Free Goat Food

The meadow across the street used to be a farm. At one time, strawberries were grown there. Some years, hay. The property passed into the hands of a church, and then to two conservation organizations, and half was developed as senior condos. When I moved here eleven years ago, the field was open. It was mowed, but not during bobolink season.

And then it wasn’t mowed. Invasive plants moved it. The wheelchair path got overgrown.

wheelbarrow and path

Budgets were blamed. The property was a low priority. Now the town and the conservation organizations want to control the weeds with round-up and other chemicals. Which is futile, really. Kill a buckthorn and another will pop up.

There was a meeting last night with the conservation commission and a (well-meaning) representative from the conservation organization. A number of neighbors showed up. We have offered an alternative. A friend with more goats than my two, will be intensively grazing the property. We’ll have a work party to clear old stone walls. We have a reprieve from the chemicals until next spring.

Meanwhile, there are brambles and grapevines, buckthorn, black-eyed Susan and bittersweet.  I know two boys who appreciate such things.

wheelbarrow and goats


Free food for the goats.

goats eating



  1. Work parties can be great fun, especially when you are all gathered to do a job for a common cause. We recently had 3 baby future milk goats added to our neighbourhood. They are across the street, so we get to hear their sweet little bleats. It has been a little too hot for doing much garden clean-up until now and there will be plenty of yummy things for those hungry babies to nibble on. Less for the burn pile is a good thing! In case you were curious, they are a Saanen (sp)? variety….creamy coloured coats.

  2. Looks like they are about to break the fence down. Careful boys.

    Can you walk them over and let them start on the weeding. I bet they would enjoy it.

    • They would enjoy it, but too many people walk their dogs off leash. The grazing goats will be inside of electric fencing with their person to watch over them.

  3. Yay for goats! I hate when good property gets abandoned. And don’t even get me started on Round-Up. Hopefully, this solution will make everyone happy. And I saw your chickens just as happy as can be clawing through the dug up portion of the run. Looks like everyone is having a good day.

    • Put some turf, dug up from around stepping stones, for them. So, grass and bugs and dirt. Nothing much better than that, if you’re a chicken.

  4. Your goats really eat everything! I was surprised to read they eat bittersweet, for I only know a poisonous bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara). From the internet I learned that American bittersweet (bitterzoet in Dutch) fortunately is not the same plant. Is black-eyed Susan a Rudbeckia? I just bought one for my garden. Much too nice to be eaten by goats. ;)

    • Yes, it’s a rudbeckia. Black-eyed Susan is an apt name, isn’t it? It self-sows and will fill your garden or meadow. The bees and butterflies love it.

      • -Couldn’t resist adding: there’s another “Black-Eyed-Susan”, a vine (genus Thurnbergia), not native to North America like Rudbekia.

  5. I love that second photo. The goat boys are so excited to get at the treat and actually look just like my chooks when they think a treat is coming.

  6. Such beautiful faces on the goat boys. From Caper’s tummy it looks like he has not gone hungry recently. And Pip, well, Pip is perfect as we all know…..

  7. Life is so very good when two lovely goats live close to a meadow that needs thinning. Just look at those boys round bellies. Wonderful photo!

  8. Those boys are something else!! The O’Hare Airport goats are back in full force again this year as well as some clean up crews doing a good job in a Forest Preserve or two!!

  9. Free feed, and fertilizer. It doesn’t get any more natural than that. I’ve run into my first major problems in keeping chickens. Rather, it’s an issue about the eggs: is it just me or are these farm-fresh eggs harder to peel than store-bought eggs when they’re hard-boiled? I use the same cooking and peeling methods as before, but I’m losing 10 to 15% of my egg just trying to get the shell off the egg, and I end up with something looking like a golf ball that met a grinding wheel. Any ideas? (My chickens are all Rhode Island Reds: brown eggs).

    • It’s not just you. I’ve written about this (and in detail in my book The Farmstead Egg Guide and Cookbook.) Fresh eggs don’t peel easily. Set aside a dozen and wait 10 days. Read more here.

  10. I love the photo of your goats gazing longingly at the wheelbarrow full of ‘treats’! … And I like your solution far better than the toxic alternative. Glad they gave you a reprieve.

  11. What kind of goats will your friend me using to clear the meadows ?

  12. I wanted to add: the active ingredient Round-up is not harmful in itself, but its adjuvants are very harmful to fish and amphibians. Less harmful formulas supposedly exist (Monsanto’s “Rodeo”?) but although I’ve heard of these, I’ve never actually seen them for sale…
    I feel saddened that people aren’t more considerate about their fellow creatures. This summer in western NY I was delighted every time I came across a toad- or a newt, which I’d never seen before! These creatures are harmless and helpful in keeping garden pests under control. Glad to hear goats will be the solution in this meadow! :^)

    • Suzanne, a few years ago I gave a few of my pond fish to my wonderful landscaper who had helped to install the pond. He didn’t know what you just wrote. He used Round-up on his lawn and his fish died. Also, permethrin seems innocuous enough, but it, too kills fish. When a product isn’t safe for all beings, I don’t want to use it anywhere on the property! BTW, this is the first year in a decade that I haven’t had swallowtail caterpillars on my dill and parsley (that I plant and let go to seed just for them.) So worrisome.

      • That’s awful. I’ve always had a soft spot for caterpillars- even tobacco hornworms!

        I was cheered to see a couple of monarch caterpillars on my husbands property this summer. This was a surprise, since it had been a very bad year for monarchs, and I hadn’t seen any at all the previous two summers.

        BTW, have you ever seen clearwing moths? The cutest things- they look just like miniature hummingbirds!