How we ended up with goats


When my husband, David, was little he wanted a goat. His sister had a pony and he thought he should have a pet comparable in size. But his parents, who were out in the barn at the crack of dawn every morning soaking Hazel the pony’s chronically infected hoof, wisely decided a bunny was a better idea. David loved that bunny, but “Pepper” wasn’t a goat.

Fast-forward thirty years… After a decade of city living, David and I were more than ready to move to the country. The home we fell in love with, and subsequently moved into last summer, included a picturesque barn with stalls and a paddock already set up for a variety of farm animals, a flock of chickens, and a large vegetable garden. We settled in with the plan of growing into rural living, and slowly adding to our little homestead. Knowing my tendency towards impatience, we made a concerted effort to pace ourselves. We’ll be careful not to take on too much too soon, we said. After all, we are two working parents with three young children. It would be easy to become overwhelmed. We decided to focus on the garden first, and think about farm animals in a few years.

But now, as we plant, weed, and harvest, we’re very aware of the empty barn. Instead of housing animals, the stalls have become home to bicycles and scooters, a lawnmower, a variety of gardening tools, and old carpets we haven’t figured out how to get rid of yet. We can’t help but think that the barn has become a shed… and isn’t that a shame?

Still, we acknowledge we’re not ready for farm animals. We limit ourselves to casual conversation about what kind of animals we’ll want when the time comes: We don’t eat much meat, so pigs don’t make sense. Plus they’re supposed to be really smart and great pets, could we really butcher a pig? What about a cow, not for meat, but for milk? But a milking cow is a huge amount of work. Sheep? Sheep could be nice. But they need a lot of grass and the fencing would be a big investment. Would there be any payoff? Maybe goats. But what do goats do? They’ll eat the brush... Then we sigh and turn our conversation back to the vegetables, reminding ourselves again that the garden alone is almost more than we can handle at this point.

But the thought of goats lingers in the back of my mind. I start to pay a little more attention when we visit friends who have goats. I start asking questions, slowly building up my knowledge of what it means to keep goats. The picture takes shape and I can see goats being a good fit for our family. The goat people I talk to encourage me, describing each of their goats’ personalities, and declaring that goats make great pets—our children would love them, and so would we.

I visit farms that have “great goat set-ups” and I tour their barns, learning about bedding and fencing, grains, and minerals. I price hay bales and learn the difference between first and second cuts, and why both are important for goat nutrition: the first is higher in carbs, the second in protein.

I’m still just gathering information, I tell myself, but soon the momentum is stronger than I am. I have immersed myself in a crash course on goats. Without realizing it, I have tapped into a community that is full of knowledge, resources, and enthusiasm. I’m starting to feel like a goat owner without goats.

So when a post on our local list serve announces four Nigerian Dwarfs for sale, I reply. I’m just going to look, I tell David as laughs at me. He knows that’s not really true. I’m going to look at what will soon be our goats. But he doesn’t stop me.

Later that night we have an honest conversation. We have no business taking on four goats right now. Our days are already full with work, children, the garden, and a variety of other commitments. We are going to pace ourselves.

But I am impatient and David has always wanted a goat.

Clementine, Mabeline, Temperence, and Caramello arrived on Sunday.