I confess. I’m a sucker for goats. So when a friend invited me to see his brother’s two new goats, Suki and Lulu , I couldn’t move fast enough.
Ever since I saw Renee Zellweger as a recluse living with her herd of goats in the 2003 film “Cold Mountain” from that best seller, I decided I’d spend my last days surrounded by those restless creatures if I could swing it. Who can resist that endless grinding of their cuds, those loving eyes, the surprise nuzzling of your rear end? And the milk is good too!
Kyle’s brother Dana, his wife Haley and 2-year-old daughter Naomi are fulfilling a dream. They’ve settled on their own land in a narrow valley southwest of Aguilar, CO, a village between Walsenburg and Trinidad. It’s a beautiful spot at 6,500 ft. altitude up a gentle slope from a river. Hay grows here. Cattle graze. Wild critters roam too. But more about that later.
The couple has patched together a used yurt for shelter. You can see it from a long way away in those open spaces. They’ve dug their own well and are buying a solar panel for electricity. Meanwhile, after the sun sets, they read by the beam of a big flashlight that reflects off the white, round ceiling. There’s a wood stove for heat in winter. They have six Barred Rock chickens for eggs. And those two female goats, a cross of Nubian and Alpine breeds, ever knocking at their door to come in.
They’re a handsome pair. Markings vary, I hear, but these two are short-haired, have a long, black stripe down their spines and scattered down their sides, and large white spots over their beige fur. They remind me of a couple of Joan Mitchell abstract paintings on four legs.
They’re not picky about what they eat. Weeds please. No cultivated grass for them. The City of Colorado Springs used to hire a woman from Wyoming with a herd she brought down by truck to mow down the weeds in city parks. They’ll put a tractor mower to shame – and they’re a lot less noisy.
A neighborhood association nearby sometimes hires the herd to spruce up a weed-infested valley between homes. The minute I heard those goats were behind my friend’s house, I dashed over to be up close and personal. There they were, about 50 of them munching on a steep slope. Locusts couldn’t have done a better job.
They’re climbers and go for leaves on trees too. There are no trees around Dana’s yurt yet, so they’ll climb over the car in search of a thistle or two. Down by the river the two spend time on their hind legs, reaching up for those yummy willow and box elder greens.
The family squeezes at least a couple of quarts of milk a day from these creatures. The Nubians are considered the Jersey cows of the goat milk world. Since they need to be milked morning and night, the family can’t wander far.
City folks in the un-know often turn up their noses at goat milk. You can find it in any large super market, but it tends to be pricey, I suppose for lack of demand. Nutritionists rave about the contents. The cream doesn’t separate and rise to the top. It tastes not much different than cow’s milk to me. Goat cheese is a gourmet’s delight. It’s soft and spreads easily on a cracker or slice of good bread. Together with a glass of red wine, it’s better than beef steak.
World-wandering, I’m always struck with the fact that peasants everywhere keep a goat or two. The hardy beasts seem to thrive everywhere – on mountain slopes or in the desert heat.
In that old “Golden Girls” episode when Sophia Petrillo’s sister Angela visits from Sicily, she’s persuaded to leave the old country and move to Miami. All she has in her village back home is a goat. Niece Dorothy asks, “which would you rather live with, your sister or a goat?” Angela answers, “Give me a minute.”
Angela confesses, it’s the same old routine at home. She gets up in the morning, milks her goat, goes to another funeral, comes home, drinks a bottle of Chianti, falls asleep, and gets up next morning for another round. Sweet life – except for those funerals.
POSTSCRIPT: Poor Suki and Lulu are toast. Among the “wild critters” in the area are coyotes. A pack invaded their pen, and together with the chickens, finished them off. Some supper. A feast of feathers, fur and goat milk. I’m in sackcloth and ashes.
There’s a lesson here, I suppose. Don’t become over-attached to your pets? Fortify your animal pens, especially in isolated areas? Live in town with the other two-legged critters, a few of them probably more dangerous than the wild animals?