Here’s an old new way to deal with an unruly garden. Rather than engage in hand-to-stem combat with your weeds, or resort to a Monsanto solution (pun intended), why not hire a trip of goats?

The next day, Guggenhime carefully maneuvered his 25-foot trailer into the alley behind my bungalow and let loose a posse of eager weed-munchers: almost three dozen nannies and kids and a few billies. The goats trotted from the trailer and through a makeshift corral into the yard, where they grouped in the corner looking disoriented. Soon enough, though, they realized they had landed in a weed buffet, and they quickly dispersed and got down to it, munching and snoozing and pooping and batting horns and saying “maaaaaaa” and munching some more. Meanwhile, Guggenhime and I seeded the yard, one-third wildflowers and two-thirds native grasses. (It’s a good idea to seed before or during a goat session, Guggenhime had told me, because they irrigate and fertilize as they till the soil with their hooves.)

The first plants to get chomped were the leafy shoots of my big elm tree, some of which were several feet high and covered with delectable, bright green leaves. One goat even climbed into the tree to munch. Meanwhile, others busied themselves on a big patch of thistle, as still more went to work on a tangle of shrubbery and bindweed that had grown a foot high and more than a foot thick over our chain-link fence. “Am I dreaming, or are those goats in your yard?” asked my neighbor to the west.

When the time came to leave the goats overnight, Guggenhime turned on an electric charge in the fencing to thwart would-be escapees. When the goats are grazing on larger plots of land, he sleeps in his trailer to make sure they’re okay. But tonight he was going home to his wife and five-month-old son, Jake.

“Do you feel like you’re leaving your babies in the hands of a stranger?” I called after him as he and Nap, his Australian shepherd, hopped the electric fence and headed out into the alley.

He turned back and smiled. “I feel like I’m leaving a stranger in the hands of my babies.”

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