Keeping Goats, Geese and Snakes in your Garden and on Homesteads

Thinking of keeping goats? In our efforts to be green, to be more independent, use less gas and so on, some of us have found alternative ways to plow our gardens. Come and read about the usefulness of using goats, geese and snakes in your gardens.

Keeping Goats for Plowing and Tilling

keeping goats
                                               Keeping Goats

Goats have always been the poor man's cow, and plowing is no exception. Goats are fantastic animals. Keeping goats will give you milk, meat and draft capabilities with almost no feed costs. You can feed 11 goats or more for the price of feeding one cow and her calf for one year. That's 6 bred goats and her kids for the same year. More than triple the amount of milk, and over double the amount of meat for the same feed.

The personality of most goats is wonderful. I used to say they are like dogs that milk. They love you and will do anything to be around people. That's why they make such wonderful draft choices. My sons used to pick out a fancy wether and start training it before it was even weaned.

They would take an old horse halter and turn it backwards, putting the goats head though the hole there the horses nose would go, and strapping it about the girth of the goat, with the part of the halter that would go over the poll of the horses head and fasten. This was the best harness money could buy.

In keeping goats we never bought an actual goat harness. We just wrapped the part of the harness that went over the goat's chest with some sheep's wool to avoid sores when pulling heavy things. It was a lot of fun and it got a lot of work done that would have been a lot harder without those big fancy wethers.

You don't need fancy to make a good draft goat, but you do want big. Wethers are really the only way to go when picking out something that can really work for you. Breeds like Nubians are large, however they are a bit more nervous and vocal then other breeds. I found that a Nubian cross with a more docile breed like Lamanche worked very well.

I showed and raised Lamancha goats for over 15yrs along with some all of the Swiss breeds except the Toggenburg. They have the genetics for off-flavored milk and I couldn't take the chance. It was always the Lamancha that stayed due to their kind temperament and easy going nature. They also have a high percent butterfat and milk as well as the Swiss breeds without being as prone to mastitis.

The bucks and wethers were always well mannered and willing to work. Well, most of them anyway. I can remember a few dragging my youngest son across the orchard with this screaming for help. I think he did it for fun half the time.

This year while tilling small parts of land or your family garden, consider keeping goats and using the goat to help till rather than a tiller you rent or buy. It’s a lot more fun, and you get to use the goat for more than just tilling.

Keeping Geese for Weeding

After you get your garden planted, consider fencing it in and adding a few geese. You don't need a special breed to weed. Hatcheries will sell "weeder" geese, however all geese will weed. This is a way to market colorful crossbred geese, to name them "weeder".

weeder geese

A goose was once the ideal wedding gift
, as it was a sign how long the marriage would last. The marriage was to last as long as the pair of geese lived. Geese live on average 75yrs. This means you can buy just a couple for your garden and never have to worry about replacing them. A dog house for shelter and a place to get a drink and your geese will be happy pulling up and feeding on small shoots of new plants as they come up.

Have your garden plants well-started so the new shoots of weeds and unwanted grass looks a lot more appealing to the geese then your tomatoes. It also is good if you give them table scraps or a handful of corn every now and then. If you want geese to eat, allow them to nest and by mother’s day, you will have a clutch of goslings.

You can tell a male from a female goose that is of laying-age, by watching them walk away from you. The female will have a low hanging "bag" that's her "egg shoot" as I call it. That's not the right name, it’s just what I call it. The male will have a smooth tummy as he doesn't need an egg shoot. This is a fail-safe way to sex geese of laying-age.

Goose Down and Goose Fat

I love geese. I love their personality. I love the work they do on the farm. I just love keeping geese. If you want to make your own pillow, don't use feather, pluck the fluffy stuff under the feathers; the down. Yes, your goose will be naked for the most part, so don't do this unless the weather is warm. Your goose will only re-grow those feathers twice a year.

When you butcher geese, save the fat. I skin geese and keep every drop of goose fat I can.Goose fat is the best water-proofing you can get for leather. I set my work boots in the oven on the pilot light or out in the sun on a hot, hot day till the leather is warm or hot to the touch, then rub in all the goose fat I can. There isn't an oil or water-proofer on the market that will do a better job or last longer.

Now that your goose has no skin or fat, you can wrap it in bacon and bake it, or put it in the slow cooker with some BBQ sauce and call it Mock beef. That's what I did for years as my family got so sick of eating goose. Finely the youngest son said, "Mom, we know beef doesn't have those kinds of bones." My cover was blown and I finely got rid of the geese.

I do have in the incubator a gift of 6 eggs that are Toulouse and Ebden. I can't wait to have geese again. They have to be one of the most useful animals a farm, or even a garden could every employ. A goose is so eager to help with your garden, they even fertilize it for you. They have quite good appetites so even a pair of geese will do a lot of good.

Snakes in the Garden and Geese

The last animal to help your garden is the snake. My grandmother had such beautiful gardens that people would go out of their way just to come see. She would put out bowls of water for the snakes. When I ask her why she said they eat the bugs, mice and bad things that keep the garden from growing. She believed snakes in the garden are good luck.

I believe that grandma had a beautiful garden, I also know grandma didn't have geese in her garden and that I hate snakes. I put the bowls of water out to honor my grandmother but I also put the geese out to make sure I never see one of those creepy snakes. Geese suck snakes up like spaghetti. Thank goodness they do! Geese also eat bugs and mice so, it evens out.

I hope your garden survives the weather and you have the most beautiful garden ever this year.

By Gypsy, our resident homestead blogger from One Sky Ranch Gypsy's Wanderings Homestead Blog

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