Archive for December, 2014

Multiple Intelligences

I been sorely tempted to go shoot some goats. Perhaps, I’ll just let them starve to death for want of usable brain cells.

I’ve been trying out a new four-strand electric fence setup for the last few weeks – a gratifying success! A short length, just fifty feet long, creating a chute out to their main grazing paddock, I’d hooked it up as the sole recipient of my most powerful charger, rated for 25 miles. Close proximity to the zesty snap of that tick tick tick just sets your teeth on edge once you’ve grabbed it once or twice, or god forbid gotten zapped in the crotch hopping over, forgetting it was on. Thank the lord for flannel-lined jeans.

My critters, lacking flannel-lined denim, know all about this short-fence-on-a-big-charger trick of mine, and have been uncharacteristically respectful of the new fence, despite it’s tempting gaps and relatively low stature – four strands don’t stand a chance against a goat’s hopping, squeezing, and limbo-ing skills. The goal behind electric fencing is to create a highly visible psychological barrier, and, once you’ve seen a goat shred, climb, and pulverize a mere wood and wire fence, or a hog plow through barbed wire and patiently root up eight foot cedar posts, it’s effectiveness is astounding.

I was busy congratulating myself on the new fence, which was allowing me to expand the usable pasture immensely, and also on my critters’ docile behavior – the mollifying effects of our hiking regime keeping youthful mischief at bay. That is, up until two nights ago when the high winds blew the gate to the pasture shut, I failed to notice (being otherwise occupied sleeping and digesting thanksgiving pie), and thus they went without their breakfast. When I went out late morning to move the pasture fence, I tossed in some fresh hay thinking to tide them over while I set up a fresh pasture, but the damage had been done – with their the routine upset and the guarantee of full bellies horribly betrayed*, the adrenaline and hypoglycemia cleared those tiny brains of any thought save an endless cycle of: get out, get food, act a complete ninny, get out, get food…¬† For, of course, the one situation in which psychological barriers invariably fail is when adolescents are involved, most especially hungry ones. Hormones, short term “thinking,” and insatiable curiosity creates un-fencible monsters.

I opened the gate, expecting a joyous rush down the chute and into the new pasture. A rush indeed ensued, distinctly¬† more panicked than joyous, but instead of the expected left turn to the pasture, the goats barreled straight through the electric fence, falling on the grass on the other side like lost arctic explorers on their last package of twinkies. Once through the fence the first time, it immediately lost it’s power, and in no time the goats were popping in and out with maddening glee – in for a drink of water, out for a nibble of grass, in for a siesta in the shade, out for a sweet little gallop in freedom. Their casual disregard for my painstakingly constructed barrier short circuited my own mental processes. Insulted, frustrated, at a loss, I resisted my temptation to chase them around hollering, perhaps throwing sticks to satisfy that apelike desire for a thorough threat display. Cathartic as that might be, I could probably find no more counterproductive outlet for my feelings – the practicalities of adulthood can be such a bore. I retreated to the house, abandoning the goats to their feckless freedom, and cleared the mental anguish through the time-honored technique of a snack break. With my brain back in working order I quickly realized a single electric line along the bottom, completely separate from the four above to concentrate the charge, and hooked up to TWO chargers would mostly likely solve the problem. Which, in fifteen gratifying minutes, it most certainly did.

After repairing the fence failure, I victoriously re-released the goats and quickly discovered a second glaring flaw with the chute to the pasture system. Access to the edible pasture requires a hard left turn and then a twenty second walk along the fence to the pasture – no problem for any thinking creature, yet an impenetrable maze to a hungry teenage goat. This feat requires surprisingly deep concentration and problem solving – oh how we humans take our staggering intellects for granted. One must turn away from a wide open view of munchables (now inaccessible with that hot as the dickens bottom wire), and commit to the loooong walk (with no munchables at all!) to actually gain access food. This was no problem at all when the chute was twelve paces, still no problem when the chute was twenty four paces, but at thirty six paces, it suddenly became a paralyzing conundrum. Leaving the goats trapped in their pen, their next meal as inaccessible as if the gate were still shut.

It required an entire lunch break to overcome the desire to let them starve. This afternoon, we’re practicing:


* to clarify lest you think I’m abusing ruminants, the goats had at least three meals worth of leftover hay available, but were abstaining for want of their more preferred foods (as only the chubbiest of spoiled goats will do) – the farmyard equivalent of refusing a breakfast of oatmeal because you were expecting pop tarts