Disclaimer: This post is a bit longer than my normal posts (with lots of fun videos), but I promise it will be worth your time and warm your heart.
If I am being honest, it is rare that I experience anything truly life-changing. However, that is exactly what happened last week.
Last Monday, one hundred goats descended upon our property, where they spent the next three days with us. Those three days changed our lives in a very unexpected way. When I "hired" the goats to clear our hillside, I could never have imagined the tremendous joy they would bring to our home, to our family and to our lives.
It no secret that California is drying up and burning down at a rapid rate. Our home sits on an acre and a quarter of land, fifty percent of which is a wild hillside that I have watched dry up and die due to the devastating drought. The hillside is now not only unsightly, but also poses a fire risk on our property, as we live in a high fire danger area.
To remedy the situation our choices were to try to find a human crew to clear everything, at a cost that would have been prohibitively expensive or to hire a goat crew and give that a try. I had been toying with the idea of hiring goats for a few years, but never got around to it. However, this year, our city, Hidden Hills, had hired 350 goats to create a fire break in the Upper Las Virgenes Ranch area (formerly Ahmanson Ranch), which borders our city and burned down completely three years ago in the Woolsey fire. Since the goats were already in the neighborhood I thought it might be the perfect year to try them out.
On Monday, in the late morning, the trailer arrived with one hundred goats on it. It was so exciting! I had been anticipating their arrival for about ten days and was almost giddy that morning when I woke up and knew they were coming. The kids were at camp that day, so I was the sole (but very enthusiastic) greeting committee. What ensued, over the next three days, was nothing short of magical.
Here come the goats arriving in their goat limo!
Watching the goats make their mass exodus from the trailer was more amusing than anything I have seen a long time!
Part II: These (straggler) goats seemed to have a fear of heights or a lack of interest in going to work that day (I believe it was the latter since eventually they made their way off).
They immediately started partaking in the buffet, otherwise known as my parched hillside.
Ty, the goats' shepherd dog, came on occasion to help to redirect the goats to certain areas of the yard that they were not as interested in eating or perhaps found more difficult to access.
The goats provided endless hours of fun and amusement for the kids. The goats were so sweet and funny to be around, as goats are known to be. Michael, who owns Fire Grazers Inc, was so kind and patient with the kids (and me), answering our endless array of goat questions.
Miles decided not to go to camp for two days so he could stay home to play goat shepherd. He spent the better part of two very hot days on the hillside, tending to the goats.
Even Fitzy had a meet and greet with the goats. I am not sure if he found them as life-changing as we did, but he seemed mildly amused.
Every so often the goats would take some time to rest beneath the shade of our pepper trees near our barn. Michael, referred to this their siesta time which usually coincided with the hottest part of the day. Smart goats!
There was only one goat of the group that was tame and friendly. The others were not unfriendly, but you couldn't approach them without them getting skittish and running off, much less pet them. The kids decided to name this special goat, "Friendly." She was a fan favorite at our house.
Ty, the goats' Australian Shepherd dog, worked tirelessly to care for the goats and keep them on task. When he got hot (the temperatures were in the high 90's and even low 100's), he would take a little break to cool off in one of the goats' drinking water tubs.
Friendly was the last of the group to go on departure day. We'd like to think she didn't want to leave. We certainly didn't want her to leave.
The process of watching the goats get loaded back up onto their limo (or trailer, more aptly), to leave was both fascinating and heartbreaking. It was like a military operation. However, we had grown so attached to them in just a matter of days that saying goodbye was really painful. This was the sad, but wonderful surprise that I had not anticipated.
Miles grew to have an intense attachment to the goats and most especially Friendly. Each night, starting at dinner and going through bedtime, he would experience crying spells. He was so filled with joy having the goats at our home, but was also filled with dread and fear at the idea of them leaving.
Miles sketched this photo of Friendly, which he insisted we drive out and buy a frame for that very day. It now sits on my desk, where Miles carefully and thoughtfully placed it, knowing how attached I too had grown to these curious goats. I feel teary-eyed whenever I look at it.
Closing thoughts: I am not sure exactly how it happened, but these goats really found a special place in my heart. Watching them, over the three days they were there, was an incredible learning experience for us all. They turned our arid and rather unsightly hillside into thing of beauty while they were there. Each time I looked out a window from the house, I would see them grazing, or resting, or doing any number of amusing goat things. I found myself drawn to being outside or near the windows much of the day so that I could just watch them. I felt happy, tranquil and fascinated as I mused at them. I realized very quickly that having them there was going to be one of those experiences and memories that we would never forget and talk about for years to come.
When we come home now, I am keenly aware of the goats' absence. When I drive up to the house I no longer see them there and feel sad. Or, when I glance out one of the windows, the hillside is eerily empty and my heart feels a bit empty too. Frankly, I am shocked at how much I miss them. All I can do now is count down the days until they return next year, hopefully.
Please check out Fire Grazers Inc. Facebook page if you want to learn more about these magnificent goats: https://www.facebook.com/Fire-Grazers-Inc-156638554393174/