Goat School

Goat SchoolYes, you read that right, Goat School. It’s a thing, and Rob and I were there about four weeks ago.

The King and Queen of Goat School, Janice and Ken Spaulding, have lived off the income from their goat farm in rural Maine for about 25 years. In 2004 they started organising a three day workshop to impart their considerable experience and knowledge on rearing goats. What Ken and Janice don’t know about keeping goats is not worth the knowing. On the weekend Rob and I went, there were 18 attendees. They’ve had up to 100 people at a time in the past. In years gone by they have even taken Goat School on the road to other locations across North America.

Now, if I had a dollar for every time someone raised a doubtful eyebrow when I mentioned Goat School, I could probably have bought my own goat by now. I had even let these people get to me. The first day I worried whether the experience would justify the time off work and the ten hour drive. The doubters could not have been more wrong.

I LOVED IT. The three days went too quickly. I was fascinated and engaged the whole time. I felt like I had found my tribe. Most of the attendees were like Rob and I, curious about what goat keeping entailed. Many were either planning for, or in the early stages of, a lifestyle change. They wanted to back away from the world of working for others, and were trying to define what that would look like for them.

We learned about the 3 different types of goats (dairy, meat and fibre) andButter Cup the goat how to care for each type. We learned about milking, breeding, birthing, shots, food, shearing, castration (gulp), tattooing, licensing, hoof trimming and the importance of a vet that knows about small ruminants. We also learned about “freezer camp” – I’ll leave that one to your imagination. The unsentimental delivery of all this info helped me process some of the aspects of goat farming that I was a bit stuck on (freezer camp being one of them).

All this info was sprinkled with real life stories from Ken and Janice’s own experiences. Their banter reminded me of a comedy double act and our entire group spent most of the weekend laughing. In fact, at the end I really did feel like I’d joined a little community. Both, Janice and Ken said that they hadn’t had so much fun delivering goat school in years. You could tell they enjoyed it as much as we did. On the final day we learned about how to make different kinds of cheese out of goat milk, and also how to make soap. Rob was so excited about making our own cheese, I thought he was going to buy a goat right there and then!

So, what’s next? Well we can’t keep goats in our garden. And, as much as the place in EVL would be absolutely perfect, we don’t plan to live in the US. So we just have to figure out what that looks like for us. I expect that this planning is going to take a few years. It will be a journey for sure. However, I thought that if I started blogging about it, if anyone is reading it they could follow this journey with us.