A Fence That Won’t Hold Water, Won’t Hold a Goat

By Kim Johnson

“I was talking to this lady at the barn today and she told me that you can use goats to clear blackberries,” I told my husband.

“Who is this lady and where does she live?” he asked.


“So I can go tell her that under no circumstances are we getting any goats.”

“But they stay in their own fenced area.”

“I am sure they do, just like our chickens stay in their own fenced area.” It was my husband’s habit to make statements that summed up things I had previously failed at. They were just statements, neither good nor bad. He allowed me to punish myself. It was infuriating.

“I didn’t know they could fly.”

He reminded me that I had a biology degree from a university. I pointed out that it was a state school and I hadn’t done very well. “But we don’t need goats,” he said. Pointing out the difference between a want and a need was his specialty.

As usual I pressed on, unconcerned. “She said they have no underbrush because the goats ate it, blackberries, nettles the whole lot, she was quite knowledgeable,” I added the last bit in to give my story some credence but my husband was done listening. What I failed to mention to him was that Jacqui Dowsett also told me (about five times) that a goat requires “very secure fencing.” Maybe it was her lovely English accent and quiet manner that made me gloss over that part about the fence.

I found some goats the following week on Craig’s List. They were in Estacada and I thought it would be fun to drive down and have a look. They were so cute, two strawberry and crème Nubians, a doe and a wether. My husband loaded them into the back of our SUV. They rode nicely in the back of the car, even on the interstate. We brought them home and they settled into eating blackberries and we were impressed. They were like eating machines.

I spread the news, I was so excited. I mentioned it the next week at the barn. “We have goats clearing our land for us, it is working so nicely,” I said.
“What kind of fencing do you have?”

“Oh it is very secure,” I nodded mostly to reassure myself.

“A fence that won’t hold water won’t hold a goat,” this was Jan’s advice.
That last statement hammered it home for me. Earlier that morning I saw the goats inspecting the fence, placing their cloven hooves on it, testing the tensile strength, looking for weak spots. They appeared to be hatching a plan. When I got home the goats were gone. I found them fifteen minutes later; they were with my husband who was leading them on the dog’s leash. I knew better than to hold out hope that he was walking them up and down Logie Trail for exercise. It turns out that goats require very secure fencing.

I explained to my husband that the goats simply needed more space. This was a reasonable explanation for why they kept getting out. I reminded him of the positive side, in the two weeks we had them, they had eaten every single inch of blackberry and nettle in their 50 x 50 pen. I went back to Craig’s List. I found a lady in Mollala who was getting rid of 150 feet of galvanized no climb farm fencing and about 30 rusty but usable t-posts. We spent a rainy morning creating a second paddock for the goats. In 3 days they had eaten it bare. I spent the next three weeks repeatedly capturing the goats and taking them back to their pen. One afternoon I came home to find the goats in the front yard, both with their heads buried in the middle of my French hybrid ‘Claudia Cardinale’ shrub roses from Max and Hildy’s. That was the last straw, I like goats just fine but roses, now those are sacred. I went back to Craig’s List. Sheep futures looked good. We traded two goats for three sheep. I’ll let you know how that turns out.