too many words by laura lemay

rent-a-goat, at your service

There’s a hill out behind Yahoo, between the office parks and the sewage ponds on the bay. Its a small hill, more of a rise. I think it was a landfill once. Maybe it still is. There are running trails all around it, and on the top there’s a good view over the bay and back across the valley to the hills.

The hill is covered in weeds and wildflowers, and its too steep to mow. I had heard from people at Yahoo that instead of noxious chemicals or workers with noisy and polluting weedwhackers to keep the weeds down, the owners of the hill rent goats.

I’ve heard about the goat rental service. These are folks who rent their goats for land clearing. Goats, of course, will eat anything plant-like, and many things that aren’t. Just stick them on some land and off they go. Grass, brush, poison oak, small cars, it doesn’t matter. Goats eat it all. And all they leave behind is some natural fertilizer and the faint smell of goat.

I had heard over the last few weeks a buzzy rumor at work that the goats were on the hill. Finally last week I got a chance to walk out with my cameraphone to find out. For a long while on the path around the hill there were no goats. No goats, no goats. And then I turned the corner onto the backside of the hill and ah: goats.

For some reason I had imagined some small number of goats in the rental goat service; I had expected them to fence off a side of the hill and then let out, oh, ten goats. Instead what we had here was a fenced section of hill about 300 yards square with some 150 goats on it. Goats every few feet. Goats lying down, goats milling about, goats nibbling, goats being, um, aromatic.

Not much to say there, except: “wow, that’s a lot of goats.” The goats came up to the fence to visit and I let a particularly friendly one sniff me and I scratched it behind the ears. It looked up at me sadly as if to say “six years of molecular biology, and this was the only job I could find.” and then it went off to nibble a thistle.

More goat pictures on flickr.