Jessie Raymond: Gardener outwits gluttonous goats
Ever since our two goats, Lucy and Jasper, decided that life inside a fence was just not for them, our yard has served as their all-you-can-eat buffet.
I’ve tried to pretend it’s no big deal. Every spring I tell myself maybe this year the goats will leave my flowerbeds alone. And every spring they eat everything — except the weeds, of course; goats have standards.
Last year, I gave up. I skipped the annual Ritual of Springtime Hope, where I purchase flowers and spend hours cleaning and digging and rearranging the garden beds, only to have the goats march through, munching on anything attractive, costly or rare.Instead, I ignored the gardens all year. They looked terrible, but the goats, with nothing new or exotic to target, left them alone.
The yard, however, was starting to look like a vacant lot. So this year I decided I would be forced to remove all the flowerbeds and return them to lawn — unless I could find some way to deter the goats.
And then it came to me: Goats are kind of like deer. No, deer don’t follow you around or wander onto your back porch and sniff your coffee. And no, at least according to the National Geographic website, deer don’t snicker at you behind your back. Biologically, goats and deer aren’t even from the same scientific family.
But deer are a nuisance in many homeowners’ yards. And goats are a nuisance in our yard. Close enough.
So I Googled what kinds of flowers and shrubs deer wouldn’t eat, with the idea that maybe goats wouldn’t eat them either. The next day, I picked up a variety of annuals and perennials on the no-deer/possibly-no-goats list.
When I unloaded the car, the goats came trotting over, eyes bright. I set the pots out next to the garden, and watched.
“Hmm,” the goats seemed to be thinking as they inspected the new flowers. “Conventional wisdom says if we were deer, we’d be repelled by plants such as these, which have fuzzy or aromatic leaves or are poisonous.”
But goats dismiss conventional wisdom the way they dismiss 4-foot fences. With a twitch of their tails — meaning “Ooh, takeout!” — they tucked in.
They didn’t know we had a backup plan.
My daughter distracted the goats by standing in the middle of an abandoned, weed-filled flowerbed and saying in a loud voice to no one in particular, “I sure hope the goats don’t eat my beautiful flowers. These were very expensive.” Delighted to think they might be able to ruin my daughter’s day, Jasper and Lucy immediately abandoned the new plants and joined her in the weeds.
That gave me the opportunity to pull out the secret weapon I had discovered that morning at the garden center: an all-natural deer repellent spray. This potent but harmless concoction, containing eggs, garlic, hot pepper and cinnamon, is supposedly distasteful to deer. I hoped the goats agreed. I spritzed my new plants as well as every shrub and flower already growing in the yard.
Eventually, the goats looked up and noticed I was doing something that didn’t involve them — they hate that. They skipped over to investigate just as I was spraying the bare lower branches of a once-robust, now-scrawny lilac bush they had been systematically defoliating over the past couple of years.
Lucy stepped forward for a nibble of bark, but stopped short. She flared her nostrils, and then sneezed. And so it went. She and Jasper checked out every one of their favorite snack spots and found the menu had changed.
It’s been 48 hours and they have yet to touch any of my plants. Can it be true? Can we own free-range goats and still have lovely, well-manicured flower gardens?
The truth is, while the goats haven’t helped any, my flowerbeds looked scraggly long before they came along. The real problem lies with my poor gardening habits. And now that I’ve managed to get the goats to stop eating my flowers, I’ll have no one but myself to blame for the gardens’ pathetic appearance.
As regular goats, Lucy and Jasper try my patience almost daily. But as scapegoats, they’re the best pets a lazy gardener could have.
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