This is the Little Dude. He was a quadruplet. His mom died and we raised him as a bottle baby. Needless to say, he is a permanent addition to the farm.
The Little Goat Dude

The Little Dude

The Little Dude and my nephew Liam have grown up together. Here they are when they were both just little.
Liam and the Little Dude (2011)

Liam and the Little Dude (2011)

Every time I see them together I think of a poem by Robert William Service called The Goat and I.  And since spring is upon us and my goats help me forget about the world's worries, I thought it would be appropriate to share the poem with all of you. Enjoy.

The Goat and I

Each sunny day upon my way A goat I pass; He has a beard of silver grey, A bell of brass. And all the while I am in sight He seems to muse, And stares at me with all his might And chews and chews.

Upon the hill so thymy sweet With joy of Spring, He hails me with a tiny bleat Of welcoming. Though half the globe is drenched with blood And cities flare, Contentedly he chews the cud And does not care.

Oh gentle friend, I know not what Your age may be, But of my years I'd give the lot Yet left to me, To chew a thistle and not choke, But bright of eye Gaze at the old world-weary bloke Who hobbles by.

Alas! though bards make verse sublime, And lines to quote, It takes a fool like me to rhyme About a goat.

Robert William Service
Liam and the Little Dude (2014)

Liam and the Little Dude (2014)

ICF International, the third party contractor who is completing the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Tongue River Railroad is also the third party contractor hired to complete the EIS for the Longview coal port terminal in Longview, Washington. Arch Coal, who is proposing to develop a large coal mine in the Otter Creek Valley of southeastern Montana, is invested in both projects. (ICF is also involved in the Keystone XL project and had financial ties to TransCanada) On February 27, 2014, ICF International released a white paper optimistically stating that both the global and domestic markets for coal will rebound. They call it a white paper, I call it seven pages of statements based on unsubstantiated assumptions. Maybe it's just a regional difference.  Never once do they mention the limited rail capacity in the northwest or southern rail lines, the massive public opposition to proposed coal ports or new coal mines, the changing market conditions in southeast Asia or the thick air pollution in China which is causing the country to retool their energy portfolio. Not only do they fail to provide a good argument for their conclusions, one has to wonder if the authors even did a cursory google search about the topic before they began.  The conclusions of the authors are counter to almost every other recent analysis done by investment firms and market experts. When reading through the document, I was expecting to find some new information or at least a compelling argument for the rebound of the coal market. But I found nothing but vague statements and simple tables and graphs. One of my favorite report features was the header photo they used on every page of wind turbines in front of a farm house.  A coal report with the only photos used being of wind turbines. So weird. ICFPhotoofWind Banks, investment firms and market experts recognize coal is a risky business and is beginning an inevitable decline because of cheap natural gas, an oversupply of thermal coal from Australia and Indonesia, and new policies by China to cut coal demand. Thanks to the great work of the Sightline Institute and Clark Williams-Derry, we have a great list of recent reports and statements by banks and investment firms about coal markets.
  • November 2012, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, 2013 Energy Outlook“We see a downward path for global coal prices…Seaborne thermal coal continues to battle with heavy physical oversupply as producers still export too much into a weak seaborne market …Inventories are bloated as demand just cannot keep up.”
  • February 2013. IHS CERA, Coal Rush: The Future of China’s Coal Market. “[I]nternational suppliers may find themselves in a much tougher market as they face competitors that previously did not exist. The major Indonesian suppliers will always compete effectively in southern China…but mines elsewhere in the world will struggle to find a competitive edge.”
  • May 2013Deutsche Bank, Commodities Special Report, Thermal Coal: Coal At A Crossroads. (No URL, but summarized here.) “[N]ew demand preferences in the largest consuming nations will result in much lower demand growth going forward, pushing prices lower in real terms through 2020.”
  • June 2013. BernsteinResearch, Asian Coal & Power: Less, Less, Less…The Beginning of the End of Coal. (No URL, but summarized here.) “Regional miners will see almost zero demand in China from 2015…Once Chinese coal demand starts to fall, there is no robust growth market for seaborne thermal coal anywhere.”
  • July 2013. Goldman Sachs Rocks & Ores, The window for thermal coal investment is closing. ”Earning a return on incremental investment in thermal coal mining and infrastructure capacity is becoming increasingly difficult…[T]hermal coal is a geologically abundant resource in an industry with relatively low barriers to entry. As coal demand becomes increasingly constrained, the competition among suppliers is likely to intensify.”
  • September 2013Citi, The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China. ”[S]ignificant shifts in China’s economy and power sector are now under way that demand a reassessment of Chinese coal’s perpetual climb…The same macro forces that are driving the economic transition and lowering power demand should also sharply decelerate coal’s use."
  • April 2014. Morningstar, Inc. Morningstar predicts a halt in China's growth in coal use. Analysts say growth in China will come from less energy-intensive arenas. The air pollution in China is a huge problem and the report predicts that they will  shift their energy supply to nuclear, wind and hydroelectric. Although coal will be an important part of their energy portfolio, Morningstar believes that domestic minion will increase and they will increasingly be tapping their own natural gas reserves. "In our analysis, coal-fired generation peaks by 2014, then declines through 2020. Neither an economic rebalancing nor a political shift alone is sufficient to halt China's runaway coal demand growth. But together, they herald its end." Morningstar analyst Daniel Rohr said U.S. coal producers wanting to export more fuel abroad should be "very worried."

How this relates to the Tongue River Railroad

ICF is a very large corporation who makes a lot of money consulting for government and industry and developing EISs for energy and infrastructure projects, among other things. ICF is responsible for developing a market analysis for coal in the EIS for the Tongue River Railroad and the Longview coal port terminal. They will making a recommendation to the government agency about whether or not the project is economically feasible. So, ICF has a couple of options. The first one is that ICF could state in the EIS what most banking and investment firms agree on, that there is oversupply of coal in many regions, that China is moving on to different energy sources and that investing in new coal ports and coal mines is risky business. They could come to the logical conclusion that there is no public need or demand for a new coal railroad or new coal ports. However, ICF will most likely not write that because if they did they would lose business. How would they lose business? Well, the applicant, in this case the Tongue River Railroad Company, gets to pick which contractor is chosen to complete the EIS from a list of approved contractors provided by the government. Here is the description of the process directly from the Surface Transportation Board.
Once an applicant decides to use a third-party contractor to assist in the preparation of the environmental document, the next step in the process is to select a third-party contractor. SEA maintains a list of approved third-party contractors, comprised of individuals and firms with expertise and experience in environmental review of rail or transportation projects. (10) When an applicant expresses an interest in using a third-party contractor, SEA furnishes the applicant a copy of the third-party contractor list. The applicant indicates which contractor from the list it would prefer to use by formally requesting in writing SEA's approval of that contractor. (11) (SEA means Section of Environmental Analysis)
So, in the first scenario, ICF writes something that Arch Coal and Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) don't like. Then, the next time Arch Coal and BNSF see ICF International on the list of potential contractors to pick for the development of the EIS for an energy project, they will probably pick a different one. End of story. ICF would lose large industry contracts. The second scenario is that ICF International will say exactly what they state in their white paper. They will say that the global and domestic market for coal is rebounding and will be strong in the future and so the building of the coal ports and the Tongue River Railroad makes sense from a market standpoint. At that point, our agency staff will have to decide if they agree with that analysis. But, as we all know, agencies are underfunded, understaffed and definitely are not experts on global coal markets. So, they will most likely accept the conclusions of ICF. My hope is that the really nice and thoughtful people that I have met from ICF International who are working on the EIS for the Tongue River Railroad take the time and do their research on coal and coal markets and not rely on this 7-page white paper completed by their colleagues. Because if this is the level of analysis that we can expect to get in our EIS, we're all screwed.          
Wally McRae packed The Roxy and brought a little EOB to Missoula, Montana last week for a fundraiser for Rosebud Protective Association. It was spectacular show. DSC_4555 DSC_4567 DSC_4554 DSC_4566 DSC_4562 DSC_4603 DSC_4591 DSC_4578

Our eyes met from across the pen. Challenge accepted. It was on.

To Catch A Goat You Must Never Hesitate And Never Let Go

I was alone and had to treat an eye infection in a 45 lb goat kid before it spread to the rest of the herd. She was wild. I got within four feet of her, threw myself in her general direction and was able to grab a leg. Number one rule of catching a goat, do not hesitate. She dragged me at least four feet across the pen and we ended up with me flat on my back in mud and her on top of my chest, with my left arm wrapped around her neck and my right arm wrapped around her lower abdomen. The Teramycin (antibiotic) was in my front right pocket of my jeans. How was I going to get it out, open the tube and squeeze it in her eye? Always remember, the number two rule of catching a goat is if you have it, you do not let go even if it’s kicking you in the face.  Using strength found in the "I f****** hate goats" part of my brain, I rolled onto my side and then rolled again so I was laying on top of her. Using my body weight as leverage, I grabbed the medicine out of my pocket, untwisted the cap with the same hand I was holding it in, held her eye open and squirted it in.

To Catch A Goat You Must Learn How The Goat Thinks

Rule number three is to know what type of goat you are dealing with. There are three types of goats. The first is the friendly goat. This type can be identified easily by the fact that they like to press their head against your leg and slowly lean into you. They also paw at you and sometimes try to lay on your lap even though, when full grown, they are 150 pounds. They think you are amazing and will do nothing to hurt them, ever. This is the stupidest type of goat but also, the most awesome. The second type is the indifferent goat. This is your normal, average, run of the mill goat that generally goes where it should, when it should and is quite indifferent your existence. All you are is the bringer of food in the winter. This type can be identified by their air of indifference and lack of gratitude. They are of average intelligence. The third type is the wild goat. This type is the kind that if one day you stopped feeding and watering them they would be fine. They’d go feral quicker than a dog rolls in fresh horse shit. You are not irrelevant to them. You are a threat. This type can be identified by the look in their eyes and their location on the outer edge of the herd. They are always watching you. They are smarter than you.

I'm watching you gif

To Catch A Goat You Must Prepare Thyself

Rule number four is to wear sensible footwear. Cowboy boots? Really? That’s a recipe for slipping and falling on your ass. Oh, and rule number five is don’t have anything sharp in your pockets.

To Catch Goat Type I: The Friendly Goat

The Friendly Goat The goat walks up to you and asks you what it can do for you today. You scratch it on the head and say thank you goat, please follow me.

To Catch A Goat Type II: The Indifferent Goat

V37 The goat notices you walk into the pen but quickly loses interest.  You use your zen-like, emotionless and calm demeanor you’ve cultivated over the years to lull it into a false sense of security. Rule number six is you never make eye contact with the target. NEVER. Do not look at it, do not think about it, do not acknowledge its existence. Your calm mind is their calm mind. If you get angry or agitated so does the goat. Rule number seven is YOU DO NOT GET ANGRY. You slowly walk through the herd scritching and petting other goats till you are near it and then in one motion, too quick to be registered by the goat, you grab it and hold on for dear life. They are stronger than they look and you just startled them. The qualifier rule here is that if it is a wild goat, rule number six and seven are null and void. 

To Catch A Goat Type III: The Wild Goat

Goat herd The goat knew you were going to come in to the pen to try to catch it before you even opened your eyes that morning. There is no way in hell they are letting you get near them. So, what is a goat rancher to do? It usually involves at least two people unless you're an expert goat catcher like myself. You get as close as you can, have someone else block off their main exit and you throw yourself in their general direction, arms out in front of you, aiming to grab on to a back foot and if you are lucky enough to get that back foot, you hold on like you’ve never held on to anything before in your life.  Rule number eight is to watch out for their horns. There is no more zen, no more quiet movements through the herd. It is all out tackle football. You cannot have any regard for your body. You must act with decisiveness. Rule number nine, if you hesitate, you lose. Now, there are many life lessons to be learned from this. For me, it is that I should learn to rope and build a sorting pen that goats can't escape from.  
Yesterday, a man named Norm Asbjornson gave $50 million to Montana State University to build a new engineering and innovation center. That was a very generous contribution. However, I feel the need to point out that Mr. Asbjornson was also the largest contributor to Western Tradition Partnership (WTP) aka American Tradition Partnership (ATP), the organization that successfully overturned Montana's century old ban on corporate spending in elections. A ban that Montanan's overwhelmingly support.  Asbjornson gave $50,000 to WTP in August 2008. His heating and cooling company in Tulsa, Okla., gave $20,000 to them in October 2010. Asbjornson said he gave money to WTP in part because the group was working to elect state representatives who embodied Montanan values. I'm not sure how a organization like WTP, which was run by a D.C. insider out of his office in Virginia, reflects Montana values. I also don't understand how Mr. Asbjornson could plead ignorance on WTP's tactics or methods considering one of WTP's main selling points was that you could influence elections and remain completely anonymous. I also think you'd want to know that the organization you were contributing to, especially to the tune of $70,000, was a legitimate, law abiding organization. Here's just a smattering of some of the illegal and unscrupulous activities of WTP in Montana during the last couple election cycles.
  • WTP collected almost $1.1 million between March 2008 and December 2010 to influence state and local elections through nasty personal attacks on moderate Republican candidates and statewide Democratic candidates.
  • WTP illegally coordinated with right wing extremist candidates through the business Direct Mail and Communications, run by Christian LeFer.
  • WTP funded attacks on Democrat Steve Bullock sending out two fake newspapers to Montana residents in the final weeks of the race portraying him as soft on child predators.
  • WTP exploited gaps in regulation between election authorities and the Internal Revenue Service to pour tens of millions of dollars from secret donors into political campaigns
  • WTP misled the IRS about their political activities.
  • WTP sued the state of Montana and successfully overturned Montana's century old ban on corporate spending in elections.
Those are just some of the highlights. For the record, WTP also went after my mother, Debra Bonogofsky, in her primary race with Dan Kennedy in 2010 for Montana House District 57. She filed numerous complaints against Kennedy and WTP with the Montana Commissioner for Political Practices and she won them all. But that all brings me back to the subject of Mr. Asbjornson and his donation to MSU. Governor Bullock, who was the biggest target of WTP as he ran for Governor and who fought WTP as Montana' s Attorney General,  said yesterday,
"The donor, Norm Asbjornson, represents the spirit of generosity that makes Montana great."
Maybe he didn't know that Mr. Asbjornson was the largest donor to WTP or most likely, it's just politics. No permanent friends, no permanent enemies. I'm not naive. I'm not saying that MSU shouldn't have accepted the money or that it shouldn't be celebrated. But what I am saying is that the media should have pointed out Mr. Asbjornson's connection to WTP. The money Asbjornson gave to MSU was generous and important and will impact Montanan's for generations. But he also actively supported an organization that badly damaged Montana's democratic processes and institutions.  Those actions will have negative repercussions on Montanans, and arguably will have more impact than his donation to MSU,  for generations to come. Just thought someone should point that out. (For more information about WTP and their illegal activities, just go to Frontline and read their great coverage of the group and dark money in politics.)    
Because sometimes winter on the farm can get long. And, because we can.    
As I contemplate the coming snow storm that is breathing down Montana’s neck, threatening to dump yet another foot of snow on the ground and bring us sub zero temperatures for four days in a row, I am reminded of a series of events in 2010 that culminated with me falling asleep in front of the wood stove on Christmas Eve at 3:00 a.m. fully dressed in my Carhart bibs with four dogs curled around me and six baby goats in a cardboard box. October

Perfecto, the goat buck escaped out of his pen and got in with the does, where he definitely should not have been, which caused

Perfecto. The Goat Buck.

numerous goat does to get pregnant earlier than they should have. Time passed and they grew bigger and bigger....


Soon, it was 5 months later, Christmas Eve 2010. I was alone because

Christmas Trees

Mike changed his travel schedule and left town early to visit his parents for Christmas in Rapid City, because

Mike with goat

there was a major winter storm coming that dumped a foot of snow on the ground and brought sub-zero temperatures with it, which caused


 three goat does went into labor, forcing me to hastily convert our tack room into a makeshift kidding barn that had no heat or light but it was better than nothing, and I had to

Goat doe in tack room

move three large, pregnant, recalcitrant does 200 yards up a hill from the red barn to the tack room in 1 foot of snow, in the dark, by myself, leading to

The snow hill

ten hours of kidding out does,

Goat doe and kid

and bringing their kids inside to the wood stove periodically to keep them warm, which led to

Goat Kids In Front of Fireplace

me falling asleep in front of the wood stove with 4 dogs curled around me and 6 baby goats in a cardboard box next to the stove at 3:00 a.m., on Christmas Eve, in my Carhart bibs. 


Now, I know what you’re thinking. You are thinking, well Alexis, you could have avoided all of that by preventing Perfecto from getting out of his pen. That, my friend, is true. But, as you can probably imagine from reading Goat Pimp, a horny goat buck is difficult to control. So here we are, the end of February, Perfecto bred the does when he should have, we are having kids when we planned to, and we are faced with another major winter storm leading us to convert the tack room into a kidding area. But one thing is different this year. Mike is home so if anything goes wrong, he’s the one that has to deal with it.