Shoreline's urban shepherd

Monday, July 1, 2019

A noon time rest for Filbert and buddies
copyright, Marc Weinberg

Text and photos by Marc Weinberg

Seven years ago the City of Shoreline revised its commitment to the vegetation management plan to make it eco-friendly, green and sustainable.

It was through that effort that they discovered an innovative approach. The City Manager and staff contracted with Earthcraft Services. Each year since, particularly during the heavy growing season, Ed Portnow brings his herd of 12 hungry and happy goats to five sites the City selects to clear brush. 

Goats make us smile
copyright, Marc Weinberg

Their favorite job is to work on blackberries and other invasive species. They show up for work led by Filbert and followed by his team of hungry chaps like Nutmeg, Floppy, Mancha and others, each with a personality well suited to their names.

Ed says his team loves the van he uses for transportation and considers it their home as he delivers them from their pasture in Bothell (which they share with some horses) to the five work sites in Shoreline and elsewhere. 

Kayla and Rowan stop for a visit with the herd
copyright, Marc Weinberg

According to Ed and the City, both children and adults have responded favorably to seeing the goats and having an opportunity to watch them up close. When adequate fencing isn’t already installed on site, Ed sets up a temporary fence to define the work area and keep his herd contained.

If you stop to visit be sure to speak with Ed before reaching though the fence since sometimes it is electrified.

Pruning the low hanging branches of your apple tree at no extra cost
copyright, Marc Weinberg

Eric Bratton, Communications Program Manager at the City, confirmed that the cost of clearing unwanted foliage by “goat power versus people” is about the same, but the community response is so supportive and after multiple visits to the same site the goats have the advantage of also fertilizing as they go. 

This eco-friendly approach allows local grasses and indigenous plants an opportunity to survive. Ed says some of his goats have an enzyme in their stomach that actually kills the blackberry seeds. 

Tips of grass are much sweeter along Dayton Ave by 185th
 copyright, Marc Weinberg

Watch for the herd as you travel around town and know that you are always welcome to visit. The life of the “Urban Shepherd” as with that of others around the world can be a lonely and solitary one. 

Ed has interesting stories to tell about life with his goats. If you have property to be cleared… contact Ed and you can have an up-close creative, eco-friendly experience right at home.


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