ST. ALBANS, Maine — For Mother’s Day, Ed Glazer wanted to do something special for his wife, Irene.
So the Vermont couple traveled to Stony Knolls Farm in St. Albans to participate in the two-day goat school offered by farm owners Ken and Janice Spaulding.
“This was what she wanted,” Glazer said jokingly Sunday afternoon. “She wanted to sit out in the rain and use a Porta-Potty. So I’m making it happen.”
Despite the cold, dreary weather and somewhat basic amenities, by Sunday afternoon the Glazers and most of the 110 other goat school participants still seemed delighted by the curious, cavorting goats.
“I highly recommend this,” Irene Glazer said. “Goats get a bad rap. They have such great personalities. They’re loving. They’re playful. They love people.”
From newborn kids to sweet mamas-to-be to energetic billy goats, the Spauldings’ herd of 24 goats were the star performers of the weekend, patiently waiting as the couple demonstrated basics of their care to the captivated crowd.
The students came from 22 states to take part in what Janice Spaulding said is one of just two such schools in the country. They scribbled notes and took pictures as the couple shared tips about trimming hooves, giving shots, feeding and taking care of the newborn kids.
Although the twice-yearly program’s continued popularity has been “extremely surprising,” according to Janice Spaulding, she remembers well how hard it was to learn how to care for goats when they were just starting out.
“It was awful. We couldn’t get information anywhere,” she recalled.
The couple decided to start the school five years ago to share their 22 years of hard-earned wisdom about goats. Its enrollment jumped after an article about it was published in Hobby Farms magazine.
Students who made the trek to central Maine said there is no substitute for what they were learning from the Spauldings and their herd.
“You can read a book five times,” said Andrea Masse of New Haven, Vt. “This is that personal experience of seeing, hearing and feeling. It’s more hands-on.”
Charity and Daryl Doornbos of Allendale, Mich., said their two Alpine goats are due to have kids in the next couple of weeks and they felt more relaxed after going through goat school.
“Hopefully, the explanation of the birthing process, and the learning not to panic, will be useful when we get home,” Daryl Doornbos said. “You pick up little tips all through the school. It’s all helpful information.”
The couple watched as farm helper Jessa Michaud of Hartland used baby bottles to feed two hungry little kids that were born just a few days ago.
“I’ve been taking notes,” Charity Doornbos said.
One participant, Lisa Kester of Hooksett, N.H., said that her two days spent in proximity to the goats had not convinced her to go for it — and she didn’t appear to be kidding. She came to Maine with her boyfriend, who is interested in raising goats.
“I have a lot of respect for the small farmer, but it’s not for me,” she said.