Staring at Goats

We are currently in day #2 of an experiment – a learning by doing that involves the importation of many horned, floppy eared, ruminant quadrupeds onto a vacant urban lot.  This experiment can be approached from various related perspectives: urban ecology, animal husbandry, biophilia, waste utilization, systems design and corporate landscape, urban agriculture, and for the technically minded, suitability testing for the writing of new landscape maintenance specifications.

In earlier posts we’ve mentioned a 2 acre ‘vacant’ urban lot that we have been photographing for the past three years.  We have been documenting how the emergent urban forest there responds to disturbances, seasonal variations, and its context.  The lot has served as a daily, readily available place to observe constructed urban ecology at both large and minute scales.

In particular we became interested in the maintenance regimes (typical for such sites) that cut back the growth of undesired vegetation once or twice a year, thus keeping the biotic systems locked in short, repeating intervals of growth and increasing complexity followed by clear-cutting.

[above and below: images taken on May 12th, 2010]

[above and below: images taken one day later on May 13th, 2010]

Intrigued by the growing use of goats in other Pacific Coast cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, we wanted to see if we could experiment with them here as a replacement for standard mowing regimes, wondering what it might entail to make that happen and to what effect.  Thus not a novel innovation per se, but a practice we hadn’t observed here, or researched and experienced in the real.  And as an experiment, we hypothesize that there is more to this than the short, sensational coverage that it typically receives…but we could be proved wrong.

[The 10th and Belmont lot as it has regrown since the clear-cut image above.  Taken on  , just before the arrival of the goats]

We have been successful in facilitating an arrangement to bring goats to this urban meadow and thus will be doing a short series of posts documenting and analyzing this experiment along the directions mentioned above.  And as we write them, if there is existing research out there we should know about or experiences worth relating, we would be happy to add them.

One comment

  1. Very interesting project!

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