Here are some things I’ve learned about goats while visiting Jacque and Nancy Garry at Red Hott Tomatoes in Bowdon, GA.
1. Goats make great stuff.
At Red Hott Tomatoes, I got to meet some goats and sample some of their wares. I had goat milk, goat cheese, and goat kefir. I’d had goat milk before and hadn’t liked it too much. So when Nancy handed me a big glass, I was prepared to sip and smile. Wow, was I surprised! It was really good! The goat milk I had on the farm wasn’t pasteurized, and Nancy and Jacque said that makes a big difference. Having met the goats and their milkers, I had no qualms about downing unpasteurized milk, but anything I had from the store would have been. Sadly, raw milk can’t be sold for human consumption in Georgia.
But goat cheese can! The goat cheese was terrific and not only because I had it on Nancy’s homemade biscuits. It’s wonderfully tasty and useful stuff. It’s got a mild but intensely fresh flavor! After using it in a few recipes, I think you could pair it with any vegetable or herb. The creamy, fresh taste enhances other flavors without overwhelming them. It’s great on roasted beets, on steamed peapods, in salads with toasted pecans, or just in hunks wrapped in sorrel leaves. Mmmm…. It’s like whipped cream for vegetables!
I donate to Heifer International which provides families with goats for milk to drink and sell (and other livestock, too). And they send around wonderful catalogs with happy pictures of the families. Before drinking Nancy’s goat milk, I felt a little bad for these smiling kids with milk moustaches. I’d think “If only they could have real, good-tasting milk from a cow.” Now that I know what their goat’s milk really tastes like, I smile along with them.
2. Goats have character
The lady goats were sociable creatures browsing and hanging out together with Rosie, their guard dog. Like the rest of the animals at the farm, they seemed faintly curious about me but didn’t seem to mind my presence.
Except for Pixie. Pixie is the largest of the farm’s dairy goats. We probably weigh in about the same. So I saw a big goat, and she saw another female threatening her place in line next to Jacque. She never charged, butted, or bit me, but the threat of all three was in the air. She put herself in my way again and again maintaining eye contact the whole time. If she’d been a dog, I would have ignored her displays of dominance until they turned overtly aggressive. Was this overtly aggressive for a dairy goat? I didn’t know. I didn’t want to back down and look like a wuss in front of Jacque (or Pixie), but I surely didn’t want to mix it up either. Thankfully, Jacque was there to keep all this chick drama in check. He’d grab Pixie’s collar or swat her to distract her or keep her in line.
I appreciate divas of all species, so, to be clear, I have no problem with Pixie, and I’m sure we would have come to an understanding in time.
Divas aside, the buck pen held the most charisma. This bachelor pad is across the farm from the dairy goats and is home to three billy goats, a young bull (or maybe a steer), and a burro named Eeyore. Check out this adorable pair.
And then there’s the billy goat who posed for me like a dog at Westminster.
And then it was Eeyore’s turn.
3. Goats have good friends
Rosie is a dog with a job who was born knowing her business: keeping her herd safe. That’s a full time job with coyotes and roaming gangs of domestic dogs in search of thrills. Jacque says the local dogs are the worst threat because they’re badly behaved in groups and not scared of people smells. But Rosie’s a big girl, and I can imagine a couple of dogs out on a lark would think twice before going a round with her. She has different barks for different critters, and Jacque says he never sleeps as well as when Rosie barks through the night.
Nancy had the best Rosie story, though. For the past few days, Rosie had not been letting the goats deep into the woods to browse. Nancy even saw them one morning where “Rosie had them lined up for a staff meeting telling them not to go into the woods.” Later, Nancy and Jacque heard from a neighbor that a bobcat had taken up residence in the area. See what I mean about this dog? Rosie sensed a new threat, decided she couldn’t ward it off on her own, and took preventative steps to keep the herd away from danger. Can we vote Anatolian shepherds into public office?
In the buck pen, Eeyore is the guard. He’s a rescue burro from Colorado, and I didn’t get his whole story, but it’s clear he’s wary of people. Eeyore loves his goat buddies, though.
He once killed a fox that got into the pen, and Jacque said he could take on a dog.
4. Baby goats are cute.
The baby goats were fun, too. They’re not quite babies any more, more like, well, little kids. They followed Jacque around their pen falling over themselves to find out what he was up to. (He was putting up fencing around the apple and pear trees so the growing goats wouldn’t eat the bark).
And then they had a quick chat with Nancy.
These goats are bottle fed three times a day and have been from birth. Sadly, unlike me and the happy kids from Heifer, the baby goats get pasteurized milk.
Jacque’s a pro and can feed two kids at once.
I was content with my one.
So that’s just some of what I learned about goats. Thanks to Nancy and Jacque for letting me butt in on the farm, and I’ll write more about other animals later!