Goat Farming: A Love Story
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because love, and livestock, could save your life.
By Jeffrey Mcgee
It began when I was sitting on Fred and Annette’s veranda, in tropical Queensland, Australia. This was pre-fires, pre-tragedy. The three of us spent one weekend a month playing music and smoking weed. It was a welcome relief from the hard work and isolation on the farm I ran for nearly 14 years.
My farm had a succession of different livestock over those years. It was 120 acres of lush grass that supported everything from wild deer and feral pigs to cattle and poultry.
But land prices in Australia are extreme and not designed to be paid off quickly. I was struggling with debt and the emotional problems caused by living on and working those 120 acres alone.
I felt worthless and uninspired. I was only 44, though. There was still time to turn it all around.
My PTSD, an unwelcome legacy of my military career in Infantry, was manageable but still affecting my life and my relationship with my 12-year-old son. I saw him every second weekend when possible.
Once my life was a crazy adventure: flying helicopters, hanging from ropes and hunting professional killers in their own backyards.
Now I felt worthless and uninspired. I was only 44, though. There was still time to turn it all around. I just needed a change of scenery, I decided. After clearing it with my son, I put the farm on the market. Twelve months later, it sold. By then, I had worked out a plan.
I would head to America, via Canada.
And I would head there with a bucket list that I had made while waiting for the farm to sell, a list that included seeing bears and buffalo in the wild, visiting Los Angeles and posing by the Hollywood sign, experiencing Las Vegas and, finally, busking in New Orleans.
After arriving in Canada, I bought a car and drove as far north as possible, to Yellowknife, and ticked off the first item on my list. Then I headed through Alaska and over the border and took in Los Angeles and Hollywood. Next up, Vegas.
Entering Nevada I got a Skype call from my son. He begged me to take a detour north, to Area 51 and a bar called the Little A’Le’Inn. He wanted a T-shirt and a coffee mug.
So off I drove.
On my way to the bar, I stopped for a drink at another bar. With one drink leading to another, it wasn’t long before I was holding court, which amounted to me telling everyone present about my journey and the reasons for it. And before long, I was revealing a secret: I had always wanted to marry a Southern girl because I loved their accents.
“I’m from Texas,” one woman said.
I was so uneducated about America that I asked if Texas was in the South. She told me it was. She seemed a bit lonely and a bit adrift. Like me. She was also the most beautiful and enchanting woman I had ever met.
I gave her a wink and said, “Well, you just never know, do you?”
The next day, in a bar full of guys fighting for her attention, this woman, 20 years my junior, asked if I wanted to go to an old mine in the desert to sightsee. At first I thought she was teasing.
She wasn’t, so off we went.
Later that day she would crash her car, and we would fall in love. It was our first date. I asked her out for our second, a trip to the Grand Canyon. I’m scared of heights, so she sat on the edge to see whether I cared enough to crawl out to her and beg her to come back. I did.
That was nearly five years ago.
Since then, I’ve played a bad guy in a movie that never got released and helped produce a documentary on pig hunting in Texas. I’ve gone to Japan to see Nagasaki; after a visa mix-up, I ended up in Peru for a month, traveling and climbing Machu Picchu.
But the coolest thing by far to happen to me was that I married that badass Texan, and we have two beautiful kids.
To save enough money to buy our little patch of the world, my wife and I lived out of our car in the mountains of Colorado. We own 40 acres of prairie next to the Rockies, near the New Mexican border. No one for miles, privacy guaranteed.
We’re building a house from shipping containers. We raise goats and poultry. All the food we produce is organic and free of the poisonous chemicals big companies use. We butcher our own animals.
In Australia, goats are pests. They’ve gone feral by the millions, and with no natural predators, they’re out of control. In addition to tearing up the ground with their hooves, they ringbark the trees and shrubs and kill them.
In Australia, we call goats “desert-makers.”
But here in Colorado, where there’s little grass for livestock, goats thrive where others die. Plus, when it comes to fending off coyotes, goats fare much better than sheep. I’ve grown to love goats more than any livestock I ever had in Australia.
Goats are like dogs with horns. They’re super smart and mischievous, and they give birth to at least two kids at a time, sometimes even three. We produce meat and milk, which is delicious, and within another year or two, my wife and I will have a small family dairy up and running. There’s a massive market for goats and goat products where we live.
My life now is everything I had wished for in Australia.
If you want your life to change, you can’t just sit there waiting for it to happen. You have to get off your ass, reach out and tear it into existence.
Because you just never know, do you?
- Jeffrey Mcgee, OZY AuthorContact Jeffrey Mcgee