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Read to a Goat

What an invitation! For several years, this has been on my list. Why? I have no idea.


Why would the Superintendent at Connemara, the home of American poet Carl Sandburg and his family ask the public to come to the barnyard to read to the goats? This National Historic Site in Flat Rock, North Carolina promotes this “Poet of the People” and his work.

These are descendants of Mrs. Sandburg’s goats at the farm.

Visitors to Connemara Farms can see dairy goats that are descended from Mrs. Sandburg’s famous herd. She raised three breeds of dairy goats; Saanen, Toggenburg, and Nubian. Each breed can be seen in the herd today.

Mrs. Sandburg owned and operated a premier goat dairy from 1935 to 1965. Here at Connemara the dairy became a Grade A operation, with milk being distributed to local dairies and sold in stores around the community.

I read to two Nubian kids. They were born this spring and were being weened from their mothers. The Superintendent told me they were fearful and a bit skittish. She kindly offered me her chair. Other than an easy raise of their heads from their grass-nibbling of tufts , they paid me little mind.

So not to startle them, I read softly, as if to children. One became nosy and came to sniff at me and the book. It was a short sojourn, and obviously I was not interesting.

It was a beautiful day in the mountains. A bit cloudy, but quite comfortable. I was quite taken with the peace in the barnyard, even to the rest of the herd who were safe behind the fence. For only a few minutes on that morning, I chose to savor a different agenda. There was no herding clock, only soft sounds of a day on a farm reading to the goats.

“Of the three breeds in the Mrs. Sandburg’s Chikaming herd, Nubians were the Sandburg family’s favorite breed. The Nubian breed is distinguished by long, drooping ears; a convex nose; and a variety of color patterns. The Nubian is a relatively large, proud, and graceful dairy goat of mixed Asian, African, and European origin, known for high quality, high butterfat, milk production. Mrs. Sandburg once wrote “Somehow their faces seem more expressive than those of any other breed. I find the Nubian nose and ears very picturesque”. Mrs. Sandburg and her family truly enjoyed the taste of the Nubian milk, which is high in butterfat. The Sandburg’s bought their first Nubian doe in 1936, the second breed of goats added to their herd. This breed was added as an experiment and Mrs. Sandburg was very impressed by the breed. By 1941, just 5 years after purchasing her first Nubian, she decided to keep equal numbers of Nubians and Toggenburgs in her herd. This breed gives lower quantities of milk than the Swiss breeds, but she felt that the good flavor of Nubian milk could help overcome public prejudice against goat milk. She considered four quarts of Nubian milk, with its higher butterfat content, equal to five quarts of milk from the Swiss breeds. The Nubian breed was less than 50 years old when Mrs. Sandburg added them to her herd, so adding them to the herd was a risk. By the time the herd was dispersed, they were a premier breed.” (from the Connemara Farm web site)

Carl Sandburg said, “Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected, unplanned by me.”

That was my experience at Connemara reading to the goats. I invite you to visit their barnyard.


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