Our Christmas Goat Tale
We often portray our farm as a fantasy land. Our talented photographers take pictures of our garden, animals, venue, and everything and make it look portrait ready. My husband labors all week to make the grounds beautiful. There is much behind the scene that is done to make wedding day dazzle. But reality is that we are a real farm – a real place – real people and life on the farm is often complicated – often a struggle – and often burdened with reality. Let me jump right in and tell you the true story – our Christmas goat tale.
We tried last year “goat family planning”. I can hear you guys laughing already. But without intervening into the breeding habits of our goats – a male goat would get every single female pregnant in a week’s time…..which means all of our baby goats would be born within a week of each other. This not only is overwhelming but it robs the chance from many of our brides to take their own “baby goat pictures.” We do like to spread the love so we thought we would intervene and dose out on a regimen the access of our billy goat to the females to solve this dilemma. A baby goat or two born each month meant that “Lucky” (our billy) could get lucky twice a month. This would allow Lucky to have female companionship in a segregated pasture for a whole month and in a pasture FAR AWAY from the eyes of the guests at the venue. We didn’t want “those kind of pictures” in the backdrop of our wedding photos! But, try as we might – Lucky escaped one day……ONE DAY…..and got into the pasture full of our “maids in waiting”. It is a lesson of “where there is a will there is a way”. With gestation of a goat at 5 months…..it was several months later that we discovered not one….not two…but four goats had been impregnated but this mere one day escape. How lucky can one billy get?
Unfortunately the calendar circumstance of this all meant that these babies would be born at Christmas time. No – not in the fall where our many brides could’ve enjoyed the selection. No – not in the spring of the year where the pastures would be green and full but in the busy hectic schedule of Christmas. And so it was determined – and so they did begin to deliver. A few days prior to Christmas – female one delivers two gorgeous babies. Fortunately the warm spell meant no fretting over potentially chilled babies. The following day the second girl delivers two babies. Again – the warm weather was a nice relief. In fact – the rest of the herd ventured off to look for greener pastures. And you all know – “that greener pastures are always found on the other side” which meant that the goats found a way over the fence. Luck had it that I was heading out the driveway and happened to look southeasterly and spotted what I swear was a goat in the far distance. Surely not! Surely, actually. Gave a quick call to Jill and made a u-turn and headed to the goat barn. Goats were gone and looked like they were headed to the golf course – heavens help us if they made it that far off! Now being a farm girl and having goats that know my voice……I belted out a very very loud…..and very familiar “BaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaBies! Baaaaaaaaaaaaaabies! I am confident most valley residents heard my call but more importantly – my sweet but wayward goats heard me as well. They turned direction and began heading home. I had sloshed through the wetlands just in case but they kept heading home and met me in route. At least that….at least they came when called. We all headed to the barn where they were rewarded with feed. They were contained in the paddock…and I, with muddy boots, headed towards my delayed appointment.
Christmas Eve. I ventured to the goat barn to check on the baby goats and assumed that I would find a new batch of babies. Nope….not this time. Weather was warm – almost hot – grounds were mushy – and we knew that rains were coming later, so the decision to let the goats out “for a bit” seemed doable. I eventually headed to the creek pasture to check on them around 11 a.m. This is when I took our Rudolph pictures….for my annual posts about seeing Rudolph. Hombre’ seemed to enjoy the antlers this year. So I took a slew of them and watched the goats head up the hill into the privet laden woods.
I headed back to post pictures. Christmas Eve there was much to do before the evening came. Both Jill and I both were consumed by chores….and so checking back on the goats scooted further back. It was around 3 p.m. before I headed back. I again found those wayward goats of mine on the neighboring pasture but just barely. They again responded quickly to my holler and came a-running. I got everybody situated again. In the hubbub of it all – we did not notice that we were one short. Not just one short – but one “pregnant and due soon” female short. Well, we both darted off to Christmas Eve events…and if you remember – that is the evening that the next deluge of rain began as well. All Christmas Eve, all that night – all day Christmas Day….it rained – it poured – it flooded – it gully washed – it was a goat floater – it was historic. (Get the picture?….lots and lots of rain.)
I had actually popped down to the barn twice that day – quickly – just to double check on the babies and such. The rain was so intense – and my schedule so tight – no lingering was even pondered. Quick checks – gave out some books of hay and some feed but headed back to the house for festivities. After a long day, I was actually bathed and in bed by 9:30 p.m. when Jill gave me a call as she was headed home from her in-laws. She asked if I had “done goats” and I said – last check was 5 p.m. so you might oughta check on them before you head to your house. She quickly got back to me that we were missing one goat……(missing String Bean who was due.) Jill and John walked around the barn several times looking in every corner – in and out of the barn. No String Bean anywhere. The awful truth was that if she was not there – then she was likely not there on Christmas Eve when the goats came from across the fence towards home either. This gut wrenching fact painted the picture all too clearly that she had evidently gone into labor sometime earlier on Christmas eve – either while up in the woods on the hill or across the fence into the neighboring pastures. Worse yet was that she had delivered alone…without the protection of the herd (or Bear – our guard dog) – and had endured 36 hours of historic rains and floods. Jill and John had looked towards the creek but not only was the whole lowland flooded from hillside to hillside but the water was almost over the bridge. There was no way to go looking in the rain in the dark for a missing goat. Needless to say – I was very restless all night long imaging the worse. What would I find – if I could find her? Would I find a half eaten carcass?…..a half-dead goat who had incurred birthing difficulties?……I totally drenched and feverish Moma goat standing over two drenched dead babies? Sorry – my mind was imagining it all and my descriptions only paint a picture for you of the realities that we often face here on the farm.
Morning eventually came and as you know – not only another warm warm day but the sun was out – the rain had scooted off to hammer some other part of the country. But for now – a beautiful sunny day that would allow me to start my search without serious impediment. I drove my buggy (golf cart) down towards the creek. Fortunately the water had rescinded enough that the road was not flooded and the bridge passable. Both sides of the pasture looked like the rice fields of china but with slosh boots – it would be doable. I could either hike up into the woods or slosh through the swamp lands towards my neighbors property. Before I had to make that commitment – I just happened to look southward and see a white image. Could it be? Yes – I could faintly see the image of a goat grazing. It was too far away to see anything else but I sent off a quick call to Jill. She brought down her new all-terrain vehicle and it maneuvered the swamps easily. It took us only to the fence line but even I was able to find a place to cross over and we headed towards String Bean. The closer we came we could see she had not just one baby but two. She was seemingly grazing without a care in the world – enjoying the green tender grass and the warmth of the sun on her back. The two babies seemed no worse for the wear. Two happy and healthy and actually – relatively dry sweet baby goats! We carried babies and coaxed String Bean to follow as we trekked back over the hills through the woods over the fence – loaded them all into “Big Red” (the all-terrain vehicle) and took them back home to their nice warm stall.
Noah (for enduring the big flood) and Molly (for the Unsinkable Molly Brown who survived the sinking of the Titanic) are back on dry land and at home – no cares in the world. If only goats could talk – maybe the story would’ve been more interesting. I will say that because of the deluge of rain – the coyotes were surely held up in some cave somewhere. Because of the deluge of rain – it probably diluted the smell of after-birth so that the coyotes had no idea that a potential feast was just over the hill. My inclination is to believe that String Bean was just beginning to go into labor on Christmas Eve just about the time that I discovered that the herd was over the fence – then hollered – then the rest of the herd came running home. I think that she was likely able to deliver her babies without incident and in the relatively dry pasture before the night set in and the rains began again. I tend to think that she found her way back with her newborn babies slowly following her towards a hollow (we say it as “holler” here in the south) where there was a run down open-air shed barn. I think that they huddled enough under an old tractor in this half usable shed – enough that they spent their first 24 hours mostly sleeping through the storms and nursing as they would in any location. I think that of all the scenarios – this was the most fortunate. I will say that it was our own Christmas miracle…..as simple as it was. The odds were certainly not in String Beans favor nor her newborns but for the last of the Lucky offspring – these babies did get a bit of luck from their father.
Later that day – final moma goat had her baby out in the field – OUR FIELD! For we will not be so trusting in our goats wayward inclinations again so soon. Fortunately for our spring brides – we do have a few girls that are pregnant and hopefully – will be due this spring…right on cue! ~ Margie