Despite the difficulties many firms are facing keeping their employees on the job in a COVID-19 environment, our 100 plus farm ‘employees’ are on the job and doing fine. Must be the influence of Capricorn (or in our case 100 little Capra’s, i.e. goats.) Our ‘employees’ are goats, which we use to browse grass and various invasive shrubs between the trees on our tree farm.

We rent the goats, we don’t own them. Goat rental is a booming business these days due to the proliferation of invasive plant species that are unbalancing our ecosystem. Goats are an ecologically sound way of suppressing the spread of invasive species since goats, conveniently, prefer to eat invasive species first then native plants.

A University of Minnesota study found that less than 1% of seeds ingested by goats are viable after passing through their gut. So goats will not spread the invasive plants the way birds and cattle do. Goats will eat almost every kind of plant (very few are unpalatable to them and fewer still are toxic to them.)

Goats are human-friendly herd animals, tough in terms of disease and weather resistance. It is believed they were first domesticated by humans roughly 10,000 years ago in the Zagros mountains of western Iran. Today they are used as farm animals worldwide.

It is a mystery to me how goats, in some religions, symbolize evil: the horned goat’s head, the cloven hoof, etc. This is blatantly unfair propaganda. Goats are friendly, docile, and useful. Their bad rap may stem from ancient times when competing religions attempted to suppress the Pan mythos, and Pan was associated with goats. Pan was usually depicted as having goat’s legs, horned head, a priapic sexuality, and a trickster personality. Nor do I understand why we have inherited some rather negative terms derived from ‘Capra’ the Latin species name for goat. For example ‘‘capricious’, meaning, sudden, impulsive change, usually of a negative nature.

The sea-goat, half goat, half fish, which is the usual image of the astrological sign Capricorn, has an even more obscure origin in Greek myth, but less negative than Pan.

Fortunately our goats care nothing for ancient legends, they spend their lives eating or lying in the sun dozing.

Whenever I go into their paddock to see that everything is OK, they come trotting up, curious to know what I’m doing. They like to put on little demonstrations of their eating technique, just to let me know they are on the job and that the situation is under control.

The illustration at the beginning of this blog post is an ink drawing of the sea-goat Capricorn, drawn by the late, great illustrator Virgil Finlay. Those of us who loved the illustrations of science fiction magazines of the 1950’s and 1960’s fondly remember his work.


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