GRAY — A winter hike at Ten Apple Farm is similar to other snowy woodland adventures in Maine — except for the goats.
Farm owners Margaret Hathaway and Karl Schatz host a series of seasonal goat hikes on their 18 acres in Gray, allowing visitors to learn more about the animals while exploring the woods alongside them.
“You’re all goats today,” said Schatz at the onset of an afternoon hike Jan. 14. “You’re all part of the herd.”
Hathaway and Schatz live at Ten Apple Farm on Falmouth Road with their three daughters and a host of animals, including the herd of nine French alpine dairy goats.
The undeniable stars of the goat hike are Flyrod, Percival, Toka, Sarah, Emma Rose, Prunella, Maxine, Bobbette and Moxie. Original members of the herd Flyrod and Percival were named for notable Mainers Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby and Percival Baxter, respectively.
At times the goats lead the hikes, at other times they hang back, but they almost always are trying to find something to munch on.
“They’re very friendly,” Schatz said. “They like to explore and eat.”
The six goats on the hike weren’t particularly picky, sampling bark, twigs, ferns and even looking to taste a reporter’s notebook.
While they seemed to have a particular affinity for hikers who helped find them a snack, the goats were generally friendly and curious about their human trail companions.
Hathaway and Schatz have been offering the hikes for about seven years.
Hathaway is from Kansas and Schatz is originally from Hallowell. They met working in New York City, decided to pursue farm life and embarked on a year-long journey to learn about raising goats.
Hathaway chronicled their experiences in a memoir, “The Year of the Goat,” and has since published several other books. The couple married and moved to Maine, buying Ten Apple Farm in 2005.
Not knowing much about goats beforehand, they depended on knowledge shared by others who did. Because “people really opened up their houses and their lives” to them, Hathaway said, they see their hikes and workshops as a way of continuing that spirit.
After the trek around an approximately 1½-mile loop, hikers return to the barn for a lesson in goat milking, along with a snack of milk and cookies in the farm kitchen.
Andrew Majewski of Portland, whose family joined the Jan. 14 hike, said it was a “lovely time” and that “it’s great that they let you into their house.”
Majewski and his wife Erica have brought their two sons to Gray for three hikes, now adding a winter hike to their tally.
“I think we just have mud season left,” Majeweski joked.
Three more winter goat hikes are scheduled at the farm on Jan. 21, Feb. 4 and Feb. 11.
The Jan. 14 event was attended mostly by families, but Hathaway said the makeup varies from hike to hike. The outings have drawn a diverse group, she said, from bachelorette parties to goat enthusiasts just looking to learn more about the animals.
The hikes provide the goats with much-needed exercise and fresh air during the cold winter months.
“They’ve been cooped up in the barn for a while now,” Schatz said.
Nik Charov of South Portland joked that the trek through the woods was also welcome winter exercise for his family.
His sister gave the goat hike to him, his wife and kids as a present.
“Lord knows where she found it,” he said, laughing. “Probably online.”
Schatz said they started posting about the hikes on Facebook last year, and the popularity has “just kind of exploded.”
He said the hikes max out at about 20 people, and they have had long waiting lists in the past of roughly 100 people.
Visitors can RSVP for existing hikes or schedule a private hike by emailing the farm. Hikes are $10 for adults and $5 for children.
“I think the past couple years, interest in goats has taken off,” Schatz said.
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
One of the nine goats at Ten Apple Farm in Gray walks through the woods with other participants at a Jan. 14 hike.
The goats at Ten Apple Farm in Gray weren’t camera shy during a Jan. 14 goat hike through the woods.
Human and goat participants during the Jan. 14 goat hike at Ten Apple Farm in Gray.
The goats were friendly and didn’t seem to mind being petted during the Jan. 14 goat hike at Ten Apple Farm in Gray.