Fantasy Herding Featured

Avatar_IngridGabriel

You heard it here first, my friends – my latest vision for boutique interests. But while I am an infinitely refreshing spring of brilliant inspiration (remember my idea to encourage crop circles at English Camp a few years ago, or my cremains snow globes?), I am also a very busy person. I do not have time to manifest. Therefore, some reader with less to do and with sufficient funds will need to deploy my new entrepreneurial scheme. (I am available for consulting services.)

It seems like as a collective, we who call the San Juan Islands home are eternally on the quest to provide economic development opportunities while, simultaneously, expanding recreational options for our visitors. I predict that Fantasy Herding could be an excellent “shoulder-season” eco-agri-enviro-organic-varietal-sustainable mash-up of everything visitors like. Goats/sheep, wine, cheese, food, scenery, nature, dogs, pants… something for everyone.

My epiphany occurred when I was watching (with bemused expression) YouTube videos chronicling the latest craze in spiritual seeking – yoga with and among baby goats. Essentially, the yoga practitioner is doing the usual asannas, poses, bends and stretches, but the novelty is that kids are everywhere. On your mat. In your bag. Eating your mat. Eating your bag. Hopping, zinging and ricocheting from someone in lotus position to someone in Warrior Pose. Cavorting and playing under the bridge of someone’s back bend.

As anyone with an intimate knowledge of goats will tell you, they are a curious and energetic species. And while some of their charm may wear off as they reach maturity, the kids are joyful bundles of ungulate fun. While I do not know that having a goat crawl down your shirt or facing downward into a puddle of goat pee really does much to support contemplative practice, I would try it given the opportunity. A lot of people will try it. Those little goats are just adorable.

That got me thinking of how much people like it when animals are integrated into human activities. Just the presence of other creatures makes us happier. We aren’t especially reciprocal – when was the last time you offered to go mousing with your cat or fetch your dog’s tennis ball? But we find benefit in dragging animals to libraries for reading circles, or forcing them to wear vests and act as fluffy therapists, helping us manage our anxieties and life-challenges. Apparently, they even provide a pathway to enlightenment, or mindfulness, or goatness, or something.

In any case, Baby Goat Yoga gave me the idea that there is a whole universe of human-goat-visitor business enterprises just waiting to be exploited that consumers have not even imagined. Yet. Perhaps goat yoga is an echo of some other human longing that is waiting to find expression. Perhaps we Americans, far removed from crook and collie, have a deep, atavistic desire to herd.

There are herders still in the world, of course. Herding has not become extinct or even obsolete. The practice of moving domestic grazing animals from field to field, pasture to pasture is as old as civilization. But most of us, even if we live in the country, don’t keep flocks or herds of any kind and it is my, now fervent …zealous bordering on radical, even…belief that a golden era in amateur herding is about to dawn.

Please consider if you will, my pitch for Fantasy Herding.

Essentially, FH is a quality immersion experience whereby Guests (now called “herders”) enjoy a structured herding idyll in a luxury-rustic setting. Herders are transported from the ferry landing via Provencal farm wagon to a beautifully shabby Catalan-styled resort. After changing into resort wear consisting of striped pantaloons, a linen tunic, and a beret, and outfitted with an ergonomic crook (available for purchase at the gift store) herders are assigned a herding dog of their choice. Several American Kennel Club recognized herding breeds are represented and the novice herder may choose between a flock of sheep and a herd of goats. Other, less active herd-able animals like geese and pigs are also available for the herding-hesitant or mobility-reluctant guest. All guests receive personalized instruction in herding basics.

The Fantasy Herd-scape includes thatched huts (read “tiny taverns”) that dot rolling, kelly green hummocks (who doesn’t love a good hummock?) stretching out to the sea (even fantasy herding takes a fair bit of acreage). Pirouetting goats, sedated sheep and Mensa- qualified dogs attend to the herders every comfort. There will be flocks of paying customers among flocks of recreational sheep realizing their long-repressed desire to herd. For a few days, guest herders are transported into a sweet and simple environment where a shepherd’s crook will feel like a magic wand, symbolizing all that is bucolic, organic and Old World.

A herding therapist is available at all times should the initial act of herding re-stimulate any past life trauma or deep emotions. Herders are encouraged to journal about their experience and de-stress with a variety of shepherd-inspired spa services such as the Goat Milk Soak. And it goes without saying that after a round of herding out on the greens, the weary herder resuscitates with excellent wines, and dines from a hearty organic menu cooked from foods grown right on the estate.

My Fantasy Herding fantasy extends far beyond a few city dwellers on vacation. I envision a year-round retreat that caters to specialty interests. The potential for workshops and seminars is vast and very much in the spirit of Baby Goat Yoga.

Consider, if you will, just a few of the possibilities:

French Language Immersion herding

Recovery from Something-or-Other Herding</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">Herding and Birding

Hot Yoga Herding (still working on the details of what that will look like)

Herding for Lovers (may include nudity and sexual content)

Biblical Herding (also known as Hallelujah Herding)

Crook and Collie Technique

Holiday Herding (bring your whole family)

Co-dependent Herding (where a group of herders just herd each other)

Herding Addiction Herding (the unfortunate consequence of obsessive herding)

Healing Touch Herding

Herding Cleanse and Detox (still working out the details of that one as well)

Beyond the herding retreat, I see a line of herding apparel and accessories. I see Herding Destination Weddings and franchises and public offerings. I see a trade magazine (Herd) and national organization that responds to the needs of the Fantasy Herding industry.

Call me a dreamer, but in a country that offers baby goat inclusive yoga, I believe opportunities abound for faux pastoral leisure. I urge you to take my idea and run with it while I turn my attention to my next inspired idea - a Camel-like brassiere with reservoir cups that can be filled with a favorite beverage (like mojitos), simultaneously enlarging the bust line and providing refreshment through a discrete drinking straw.


Ingrid took 2nd prize in short fiction prose at the San Juan County Fair. She also took home a blue ribbon for poetry.

 

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