For The Love of Goats at Saddleback Ranch…
Once upon a time, a man and his wife bought a nice home with acreage in Northeast Redding. They called it Saddleback Ranch. The first thing the man built on their new land was a big, round fence to create a pasture for his wife’s horse, Misty. But soon the wife saw that Misty was lonely, so she asked her husband to buy a couple of goats to give the horse company. He added to their family two female Nigerian dwarf goats, Cinder and Ella.
The man saw his goats needed shelter, so he began to build. Drawing from an unlimited supply of good, used wood – old pallets dumped by local businesses – the man built and built and built. He built another fence, this time to enclose a goat pen. He built a house for the goats. He built feeding stations downstairs and sheltering attics upstairs. He was delighted when he saw much how the goats enjoyed everything he built for them.
“Goats are fun to watch. They love to climb and run and jump,” says Jay Bordsen, owner of Saddleback Ranch. “It was so much fun to build something and have the goats climbing all over it. They really showed their appreciation. Boy, that just ignited me.”
He decided to build some more and increase his tribe. Six years later, Saddleback Ranch counts five goat pens, each filled with housing, toys and obstacles. First, Bordsen expanded the original pen. Using repurposed pallet wood, he built a variety of housing, erected a tower and connected these goat attractions with walkways. He even constructed a goat teeter-totter, with car tires half-buried in the ground beneath the ends to act as cushions, eliminating shock on his goat’s legs.
He christened the finished complex Goat Disneyland, built for shelter, food and fun. Then he began work on the free standing Goat Hotel pen, putting things together directly from his imagination. “I don’t have blueprints,” he says. “It pops into my head, and I look at my wood and I put it together. I’m not a carpenter, but it turns out I am a great assembler.”
To grow his tribe, Bordsen bought a little, borrowed a little, bred a lot. With a five-month gestation period, does mature within a year and each delivers three or four kids. Five years saw the births of generations, ending in a crescendo of population explosion. “We had nine births in 30 days,” he exclaims. “That’s 22 babies, which is pretty wild.”
The Bordsens learned a lot from fellow goat enthusiast Kim Shira. “I was their goat mentor for six months, until they got their feet wet,” she says. “I helped them with delivery issues, how to tube-feed a baby goat, vaccinations, that sort of thing.”
She was highly impressed by Bordsen’s woodcraft. “Jay has an imagination like Walt Disney,” she says. “I told him how goats love obstacles, and he built these amazing structures, all for the love of goats.”
Bordsen feeds his tribe the best alfalfa he can find, and he designed a bulk feeder that allows the goats easier access than a box feeder. “This way they don’t have to work so hard for it,” he says. “I spoil my goats.” But that doesn’t mean spoiled behavior. “My goats are friendly, not rude,” he adds. If he sees one about to jump up on a visitor, a soft word is all that’s needed to save a good shirt.
When word got out, he also began to fill his pens with goats donated to Saddleback Ranch. “After it took off, people gave me goats,” he says. “When they saw how I sheltered them, how I treated them, people wanted their goats to live with me.” The number of goats on site now nears 60.
Saddleback Ranch was never intended to be a commercial venture, and Bordsen does not intend to sell any of his goats, but one time he made an exception. A family member told him that a Round Mountain couple’s horse lost its only companion when their mare passed away. They decided to buy a couple of goats to give the horse company.
Bordsen invited them over and took them into the largest of his pens, Goat Village. Pam Stephens and her husband sat on a “Zen Deck,” a low wooden platform crafted to allow visitors to become one with the goats. Very well crafted, it turned out. “We sat in the pen and these little goats climbed into our laps,” Stephens recalls. “We had already chosen their names, Star and Thistle, and I think that was the kind of thing he wanted to see. He wanted to see if we would be good people for goats.”
Impressed by Bordsen’s works in wood, the Stephens built smaller versions for their goats, with logs, a balance beam and a ramp to the top of a two-goat-story house. “They’re going to jump on anything, so you have to secure it,” says Stephens. “They’re so sweet and lovable and fun. If they see us, they call us to their pen. We visit them every two hours or so, anyway.”
Bordsen opens Saddleback Ranch to visitors by appointment. He does not promote, but relies on word of mouth. To tour his goats’ wood-hewn wonderland, email email@example.com.