In Southern California, April is the month when I am woken up nearly every morning by the buzzing of a relentless swarm of weed whackers. I am lucky enough to live in a hilly neighborhood with great views (and great neighbors). There are a lot of undeveloped tracts of land too steep to be practical to build on. This is where the weeds grow waist, or even shoulder, high — even more so this year thanks to the delicious amount of rain we had this winter. It takes only a few weeks for the verdant hills to relapse into tawny tangles of matted dead grass, also known as “fuel.” Fire season, no joke in these parts, is soon upon us. Around this time, the regular four-legged inhabitants of the hills in our urban-wildlife interface — the coyotes, raccoons, skunks, gophers and feral cats — are joined by other four legged creatures with beards. The goats are back! For years, the Getty Center has hired goats to clear dry brush on the steep hillsides in tony Brentwood. And this year, Laguna Beach has doubled its number of goat helpers in their effort to rid the hills of flammable material close to homes and businesses. The Los Angeles County Fire Department has even published a list of goat contractors on their website, for anyone who wants to give this a try on their own “estate”. There are 23 goat herders listed from as far afield as Colorado and Arizona (but most are from California, all up and down the state). Goats are industrious and hungry, with excellent footing on precarious hillsides that heavy equipment cannot reach. The best part is, they are quiet! I’ve never been woken up at 7 a.m. by the sounds of goats munching on weeds.
Here are pictures of my personal favorite goat, Penelope. She does not have to earn her keep like her working cousins do. She gets by in life by her sheer cuteness and shares a home with a horse, a cat, four chickens and two humans just a 10 minute drive from Downtown Los Angeles (no, she doesn’t live in the house, but yes, she thinks she should). Maybe I’ll invite her over next year for a little buffet on my back slope…..