A goat for the gorse

Each sunny day upon my way
A goat I pass;
He has a beard of silver grey,
A bell of brass.
And all the while I am in sight
He seems to muse,
And stares at me with all his might
And chews and chews.

~ Robert William Service, “The Goat and I,” 1933

Robert W. Service (1878-1958) was one of the most commercially successful poets of the 20th century, although his most popular works were not highly considered by the literary set of his time. Indeed, Service did not consider his work poetry. He said, “Verse, not poetry, is what I was after … something the man in the street would take notice of and the sweet old lady would paste in her album; something the schoolboy would spout and the fellow in the pub would quote. Yet I never wrote to please anyone but myself; it just happened. I belonged to the simple folks whom I liked to please.”

Gorse in bloom

My husband, Jerry and I, recently bought some property about 5 miles south of Bandon where we hope to build a retirement home. Unfortunately, the property has gobs of gorse, a highly invasive plant species that thrives in disturbed, poor soils.

Anya, an Applegate Valley resident, responded to my recent column about the gorse and provided some helpful advice. Here’s what Anya shared with me:

Goats gorging on gorse

When I lived in Mendocino one goat cleared our land of gorse. They love the stuff. Sheep require fences. Goats can be tethered and do fine. We built a 4′ x 4′ x 4′ barn on skids,with a circle bolt attached to it. We chained the goat to it with a 50′ chain. (they’ll eat rope.) When the circle was clear we moved the barn. A salt block and a bucket of water were the only other requirements. And he really didn’t drink all that much water–got plenty of moisture from the gorse. We got a free unwanted older male goat for this. Males are smelly because they pee on themselves to attract females so many people don’t want them. Wethers are good too.

Goats are herd animals, so don’t use a female–males are more used to being alone. You can use several females if fenced, but a movable shelter means you don’t have the expense and maintenance of fencing.If you’ve never known goats you’ll be surprised how lovable they are. Ours had horns over 2 feet long and never tried to attack us cause we made friends. But you can get ones that have been dehorned. You have to keep their hooves trimmed, but if the land is rocky they do it themselves. Good luck!

Thank you, Anya! In honor of the goat’s penchant for gorse, I tried out the A-B/A-B/C-D/C-D/E-F/E-F/G-H/G-H/ rhyming style of Robert William Service for my own simple verse:

A Goat for the Gorse

Thickets of gorse stand ten feet tall,
a wall of thorns.
We need a goat to eat it all,
one with two horns,
and lots of teeth to chew the gorse,
strong belly, too.
It’s not a job fit for a horse,
but a goat’ll do!

Jerry is hard at work clearing gorse and blackberry bushes!

 

New gorse is growing on cut trunks. We need a goat!

 

Gobs of cleared gorse on our property in Bandon

 

 

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  • About the Author

    Rhonda Nowak

    Rhonda Nowak is a Rogue Valley gardener, writer and teacher. With more than 25 years of gardening experience and a Ph.D. in literature and language arts education, she combines a love for plants, poetry, and prose in her Literary Gardener blog. ... Full Profile
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