Wednesday, 18 July 2012

In Which Lyn Builds a Wall and the Goats Taste Cider

Our move into the rural lifestyle has been gradual. Leaving the big city of Sydney to migrate to the village of Mole Creek 19 years ago and then transitioning to the isolation of a country retreat after 12 years of frenzied living as guest house proprietors, we have eased ourselves into the changing world around us. Since getting the goat girls, the pace of change has picked up and now new developments are almost a daily occurrence.

The Circle of Goat

Each week there is a new acquisition from the rural suppliers be it fence parts, animal food or animal husbandry implements and each week we learn new things about the complexities of keeping livestock. Part of Lyn's work in accommodating this new situation as been to build the goats a shelter to keep them from the cold and make their sojourn with us a pleasant experience, safe from the elements and with all the comforts of whatever it is that goats find comfort in. Mind you, this is one project that is likely to take as long as the book shelves I promised Lyn several years ago.

"I am not an animal"
Sugar realigns the string lines

The location of the shelter was chosen due to its relative level ground and a convenient pile of nearby rocks. Preliminary site works involved mowing the area to provide a clear work place and to discourage the persistent occupation of anything of the slithery variety. Unfortunately, even short grass isn't a definite deterrent for the slitherers and no impediment to the leeches at all. Digging the foundations gave Lyn an excuse to play in the dirt and reinforce her discernment when it came to telling a useful rock from a nuisance rock. Each afternoon when I arrived home from work the first task was to find Lyn in the paddock and see if any extra muscle was needed to shift a particularly recalcitrant stone.

As the wall rose, the goat interest grew. Not only was this activity a novelty in their pastoral existence but they were now aware that Lyn invariably carried treats. It became commonplace for a questing head to be pushed under the armpit whilst positioning stones and as soon as the wall began to gain height the girls delighted in showing their dexterity by leaping atop the stones and parading round the circle, often dislodging the loose bits on the way. At the end of the day we would have to persuade at least one to vacate the barrow to allow the tools to be placed there in and our retreat to the house would be followed by expectant bleats as though we were deserting them in their hour of need.

Polly tries a medicinal elixer
Every one gets in for a drop
There is one aspect of working in stone that may be a peculiarity for Tasmanians but is practised with diligence by all those that I know in the trade and that is the consumption of cider. What it is about apples and rocks that go together so well is beyond me but I am happy to support the habit even without the physical interaction with the mineral conglomerates. Naturally then, on a summer evening, when Lyn is entertaining the goats and placing one rock atop another, it is easy to persuade her that it is time to down tools by the provision of a bottle of cider. Naturally then, the girls would want to experience this phenomenon as well and so, the goats got their first taste of alcohol. I think the general consensus was that they were in favour and could 'go' a bit more but, being responsible husbanders of our charges we let them experience but not indulge.

The walls of the shelter have reached a respectable height but now are abandoned for the winter and visits to the girls and bottles of cider are more widely spaced as the hours are short and the ground damp. But summer will return and with it the patter of tiny hooves as a new generation of kids literally climbs the walls and relishes the stories that their mothers tell of times before the stone walls and of the largess dispensed by those mysterious builders with their strange elixirs and pockets full of treats.