We had just bought a our first home and discovered that we had a major poison ivy issue. The house was set back about 150 feet from the road with a circular drive and giant pit of ferns in the middle. Ferns and bittersweet and Virginia creeper and poison ivy...I asked a friend what to do and she said the answer was goats. A quick search showed that we were lucky enough to live near one of the only two goatscaping companies in Massachusetts. I gave them a call and booked a herd to come eat our weeds for a week. They were pretty busy and I couldn't get a reservation for more than enough, but I figured it'd give us time to settle into the house and we even went as far as to arrange the housewarming party to happen while our land was being goated.
They arrived much earlier in the day than I expected, which was delightful, because it meant more hours of rented goat time. The herd consisted of five happy animals: Dasher, the skittish mama with big horns, her twins Lando and Chewy, their half sister, Jewel, a pure bred cashmere product of a teen pregnancy, and Juno, the pregnant La Mancha, the only breed of goats not to have ears. The co-owner of the company set up a big solar powered electric fence around the fern pit and then led the curious group of goats into its confines. They all meeped loudly as they explored their new territory and then started gustily eating my hosta. Well, I knew I was sacrificing that. What herbivore doesn't love those things and the entire acre was covered in them. I didn't mind giving one up to the goats.
Within 24 hours they had made impressive work on the fern pit. They'd started yanking vines off the trees and finished off the bittersweet. By day two they'd made a good dent on the poison ivy and Virginia creeper. By day five they'd eaten every pesky plant except for the beautiful ferns. In fact, it seemed they didn't like the ferns at all and were complaining about having run out of treats. I started giving them bows of choke cherry and whatever Virginia creeper I could pull off of un-ivy infested trees. It wasn't enough and the other co-owner ended up dropping off some hay to keep them happy.
The most amazing thing about the goats wasn't that I had an eco-friendly, cheap week of yard clearing services, it was how much I got to meet my neighbors. Everyone wanted to see the goats. The usually uncomfortably busy street had cars stopping on it all the time, not a day went by when someone didn't knock on my door to introduce themselves and talk goats. When I stopped in town hall, I was told I was talk of the town and they wanted the goatscaping information too! I couldn't have asked for a better way to get to know the community.
I'm not a huge fan of sheep or cows, which seem to me overly dumb and sometimes very skittish. The goats, on the other hand, showed lots of personality, intelligence and could clearly fend for themselves. Aside from cats, there is no other categorized as domestic species that does as well in the wild. They also made adorable door bells, meeping whenever anyone drove up. My nephew got a real kick out of playing in their pen, as they would follow him everywhere and when he left to go to the bathroom, refused to follow me, as they were missing their smallest herd members and goats don't leave goats behind! Cheaper than a lawn clearing service and way more fun, while I wouldn't say the goats saved my life, they certainly enriched it. Honestly, they were so great my husband and I are contemplating seeing if we can rent a couple goats every summer!
Author: Marjorie Skiba
Photographer: Marc Silverman
Goats courtesy of The Goatscaping Company
Got your own tale of animal rescue or rescue by animal? I'd love to hear it! Drop me a line seekingsheltercomic at gmail dot com.