Getting my goats (380 days to go)

by Max Akroyd


Our goats have made two bids for freedom in the last twenty four hours. On the first occasion they pushed, nibbled and generally distorted the corner of their enclosure sufficiently to make a tiny opening. Big enough, seemingly, for two goats and six hens to squeeze through. By the time we discovered them all, my prized quince trees were looking worser for wear than I was, the comfrey plantation had been hard-pruned and the hens were bustling through the flower beds having a whale of a time. 

At least, fence-mending and livestock-retrieving make for an unusual birthday evening. Most smallholders know that animals time their mayhem for your lowest point of capability – maybe they smell the wine!

And goats are the hungover farmer’s nemesis. Sharp as a tack, they know exactly when to strike. And they did – again – this morning. Their tethers slipped through my slightly arthritic grasp and they were off – galloping through the garlic, crushing the kales and plundering the plums. At this point, I feared a rerun of the terrible great goat escape. But for some goaty reason, they ended up back in their barn chasing the hens around. Business as usual in other words.

However, as the morning progressed it became apparent that all was not as it should be. Handa, the young and crazy one, had clearly ingested something not to her tummy’s liking and started to look unhappy. Silly goat. A trip to vets quickly ensued, followed equally rapidly by the administration of a charcoal solution.

Do you know that scene from Alien when they chop the robot’s head off? At least there’s something about holding a goat’s face while it sneezes and snorts a load of bile-coloured medicine all over you that warms the heart. It’s a bonding thing, like staying up all night with a poorly child.

By contrast, this afternoon I have a business meeting. I know, I can’t believe it either… a suit has been dragged out of deep storage. My hair has been tamed. But as the talk goes round and round, I suspect only my head will be full of goats and the cardoons I want to plant when I get back.