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Rural Preservation
Local Tales
Animal Stories

Sunny Side of Spencer Butte

Writer and historian
Lois Barton

Goats

by
Lois Barton


Goats munching horsetails, West By Northwest.org photo
Goats Eating


I grew up on a family farm in Ohio where cash came from the Jersey cows' milk and from produce grown and sold at a farmers' market. Folks there had a poor opinion of sheep and goats as useful livestock. I carried this idea with me to Oregon

When we moved to acreage south of Spencer Butte, with our growing family of children we didn't have money to buy a cow for milk. So we bought a couple of milk goats instead. Our children drank the goat milk, and I found it even tolerable to use in cooking. It was something of a triumph to have guests at our table express curiosity about tasting goat milk. They knew of our goats, but had no inkling that the milk they drank with their meal had come from goats until we told them. I learned that much of the prejudice I'd carried was ill founded, and that properly cared for goat milk needn't have a rank flavor.

Having goats around brought many entertaining episodes into our days. One of the first was as follows. We had overnight visitors who arrived in a red convertible with a canvas top The parking was somewhat limited in the dooryard, so this nice car was parked just inside the pasture gate on the driveway to outbuildings, separated from the yard by a closed gate. The next morning as I started breakfast preparations, I looked from the kitchen window to the parked convertible as the goats came in from the hillside pasture for morning chores. As I watched, two or three of those curious animals jumped on the hood of that parked car.

"Oh, dear. Look at that" I said to guests with me in the kitchen. Before we could move they had gone up onto the canvas top, and were bouncing around there. Before anyone could cover the 100 feet to the car, their weight on pointy hooves had broken through the canvas. What a distressing experience for our citified visitors.

One or two goats furnished as much milk as we could use. However they usually bore twin kids at freshening. Before we knew it we had a surplus, many of whom would never make milkers. We advertised goats for sale, getting rid of a nanny now and then. We butchered a male occasionally for meat. One year we had half a dozen wethers (castrated males) bouncing around the place.

One response to the advertisement asked about multiple purchases to the same party. The phoner explained. "We want to take several goats to Hawaii to help clear land. A native weed grows there that is a high protein plant which goats relish. This plant has lateral underground roots at several level, some as much at three feet down. They keep growing from each level until they are killed off. If we use a bulldozer to cut them all out we lose the top soil. Goats in a fenced area will kill off the plants by eating all the new growth. In a couple of years the job is done."

West By Northwest.org photo


"Sounds like a workable approach," I responded. We have half a dozen wethers available at $10 each. "Do you need females?"

"We'd rather not," he said. The next day two men arrived in a flat bed truck bearing stock racks. Parking the truck about fifty feet from the barn, they got out ready to load goats. I had called the flock in from the pasture. We were milking a couple of older does, but the rest of the bunch mostly ran loose at will. They had been fed hay during the winter months and consequently were not particularly wild. Many of them, especially the wethers had not been handled much except as youngsters. Our children liked to bottle feed males who had been separated from their mothers

I was able to close those six males in the milking shed and shut the door on them. "You stand here by the door," I suggested. "I'll go in and catch them, one by one, and hand them out to you." I stepped inside and closed the screened door. Those young animals were nervous in that confined space and pretty wild to boot. Any one of them didn't weigh more than 120 pounds to my 170, so I was confident that I could hold each one singly. A couple had short horns which gave me a good handle.

They milled around, jumping up on a milking platform and down over each other. The little shed was about ten feet square, so most of the floor space was occupied most of the time, and I could easily get a grip on a goat. As I handed out the first goat those men were shaking their heads in disbelief.

"There's no way you could get me in that shed with those wild rams," said one

"What a woman." said the other as they gingerly reached for the squirming animal I held. Their combined grip successfully moved it to the fenced bed of the truck. This action was repeated, using a short rope halter on those without horns. As the truck drove off with its load of confused animals my thought followed them toward their arrival in a tropical paradise. What a change they faced from the seasonal pattern in Western Oregon.

Having goats in pasture we soon learned that stumps or big rocks against a fence provided goats with an exit from the fenced area. Up on the stump and over the fence. A piece of cake for a healthy goat, and not always so simple getting them home again.
West By Northwest.org photo

One evening as I prepared supper, an expected customer arrived to buy one of the milk goats. I had just started the electric mixer to whip some cream. I went out to help the customer, forgetting the running mixer. The deal took a little longer than expected, and when I got back to the kitchen, the whipping cream had churned to butter. We must have acquired a milk cow by that time to have cream to whip.

I still treasure the memory of the flock coming to rest on the sunny hillside south of the house. They had browsed their fill in the upper pasture earlier in the day. Now at rest and chewing their cud, the older goats lay white against the green hillside. Their energetic youngsters cavorted among their mothers, butting each other and playing tag. That picture of domestic tranquillity enriched my satisfaction as a contented homemaker and chore girl for several years.




Copyright ©2001 by Lois Barton


Lois Barton is an 83 year old mother of eight children. She has lived on the same rural acreage just south of Eugene, Oregon for more than 49 years. All their children learned to milk, to keep the woodboxes filled, to do their share of household and garden chores. Her first book, Spencer Butte Pioneers, was published in 1982 when her youngest started to school. Since then she wrote five other books: Daughter of the Soil, now out of print; One Woman's West; A Quaker Promise Kept; and Through My Window, autobiographical sketches, sequel to Daughter Of the Soil. Through the years Lois has been a 4H leader, president of the neighborhood association, a precinct committe woman, election board clerk, editor of the Lane County Historian, and a life long Quaker. She spent a month in Southeast Asia in 1974 as a member of a church peace mission, after working for ten years as director of the Eugene Chapter of the World Without War Council.

Some of Lois Barton's West By Northwest On the Sunnyside of Spencer Butte articles and/or check the Archives for more:

Charlotte's Overdose - Just who is Charlotte and what did she take?

The Midwife - The midnight call awoke an unusual midwife.

The Mystery of Fox Hollow - Fact and fiction meet in this story of the origins of Faith Rock.

Order Books Online by Lois Barton and support West By Northwest.org





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West By Northwest



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Lois Barton's Sunnyside of Spencer Butte finds the Heron Rookery.
M.G. Hudson's Spencer Creek Journal remembers Laddie and the baby goats as the war on terrorism affects Spencer Creek Valley
Ryan Ramon's Life on the 45th Parallel, Rain & Ramallah.
WxNW.org Web-Wise Links
DEN, from Defenders of Wildlife.

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