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Billy goat not gruff about his responsibilities

Chi-dooh Li, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
I was fascinated by news from Seattle City Light that a herd of goats would be deployed this week in the Maple Leaf neighborhood to perform some “environmentally sustainable vegetation management.” That’s bureaucratic gobbledygook for clearing up unwanted brush without using obnoxious fuel-consuming, smoke-spewing, noise-making mechanical devices.

Through a City Hall contact I managed to arrange a private interview with the crew-chief, Albert (“Don’t call me Billy”) the goat at his favorite hangout — a dense patch of trees and overgrown brush on a local golf course. It looked like a place where I had parked a lot of errant tee shots.

I noticed the city ID tag around his neck with his mug shot and name, followed by the initials ESVMRE-II. “Environmentally Sustainable Vegetation Management Ruminant Engineer, class II,” he said, anticipating my question. “I wish they’d just call me a defoliator.”

I asked Albert if he was supporting a family. “Yup, big one,” he replied. “Wife and I have four kids. You know, don’t you, that we goats have four stomachs? Makes a total of 24 stomachs I have to feed. Of course, I get to eat on the job. That is my job, you could say, to eat,” he half chuckled, half grunted.
(28 Sept 2006)

Urban farming: City pickers

Jack Watkins, The Independent
It was once a forgotten wasteland in east London – now it’s a thriving organic farm. Urban areas consume huge amounts of food, so why aren’t there more places like this?
Five years ago Allens Gardens provided a spectacle of dereliction all too familiar in the underprivileged London borough of Hackney. By night it was a shooting-up gallery for drug addicts, by day a dumping ground, choking with debris and burnt-out bins.

A snip, you might think, for a property developer? Not so. Today the spot is host not only to a spruced-up children’s play area but also a vegetable and fruit plot that is helping to breathe new life into the once common practice of urban food growing.

It has the look of a tranquil urban idyll. There are four beds of vegetables grown under a crop-rotation system. A line of newly planted apple trees fronts an ancient brick wall, on the other side of which a young grapevine trails. Herbs such as salad burnet and mint fit into odd corners. As a reminder that modern growing needn’t mean the elimination of all other forms of life, there’s a tiny pond, inhabited by frogs and newts.

The plot is one of three managed by Growing Communities, a local social enterprise group, and though they jointly amount to less than one acre, they comprise the first Soil Association-certified organic growing plots in London. Benign and small-scale as they might seem, they are a vital and ambitious component in a local box scheme run by the group and its determined founder-director, Julie Brown.

“This is not about recreating The Good Life,” explains Brown. “We are trying to show that cities can produce food as well as consume massive amounts of resources. There are lots of good reasons for urban growing, such as building communities, therapy and reconnecting with nature, and environmental reasons such as reducing food miles. But where we differ from others operating in London is that we are trying to show that growing here can also be economically viable.”
(28 Sept 2006)

The Urban Hunt
A Summer Spent Killing—and Eating—Seattle’s Small Game

Brendan Kiley, The Stranger (Seattle)

The alarm goes off at four in the morning—before sunrise and the joggers hit the parks and woods. I ride my bicycle down Boren Avenue toward Lake Union, turning at the Greyhound station, past two prostitutes, one white, one brown, both young, who shout: “Hey honey! Hey there, baby! Hey! Hey!” The lightening sky is pretty, the breeze clears my head, and I am biking along Westlake Avenue, headed to Woodland Park, to shoot a rabbit.

The hundreds of rabbits in the park are a scourge. Many are Easter gifts people have come to regret and left there. They lack the instincts and habits of wild rabbits. Fed by fair-weather parkgoers, they overbreed and, in winter, die of starvation and disease. They eat everything in sight, stripping the park of vegetation and chewing up tree roots. They sneak into the nearby zoo to forage and, according to Woodland Park Zoo spokesperson Gigi Allianic, are hunted by lions and stepped on by elephants. (Allianic later recanted the elephant story as “anecdotal.” The city parks department has tried—with mixed results—to capture, sterilize, and relocate the bunnies to a sanctuary in Redmond. They want, at some public expense, to decrease the rabbit population in the park. I’ve come to help.

A few weeks earlier, I was sitting in a bar with some friends. The conversation turned toward crazy people. One friend told a story about a man arrested at Green Lake for chasing geese and breaking their necks. The man told police he was hunting. Everyone laughed. I said hunting for geese in the park didn’t sound that crazy. Hunting for food in the city makes a kind of sense. It’s inexpensive, ecologically low impact, and less distasteful than rich politicians and businessmen spending extravagant sums to hunt for sport on private ranches. Sane rural people hunt in their backyards all the time. Why shouldn’t urban people?

And what about disasters?
(28 Sept 2006)
A long personal article brings to light our strange food taboos. -BA