Everybody knows during the adolescent developmental period just prior to getting boy-crazy, girls go horse-crazy. I went both kinds of crazy (and then some), and then it spread to goats. As I grew up, my pet-goat-in-my-backyard fantasy morphed into something more grandiose, yet possibly more attainable: a hobby farm starring goats as the main attraction.
This oddball longing has even spawned an alter ego–a mud-splattered, overalls-wearing, goat-milking, cheese-making, pastorally blissed-out version of myself. It feels real enough–and it’s been in my head long enough–that I have to ask, do I really want to inhabit this parallel universe? (And if so, for gods’ sake do I have to wear overalls?)
The main existential question is…am I truly serious, or am I just f*cking around? After all, though I bought my very own copy of Raising Goats for Dummies (not joking, it’s real), I’ve barely cracked the spine. The main practical question is, how does a goat farmer travel? What would become of her goats while she’s gone? The Dummies book’s index lists vaccinations, but not vacations.
So this week, in honor of Professional Pet Sitters Week 2016 (which runs from March 6 through 12), I wanted to peer into the world of…wait for it…goat farm sitting.
Let’s start broad. Wondering if there really is such a thing as farm sitting? Google it. You’ll find farm sitting opportunities everywhere from MindMyFarm.com (a placement agency), to FarmSittersUSA.com (an ad board), to Care.com (better known, to me anyway, as a source of babysitters). Farm sitting companies advertise in places like LocalHorse.com’s nationwide service directory. In Virginia, where I live, I could hire Top Dogs, a pet AND farm sitting outfit whose services include “feeding/watering and hay, stall cleaning, trough cleaning, pulling manes, trimming, body clipping, grooming, blanketing.” Their minimum per-visit fee for horses and livestock is an affordable-sounding $25. It’s not that much more than I pay someone to scoop the kitty litter.
So clearly farm sitting is a thing. I start wondering if it could me MY thing. I learn from an article by Jennifer Kongs in Mother Earth News, that farm sitting can be good on-the-job training for aspiring farmers. They get to test drive farm life with the comforting knowledge that the experience has a clear end point. I feel a little tingle. There is definitely some romance to this for me.
Isabelle Edwards, discussing farm sitting in Equine Wellness Magazine, runs down the highs and lows of being a professional farm sitter. On the up side, she says, “You get to be around and take care of the animals you enjoy, and get paid to do it. Additionally it allows you to live the rural lifestyle for a bit.” And this is a perennial conundrum for me–how to live a country life and a city life at the same time. Is this an answer?
You have to be willing to put up with some lifestyle impediments, though. As Edwards points out, people with farms are likely to travel on weekends and holidays–the same times you yourself might wish to be free. If you’re farm sitting, you are most emphatically not free–it can be ‘round-the-clock hard work. And the time you spend taking care of someone else’s animals at their home is time you can’t spend with your own animals in your home. Would I need to hire a pet sitter for my own animals while I’m off taking care of someone else’s? Yep, the logistics would need serious contemplation.
I was craving an insider’s view of this whole enterprise–maybe a memoir by a farm sitter? But a search on Amazon.com turned up only books about how to sit in an enlightening way (i.e. zen meditation), why sitting will kill you (i.e. sedentary people die young), and Chief Sitting Bull. Maybe farm sitting is a thing but it’s not yet a Thing? Or maybe people taking care of farms are too damn busy to write a book.
But hang on…when I zeroed in on “goat sitter”, eureka! I discovered the self-published memoir How I Became a Goat Sitter in Ireland by Larry Rosenwinkel–described in Amazon’s “about the author” blurb as a “world traveler, comedic inspirational speaker, four-time marathoner, triathlete, entrepreneur, yoga instructor AND circus aerialist.” What a point of view this renaissance man would have!
Exasperatingly, a “Look Inside” search on “goat” produced only 25 hits, pretty much all preceded by the word “no”–as in “no goats”–until the last line of the last page: “And look, finally, a goat!” Evidently Larry’s book would not deliver a vicarious goat sitting adventure after all.
But drilling down from farm sitting to goat sitting seemed like a promising route of inquiry–and it was. It led me to gems like TheGoatSpot.net and a goat forum on BackyardChickens.com, where a picture of what it’s really like to sit goats started to take shape.
Tune in next time to see what I found out!