Why Landscape Architecture Should Never Be Left To The Eco-Freaks

What happens when enviro-nerds buffalo you into disparaging your John Deere?

Goats, that’s what.

If you should see an old blue Ford pickup loaded with goats and a mule and maybe a sheep or two chugging through Woodland Hills or other parts of the Valley take a moment to smile and wave for it is probably being driven by either Karen or Lisa on their way to a weed-eating job.

The animals will be delivered to a place fenced off by a temporary electrified mesh and will begin chomping down on unwanted vegetation on one end of their bodies while fertilizing the ground with the other.

The mule will stand guard against predators like mountain lions or coyotes. Their bite and kicks are more lethal than a bodyguard’s muscles. When the job is done, off they go to another.

They are the menagerie of Karen Simer, owner of the weed-eating business Hire a Herd, and Lisa Bialac-Jehle, its field manager, who have access to about 180 of the animals, mostly goats, they will happily rent to you to clear either your yard or a mountainside of weeds and brush. They – the goats, not the women – will eat the stuff down to the ground baaing contentedly to almost everyone’s delight.

So in other words, instead of hiring a yard guy who’ll have a crew out to get your grass cut in an hour or two, these two wimmin will show up with a few head of livestock and a fence that plugs into your outside power outlet, and then leave them to chew up your flower beds and crap all over your yard for the next few days.

And in Los Angeles, this is considered a good plan worthy of news coverage.

The two goat herders, both in their 50s, are unlikely partners in a business which, Karen says, has become quite “vogue,” due partly to its eco-friendly nature.

Karen is a transplanted Brit who has studied as a veterinarian technician and Lisa is a vocalist with a UCLA degree in design who creates and sells jewelry. What they have in common is their love and, well, respect for goats, and sometimes sheep.

They created Hire a Herd three years ago with jobs in Calabasas and Westlake and it has been booming ever since. They charge $1,500 for the first week and the rest is negotiable. As we spoke, their animals were busy at six different locations clearing varying amounts of acreage. In the past few weeks, they have worked at a dozen locales throughout the Valley and the West Side generally.

“I’m proud to be a goatherder,” Lisa says cheerfully. “We make money and have fun too. It’s labor intensive and there’s a lot of hill climbing and slipping, but there’s nothing like sitting with the goats in the soft twilight with a bottle of Cabernet watching the sun go down.”

Buy a damn lawn mower. Or hire somebody who has one. And if you can’t handle that, then buy your own goat. The last thing we need is hippie goatherds in pickup trucks cavorting through every burg in the country.



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