CONFESSIONS OF A FARMER | The Story of Baby Goat

Baby Goat (Caliban) at four months, healthy and happy and almost normal. Photo: Terri Smith

Baby Goat (Caliban) at four months, healthy and happy and almost normal. Photo: Terri Smith

By Terri Smith —

It would seem that readers miss Amadeus. I know, I know: I have said goodbye to that article half a dozen times and then started it up again, but what can I say about popular demand? Starting next issue, I will be submitting a short Amadeus article for each edition as well my new farming article. In the meantime, here’s a little something about Amadeus’ nephew-brother, Baby Goat.

Baby Goat’s real name is Caliban, from The Tempest, but he’ll probably be called Baby Goat forever. He was an accident. A few years ago I kept two black, baby goats from our friendliest doe. The babies, Olivia and Othello, were sweet little goats and it all seemed like a great idea until fall rolled around and it was time to let Peter, the Billy, out of his summer pen so he could perform his manly duties. The problem was that Olivia was one of Peter’s offspring and not old enough to be bred. My solution was to keep Olivia, her mother, and her brother together in the fenced area around the house and under my bedroom window. They thought this was a great idea, since the food was great and they had lovely places beneath the eaves to get out of the weather. However, once a month with incredible regularity, Peter would be there, crashing his horns against the fence beneath my window trying to get into the pen. Twice Olivia and Othello escaped, but both times I was nearby to marvel at their ability to walk up fences then return them to the pen and increase its height. After they climbed up the gate I put a ladder over it, they stopped escaping and I forgot all about it.

Spring came and the baby goats arrived, and with them, Amadeus. Life took on its usual routine—usual except for the addition of a physically-and-possibly-mentally challenged goat that never left my side. Then during the heat spell in mid-July I walked outside one alarmingly hot day and was confronted by the sound of a crying baby goat. I was holding Amadeus so at least I knew he was alright, but I hurried to see if one of the others had somehow injured itself. I looked at all the babies stretched out calmly in the shade, counted them, and wondered for there seemed to be no problem.

Then I heard it again: “maa-AAA-aaaa!” … the unmistakable sound of a newborn goat. And sure enough, there was Olivia behind a pine tree licking a tiny, wobbly, all-black baby. In July. In 30 degree C weather. Oh dear! I thought. I did not need another Amadeus.

But Baby Goat was tough. The day after he was born when all the other goats headed out to the meadow to browse with their three-month-old babies, Olivia went with them; she seemed to have completely forgotten that she had even had a baby. The tiny black goat was no bigger than a shadow in the grass and just as silent. He was missing for 12 hours. We spent at least a few of those hours searching for him but to no avail. That night I just about tripped over him when I went out to feed the chickens. I reunited him with his mother who, by this time, was experiencing some lactation-associated discomfort and was quite relieved to be given a solution to the problem. The next day he disappeared again. This time it was harvest day, and while I gulped my lunch and then went out with two helpers to search for the baby goat, we didn’t find him. I was sure he was gone.

But we found him the next morning, snuggled under a log. He was fine. Mother and baby were reunited and again she lost him before lunch. I had had enough. I already had enough on my hands with Amadeus. Frustrated, I went out onto the balcony after dinner and looked at the young mama goat calmly grazing beside her own mother and yelled at her, “Why don’t you look for your baby, you horrible mother!?” She turned her head and looked at me, and then kicked at her uncomfortable underside.

I had an idea: “maaa-AAA-aaaa!” I cried. Olivia (and three other mothers—I’m just that good) jerked up her head and called back. It was as if I’d jogged a memory for her, oh yeah, where did I leave that little thing that makes me feel better? And up on the hillside I heard a small cry answer.

And after that, life took on another new routine. Each morning Caliban would nurse, lie down in the shade, and his mother would leave for the day. After dinner when the herd returned I would stand on the balcony and make a noise like a baby goat. Olivia would answer me and he in turn would answer her. He survived, and eventually turned into a regular, healthy, goat. Well, almost. But that’s a story for another day.

 

Terri Smith is an organic vegetable farmer in the Cariboo with Road’s End Vegetable Company. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Literature and a diploma in Art.

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