(First off, thank you, Stacey, for the picture this morning - it made my day!)
I've been thinking for a long time about getting a goat or two. Goats are winsome, clever, funny, and affectionate; they are also conniving, athletic, and easily bored, so you've got to have a good fence and lots of goat entertainment to keep them from figuring out ways to escape and run amok in your rutabagas. Unlike sheep, goats are challenging.
I've been toying with the idea of dairy goats, but that's an awful lot of work. You have to be committed to milking them twice a day, rain or shine, in sickness and in health - and I can tell you who would be the chief milkmaid at my house. I'm not sure I'm ready to commit to that. However, it's also possible just to have goats as pets. They aren't expensive to buy or to keep, and they are adorable, even when they are wreaking havoc across the property.
Here's a video from Beekman 1802, an organic farm in Sharon Springs, NY (check out their shop with goat's milk soap and heirloom seeds), demonstrating the off-the-scale cuteness of baby goats:
Even grown-up goats are charming. The breed I'm looking at in particular are mini La Manchas - a miniature dairy breed known for their affectionate and docile dispositions. They have the added allure of "elf ears," ears that are so tiny they are hardly visible. Here's a picture. Tell me if you don't fall instantly in love.
I like goats a lot, as you can probably tell. Goats were among the first domesticated farm animals, and people across the world keep goats in the same ways they have for thousands of years. Goats are hardy; they are herd animals and like lots of other goats as company; they can find forage in the most inhospitable of landscapes. (While they will try pretty much anything as lunch, they do not eat tin cans.) Goats can be kept on large stretches of property, or in a reasonably-sized backyard. Some suburban communities, in response to the economic crisis and the recent attention to our food supply, have revised covenants to allow residents to keep a goat or two (chickens also).
Here's is a terrific poem about a goat by the late New Jersey poet, Joe Salerno, who died from lung cancer in 1995 at the age of 48. I had the great pleasure of meeting Joe in 1991 at the Poetry Festival at St. Mary's College of Maryland. He was a lovely man - kind, self-effacing, funny, and breathtakingly talented. I heard him read this poem then; it has stayed with me ever since, and recently I discovered this video of Joe reading it on YouTube.
After his death, some of Joe's friends and colleagues put together a selection of his poems in a book called Only Here, with an afterword by Donald Hall (Joe had been Hall's student at Ann Arbor). I hate that he died so young. But Joe Salerno is someone whose too-short story is lifted out of tragedy by the scope and resonance of his poems. Read them.