I could hear the sound of music with Julie Andrew’s voice in my head singing, “High on a hill was a lonely goatherd Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo,” as I made my daily visits to the Fat and Sassy Goats grazing outside of New Castle Town Hall last spring. The goats began their work in late May and were contained by a solar-powered electric net fence. The goats helped clear weeds and vines without the use of pesticides or heavy machinery.
In June Fat and Sassy Goats, co-owned by Jenn Balch and Donald Arrant, completed the goat grazing project with the goal of clearing a riparian area next to the baseball field. They worked with the town to bring a herd of 30+ goats to consume and “recycle” vines, weeds and brambles that had overtaken steep banks next to the creek over the course of a week, as an alternative to herbicide application.
On my visits to the goats, I frequently saw members of the New Castle Police Department, some of whom were as obsessed with the goats as I was. The goats appealed to people of all ages. Grandparents brought their grandchildren. Teens stopped by and tiny tots in strollers came by to watch the goats. One friend enjoyed her birthday breakfast in their company.
Every day I posted pictures and videos of the goats at work on social media. “Where are they?” people asked. I was delighted to spread the word.
One day I decided to bring Maggie Mae, the beloved Pup Reporter. She went wild when she saw them. If there wasn’t a barrier separating her from the goats, she would have eagerly joined them. Many of them seemed fascinated with her and met her at the fence. She may not be your typical herding breed like a Border Collie or Australian Shepherd, but Maggie Mae could have started a new trend of toy poodle goatherders.
“This was our first project working directly with a municipality, and in particular, Dennis Corelli, Environmental Coordinator, Sabrina Hull, Director of Planning and Christina Papes, Town Clerk who all went above and beyond to ensure everything went smoothly every step of the way,” said Balch. “We would also like to thank Round Rock Preserve for their catalytic goat grazing project, the New Castle Police Department for being great goat neighbors, and the many friendly people from the community who stopped by to say hi or to watch and appreciate the goats.”
Full ecological restoration of this area is still a work in progress, but they are continuing to speak with the town about a combination of future grazing and re-seeding, so we may see them all again soon. I, for one, would love that!
And Balch adds, “The goats enjoyed their time in New Castle, and we did too.”