Get Your Goat On

images1They’re cute. They’re useful. They have the coolest eyes. They’re goats. And they’re not just for farmers anymore. All over the country, ordinary homeowners are hopping on the goat bandwagon, acquiring and rearing their own goats. Because why wouldn’t they?

Being as they are voracious consumers of all things living, goats make an excellent, low-carbon, substitute for lawn-mowers, weed-whackers, and hedge-trimmers. In fact, 60 goats working in concert can clear an entire quarter acre of dense vegetation in just 3 to 5 days!  Grass, weeds, brambles, stickers, poison ivy, kudzu, stems, twigs—you name it; they’ll eat it.

But wait, there’s more! Goat-droppings make for an excellent, high-quality, zero-cost fertilizer. (Can your lawn mower do that?) And as an added bonus, goat-mowed lawns and fields stifle regrowth, thanks to seed-sterilizing enzymes within the goat’s digestive system. And with a little effort, research, and savvy, your goat can also be a source of delicious, nutritious milk.

That said, goat-ownership is not without drawbacks. Not only do goats need lots of TLC, they also need a fair amount of cold hard cash. In the winter when forage is sparse, goats require feed, running between $15 to $30 a month. Hoof trimmers, vaccinations, dewormers, and other health items cost around $50. According to one estimate, caring for just 2 goats can run around $35 to $60 a month. And that’s without an expensive emergency trip to your neighborhood veterinarian.

Other considerations:

  • Goats can be LOUD! Don’t believe me? Hear for yourself:
  • As ‘herd’ animals, goats require other goats for happiness and well-being. Meaning you can’t just have one goat.
  • Goats are rough on fences. (They like to rub against them—roughly.) Goats are also notorious escape artists. Electric fencing/wiring is recommended.
  • Left to their own devices, goats won’t just mow your yard; they’ll DESTROY it. Anything you don’t want consumed MUST be safeguarded.

Still interested? Well, some cities and municipalities prohibit goats altogether; many more impose weight and size limits.

Fortunately, in many states you can actually rent a goat. (I know, right?), a goat classifieds site, can help you connect with goat-owners.

imagesNot everyone is cut out for goat-ownership. It’s involves time, sacrifice, money, and the blessing of your local legislative body. But with the threats of climate change and energy depletion looming large, a couple of goats might really come in handy.

By | September 26th, 2014|News|0 Comments

To Dream of Fall

Is it really true? The Autumnal Equinox is this Tuesday, which means this weekend is the last weekend of the summer. What to do, what to do? This quote rings true for me right now:

Autumn has caught us in our summer wear. – Philip Larkin

I’m not quite ready to let go of summer yet, but I can taste fall, and that little taste grows a yearning in me for cool nights, sweaters, spiced teas, and again, the cycle of life.

fields and the autumn morning light

fields and the autumn morning light

By | September 19th, 2014|News|0 Comments

A Few Fun Facts about Hybrids and Heirlooms

2013-07-30 016In the realm of farming and gardening the debate over hybrids and heirlooms rages on. But just what are hybrids and heirlooms? Is one really better than the other? And why should you care?

Hybrids are plants that have been crossbred to produce a new, uniform variety, often with specific traits in mind. Disease-resistance, uniformity, and early maturation are examples of such traits. The ‘Crimson Carmello’ tomato is one of the more notable hybrids, bred for its disease-resistance, height, vigorous growth, and juicy fruit. Paradoxically, planting the seeds produced by hybrid fruit/vegetables will not yield similar harvests; to get the same hybrid you need to make the original cross using the same parent plants. These crosses are called F1 Hybrids, or First Filial Generation.

Because they can be bred to exhibit particular traits, hybrids have many advantages. Earlier maturity, better yield, less care, disease resistance, enhanced productivity, and better flavor can all be selected for. For these reason, hybrids have wide commercial applications. Hybrids also have a uniform look and predictable growing season, which help foster sales.

Heirlooms, on the other hand, refer to a plant variety that is open-pollinated, hand-selected, at least 50 years old, and specific to an individual region or location. (Open-pollination is just pollination by wind or bees.) Heirlooms are saved and propagated because of their superior quality—shelf-life, disease-resistance, taste, color, or other positive traits. And while heirlooms might not always be the most commercially-viable option (size, harvest time, and appearance can vary wildly) they are generally the most flavorful, most attractive, and most diverse. This is because the plant has been allowed to ‘evolve’ to its local environment.

Cauliflower Seeds, Graffiti Hybrid-Vegetable SeedspIn the end, hybrids and heirlooms both have important applications. The decision comes down to you, the consumer. Which do you prefer?

By | September 12th, 2014|News|0 Comments

Wendell Berry’s The Peace of Wild Things

Deep breaths, deep breaths, deep breaths.

the peace of wild things

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry, “The Peace of Wild Things” from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry. Copyright © 1998. Published and reprinted by arrangement with Counterpoint Press.

Source: Collected Poems 1957-1982 (Counterpoint Press, 1985)

By | September 5th, 2014|News|0 Comments