Saturday, May 30, 2009

Goats at work & greener lawns

Our buck goats are still hard at work eating the grass in our side yard. When I first blogged about this, I mentioned that Google and several other corporations had started using goats as a "green" replacement for lawn mowers and other heavy equipment.

Now the government is getting into the act. The state of Maryland is using goats to eat the grass in a wetland that will soon have a highway next to it, because lawn mowers would kill the endangered bog turtles that live in the area. Goats, of course, are vegetarians who will ignore the turtles.
The goats are reducing the state's carbon footprint and protecting the area's bog turtles, listed as threatened. In addition, he said, the animals are much cheaper than a mowing program: State costs are about $10,000 for two years, most of that for delivery and veterinary services.
For more on the program, you can check out the complete CNN story and the Baltimore Sun's story and video. CNN reports officials in New York and Colorado have started similar programs. The Sun said that Maryland got the idea from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which have used goats as lawn mowers and weed wackers to save endangered turtles in their states. I was happy to see that the Sun reporter did ask the goats for comment, although they declined to say anything.

Greener lawns

When looking for info on goats mowing, I also came across this great post about keeping a "greener" lawn in the city. Apparently, "one gas mower running for an hour emits as many pollutants as eight new cars driving at 55 mph for the same amount of time." So, that answered my question about whether it was really environmentally friendlier for Google to truck in a bunch of goats, rather than mow. Sadly, manufacturers of small engines, such as mowers and chain saws, have managed to avoid the strict pollution controls that have been mandated for automobiles. So, what's an earth-loving, non-goat-owning suburbanite to do?

There are lots of options! Like Justin and Danielle in St. Louis, you can create an edible landscape. You can also rip up your lawn and replace it with drought-resistant plants. Or if you must keep your lawn, you can start using a manual reel mower or an electric mower. We have used a reel mower in the past and can attest to the necessity of using it regularly, because if the grass gets too tall, the reel mower is useless. The electric mower is not something I'd ever considered, because I assumed you had to have a really long extension cord. Doh! Someone please tell me that they haven't been available with batteries for a terribly long time. Since there are some spaces in our yard where a scythe would be overkill and little grass shears would be hours of torture, an electric mower might be just what we need to complete our greener landscaping equipment collection.


Anonymous said...

I just wrote a post last week with a bunch of links about edible landscaping and foraging, along with other ideas to replace grass. :)

I really admire that you haven't used a gas mower so far. We had to buy a riding mower, but I am hoping to make it unnecessary in a year or two. We have a ton of grass, so it will take a while to replace it or turn it into pasture. We have to buy more fencing and some kind of shelter for the sheep and goats we plan to get next spring or the spring after. So it will take a while, but I am working on it. :)

Shula said...

When I used to live in northern California I would pass goats on the side of the freeways mowing down the grass verges to help prevent fires.

I use and electronet and fence my sheep into various parts of my yard to help keep grass etc down, I find they do an excellent job of fertilizing too!


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