They weren’t campers. They were goats. We hired them from a local business called Goat Girls because the marshy land north of our vegetable garden had become an impenetrable thicket of multiflora rose, bittersweet, swamp dogwood, honeysuckle and glossy buckthorn. These plants had taken over the back third of our yard and were coming for our garden.
Joe Willie of Goat Girls put up a nylon electric fence to enclose the area we wanted cleared. Then he and his daughter brought in the goats: Dan, Crumpet, Tumbleweed, Amethyst, Rose, Ivy and 4-month-old Munchkin. They tromped in and went immediately to work, chomping and trampling the vegetation.
All we had to do was give them water twice a day and occasionally splash them with insect spray. And we had to make sure not to touch the electrified fence, which keeps the goats safe from predators like coyotes. Joe came by every day to make sure the goats were OK, and he moved the fence one time to give them new land to conquer.
It was fun watching the goats go about their business. When I mentioned to friends that we had rented goats, I realized that the enterprise had a very high “cool” factor. And we were able to rid our yard of those invasive nasties without using herbicides or fossil fuels.
When people asked how much it cost, I was tempted to say, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” The total charge was $575.
Goat Girls was founded in 2010 by Hope Crolius, an old friend and newspaper colleague. Using goats to clear land is common in the West, and on the East Coast people are realizing the value of these prodigious weed-whackers. The Hitchcock Center for the Environment in Amherst hired the Goat Girls to get rid of poison ivy on their trails, and some people use them to clear land where they want to start a garden. The Goat Girls even eat Christmas trees!
The back part of our property is visible once again. We can now encourage useful or beautiful plants like ostrich fern, elderberry and fuki, along with the existing oak, willow, red maple and tamarack trees. There’s still work to do clipping and hauling the woody stalks of the invasive plants, and hacking them down when they grow back. But it is pleasing to see a longer vista out our kitchen window instead of a solid wall of jungle vegetation.
The Goat Girls definitely earned their keep!
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