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BAN #403: The GOAT goats, Martian rock sculpture
21 February 2022 Issue #403
[Hubble image of NGC 3603. Credit: NASA, ESA, R. O'Connell (UVa), F. Paresce (NIA, Bologna, Italy), E. Young (USRA/Ames Research Center), the WFC3 Science Oversight Committee, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)]
After much deliberation and talking, my wife and I decided to re-home our goats.
This was a very tough decision. We first got them as kids in 2015; my wife and daughter got stuck on watching baby goat videos on YouTube, and they are SO CUTE. When my wife turned to me and said, “Let’s get some goats,” I was reticent. It seemed like a lot of work.
She countered that we lived on an actual ranch. In fact, the previous owners had built a barn with stables in it for horses, and at the time we didn’t have horses yet. That meant we had a pre-made place for goats, and all we had to do was install better fencing.
I was still reluctant, but acquiesced. My wife hunkered down on the internet — she’s incredibly thorough when researching things — and found a couple of places in Colorado that had baby goats within easy driving distance. Some friends helped us put up fencing, and just like that I found myself a goat herder. Clayton Forrester, Jack Burton, Sam, and Batman joined our clan.
[The last time I fed them here at our house. Credit: Phil Plait]
After a while we realized the horse barn wasn’t great for goats; it was a far enough walk from the house that we couldn’t really see the goats doing goaty things, and in the winter it was difficult to go out there several times a day and care for them. So we had a friend who is also a contractor construct a little shed for them in a spot closer to the house. We fenced it in, put in some stumps and rocks for them to play on, and moved them over (it wasn’t long after that my wife looked at me and said she wanted to get rescue horses, since, after all, the barn was now empty… but that’s a whole ‘nother story).
Upkeep was easier — a couple of heat lamps and an electrically heated water bucket for when it gets really cold, and we could see them from the house. But… they poop and pee a lot, and that meant shoveling out their shed lined with wood chips every few weeks and replacing them, and also raking the pen as well. That makes good fertilizer, and we used it that way, but it’s a substantial amount of work.
[“Helping”. Credit: Phil Plait]
Now, my wife and I both feel strongly that when you take on the responsibility of an animal, that duty lasts as long as the animal is alive. We were responsible for the goats’ well-being and happiness, but as times change what that responsibility means changes as well. It got harder and harder to keep up with the maintenance of the pen and shed, and some health and personal issues made it even harder (I have a bad back, for example, making it difficult to shovel out the shed).
This winter has been particularly difficult, and we started taking a hard look at where we are and where we need to be, and what that meant for the goats. And that’s when we decided that they would be happier and better cared for with someone else who had more land.
[A baby at the new place. Credit: Phil Plait]
Again, my wife took to the internet and found some people near us who wanted goats. We had a couple of folks take interest, but one family out east checked off all our boxes. They already had goats (about a dozen) so they were familiar with them. They had shelter for them, and wanted more because they were about to fence in about an acre of land for the goats to graze. An acre! Way more than our pen size.
So, being responsible for them, we knew this was the best. Last week we drove them over to the new place. They were a little confused at first, but there was no animosity with the other goats, and they all got busy sniffing each other. We hung out for a while, but eventually it was time to go. I won’t lie, I had a knot in my stomach, a lump in my throat, and tears in my eyes. Driving away was really really hard. But I knew this was the right thing to do, the responsible thing, even if it meant letting them go.
We’ve talked to the new people a couple of times since, and all four of the ungulates are happy in their new place. They still hang out together, a sub-herd, but they’re also doing things with the other goats, and he assures us they’re happy. I’m glad.
[Meeting the new herd. Credit: Phil Plait]
I’ve had to let go of animals before, of course. Dogs, cats; they got old, some died on their own and some we had to euthanize, which is incredibly difficult and hurts for years. The goats are still alive and enjoying themselves, but this was really hard in its own way, and still is.
I see their shed and pen every day out my window — and there will come a day when the weather turns warm and I’ll have to clean them out for the last time, and will deal with that emotionally when the time comes. Instagram wants to show me goat pix and videos all the time too, damn the algorithm. I stumble on photos in my phone of them eating and getting in the way and jumping on the wheelbarrow when I wanted to clean their pen and just being goats. None of this makes it easier.
They were never really pets; they’re not that kind of animal. They aren’t hugely affectionate and they smell terrible and if one ever belches in your face you’ll regret the day you were born, but they were still fun to have around and made my life better. I love those little ungulates, and I miss them.
A palate cleanser (definition here)
In case you need a little pick-me-up after that, let me show you this stunning wind-sculpted rock… on another world.
Click through to get a bigger image, processed by Stuart Atkinson (aka Mars_Stu). It’s amazing and lovely.
My friend Jess Phoenix also posted an image of it along with a context shot of the rock it’s sitting on, and they’re shaped vaguely similarly.
The air on Mars is at best about 0.6% the pressure of Earth at sea level, so a huge gale on the Red Planet would feel like a soft breeze on Earth. But after a few million years, even that gentle dust-laden whisper can cause great change, as well as grace and beauty.
[Very Large Telescope image of M77 (left) shows that in its core (right) is a thick ring of gas and dust feeding it supermassive black hole. From Thursday’s article. Credit: ESO/Jaffe, Gámez-Rosas et al.]
Monday 14 February, 2022: Was GW190521 the result of eccentric, non-aligned black holes merging?
Tuesday 15 February, 2022: Astronomers watch as a dead star eats its planets and blasts out X-rays
Wednesday 16 February, 2022: Quadruple asteroid!
Thursday 17 February, 2022: How do you hide a supermassive black hole? Dust. Lots and lots of dust.
Friday 18 February, 2022: Our Milky Way galaxy’s last big collision still leaves clues 10 billion years later
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