By boat and by bicycle, through injury, rain, and headwinds, I finally made it to Cleire Goats. It’s a tiny little farm on tiny little Clear Island, off the southern coast of County Cork, and it’s the first proper goat farm I’ve worked at in two months.
There are only twenty goats here, and that includes a buck, four kids, and two yearling whethers (castrated males, very cute but destined to become sausages.) I love these goats, and I haven’t been with goats this friendly since I left Coonridge.
So that leaves thirteen does…of course we hand milk. And we only milk once a day. Ed, the farmer, lets the volunteers take care of milking, so I got to milk almost every day. It was a great opportunity to hone my skills.
I learned all of the goats’ names within three days…I had to! They don’t have nametags, and each goat is treated very much as an individual. We milk them in the same order every day, and each one has her own spot in the stanchion. At night, when we “put them to bed,” we sort them into three separate rooms of the barn based on family and friend groups.
Cleire Goats doesn’t have a ton of land, but it rains a lot here so the plants regrow quite fast and there is always plenty to eat, if you’re a good. Heather and gorse are the daily rations, with other low-growing scrubs and grasses on the side.
And they do eat quite a bit of grain when they come in for milking. And when it rains, which, as I may have mentioned, it does, we have to feed them hay. But Ed says that during the winter, the browse stays green and grows fast enough that he usually doesn’t have to feed hay when it’s not raining.
It’s obvious, though, that this is not an ideal place to raise goats. Though the island is hilly, the ground is padded with soft grasses, and Ed has to trim the goats’ hooves quite regularly. And he uses chemical dewormers to deal with chronic parasite problems, which seem inevitable in such a humid environment.
But it is a lovely, secluded little place. I can see the ocean from the house. It only takes an afternoon to walk from one end of the island to the other. People take the ferry over to walk around just because it’s so pretty. It’s no Corsica, but Clear Island is a nice spot to hang out for a while.