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The Story of Sheba

Hello from the Isle of Wight. This week I thought, as an amusing side story, I would tell you my memories of Sheba the goat.

Some time in the mid 1970´s we moved to a house with a huge walled back garden of over an acre. The place had been half-forgotten for many years and the garden had become very overgrown. You couldn´t even see the back wall for brambles and elder and other weed-like shrubs. It was then that my wife met a lady who wanted to find a home for a goat.

“Goats are great for getting rid of weeds,” she was told. “A goat will eat anything.”

So my wife took on Sheba, a partly dehorned nanny of evil disposition, and the creature was let loose in the back garden. The first thing we discovered was that she would indeed eat anything, but the thing she most enjoyed was the bark of fruit trees, which was not good for their longevity. So Sheba had to be tethered to a running wire near the back wall that would restrict her to the shrubs and weeds in that area.

The next thing we realised about having a nanny-goat is that they have to be milked twice daily. At first we thought that was a benefit. To turn weeds into milk which was supposedly good for you, was surely a plus, besides saving on the milk bill. Everybody except my wife regarded Sheba with a certain amount of suspicion, so she had to be the one who did the milking. Surprisingly for a woman born and bred in Manchester, she took to the task brilliantly and was soon producing three or four pints daily.

When she was feeling out of sorts one morning, I was took over the milking duties. I have always regarded myself as a country lad, but I was absolutely useless at getting milk out of the creature. The goat was tethered in the shed we´d prepared for her, munching from a hay net, and I was sat on a stool beside her, pulling and squeezing at her teats, but hardly getting anything out. At last Sheba got fed up, stamped her foot in the milk pail and spilled the quarter of a pint I´d managed to extract all over the floor. That afternoon my wife felt sufficiently recovered to go and milk the poor creature, and I think she got something like six pints out of her.

For some reason the goat´s milk wasn´t popular in the family. The problem was that it tended to take on the flavour of whatever the goat had recently eaten. During the elderberry season she loved to munch the elder branches. She would start at the tip and eat leaves and fruit and twigs and the whole branch until it was nearly an inch in diameter. The next morning the milk came out a pale pink and tasting a bit sweet. Even worse was when my wife was advised that she should give the creature garlic tablets for its health. Somehow the animal was given a month´s supply in her feed one evening and for the following several days the milk tasted like a rich gravy – not very nice on cornflakes.

The other problem was that Sheba took to munching through her tethering cable and releasing herself from where she ought to be grazing. One day I heard a screaming from the back garden and turned out to see my eight-year-old younger daughter running down the garden towards the house with the goat in pursuit. Soon after that we decided, on balance, that keeping a goat had more minuses than plusses, and everyone was relieved when some other lady agreed to take her off our hands.

That´s one of my stories about one of our pets. If you have any fun stories you’d like to share with me, I’d love to hear them!