Search this site powered by FreeFind

Friday, August 12, 2011

Brush goats: another example of something that doesn't work as advertised.

Picture: Ralph and Stanley sticking their snouts into the sweet feed.

It was my friend Paul that first told me I should get goats to eat all the weeds on the new 18 acres I bought last year, 18 acres that were logged six years ago and then abandoned, so as far as the eye can see there are trashy piles of broken trees and bushes (left behind by the lousy careless loggers) and weeds and little pine trees growing by the thousands through the piles of sticks and tree trunks. No tractor or bush-hog could handle this mess.

I ignored Paul's suggestion - I'd tried a goat a couple years ago when a friend said "Just take this goat, if you don't like her you can bring her back," and my son loved her and named her Dulcinea, and she was very fat, like she'd swallowed a large watermelon which was now lodged sideways in her gut, but she made a nervous wreck out of me because she didn't mind electricity and escaped regularly under the electric fence, twitching a bit but unconcerned, and I didn't want Jethro getting the idea that electricity is not so bad. So I took her back where she came from.

When Menticia's dad said, in Mexico we would clear this land with goats, I reconsidered. I figured, the goats would eat weeds all summer and I would give them to Menticia's family for barbeque when the season was over.

Paul and I went goat-shopping one day and in Sanford I fell for two little goats. Literally little, they're "pygmy" goats. They couldn't make a dent in my weed mess, so the next day I bought two bigger (La Mancha) goats, and now there are the four of them.

Turns out the stories about goats eating everything are lies. These goats are finicky eaters and don't like much of anything that's growing on my land. After weeks of frowning at them eschewing (ie not chewing) my weeds, here are two working theories:

1. They were raised on Purina goat chow and think weeds = too much work. They like treats. (Can't blame them, I myself prefer cookies to kale.)

2. After years of deer eating everything that's tasty on this property, it's the not-tasty stuff which is thriving. Deer and goats probably prefer the same weeds and both obviously disdain that which I have the most of.

We had a showdown this week. I had them fenced in with a lot of little sweetgums. Sweetgum trees are kind of pretty but I loathe them because they sprout like weeds, grow back vigorously from stumps, even grow new trees from their roots, and nothing likes to eat them. I was determined the goats would eat these sweetgums. Just to make sure they weren't poisonous, I looked them up online and found they were nutritious! But the goats went on a hunger strike. I held out for a day and then gave in and moved them. That, though, is the last straw.

The pilot project is a failure. Ralph and Stanley, the La Manchas, are going to make a fine feast for Menticia's family. I'm going to try and convince my neighbor to take the pygmies, Moe and Larry.