I can almost hear it now…
Somehow, when chatting with folks, I often get onto the topic of owning two goats. Before you know it, the person looks at me rather quizzically, and asks, “Why do you have goats? Do you milk them? Eat them?” “Heavens know!” I exclaim. They are our pets, sort of like dogs.” Then I explain how their antics entertain us, how they make great pasture pals for Palmer, my horse, and how devoted they are to Pat and I. “Well, I bet they do a great job keeping the grass and weeds down.” To which I reply, “They do nothing of the sort! But leave them unattended and they will mow down my flowers, Ti plants and pineapple patches.” Goats simply must stay in their designated areas, unless out for a well supervised walk!
Nubians are #1
My first introduction to goats occurred when I was about eight or nine years old. My parents had moved the family to a mid-century modern home on a 1 1/3rd acre parcel in rural Yorba Linda, CA. My mom owned a horse when she was young, and wanted to bring my dream of horse ownership to reality. Dad reluctantly went along with the “plan.” But that is a blog for another time!
After our move, we soon discovered a Nubian goat dairy on a country road behind our home. (Those were the days when a kid could take off on their own without the parents watching their every move.) I spent quite a bit of time at the goat dairy, learning all about this breed of goat – basically the goat version of a Bassett Hound. Those long, floppy ears, warm, expressive eyes, and very loving spirit sold me. Funny thing is we would eventually own two Bassets…
I loved heading to the dairy after school or on the weekends to see all those great goats, eventually learning the delicate technique of milking. It does require a bit of patience, and if done correctly, sends a steady stream of the nutritious white stuff into the pail. Fifty years ago this is how it was done! I got so good at it that the owners offered me a part time job. What was my payment? In addition to cash, a newly weened “wether” male goat kid, showed up on our property. My mom named him Flicker. And that began my true love of Nubians.
This is what happens when a goat hangs out at the back end of a horse! Smoke was a very good sport, walking around the pasture with a tag along goat attached to his tail!
What happens when the poop hits the fan…
My parents got divorced when I was seventeen years old. All our animals, including Flicker, eventually went to good homes. The poop had really hit the fan in my family! You would think that that phase of my life was over. You would think…
Let’s jump ahead to 2001. Pat and I tied the knot and, in addition to saying “I do” to a woman with two teenage kiddos, he also said, “I do” to one Palomino equine. He really had no choice if he wanted the girl. Thankfully, he was a really good sport. By the beginning of our third year of wedded bliss, we moved into our custom-built home in Big Bear, CA. Since it came with a full acre of land, we were able to add a beautiful barn in the backyard. And, because I only had one horse we were forced to get Smoke his own pasture pal. Tinkerbell, a four-month old Nubian, arrived compliments of the Big Bear Petting Zoo, and I entered a deja vu moment.
Tink was a beautiful tri-colored female, as sweet and loving as the day is long. Watching her leap and plié across our yard caused peels of laughter, And those floppy ears made her look like she could take off at any moment. (To read the story of Tinkerbell and her twin girls, plus how and why only one of the three goats made it to Hawaii, check out the stories titled: One Plus One Equals…Three! And Heidi in my book – My Year In A Yurt.)
When one and one equals three!
As mentioned, only one goat made it to Hawaii. Gerdie was the “good goat” and that won her a plane ticket along with Smoke. But, when we temporarily moved in with dear friends, John and Karen FitzGerald, they introduced us to Heidi, a motherless 3-week old goat kid found in a nearby field. She was now mixed in with a few motherless baby sheep. I immediately took over the bottle feeding of the nursery kids, and before you knew it we had inherited Heidi, the absolute opposite of a Nubian. She resembles one of the wild goats you see grazing along the upper road between Waimea and Waikoloa Village. But, she demonstrated a sweet spirit and eventually became a good friend for Gerdie.
This threesome did well for the next seven years, first at our rented yurt, and then at our current home, both located in Paauilo. Then, one day, I noticed that Girdie’s chest seemed to be protruding. The “bump” got bigger and bigger until after a vet check, it was determined that she had an inoperable tumor. This was a terrible shock! The tumor continued to grow but we enjoyed her loving nature for a few months until it became obvious that she was in pain. Saying goodbye to this precious family member was especially painful for me. I walked her to a lower pasture area where a large hole had been dug, gently rubbed her velveteen “Basset” ears and gazed into her beautiful eyes one last time. Then I handed the lead rope to Pat and walked away. For sure…tears rolling down my cheeks! After all, I had been with her when she and her sister were born!
Both goats and horses are herd animals; they need to be with other 4-legged creatures remotely in their herd sphere. When Smoke jumped the rainbow, just ten days shy of 36, Heidi found herself the loan bird, I mean animal, up at our large animal area. I won’t go into all the details of my initial attempts to help her make the lonely transition, but I can tell you that about six weeks later I presented her with her new “charge”, a five-week old male Nubian kid. I had taken a drive to the Honomu Goat Dairy to see what they had in the area of goat kids…OMG!
Eeny, Meeny Miny… Lele
I had my pick of the litter, taking a good hour before finally choosing one darling male. I paid my deposit and was about to leave when I circled around to ask a question of Bill, the owner. He opened the door to the milking room holding the sweetest tri-colored, day-old goat kid. It took me all of zero seconds to change my mind and commit to this little guy. Was I fickle? I like to think it was God’s providential hand in the selection process. PS – I would have taken both kids but Pat put his foot down, saying one was enough. Waa
Goat kids need to be bottle-fed every few hours for the first weeks of life. Then you slowly ween them back until you are down to an AM and PM feeding, usually at about six weeks of age. Due to a pre-planned trip to Southern California, I couldn’t bring the little guy home until he was about six weeks old. I hadn’t been home a half hour before I was back in the car and heading to the Honomu Goat Dairy. I was so excited to pick up our newest family member. Pat is really good at naming things, like my car, our poi puppy, etc. He named this little guy LeLe which means leaping in Hawaiian. It was the perfect name as this is what baby goats do…they leap directly into the air, do a twist, and head out again. So much energy they don’t know what to do with themselves. It’s a blast to watch.
An interesting and totally unexpected thing occurred when LeLe turned about one year old. Heidi shifted from the mommy goat, with a very pleasant personality, to a goat in serious heat! She makes very strange sounds, rolls her upper lip up, jumps on him, and a few other behaviors I don’t really want to discuss. Plus, her milk sacks have grown in size, and she looks sort of like a love sick puppy. And what does LeLe do? Stands and stairs at her, wondering what she wants! Don’t forget, he is a neutered boy…he doesn’t have a clue.
So, now our little herd, consisting of one horse and two goats, roam sections of our property, keeping each other company, and providing super cheap entertainment. And even though Heidi has the temperament of a contentious woman, we put up with her because almost nine years ago, when we said yes to this little goat kid, we meant it!
LeLe is a beautiful Nubian Goat. Notice his horns, expressive eyes, and long, silky Bassett Hound-style ears. He is one year old in this photo.