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Get your goat

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Is it hard to see your lawn through the weeds? Do you have overgrown shrubbery that is out of control? Using herbicides isn't always the answer, or, depending on whom you ask, it's never the answer. Want a different solution? Rent a goat.

Before the introduction of chemical herbicides, goats and llamas were used for centuries to help clear land and get rid of weeds. Now these cloven-hooved ruminants are back en vogue.

In a San Francisco park, goats have been used every year to help clear land where park officials had previous conducted controlled burnings and used herbicides. Goats were determined to be cheaper than the maintenance crews; there were fewer accidents and the goats didn't demand time off for contracting poison oak.

Now goats have arrived in the Triangle: Goat Patrol rents goats to take care of your yard. First a human being will examine your property to determine if goats can do the job. Goats will eat just about anything, from poison ivy to English ivy, but some plants prevalent in the area are toxic to the animals, so surveying the property is necessary.

Next, the human will provide you with an estimate that includes fencing costs, grazing time and transportation of the goats. If you decide to rent the goats, the human will temporarily erect a low-voltage electric fence around the area to be grazed. The fence keeps the goats in, but won't hurt them if they run into it.

The next day, the goats will be delivered to graze on your property under the watchful eyes of a human herder. At the end of the day, if the goats still haven't eaten all they can, they go home for the night before returning to the yard buffet the next morning. Once your yard is cleared, the fence is taken down and you have the added benefit of some free fertilizer.

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