Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Christmas tree eating goats to debut at River Bend January 22, 2016

WHEN I FIRST READ about goats eating Christmas trees, I was skeptical. But then I watched a video on Goat Dispatch and saw for myself goats devouring these sharp-needled evergreens.

This Sunday afternoon, January 24, River Bend Nature Center in Faribault will feature the Christmas tree eating goats at Winterfest. The event runs from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Randy unloads our Christmas tree.

Randy unloads our Christmas tree.

Last Sunday afternoon, on one of Minnesota’s coldest winter days thus far this season, my husband and I headed across town to River Bend. The parking lot was empty as we unlatched our Charlie Brown tree from the roof of the van and Randy pulled it onto a pile of discarded holiday trees.

I photographed these goats grazing in a pasture near Northfield in August 2015. They are not a part of Goat Dispatch.

I photographed these goats grazing in a pasture near Northfield in August 2015. They are not a part of Goat Dispatch.

I remember as a child reading that goats will eat tin cans. I may have gotten that idea from The Three Billy Goats Gruff, a favorite childhood fable. Myth or truth? Probably truth.

Goats graze on buckthorn at River Bend Nature Center, Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2014.

Goats graze on buckthorn at River Bend Nature Center, Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2014.

Goat Dispatch, a rural Faribault business that rents out goats for land management/brush removal grazing, states online that goats have narrow strong mouths. I would expect that given Goat Dispatch goats have attacked invasive buckthorn at River Bend. I’m quite familiar with the sharp thorns of buckthorn.

This sign was posted on a fence enclosing Goat Dispatch goats at River Bend. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2014.

This sign was posted on a fence enclosing Goat Dispatch goats at River Bend. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2014.

And I personally know Goat Dispatch owners Jake and Amanda Langeslag. This young couple is about as down-to-earth friendly and honest as they come. They are passionate about the environment and their goats and their business. If they say goats eat Christmas trees—and they show that in a video—I believe them.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A roadside oddity: the Kasota Zoo October 26, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:37 AM
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WHEN I WAS A CHILD, I loved the story about The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Do you remember that tale of the three goats planning to cross a bridge, but first encountering a hungry troll?

The goats, beginning with the smallest, tricked the troll into waiting for the next, and bigger, goat. The third, and largest, goat was so big that he easily tossed the troll into oblivion and safely crossed the bridge.

I’m not sure why I enjoyed that tale so much. Maybe because I owned that storybook and my mom read and reread the words until I had them memorized. Or maybe I just appreciated that three goats could outsmart a mean old troll.

Anyway, because of that childhood literary introduction to goats, I’ve always rather enjoyed these mischievous animals. I find them humorous and cute and naughty all at the same time.

So, when I saw a bunch of goats fenced in at the Kasota Zoo several weeks ago, I had to investigate. Believe me, this is unlike any zoo you’ve ever seen. Propped pallets and a hodge podge of fences corral the 32 pygmy goats at this roadside oddity on the southern edge of Kasota.

 

 

The Kasota Zoo, home to 32 pygmy goats.

 

 

The goats have plenty of space to roam at the Kasota Zoo.

 

Toss in rocks and old tires, a bunch of shacks (some covered with tarps) and a few American flags and you have, by far, the strangest, weirdest, oddest, most unusual zoo I have ever visited.

 

 

American flag decor adds a patriotic flair to this down-home zoo.

 

I really question whether this even qualifies as a zoo given I paid no admission and saw no pathways that would take me beyond standing next to the fence watching the goats.

That’s when zookeeper Eugene joined me. I have no idea where he appeared from, but, all of a sudden, there he was. His co-zookeeper, girlfriend Patty, was hunkered down in a lawn chair on the zoo driveway.

I didn’t learn too much from Eugene. He’s not the most talkative fellow. But you can tell he genuinely cares for these goats, which are rotund enough to have eaten a troll or two. His zoo has been here 30-plus years, he says.

He grew up with goats; his dad had milk goats.

But Eugene and Patty raise and care for pygmy goats, which they’ll sell to anyone who wants one.

“Do you have names for all of them?” I ask Eugene.

“That one’s Number 8,” he says, pointing, while I struggle to keep from laughing that a goat would be named Number 8.

But then he picks out Spot and Chucky. That’s more like it, I think—name-names for these inquisitive creatures that have scooted up to the fence to see me.

 

 

Eugene and Patty have named all their goats, although I can't tell you the name of this one.

 

I don’t spend much more time at the Kasota Zoo, just enough for Eugene to tell me that he has a visual impairment and that Patty is legally blind.

 

 

Eugene, the zookeeper at the Kasota Zoo, wears thick glasses, but still struggles to see.

 

I don’t mention a word about trolls to these zookeepers. Not a single word.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling