When you mention goats to some people — mostly people who, in fact, have never met a goat — they imagine tin-can eating, straw-hat wearing, smelly, hooved creatures who trash gardens and will eat everything in sight.
They’re partly right.
No, they don’t eat tin cans or wear straw hats, but they will try to nibble that straw hat.
And they’d love to eat the garden if you’re silly enough to let the goats get into the garden.
And they do smell. They smell wonderful… like goat cheese. (Yeah, I know, but I tell you I’m not the only one who thinks so…).
Here’s something else they do: they browse. Expertly, beautifully, and thoroughly.
In late January, we finally got around to putting the Christmas tree (balsam, untreated) into the goat pen.
The goats started by nibbling off the tender ends of the branches, full of soft green needles. Then they started taking huge mouthfuls, snapping off pinkie-width branches.
In less than a week, most everything green was gone, and only the trunk and the thicker branches remained. The goats weren’t done yet, though.
We saw them standing around the carcass of the tree (which they had dragged from next to the fence, down the hill, nearer to the run-in stall where they nap their winter days away), as if considering the remaining possibilities.
Then they began to strip the bark with their little teeth. They shaved the tree clean. Every afternoon, when I went to feed them, I was greeted by smiling goats with sticky, blackened muzzles and lips. Pine sap residue, I assume. Like smeared paint or charcoal on an artist’s hands.
They went at that tree like a project. Like caprine sculptors, they started with one thing, and then chiseled away everything that wasn’t needed, and left the result in its smooth completeness for humans to appreciate.