Micro Entrepreneurism, Simple Living & Art
We got goats before we had any permanent fenced pasture to put them in. Definitely not what anybody would recommend, but hey, sometimes you just gotta say yes to things before your practical brain gets the best of you and says no. If nothing else, it definitely keeps things exciting.
Our first fence for the goats was the electric poultry netting that was no longer in use for the chickens.
(That story could be its own blog post titled, “Chickens and Fences”, but I’ll keep it simple and just tell you that the fence is only 4 feet tall and our chickens know how to fly. Need I say more?) This fence is about 100 feet long and is super easy to install and move around with a couple of people. At first we just used it around their goat house so that they had some room to roam around at night and to keep them safe from predators. During the day we tied the two wide body whiteys to cinder blocks, which they proceeded to haul around the yard, and let all the others just free range. It worked out well enough for a while, until they discovered my front porch, at which point we decided that they needed a fence.
We opted for electric, mostly for ease of installation, movability, and cost. As we’re checking out at Tractor Supply with all our fencing supplies the friendly cashier asks what we’re fencing – when we say, “goats”, she laughs. What we forgot to do was read what fence would work well for goats, an amazing thing to overlook I will admit, but none the less we managed to do just that.
We spent all day bushwhacking a path in our woods by the creek and installing this wimpy looking 3 strands of nylon zappy wire. We were so satisfied when we had it all hooked up and ready to go. Never having fenced anything before, this was a big deal, if I was still in Girl Scouts I would have just earned myself a badge, damnit. But the goats didn’t give two shits about our efforts or accomplishments or badge earnings. We put them in there, all proud like, and they just walked the fuck right out. Less then 2 minutes. I could almost hear them laughing too. We were incredulous and exhausted and throwing WTFs around while trying not to stomp off and cry. It was over so fast that I don’t even have any pictures to document it.
Come to find out when we did go read on the internets about goat fencing that only an elite few say fencing goats solely with electric strand is even possible. I insisted for a couple of days that we could train the goats to respect the fence the way the pros do, but then I realized that A. we’re not pros and B. our chicken zappy energizer thingy that we were reusing wasn’t even close to delivering a zap strong enough for the goats to care about and there was no way I was going to buy another one for a pretty penny.
Going back to the drawing board we came up with the brilliant idea to actually put our goats down at the barn and use the already well fenced in old garden area for their pasture.
The reason they weren’t already in the barn is that it too was full of junk left over from the previous owners, and we had piled some of our own garden junk on top of their junk and it was not exactly close to where we sleep at night. Basically it was a disaster that we hadn’t been ready to tackle. But tackle it we did. Filling another trailer load for the dump and making 2 hefty burn piles. Frightening when you consider that the barn is only 20 feet square. In one weekend we resurrected the barn and had made half of it into goat paradise. By the next weekend, with the help of Hank’s parents and Bogart, the handy dandy tractor on loan from Hank’s parents, we had also added a fenced in outdoor run for them so they didn’t have to wait for us to get down there in the morning to go outside.
This all went amazingly smoothly, as though the gods were smiling down on us shaking their heads in wonderment that we hadn’t made this leap sooner. On top of all the smoothness, the walk down the garden meadow twice a day is quite enjoyable. We got the barn set up and the paddock made just in time for our epic 4 day downpour, which would not have been ok with the goaties still in their tiny goat house (they hate the rain). AND the garden fence, although not perfect, held them just fine, and they loved eating the honeysuckle that had grown up all over it.
Two weeks later however, they were totally over the garden. They’d eaten all the honeysuckle they could reach and they weren’t interested in any of the other delicacies the overgrown garden had to offer, most noticeably the brambles (which we’ve read everywhere they are suppose to LOVE). So plan C was put into effect. Which was the chicken fence again, but this time on a daily or almost daily move plan because there is so little growing right now that they get cranky about running out of stuff to eat in the small space pretty quick.
This worked fine for about another 2 weeks, until one day we come down early one afternoon to install gutters on the barn for a rain barrel watering system and one of the whitey’s is out of the fence luxuriating elsewhere in the meadow. She comes right over to us, we put her back in the fence, and she just walks right over it with us watching. The other goats lasted one more day before they figured it out too.
So Friday, we put them back in the garden, that Hank has now brush hogged, and went back to Tractor Supply armed to purchase plan D. Cattle panels. 16 ft x 48″ heavy duty welded wire panels. All over the internets people went on about their success with goats and the ease of installation and its movability. Saturday was installation day. Which started with the burb and trailer with the panels getting stuck and then towed up the hill to the pasture by the tractor because its rained here so much that even our high road hasn’t gotten a chance to dry out. Minor inconvenience.
Next, we scoped out a part of the pasture that we had long since been reclaimed by brambles and honeysuckle, that we couldn’t brush hog because there were too many piles of logs and rocks, perfect goat habitat. We used our rolly measure tool to figure out how much of the area we could fence, then we pulled the panels off the trailer all around the edge and then came back and put in a fence post at every joint of two panels using the bucket of the tractor to push the fence posts in. It all worked like a dream. None of us expected it to be as easy as we had read that it would be, but it really was. Surprisingly, we found ourselves halfway done by lunch time, and totally done an hour after that.
Today was test day and it was a success. The goaties were beyond pumped on their new space, munching like crazy and babies climbing all over the piles of rocks and things. When we came back to check on them early afternoon, they were all still inside and they had eaten themselves full and were ready to go home for the night. We’re hoping this set up not only holds them , but lasts them a month or so before we have to move it to a new area.