‘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 …