Lately I've seen some things that almost make me wish I still had goats. I see news coverage of herds of goats that are being rented out to clear the brush around highways. That's precisely the reason my son Matthew and I brought goats to my farm--to clear the brush on the pond levee.
I gave away my last four goats about five years ago, and the pond levee is once again a jungle of mimosa trees, grape vines, honeysuckle, and poison ivy. The goats would love it.
Unfortunately, they also love ornamental trees in your yard, and anything on your porch. I would come home from school to find them out of the pen and all over my yard. Yes, they looked cute, lying there, innocently, looking like live lawn ornaments, but then I would discover my broken smoke tree and the shefflera on the front porch, totally stripped of its bark.
These days, I have to battle Japanese beetles on my roses, but in the goat days, I didn't even dare plant a rose. You would think the thorns would protect such a bush, wouldn't you? Wrong! One year, a goat took a bite out of a cactus my husband had on the front porch.
I think the Great DeJournett Brush Goat Experiment lasted about six years, during which time I had such fun experiences as trudging out in storms to get a goat's head out of the fence, getting chased around the farm by a very big billy who would not stay in the pen, trying to corner goats to force feed them their worm medicine, and sliding down the hill in wintertime to carry water to the goat pen. None of these activities were much fun. Had I been about 20 years younger, I might have enjoyed the exercise.
One year, someone dumped a particularly irritating little dog off at my mailbox. I saw her face, peering out of the honeysuckle and thought, "Oh, no! Please don't tell me that's a rat terrier!" I didn't have the heart to leave her there to starve, so I picked her up and brought her up to the house. As worthless as the dog was, she found her niche in goat-herding. When I looked out the window and saw Billy the Kid munching on acorns under my big oak tree, I would grab a stick and call the dogs. They loved it! Round and round we would go, trying to get him back in the pen. He would put his head down and charge the three big dogs, but Tilley, the rat terrier, proved the most effective of the bunch. She just happened to find a part of the goat's anatomy that was particularly accessible for a little dog to nip! One well-placed bite from her, and Billy was on the move. It was quite a sight!
As colorful as this goat-herding experience was, it was rather chaotic, so my son bought me a cattle prod, which I had to carry with me every time I went outside. Billy learned to avoid this long metal stick, so he no longer reared up and threatened to charge me, but his days were numbered, and my fences were in shambles, so the goat experiment came to a sad close.