Cailey Chase and the Angora goats of Vahana Nature Rehabilitation at Idlewild Park in Cranbrook, Thursday, May 22. (Dave Humphrey photo)

Cailey Chase and the Angora goats of Vahana Nature Rehabilitation at Idlewild Park in Cranbrook, Thursday, May 22. (Dave Humphrey photo)

The Weed Warrior: Having goats tackle invasive plants is an excellent strategy

On May 20th, I visited the weed control project at Idlewild Park involving Cailey Chase and her Vahana Nature Rehabilitation goats.

Cailey kindly found time to chat with me while managing her goat herd and interacting with the public.

If anyone of you is interested in learning to mill Cashmere goat hair locally, for knitting projects, Cailey would love to talk to you. Having to send her shearings to P.E.I. for milling is a bit of a stretch for Cailey; anyway, back to weed control.

In the last decade, I have worked a number of summers with weed control contractors dealing with invasive weeds in Cranbrook and Kimberley, including the knapweed and Canada thistle infesting the boggy area on the east end of Idlewild. Since we are not allowed to use herbicide within 15 metres of water, controlling weeds on boggy ground is slow and involves a lot of clipping, hand pulling and bagging . For a crew of three or four, dealing with all the noxious weeds in Cranbrook, and around the city reservoir in a month or so, did not leave us much time to spend in one area.

WATCH: Goats tackle invasive weeds at Idlewild.

Having a couple of dozen goats take on sensitive areas — where herbicide use is not allowed, such as Idlewild, Elizabeth Lake and the reservoir area, is an excellent management decision.

Goats have successfully controlled weeds in other areas for years. Check out this video: Goats Eat Weeds — Farm to Folk Wyoming.

This is Cailey’s website: www.vahana.ca.

As a follow-up to last week’s dandelion article, I picked and washed 25 dandelion flowers May 22, and ate one raw, then stirred the remaining two dozen into a cup of flour with two eggs and some milk for pancakes. Two dozen flowers in three pancakes was definitely not as chewy as five dozen, but seemed a little sparse, so next week I’ll try three dozen dandelions. The raw dandelion flower was slightly stronger tasting than a lettuce leaf, but definitely not bitter yet.

Now, my property is 250 m (700 ft) above the business district of Cranbrook (about the same elevation as Kimberley’s Platzl), so my growing season is later than downtown’s.

I will continue the raw dandelion bitterness experiment weekly and suggest anyone choosing to eat dandelions do the same before feeding them to your family. All you dandelion rookies need to remember to only eat a few at a time, then wait a week before trying some more, for at least 3 weekly trials, to make sure they don’t hurt you.

Weed Warrior Frank