The six friendly goats who have been eating away invasive species in Edgewood Park since May get lots of visitors and daily buckets of fresh drinking water provided by their sponsors, the Friends of Edgewood Park (FOEP), and other neighboring humans.
Apart from that, the animals are fairly self sufficient and probably find humans, as we find them, curious, yet hardly indispensable.
That changed last week when intense rains turned Edgewood Park into a true flood plain, rising so high as to cover most of the knotweed and poison ivy the goats require to live.
When the rains wouldn’t let up, the goats needed humans to rescue them.
This is the story of their dramatic rescue, told in the goats’ own words by way of answers to this reporter’s questions, and translated by their interpreters, Stephanie Fitzgerald and “goat-keeper” Mike Uhl of FOEP.
Can you tell us what it was like on the night of Sept. 26?
Well, it was raining, as you know, and while New Haven received two and a half inches, and Hamden a lot more, it all seemed to run downhill and onto us, and fairly suddenly, a real flash flood.
So what did you do?
We looked for higher ground, of course. You need to understand: A goat likes to drink water, and we’re grateful for the fresh supply you bring us daily. But we do not enjoy standing in it.
I understand your food supply was threatened as well ...
It was horrible. The rising water soon covered up the knotweed and the poison ivy, the mugwort, and the multiflora rose, everything we eat, all 2.6 acres of this preserve you’ve made for us. What’s a goat to do?
You couldn’t call out for help?
Our voices don’t carry. We huddled together, of course, in a real muddle and a puddle, lots of them.
Then, finally, the first human approached in the midst of the deluge.
Who was he? Or a she?
It was Bennett Lovett-Graff, investigating options for us to get to higher ground. He knocked on doors of neighboring houses checking out whether some dry or drier enclosure was available.
And was it?
Well apparently not, because another human arrived, a big tall one this time, name of Mike Slattery. He came with straps and other stuff for makeshift leashes. Then the other Mike arrived, Mike Uhl, the guy who arranged to bring us here from Green Goats, in Rhinebeck, N.Y. One Mike called up Green Goats to “discuss options,” as you humans put it. The other Mike, Slattery, I think, started to clip leashes onto us.
How did that go?
The leashes? What do you think! Nobody likes a leash, of course, but we were grateful some decision was finally made. We fortunately have these small collars on, and Mike was able to attach straps to them.
Then the two Mikes, holding on by the leashes to all six of us, walked us up the little hill there, by your parking lot, toward the sidewalk on West Rock Avenue. They tied us to a tree, around which a lot of good-looking leaves were available to eat. We were hungry by then.
Well, we’re pretty much always hungry.
We felt relieved.
Did the humans stay with you for long?
Not really. They saw that we began to nibble and then to settle down. As long as the water didn’t rise up the little hill — and it didn’t — they knew we’d be okay. The humans made sure we had a plentiful feast of invasives nearby. They double-checked the knots on our leashes about the tree. I don’t blame them. They didn’t want us wandering around front lawns on West Rock Avenue. We know there are tasty things to eat over there, particularly in front of Manjares. Oh well, we’re goats. I think Mike and Mike left by around 11 p.m.
And how did the night go for you?
We were safe, we were dry, and we slept.
And in the morning?
Close to sunrise, around 6 a.m., Mike Uhl arrived. He saw that the water had receded a lot. But was it receded enough? Mike got on his cell phone and called the guys at Green Goats again. We had a little breakfast while he was calling and describing the situation to them.
Mike didn’t have to call. The Green Goats guys know a lot, but if Mike had asked us, we could have told them: The preserve was good to go. Mike walked us down and put us back behind the fencing again.
Home, sweet home. At least for a little while longer.
What do you mean by that?
We’re going back to Rhinebeck for the winter. No mugwort or other stuff to eat around here during those months. But we understand that FOEP will bring us back next spring, and we’re grateful for that.
Will you be thinking about us while you’re away?
Well, we have enjoyed your knotweed. Really delicious. The goat equivalent of your New Haven pizza. The poison ivy is not as good, and we eat up the mugwort only if the other stuff isn’t around. But we have also discovered all the young maple leaves. That has been a yummy surprise. But you know us: We’ll eat pretty much anything you put in front of us. Of course the people too are very friendly. And special thanks to all the neighbors, but especially the Mikes, who saved us from the flood.
Thanks for chatting
No problem. Now we’ve got to get back to work. And you too, no? Don’t you have to raise some more money to pay for us next year?