Mending the Fence

Christine Maccabee

Large goats, such as my Nubians, are notoriously hard on fences. So are cows, from what I hear. They love to lean their large bodies into them and rub hard as they walk along. My five-year-old fencing has deteriorated in many spots, particularly across the front of the pen, which is just up the hill from, and in full view of my kitchen window. This location is absolutely perfect for me as I can observe my goats while washing dishes and fixing dinner. However, it seems my goats have a uncanny way of knowing when I am looking and when I am not, for they always seem to mysteriously appear on the other side of the fence as if by magic.

Of course, I know all too well that magic and wizardry are not the means of their escapes. I also know all too well that I can no longer continue patching the fence in my peculiar fashion. So yesterday I broke down and bought two 50 ft. rolls of strong wire fencing. Before too long I hope some help will "magically" appear to assist me in the arduous task of tearing down the old and putting up the new. Iím quite certain a little bribe of money will bring me the help I need in the form of a teenager. Meanwhile, I keep plugging up holes and repairing weak spots.

Over the past few months it has been a comedy of errors as well as an exercise in trying to outwit my witty threesome. The matriarch and dominant goat, clever Fawn, is always in the lead, and through every new hole the other two follow. No sooner do I patch the hole with a small piece of fencing than another hole appears. At this point the wires are so rusty they break easily with the least bit of pressure from their hooves and large bodies. A length of wooden fencing stretches across the front where the broken wire forms a long gaping hole. That, together with my other small patches tied on with hay bale twine, makes my fence look like some sort of abstract art form, a fence line patchwork quilt of twine, wood, and wire.

There is a saying that goes "good fences make for good neighbors." In my case, this is quite true as far as my goat neighbors and I are concerned. The last thing I want is for them to discover my azaleas on one side of the house, and my cold frame spinach and chard on the south side. As it is they have already chewed the bark off my small but productive peach tree out back, and if the door to the shed which stores their grain is open, they will gorge themselves on it until their stomachs burst.

Many of you may be asking yourselves why this silly woman didnít put up new fencing long before this. I could answer that I was simply creating new material for a new Goat Tail, this one. I could also say that I am short on funds, which I am. Or, as a rationalization of my procrastination I could tell you that I enjoyed the challenge of trying to outwit my goats, even though frequently they outwitted me. Since the day I acquired my first two goats I have had a dynamic and fun relationship with them, and they have been the source of much inspiration and many tales to tell in the form of articles for this newspaper.* And so it is with fondness I remember my goat Fawn and her ever curious nature, nibbling at my hair and pulling my scarf off my head as I stooped to mend a hole last summer. Her warm sweet breath on my neck and her playful pulling and nudging, never hard enough to do any harm, indicate to me a surprisingly sweet and gentle nature in this basically wild creature. So I guess going up to mend the fence is just another excuse I have to interact with my goats. I love that wonderful grounded feeling I get whenever I do the basic work of feeding, milking, shoveling their rich manure into buckets for my garden beds, or yes, mending fences.

Recently I spoke with a woman who is considering getting goats. "I hear that goats are pretty dumb," she said. "Actually," says I, "they are just the opposite. I deem them very intelligent, and even clever." People who say goats are dumb must be confusing them with cows! It isnít until you actually live with goats for a few years that you can actually understand them as they truly are, and even then they remain a mystery. One could carry this argument even further by citing the obvious analogy to all other relationships one might entertain, be they with other people, between nations, or with the natural world in general. With no space herein to expand upon this last multi-dimensional thought, I will leave you with a few simple thoughts...

"Donít stop trying to mend your fences." "If the fence canít be mended, get a new one." And "If a fence isnít needed, tear it down."

Read other articles by Christine Maccabee