Friday, May 22, 2020

Pack Goat!

Training a goat to join me in the mountains is a long-time goal of mine. My entire love affair with homesteading was and remains based on the working partnership with animals. I like a horse in harness, a hawk in jesses, a dog in a sheep pasture herding, and a goat in a backpack. And since the great outdoors is more and more the place I want to be when time is free - here comes the sound of little hoofs on the trail!

As my years of farming accumulated the more I ached for time in the wild. I love my farm. I love the animals and the seasons and the work, but there is something so appealing and lovely about hiking and backpacking. I love traveling across the landscape on foot. I love getting hot and sweaty and feeling it fade away by a campfire where I need a cozy sweater and cuddling close to friends or loved ones for s'mores and stories. I mean, who wouldn't want to throw a goat into that mix?!

So Cade (Named after Cade's Cove in the Smoky Mountains) is my farm-to-forrest ambassador. He's a Nubian wether. So far this training has involved having him join me for walks and learn to follow since he was brand new to this farm. As he grew older and learned he could forage as he hiked, I learned he couldn't be trusted to keep up with a hiking pace. It wasn't that he wanted to be separated from us, there's just so much to eat! So that's when the books and vids and community online really helped out.

When I take Cade out for a short training hike now he wears an adjusted dog pack. Adjusted in the way that a strap of webbing runs around his bum like a horse or pony harness would. This was a game changer for us on hikes! No goat wants to be dragged around by a collar or halter. They will happily trot along side you though if you give them a small tap on the bum to remind them this train has left the station. The britches strap tugs at the goat's rump gently along with the harness on the chest which basically tells the goat every part of this body is to move forward and instead of fighting it - he trots right on ahead. Every trail together gets easier. Every walk less about snacking on brush and more about moving up the mountain.

His saddle bags now only contain tee shirts to fill them and a small 1/2 liter water pouch on each side to balance a little tiny bit of weight. His growing body shouldn't be packing any real sort of load at all right now, but getting used to the equipment and the suggestion of weight on his back in small doses is part of the process, or so the books all say. I am excited to start really seeing the mountains with him later this summer. Taking him on hikes locally! But right now we are a pair of students and really enjoying the goat packing world online.