Rosibelle Moonshine in her heyday (now sadly pushing up daisies).
It started it out with a goat.
I hadn’t fully made my mind up, hadn’t said a final yes.
In fact I distinctly remember my words being ‘let me think about it’.
But the owners of the goats, one long haired and shaggy, the other missing half a horn (the goats that is, not the humans) were obviously desperate to get rid of them as they appeared later that day with the pair in the boot of their station wagon.
Knowing that they had driven quite a distance and that one of the couple, being french, may not have have understood me correctly, I felt I couldn’t at this stage say no, so instead I stood there dumbly with a fixed smile as they swung open the door of the boot and set the occupants free.
Non! They wouldn’t stay for tea. (They had some urgent business to attend to). Mais non! they wouldn’t take any payment! absolutment! wouldn’t hear of it! and they really had to be off.
So I remained stuck to the ground choking and spluttering as the wheels of their rusty vehicle churned up the dust on the laneway and they shot around the corner with the skill of a boy racer, the back door still swinging open. I heard the car stop in the distance and the slam of the door. (I also thought I heard some wild laughter but that may have been the wind whistling through the conifers).
Meanwhile the pair wasted no time in attempting to scale a nearby apple tree stretching their scrawny hairy necks and nibbling at the fruit buds.
Later I became very familiar with the extent of their climbing abilities but now, grabbing the collar of the less nimble, I noted with disappointment that they in no way resembled the sleek Saanens and Toggenburgs with large udders and gentle slope from hip bone to tail that promised good milkers (as shown in my goat husbandry book).
My new acquisitions had kidded a few weeks before but with all that hair I couldn’t even catch a glimpse of udder, large or small.
However all was not total despair and by the time spring had headed into summer and I had fed them well and brushed them daily, they had lost their rough scraggy hair to reveal a smooth summer undercoat and indeed began to look more like the beasts I had drooled over in my book. They even managed to give enough milk for the household, including the makings of soft cheese and yogurt.
I began to form a positive relationship with them.
They also formed a firm attachment to me and would come when called and I could let them into the lane to graze the briars knowing that they wouldn’t wander too far without me. The downside to this however was whenever they spotted me cycling to the shops they would give chase and no amount of shouting and waving of arms and, I am ashamed to admit, even the throwing of the odd stick at them, would make them change their minds.
The gate at the end of our lane was no deterrent, they just scrambled up the bank and cleared it and the only hope I had of arriving in the village without looking like a modern day version of Heidi was to pray that the willow tree enroute, whose bark they could never resist, would keep them distracted until I was out of sight.
The following year I decided to get the one who most resembling a pedigree in kid.
Felix moonshine performed the honourable task.
A beautiful specimen of what a pedigree british saanen should look like, my only concern was that his feet were muddy (By this time I had built my ladies a shed and on rainy days I kept them inside on a bed of clean straw, whereas Felix was an outside kind of goat )
Two things happened because of this. Firstly I formed a wonderful friendship with the owners of felix which is still going strong a quarter of a century later and secondly as I cycled the laneways on those wet days collecting foodstuffs for the pair I began to see what grows in ditches through the eyes of a goat.
I have read that goats can only see yellow, orange, blue, violet and green. They cannot see black and white so when down on my hands and knees pulling dandelion leaves and bunches of succulent vetch or reaching up to cut saplings of willows, rowan wild crab apple and ash or yanking couch grass and unravelling it though patches of thorny briars (a most accomplished and satisfying task) I began to lose touch with the human world and its black and whiteness.
And as I cycled further into the countryside and the noise of traffic dwindled, I got the chance of sinking deliciously into the animal world of the textures, colors, scents and sounds.
I have also heard that goats are extremely sensitive to movement and I began to note every beetle, tiny spider, and insect threading its way in this verdant world and tried not to gather them up as I went about my business of keeping my ladies producing the sweetest and most nutritious of milk.
My journey to shops took longer and became weightier not because I was impeded by two loyal goats, (now that I had a goat shed I could put them in before I set off) but because I got distracted by the growings of the wayside.
‘Ginny would love that’ hopping off my bicycle at the sight of some crunchy wild borage and stuffing a bunch of it into my saddle bag.
‘Daffodil daisy would relish those’ I’d sigh with pleasure getting out my secateurs (never go anywhere without a good pair) and snipping off some willow branches and tying them to my back carrier.
I became a goat human so much so that my goat friends gave me a present of beautiful REAL pedigree Saanen female kid.
Rosibelle Moonshine became one of my herd and in the years that followed showed my pair a thing or two in the art of kidding and milk production.
And the pair recognising royalty when they saw it showed no signs of jealousy at this interloper who went on to win champion goat of the show and produce further REAL pedigree british saanen kids for my expanding herd.
Years passed, life changes when you are busy rooting in ditches.
My goats are well pushing up their own daisies by now, but recently my daughter got two lop earred rabbits.
So I am off on this soft spring morning scouring the lanes of wicklow for succulent dandelion leaves.
Yes I have begun to look at ditches through the eye’s of a rabbit.