Greener alternative to deweeding

DURHAM Homeowners in Durham, sick of pulling up weeds and invasive plants, have a green alternative that uses no power tools or gasoline engines. The workers don't take a lunch break, because they eat all day.

The crew arrives bright and early, the boss prepares the work site, then those workers resume a job they started 24 hours earlier.

They're goats, and they clear dense undergrowth with gusto. It's a good gig for the hungry 14 member Goat Patrol.

"They get their pleasure from what they do for a living. This is how they get fed, and this is how they spend their day," Goat Patrol Owner Alix Bowman said.

The goats are the key to Bowman's sustainable, very green garden service. They even provide fertilizer, at no extra charge.

"Most people are actually pretty excited, to have it mixed in with the soil," Bowman said. "And just the natural movement of the goats, them walking around, helps till it into the soil."

A look at the area they worked on Tuesday and Wednesday shows the goats are very efficient. It started out thick with ivy, but a day later it's almost clear of any undergrowth. The homeowner who hired the Goat Patrol has even more dense ivy, covering part of her backyard.

"A lot of people in north Durham have a lot of ivy in their back yards. I happen to be one of them," said Mary Dorsey, "and I think we'll have the Goat Patrol do some of that, as well!"

The goats at work attract the curious of all ages. One, which Bowman says was the runt of a litter and bottle fed, likes to be held and petted. But most of the goats we saw working seemed very focused on their group assignment. Some really got into the search for undesirable ground cover and small plants. They enjoy eating almost anything green that's unwanted in a garden, including kudzu and poison ivy.

"That's been a big draw for homeowners who don't want to be covered with itchy bumps themselves. I've noticed when I bring them out and there's poison ivy present, they seek it out and it's usually one of the first things they eat," said Bowman.

For more information on the Goat Patrol service. go to

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