Our house is perched on the corner of native prairie grasslands. We chose that location on our plot of land for several reasons which I will expand on as it relates to a recent decision and an upcoming event in our life on the land.
We wanted a yard which required minimal time spent on a tractor mowing. We have chosen to keep the manicured lawn to a very small area around one side of the house. Flowers and shrubs have been selected that also reflect this philosophy as well as my lack of a green thumb. There is also the consideration that although we have unlimited water in our big pond it is not easily accessible and hauling water is time consuming enough to keep our trees alive. So the native prairie frames 3 sides of our house.
There is an ebb and flow to native grasses, flowers and shrubs that is directly in relationship to the amount of precipitation that falls from the sky and the daily temperatures. Since we bought the land in 2006 we have had some wet years and some really wet years so there is an abundance of some plants while others struggle. The life cycle on native prairie also includes drought, fire and grazing by animals.
Which brings me to what comes next as far as stewardship of our native grasslands. There is a surplus of thick tall grasses because we have no real fence and don’t graze amainals on it. The deer skirt around the area because of our dogs. There is an over abundance of weeds in all the wet marshy areas and some of them are invasive. The usual way to control this is with fire but because our house (which is a wood structure) is on the edge of this Ron is firmly and unwaveringly against that as an option. We mow out another row every year but we have far too many acres to do all of it and that isn’t an option in my mind as I want it to remain basic native prairie and not look landscaped.
Pesticides aren’t really an option as they’ll also kill the grass and wildflowers. The sow thistle creeps farther and farther every year. It invades my walking trails and really as a weed it’s pretty ugly. Some weeds at least has a virtue of being pretty to look at but not this one.
Time to think outside the box to solve this issue. We need something that will rid the land of the invasive weeds but is itself low maintanence. I talked with a neighbour about summering some sheep here. Electric fence works for them but the issue is night time and the coyotes. Cattle require a significant amount of fencing, access to water daily and are picky eaters being the biggest negatives if you forget about the size of their cow patties.
I stumbled upon the solution last summer while in my home town at the local fair. A friend of mine had Boer goats there in the petting zoo. It turns out, after an indepth conversation, that these little guys are the ideal tool! They love weeds more than grasses, they are low maintenance and will wander around on a tether eating. They like somewhere warm and dry at night so we have a dog kennel that will work or perhaps the tractor shed (just don’t tell Ron). Keeping them up near the house at night negates the coyote issue. Best of all, after a full summer of munching for us, they can go back home although David is convinced I will want a huge herd of them the next year!
Ron hasn’t actually said I’m crazy but he may be thinking it! He has said though that they are my responsibility which will entail that I get my butt out of bed in the am to get the goats out to pasture! Just like growing up there will be chores to do before and after work.
Two dogs, two cats and two goats. Has a nice ring to it. Wish me luck.