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Greene: Getting My Goat

12/14/10 5:55PM By Stephanie Greene
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(HOST) With a pasture that's too rocky and steep to mow safely, commentator Stephanie Greene is considering a rather extreme measure to keep her pasture open.

(GREENE) Goats have a reputation as the swat team you want for pasture reclamation. They chow down on noxious weeds and underbrush that other animals won't touch - let alone eat with enthusiasm - like thistles and burdock. Wiser, seasoned farmers have regarded my overgrown pastures and said, "You need goats." So I see them as the necessary first step in my Big Plan to reclaim the pasture for animals that are a little, well, easier.
    
I've quizzed a lot of people about goats. One friend recounts having her lilacs consumed in one afternoon by her neighbor's escaped herd. Another says they are the sweetest, smartest animals she knows, way smarter than dogs. A third tells me darkly to get really good fencing. A fourth assures me they will stay contained if you keep them supplied with the food they like best and very clean water.
   
Well, wouldn't we all?
   
She adds that her goats hate walking through puddles or being out in the rain. They also know the minute you turn off the juice to the electric fence, and will take full advantage of the situation to scarf up your roses. And they have been known to climb trees.
   
This strikes fear in my suburban heart. Although brought up in small town Vermont, I did spend a couple formative decades enjoying the public transportation, jobs and reduced responsibilities of metro Boston. My herding duties were limited to keeping kids and pets out of Rte 9.
     
Goats were first domesticated about 10,000 years ago in the Euphrates and Indus valleys. They are among the world's most popular herd animals, providing meat, milk and fiber.  Wikipedia says they are easier and cheaper to maintain than cattle.  But as I recall, the polled Herefords we had when I was growing up just stood there and ate. If they did break through a fence, they ambled. They did not climb trees or have a fit if it rained.
   
Still, I'm quite sure Mongolians don't put up with a lot of bad goat behavior, nor Afghans or Cypriots.
   
Then it hit me. The key is goatherds. Constant supervision contained even Al Capone.
   
Recently I went to buy eggs from the friend who has offered to loan me some goats. Within seconds, a baby doe had climbed onto my geriatric Subaru. I congratulated myself on not bringing the good car. Then a rather large buck joined her on the roof. As we pulled the buck off, the sweet little doe went down on her knees and craned her pretty head to better examine the rest of the car's interior.
   
Just like that, I fell in love.
   
I will get goats. I have all winter to plan the perfect fence - possibly with a moat - and to worry.  They are going to be hugely and entertainingly inconvenient. They will take up enormous amounts of time, but then I can honestly add "goatherd" to my resume.
 
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