The Year of the Goat by Margaret Hathaway

The Year of the Goat by Margaret Hathaway with photos by Karl Schatz.  My sister is a huge goat fan and is considering raising a small herd on her new property, so when I saw this title on the new non-fiction shelf, I just had to grab it.  In 2003, Margaret and Karl were living in an apartment in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan when they decided that they needed to simplify their lives.  The idea of farming was appealing and goats seemed a reasonable niche to pursue.  Since they knew nothing about goats at the time, they quit their jobs, bought a van and proceeded to travel across the country for a year, seeking out anyone who could help explain the joys, opportunities and challenges of the goat industry.  They saw dairy goats, meat goats, show goats, and pack goats.  They saw goats being born, goats being auctioned, goats being milked and even goats being slaughtered.  They also met hundreds of wonderful and generous people: farmers and cheese makers, breeders and show judges, chefs and vets.

Not only did they learn a lot about goats, but they also learned a lot about themselves: why this dream was important to them; how they wanted to interact with the land and the animals; how they wanted to raise their family (Karl proposed midway through the trip and they ended up planning their wedding from long-distance), and whether they could really change from urbanites into farmers.

The only thing I didn’t care for in the book was Hathaway’s insistence on recounting taste and texture details of every cheese consumed along the way.  I’m not a gourmand and quickly became bored with these lengthy descriptions.  Overall, however, I enjoyed her writing style and the story of their adventure.  I will be buying the book as a birthday book for my sister and think it will help her as she makes her decision about raising goats.

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