I never wanted to have kids. I guess I had a pretty tumultuous adolescence (is there any other kind?) and
spent a fair chunk of the later half of my childhood fighting, evading or pointedly ignoring my parents, so my image of parenting, viewed in terms of time, money, emotion and energy appeared to give a rather poor return for investment.
Also I have (if I let myself go here) a fairly bleak picture of our future as a society and as a species (see Coming … ready
or not). I see us at the point of convergence of resource depletion, environmental degradation, increasingly
inhospitable climate, inequity and all the while a financial rollercoaster (plummeting down) that will leave us under sourced to adequately address any of these issues. All this leaves me doubting the wisdom of producing more kids and even more uncertain about my
ability to provide for them in our uncertain future.
So as I said, I never wanted to have kids. In fact, a few years ago I decided to put my money where my mouth is (well . . . not my mouth exactly . . . ) and get the snip (see The Snip).
So when I told my mum I was expecting the pitter patter of tiny feet she was ecstatic, confused and then suspicious in rapid succession. Had my little operation failed? Had the new Messiah arrived in South Fremantle? Had my long term, loving and loyal girlfriend jumped the fence? No, the explanation is both simple and (so far) wonderful. Goats!
In June this year, following an initiative of EMRC Earthcarers, my partner, Shani, and I undertook the Plastic Free Challenge; a month long
endeavour to eliminate plastic packaging from our lives (see ?) Between our chooks, bees, fish, rabbits and vegie gardens, we were able to make a pretty serious dent in our plastic consumption. The one thing we really struggled with was milk. I’m a bit of a fiend for dairy and
it all comes packaged in plastic. So partly motivated by this dilemma, we decided to get a goat. Did I say a goat? As it turns out,
goats are very social animals so you need to have at least two for them to behappy (and quiet!)
The decision about what sort of goats to get was easily made. We live on a 200m2 block in the suburbs, so for us small is beautiful. Enter the
mini goat. As far as I can gather, mini goats are not actually a breed so much as a size, originally attained by mixing a Nigerian Dwarf with a Nubian. Strictly speaking they have to be under a certain height at a certain age and measured regularly, possibly by a vet with papers and pedigrees and so on.
For our purposes we just wanted a little goat that could fit in our little yard. Did I saw our yard? Well, actually our neighbour’s yard. Luckily I live in the best street in Australia so when I realised that even the miniest goat would be too big our yard, I was able to find a couple of neighbours willing to lend us under-utilised yard space to accommodate the latest additions to our menagerie.
In preparation for our goats’ arrival I spent some time researching goats, milking goats and mini goats. What I discovered was that there are probably more thoughts, theories and stories about goats than there are goats themselves. The three most commonly held beliefs seem to
1.Goats stink (and so does their milk)
2. Goats will eat anything (especially your washing)
3. Goats will escape from anywhere
Doesn’t sound like a particularly endearing series of characteristics, does it?
Nevertheless, we decided to give it a go and were fortunate enough to find a mother goat who was just weaning her kid (so she was ready to start milking straight away) and a baby that was just old enough to leave its mum for a bottle (so she would bond with us and be well socialized).
Welcome to Hulbert Street Spice (2 years old) and Sunday Clive (1 weesk old).
Three months down the track I could hardly say I’m qualified to dispel thethree big goat myths. (Try Mythbusters for that one). However, one the basis of my limited experience, I have found none of them to be true.
1. Our goats smell really nice.
Sometimes when we’re milking them or giving them a brush, I give them a big sniff (is that weird?) and find the smell quite light and kind of
reassuring. Sunday still smells a bit milky, like a puppy. The milk we get from Spice (about a litre a day) is almost indistinguishable from cow’s milk. Maybe a little bit sweeter and richer and it doesn’t separate like cow’s milk. (Apparently male goats spray themselves with urine to make themselves more appealing to the girls. Not something I’ve tried myself.)
2. Our goats are quite particular about what they will eat.
They pretty much always like hay and goat muesli but when we take them out for a walk, they will bypass apparently lush
pasture and then stop to nibble on one runty thistle. Fortunately, they usually seem to like coastal tee tree which is a weed in our area.
I’ve taken to early morning dumpster diving at the local grocers which provides a plethora of cast-off greens that go to the goats, rabbits, chickens or compost (in order of fussiness). One thing I have noticed is that our goats are very curious and a bit like puppies, always thinking that whatever you are eating (or reading) must be the absolute cat’s pyjamas of culinary delight.
3. Our goats don’t seem to really want to escape from anywhere.
We have developed a habit of taking them for a walk in the evenings, so about 5pm every day they bleat to be let out for a
walk. We take them for a wander, munching along the way, to an empty block at the end of our street where they wander around, sniffing and nibbling whilst we have a cup of tea and a bickie. After about half an hour (or two cups of tea) Spice starts insisting that she gets taken home again and, once on the way, rushes for home like one of those rent‑a‑ponies at a kids riding school.
As I said, it’s early dates yet but so far, despite the bad press that goats get, our experience has been absolutely fabulous. They have even made peace with most of the neighbourhood dogs, with the notable exception of a Portuguese water dog that lives over the back fence (do they have goats in Portugal?) who seems quite keen on the idea of eating Sunday.
The dog’s owner, Jenny, is a lovely lady who has decided to stop feeding her hound on goat meat so as to reduce the pet’s link between food and goat.
Like I said, the best street in Australia.