Goats Solve Everything

My friend has a problem.

For generations, her family has owned one of those little islands you see when you look out there. You know, out there. Those Ipswich islands? One of those is hers.

It sounds elegant, sophisticated, even millionairish to own an island, but the truth is more complicated.

Because of the island’s location — in that ultra-protected zone where the land oozes into marsh and the marsh morphs into ocean — my friend has been absolutely prohibited from erecting any structure on the island.

So she’s paying property taxes on a completely unusable island.


Maybe a “glamping” tent — you know, one of those huge luxury pop-ups with all the comforts of home. It’s big, it’s waterproof, with mosquito-net windows and doors, even a watertight floor. You add a nice rug, some bean-baggy cushions, a table, some LED lamps, maybe even a chandelier — voilà! Chez Atlantique.

Only one little problem: The island is absolutely covered in poison ivy.

This, however, is, I think, one of those magical moments when it actually helpsto be an “outsidah” like me — someone relatively new to Ipswich and the Cape Ann area — someone who spent three decades in the Midwest and then a quarter-century in the Arizona desert before moving here. Sometimes you need someone without centuries of New England customs and assumptions baked into his brain. Someone who can think outside the ZBA, and bring fresh, maybe even shocking new perspectives to practical problems.

The first suggestion I made to my island-owner friend was very simple: GOATS. Put goats on the island, to eat the poison ivy. As any of the now-popular goat-rental businesses will tell you, goats will eat anything, but probably most important to you, if you have poison ivy on your property, is that they eat poison ivy. (To them, I guess, it’s like low-grade jalapeño. A special treat, if you’re in the mood for Mexican food.) You can rent a goat, or goats, for some number of days, tether them to a stake in the middle of your poison ivy patch, and within a few days, you’re delighted to find that your property-value kryptonite has disappeared.

Of course, my friend’s island has the disadvantage of being an island. Which means it’s surrounded by water. If goats were seals, no problem. They could swim to the island and start chowing down. But because goats have legs and hooves instead of those funky webbed flippers, they’ll need to be transported to your island. Which leads to my second brilliant idea: BOATS FOR GOATS. This could be a money-making enterprise for anyone who owns a boat. Your potential customer base includes everyone in the world who owns an island overrun by poison ivy.

My friend remained unconvinced. She reminded me that tides come and go, and her island can be nearly submerged at high tide. As the ocean rises, a tethered goat will be a sitting duck — well, not literally a sitting duck, because ducks float, but you get the idea. A tethered goat in the midst of a rising sea would be in serious trouble.

I was undeterred. Such challenges only inspire new sparks of genius. I countered with another brilliant innovation: FLOATS FOR GOATS. Cute little water wings that strap on around the animal, with a springy elastic tether to keep the goat safely connected to the island yet capable of breathing oxygen even on astronomical-high-tide days. Casually drifting on the surface of the Atlantic on a sunny summer day will hardly feel like an inconvenience to a hard-working goat. I think after word gets out, goats will actually vie for astronomical-high-tide duty.

And when the weather turns ugly: RAINCOATS FOR GOATS.

See? Every problem has a solution.



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