Name Something Cuter
There’s not much that is cuter than a baby goat. I mean, maybe a baby kitten, or a baby chick. But really, try and list many more. Goats not only have their sweet looks, but also their playful antics that make them endearing to even the most hardened of souls. One of my fondest memories of growing up on Vashon Island was our pygmy goats, Parsley and Sage. I still reflect on our “group” hikes and how they would escape their pen by using the back of our pot bellied pig to launch over the fence. That’s why we are super excited to introduce the newest members of our little farm. Bonnie and Clyde. Say hello to the new kids!
Working Goats for a Working Farm
But our baby goats aren’t just here just to look cute. They have a very important job. Their job is to eat as much yaupon as they can. So over the past couple of weeks we’ve been training them. First, to accept a lead and second to respect electric netting fence so we can rotate them across new paddocks. We hope with the right training they’ll prove to be an essential tool for restoring this land.
A Super Quick History on Fire Suppression
So why exactly do we need the goats help? Well, like much of the United States this area of land has experienced almost a century of fire suppression. Forest fires have been depicted as a destructive, evil force of nature. Yet, many regions evolved with fire and depend on it to trigger the natural cycles of forest succession – if they occur regularly. The problem today is a long history of fire suppression has resulted in our forests turning into a literal tinder box. So when forest fires do occur today they usually possess a ferocious force that can destroy huge swaths of land – and any houses that stand in its way.
So what does this all have to do with goats and yaupon? As you might expect, it’s all connected. Yaupon is a native shrub that is a member of the ilex (holly) family. It grows to about 12 ft tall and has evergreen leaves with small red fruit – great for native birds. But yaupon also contains resins that make it particularly prone to fire. Under normal fire conditions (frequent, small fires) the yaupon would be kept in check. But after decades of no fires, the yaupon in our area has grown in excess, choking out other natives and going from a beneficial plant to a nuisance one. On our property it grows in dense thickets that even the birds appear to avoid.
Finding Balance While Having Fun
We don’t expect to ever fully eliminate yaupon. As a native, it plays a key role in the balance of the natural ecosystem traditionally found here. But the new kids are here to help us thin it out. This should have 3 benefits. First, it reduces the risk of catastrophic fire (we literally just had a fire that triggered evacuations just down the road this past weekend). Second, it should open up the understory and allow the native grasses, berries and other shrubs an opportunity to establish. And thirdly, it will make the land more enjoyable for both us and the wild animals since we will be able to actually walk the property! All in all, it’s a win-win-win. And not to mention, a great excuse to add goats to our little farm mix.