It’s 5 March today, which, according to the French Republican Calendar, is 15 Ventôse (= windy) and the day’s name is chèvre – goat.
I’m quietly fascinated by the French Republican Calendar which held sway for 12 years between late 1793 and 1805, and briefly resurfaced for 8 days under the Paris Commune in 1871. I’ll tell you more about the Calendar itself and the Commune in other posts.
For now let’s focus on goats.
We’ve had quite a few goats here at Les Fragnes over the years. It probably tells you something when I say that we only actually bought one of those goats. All the others were foisted upon us.
Our first goat, the one we parted with money to obtain, €20 to be precise, was George. He was a small, sandy-coloured goat, and a total sweetheart for the majority of the year, but an absolute bastard from November to February. We were confounded by this Jekyll and Hydeness. Instead of coming over for a chin tickle, during these difficult months he’d try and butt us. When we moved him from one grazing area to another, instead of trotting along contentedly and demurely he’d lunge and plunge and fight us every step of the way. Come early March his calmness and good nature returned and thus we initially put his tetchiness down to not liking winter, even though we kept him warm and well-fed. We later discovered that his personality change coincided with the rutting season for goats. Males can be “of doubtful temper” during this period, an article informed us. There was no doubtfulness about George’s – it was plain awful.
Poor old George disappeared one night. He was tethered in a new grazing spot in the field beyond our back garden. We went out to check him one morning and there he was, gone. Just the concrete block, chain (he’d always chewed through rope) and chain collar remained. This was odd. Any time he’d slipped his collar previously, he’d made a beeline for the garden and the few flowers we’d succeeded in growing on our poor soil. He’d always come and find us and gleefully stick his tongue out at us. There was no way he’d have wandered off. We had a good hunt anyway, but there was no sign of a little sandy goat anywhere.
A couple of days later we were chatting with English neighbours. They lived across a couple of fields from us, just over the Indre border. They said they’d heard some shots the night George disappeared. It all became clear. Poachers must have seen George in the moonlight and taken him for a deer, and so shot him. When they came over to claim the body, they’d seen their mistake but couldn’t risk leaving a corpse with a tell-tale shot wound. Had we found him thus, we’d have got onto the gendarmes right away. And so they’d spirited him off. I guess free goat meat is almost as good as free venison.
Mindy and May, two gentle females, were donated to us next. Neither of them lasted long, I’m afraid. May died of illness and Mindy of old age.
Next came Maisy, and I can’t for the life of me remember where she originated from. She was a sweet little thing, the only goat any of us ever actually liked, and we had for four or five years I think. We were genuinely sad when she died.
Overlapping with the lovely Maisy were two mini goats. The mother of one of Ruadhri’s friends announced that she was giving us to them at our son’s birthday party. Just like that. We were too British to refuse. I’ve forgotten the names the goats arrived with, but we called them Dude and Dudette. Dude was neutered, but he was still a handful. In fact, they both were. They were forever escaping. Whatever fencing we used around them, they battered their way through. Whatever rope or chain we tethered them with they destroyed. Whatever stable we put them in they treated as a gym and balanced on partitions and danced on window sills. You thought we’d have learned from them that the smaller the goat, the more evil it is. But we didn’t.
We hadn’t long been rid of them, when we took on another set of unwanted goats, this time a trio. They were Hughie, Dewey and Louie. Their English owners were in a bind and needed the rehoming quickly. We popped over to have a look at them, and only a look, but pretty much as soon as we arrived the goats were bundled into our boot and we were waved off!
These three were pretty little things, and as good as gold to start with. But that didn’t last long. From being well behaved and charming, their true devilish natures soon came through. We spent hours and hours and hours fencing off one side of the middle lake for perfect winter quarters for them, and built them a mansion of a goat hut. In return for board and lodging we’d hoped they graze down the brambles and other unwelcome undergrowth, of which there was plenty. But they snootily spurned our offerings and spent their entire time escaping. Photo: bloggoat3
We no longer have goats, and that’s the way we like it!