Saturday, 29 October 2011

Spring Time on the goat run

There can be a down side to having overly friendly animals that crowd the gateway whenever you come to visit. If we want to get through the gates now-a-days, we have to make sure that we have food to distract the girls or they simply duck behind us and escape to the wider vista of the house gardens. This isn't so bad if you just have a body to squeeze through the gap but if you are pushing the barrow or riding the mower, the goats have the upper hand every time. There's no sneaking up on them either, the girls seem to have a sixth sense that informs them when there is some activity near a gate and manage to congregate in readiness for your arrival.

Polly seems to be the most alert at this practice and is usually the first to pop up her head and notice that a human being is approaching. First one head goes up and an inquisitive gaze is cast in the direction of disturbance, followed by three more heads accompanied by a plaintive bleat before some mutual signal sets all four goats in motion and they begin their bound across the field, ears flapping in unison with their stride, to reach the gate before the food arrives.

Polly premonitious
No longer do we put the surplus silver beet in the compost for the worms. Instead, spare garden greenery is taken to the girls as a treat for the day. In addition to a steady supply of silver beet that seems constantly to be going to seed, the odd cabbage, broccoli or even strawberry plant will get the goats all excited. The worry here is however that as the grass grows and the weeds rear their ugly heads, the goats are ignoring inviting thistles and searching for more savoury tid bits. Even attempts to hand feed thistle plants have been rebuffed. Have we reared a bunch of sissy goats rather than robust garbage disposal mechanisms.

On the other side of the coin, while the goats eat of the bounty of the land, they in turn are being preyed upon. What dangerous creature lurks in the paddocks waiting to attack the unwary and reduce it to an empty husk? It's not a snake (of which there have been several sightings so far this year) but a creature of humble proportions and yet devestating impact. The activity of this creature is often evident when we find the goats red with their own blood; dramtically contrasted on Polly and Sugar's white hair. This assault is obviously perpetrated most often at night, only manifesting in the light of day and making it look like the girls have been involved in some brawl with a broken bottle. The culprit is nothing more significant than the humble leech but here acting in a feral rather than medicinal capacity and taking their fill regularly from our coddled livestock.

Neither Lyn nor I have escaped unscathed as the leeches seem to be invading the gardens as well as the paddocks and damp patches on trousers are not necessarily just the result of wading through the long grass but may be patches of blood, soaking into clothing from weeping wounds left after the leech has gone. We may need to start wearing red socks to hide the evidence and certainly give up wearing sheer tights as the welts of leech activity remain for days afterward. It's no wonder gumboots are so popular on farms.

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