Animal Husbandry 101 - aka taking care of
At just over 40, I’m happy to say that
I’m still a bachelor. My mother may not be so thislled about
it, but that’s another story. The first time I told her
I was planning to have a couple of kids running around my backyard
I think she almost fell off her chair with joy. I had to wait
for her to catch her breath before finishing the story that they
were a couple of goats named Blacky and Dylan. Since then I’ve
added to my duties by building a chicken coop for my 9 chickens,
and even have offered to have the wife of the Governor tether
her horse in the yard.
Animal husbandry is one of those life-changing things you have
to experience to truly understand. The joys of the daily feeding
and the bond you build with each animal, along with the sadness
caused by periodic setbacks, give you a deeper appreciation for
what we so easily pick up in the supermarket or have delivered
to a restaurant. Raising livestock isn’t a joke or a game.
Many Anguillians have put themselves through college by herding
goats and selling them to restaurants, supermarkets, and resorts.
At holiday times, fresh local pork and beef are also available.
On an island that is said to have more goats than people, shepherding
is big business.
In the old days, the village butcher did most of his work on the
weekends. Saturday was a big day when a neighbor would pick an
animal and lead it down to his shop. Beforehand, he would put
out the word that there would be fresh meat available and people
would put their requests in for their desired cuts. Nothing was
wasted. Every morsel from the first to the last became part of
something, whether it was blood pudding or souse or sausage and
stew. Many of the pieces were salted and dried on the roof or
corned for later use. Meat was traded and given as gifts and was
deeply prized, not taken for granted as we do now.
My animal tending is not nearly so serious.
I love sitting on the porch in the late afternoon when the sun
and temperature are going down and watching the baby goats play
“king of the mountain” on their mother’s back
or having them baaaaaaah for their breakfast when they first see
me walking around the house in the morning. It makes you feel
needed and loved. But don’t get me wrong, these guys aren’t
pets. Goat stew (called “goat water” on Anguilla)
is one of the national dishes and since these aren’t dairy
goats, you know where they’re headed. To remind my friends
and myself not to get too attached, I’ve named the last
two kids Sweet and Succulent. I feed them mimosa and wild island
sage so they’ll definitely be self-basting and tasty through
I’ve named my chickens too, which is a bad start if you
are planning to have stewed fowl or curried chicken on the menu.
For now I’m enjoying their eggs of all sizes and the way
they gather at the fence and await my arrival with papaya scraps,
mango pits, and their favorite, corn on the cob. No matter how
good I think I clean those cobs, they can do it better. Cleve,
one of the lead gardeners at CuisinArt’s hydroponic farm,
built my chicken coop. I asked him to build an Island house from
leftover corrugated metal and construction castaways. What a beautiful
job he did. We finished it with wooden wine crates for nesting
and a sea-cured driftwood-roosting pole that they all gather on
after the sun goes down. They must be the most spoiled chickens
on Anguilla. I guess I make a good husband after all!