Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Goat Hunt

Happy Belated Easter!

I have been fortunate enough to have been helping out at the cashmere goat farm the last few weeks.

last year was a barren year, no kids.

this year every doe but the two youngest were bred, and the last few weeks every Sunday we are greeted by bouncing baby goats.

This Sunday we were greeted with the news that an expectant doe had gone missing, last seen in the barn at 9 pm the evening before.

After the combing emergencies, the primary and secondary barn chores attended to,  saplings and Boss and I headed out for a serious search.  The Willow and Boss had already spent an hour searching the pasture borders, but the four of us spread out, with myself along the fence, the Boss along the field, and the saplings spread between.

After we passed the top edge of the pasture the woods spread out so that we lost visual contact with each other.  The woods have been selectively cut for the last several years, and the slash was piled so high it would have been simple for a doe to hide her kids and herself from view.

All I saw were deer and MOOSE tracks, and I ain't talking ice cream flavors.

After an hour and a half we reached logging trails and the logging yard, the saplings hot and hungry for a real productive search involving enough chocolate to send you into a diabetic coma.

So I sent them back for a drink and a sandwich, and headed back with the boss, listening and looking and thinking every grey stone must surely be that wayward silver doe.

I crossed the pasture and saw one of the Great Pyrenees stretched out along the woodsline, and stopped and patted her and continued to stretch my eardrums for the telltale wail of a newborn goat kid, to no avail.

I had several false starts during the search, hearing odd cries and thinking it was a kid in distress, only to find it was robins or crows or pileated woodpecker and wondering if they were trying to lead  me in the right direction.

So we gave up the search and finished the buck chores and had  to head home for our own Easter celebrations, involving  fruitful searches and chocolate comas.

The Firebird and I went back today and he was off the search docket, helping with garden chores.  I had an easy time with the old wethers, not even having to tie the old boys for combing.  I brushed their necks while they tipped their faces up in the wellish call, or just  a good old fashioned goat grin.  One younger  wether had run at my approach, fiber hanging off his neck and rump, and I let him go and turned to an old guy on his knees on a bench.
Eventually he returned, and I let him watch the proceedings,  and then approached him and brushed his neck (which they Especially love) and then his rump (which they don't really like) All without a collar, which is a real coup de gras.

When I first started combing cashmere 7 years ago, the form de rigeur was to double chain the collar and wail away on the goat while they tried to escape.

I have spent the intervening seven years trying to befriend the population, convince them that combing feels good because they are ITCHY when they are sheddding and taking moments of delight when I have to pause to remove the fiber from the brush and the goat looks at me, tilts their head back., and scratches themselves with the tip of their horn.

Willow and I say the goat is showing us where to brush next.

The most shy wether lurked in the background, but he was all shed out so I wasn't too offended.

High on wether good vibes, I then got to head on the hill for the yearling bucks.  They are my personal favorites, because it is their first combing season, and they are somewhat friendly (meaning they like corn) but don't like to be handled (because it has meant injections or hoof trimmings) and I have the opportunity to show them that touches can be nice.  :)

I had my eyes on one particular buckling last week, but didn't get to him.  I caught him today, and he was the best comb.  He didn't object and kept his face buried in his second cut hay.  He had medium length slick guard hair, that when lifted showed a spiderweb of shedding undercoat. Goldmine. 

The Boss and the new apprentice fed and cleaned and headed down to walk the fence in the main pasture with a chainsaw, looking for the missing doe and fixing fence as they went.

Boss told me where they would be when I finished, to come and call when I was ready to go to the big bucks.

The sun was hot, and the combing was rich, so I spent about 45 minutes on the buckling and headed down.

Determined to find the doe, I didn't immediately head out for the Boss, I circled  the old ash in the center of the pasture that I refer to as yraddrassil, to no avail.  I checked in with the Firebird and the gardener.  I circled through the woodline behind the main herd, thinking they would be near the missing doe.  I went by the rock pile along the road.

So then I started at the bottom of the field where the Boss said they would be, skirting the woodline, searching, calling, looking for the doe and Boss and apprentice.

I hit the top of the field and entered the woods, straddling between the fenceline and pasture, double checking the ground the saplings covered yesterday.

"Buttercup! Buttercup!"  I called, and stopped and searched 360, and listened..  A few more yards, "buttercup, buttercup!", 360 look, listen.

Then I would hear a chainsaw in the distance, and know the apprentice was ahead in the distance, so I kept on, "Buttercup, buttercup!" look, listen.

Sometimes I would see something grey, and double back or side track to find a boulder or stump.

I passed the log yard.  I found moose poop.  I kept on, lured by the sound of chainsaw in the distance.  Over seven years I had heard stories of the extensive fenced woods that comprised the farm, but had always managed to be exempted from that fence chore.  I was finally seeing the expanse for myself.

"buttercup, buttercup!" telling myself that any doe stuck in the woods for two nights would return my call with a yell, but half wondering if my call wasn't really to hopefully send any moose heading in the other direction.

At one point I came to a vale, or a gully.  I saw Boss and one of the farm dogs at the top on the other side.  "buttercup, buttercup" I called.

The farm dog woofed.  I was surprised that it just became aware of me. " Is that you, T?" Boss called.

"Yes, I will go along and find an easier way across and join you,"  I replied.

I went along and found a good place to cross, and by the time I crested the rise, Boss was off to my left and the chainsaw was sounding ahead, so I left Boss to that side and kept going, "butter, buttercup!"

I finally caught up to the apprentice, hauling the Husquevanna.  We had reached the back line.  I kept her company while she sawed away at blowdowns, gossipping on my behalf about my hypothesis, certain that the doe had died, she thinking that the new farm dog had a part in her demise, me blamng an older jealous doe-my ideas had gotten so fringe at home the night before, the Willow finally said I might as well suggest aliens had abducted the doe....

And still no sign of the doe but plenty of moose sign...

Finally at some point I suggested we get on the other side of the fence and pick up the road and head back, and J said that things got pretty wet after that point (imagine moss and running water and bogs), so I was fine with that...

So we were heading back down the road and came across a bunch of plumbing elbows and a couple cordless drills thrown down in the ditch (probably stolen and dumped) so I suggested we pick the stuff up and leave it along the road and get it later.  While we were down in the ditch, Boss drove by in her Subbie.  J jumped up and waved, but Boss kept going.  So we stood along the road and waited a few and then I said we might as well walk back to the farn since Boss would be coming back when she didn't find us.

So we were walking along the road, exsposing our particular hypothesis regarding the demise of the doe, and I was saying something along the lines that the doe would be found once the crows started circling (in fact, we just stood and watched some seagulls chasing a bald eagle, so I was watching then to see if they were circling a dead doe). and in mid sentence I say, "and there she is"

And there was buttercup, in plain view from the road,behind a giant rock pile, not 100 yards from the gate of the lower pasture, with a bouncing pair of twins.

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