Thursday, July 9, 2015

"There is no House Possessing a Goat but a Blessing Abideth Therein"

"There is no house possessing a goat but a blessing abideth therein."

Now that most of my romantic notions about being a goat dairy women have dissipated (mostly) into realistic farmer like thoughts, let me tell you about my goats. First of all though, let me tell you why I wanted to become one of those weird  unconventional people who milk a goat in the first place.

I have never been an animal lover. When we were little girls, my sisters and I would dress our  puppies up in baby clothes and play house with them, but my interaction with animals pretty much ended there. Until we brought Willy home as a puppy, that is. Golden Retriever puppies are so cute! No one could resist him. Plus, since Isaac and Moses were only six and four years old, I had to be the one to house train him and provide all the training he received, really. 

When you invest that much time and energy into anything, it's hard not to grow somewhat fond. And now, I admit it, I think Willy is a very handsome, sweet dog. I feel very blessed to have ended up with a dog like him. I think they're few and far between. (But then again, the boys love him so much. I think when a dog is loved that much, it can't help but be good. Both of them used to pray for him every night. Lots of times Isaac would say, "And God, help me to be a good puppy and Willy to be a good boy." O, my heart! I'm sure God got it all straightened out. Boys and puppy alike, He answered those earnest little prayers!)

We've had kitties now and then. Mostly to humor the little girls. But I'm not crazy about cats. Fortunately, because (sorry, any cat lovers) they truly seem to be disposable pets. Either they get run over or eaten by coyotes or some other awful thing. So, after consoling heartbroken little girls numerous times, our days with cats are over. I hope! Well, unless a half starved little kitty shows up again. Sigh* you have no choice at that point.

I love my chickens as well, but they're not really pets. Well, ours practically are. Every time we go outside they all come over to see if we have any treats for them and they follow us around the yard sometimes. They also eat out of the little girls hands. And Burdette thinks I'm silly because sometimes I spend half the day cleaning and bleaching the chicken house. It's such a satisfying chore, though! I just wish the chickens appreciated it as much as I do. They don't. Oh, they love the clean straw but they always end up scratching half of it out the door by the end of the day. But they're so nice and homey and it makes me feel like I live on a farm to have them leisurely clucking about the yard all day.

And now we have goats. I always thought my friends who milked goats on the west coast were so progressive and earthy and cool;) (I still think so!) I wanted to do it there, but we lived in a neighborhood in town so it wasn't possible. 

But now that we have a bit o'earth in the country, Blue eyes worked with me for a year to make my little dream a reality. I just like the idea of working with our hands and the earth around us to provide as much as possible for our own family. The way it naturally has been for all of time until the industrial revolution. Where families were, for the most part, focused on their own sustenance, growing and making what they could and bartering with other families for what they couldn't. Leading a quiet and peaceable life, working hard with their own hands. I think it's healthy, physically and spiritually, for a family to work together like that. 

My family can easily drink a gallon of milk a day. That's a plastic milk jug every day. 365 jugs a year. You know? I want to be a good steward of the earth and God's creation, as much as possible, in our modern times. 

Goats are small and easy to keep and much cleaner than cows. They really don't require much pasture at all. They hardly drink any water and they're very friendly. (Well, at least ours WAS, until I took her babies away to force them to wean.) As far as vitamin and minerals go, cows milk and goats milk pretty much tie. Goat milk has more calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, and protein. Cows milk has less saturated fat, more vitamin B-12 , folate and selenium. They have the same amount of vitamin D. 

So, the benefit of goats milk isn't necessarily in the vitamins and minerals but more in the chemical make up of the milk itself. The chemical structure of goats milk is very similar to human breast milk. It's naturally homogenized, (when cows milk goes through the process of homogenization in breaks down the wall of the fat structure releasing a free radical that can potentially cause cancer.) And think about this- a baby goat is born weighing 7-9 pounds and grows to an adult weight of 100-200 pounds. A baby cow, on the other hand, is born weighing 100 pounds and grows to an adult weight of about 1,200 pounds! There are studies showing a link between consuming cows milk and obesity in the United States. And actually, world wide much more goats milk is consumed than cows milk. 

(Anyway, I confess, I never knew any of that until after I decided to get dairy goats. The real reasons for me were that I would be scared of a cow and we do not have nearly enough room to keep a cow. And like I mentioned goats are much cleaner. They have pellets like a deer, for one thing. No nasty cow pies for the kids, I mean MY kids, as in children, to step in. Besides all that, Nubians are beautiful animals, very much resembling deer. Pepper and Posy even look a lot like fawns.)

It is amazing to see the natural mothering instinct of our mama goat! The first time I took the babies away, I was excited to be getting two and a half quarts of milk from her a day! But after three days she starting acting sick or something. Not getting up, staying in her house all day, refusing her grain. So frantically I talked Blue eyes into coming home from work and helping me bring her to the vet, I thought for sure my poor goat was going to die! So we take her to the vet, in the back of our van, no less. And there's nothing wrong with her except she's depressed! Seriously, no temperature, rumen's working fine, she's chewing her cud. He said he really wondered if it wasn't an emotional thing because she was lonely for her babies.

So what's a lady to do? A mom? Give the babies back, right? And sure enough after a day or two she returns to her normal old self. O dear! After a week, I try again and I harden my heart against the pitiful hoarse voiced cries. I put the babies as far away as possible, out of sight. And I'm determined to stick with it this time, depression or no! 

But what do you know? After three days again, almost to the breaking point. I get up and I'm drinking my coffee and suddenly I realize I don't hear the babies crying. I'm like, "O NO! Have they died from a broken heart? Are they so weak from crying they gave up?" With trepidation I go out to the calf hut where they are kept and they're gone! Not there-and I am filled with dread that they've been eaten by a wild beast, because there's no way they could have gotten out.

Until I go around the house and spy them. Grazing peacefully with their mama inside the pasture. They all look up and placidly maaa and baaa at me. I'm sure they looked sheepish (or goatish). But what can I say? For a few days I consider giving up the idea of milking her at all. Just keeping them for pets and trying again next year. 

But now I've come up with a compromise, I let them be with her all day and take them at night to the calf hut. That way I still get a quart of milk from her each morning and she can be with her babies all day. Good enough! Next year though, I am going to bottle feed the babies right from the start and see how that goes. 

So there you have it, life with my goats! 


  1. Sounds like a good compromise. That is what my Dad always did with his milk cow, except he let babies be with mama all night and separated them in the morning. When Greg first milked a goat at my sisters, he said, "well, that was pretty anticlimactic!" I'm not sure what he expected. I hope we can still get goats someday, but it won't be anytime soon.

  2. Aww.. the life of a goat farmer.... Who knew?? :) Just teasin' my friend Emily is raising kids this past 2 months and they too have learned to fall in love with them... Best of luck and a momma's heart never goes away. AND kitties ARE NOT disposable!!!!!! I love my little dolly so very much she is a part of my heart for ever. I love you, my dear <3

  3. Great, Emmy! You are getting the hang of it!