Greenpoint: Storm prep, goat style

The goats enjoy an early morning breakfast before the snow arrives. (Photo by Margaret Hartley)
PHOTOGRAPHER:

The goats enjoy an early morning breakfast before the snow arrives. (Photo by Margaret Hartley)

The last week of February brought some wild weather — cold and windy, warm and rainy, warm and windy, frigid cold. It’s been the kind of mix of elements where the temperature itself doesn’t matter as much as the wind and moisture. It could be 20 and feel mild, or 45 and feel bitter.

I went for a brief visit to see my eldest in New York City last weekend, our delayed Christmas get-together. I was assured of 60-degree weather and dressed accordingly, only to have temps fall through the 30s with a bitter wind that made it feel more like 0. Fortunately, I got my Christmas present — a handmade and enormous shawl, knit of mohair and wool, that I could wrap up in and stay warm through the wind and snow squalls. The child and I like to knit together and we often exchange our handiwork. The shawl was a lifesaver when I decided to take an hourlong walk through Central Park in the wind.

Back home, the warm-then-cold weather had turned our paths into ice but left the snow pretty much intact. Now we’re shoveling out again from another storm, and hopefully there will be time for exploring the woods on snowshoes or skis.

Before a snowstorm or a deep freeze, or even a big rain event, we make sure all the animals have fresh bedding to keep them dry and warm. We add a layer of straw or wood shavings in the duck enclosures, the chicken coops and the goat shed, and the chickens follow us around doing quality control tests in each spot.

The goats spend more time inside their shed if the weather is bad, so they get an extra thick layer of fresh bedding before a storm or temperature plunge, or before an expected explosion of new babies.

Of course, goats have a different idea of what constitutes bad weather. I’ll take the dog out to pee in the middle of a still, frigid night and see half a dozen goats lying out in the open, enjoying the stars and taking no heed of sub-zero temperatures. They’ll stand out in a snow squall, peacefully munching hay. But they don’t like rain, and even drizzle will drive them into their shed.

A heavy snowstorm will do the same, and they’ll wait for breaks in intensity to venture into their yard.

The fresh layer of straw or shavings also gives them something to do inside, since goats don’t necessarily differentiate bedding, food and fun. They’ll eat the straw and push it around. The babies tumble in and through it, make themselves little nests to sleep in and hide under.

They nibble on the wood shavings, too, because they are goats and eat like goats. Bark, cardboard, sticks and leaves, flower gardens — all are on the goat menu. The babies that are being bottle-fed inside try to eat wires and houseplants before we kick them out the door. We have one older goat who spent time in the house as a bottle-fed infant and even now, years later, if she gets the chance she breaks into the house and runs for a taste of the dog’s food.

Goats, by the way, should not eat dog food. Or wires, for that matter, or the philodendron. If they want to eat their bedding, that’s OK. That’s just good goat fun. And something to do in a storm.

Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on March 13. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] or on Twitter @Hartley_Maggie. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are not necessarily those of the newspaper’s.

Categories: Life and Arts

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