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GBlist: RE: goat mowing

Hi John--

Saw your note on the Green Building Listserve about the damage that goats can do to the landscape if allowed to graze indiscriminately.  Do you (or anyone on the listserve) have any studies or references that can document this.

The reason I'm asking for "proof" is that a local developer is using goats to clear 5 acres of forested land and remove "noxious plants and fire hazards."  The developer is trying to show what a terrible fire risk this forest is to the surrounding neighbors and that, really, the best thing to do would be to chop it all down and build 350 more homes and another 18-hole golf course.  But, of course, they also want to show how ecologically minded they are, so they are letting goats help to protect the people from fire.  A quote from the front page of our local paper about the goat project:  "experts are going low-tech to potentially save nearby homes in the event of a fire."

So, you see, if would be really helpful if you know of any projects or case studies that used goats and what happened to the landscape after the "hoofed locust" came through.

Thanks in advance,

Robin Salsburg
Monterey, CA

From: 	John Salmen[SMTP:terrain@seaside.net]
Sent: 	Monday, July 21, 1997 8:59 AM
To: 	SAMALEK@aol.com
Cc: 	greenbuilding@crest.org
Subject: 	Re: GBlist: Sustainable Home In LAH, CA

As you use the term sustainable house I'm supportive of Alex Wilson's
suggestion of hand removal. Its primary benefit (that your client will
appreciate in the long term) is that it allows for the cultivation of
the existing landscape. In the course of removing the poison oak you can
select and optimize conditions for other existing plants that might
displace the poison oak or are desirable for their landscape or native
values. In establishing a permanent native landscape you are supporting
an environment that maintains a connection to existing species (plant,
animal, insect, bacterial, etc.) you are protecting localized plant
species and you have a varied landscape that requires little energy
inputs (water, amendments, money, etc.). This seems an appropriate
approach for a sustainable house

The financial cost of this approach will be more than compensated for in
the savings from not having to maintain a 'fake' landscape. Someone who
specializes in native landscaping should at least be involved for a
survey of existing landscape and planning. Their involvement is well
worth it as the result can be not only an attractive landscape but one
that is a wealth of information about natural processes that might
inspire neighbors to consider a similar approach.

Goats can quickly render any landscape lunar and kill every tree on
site. Bark mulch can at worst toxify the soil depending on the tree
species its from and at best alter the soil balance so much that the
first plants reappearing will be some undesirable accumulator.

For some reason I am imagining that this site is not large so a sand
filter septic might be a good approach as they can occupy a 15' area
however they still have a dispersal line (1") by however many feet
required by sizing. It is possible depending on approvals that this line
could be segregated and dedicated to a zoned below ground irrigation
system (eg. lawns) and this is a nice solution as the high cost of a
controlled water saving irrigation system is subsidized by the higher
cost of septic. Or the output could go to a constructed pond (designed
to complete the treatment) If you want to reduce the impact of a
dispersal line you could add a treatment plant (aerator) ahead of the
sand filter system which should reduce the biological concern for
dispersal (but you still have to put the output somewhere - it could
be,depending on approvals and further filtration, be functionally
recycled for house use.

I'm curious about other design choices you are making - keep posting.

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For  instructions send  e-mail to  greenbuilding-request@crest.org.