Goats gobble gourds in Weyauwega
By James Card
Halloween draws near and Brenda Strehlow reached into the tool shed and grabbed a machete.
Her every move is watched and there is a trembling anticipation in the air.
Strehlow walked over to a pile of pumpkins, nonchalantly whacked one in half and lobbed the chunks over the fence.
A line of antsy goats stared at her with side-slanted eyes and awaited the orange projectiles.
As soon as they thumped onto the ground, the goats nosed into the halved shell to slurp up the greasy seeds and stringy pumpkin pulp. They got in their licks until Cookie, the lone cow of the herd, smashed her muzzle into the mush and devoured it all in a couple greedy gulps.
Strehlow chopped open more pumpkins, tossed them over the fence and into a feeding frenzy of 41 goats.
Cookie and the goats are part of what she calls My Happy Little Herd. The rest of the herd is composed of five ducks, three African geese, three breeding pigs, 11 feeder pigs she calls “bacon seeds,” 25 guinea fowl and 35 laying hens.
There is also Henry the farm cat and Gerald, a young Canada goose that flew into their pond last year. When his flock flew south for the winter, he stayed behind because of a broken wing, most likely caused by a predator attack.
Gerald found his way into the pasture and never left. Strehlow got the African geese to keep him company and Gerald ignores them. He has spent so much time with the goats at an impressionable age that Strehlow thinks Gerald identifies as a goat.
Strehlow records her adventures with My Happy Little Herd on her Facebook page of the same name and recently posted that she is happy to take any unwanted pumpkins leftover from the fall season. To pass along leftover pumpkins and gourds, Facebook is the best way to reach her.
“Most of the people I know in town will drop them off at my house. Otherwise if people want to bring them out there and feed them and watch them eat them, they can do that, too,” said Strehlow.
The herd is well fed. They rotate them through five pastures and as one pasture is grazed, the grass of the other pastures has time to rejuvenate with new growth. The pumpkins and gourds are sweet treats.
“After Christmas, we will take Christmas trees, too. See the branches out there? My son cut down some branches that were in the way and we threw them in there. The goats eat all the pine needles off them and they eat the bark,” said Strehlow. They learned this the hard way. When they first started the herd, goats chewed the bark of some pine tree trunks, girdling the tree and killed them. Now all trees have protectors around them.
For the past three years in mid May, Strehlow invites the public to Kids Day and people can visit, pet and play with newborn baby goats, along with the other critters. “We do it in May because I have my goats have their babies in mid April to the beginning of May. That’s what the Kids Day is. It’s about goat kids not human kids but it’s for people of all ages. This last year we had 19 goat kids in addition to all of the other goats running around that people can play with. This year we will have 25 girls we’re breeding so we might have 50 babies out there as goats have usually one to three kids,” said Strehlow.
My Happy Little Herd is set up as an LLC and Strehlow likes to keep it balanced as a rewarding hobby business. They sell eggs, surplus goats, and they keep some goats to raise for meat. They sell piglets and also sell and take pigs to be butchered.
The Strehlow family lives in Weyauwega and their 20-acre farm is a short drive from town. She likens the place to a getaway. Some people have cottages up north; she has a small farm nearby. The family camps out on weekends and can easily take care of chores during the week.
Strehlow will sometimes head up to their cabin-sized tree house to take a nap. They have no electricity from the grid but have solar power strong enough to cover the basics.