Monday, July 14, 2008

Finally - the after pics

So it's been months since I've been able to find the time to post our final after pics. So long, that in fact, these pictures are quite out of date as the morning glory has completely covered the ground. A little depressing, but nothing that a short stint of goats in the fall can't take care of. We've been trying to get blackberry dug out - in fits and starts. We planted some red-osier dogwood, twinberry and pacific ninebark in some of the wettest spots. I checked down there over the weekend, and everything I found still seemed to be growing - it was pretty surrounded by horsetail, so I cleared some of that and tried to unwind any morning glory growing on them, that is, until I got thrashed by stinging nettles, which sent Triona and I into a speedy retreat.

Now, here are the pictures! Matched pretty closely by Dan.

The apple tree in the background actually blossomed this year (we haven't been able to see it in a few years, so don't know if it has recently). It was beautiful.

It's hard to tell, but the blackberries were up to about the tetherball height - and now it's all knocked down to the ground. You can also see the retaining wall that was previously covered with ivy.

Where once there was an impenetrable wall, you can see down into the ravine

This spot will hopefully be terraced someday so that we can make it easier to get down there.

The lighter area in the back of the after picture is where we've done some planting - I'll be wearing gloves next time!

Thanks for reading our glog - we'll try to post more when/if we make more progress. Still LOTS to do!


I took a wetlands class in graduate school where we learned how to delineate wetlands - basically, what characteristics does a site need to include to be classified a wetland. In addition to wetland soils, vegetation, and hydrology, my professor and TA added: trash. Wetlands are full of trash - very sad, but it does seem to often be the case, and our little backyard riparian zone was no different. We hauled quite a collection of balls, spent fireworks, a swingset, even a lawnmower out of the ravine. Well, we know the weeds will keep growing back, but at least the trash won't!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Immediate Habitat Improvement

One of our major goals for the back woods is to restore it to a more native form and provide better wildlife habitat. This morning, we looked out the window to see a male Pileated Woodpecker feeding at one of the rotting stumps that had previously been covered with ivy (and surely filled with rats). We'd seen Pileateds in the yard on a fairly regular basis, but usually up high, or flying over. We've never had one feeding right at the edge of the lawn. Before long, he was joined by a female and they spent several minutes plucking away at the bark looking for beetles and other insects. Hopefully they found some and will be back. We'll be watching all the stumps for woodpecker activity.

The Goats Go Home

Noname doing who knows what.
Kalina hanging in the front yard with Spice.

After two weeks with us, the goats left on Tuesday. The job was basically done, so on their final day we brought them all onto the lawn to let them fill their bellies with grass as a thank you for a job well done (and to delay our having to lug out the mower).
Eight goats for 2 weeks has been just right for us. We needed that many goat/days to do the job. More goats for only one week would have been too hard to manage, and fewer goats for a longer time would have dragged on (the novelty was starting to wear off as we kept having to move goats who had pulled their stakes loose from the wet ground).

Spice desperately tries to reach the poisonous Rhododendron

Triona playing in the back yard with the goats
Dan bringing Spice up into the front yard - it's true what they say about goats being pack animals. They were NOT happy as soon as they were out of sight of their herdmates and they would all bleat plaintively back and forth until they could see each other again.
Together again

Kali feeds Delight an apple branch
Kali, unhappy to learn that feeding Delight an apple branch means she will actually take it away...

Bridget feeds herself an apple branch.

Dan bringing Google and Goggle up the driveway.

Spice warming up the driver's seat for Josh.

Loading the last goats up in the van.
We can't thank Jill, Josh, and their goats enough for helping us with this overwhelming job! It has been so fun to have the goats, and it's exciting to feel like we're making headway on the yard. We would absolutely recommend using goats to clear your brush, and renting them from the Goat Lady if you live in the Seattle area.
We are seriously considering getting a pair of goats permanently to help us stay on top of the brush (and to help entertain the neighborhood kids).
Final before and after pictures coming soon.....

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Goats Bring Out the Neighborhood

Triona comes face to face with Noname.

Almost immediately upon the goats' arrival, our next door neighbors were out on their deck checking out the strange goings on. Shortly thereafter, they were over in the yard making friends with our new guests. The Goat Lady told us this is a regular occurance for their clients - many get to know neighbors they've never met before.

We live in a neighborhood where pretty much everyone at least recognizes everyone else. It's a short dead end street, with a one block cul-de-sac, so there are about 20 houses altogether. It used to be the kind of neighborhood where the kids all knew each other and played together. While the goats were here, it was again.

One of the best parts of our goat experience has been the daily visits from the neighborhood kids (and their parents). Every day after school they would come to our yard to check on, feed, pet, help move, and untangle the goats. There was plenty of running, climbing, and getting stuck in the mud in the back woods too. It's what we envisioned when we bought the house, and Triona loved having four 10 year olds to follow around (who were all very patient).

If you are looking for a way to meet your neighbors, we highly recommend goats!

Thierry gives Obie some goat feed once the browse starts getting sparse.

Shannon (Thierry's mom) fends off Google who anxiously awaits a handful of goat feed.

Anna (our champion goat tender) says goodbye to Sugar and Delight on their last afternoon with us.

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.