Drink Your Lawn
Turn Your Weeds and Grass into Milk
Brought to you by Hotel Goat
What happens when you synthesize the suburban craze for the perfect yard with a craving for goat cheese?
Hotel Goat is the working name of a project that combines suburban agriculture with advanced technology.
Below is a discussion of some of the issues we will have to deal with. We discuss using goats for lawn maintenance, and the legality of keeping goats. We follow that with a crash course in being a goatherd. We include some names of those who have pioneered the way of suburban sustainability. We finish with a discussion of the biggest challenge ahead: how to understand goat eating habits and bend that to the task at hand.
Using goats for lawn maintenance
Managing goats from the time they are born is critical to using them for lawn maintenance.
The first decision a suburban goatherd has to make is to decide what breed of goats to keep.
We are planning on keeping goats in residential yards. Nigerian Dwarf goats are suited for living in suburbia. Their smaller size size means they require less space. Their smaller size also makes it possible to transport them in cars.
To determine the legality of keeping suburban goats in Takoma Park, we checked with MoCo zoning and the City of Takoma Park.
City of Takoma Park said the city follows MoCo zoning regulations. MoCo zoning allows goats to be kept. However, goat pens and shelters must conform to zoning regulations as far as setbacks from neigbors and streets.
Setbacks could be a concern if temporary fencing which is set up on a front yard, for example, is legally considered a pen. This is where goat management becomes critical. Properly trained goats can be kept on a leash.
We also checked the City of Takoma Park municipal code to determine the legality of goats in Takoma Park. We were not able to find anything in the code that prohibits goats. Here is a link to the code: Municipal Code
An article in the Washington Post also indicates that goats are legal in Takoma Park. Here is a link that article: Article
A final note: The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund is a national team of lawyers that we keep on retainer for any legal challenges we may have.
Curriculum for goatherd crash course
Breeds of goats
A. the most common breeds in America
Uses for goats
C. Vegetation management
Life cycle of goats
A. breeding goats
Diseases, parasites, etc.
B. Plants that are poisonous to goats: azaleas
D. Watering goats
A. buying goats
B. feed and hay costs
a. where to buy feed and hay
Income from goats
A. raw milk laws in Maryland
B. vegetation management service
C. Commercial kitchen use
The downside of suburban goats
A. Noise management
B. Waste management
C. Odor management
D. finding someone reliable to care for goats when you go away for extended time
A. local Facebook pages of breeders and farmer groups
A. disbudding goats
B. never underestimate a goat’s ability to damage property and persons, to escape, and to generally act exactly like people
MoCo sustainability pioneers
Dr. Nazirahk Amen has been involved in many urban agricultural projects. His distinctive purple house is a beacon of sustainability. Link to a recent project: Rice Farming
We are indebted to Dr. Amen for setting the agricultural tone in Takoma Park.
Mike Tabor is a Takoma Park citizen and activist, and an organic commercial farmer. Michael was involved in the city outlawing the use of lawn pesticides and herbicides, This has paved theway for goats safely browsing lawns.
Lady Farmers Mary and Emma Kingsley are local leaders in the “slow living” movement. Suburban agriculture rightly finds itself as part of this movement. Suburban agriculture is more than farming and gardening in suburbia. Sub-ag is a way of life that encompasses most aspects of living. The Lady Farmers are even having a slow living conference. Link to conference: Conference
To think like a goat
The following considerations apply to Nigerian Dwarf goats left to their own devices in a suburban barn. Trained goats, other breeds of goats, or goats in other circumstances, will act differently.
Consider a group of people at a smorgasbord. And there are exotic foods on the table. What is a strategy for eating? One way is to wait till everyone else fills up their plate and then watch to find out what they like.
If people are leaving over a certain food on their plate, that’s probably something to avoid.
Conversely, if they are eating a certain food, that’s probably going down well.
Goats have a sophisticated system like that to communicate what to eat. It involves what I call congregating, questioning, and waiting.
A. Congregating means a herd of goats like eating from the same area. If there are two buckets of exactly the same food, but if a few start eating from one bucket, that bucket becomes the popular “restaurant” and they will all fight to eat there. Even though the same, exact food is right “next door”.
B. Questioning means one goat going over to another goat who is eating, and the first goat lifts her chin, and sniffs what the second one is eating. It’s like, “Whatcha having? Anything good?” If it’s a vine and it’s hanging from the second goat’s mouth, it’ll sometimes be, “Mind if I take a piece from your plate?” and the first goat will eat the part that’s hanging.
C. Waiting means eating something and then waiting awhile while the food wends its way through the goat’s stomachs. So a goat will nibble something, then wait, and if it goes down ok, they’ll go back to eating more. However, if it makes them sick, they will then advise the other goats to avoid it.