[UPDATE: read a brief info about this project, GRUFFLING, here. Read a report from the Great West Brunswick Goat Walk here.]
I’ve always wanted to work with a goat. I don’t know why, I just like ’em. 14 years ago, my mate Mick and I bandied about a bunch of ideas about performing with goats (or rather, goats doing the performing for us). These were kinda agricultural demonstrations exploiting the inherent qualities of the goat – eating a perfect circle in the grass, parading about, that kind of thing. (This was not the first time Mickie and I had thought sculpturally about agriculture… We also once proposed growing a crop of wheat at the Gomboc Gallery Sculpture Park in Perth, high enough to totally obscure the view of the rusty sculptures which are so characteristic of that particular locale. Sadly, this idea never got off the ground).
Anyway… I was invited by the lovely Open Spatial Workshop (OSW) folks in Melbourne to participate in the West Brunswick Sculpture Triennial. This is a show which will take place over several weekends from late March 2009, in various backyards and sites around the Melbourne Suburb of West Brunswick.
The “Triennial” is a bit of a nod towards (or a friendly joke about) the Mildura Sculpture Triennial, which was a landmark event in Aussie art history. As this interview notes, “Minimalism, non-objective art, performance art, earthworks, environmental art and feminist investigations all found their moment at Mildura”. Which is no small thing, within the historically rather conservative art scene in Australia. (I seem to remember reading about Tim Burns, the genius-madman of Aussie non-objective art, doing some kind of installation involving the planting of land mines in Mildura. An arch anti-war statement, it was pretty provocative at the time, as I believe it still would be now.)
When I visited Melbourne for a site visit last November, and saw the backyard of a particular suburban plot in West Brunswick, the goat came back to me. The Goat! All I could think about was the goat, not that I know exactly what to do with it, or even where to get one from. I suggested the goat to the OSW guys. I don’t think they were exactly thrilled with the idea putting a goat in their backyard (what would the landlord say etc) … but look! Goats, according to this permaculture site, are just perfect for the backyard gardener…
Since November, goats have come up quite a lot in conversation. Someone texted me to say they had seen a lady out for a walk with a goat on a leash in the streets of Redfern! My old testament friends Chris and Mindy mentioned Leviticus and the scapegoat, and my cycling friend Mick Douglas from Melbourne sent me a message about an African author whose childhood nightmare rite of passage was to slit the throat of a goat. Goats are priapic, they’re not afraid of their appetites, of whatever sort. They’re horny. As Bon Scott sang, they’ve got “the biggest balls of them all!” And if someone “gets your goat“, you aren’t likely to be very happy.
Then, last week, when I was cleaning out my cupboards, I found this great book, “Australian Goat Husbandry” by Pat Coleby, that Mick gave me for my birthday many years ago. (I’ve pasted a picture of the inside cover complete with inscription at the beginning of this blog entry). Here, for your delight, as Mick suggests, is page 131, where goats and aesthetics are brought together at last:
Great post! First time I scanned it I laughed my head off – like a silly goat. Then, coming back I got more out of all the info and links – which I thank you for!
About an hour ago, my sister texted me to say that she’d seen a goat outside Broadway shopping centre… then I read this!
priapic and capricious too…
see caprice – http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/caprice
more goat facts:
1. 702 radio talkback ablaze yesterday morning with BROKEN HILL GOAT PLAGUE.
Concerned callers reported seeing ‘thousands of them out there’…
2. I’ve long wanted a pet goat – her name would be Coconut.
It will be nice to meet one properly,
oh yeah. “capricious” from capra meaning goat in italian…
what started this alarming goat plague, lisa?
goat memories trickling back now…
in highschool Italian class, we studied this great poem by Umberto Saba, “La Capra” (The Goat). We had to memorise and recite it, and intepret it as part of an oral examination. “The Goat” was written around 1910 and is a deeply sad meditation on the state of life in the world. If you read italian, there’s a small synopsis here.
In this poem, the poet has a conversation with a goat he has presumably come across by chance. The goat is all on his own in a field, tied up. The goat has eaten his fill of grass, he’s wet from the rain, he’s bleating.
Saba identifies with the constant monotonous bleating of the goat. The bleating seems akin to his own sadness/pain. And so, he speaks back (bleats back?) to the goat – first just for a bit of fun, but then it dawns on him that the sadness and pain of his life is just like the bleating of that tethered goat. That is, his pain goes on and on, and it has a voice with which to express itself (presumably his own life is the expression of pain itself), and it does not vary over time: it goes on and on and on.
Finally, Saba extends (universalises?) this connection between the goat and the pain of living. He describes the goat’s face as “semitic” (Saba himself was a Jew), and in this “Jewish goat” he condenses every other pain (“male”=badness) of every other life lived on the planet.
His is a very pessimistic view of the world indeed…
Holy coincidence batman!
Having just finished writing that comment about Saba’s poem, I look outside the window of my studio and there is The Goat!
The small white goat that people have been spotting around Redfern and Chippendale. He is peacefully eating the grass under the tree opposite First Draft Gallery. People stop and stare and laugh and take photographs. One bearded man in lycra bicycle gear who was photographing the goat, even saw me staring out the window of the studio and took a photograph of me watching him watch the goat. It’s a neighbourhood event!
Back soon, I am off to meet The Goat…
OK, so I’m back from my close encounter with the goat!
His name is “Maxi”. I introduced myself to his owner, Steve, who seemed quite happy to answer my goaty questions.
I told him that various friends have spotted a goat “out for a walk” around Redfern, and he said “yep, that’d be me”. To his knowledge, Steve is the only goat owner in the inner city, but he’d like to be imitated. “If there were more goats, we could babysit each other’s” he said. Apparently, Maxi treats Steve as a mother, and gets a bit upset when Steve isn’t around.
Maxi is a miniature variety of goat (I can’t remember exactly, Angora and something else), she’s about the size of a medium dog. She was happily cropping the clover flowers in the park the whole time we talked. “The flowers are sweeter”, said Steve. I asked him whether Maxi, if he were tied to a stake, would chew a neat circle in the grass. “Nah,” he replied. “Maxi is too well fed. She knows a good meal is coming and much of the grass isn’t to her liking. I mean, she’d eat it eventually, but if she knows something tastier is on it’s way, she’ll hold out.”
Steve said that the legal owning of goats in the city is enshrined in council pet regulations. Few people know this, but you can have your goat registered as a pet just as you would register a dog. What else did he say? Maxi should have a life expectancy of about 20 years. His poo is not great fertilizer – the goat has 4 stomachs, and by the time the poo gets to the end, it has hardly any bacteria left in it. It makes good mulch though. He is a wether, meaning he’s been desexed. His horns have been treated with some sort of enzyme gel which inhibits their growth. He has never learned how to “butt”, so he is quite gentle and not at all aggressive.
Everywhere he goes, people stop Steve to talk about the goat. It’s like a community service. Everyone gets a real kick out of it.
And I did too. It brings a smile to your face, to see a goat in the city. A goat! It’s not that crazy, but somehow, urban life seems to be so regulated and controlled that a man with a goat in a park is like a rushing breath filled with the possibility of other ways of living.
but is Maxi a he-goat or a she-goat? It’s funny, in your excitement they’re all of the above, goat-of-all-time, uber-goat!
Hah! Yes I see lisa, I wrote both “he” and “she” in reference to Maxi.
To set the record straight, Maxi is a HE! A billy goat, if you will (but desexed).
Oh, I remember something else Steve told me. In the 1930s lots of people used to hitch up goats to sulkies for transportation, big goats that is, hence the origins of the term “billy cart”.
luca, i must first point out that yr goat book is by THE, yes THE Pat Colby… one of the finest experts on animal doctoring that our great country has ever produced – they’ll make a musical about her one day – she kicks serious ass. so dont loose that book and also can i borrow it sometime.
secondly, have a look at this slightly unsettling but nonetheless interesting crew that are doing the ‘urban homestead’ thing in the middle of Pasadena: http://urbanhomestead.org/journal/ – where, apart from everything else going on there, they have goats, which they regularly take for walks (about 4 at a time?) thru the suburbs in order to get to drain verges etc so that the goats may supplement their diet. A bit far from Maxi tho, sadly…
oh and also, should you go the performative rather than the sculptural road on this, a short rundown on teaching yr goat to lead: http://ezinearticles.com/?Teach-Your-Goat-to-Lead&id=570923
this just gets better and better!
“urban life seems to be so regulated and controlled that a man with a goat in a park is like a rushing breath filled with the possibility of other ways of living.”
Kirsten, wow! THE Pat Coleby. Where is Pat now? Have you met her?
I shall cherish and guard that book.
I love the article on teaching your goat to lead. Especially:
and this great photo of goats out walking from the urban homestead gang:
Hi there Lucas
Check out Paul Hurleys Goating
Thanks Deej. Did you seen Paul’s “becoming goat” works? They sound pretty interesting, what does he do?
I too have been dreaming of one day having my very own pet goat. His name would be Gruffling, a word that came to me one night and which i subsequently googled. I discovered it to have a very apt meaning on the ‘Urban Dictionary’.
verb; to eat hastily, with zeal
‘I’m going to gruffle some mad Domino’s’
To eat in a way which is piggish, like a cop eating donuts
Thanks Claire, Gruffling is a wonderful name for a goat. Your dreamed-of goat would by necessity be male? Just asking…
Grammatically speaking, the word “gruffling” has a potential double meaning – first, like you suggest, it could be the gerund form of the verb “to gruffle”. There is an undertone of “snuffle” in that, I suppose, which puts an inflection on the kind of eating manner of the goat, with his face in a delicious bag of pellets, blissfully unaware of table manners.
And second, the “-ling” part is often used to (affectionately) denote small versions of adult animals: like a “duckling” or a “gosling”. If the nickname for an adult goat is a “gruff” (which is entirely possible) then your (hypothetical) cute little goat would thus be a “gruffling”…
ah, it just occurred to me why “Gruffling” seems so right. “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”…
yes! Check out this great version from Norway:
my favorite part is gruesome:
“I’ve got two spears,
And I’ll poke your eyeballs out at your ears;
I’ve got besides two curling-stones,
And I’ll crush you to bits, body and bones.
That was what the big billy goat said.”
I sent it to my best friend and fellow goat lover in the Uk with a paper scene to play with.
oh oh this is all too exciting! xx
Let us recap where we have reached so far.
As time marches ever closer to the the launch of the West Brunswick Sculpture Triennale (wBST), a man’s thoughts turn from expansive and poetic ruminations on goatiness to the hard pragmatics of actually “doing something with a goat”.
My thinking has trotted towards the simple notion of “going for a walk with a goat”. The spectacle of Steve walking Maxi, Sydney’s famous inner-city goatling, has struck many as an extraordinary phenomenon in its own right. It seems to me that it would be enough for me to take a goat for a walk in West Brunswick, visiting the various sites of the Triennale – which include some suburban backyards.
Urban farmyard animals. I guess I never would have thought of it, back in the early 1990s when I began my mild goat fetish. Back then it was more formal: “let’s see what shape the goat can carve by munching on this grass”.
Now, it seems to me that the basic activity of going for a walk with a goat is a sufficient framework to make sure that “something will happen”. What might happen? Chance meetings with neighbours, passers-by, the telling of goats-in-backyards stories, pooing, nibbling on shoots and weeds, and generally, bonding with the goat. Inner-city farming all of a sudden is “on the agenda”, as indicated by this tantalising mention of “the goats of detroit” (thanks to Kirsten for the link).
Now the hard part.
Finding someone to lend a goat for an afternoon is no easy task. My good friend Charm, who lives a few hours north of Melbourne, offered the services of her furry friend, “Biggie”:
(Biggie is the brownish one at the back…)
The trouble with Biggie, though, is that he’s a bit unruly. Charm writes:
Charm also suggested that transport might be an issue:
So Biggie’s participation really depends on his “handlability”. While I await, sweaty-palmed, the results of his trials, I have been calling other potential goat-providores. The Collingwood Children’s Farm (lovely fellow called Rob on the phone) said they have a policy of not letting their goats off the premises. They don’t want to stress them out. And fair enough too.
Rob suggested I call Farmer Darryl’s Mobile Animal Farm, whose animals are used to being shipped around. Farmer Darryl (again a lovely fella) was booked out on the 21st March, when I want to go for my walk. He already has two functions which require the services of his mobile barnyard. But he listened to my project idea (to his credit, without mocking or belittling me) and workshopped a few difficulties I might encounter.
First, (as suggested by Charm) goats are by nature “unruly”. You need to find a goat who is used to being handled. Otherwise you’re asking for trouble.
Second, “goats eat random plants”. There are a few species that are poisonous to goats, which are to be found in the suburbs. You have to be quite savvy to identify these species and make sure the goat steers clear of them (hence the need for a “ruly” goat).
Third, goats (even the “ruly” sort) are spooked by dogs, and dogs love harassing goats. This can stress them out. So it might be best to have a “handler” present. Unfortunately, as he said, Farmer Darryl is busy, so he can’t offer his services for the wBST.
In an attempt to explore multiple avenues, I also emailed Scott, my wBST case manager. Scott mentioned to me in an email, way back in the piece, that his brother had acquired a goat:
But it seems that this goat is an unsuitable candidate too:
Hmm. Based on Farmer Darryl’s advice, rescuing a (no doubt delinquent) pound-goat for the frivolity of an afternoon’s walk might be a bit tricky. What would I do with my unruly pound-goat afterwards?
The search continues…
When Regina and I started Flaps one of the first 6 issues we planned was Goat Flaps. I believe that there where two types of people in the world- those with a goat story and those without. Although when we started asking people- all including all the ladies in Fluro Flaps- they all had a goat story. So far it remains an un-relised issue. Along with Action Flaps which is about mooning and was inspired by the desire to moon off a ferry going past Kirribilli House, when John H was in residence.
Did I ever show you the T-shirt I made Chris which says “Goat Fucker”? Haico has told me that Goat Fucker a bad insult in the Arab world.. can’t remember details.
Why don’t you borrow Maxi and Steve? Maxi is used to the urban environment and if you take Steve along she might be calm. I guess you will have to check about sedating her in flight? and whether they will take a goat like a dog. Or plan a road trip?
Angela Mesiti had some images of feral goats round BH in her video at Artspace recently. Feral goats are big problem in arid Australia. Broken Hill is probably a hot spot due to the extended dry period.
See below from:
“In 1993 there were about 2.6 million feral goats in Australia but this number has fluctuated widely under the influence of extended dry periods and the effectiveness of management programs. In Australia, most feral goats live in the semi-arid pastoral areas used for sheep farming where food is usually abundant, regular water is provided by people, and natural predators such as dingoes and feral dogs are controlled to protect the sheep.”
They also mention Judas Goats- remember the images from Bec’s Pet show by a South African artist.
Also DEWHA has a good PDF on feral goats.
I once saw a man walking an alpaca through Johnston Street Fitzroy. It was all very casual, except for the passers by, for whom it did just the trick. I will try to find a photo of it for you.
here it is … http://www.flickr.com/photos/johncarney/1255606991/
Thanks Grace, that’s a terrific urban Alpaca sighting!
and Thanks Raquel for your tips and links. I love this idea:
“I believe that there were two types of people in the world- those with a goat story and those without.”
Two new GRUFFLINGS in recent days…
my Melbourne buddy Stuart has been asking around for a goat for me. I didn’t ask him to do this, he just took it on, like the loyal friend he is. Out of the blue he rang me the other day, asking: “so does it have to be a goat?”
Stuart knows of a friend who has an alpaca ranch outside of Melbourne. But I think, yes – it has to be a goat. At a stretch, an urban alpaca, like the one mentioned two comments up by Grace would do. Heck, I’m not that picky. Here’s my criteria: goats anywhere (but preferably in the city), and other barnyard animals, (but only if they are kept in the city).
Stuart said there was an urban myth floating around in the mid-1990s that a fellow was keeping a goat on top of the public housing towers in Fitzroy. I wonder where that rumour came from? It reminded me of the goat which was so coveted by Deckard, the protagonist of Philip K. Dick’s book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. In that sci-fi world, citizens kept their livestock on the rooves of tower blocks as prestige possessions.
I bumped into Mickie in the streets a few days ago, he was hanging out with his Irish friend Drew. Drew asked why I wanted to spend time with goats. My answer was half-baked at best, but Drew seemed to instinctively understand my capricious drive to satisfy this whim. He said there was a rumour circulating in Belfast in the 1960s, that a rather famous Irish retired boxer had purchased a retired lion from the zoo. The boxer apparently walked the streets with this lion, which was, amusingly, toothless.
I’m a vegetarian lion
I’ve given up all meat
I’ve given up all roaring
All I do is go ‘tweet tweet’
— other not so interesting verses —
So now I just eat carrots
Coz they’re easier to kill
And when I pounce upon em
They all remain quite still
Like … you know … time for my growl. Grrr.
Sorry, more lionish than goatish …
from my friend Jessie:
Stuart recommended I get the radio working for me to help find a goat to go a-walking with. This sounded like a good idea. It’s a different network tuned into local radio, the kinds of folks who ring up with hedge-trimming tips and traffic jam updates. Surely someone would be listening in and offer a goat?
So I called up ABC Melbourne 774, who acted really fast. Brad, the producer, promptly hooked me up with Red Symons (the ABC morning show guy, who used to be the sarcastic judge on Red Faces on Hey Hey It’s Saturday in the ’80s, and way before that was the guitarist for Skyhooks, the ’70s Aussie Glam Rock Band. Here’s a good photo of Red from 1975.)
This all happened so fast!
This morning at 6.45am I did a phone interview with Red, who spent most of the time teasing me about my assertion that goats are “an ancient symbol of unbridled desire”. However, by the end of the interview (which lasted all of 4 minutes), someone had rung up the station offering up her goat for art.
Ah, the power of the broadcast! It was Stephanie from Sugargum Farm. She said she had just the goat for me. His name is “Bob”, and according to Steph, Bob is very friendly, definitely ruly, and a great comedian.
I jumped on the plane to Melbourne, Stuart picked me up, and we went straight to Sugargum Farm to meet Stephanie and Bob. And she was right. Bob is a goat-artist’s dream. I fed him a carrot, he knocked over my cup of tea, he led me out around the farm to show me his favourite weeds to nibble, we hit it off. Stuart took a few snaps which I’ll upload here soon.
So there you have it! Bob is booked in. We will go for a walk through West Brunswick on Saturday arvo, and who knows what will happen next.
[PS: here is an MP3 recording of my chat with Red on the radio.]
Stuart took some great shots of our visit to Sugargum Farm to meet Stephanie and Bob the Goat. I dressed up in my best McLeod’s Daughter’s style check shirt and akubra so as to blend in seamlessly in the rural environment (although, aeroplanes kept buzzing overhead, reminding us that we were just 5 minutes drive from Australia’s second busiest airport…)
Stephanie introduces me to Bob the Goat. Here she is explaining how goats use their heads to protect themselves. Thus if you want to pet them, best to scratch under their chin or rub their flanks. Bob and this sheep here are apparently firm friends.
Bob joins us in the kitchen for a cup of tea. Shortly after this he tried to drink (but instead knocked over) my scalding hot cuppa and gave himself quite a shock.
Stephanie puts a lead on Bob so we can practice walking together. He’s very strong, and if he wants to eat a particular clump of grass, he pretty much leads the way. Hmm… This walk may turn out to be more of a derive…
Here we are wandering over to check out some of the other animals on Sugargum Farm. They’ve got some amazing Clydesdale Horses – like equine tractors (see the one to the left of this shot).
Hey there Lucus,
You have yourself one hell of a goat there… My bestus friend in the whole world!! who would have thought!!! Make sure you keep us all posted on this lil boyz adventure. He was a delight to have around from the second i picked him up… he kicked it all the way home in the back of Mum’s Barina LOL. Am so thankful that Steph loves him just as much as me. he is Awesome!!! Goodluck, and look forward to seeing him out and about.
I do have some pictures for you to post if you like.. drop me an email and i will send them thru as i have no idea how to post them here!!
Bob… There is only one Bob!!
Tops! Can’t wait to see the goat in brunswick!
Hey, do you know the folktale of The wolf and the seven little kids (goats)? We used to have a little golden book of it, with the front cover ripped off. I always found it really scary. I think because the wolf was so sinister. I found a quick version of the story here: http://www.4to40.com/folktales/index.asp?id=1384
Love your Sugargum farm photo. Bob the goat sounds fab.
yikes, bec, that is a gruesome story. the wolf’s ingenuity is matched by the mother-goat’s with her scissors and thread. i wonder what the psychoanalysts make of that story?
Nikki, I am getting the idea that Bob is one special goat! Can’t wait to see your pictures of him.
My friend Martin used to look after the livestock at Ceres in Brunswick there. I’m not sure if they still have goats etc and Martin moved to Adelaide a while back but I seem to remember they were a very important part of the Ceres community. I think they branched out to cows while Martin was there but it was the goats that I seem to remember he loved most. I wonder what the council rules are about keeping goats in the Brunswick Preston area, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if someone’s got one there.
Someone told me yesterday that male goats have the biggest size dick in relation to body size than any other animal!
Can you find out if that is true? …From an expert on goats, i mean!
I believe the tapir has the biggest dick around…at least, the most interesting!
Goats are enchanted creatures, strong and friendly. I lived on a goat farm once, and had the most amazing relationships with them…Have fun!
The Judas Goat is a pet kept by abbattoir owners. They help to calm down livestock entering the abbattoir (including other goats, pigs, sheep and cattle), and then they lead them to their deaths.
I have always wanted to own a goat. I remember getting a note from one of my friends in Perth saying that I was “capricious and fucked”, so maybe I have some kind of goaty affinity.
Thanks all for your goatations!
Louise, I went to Ceres, they were lovely, but they only have cows and chooks.
Deanside, I have heard the expression “I have always wanted to own a goat” many times while working on these grufflings. I feel it must be the desire to be able to own (and thus tame) that unruly side of ourselves and the world. What would your goat be called, if you owned one?
For those reaching this far down in the comments thread, you are to be rewarded with an account of the great brunswick goat walk, which, amazingly, actually happened! Check it out here.
Hmmm. Ronald and Nancy.
lucas the redfern goat made an appearance online! http://life-in-chippendale.blogspot.com/2009/03/walk-goat.html
Just to set the record straight, Maxi is my goat. Steve lives with us and takes him for walks while I’m at work to support the two of them and do all the dirty work. Fortunately goat poo is dry and sweeps up nicely, steve is harder to manage. BTW anyone who has photos of Maxi out and about please send them my way for me to put on his page (under construction). Thanks!
Thanks Belinda, how great. There are 2 goats now, aren’t there? Maxi has a companion?
By the way, my friend Geoff recently drew my attention to this: Google is now using goats to keep down the grass!
Uncanny co-incidence! I have a book out (see link) called the Adventures of the Billy Goats Gruff. As it is set in the 7th Century I refer to the three goats as the Grufflings (I think someone has already commented on the link with the Billy Goats Gruff). Their father is called Eadmund the Gruff, which makes them the sons of Gruff, or Grufflings!
Actually they should have been the Bruselings because there is no evidence of the word gruff in Old English, but I stuck with Gruff because people are familiar with it. Having read (if not understood) the Norwegian version, I note that they also use a word similar to Bruse
Good luck with your Grufflings!
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