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Magnetic North Sept. 16, 2009: Can't Beat 'Em? Eat Em!

Baby goats
Baby goats

MagNorth_20090918.mp37.22 MB
Welcome to Magnetic North where we have apparently run out of trees to hug and are now into embracing noxious weeds.
Haven’t you heard? Just last month the county commissioners declined a request for money from our highway engineer so that she could do the annual noxious weed spraying. In truth, there are no villains here. The state says all counties have to spray 11 noxious weeds. And, the spraying concerns many of our citizens. Here’s why.
The herbicide most often used, Transaline, stays in the soil -including soil where weeds aren’t growing, for over a year. And the “so what?” here is a doozy: transaline is implicated in causing reproductive, skeletal and neurological problems. Doing weird things to babies, bones and brains? C’mon guys, I have a better way. Goats!
Seriously. In Western states, goats are famous for weed eradication. Of the 11 noxious weeds on the Minnesota hit list, I see only two that my goats might spurn: bull thistle and purple loosestrife. Goats just don’t cotton to the biggest thistle and they absolutely will not pad around in water in order to graze on loosestrife.
As for the other nine....we’re talking caprine smorgasbord! Field bindweed, garlic mustard, leafy spurge, perennial sowthistle, Canada thistle, musk thistle, plumeless thistle, poison ivy and, to aid with any unpleasant side effects from the ivy, good old cannabis sativa, AKA hemp. What’s not to like?
My goats weeded a wicked patch of Canada thistle out of an overgrown perennial garden munching the flowering heads off the stalks. No pulling or poisoning. Just beheading. For some reason, nipping the head off plants discourages even a perennial weed. I’ve gotten rid of the gorgeous alien, yellow tansy, in my meadow by determined decapitation. It was peppered throughout a half acre of timothy hay two summers ago and this year I found only two plants. I did this myself, with scissors, since tansy is terribly bitter and the goats have some standards.
I’d recommend this method for getting rid of the bull thistles. But purple loosestrife? Man, if I had a silver bullet for that stuff, I’d patent it.
So, here’s the deal. The weeds in question grow on only 13 acres of county land, the perfect amount of lunch chow for a small herd of goats. So next summer, hows about renting goats - mine and/or those of my friends? As soon as the weeds blossom, we’ll sic the goats on them, making sure that our little darlings don’t wander and eat something they shouldn’t.
My guess is the cost will be oodles less than buying chemicals and spaying them. How about it commissioners?
Bunny, Bosco, Dolly, Daisy, Harte and Poppy await your response. Although none of them has ever had a paying job, I can vouch for their eating skills and work ethic . Plus, no offense to our county road warriors, my goats are super cute. Not a baaaaaaahd deal, eh?