October 2, 2011

Author Q &A: Compulsive gamboling

Janice Spaulding loves goats, so her new book aims to teach the like-minded both how to care for the animals and how to cook with their milk and meat.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A male goat is a buck, not a billy. A goat's horns regulate the temperature of the blood supply to the brain.

click image to enlarge


GOAT CHEESE AND WINE TASTING from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Rising Tide Community Market, 323 Main St., Damariscotta.

THE SPAULDINGS ALSO can be found every week at some Maine farmers' markets:

Dover-Foxcroft Farmers' Market at the Pisataquis Regional YMCA, 48 Park St., Dover-Foxcroft. Hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays and 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays.

•  Dexter Farmers Market at the P & L Country Grocery, Route 7, between Dexter and Corinna. Hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday.

GOAT CHEESE from Stony Knolls Farm is also available direct from the farm at 49 Maple Lane, St. Albans.

TO LEARN MORE about Stony Knolls Farm or Goat School, call 938-3714 or go to mainegoats.com or goatschool.com.

Who knew?

Janice and Ken Spaulding, that's who.

The Spauldings have been raising goats in Maine for 25 years. In 2004, they started the nation's first "Goat School," where wannabe goat farmers go to learn whether they have what it takes to raise their own herd.

The Spauldings' classes at Stony Knolls Farm in St. Albans sometimes attract more than 100 people in a weekend, and they are now taking their show on the road, teaching people about goats in places such as Florida, California and Vermont.

Don't have time to travel to St. Albans? Janice Spaulding has just published "Goat School: A Master Class in Caprine Care and Cooking" (Down East, $19.95), that is part goat care, part cookbook. It's entertaining reading even if you're not about to invest in your own animals.

Consider this excerpt from "A Doe's Secret Code of Honor": When you hear the words "She's nowhere near ready to kid, we can go to (fill in the blank)," wait until your humans are all cleaned up, dressed up, and ready to get in the car, then give a good scream and start pushing.

"You can't have goats if you don't have a good sense of humor," said Spaulding, whose current mixed herd numbers 20. "And you can't go out to the barn in the morning and be grumpy and come back to the house in the same way you went out, because they make you smile. They make you laugh." 

Q: How did you get interested in this?

A: We were getting this magazine called Ranch and Rural Living, and there was this amazing advertisement. It was a field of bluebells with these angora goats standing out in it, and I had to have them. But this was before the Internet, and back when phone calls cost 23 cents a minute, so it was a whole letter-writing campaign. It took almost a year before I located some that I could buy. 

Q: And you didn't really know yourself how to raise them at the time.

A: No, I had to learn, and unfortunately, there wasn't anyone around that could help, so it was trial by error, and I just promised myself that if there was any way I could help anyone after that, I would. 

Q: How's your enrollment in goat school? Is the idea of raising goats becoming more popular?

A: In an issue of Hobby Farm magazine back in 2009, they did an article on us, and Goat School exploded off the map. We ended up with 112 people from 22 states that spring. I was getting two or three registrations every day. It was pretty cool.

People want to learn how to raise goats, almost as a homesteading type thing. "I want to have four goats. I don't want to have 100." We've really catered to them.

We were at the Common Ground Fair. This was our eighth year there, and you can't believe the amount of people (who say), "Well, I'm retiring in two months, and I want to raise goats," or "We need a sideline." Or "I'm allergic to cow's milk." 

Q: Do you find that your students are prepared for all the work it's going to take to raise goats successfully?

A: No. You know, probably half of the people who come to goat school do not have their goats yet. It's a wonderful way of learning about goats and then making an informed decision.

We've actually had people who have come to goat school and thanked us afterwards for letting them understand and realize that goats are not for them. It was way cheaper to come to goat school than it was to buy all the equipment and then buy all the goats and be stuck with goats that they didn't really want and have to get rid of them. And others have found after they've come here that maybe milk goats aren't right for them. Meat goats would be much easier, or vice versa. 

(Continued on page 2)

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