Gone to the Goats

April 19, 2014

Gone to the Goats

April 19, 2014
Posted in: Nature | Reading Time: 6 minutes

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It's that time of year again when the pasture at the end of NitWit trail becomes overgrown. Normally we use our fantastic land clearing crew who've not only developed Lower Nitwit trail but have been instrumental in keeping the property fire-safe. We were at a point though that it was becoming more difficult to manage through multiple weed whacking.  Mr. Wild Dingo and I were reluctant to use poison for 87,000 reasons, but mainly because we may use this area for agriculture some day. When I saw the ad for Hungry Goats mowing service, I called Mr. Wild Dingo and asked him what he thought of renting goats to mow the pasture. His answer:

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"Let's get our own goats!"

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Internet, ya'll think I'm the loony one with the hair-brained ideas, huh?  I could see the cogs turning in his home improvement-OCD brain. Goats would give him the perfect excuse to build a barn. He'd enjoy obsessing over every detail from planning, purchasing materials to building it in his wood shop. I knew he was already envisioning the molding and the finials he'd add to it, just like he did to our wood shed, which now looks like a Victorian outhouse.

Mr. Wild Dingo is a man after my own heart to suggest bringing more animals into our lives. I could easily be a farmer. But I can barely handle my two dogs while I'm battling Lyme disease, so I convinced him that for this year, renting would be the way to go.  Thank dog one of us has their wits about. So I called up Jill at Hungry Goats and got the low down on the services and logistics.

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Jill was very polite and didn't laugh me off the phone at the suggestion of getting our own goats. But she did tell me of all the benefits of renting them. While there are definitely times when tractor mowing makes sense, sometimes using goats to mow is the logical thing to do. She met with me to walk the property, understand my objectives and consider obstacles to fencing the area. My only objectives were for a clean pasture for the cracker's dainty feet and to indulge my fantasy of farming in the mountains, if for just a few weeks. Within the week, the area was fenced and the goats began work.

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"Intruder alert! Step away from the fence. I mean it!"

The goats come with their own guard dog Lu Lu, who is the most fantastic dog around. She's the perfect balance of dog and people friendly and "get the hell away from my goats." She alerts perfectly and looks like she means it. Mainly she's there to protect the goats from wild life predators, such as coyotes and lions.  But she also protects the goats from predators carrying chicken treats and offering belly scratches.  

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"Tee Hee. Oh Mr. Wild Dingo! You sure know how a girl likes her scritches!"

Her default intruder defense strategy is to roll over right in front of your feet until you submit and pet her belly.

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There are so many benefits to using goats over poison, weed whacking or tractor-mowing for a large pasture. For one, they eat all the undesirable plants such as scotch broom, thistle and poison oak.  The goats couldn't have arrived any sooner. The thistle was getting so thick on the ground that the cracker was refusing to walk through the pasture. There's nothing he hates more than his feetie feets getting stabbed by thistle.

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"Mmmmm! Thistle is delicious!"  Goats seem like a perfect solution for the cracker's needs.

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Though it's slower than one-day of tractor-mowing---it will take 2 weeks to do both sides of our pasture plus some areas into NitWit trail---it cuts down on fossil fuels used to cut all that junk away. Typically, if you want to really keep the weeds away you'd have to spray them first with poison then mow them. The goats not only pull up a lot by the roots, but  their spit and urine are a natural preventative from the weeds returning. And their poop fertilizes the soil.

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Another advantage that goats have is getting into steep hillsides, tight places and between rocks where tractors cannot because they like to climb. And because they're silly.

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Goats are great at pulling down every junk shrub up to 6 feet high and eating it or trampling it down.

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Not to mention, goats are cuter than tractors!

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By now you're all asking how the cracker and the criminal are handling it. What do you think?

I had asked Jill if I could still use the pasture to walk my dogs while the goats were grazing, and she had no problem with it. She was already taken with the cracker and the criminal and fell for their perfect dog act.   Jill and I had planned to introduce the dogs so I'd feel comfortable, but it didn't work out since the goats arrived late afternoon. It didn't matter. That night, Loki knew something was different. He paced most of the night, going to the open window, and whining a bit while we slept, knowing there was something new close by.

Damn! I love this sensitive dog. The pasture is 1/4 mile away with dense forest between it and our house and yet, he knew they were there! He never stops amazing me with his keen senses.

The next morning, we walked Nitwit trail to the pasture and introduced Loki and Juno to Lu Lu and the goats. Naturally Loki and Lu Lu exchanged HBO words from either side of the fence the first day. But once he saw me go into the fenced area, pet Lu Lu and walk among the goats, he figured it all out and by the second day there was no more arguing between the two. Not to mention, no more pacing at night knowing the goats and Lu Lu were welcomed by Mr. Wild Dingo and me.

And Juno, the criminal? She couldn't be less interested. She's all "Goats, schmoats! Let's get on with our walkies!"

I was never really too worried, as we had done tons of work conditioning them to goats in Switzerland.

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"Lu Lu, do you need a partner in your goat protection business? 'Cuz I'm your man!"

The second night Loki heard Lu Lu bark alert for her goats, he went outside and howled for her. He is totally smitten with Lu Lu, but his inner-cracker comes out when the goats come close to the fence or too close to me. Overall, I'm pleased with how he's taken to the change. Between you and me, he seems fascinated with Lu Lu's work, almost envious. I know he would love to work again himself.

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It's such a pleasure having farm animals use and work on our property. It's been a great experience for all of us, including the dogs!

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7 comments on “Gone to the Goats”

  1. Rent-a-goat! I love it! And yeah, you are totally the saner one when it comes to renting/buying goats. I mean, if you bought your own goats, then you'd have to get your own LuLu and a goat herd, and at that point, you might as well move back to Switzerland! 😉 Seriously, I LOVE the goat idea - they definitely get the job done, and are WAY more entertaining than tractors!

    -Dr. Liz, who could totally see you as a farmer

  2. Thank you! There was just something really uplifting about this post - it made me smile, in fact it made my day! I'm a city girl sitting in my office, wishing I was home with my pups, and yearning for a country life filled with dogs. If my dream ever comes true, I'll definitely want to get a goat or two! Thanks for making my Monday morning so much better 🙂

  3. Fabulous photos, and a great story. We've talked about having goats "mow down" the defensible space that we're making close to our house. It's so full of weeds and thorns that it's a tough job for any human tool. Hmm, maybe we'll do it.

    I love Lulu. I'm glad she's good with humans. There are some livestock protection dogs around here that are downright scary. Indeed, one of them sent her owner to the hospital for over 100 stitches of repairs after she turned on her owner...

    Good job to Loki and Juno.

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