The challenges of being a sheep raising goats


A friend of mine once came across a book titled, I was a Really Great Mom Before I had Kids. She posted a picture on Facebook of herself holding the book in the foreground, while in the background you see her young son, a menacing expression on his face, aiming a Nerf gun at her head. The caption was: “I always said I’d never let my kids play with guns.”

Fortunately, I spent a lot of time with kids before I had my own, so I knew enough to know I didn’t know much. Also, I knew there were kids that made parenting look easy, and other kids who … well … didn’t, and it’s anybody’s guess which kind you will get.

My mother, for example, had two of each. When I was young, if an adult told me to do something, I just did it. It really never occurred to me not to follow directions. My sister was the same. We were each followed, however, by brothers who interpreted “No!” to mean, “Do it faster.”

So, when I got my first ultrasound, and I saw my brother’s profile emerge from the black and white ether, my heart gave a tiny lurch of fear. As it turned out, that first glimpse was indeed prescient. “No” to my son means, “Better give it at least one go … ” His sister is a little more accommodating, but not much. They are absolute opposites in almost every way except for the strength of their wills, and in that regard, are perfectly matched.


Much of what was to come for me as a parent was foreshadowed the summer they were six months and two years old, respectively. That year we also happened to have a wee, sickly goat, aptly named Tiny.

By the time the weather warmed, Tiny had graduated from fragile to indestructible, but very destructive. She was impossible to contain, so she often roamed freely, munching my roses and lilacs and pooping on the porch, or poking hoof-sized holes in our patio table after gaining access by using the flower pots as tiny trampolines.

Challenges of goats

At that point, I’d had plenty of experience with bottle lambs, but it turned out that had in no way prepared me for goats. When I complained, the man of the ranch said dryly, “Who would have guessed a goat would be annoying?”

In a fit of despair and exasperation, I told the man of the ranch we needed to build a small yard fence by the garden, tall enough and strong enough to keep a rambunctious goat outside and small children inside. My husband kindly obliged.

Skirting the western edge of the garden, the fenced area was sheltered on one side by tall grass, on the other side by the old shop, and contained the only really big shade tree that graces our yard. It was a cool green cove in the middle of the sunburnt prairie.

From the first, my son was delighted by the leaf-laden hideaway, but that didn’t stop him from checking every inch of that fence to discover where and how he might escape. As he made his rounds inside, Tiny began hers on the outside.

Neither Tiny nor my son found a way to circumvent the fence that summer, but as my children grow more creative and more opinionated with each passing season, it becomes clearer that I am definitely the sheep mother of two brilliant goats. While a sturdy fence was the answer during the baby and toddler years, that doesn’t work for long.

So how, may I ask you, is a sheep to raise a goat? This weekend the kids carved their own pumpkins with very little help from me. I was tempted to dip my oar in, but I refrained and was rewarded by two wonderful, completely original jack-o-lanterns to gush over.

My daughter was particularly proud of hers. She named him Freddie and said, “He’s very nice, not scary, and loves to sing songs about flowers.” In other words, it may not always be seamless, but I think we are doing just fine.


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Eliza Blue is a shepherd, folk musician and writer residing in western South Dakota. In addition to writing her weekly column, Little Pasture on the Prairie, she writes and produces audio postcards from her ranch and just released her first book, Accidental Rancher. She also has a weekly show, Live from the Home Farm, that broadcasts on social media every Saturday night from her ranch.



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