- By Pam LeBlanc American-Statesman Staff
If you can’t keep a pair of blue-eyed twin Nigerian Dwarf goats in your own backyard, you may as well let them brighten your mailbox once a month.
That’s the mission behind Goat Monthly, a postcard subscription service starring Luna and Lavaca, a couple of sweet goats who live on a quirky little urban farm tucked off East Riverside Drive.
Sean “Peppy” Meyer, 28, who does marketing and branding for Buzzmill and Grizzly Hall, moved from Virginia to Austin four years ago, intent on finding a house in the woods where he could create a sustainable farm. He landed in this 1867 structure on Riverside Farms Road, an enclave of homes with an Old Austin vibe.
Today, Lavaca snoozes on the front porch. A baby goose paddles around in a plastic tub in the front yard, and a bristly pink porker named Notorious P.I.G. demands attention. Eleven baby ducks, including two crested ones with feathery pompadours, warm themselves under a heating lamp in a brooder temporarily set up in the living room.
Meyer, who wears overalls and cuts his red hair in a mullet, shares the home with his girlfriend, Cate Nisson, and three others. Together, they manage the household, grow heaps of vegetables in a sprawling garden and host weekly spiritual gatherings around a sweat lodge out back. They plan to add an apiary and rabbit hutch, too.
Meyer says society’s relationship with food is broken. He thinks small, self-sustaining communities like the one he is building are part of the answer.
The postcard business, hatched over beers on the front porch and launched almost six months ago, fits into the group’s sustainable living plan. The goats will ultimately provide milk, cheese and lotion, but they also will contribute financially through the subscriptions, which cost $25 a year. Buyers receive a postcard a month, each featuring a photo of the goats in themed costumes and a quick update on their exploits.
The latest update is a big one: Luna is expecting, with kids due in early June. She’s waddling around now, hoping someone will scratch her beard-adorned chins or scrub her coat with a curry comb.
Meyer didn’t grow up on a farm. He didn’t know anything about raising goats until he began researching it two and a half years ago. He and Nisson built a pen for them, erected a tipi where the animals could sleep, studied up on nutrition and traveled across the state to claim two tiny goats for themselves.
Now he holds special affection for the 15-month-old animals, which he calls “my girls.” “They’re majestically wonderful. They’re perfect. I never thought I’d have this relationship with them,” Meyer says.
Luna is snow white and stubby. Lavaca is splashed with white, brown and black, in a pattern Meyer calls moon-spotted. They’re also sneaky. While Meyer tends to the feathered flock indoors, Luna pokes her head through the screened door to bleat a hello.
“That’s a breach,” Meyer hollers.
Patrick Gilmore, a martial arts instructor who also lives in the house, walks by with a sandwich, headed to his grandmother’s recliner on the front porch. He frees the goat from the screen and explains that he once found Luna on the kitchen table.
“They’re this weird mixture of mischievous and smart,” Meyer says. “Luna’s a queen and Lavaca’s a princess. They’re family. I’ve never loved anything more in my life than these goats.”
He’s banking on the idea that others will love them, too. So far about 50 people subscribe to Goat Monthly. Photographer Andrew Dominguez takes most of the pictures, and Sixth Street Printing prints the postcards. Meyer hopes to grow subscribers and eventually find someone to publish a calendar featuring Luna and Lavaca.
Some people, though, are skeptical.
“From afar, looking at it through a computer screen, people are like, ‘That’s dumb,’” Meyer says. “People are like, ‘I could take pictures of goats.’”
He says it takes a team of five to wrangle the goats, design elaborate backdrops and make costumes, and each shoot requires hours of work. Have you ever tried dressing a goat?
Each postcard is stamped with a pair of tiny goat footprints. Fans seem to appreciate the throwback charm of getting a postcard in the mail.
“I think it’s cool,” Gilmore says. “I don’t want to say I’m anti-technology, but it’s nice to have something nice coming in the mail. It’s like a care package. It’s more meaningful than just clicking or sending an email.”
And that, Meyer believes, will help the business gain traction.
“How much will you invest for a smile? I think it’s worth it,” Meyer says.