While western New Year’s 2015 parties may be a memory for most, nearly 1.5 billion people in China are celebrating the beginning of the year 4713.
Starting today, it is the year of yáng – a Chinese word meaning goat, sheep or ram (a male sheep).
The traditional Chinese calendar works on a 12-year lunar cycle and associates each year with an animal like a snake, pig, rat or horse. People who are born in a given year are thought to possess the same traits as that animal.
According to Chinese folklore, people born in the years 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003 and new babies in 2105 are amicable, social, persevering, hardworking and considerate. Goat and sheep people are known to look gentle from the outside, but are fierce on the inside.
But, how do those characteristics appear in a goat, sheep or ram living on a farm in the Kootenays?
Richard and Marg Malcolm of Rainbow Recovery Farm in Casino say they can see some of the same traits in the animals they raise on their land.
“They are so friendly and personable,” said Marg.
“They can actually get into a bit of trouble if they don’t have enough to do. We had a goat climb a ladder and I though she was going to jump and hurt herself, but she just turned around and climbed back down.”
Richard says the couple knew they had to get at least two goats if they were going to get one.
“When you get a goat, the recommendation is that you get more than one, or at least spend a lot of time with them,” he said. “They really like to be sociable.”
There is some debate out there about whether it is officially the year of the sheep, or the year of the goat, and the Malcolm’s say there are some differences between the two farm animals.
“Goats are a bit more headstrong than the sheep, but neither are antisocial like some people might think,” she said.
“Usually with the sheep, they go along as a unit mostly,” he said. “Goats will have little groups.”
The two animals like to eat differently as well.
“The goats are more of a browser, and the sheep are grazers,” said Richard. “A goat will stand up to eat the leaves off a tree, but sheep like grass on the ground.”
At the Rainbow Recovery Farm, some of the animal, like the newest goat Fireweed, are treated as pets, with a collar and a leash, and even jumping up on Marg’s lap for a snuggle – portraying traits that may seem closer to a domesticated dog. Even within species, she says each animal has its own personality.
“Most animals, they have really great individual personalities,” she said. “I think that if you get involved with them, you can really see it, but not a lot of people do that.”
Along with the goats, sheep and rams at the farm are chickens, ducks, pigs, horses, cows and bees, providing meat, honey, eggs and milk for the Malcolm’s, and also to their customers.
Everything at the farm is certified natural, meaning no harmful chemicals in or around the property, and the Malcolm’s get all natural feed for the animals. For more information about their all-natural products, call the Rainbow Recovery Farm at 250-368-5376.
And to all those following the Chinese calendar, Gong Hey Fat Choy (Happy New Year)!