Goat Herding

We’ve been having fun with the goats lately! Inspired by the book Goat Song, in which Brad Kessler takes his herd on walks through the woods, I decided to take my girls on a walk through the pasture.

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Before Baby Skywalker was born we had practiced herding within the pen a lot. The girls and I took turns carrying a big stick and singing “We’re following the leader, the leader, the leader. We’re following the leader, wherever she may go.” (Remember that song from Disney’s Peter Pan? Cathcy, isn’t it?) But once baby came I hardly spent time in the pen anymore. I didn’t have the energy or the time, and they were off the bottle, so they didn’t need me.

But spring has sprung, I am getting (more) sleep, and the goats are, well… spoiled.

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First day out with the goats

The first few times out I took a bag of grain, just in case I had to lure them, and the dog leashes, just in case they didn’t follow. The girls were at preschool, Baby Skywalker rode on my back, and I had my phone handy, just in case I needed to call reinforcements to herd my goats back. I was prepared for the worst. And they were fantastic. They never wandered more than 10ft from me. When I started to move away they followed. I sang our follow the leader song.

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Snacking on the wax myrtle we cleared out

They really surprise me at how easily they stick by my side. And how easily they follow me back into their pen. Last week I hadn’t planned on taking them out, but they started to follow as I headed to the pigs, so I let them come along. They walked with me there, waited while I fed the pigs, and walked right back to their pen with me.

We’ve even been out in the rain. Goats don’t like the rain. When we set out that day we had blue skies, but it quickly turned overcast and rainy. Thank you, Florida. All was well as we hunkered down under a giant oak tree. Until I heard thunder. With my three human kids and two goat kids in tow, I wasn’t about to risk anything silly – we had tornado warnings earlier that day. The goats ran ahead of me the whole way to get back to their barn. I then had to run back to Littles Monster and Miss because they were having too much fun riding their horsey sticks in the rain in the middle of the pasture to be in any hurry to get back home. Never a dull moment.

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Sweet gum saplings and wild blackberries

Hanging out in the goat pen playing with the goats used to be my happy place, but now going on walks with them is my happy place. We aren’t in a hurry to get anywhere. They stop to nibble here and there. We find a shady spot and they forage all around and check back in every once in a while. When they get spooked by a neighboring horse or cow or saw palmetto, they jump a little, run toward me, and let me pet them to reassure them they are safe. And then it’s back to munching.

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Spanish moss

We haven’t stayed out for longer than an hour. Someone always ends up hungry or thirsty, or it’s time to pick up the girls from preschool. I haven’t taken leashes with me the last couple walks, but I still take the grain as a nice snack for when we return to the barn. Someday I’ll remember to pack snacks for my human kids. Someday we’ll stay out long enough that the goats find a nice spot nearby to chew their cud. Then we can really relax and enjoy it. Hopefully I remember sooner rather than later. Mosquito season will be here before we know it.

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