Four-legged mowers

Rosa 'All Ablaze' blazes cherry red in Burke Brothers' Tuscany exhibit, accenting classic Italian elements with bright flowers. (Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)

Yvonne Post loves goats. She has a fledgling herd of six Angoras at her farm in Chester County, and she's training them to do weed-management duty at several of the public gardens in the Philadelphia region. This week I watched Rodin and Wyeth (Yvonne's quite the artistic type) "audition" at Bartram's Garden, which has a 15-acre meadow tangled up with Canadian thistle, vetch and mugwort. These two "boys," as Yvonne calls them, went right to work and it looks like they may get the job. Using goats in this way isn't a new idea, of course, but it's interesting to note just how often they're being used these days. Locally, the Lanchester Landfill in Honeybrook has had great success with goats, but so have the cities of Denver and Chattanooga. Denver's had its "Goats in the City" program for 10 years now and Chattanooga uses goats to get rid of carpet-like kudzu on Missionary Ridge, overlooking the city. The goats were called in because it's too dangerous to put humans up on the ridge; the kudzu can be six feet tall, a knotted mess and a dangerous one if you're carrying tools with blades. Denver thought goats would be an effective alternative to chemical weed treatment, although some chemical applications sometimes are called for to supplement what goats do. But they get the job done. They love weeds. Thorns and yucky textures don't bother them one whit. And these guys, young, castrated males known as wethers, are docile and sweet and bond quickly with their caretaker. As Yvonne says, "They are absolutely the easiest animals to deal with." When I visited them at home in Chester County today, they quickly bonded with me, though I suspect they thought I had some treats for them. Mow on, boys.