Sunday, May 10, 2009

Natural lawn care

With 32 acres, there is no reason we should be spending so much money on hay. And each year, we learn a little more about how to be more efficient in feeding our animals year round. Last year, we bought a scythe and two more sections of movable electric fencing. So, right now, the bucks are mowing the lawn for us. I'm embarrassed to say that for the past six summers, we've been mowing this grass with a gas-powered mower. Not every section of our yard is goat-mowable, because of our young fruit trees, but we are committed to eliminating the use of gas-powered equipment as much as possible.

In that same vein, I am working on halter-training Hercules, which is the first step in teaching him to be a draft animal. Hercules is the biggest goat in the photo. He's a la mancha and was brought here as the boyfriend of our first la mancha doe. However, after he kept jumping fences last fall when the Nigerian does were in heat, I decided it was too risky to have him around as a buck. He is now a wether and sweet as can be -- no longer stinky either. After he learns to pull, we can use him to plow and cultivate the garden, pull a cart of firewood from the woods, and even pull us in a cart to go visit the neighbors.

But I digress -- back to the lawn -- Once the boys have sufficiently shortened this grass, we'll move the fence to another area. We have a solar charger for it, so it can be moved anywhere on our property. The big challenge with our 32 acres is that because of our creek, most of our land is not accessible to modern haying equipment. So, once again, necessity is the mother of invention. If we could get hay equipment back there, we might not have started to think about how to harvest all that grass in a more sustainable manner.

And as for the other area where most Americans pour petrochemicals into the environment to create a green lawn -- fertilizer -- the boys are naturally fertilizing the lawn for us, as well.


J. M. Strother said...

I think Hercules needs to join the Goat Laborers Local 612. ;) That is really neat that you can use your goats for mowing, and even more neat that you use solar power to run the fencing. Very clever.

I think I just recently read where the St. Louis Parks Department and the St. Louis Zoo have teamed up to use the Zoo's goats to eliminate honeysuckle (true devil weed as far as I'm concerned) from Forest Park. It's amazing how useful goats are.

Gizmo said...

Once Hercules gets efficient at drafting, you can hitch him up to a mower. You might end up with a buddy for him, but that might be a future goal. Weren't you also looking into oxen drafting??

Deborah said...

Jon, If you look up "google" and "goats," you'll see that Google just used goats to clear out an overgrown area at their corporate HQ. It's getting pretty popular.

Gizmo, Yes, I'd love to use the dexters as draft animals. Their halter training is also coming along quite well. They are such muscular animals compared to the goats. I kept a mini mancha wether last year with the goal of using him as a draft animal also, but he's going to be smaller than Hercules. If I keep a second mini mancha, though, I might be able to have a trio with the two minis together and Hercules in front? I still have a lot to learn in this arena. It should keep me out of trouble for a few years!

Anonymous said...

This post is so timely for me as we are going to buy a riding mower but I really don't want to! I want to have less grass, but it's a bit late this year.

Anyway, I want to do all the things you are doing, but I have to remind myself to be patient and take things slowly as you have been doing this for years already.

Oh, and can you give some more information about the portable electric fencing you are using? And how do you get the goats out there?

Deborah said...

I buy the fencing from Premier One. They actually raise sheep, so they're pretty knowledgeable.

Moving the goats is not a big deal because they're friendly. Every now and then, they give me a little trouble. I think that's why people started calling human children "kids." :)


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