You might have already seen the plot of land, between 10th and 11th off of Belmont in Southeast Portland, but have you ever really stopped to see who lives on it? You might be surprised to see 14 goats roaming around. No, they aren’t large dogs. They are goats, and they all have names, personalities and a stomach of steel.
After multiple drive-bys, we couldn’t help but wonder; what the hell are these goats doing? It was a true Portland moment when we were enlightened and told the goats were helping maintain the open space. It’s called urban goating, and we love it.
We met with the keeper of it all, Alysha Barbour to get the inside scope on the goat project. When the goats approached, they were basically a more loving version of dogs and simply wanted a scratch under the chin. The first one to approach was Finley, a very curious creature. They nibbled on our scarves and we were told that they explore with their mouths to figure out what things are.
It’s an understood fact that goats can eat anything with enough time; tires, weeds, you name it, they eat it. We learned that this is not completely true. In fact, if they were to eat the wrong plant, they could easily become sick with a stomachache for weeks!
Unfortunately for these Portland goats, they don’t exactly enjoy the rain. Obviously born into the wrong city, they enjoy basking in the sun, working on their tan and eating all the shrubs they can find. Ultimately, they are herding animals and enjoy being in a pack. This group of 14 comes from different herds, but now are one big happy family.
E+E: How do you manage the herd? It must be like having 14 children!
Alysha: Some days it is; especially when they are sick. I have some amazing helpers who watch them during the day and I come here and stay every night. I am an acupuncturist and student by day, so I have dedicated people who check on them a few times daily. The program works seamlessly. I want to make sure there is someone around 24 hours a day in case there is a problem. Goats are very curious animals and sometimes get caught in the bushes which leads to trouble.
E+E: How did the neighbors react to the goats moving into the neighborhood?
A: You know, they are surprisingly curious and often check up on the goats. Many times, people are very enthralled in their day-to-day lives and it takes something like this to have them do a double take.
E+E: As people become more curious, what’s the most bizarre situation that has happened with the goats?
A: Before I took over, a group of boys decided to take one of the goats to a nearby party. What they didn’t know is goats are herding animals and do not do well alone. The poor goat was making a lot of noise and soon got uninvited from the party. The neighbors realized what happened and called the cops. The cops put the goat in the squad car and dropped him back off later that night. Luckily, he was fine and happy to be back with his fellow goats.
E+E: That’s a good one! Do you have any plans for the future?
A: Yes, I do! I just took over this project and I would love to get the community more involved. I would love to do some sort of meet and greet with the goats so everyone could come and spend some time with them. They are very loving and gentle with everyone, even the little ones. My sister has young twins, and the two babies come around the goats all the time and somehow the goats know they need to be gentle with the babies. It’s really special to watch.
The goats are very therapeutic and have a loving nature. I find myself missing them when I leave. As humans, being connected to the natural world and animals relaxes us, and I want to share that feeling with as many people as possible.
E+E: With a herd of 14, do you want a few more?
A: I would love to! The goats live at my sister’s farm in Sauvie Island. They love it out there but she has capped me at 15 goats. Eventually, I want to get my own area and have a large herd. It’s a lifestyle choice and I would have to commit myself even more. We will see but I love where the project is currently.
E+E: Tell us a little about the goat’s personalities.
A: People are often drawn to goats because they are playful and affectionate. I have also come to really appreciate how curious and intelligent they are. As herd animals, they are naturally social creatures, and they seem to genuinely enjoy interacting with people.
Elsa and Ada are kinders, which is a cross between a pygmy and a Nubian goat. Ada has a big personality; she’s independent, sassy, and likes to show off.
Finley, Gracie, Daisy, Matilda, Tessa, Elanore, Ursula, and Gertrude are mini-nubians, a cross between a dwarf and a Nubian goat. Finley, the youngest in the herd, is very inquisitive and is constantly coming up to find out what exactly I am doing, whether it’s fixing a fence or reading a book. Elanore, once the herd matriarch and a bit bossy, has passed those duties onto her daughter, Ursula, and is now a very gentle, but dignified member of the herd.
Maude, Whitaker, Frida, and Jackie O are Nubians. Whitaker is the only boy, and is a wether (neutered male). He is very outgoing, and often the first goat to come up and say hello.
E+E: What draws you to Portland the most?
A: I am drawn to living in Portland because it is the kind of city that seems to embrace and even celebrate people who are trying to do things differently. It’s been really great to open a business like this and get such a supportive and enthusiastic response from folks. The people part of this business has been a wonderful dimension of this experience…I am really having fun in my encounters with all the different individuals stopping by to say hello to the goats.
Interested in meeting the goats and Alysha? Go ahead and contact her – 503-432-1319