Monday, July 7, 2008

Innermost Circle of Hell

Dante had it wrong. The inner circle of hell is not frozen, and Judas, Brutus, and Cassius are certainly not there. The inner circle of hell is a small shed in Mars Hill, NC, and it contains 17 young male goats. The goats themselves are not all that despicable. In fact, they're downright cute. They make hilarious noises, and they're amusing beyond belief. One can be entertained for hours on end by their antics. However, goats are also shit-machines. Literally. All they do is eat, drink, shit, and piss. They have a small shed at the bottom of the pasture where we feed them hay and have several water buckets for them to drink from. We have neglected, for about a month, to clean out this little shed, mainly because we're only at that property when we're not working. And when you come home at 8 p.m. or later from a physically demanding job, the last thing you want to do is muck out yet another barn. So, what we usually do is feed them, water them, count them to make sure they're all there and healthy, and then go up the hill to the trailer to collapse after a quick dinner. This morning, though, we both knew it had to be done. We both knew that if we let the compressed poop, piss, and hay get much deeper we'd regret it.

So this morning I woke up early (that seems to be pretty much what farmers do), and went down to muck out the barn. The first challenge was getting the boys out of the shed. Goats don't like sticks or loud noises, so I waved the pitchfork around and hit the side of the shed with it. Well, this morning the goats seemed to be more interested in eating than in worrying about me. Except for Aristotle. Aristotle fled the scene pretty quickly. What can you expect from a philosopher, really? So I personally hauled the goats out and shut the door.

Let me tell you something about the wonders of fermentation and decomposition. If you have never taken it upon yourself to compress animal waste and hay and let it sit outside during the summer, you will not know what I'm talking about. When I removed the top layer of hay, a visible vapor began to rise. Then, the smell of pure ammonia hit me in the face, and I had to stick my head out the window to catch my breath. And believe me, you don't get used to that smell. When you get used to it that's probably a bad sign. It was atrocious. I uncovered some mushrooms while I was at work. I should've collected them and brought them into Asheville to sell-- organically grown hallucinogenic shrooms. Could've made a bundle. But anyways, it was something I won't soon forget, and I will, upon my word, muck out the barn on a daily basis from here forward.

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