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Morgana the Nubian Dairy Goat: The Doe Who Gave Me My First Cheeses (with photos, tips on Nubian personality)
Morgana Two Summers Ago
Death of a Beloved Dairy Goat
December 26th, 2009
This seems more like a blog post than the type of information articles I'm used to doing here, but I thought it was fitting. You see, I have made a commitment to share with you not only my cheese recipes, but my enjoyment of cheese making and of goats. What better way to do that than to tell you something of my first goat, Morgana, who is largely responsible for my own cheese making journey.
She passed away early this morning.
Morgana the Old Nubian Goat During the Winter of 2008
My Dairy Goat's Health Problems - Old Age - September 2007
She hadn't been feeling well for some while. After all, she was eight years old, and had had somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 children (not that anyone was counting). She had loved all of them, and cared for them well. But motherhood, and our harsh, long winters had finally worn her out.
Now she couldn't keep on weight, and her ribs were prominent under rough, curly hair. Even extra grain rations failed to keep her fit, though they cheered her spirit.
We didn't expect her to last long. But she surprised us.
Matriarchal Society Among Goats
That winter, she birthed twin babies. She had always been prolific, dropping three and four kids per year, but no one expected her to conceive in her condition, let along birth more healthy, beautiful little goats. So these two seemed like a miracle.
She had beat out Old Man Winter and defied the odds. She obviously didn't know that she wasn't supposed to have more children, or that she was too old to make it through another winter. She raised these two chilren, then went on to try to raise others, when their own mammas wouldn't or couldn't care for them...sometimes plowing through belly-deep snow to get to them where they nestled in a warm stall.
She had always been like this.
Dad had gotten to calling her "Queen Morgie". She had precise ideas on how the world should run, and let her wishes be known at every turn.
At milking time, she made pertinent attempts to barge into the milking room first, regardless whether she even got milked. She had no horns (she'd been debudded as a kid), but this didn't stop her from plowing her inferiors...er, subjects...er, fellow goats - up against a wall if they didn't move aside at a nudge.
She never left the milk room quietly, until she had had as much grain as she could sneak, finagle, or steal. Sometimes, only a forceful removal was possible. (Ever tried pushing a stubborn goat through a narrow opening?) After these removals, she'd plant herself outside the screen door, sometimes jumping on it to look through the window, and await her opportunity to plow back in.
After writing all this, I feel I must defend her by saying that her affectionate nature made up for every hint of this terrible egotism.
You can perhaps guess that the giving part of her nature was also stubborn. She was always as kind to human children as she was to her own, and was never stand-offish to anyone...unlike some of her herdmates.
Some of Morgie's Children and Foster Children - Cross-Bred Dairy Goats
Brother Lance, Sister Morgie - Nubian Dairy Goats - 2007
How Morgana Came to Us; Nubian Goats Personalities - Opinionated
January 2000, December 2009
Morgana came to us in January 2000.
She was among the first batch of goats ever born on my parents' farm. Dad had just bought two Nubian does (nannies) from a neighbor the year before, and these experienced mothers each had two kids.
Jingles and Escape - "Essie" - were both older does who were decent milkers, but not show ring quality. They brought us three or more batches of kids before going the way of all flesh.
At the time of Morgana's birth, I was new enough to goats that I didn't know about all the different breeds, and didn't know that Jingles and Essie were not very good, as far as their physical qualities. I did know that their offspring were absolutely adorable. It never occurred to me to get pictures of Morgana as a baby, nor her brothers and sisters, but it doesn't much matter - Morgie's had some babies who were equally adorable, and just as loud.
That's the thing I remember most about Morgana's childhood - she had a bleat unlike any other. Even before she had figured out how to walk without sprawling every few steps, she was opinionated. She screamed if she wasn't held securely; she screamed if she wasn't fed her bottle exactly on time; she screamed if she wasn't treated with absolute respect and attention in every detail.
Yet, she was kind, even in her sprawling, infant state. She was a cuddler, and while tiny, remained one of my playthings. I may have been too big for stuffed animals, but she was the next best thing. She even came into the house...a miracle, given that my mother is a clean freak.
Morgana had one brother, and two half-siblings. Her brother's name was Lancelot. Her half-siblings were Guenivere and Arthur. Guenivere was sold, but Lance remained. (Arthur died in a fall off the roof of one of the goat sheds, bursting an over-full tummy.) However, being a buck, Lance's name quickly deteriorated into "Mr. Stinky".
I had thought initially that Guenivere would be my special goat, and I had begun teaching her to lead and to be a regular little pet. But she turned out to have some particularly undesirable physical qualities, and Dad picked Morgana as the better milker and breeder.
My Goat Pen Still Stands
A Goat in Town
When Morgana was a yearling, I got married and moved to a nearby town. The next year, Morgana came to live with me.
She brought along her little daughter Heidi, and lived in a stock-panel pen in my side yard.
The first night, she cried so hard, trying to figure out what was going on, that our old neighbor mistook her for a child, and came over to find out "why no one was taking care of that baby"! In the next week, she settled down and began to enjoy town life.
She adored the neighborhood children, who came in flocks to pet her, feed her, cuddle Heidi, and ask questions. I spent much time outside, making sure they understood not to feed her potato chips, and didn't strip every bush in my yard bare giving her treats.
Each morning and evening, I took my year-old son, and went to milk her. Sometimes I had an audience of six or seven children (besides mine), who all had to have a turn at trying to milk. I sometimes shared the warm milk with them, and in thanks, they tried to slip Morgie extra handfuls of grain.
Within a year, however, Morgana's sojourn with me came to an end. It wasn't because of her noise. She had settled down remarkably from those first days. It wasn't because she often got out, and went traipsing down the street, looking for someone to whom she might say hello. Once, an elderly man who was already on a walk grinned, threw his arms around her, and said, "Oh, she just wants to go for a walk, too." It wasn't because she destroyed flowers, ate laundry, or jumped on people's cars...she never did. It was because another citizen, who couldn't drink regular milk, had gone to the town council asking if he, too, might have a goat. They had told him no, and when he had pointed out that we had one, they sent us a letter saying Morgana must leave.
The day came, and Dad came to pick her up. She and Heidi rode in his van back to the farm, where she was content, and once again ruled as Queen Morgie.
Too Many Goats!
Thus she remained for almost the next seven years. During those years, Dad several times overgrew his goat herd, by way of not having the fortitude to part with many of his pets. Out of necessity more than desire, he developed an interest in cheese making. I found it was a wonderful hobby, and after a couple years, took it over. (Dad didn't mind.) Now you see the fruits of this labor.
Morgie, thank you, and here's to you, girl. May your pastures always be green and your feed pan always be full. It's the least you deserve.