Munching in Your Neighborhood?

This past weekend, a herd of 35 male, mixed-breed goats held a feast in our neighborhood near Annapolis.

Forester Brian Knox, of Sustainable Resource Management, Inc., who oversees Eco-Goats, brought the goats in late Friday afternoon from Philly, where they’d be on another munchfest, and came to pick them up early Sunday morning. He set up an inside perimeter of electronet fencing and then cordoned that, a few feet away, with an orange construction-site fence and posted signs about the electric fence as well as the purpose of the goats.EcoGoatsinAction

In about 36 hours, the goats had munched through poison ivy, English and Irish ivy, and other kinds of vines, and de-leafed wine berry canes. They also ate small shrubs and saplings and began to de-bark certain trees, such as ornamental pear and mulberry.

More than two years ago, the community association had had the area sprayed with glyphosate (Roundup). I asked Knox about this and he said that will not bring in goats where areas have been sprayed within a year. When he looked at our site this past spring, he could see evidence of some spray, but not so much that he felt it would be a problem for the goats.

“I don’t want to eat stuff that’s been sprayed,” he said. “And I don’t want the goats to, either.”

Before the goats came, we could not see through the small patch of woods to homes on the other side of the court. Now, most of the vegetation is cleared as are the sight lines—with the exception of low-lying vinca, which the goats do not seem to like.

Maybe the coolest thing about the goats was the attention they drew and conversations between neighbors who seldom see one another or, despite having lived in the same neighborhood for 15-plus years, don’t ever talk. Adults seemed to be as fascinated as children by all of the goats and their never-full stomachs.

When Knox came Sunday morning to retrieve the goats and bring them to their next stop in Queen Anne’s, I was sad to see them go. I was in awe that they could, say, reach up to a low-hanging holly branch and pluck off a leaf and gobble it up without choking.

I hope we’ll see the goats again in other areas of our neighborhood. I would rather have them—and their fertility in the form of droppings—than sprays any day.

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