A barking dog:
In July, a resident of a condominium development in Fairfax, complained on Nextdoor: “There's a dog that's barking non-stop. It's been going since I got home at 9:30pm and now it's 11:30pm and it literally has not stopped. I'm unable to sleep.”
Another resident responded, “We heard him too. I'm pretty sure it was the dog guarding the goats... doing his job to keep them safe from predators.”
The initial resident was immediately forgiving, “Ohhh, thank you for responding! They must have moved the goats because they're no longer on the same hill so I thought they were gone. The goat dog is important!”
This exchange illustrates the charisma that goats and sheep possess in our communities. This universal affection has allowed these hoofed ambassadors to work freely across seven communities including two schools.
According to Todd Lando of FIRESafe Marin, “Approximately 320 acres have been grazed in Sleepy Hollow, San Anselmo, Terra Linda, Fairfax, and Lucas Valley to date.”
These 320 acres were strategically mapped adjacent to development, by the Sleepy Hollow Fire Prevention District and FIRESafe Marin, for maximum effect. This was all accomplished with “400 three-year-old wethers (neutered males), and one herd of 400 one-year-old female sheep and goats.”
The importance of fuel breaks cannot be overstated
Many people feel a sense of helplessness about fire safety, because while one neighbor works hard to clear excess brush on and near their property, the next neighbor is blissfully ignorant of the dangers of excessive fuel loads in our canyons and on our hillsides.
In March, Dick Spotswood wrote, “Some Marinites are in denial. You can find them by observing the flammable foliage abutting their homes. Others can’t afford the substantial expense of creating a 100-foot defensible perimeter on their property.”
This lack of unanimous effort puts an even greater firefighting burden on fuel breaks on our open spaces. But, if the fuel break is not continuous, it doesn’t have much firefighting value. So, why not just do it everywhere?
Well, because there are often privacy, noise and access issues that cause residents to object. So, who can skillfully and quietly and naturally (without herbicides or noisy machines) navigate clearing brush in the “de facto personal open space” in the wildland just beyond a homeowner’s back fence?
Goats and Sheep!
How do we fund the clearing of this defensible “common” space?
In March, Spotswood suggested: “We need to devise a new mechanism similar to secured loans made by sewage agencies to clear clogged lateral lines to help out.” And, yes, fees and tax funds have been the traditional way to fund open space maintenance. However, there may be an additional way.
I believe the presence of goats and sheep have a “Field of Dreams” affect on people in Marin, giving us a connection to our agricultural past.
So, how about setting up a public donation fund for the goats? It could even have a “click and give” app on a mobile phone.
As character Terrance Mann said in the movie, “They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack.”