They’re so little trouble, so much fun, and so rewarding! Maybe he’d go for the idea of a portable pen. Check out the book “Chicken Tractor” if you don’t know it–it might make a convert out of manly man!

5. farm mama - March 30, 2008

Here are some links to blogs of people with Nigerian Dwarf milk goats, as well as other breeds.

Bless you, Mary! I appreciate them and can’t wait to check them out. They all look like fun!!!

6. jenet kate - February 15, 2009

i have goats to give out for free to any one ready to transport it from me to him or her for any thing reply me back

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