Since summer is fading and winter is on its way, lots of plant life is heading into its dormant state. This includes the grasses in the pasture, so at this point in the year, the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence. Some of the critters are quick to realize this, and it creates a bunch of fencing problems. I think to make an absolutely goat-proof fence, your farm would look like a prison...10 foot high chain link fence topped with razor wire just might do the trick! The goats, even the ones weighing nearly 200 lbs, can squeak through a hole 8 inches square in the woven wire. If they can't find a hole, they can create one if determined enough. These days, the destination of choice is the topmost hay field. We don't really care if they eat it at this point; we're not cutting any more hay, and there is quite a bit of quality feed there. So they are eating for free and not doing any damage. Unfortunately, this field borders the road running past our house. There is no fence at the property line at the road's edge. Now our road is not terribly busy. It is a small secondary road which doesn't even have lines painted on it. My father-in-law still laments it's not dirt like it was when the Stevenson family purchased the farm. So it amazes me how many times a day someone will stop by the house to inform us that the goats are loose. It's almost always when we're in the middle of something that is hard to stop in the middle of, like grinding sausage. While good fences are said to make good neighbors, I guess bad ones mean meeting more of the neighbors!
The other problem is Dixie, one of our Belgian draft horses. To give you an idea of how big she is, picture a horse whose back is over 5 feet off of the ground, is about 1750 lbs of muscle, and whose hoof prints are about the size of a dinner plate. Her trick is to walk up to the fence when she spies a tasty patch on the other side, and use her large hooves to stomp down the woven wire and just walk across. This works really well for her until it snaps back up with her front feet on one side and her back feet on the other, with the fence now running under her belly. At this point she will realize she is stuck and calmly stay there until we find her in the course of morning chores. (She almost always does this at night.) It is an easy fix; Dan will walk up to her, bend down the fence and help her pick up her feet high enough to back into the pasture. The fence is inspected and tightened, the whole process takes only a minute or two. The problem is when we don't find her! One night, after a long day when bed was going to feel really good, a truck pulls in just as soon as we had retired for the night. A young man came up to the porch to let us know that he was spotlighting for deer and had seen our "Clydesdale all wrapped up in barbed wire". He probably thought that she was injured and in danger, so he seemed confused when we didn't get too excited about it. We thanked him, Dan went out and freed Dixie, and I'm sure she was grateful she didn't spend the whole night in the fence. Another time we had an archery hunter knock on the door before it was even all the way light out to let us know she was in the fence. I told him we'd take care of it right away, but that she did this all the time and I was sure she wasn't hurt. The hunter then let me know he had thought about cutting our fence to free her but then thought maybe he should see if anyone was home first. I thanked him for that because I would have been furious if the fence had been cut; we probably wouldn't have known about it until the horses or cows went through the hole and we found them in the cornfield or wandering up the road. Plus fence is expensive, not to mention time consuming, to replace! If you want to get on a farmer's bad side, cutting up fence without permission is a great way to start. Farmers also don't want strangers trying to "rescue" the animals either. We know our animals and they know and trust us and generally they will cooperate. A stranger coming up to them when they are stuck in a fence can excite the animal, and no one wants to see the animal or the person hurt if the creature struggles.
So, if you are driving by Pleasant Valley Farm and the goats are in the open field, don't worry, they are ok. You'll just get a better view of them as you pass. We probably know where they are, so you don't need to stop to tell us unless they have migrated to somewhere dangerous, i.e. there are 15 goats wandering down the road looking for rosebushes or fall decorations to eat! If you see a horse straddling the fence, by all means let us know, but don't think we don't care about our animals when we don't get too worked up. It's just Dixie, she's fine and we'll have her back where she needs to be in no time. And before too long, the snow will be covering everything, so nothing will look greener, even the grass on the other side of the fence!