12 June, 2020

Days of the goat, blog edition: Boone

The goats. Boone is the white one. Photo by AHay.

It's earlier than I normally write this, but I've got a day ahead of me and I wanted to get this down. I started working this week -- my first "job" of any sort outside my writing for about a year. Freelancing has gradually dried up, for all the reasons that freelancing does.  But let me tell you about the job. I work at a day shelter for homeless men -- the same place I volunteered once a week before the pandemic hit. When the severity of COVI-19 became clear, the shelter decided to cut volunteers, for both their safety and the safety of the clients. I'm unusually young for a volunteer; many are retired and fall within an endangered class.  And try as I did to get them to make an exception for me, they didn't.  

I can't say I blame them.  Shelters, even the good ones, end up with an institutional hair or two; it's about managing limited resources for the greatest possible use, and I have to admit that St. John's Center for Homeless Men does this better than most. 

At the same time, at home we've borrowed four goats to clear out the overgrowth in our backyard. This wasn't necessarily my idea; it was my wife's. But she works at the shelter as well, in the housing program, and she, along with the rest of the regular staff, have also been picking up the work that was done entirely by volunteers pre-pandemic. Everything from answering phones to passing out soap for the showers was done entirely by volunteers. 18 a day. So it's fair to say that everyone on staff has been overwhelmed and handling the best they can since early March. 

So my wife locked on the idea of goats. There's a logic to it. Goats clear pasture with frightening speed, and we have A LOT of undergrowth that's impeded our forward progress on some plans we've had for the back yard (Check out the Abandoned Garden Project for more on that.)  Also... well... the idea of goats is kind of cool. And my wife is really good finding things. Being a mostly lifelong resident of Louisville and something of a people person and natural networker, she's highly effective at finding things. 

God bless her for that, and for marrying a misanthrope saved only by grace and a lingering social conscience.

Of course, goats in the actual aren't the same as goats in the ideal. Goats do graze, and do it quickly, especially for of them.  They eat, they shit pellets like a broken bb gun, and they sleep. It's taken most of the first week to get them to warm up to us, especially Betty, the lone female. The other three are castrated males: Wally, Merlin (the brains of the outfit) and Boone. 

There are challenges, of course. And a learning curve. I grew up agriculturally adjacent and Amanda is from Louisville. It's true we have neighbors with chickens, and geese, and -- yes -- goats. But "domesticated" livestock are different than, say, domesticated dogs and cats. They just are.  

And we're learning. It's mostly going well. I'll report on more of it later on. I do, probably out of habit, connect these two situations -- the goats in my backyard and my new position as Temporary Shelter Staff... because it IS a temporary position. And I don't mind that, either. Domesticated goats in our backyard and me as a paid staff member anywhere, even a place I have missed and am really happy to be back in and able to help both have a FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY sort of feel.  I'm peripatetic and stubborn by nature. I can be both affectionate and taciturn. Some people think I have a personality that has horns. I'm good with that.

Another reason why I think the goats, my new job, and me are all somehow connected by more than coincidence -- one of them is named Boone... which has been the name of my fictional narrator in more than two dozen stories, one novel and two novellas ... over the past 20 years.

More later. Gotta go.