Editor's note, June 16, 2008. CONGRATULATIONS to Connie Reynolds on her 200th Nanny Berries on BoerGoats.com! A little history for those of you who weren't keeping up (grin)... Connie offered to let me publish her first Nanny Berries "Blizzard of 98" almost eight years ago. I was so impressed by that first offering and received so many positive emails about it that I asked her if she'd be willing to start a series. Her only question... How often? My response was a long time in going back to her - I'd received more positive emails clamoring for more like Blizzard. I didn't want to scare her away but I asked if she could do a new one every other week. "Not a problem", was her instant reply.THE END
Well, 400 weeks later, here's "Behind The Gate...". Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Baby goats find the world a very perplexing place. You can almost see them wrinkle up their little foreheads as they try and figure out what on earth this all means. Mainly, what it means to their little lives. They aren’t worried about world peace, unless it’s about their little world that surrounds them. So, at times, they really do find their new world a bit perplexing.
The minute they are born they do find life a tad difficult for a while until they catch on. And, it doesn’t help one bit that some mothers like to stand while kidding, and the kid enters this world landing on his head. But, baby goats learn how to survive, some quickly, some have to give it some thought, but with a little help from the goat farmer, life is made a bit easier until they do catch on.
When kids are weaned they have to learn a lot of things on their own, without mom’s help. In the beginning, mom can be a lot of help in showing kids the ropes on how life works on their farm, but at weaning time, the kid is all on his own, and usually with a lot of other kids being weaned at the same time. Some kids are bottle kids, never having a mom to teach them, but one big bonus for them is an unshakeable trust in the ol’ goat farmer that used to feed them their bottle.
New things happen... Like a big gate being opened up for them to go out to their own little hillside pasture. The goat farmer usually finds a bunch of the babies behind the gate watching the rest of their crowd head through the gate opening to pasture. Heartfelt crying starts because their buddies are leaving them and for some unknown reason, they have been confined behind this gate. It doesn’t matter if the gate is opened wide in such a way no one is really trapped. Ours is perpendicular to the fence when opened, all the kids have to do is simply walk around the gate and leave with their buddies, just like their buddies did it, but they think they are trapped.
The first week you will always get a group behind the gate, and it’s a different group each time, when that gate is opened. It can also be just one or two kids, and a different one or two kids each time, that some how get “trapped” behind the gate. Usually I go up to the “trapped” kids and tell them to come on or lightly clap my hands to get their attention to follow me. If I am fortunate, one of the bottle kids is in with the trapped group and the moment she sees me, she follows, with the rest of the kids following her. Sometimes I have to go out in the field and call for some of my bottle kids to follow me back to the “trapped” kids and then the “trapped” kids follow the bottle babies, who are following me. Yes, it gets a little complicated at times, but I don’t want to go impatiently pushing and scaring my kids out of their “trap”. Acting impatiently only makes it more difficult to handle them later.
Learning to cross our creek to get to the hillside pasture can be a biggie to learn. The creek can vary in size from two to three to up to six foot across. The depth can range from a couple of inches to three feet deep. I always show them the narrower places to cross with just a couple of inches of water in it and plenty of rocks to step on. Still, their mommies had not had the chance to take them to this pasture and that creek is new and frightening.
Usually they stand back and stare in horror at the mighty rapids the two- three inch deep water is making, but then the intrigue of that lovely hillside on the other side of the rapids just calls to them. I step across the creek a few times to show them it is possible, that in fact they could even jump it, it they wanted. Finally, I have to turn to my bottle kids and tell the girls to come on, and with mighty leaps or simply just plowing through the water, they follow me. This usually inspires the others to give it a try.
So, with eyes as big as frying pans, and usually with Kamikaze squeals, the little girls do make it across the creek. Often it is either me or Lee that will have to go get them in the evening because they are stuck on the other side of the creek. They aren’t sure what they did last time to cross the two inch deep rapids. With a little work and help from the bottle kids, we get them back home. After about a week of helping them with the creek, they catch on and see it as no problem.
After that sometimes they get so brave that they think they can jump that creek at any place. Unfortunately, some pick the widest place and instead of taking a running leap and arcing over the creek, they jump straight up at a stand still into the air and drop like a rock in the middle of the creek, usually in the deepest part. That has sent me running down the hill from the house many times thinking I was going to have to dive in and save a kid, and seriously wondering if I needed lifeguards at the creek. Oddly enough, kids can swim, whether they want to or not. Or either they have a hidden propellant that jetsam’s them out of the water once they touch it.
Then there is the trial of meeting the barn cats. Now that the mommies are out of the picture, the cats feel it is safe to come out and say hello to the new kids. The kids are terrified at first, swearing that these are goat eating cats. But, after a dozen or so stampedes, some across me, at the sight of a barn cat, the kids settle down and either accept the fact that these cats like to pet on them or a few act like their mothers and actually try to chase and butt the barn cats.
One of the next trials is learning to settle arguments with each other. This involves butting, which is quite new to them. Usually they rear back to butt someone who has insulted them, only to miss and land in a heap way past the one that was to be punished. When two line up to butt over an argument and they both awkwardly miss and either go staggering off wondering where their opponent went or both land in a heap, their conclusion is to get really mad and try again or to wander off thinking that the other kid really packed a punch and is better off left alone. It is tough being a baby goat, but they did defeat the behind the gate trial and crossing the wet creek trial. So hope springs eternal in the goat farmer’s and baby kids’ hearts that many more trials can be overcome. Especially if you aim right and leap far enough for the kid, and the goat farmer is willing to give a helping hand along the way.