‘Life Is Like A Cucumber …’


‘Life is like a cucumber. One minute it’s in your hand, the next it’s up your ass’ ( Lawrence Durrell) This quote is one of my favourites. It perfectly describes, albeit crudely, what it feels like when things don’t go to plan or worse.

This past year I’ve had plenty of ideas for blog posts and stories but I’ve been so busy with the garden working in the fields that I’m now months behind. My intention was to get back to my blog with something fun and lighthearted, Lord help us we could all do with a laugh, but very recently something extremely sad and shocking happened. I want to share it with you as it has been a sobering lesson of the reality of living where we do, in the wilds of north Galicia.

Those of you kind folk that follow my Facebook page The Red House Diaries, (https://www.facebook.com/theriojadiaries) will be well acquainted with Goaty McGoatFace, the little brown and white goat who came to live with us a few months ago. This dear little goat was bought off a local builder who has the wonderful name of Susu Estrella. It was such a great name that I thought it would be rude not to call our new goat after her previous owner. For a while we called her Susu Star and she came to her name whenever we called her but after a while, the name Susu Star lost its lustre and I found myself being unable to resist mimicking the news story from the UK ( a year or so ago) about the public naming of a Polar boat BoatyMcBoatFace . within a matter of days she went from Susu to GMcGF and believe it or not, it suited her down to the ground.

I’m no stranger to keeping goats but it has been a very long time since I’ve had them in my life. We had a herd of them when we lived in North Yorkshire many moons ago. I used to make soft cheese and We drank the milk which is delicious when absolutely fresh but after a few hours it does start to develop that very distinctive Goaty taste that puts so many people off. Anyway, stinky milk aside, my Toggenburg girls were fabulous milkers and in summer each one of them would generously give us a gallon of their milk (about 20 litres per day) We had so much excess milk that we could rear any orphan lambs that farmers would dump on us and even the odd calf or two. But, much as I love goats, I was resistant to getting any when we moved here as I know what a tie they are, especially if they need milking.

Then Covid happened and Lockdown and life changed for each and every one of us. Here at The Red House it became abundantly clear that keeping goats again wouldn’t be such a bad idea. The hunt was soon on for two milking goats but so far we only managed to find GMcGF who at 18 months old had never kidded so no milk. The plan was to find her a bit of Billy Goat Gruff this autumn so we could start to milk her next spring…

We built her a cosy stall in the barn for night time and during the day she’d be tethered wherever we needed brambles and weeds clearing. She really was a star clearing up wherever we needed and she was especially fond of Baggy who would spend a lot of time playing with her out in the field. She’d play fight with him and butt him and then they’d lie together for hours while she chewed the cud and he looked longingly in to her eyes. In the evenings, before she came in from the field, I’d go round all the hedgerows cutting sprigs from her favourite bushes and trees and then gathering them up in to a big ‘bouquet’ which i’d then tie on to the fence of her stall. She loved feasting on her pot pourri of leaves but her favourite treats were the bread crusts and apples that she knew she’d find in her bucket.

A couple of weeks or so ago, we made the executive decision not to put GMcGF indoors while we went to an appointment in Ferrol. It was a beautiful day and it would be sad for her to be locked up inside so we left her on her tether close to Baggy so he could keep an eye on her and shaded by trees so she that she wouldn’t get too hot.

On our return the first thing that we noticed was that Baggy and GoatyMcGF were standing looking very sheepish quite a distance away from where she had previously been tethered. How the hell had she got loose? It didn’t take Sherlock long to work out that Baggy had bitten through the thick jute rope and had ‘freed’ his pal. Our first thought was were the vegetables OK? – was there anything left in the veg garden??? No, quite amazingly nothing looked out of place there and for a moment we foolishly believed that she’d not touched a thing, until that is that our eyes fell on the flower garden and roses. Every.Single.Rose. Had. Been.Eaten. not a leaf, nor a flower remained, just lots of very long wobbly stalks with a rose at the top which clearly had defeated Miss Goaty Face. Irishman was livid and i burst in to tears and Goaty and Baggy shot off down the garden the devious little buggers.

Last Sunday I followed my normal morning routine of getting up just before 7am, putting on the kettle and going out to let out the chickens and turkeys. Once they were all fed and watered, I could turn my attention to Miss GoatyFace and her needs. Baggy is always around to greet me in the mornings and as usual he followed me and Miss GoatyMcGF in to the field to be tethered. I found her a new clump of brambles, gave her a quick kiss and then went back indoors to make tea to take up to bed.

Forty five minutes later I was up and dressed and out in to the fields to check all was ok before I started tidying up and cooking for the lunch we were having friends over for later. But when I looked from the gate there was no sign of GMcGF. I called Baggy in case she had escaped again and was with him but he was nowhere to be seen. He’d gone off to the stream for his ‘Spa’ visit but came back dripping with mud when he heard me calling. I knew instantly what must have happened but I couldn’t face going over to her tether to look. Our beautiful goat had been killed by the wolves, just feet away from the garden. I hadn’t heard a thing and the bedroom windows had been wide open. If I had been looking out I would have seen them, if Baggy hadn’t gone off to the stream for his morning ablutions then might she still be alive? I torture myself with the what ifs? How we failed to protect her.

We’ve learnt a lesson from all of this. A horrible sad lesson that I wish we hadn’t needed to learn. The night before she was killed, Baggy had spent all night protecting the farm. We could hear the wolves and Baggy had been more vocal than normal. Even though I knew the wolves were about, what I didn’t realise was that they’d dare to attack in daylight. The wolves had obviously been working their plan out for days. Almost everyone round here loses livestock to the wolves. Our neighbour lost a sheep last week and the farmer across from us has lost many goats. Only yesterday I saw one prowling in the field right next to us, spying on the turkeys and hens.

I’d hoped that we’d got it right; that having Baggy, our huge Mastin would be enough to keep our animals safe, but now I know how cunning these wolves really are, we are going to have to think of other ways of ensuring the livestock is safe if we are to have any hope of keeping goats again. I won’t be defeated and I also don’t want to harm the wolves. I must develop some of their cunning …

17 thoughts on “‘Life Is Like A Cucumber …’

  1. Very sad. My father comes from Galicia (from a small hamlet in Ourense) and one of my uncles lost a sheep to the wolves as well. You might be entitled to compensation, although I’m sure you’re aware of that (they take a long time to reply, though).
    I’m sure you’ll come up with a good plan. Good luck!

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    1. Yes, Olga it’s very sad and I feel terrible that I wasn’t there to protect her. The wolves have grown in numbers now and are becoming quite a nuisance . I won’t be able to get compensation as she wasn’t registered, Signor Estrella had no papers for her so I’m stuffed on that front. It was on my very long ‘to do list’ to get her tagged and registered properly. I read in the paper about there being sightings of bears in Ourense recently! Do you think the animals might be talking over?! Thanks as always for your comments, hope all well with you dear, Olga xxx

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  2. Oh that’s awful Lottie I would be heartbroken. Poor Baggy too he must miss her. It’s good to see your blog started again as I look forward to seeing what you’ve been up to. My life is so boring in comparison. We live in the countryside on the edges of a town an hour and a half from Granada city. We don’t see many animals apart from the neighbours had some wild deer on the front and then our own rescue dogs. Although one night we were on our way to a restaurant a few years ago now and all of a sudden a little family of wild boar were crossing the road; mum, dad and 4 little babies. It was so endearing to watch and although they froze seeing our car headlights, they carried on as we had stopped and dad I think was at the front as they trotted across the road and mum was picking up the rear end. They were so sweet and it was I thought quite a rare sight at twilight.

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    1. Sharon, it was horrific. I never, ever want to deal with the sight of an animal killed by wolves again. I think there must have been at least two that killed her as the remains were spread out and there wasn’t much left. I have great affection for wolves but right now they are not my best friends as you can imagine.
      We’ve just this week taken delivery of another Mastin puppy ( four months old) and he’s already showing promise in his guarding instincts. I’m hoping that if I shut the dogs in with the goats, at certain times of the day that it will be enough to deter the wolves 🙏
      How adorable seeing a family of wild boar. They are so sweet aren’t they. I drove past a group of teenager jabeli last year, they were rooting around at the side of the road, skipping !! And they often come in to the fields here and dig up the wild carrots. Not so keen on that as they make a horrible mess of the grass 😂
      Thanks so much for commenting xxx

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      1. Oh no I couldn’t bear it. It’s horrible regardless of nature it turns your stomach and you berate yourselves understandably so because you hope you have made things safe and Baggy normally protects.
        Oh how lovely about the new addition can’t wait to see the photos I love mastins. I have Spanish water dogs and a Jack Russell. They are my life.

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      2. I love the water dogs, they’re very sweet looking and Jack Russells are fabulous little dogs, great ratters! I’ll post photos of Oso soon xxx

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  3. I am so sorry that you lost the dear little goat. I can well imagine the your grief and feelings of devastation and disappoint in yourself. But as that saying goes, “shit happens.” And then you prepare and arm your yourself to resolve that it does not happen again. One of my husband’s favorite sayings was, “it was a lesson that you bought and paid for.” He said it a lot and it’s one I have not forgotten. Many years ago I lost some of my favorite cats to the coyotes before I came to the realization that my husband was not going to help prevent the cats from escaping the house when I was at work. So I found a carpenter that built two caticios onto to the back of the house and after that I kept the cats in the caticos while I was at work. My only wish was that I had kept the cats safe in the beginning.

    I have missed your posts very much and I while this post was a sad one, I am glad that you are back in the groove. I had been following your post on FB but have not commented but maybe once or twice a while back. The photos have been wonderful and I have been entertained by the beauty of your home. It is perfect in my eyes; so charming gracious, and warm. It is a perfect reflection of your personality and character.

    I have begun several emails to you and then just chucked them because I just had no motivation to finish them. So much seemingly going on but really not all that much since it is just life. Here I am again saying I will get motivated and write that letter to you.

    Lottie you and Pete stay well and stay safe. Hugs and love, Yvonne

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    1. Yvonne, it’s really good to hear from you and I like your husband’s saying – it is very true and I shall remember it because ‘it was a lesson that we bought and paid for’ but oh how I loved that little goat, she was such a sweetheart and very sociable with all of us. She hated it if she wasn’t part of ‘the tribe’ so we’d move her around to be close to us whenever we’ve been working outside. She loved helping with the clear up and would chat away happily while munching on thistles and bramble and wildflowers.
      I’ve seen your comments on Facebook but for some reason I can’t ‘like’ or comment back? It’s very odd and you must think me horribly rude for not commenting or liking what you write – it’s a mystery .
      I’m so glad you’re entertained by the photos, I try to take some most days but so often, I’ve left my phone inside and miss golden opportunities for a great picture.
      You say the nicest things and you’re so kind, thank you Yvonne and please don’t stress about emailing, youve enough on your plate.
      I’m sad to hear about your cats – another friend recently told me that she lost a cat to a coyote too – there’s always going to be a conflict between the domestic and wild , it’s sadly the way it is and we must accept it and make plans so that it doesn’t happen again. Your Catio sounds like a splendid idea
      Keep safe and well and Big Hugs xxx

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  4. Poor you and poor Baggy! So sorry you have lost the lovely golden goat. Please don’t torture yourself with the what ifs. I wish you all well. Xxxxxx

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    1. Thank you, Rebecca. I do feel bad , I can’t help it. It’s my responsibility to keep the animals safe and since having Baggy, I’ve rather relied on him to police the farm but he had other fish to fry that morning and I was drinking tea in bed so a horrible lesson learnt .
      Hope all well is in Jaén and that you’ve been able to spend time there this year. We’ve had no visitors to stay so it’s been very quiet here.
      Love to you and yours and thanks for your kind comment xxx

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  5. Oh Lottie that’s so sad! It seems almost medieval that you should be troubled by wolves in this day and age! God how terrifying! You wouldn’t want to go camping with small children would you? We suffer from horrendous numbers of foxes which were introduced by some bright spark from Blighty who thought it might be fun to go fox hunting and now they’re almost in plague proportions. But there is a way of controlling them and that’s to put in an electric fence on the exisiting fence you might already have. You put one wire quite low down and then another along the top. Foxy Loxy doesn’t care for the zap he might get if he spies a tasty looking chook and buggers off. I don’t know if the same treatment would work in your neck of the woods and I suppose Wolfy could just jump over the blooming thing but it might be worth a go. Keep the blog going I do love hearing about your Spanish life. I must admit I haven’t done much blogging for a while either – we’ve got 10 acres here with a burgeoning veggie patch and there always seems to be something more interesting to do outside. The hardest part is summoning up the motivation to actually sit down and write but once I’m at my desk then I really enjoy writing. It’s making your self sit down and do it which is the hard part! Keep safe and well dear girl. Much love Milla xxx

    >

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    1. Hah! You and I both! We’ve got almost five acres but there’s always stuff to do outside and I’m forever torn between inside work and outside work – poor blog doesn’t really get a look in though I often start writing stories in my head when I’m digging or strimming or weeding – it’s a rather lovely meditation. Of course now I’m an old hag, I tend to forget very quickly whatever it is that I was planning to write so the trick is to write things down in a notebook or on the kitchen blackboard.

      I think Mr Wolf would get in regardless of the fencing – they are incredibly cunning. Living here is like being in one huge Giant Story Book , i can quite see how where the inspiration for fairytales and folk stories come from – swirling mists and wolves and forests …little Red Riding Hood etc
      Really great to hear from you, Milla, Big hugs old friend xxx

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  6. Boohoo on your McG’s premature demise. My sympathies Lottie, I can only imagine the pain of finding that lovely creature in a moribund state. How quickly that happened too… truly stake-out fiends they are. For us nature and animal lovers, it’s shattering to lose a creature with which (whom?) we’ve bonded. I hope you’ll recover soon from that grief and find ways to wire off those wily wolves!! Hugs from out here xx

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    1. Bless you, Amit and thank you 🙏. It’s very sad and a horrible lesson to learn. She was so sweet and didn’t deserve such a horrible demise. I feel wretched that I wasn’t there to save her. There are so many wolves here and they have lots to feast on as there are wild horses and deer and boar – I just wish goat wasn’t on their menu. We will work out a way to keep them safe, i won’t let this stop us making our plans- I just need to be more canny. Love to you xxx

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    1. That’s very kind of you, Maria. I wish it was fiction. I’ve known about the wolves ever since we’ve been here but stupidly thought we were safe as we’ve not had an attack before. Eagles and buzzards used to make off with the chickens and maybe it was a wolf that killed one of the turkeys last year but since we’ve had Baggy patrolling the land, it’s felt a lot safer and until Sunday, with Baggy’s prescience we’d not lost any of the poultry or animals to predators. We have a new Mastin puppy now so hopefully two of them will work as a team 🙏 xxx

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  7. So sad, Lottie. All the what ifs we experience but there really is no way to know beforehand. We are always worried about the coyotes that roam our woods and meadows so Bentley is never outside by himself. But of course dogs are different than goats. It’s a shame that Baggy went for the baths but wolves and coyotes are cunning indeed and probably waiting for their opening.

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