For over a week now we've been letting the goats out for walks around the property. At first I worried they would scatter in four directions, so overwhelmed by their freedom that they'd spring sideways (Fact: baby goats only run and jump sideways) right out of my life. Since they've eaten the leaves off all the branches they can reach inside their pen, Jer suggested we let them out. "Just - what - out?!" I said, absolutely shocked at his obvious attempts to dispose of the goats. "So, then what, we cross our fingers and just hope they love us enough to stick around and find their way home? Do you hate the goats? WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?!!!" I shouted, to which Jer calmly explained, "Um. They love you. They throw their bodies against the fence when you walk near the pen. They won't run away. And, by the way, you are crazy."
Once that was settled, and I was suitably convinced the goats may actually not, in fact, spring sideways out of my life forever, I timidly opened their gate. Held my breath. Ready to snatch any potential escapee at a moments notice. What actually happened was, of course, exactly as Jeremy predicted. The goats did spring sideways, and twirled in the air, flipped in circles, and generally just browsed joyfully - so long as they could keep me in sight. The moment they lost me, it became utter chaos. There's a reasonable chance neighbors have reported us to the authorities for suspected animal abuse based solely on the high pitched wailing (screaming, actually) the goatlings emit as soon as I'm out of eye line. The panic that ensues is pretty hilarious were it not for their genuine distress. This means that each day I spend a minimum of one (ok maybe two, if we're being honest) hours walking around the property - down to the garden, through the woods, into the creek bed, up to the hen house - so that the goats can access a wider variety of browse, with me in constant sight. Plus - I get to herd goats. It's a win-win type of situation. There are all kinds of poetic ways I might describe the experience of watching my goats in the woods, having them each take turns sitting in my lap until it's time to run off and eat cedar bark, but I'll leave that for a real author to describe (try Brad Kessler's Goat Song for a gorgeous account of goat herding). For now, the pictures of goat joy and goat freedom, speak for themselves.