I can't believe how the summer has flown by! Earlier this summer, as the days turned warmer, we planted our garden. We broke brand-new ground this year, utilizing the rich soil close to the goats' dry lot. Kate was facinated by the whole process and was a big help! She was quite thrilled at having her very own new garden tools (a stellar garage sale buy, I might add!!), and put them right to work!
She helped me plant our cucumbers. We are enjoying them at this time and are worth all the hard work!
As I look back on how busy our summer has already been, I am thankful for my hard-working goats! I have been on the lawn mower only twice this year. Granted, our yard is a far cry from "manicured," but it is passable, especially when we live way out where we do!
Our goats appreciate the delicate lawn forage, leaves from over-grown young trees, and scrubby bushes. The last two years we have only used our lawn mower a handful of times. The goats are most happy to help with the yard work. Goats have lots of uses for those of us trying to "Go Green" by saving some money in these hard times, as well as the additional benefit of doing something good for the environment by not using our lawnmower, among other things. Here is a quick list of how goats can help anyone GO GREEN!!
1. Lawn mowers. We utilize a portable electric fence and move our goats around the property, rotating them from place to place as the grass and other brush is consumed. A solar charger provides portable (and inexpensive) electricity.
2. Free fertilizer. We have never fertilized our lawns or the pastures the goats are on. They do it for us with their wonderful little natural fertilizer pellets! During kidding season, we keep the goats in a lot and feed them hay. The hay and manure that piles up in the area can then be scooped up at leisure and spread on gardens, flowerbeds, given to friends, or sold at the Farmers' Market.
3. Herbicide-free noxious weed control. We have lots of nasty weeds around, including seresia lespedisia, poison ivy, cockelburrs, and ragweed. Goats will eat these and eventually can kill them out by keeping them eaten down to where they will not be able to reproduce. Seresia lespedisia needs a little more management, as the weed can be spread through feces. It is recommended that goats be placed on a dry lot after consuming the plant during its seeding phase. An additional plus to using goats to help control seresia lespedisia is that this plant appears to help control internal parasites (think all-natural wormer).
4. Pasture "clean-up." Goats prefer weeds and brush to grass, so they are ideal for improving pastures. They are easy on the turf as well, so a large number of goats can be put on an area to clean it up quickly if that is the need. A pasture rotation system where goats are rotated in and out with other livestock such as cattle or horses is a great way to balance out your pasture and get rid of weeds without having to use herbicides.
5. Control ticks. Since goats clean up tall weeds, brush, and other scrub greenery, they can greatly reduce the tick population. We generally do not see ticks on our goats, so they seem to have a natural resistance to them. And, since utilizing the goats in our yard, we have noticed the tick population dwindle to next to nothing. However, a trek across areas where we do not allow the goats at this time almost always ends with the ritual "tick burning." The most entertaining way to kill a tick is to hold a flame to it and watch it explode!
6. Tree trimming. Goats LOVE trees. That being said, they are great tree trimmers, but be sure to keep them away from young trees you actually want to keep around because they WILL eat them. We keep cattle panels around to fence off small areas we don’t want our goats into like flower beds and small trees. Goats will also skirt (eat the bark of) a larger tree, leading to it's demise, so put fence around the trunk and they will just eat the branches and leaves that they can reach. As you can see in this picture, the low-hanging branches of this tree have been stripped clean, making it much easier to trim.
7. Inexpensive entertainment. I always love to watch the goats work. Especially when they are trying to reach that elusive leafy morsel waaaaay up high! They stand on their hind legs and pirouette like a clumsy ballerina, waving their front legs in front of them as if trying to use the air itself to climb higher. And, a word of caution … if you are standing under the tree of which they are so trying to get to, they WILL use YOU to get to their target! Think "human ladder." Try explaining THOSE bruises to your spouse. For even more entertainment, put out old kids' playsets, slipper-slides, swings, etc.
Young goat kids especially find these irresistable, but I find the biggest laughs come on those unexpected cool snaps in the fall when the older does feel compelled to catapult off the toys!
So, as you can see, goats are a great way to "Go Green" and save some green! And you don't need a whole herd! A couple will do the trick for most yards! Let them do the hard work, and you can sit back with your glass of iced lemonade in your lounge chair under a shade tree. Ahhhhh….summer!