When I envision my food forest I imagine chickens poking their heads out from under leafy greens, perhaps a goat bleating excitedly when my car pulls in the drive, maybe even a large pig, whose only mission in life is to bask in the hot sun and churn some soil for me now and then. I don’t know how realistic this can be living in the center of a small town – even if it is a tree hugging town.
This past week I acquired a goat, as temporary caregiver. The poor fellow was rejected by his mother, as goats periodically do, and requires a regiment of bottle feeding and general care. This is not something that is totally out of the ballpark for me. Actually I have spent a lifetime of fostering, nurturing, saving, raising and releasing every stray that has crossed my path. And I have been doing it for as long as I can remember. The one legged seagull that hated my father, the Kestrel that frequented the bait shop next door to my home, the chameleon that hitched a ride nestled in my hair to school much to the embarrassment of my Mother who had to retrieve it and countless raccoons.
Raccoons were my favorite. I became renowned for fostering raccoons, for which the canine control was thankful. Actually I remember very few summers there wasn’t a raccoon on the scene, as my children grew up. From their perspective, I was a much better parent to the raccoons than I was to them. There may be some truth to this. I don’t ever remember yelling at my raccoons, I let them eat whatever they wanted and they could stay out to all hours of the night. I think I cuddled them a lot more too. My patience didn’t run nearly as thin and, well, I was just more maternal when it came to furry orphans. But I think the key was I knew it was temporary and my own kids weren’t – I had to pace myself. That’s what I told them anyway.
I thought of this when the goat arrived – one day old. And with a daughter still here I dreaded the judgment. The midnight bottle feedings I subjected them to, sharing their rooms with cages, climbing trees to rescue the little ones that hadn’t figured out how to get down. Even our household pets had to adjust – cat’s can’t eat birds, dogs can’t eat squirrels….everything in this house went against nature.
And now a goat. I do have a crate but I am not one for caging animals. Arthur is a precocious youngster who is very vocal and demonstrative when it comes to his needs. His idea of play is not nipping at heels and having a German Shepherds paw flatten him on a slippery floor. HIS idea of play is leaping. There is a compulsive quest to leap onto anything that is twice his height. Never mind that he fails nine times out of ten. Never mind that the object of his goal is animate or inanimate. Goats have a compulsive disorder. Leaping and food. He likes his jacket when he is forced outside and prefers the couch to his cage.
So do I want to wander in my food forest knowing that my goat, grazing in his small pen, secretly prefers my couch and a heater to his drafty barn? That the Himalayas would be much more to his liking than my gently sloping yard? Will I be able to resist bundling him in his pet parka in the winter and letting him forage through my edible oasis? Hold on to my visions of nurturing my garden, birds chirping cheerfully overhead as the goat and pig romp playfully behind me? I think not. I think best to leave the livestock to the harder of hearts and stick to traditional domesticated pets. Perhaps a couple of gnomes if I really feel I need some company out there….