Lest anyone thinks this may be an unpleasant topic, please rest assured: unless you are distressed at visions of farmers being pursued relentlessly by large animals in search of cookies, this story will probably not upset you.
First, perhaps we need to distinguish between force feeding (a horrible and cruel thing done to prisoners and to ducks growing livers to be turned into pâté) and the “force of food”. We have no need of force feeding at this farm. No, indeed, no one’s appetite is flagging. In fact, we have quite the reverse problem. While we have a regular feeding schedule and everyone gets their regular stuff (mostly hay, how bor-ing), the expectation is always hanging in the air that something more interesting will appear. Bananas, apples, papayas (we live large here), heads of lettuce, or, dare I say it ….. cookies.
Everyone here loves cookies. Even the shyest of sheep – Parsnip and Miss Bea – lift their sweet heads expectantly and softly come closer to me when the treats come out. The most popular flavor is apple and oats, although there is a contingent who votes for the peppermint variety. Cookies are a powerful thing. The other day I was recalling my first foray into dog training with my dog Sage as a puppy (who was completely ungovernable in her youth). The trainer instructed me to keep a stash on hand and when Sagie would not come back inside, I was to shout repeatedly “cookies! cookies! cookies!”. Now, Sage was really her own woman and didn’t fall for a cheap trick like that, but it’s worked with less mentally disciplined dogs (whose names will not be mentioned) and is an amazing tool when it comes to farm animals. Even the steers, all 2000 pounds of them, will do my bidding if I merely hold out a small fragment of sweet stuff for them. Of course, I also risk being trampled to death but that is another problem altogether.
Last weekend I was walking up towards the barn, and saw Gruff the sheep with an odd and rather ridiculous expression on his face as he bounced down the hill after one of our adult volunteers who had, it turns out, fed him a bit of a pop tart and still had something left in her pockets. She’s lucky she made it back to her car with all of her clothes on. This same volunteer has apparently been commissioned by Tetsuro the pig to purchase a large apple fritter for him every Sunday morning. If she’s late in arriving, he comes around to the front of my house and grunts and sings at the gate until I find something sweet for him (I am NOT making this up).
But the tour de force, of course, is Mr. Newman Goat. I do get tired of people commenting on goats and the tin can thing. That’s just some silly story made up by a person who was either nearsighted or didn’t stick around long enough to see what was *really* going on. Goats do not, will not, can not eat metal. Why would they? Would you eat metal? No, see — there, you wouldn’t. But you do drink sodas out of tin cans. As do goats. I suppose it’s way too threatening to think about the fact that goats have figured out, despite the fact that not only do they not possess opposable thumbs but in fact only have two toes on each foot, how to drink out of bottles and cans. Frightening to think of what they could accomplish with more digits…. I have indeed seen Mr. Newman guzzling a coke from a tipped can of coke (NB: the caffeine effect was not one I would want to see repeated). Beer is really more his style, and while he hasn’t tried it (at least in my company), I should expect that champagne would in fact be most desirable. Goats have an amazing palette. They don’t “eat everything”, but in fact are quite discerning about what they consume – but they will TRY just about anything.
In fact, the volunteer kids have begun compiling a list of “Things Newman has attempted to or succeeded in eating”: http://www.facebook.com/#/topic.php?uid=140588669463&topic=11921
As we head into the “eating season” of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, give some thought to the animals. They have taste, too. Treat your own creatures to delicious (but smart) snacks, and consider … just consider …. that the animals here at Star Gazing Farm really appreciate not being eaten, themselves.
Till next time,
Star Gazing Farm 501(c)3
A haven for retired farm animals and wayward goats