BIG ISAAC -- Every morning and every evening, Teresa Freeman heads up the hill with her milking pails in hand.
Her "girls" take turns jumping onto a miniature stand, eager to get to the scoopful of high-protein feed that rests within muzzle's reach.
Unlike dairy cattle, however, these milkers produce only a few quarts a day. They're Nubian goats -- floppy eared, sharp-eyed and curious as can be.
"I just love their personalities," said Freeman, a Doddridge County resident who recently became president of the Appalachian Goat Association.
"They're just so friendly, and their eyes look like they know your thoughts."
Freeman began raising goats in 1992 after reading about a Charleston dairy goat raiser in Country Woman magazine. Intrigued by the woman's "Guinness Book of World Records'" status for milk production in an individual goat, she decided to contact her.
"My first goat, I got so excited when he told me I could have one, I just went to the stockyard and got one," Freeman said of convincing her husband Mark they needed to add goats to their menagerie of two Belgian horses, three dogs, two cats and a rooster.
Thanks to her Charleston friend's help and her own hard-earned knowledge, Freeman has learned to be a bit more selective. She now breeds her own herd with an impressive buck named Tennessee.
"He's my pride and joy," she said of the 300-pounder who has significantly improved the show quality of her herd. "I'm starting to stand at the front of the line instead of the rear."
Tennessee and the herd of about 12 produces 15 to 20 kids a year. She is having his sperm collected and frozen in November to extend his breeding potential long beyond a typical lifespan of 10-12 years.
"I try to sell the females as breeding stock, but this year I had so many male goats born I sold them for meat," Freeman said of dealing with a Charleston man who supplies ethnic food markets in New York.
"If I break even, it's barely," she added of her herd's primarily pet status. "That's with selling my extra kids and what little bit of soap I can make."
Freeman sells her Kid-At-Heart goat milk soap at Tamarack, Fort New Salem and area craft and feed stores.
Because of the high expense of maintaining a West Virginia dairy license, she cannot sell or distribute milk or related food products, however. That means, during the height of milking season, she has to daily throw away gallons not used by nursing kids or for family consumption as milk, yogurt, soft cheese and creamy fudge. The Freemans don't produce their own meat.
"It's not for everybody," she said of such trials and tribulations shared by goat keepers. Her goats also aggravate by eating the occasional rose bush, although they're more likely to snack on multiflora rose or graham crackers and bananas, she added.
Still, Freeman can't help but encourage more people to enjoy goats and give them the shelter, food, water and protection from predators they need to thrive.
"They're my children," she said. "My boys always tease me that I love the goats more than them."
The Appalachian Goat Association has about 40 members from West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Group members generally keeps goats as pets or for hobby use in dairy, fiber or meat production or brush removal. They meet at 2 p.m. the first Sunday of each month at the Presbyterian church in Spencer. For more information about the association, call Freeman at 782-1572.
Regional editor Nora Edinger can be reached at 626-1403 or by e-mail at email@example.com.