All I want for the holidays are goats in my Firewise front yard

Blog Post created by faithberry Employee on Dec 4, 2015
Windsor House
Photo from the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society Website. The Nathaniel Winsor Jr. House was built in the early 1800's.

I was getting ready for the holidays by visiting a local historic site in Duxbury, Massachusetts, called the Nathaniel Winsor, Jr. House, as part of a holiday tour. The grounds of this lovely historic site were meticulously manicured. As I toured the grounds the tour guides explained that they enlisted the aid of some unusual gardeners decked out in holiday attire. These gardeners were in fact jolly, fat and happy goats. They were part of a display on how goats could be used to maintain historic sites, without the damage that motorized equipment could cause.

The Nathaniel Winsor, Jr. House belonged to a family of early American sea merchants.  Nathaniel Winsor Jr. carved mastheads for his father's ships

Goat gardeners at the historic home in Duxbury. Photograph by Faith Berry

and eventually inherited the family shipping business.  The home has great historic significance for Duxbury, so the community takes care to maintain the home and grounds properly. This is where these eager little gardeners come in! They are used to keep the lawn and bushes carefully maintained.  I was told that goats are gentle grazers. They graze from the top down, unlike sheep, which graze from the bottom up. The goat grazing style does not cause as much damage to the root system of plants on site.

Goats have been used by many communities to maintain vegetation in yards, especially in areas where there is steep terrain.  According to a Smithsonian article, Using goats to prevent wildfires,  goats do great yard work on steep terrain and in areas where there is poison oak.  This past summer goats were even used at in Berkeley, California at the Berkeley Lab to do vegetation management.

Some Firewise communities have used goats managed by companies that know how to keep them from over-foraging in an area.  The use of these furry little gardeners can be beneficial to maintain landscapes in areas that would otherwise be very costly for homeowners to maintain. As our Year of Living Less Dangerously From Wildfire winds down, it was great to see yet another creative way for residents to embrace wildfire safety.