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Goats, Not Lawns!

This past week Steve and I spent some time down south in Atlanta, GA. The very best part of it was the absolutely perfect weather and the beautiful, fully leafed-out trees. I have a feeling that as soon as I land in Rochester it'll be back to the land of the not-yet living. Come on, spring!!

One thing that I noticed down here was the lush lawns, and the overly-lush overgrown lawns. It made me think of my lawn back home... Which is a big dirt pile. Since we had to put in a new septic system, a new well, and a geothermal system anything that was once a lawn is now mounds of uneven dirt. We could, of course, just seed it with grass, water it daily, and then mow it weekly to create that typical American Dream lawn. Or we could try something different.

When Steve and I started Chicory Farm in 2011 we decided on that name because we wanted to name our farm after a weed that most people would probably see as undesirable in their lawns, but that our goats would be excited to stumble upon as they're grazing. The idea of raising goats and growing vegetables on our grass rather than cultivating a perfectly manicured lawn was at the forefront of the founding of our farm. Why waste time, money, and gas on maintaining a lawn when we could just let the goats and sheep take care of it?

Our yard at our new house is a combination of heavily shaded (east side) and partly shaded (west side) areas. The west side ends where a hay field begins and slopes upward. Before the east side was torn up it was pretty well vegetated with mosses. There's a big pine tree there, so I think the soil is pretty acidic. On the other side there was grass that was mowed regularly.

I'm not sure what I'd like to do, but I've found there are a lot of different options. For one, we could simply thrown down some wildflower seeds, and let it turn into a little field of flowers. I like this idea because it would be super easy to maintain (basically just letting them run wild), and because it would provide plants for bees to pollinate. I dislike this idea because it would definitely be a less manicured look, and I'm not sure how Steve and our friend, Russ (who still farms the land around the house) would feel about that.

Credit: http://www.highcountrygardens.com/wildflower-seeds/mixtures/honey-bee-wildflower-seed-mix

Another idea is to specifically landscape the whole lawn to grow perennials, or even annuals, that would require less water and maintenance than grass. This way we could grow fruits, vegetables and herbs. The biggest downside to this plan is just how much time, talent and money it would take to put such a collection of gardens together. I'm just not sure I've got those resources to spare this year!

Credit: http://www.hotgardens.net/replacing_lawn_with_knot_garden.htm

Similar to the moss that originally grew on the east side of the house, we could use ground cover rather than grass. The photo below is of thyme, an excellent ground cover for sunny areas. These types of plants wouldn't be suited for soccer playing, but would be just fine with light use.

Credit: http://www.planetnatural.com/organic-lawn-care-101/alternatives/

I'm not sure what we'll end up doing, but we'll have to make that decision soon! Before we can plant anything we'll need roll the yard flat to smooth out the dirt mounds and fill in the dirt sink holes. If you've ever tried anything unusual with your lawn, let me know! I'd love to get your input!