Sunday, March 30, 2008

Native Plants Abound

As we remove the invasive ivy and blackberry, we've realized that the area is full of native species. The wettest parts are home to lots of skunk cabbage, its bright yellow spears reaching up through the dark mud.

Indian Plum is growing throughout, its delicate flowers cascading down from sprays of oblong leaves.

With the blackberry thickets gone, we can see tiny but vibrant pink
Salmonberry flowers all over the place. Hopefully with less competition from the interlopers these little gems will thrive and attract Rufous Hummingbirds.

It will be a treat to watch what other plants pop out as spring progresses.

Yutes and Goats

Three members of Seattle Audubon's teen naturalist program, BirdWatch, came out to help the goats on our yard project. The yutes were working hard to raise money for their upcoming birding trip to California (the goats were jealous, their next trip is back to Duvall).

With the extra hands we were able to clear out the last of the major blackberry stalks,

Sever all the ivy vines sneaking up the trees,

and haul out most of the trash that we've uncovered (including computer parts, croquet balls, badminton birdies, numerous golf balls, an old jungle gym and a lawn mower motor). It's strange and sad how much trash we've found in our back woods, particularly since the only access to the area is from our yard. The trash had to be dumped by people who lived here. Some of the debris was so heavy it had to be broken up with a sledgehammer before we could move it.

We were also able to clear most of the stumps of their ivy-twig-wigs (which were surely providing homes for rats- about the only animal that will live in ivy- reason enough to remove all ivy everywhere).

A huge thanks to Jonathan, Tayler and Lexi for all your hard work! Have a great time in California and see lots of birds!

Noname - No limp

First thing to report today, Noname is no longer limping. Thanks to Jill and Josh for coming out to trim her hoof. She's putting weight on all 4 feet, and nibble-licking anyone who gets within range as bizarrely as ever.

Noname's limp

Over the past few days, Noname has developed a limp in her front right hoof. We took a look between her toes for any obvious injuries or swelling and couldn't find anything. Since she seemed pretty unhappy on the steep slope, we moved her onto a flat grassy area, right next to the gowing brush pile - a goat version of light duty.

We contacted Jill, the Goat Lady , to ask what we should do. She told us that goats will favor a foot when they need a hoof trim, and that was most likely what was causing the limp. She wasn't too worried about it, but agreed to come out to take a look.

Today Jill and Josh came out to check on Noname, who we've alternately been calling Limpy Lu and LiLi (Limpy Licky) for the past day or so. They cleaned out some small thorns between her toes, trimmed her hoof, and gave her an antibiotic shot to fight infection. With assurances that she might keep limping, but she'd be OK, they headed out, leaving us a bag of grain- supplemental food for the goats who have done such a good job they are actually starting to run out of food here in our yard!

Google on Special Assignment

With food getting scarce in the back, we decided to put Google on special assignment in a weedy patch in the front yard. While she snacked a bit, she seemed to have a hard time staying focused on the task at hand.
Between the toys and the dog (who is clearly all riled up about the goats), we decided to move Google back down with her buddies.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Goats In The Snow

Today we learned that goats really don't like snow. Nor do they much care for sleet, hail, or driving rain, all of which they suffered through today. It's pretty funny to these former Vermonters to hear how much Seattlites whine about snow in March, but I do feel badly for the goats, who bleat plaintively at us when we approach. Also, they don't eat as much when they are unhappy. Hopefully the weather will be milder tomorrow.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Slim Pickings

The pickings are getting slim out there and the goats are even starting to eat the blackberry stalks. Even the ivy is getting thin in spots and our munching friends seem to be a little unhappy about the lack of blackberry and other preferred browse. Google and Goggle are quite adept at rearing up on 2 legs to reach for low-hanging cedar boughs, but they've done such a nice job of trimming them up that there is barely any left they can reach. All the goats are thrilled when the neighborhood kids bring them bunches of grass and cedar twigs.
Obie showing off the old Steve Martin 'Arrow through the head' look

Monday, March 24, 2008

Nearing the halfway point

We've had our rental goats for almost one week - enough time for them to make remarkable progress. Now that most of the blackberry leaves are gone, everyone is getting a little less selective with their choice of browse. A picture is truly worth a thousand words, so here are some 'before' pictures matched with the same views at the midway point.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Google the Ivy King!

Actually Google, Goggle and Noname are all champions of the ivy. Interestingly, they all much prefer to eat the ivy growing upright - on a wall or tree trunk, than ivy growing on the ground, even if the ground is a steep hill.

Here are some before...

...and after pictures representing one day of ivy chomping.

The other goats definitely don't attack the ivy the way these three do (although with blackberry in short supply, everyone is starting to eat more ivy), so we'll be moving them around the space to make sure we get all the trees stripped.

Noname likes to strip bark (notice the bright vines on the tree trunk). It was a bit of a problem on one of the apple trees, but it should help kill some of the larger ivy vines growing up the cedar trees. He's the only goat that seems to do this - they all have their idiosynchrosies, but Noname seems to have more than his share...

The strange stick huts you can see here are actually tree stumps that were overgrown with ivy and then stripped of their leaves. These stumps surround the retaining wall that was built when the lot was subdivided about 20 years ago.

Our house was the original and 3 others were built around it. A number of trees were cut in the process, and it appears that ivy was planted along the retaining wall at that time.

If only we knew then what we know now about ivy... makes me wonder what we're doing now that seems like a good idea that will turn out to be a disaster in the future - hopefully not using goats for invasive weed removal...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Blackberries in Retreat

As I sit here nursing some nasty wounds inflicted by blackberries (many through multiple layers of thick clothing), I'm reminded of the impressive defenses this invasive weed has. It's no wonder it has become so prevalent here in the Pacific Northwest.

So when I watch a goat climb into the middle of a blackberry hedge, thorns attacking from all sides, I am awed by these nimble, resilient creatures. They nibble the leaves off with ease, and even eat some of the smaller stalks.

Blackberry is clearly their most preferred browse choice available in our yard, although the goats also prefer cedar (I am SO glad I don't have to do twig counts to measure this).
The bare stalks take some work on our part to remove, and we've gotten a good start on that over the last two days (hence the aforementioned wounds). Mostly we've been clearing lanes into the thickets to give the goats access to more leaves.
In another day or two there won't be any blackberry left...

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Our goats continue to entertain as well as eat. Noname likes to give raspberries, and nibble/lick you as you walk by. It's a little disconcerting and reminds me of the time Dan was bitten by a pelican, but that's another story...

Goggle (Google?) is stretching himself to be sure all the ivy is stripped from the cedar.

Sugar and Spice have attacked the blackberry leaves with such vigor that we started cutting back the bare stalks to give them access to the next layer.

Sugar has also done a nice job with her small ivy patch, pretty much wiping it out in a single day.

Take a look at the impact the goats have made in just two days!