Goat Sitting?

I was accepted to house and cat-sit in Bridgetown, Western Australia. I ended up also feeding two goats each day. The homeowner and I became instant friends.

Days 355-356

I woke up in my motel in Ravensthorpe, Western Australia, feeling surprisingly refreshed. I didn’t have cell service or WiFi, so I wasn’t sure if the deadline for signing papers for a house I was purchasing in Missouri was that day or the next. I packed up, got gas, and started driving to Albany. 

After about an hour of driving, my mom called through Facebook messenger when cell service appeared. She said I needed to sign papers within the next three hours. It was the first time I had cell service in more than 15 hours, but I was still in the middle of nowhere. I told her I was driving to Albany and should be there in two and a half hours. There were 24 pages to sign. 

I kept running into construction zones where the speed was reduced. I was getting nervous that I wouldn’t make it in time, and my cell service was cutting in and out. After another 30 minutes, I came to a spot with public toilets. I pulled over and went through each page. It took me an hour because it had to refresh each time I signed. 

I got back on the road and arrived in Albany, a city on the southern coast. It was the biggest city I had seen in a week. It was beautiful, and I wanted to spend time there, but I needed to get to the home where I would be cat-sitting in Bridgetown. I pulled over for lunch on the waterfront and scarfed down some pizza. 

Periods of light rain to heavy downpours occurred as I made my way. The sun blinded me as it set. It would be another three hours before Bridgetown. The road curved up and down green pastures in the mountains. Giant trees often covered the route like a canopy. It was a stark contrast to what I experienced on the Nullarbor. 

Finally, at 6:30 pm, I arrived at my destination. Alex welcomed me inside, showed me my room, introduced me to the two cats, and we sat on the couch, getting to know each other over some red wine. 

Alex was my age: 39. She is tall, fit, and has long, straight, blonde hair. She’s from England but lived in Japan and Hong Kong for nine years before moving to Sydney. She moved to the small rural town of Bridgetown just five months prior.

Alex met an English man in Hong Kong and got married after two years of dating. After two years of marriage, they divorced. We bonded over our experiences with marriage and divorce. After her divorce, Alex was in Singapore for a day for work. She went on Tinder just to see what was out there. It was the same curiosity I had when I was reintroduced to dating – does anybody like me? She wanted to see what kind of guys were attracted to her. 

Alex matched with a guy named Matt. He is Australian and was there temporarily. For the next four months, they didn’t talk. Finally, Matt messaged Alex, and they started to get to know each other. After a few months of messaging, Matt wanted to meet Alex in person. He asked if he could fly to Hong Kong on her birthday. Alex was having a birthday party that weekend and told him he was not invited. She worried; If I don’t like him, it’ll be awkward, and it’ll ruin my birthday. If I do like him, I’ll have awkward conversations introducing him to everyone. 

The weekend after her birthday party, Matt flew from Australia to Hong Kong to meet Alex for the first time. They hadn’t talked on the phone; they had only messaged. Thankfully, they hit it off. After the weekend, they wanted to spend more time together, but she worried that maybe they were just blind because of the excitement. So Matt flew back to Australia for four days. Then he was right back to Hong Kong. 

After briefly dating, Alex moved to Sydney, Australia. Matt works for an oil rig in the ocean between Melbourne and Tasmania. He works for a month at a time, and then he’s home for a month. Alex didn’t mind the arrangement because it gave her a month to herself and a month with him. 

Matt is from Albany in Western Australia. They both had their high school class reunions coming up. Alex went to an all girl-prep school in London, and Matt was from a small town in Australia. Their gatherings couldn’t have been more different. They chose to attend Matt’s reunion, and while in the area, they looked at some land in Bridgetown. They fell in love with a piece of property and wanted to build a home on it. They are currently in the early stages of building a house on the property.

Alex went to Oxford University and worked remotely in various jobs, but recently decided to start her own company with nutrition supplements. She showed me pictures of when she was in a women’s bodybuilding competition in Hong Kong. Alex looked amazing! It’s a lot of hard work, but she enjoys doing it from time to time. 

Alex and Matt turned 40 later that year, and I’m only a few months behind them. We talked about ways to celebrate and how we don’t feel like we’re old – 40 is the new 30. 

Alex and I were having such a fun time that we opened another bottle of wine. She tended to the fire in the fireplace on the cold night. I was impressed with her courage to make so many moves in life that put her in a brand new territory, whether it be a job or a location. 

The night went on, and we decided to open a third bottle of wine. Alex told me about her dad’s recent diagnosis of stage four cancer. It broke my heart. He was in chemo, and they were waiting to see if it was working. She was spending as much time as she could visiting him in London.

At 1:30 am, we decided we should go to bed and stop drinking wine. I didn’t realize how much I drank until the following morning when I was slightly hungover. Alex got ready for her flight to Melbourne, where she was visiting a friend for an extended weekend. 

Alex asked me if I minded feeding the goats while she was gone because they were just down the road. We drove 25 minutes to the property. Half of the drive was on a heavily corrugated dirt road. She was driving a yute (a pick-up truck) with good suspension. She laughed, “I didn’t drive a car for about 15 years until we got this yute a few months ago.” She told me how she used to wear designer clothing when working in Japan and Hong Kong. Now she wears flannel and boots. 

When they purchased the property, there was a sad-looking goat that the previous owners left behind. They called him Billy, and Alex brought him back to good health. Then they heard of another young goat (Apple) which had been from her mother. They bought Apple so Billy would have a friend. Apple was around nine months old. Unfortunately, Billy had escaped the large penned-in area a few days prior. He was still on their property somewhere, but it’s a substantial piece of land. He loved the neighbor’s cows, so he was probably hanging out with them. 

We arrived at the property, and Apple came running out of her little house. Alex drove the truck to the top of the hill and showed me the posts that are the outline of where their home will be. The view from the top of the hill was incredible! The rolling, pristine hills looked like a painting. The recent rain had sprouted lots of bright green grass. They planned on building extra rooms to make it a bed and breakfast. 

Suddenly, we heard a goat bleating in the distance, so we started walking in the direction of the noise. Alex called out to Billy, and suddenly we saw him trotting up a hill from a ravine. Alex asked me to get him while she ran to the truck to get food. She wanted to get him back inside the pen with Apple and didn’t want him running off again. 

Billy came up the hill trotting, and then stopped in suspicion. I don’t know anything about goats, but he seemed huge! Billy yelled out, and I called to him, trying to reassure him that I was a friend. I got him up the hill, and he smelled my hand. Disappointed that I didn’t have food, he questioned going back down the hill. I enthusiastically walked towards the truck, telling Billy I had food over there. He slowly followed me, skeptical. 

Then, Alex showed up with a bowl of food. We lured him to the pen, and Alex asked that I feed them through the metal part of the fence while she turned off the electric part of the fence. I had to grab two separate handfuls of food for each of them. Otherwise, Billy would snap at Apple. I put my hand through the small rectangular hole, and they frantically licked the food off of my hands. I continued this until the bowl was empty. 

Alex turned off the electric fence, and we hopped over it because it’s relatively flexible. We gave two bowls of food to each goat and then spread hay in the small shed and outside on the ground. Once the goats finished eating the food in the containers, they started eating the hay. Billy let me pet him and often made loud noises. Apple was timid and only let us get a few touches before she’d jump away. 

Alex told me, “See, it’s easy. If you could come once a day, that’d be great. Just turn off the electric fence or jump over the metal gate.” Right. All of this was entirely new to me. I felt like I could do it, but I didn’t want to worry about the fence, so I figured I’d jump the metal gate. Before we left the goats, Apple jumped on a fallen tree log and kept dancing with excitement. She was happy to have her friend back. She followed Billy around, even though he seemed annoyed by her. 

We drove back to the house, and Alex finished packing up and then left for the airport in Perth, three hours away. I walked to the local market and picked up some food for the next few days. I was exhausted from our night before and the week of driving through the Nullarbor. I took a nap and then got some writing done. I was happy to have some time to rest and get things done over the next few days. 

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Post Edited By: Mandy Strider

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Throughout her wild 3-week journey backpacking 220+ miles in the California Sierra Mountains, Christy encountered freezing temperatures, pelting hail storms, and losing her way, but found trail family, incredible views, and experiences that would change her life forever. Hiking up and over ten different mountain passes gave Christy a lot of time to think about why her nine-year marriage was falling apart, gave her the chance to truly embody her individualism, time to make new friends, and the strength she would need on and off the trail. Her life could never again be the same.
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