Friday, July 17, 2020

from the vault: wreck of the hesperis

Dear Readers: I've been tidying up a folder of document files, and found this piece written for the blog last June but not posted. Since I haven't written about the goats for quite a while, I thought you might find it entertaining. I'll add a couple of pictures of Campion taken at about the same time.

Yesterday afternoon I was painting in my studio (formerly known as my tent) when I heard a goat shouting. The voice was that of Campion, who generally has a lot to say about everything and nothing, so I wasn't overly concerned. But the shouting continued.


Everyone had food and water, the weather was pleasant, and there was no sound of colliding horns. Without moving, I called out to Campion, asking what the problem could be. Sometimes just speaking to a goat by name is all they need to hear to settle down.


I put my brush and sketchpad aside, climbed out of my chaise, removed the icepack strapped to my back, and followed the sound down to the Upper West Side.

There was Campion, head high, excited, and yelling his head off at seeing me.

He had somehow gotten inside the vegetable garden fence, the naughty goat.

And once there, he apparently couldn't get back into the paddock.

Goats are sometimes determined to go where they know they shouldn't be, but soon become terribly upset when they can't get back to where they know they belong. It's actually a very useful trait, from a goatherd's perspective. I remember the time Betula somehow climbed over the six-foot perimeter fence onto the bank garden by the driveway, and then hollered at the top of his mighty voice until I looked out the window and saw him there. Like Campion, Betula was tremendously relieved to see me when I hastened to the "rescue."

I opened the garden gate and Campion came trotting right over, then, halfway through the gate, remembered that he is a goat and should be playing it cool. So he stopped. He looked all around as if deciding whether or not to do me the favor of coming out of the garden. I did the only thing that would not prolong the process: nothing at all. If I had tried to hurry him out, he would have backed right up and hoped I would chase him around the garden for light entertainment. So I did nothing at all - this is not my first Goat Rodeo, Campion! - and in a few seconds, he stepped out into the paddock and I went into the garden to find his entry route.

Unfortunately, I found nothing. I hope this means he squeezed through the gate, which can easily have another latch added. If, on the other hand, he climbed over the fence, it will be a major problem. I am not going to start replacing all my interior paddock fencing - that is simply not possible under current management. So let's hope it was the gate.

Campion didn't do much eating while in the garden, which is a shame because there is plenty of grass and plantain going to waste between the rows I'm preparing for the vegetables. He must have gotten nervous right away. I did find a trampled stalk of Hesperis matronalis - "dame's rocket" - with buds and flowers, which was sad. I picked it up to put in a jar of water in the hope the buds would continue to open.

Carrying that one flower stalk through a paddock full of goats was no small feat - I was mobbed. And Acer, who I can best compare to a colt in terms of size and assertiveness, was sure he could get it away from me. I finally stuck the flower in my hat like a feather and held up my empty hands, palms forward, in the universal gesture for "I have nothing for you!" and the goats immediately ambled away. Even Acer.

Back into the tent, with the flower in a jar, for Daily Markmaking: