Zoologist the world over will be happy to know we finally have an answer to the age-old question: “How far can a goat spit a tomato?”
The answer is: Far enough to hit my wife, Marianne, on the knee.
At the time of her discovery, Marianne was new to goats. So was I. We believed goats would eat anything short of depleted Uranium. We certainly didn’t know they spit. (There were actually a lot of things goats jettisoned from their person we didn’t know about and, believe me, tomatoes was the least of them).
We also thought goats were smallish animals, maybe in the fifty pound range. The goats we inherited were a South African species called Boer goats. They are brown, white and gigantic. Our small ones tip the scales at 120 pounds. The big boys weigh north of 160 or so. According to the internet, some can hit the three hundred pound mark but I would have to see one to believe it..
Maybe we would have known more about goats if we actually intended to own goats, but we didn’t. We bought an old goat farm that still had a bunch of goats running around on it. When I asked the farmer who was selling the place (an old goat himself) “What happens to the goats when we buy the place?” he told me, “I don’t care what you do with your goats.”
On our first day at our new home Marianne put together a basket of vegetables and we went to the pasture to introduce ourselves to the goats. They came running at us from across the pasture, which I have to admit was a little unnerving. We both resisted the urge to climb a tree. When they reached us we were relieved to see them slow down. They crowded around us, which was also a bit unnerving.
Marianne pulled a small cucumber from the basket and handed it to a goat. It sniffed it, kind of sneezed at it and backed off. She tried another cucumber with another goat. Same reaction.
We were both completely perplexed.
Goats ate anything, right? We’d seen cartoons of them eating tin cans. I heard a story about a goat eating a plastic bag. Certainly, they’d go crazy over a cucumber.
“I don’t think they like cucumbers,” Marianne said after a bit of pondering.
“Can’t be,” I said. “Try something else.”
She tried a carrot. One of the smaller goats took it from her hand. She chewed it a bit. Dropped it. A bunch came forward to sniff at the carrot on the ground. A few did the sneeze thing. All of them ignored it just like the cucumber.
“You think they’d eat a tomato?” she said.
“Give it a try,” I said.
She held out a tomato to the biggest goat in the bunch. We, and by ‘we’ I mean ‘she’ would later name him Elvis.
Elvis sniffed the tomato then took it out of her hand. He held it between his lips and his teeth a few seconds clearly examining the strange object. Finally, he emitted a sound reminiscent of a “Bronx cheer.” A loud Bronx cheer. His lips actually vibrated around the tomato. He then spit the tomato back at Marianne.
It banged off her knee and fell to the grass.
A conservative estimate is the tomato flew about three feet.
Elvis snorted loudly and shook his head. He walked off clearly in a huff.
Nowadays, we know what goats like to eat. Or maybe I should say we know what our goats like to eat.
Of course, we give them hay and goat feed. They’d sell their mommas to a meat packing plant for acorns. Marianne brings them long rolls of italian bread from the grocery store. I cut down branches from the woods around our house and let them have at the leaves.
After Christmas, our son, Matt, drives around picking up Christmas trees from the side of the road. The goats eat all the pine needles off them, then he uses the rest of the trees for bonfires or sinks them in the pond for fishing structure.
The neighbor kids yank pears off our pear tree and toss them over the pasture fence. That’s about the only thing in the way of fruits and vegetables I see our goats eat, unless you count the time they got into my blackberry bushes and ate three years of growth right off them.
I haven’t tried feeding them a tin can yet. When I do, I’ll let you know how far they spit it.