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Woodside roadside attraction

A pasture offers food, shelter and love for farm animals, but for how long?

Roosters are, by and large, avis non grata in local suburban yards. They're loud, they're obstreperous, they don't lay eggs and they have no respect for sleeping people and the cheerful chirrups of songbirds in the dawn chorus. Aside from the hens, who could love them?

Lisa Green could, and does. A Redwood City resident and massage therapist, she and her home-schooled 13-year-old son Evan tend an animal farm of sorts called Goat Hill, a two-acre pasture at the corner of Hacienda Drive and Woodside Road in Woodside.

Under a grove of cottonwood trees live some 70 fowl, including 13 roosters, 45 hens and chicks, three geese and 10 ducks. Visiting the pasture twice a day in her blue Saturn sedan, Ms. Green and her son provide food, shelter, friendship and the freedom to hunt, peck, cluck, honk, cheep, quack and cock-a-doodle-do all the live long day.

Of four-legged creatures, there are 18: one llama and 17 goats, including four born recently and five rescued from an animal shelter. Everyone gets along famously, Ms. Green says in an interview. The goats butt heads, but playfully.

All the animals have names, none are bred for slaughter, and the chicken eggs are for sale. Their provenances vary: some were bought, some came from a 4H Club, and some from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Ms. Green says.

She bought the llama -- named El Nino de Peru, or Nino, or Big Leonard, depending on whom you ask. He's tall and scruffy and on round-the-clock guard duty against predators. He loves to be led around by small children, Ms. Green says.

It's not a petting zoo, but an ecosystem, she says. Until -- and if -- she establishes it as a nonprofit entity, the public is generally not allowed behind the chain-link fence that surrounds the pasture.

It's also a shoestring operation. Thanks to Scott and Mimi Cacchione of Woodside, who own the property, Ms. Green pays no rent.

The costs for food vary with the pasture's seasonal greenery. When the current group of chicks matures, proceeds from egg sales should cover all food expenses, she says. Until then, she digs into her own pocket. "We budget the rest of our lives very carefully," she says.

It could all go away fairly quickly. The property, including a house at the top of the hill behind the trees, is for sale. If she must leave, Ms. Green says she would keep the animals together and look for another place to set up.

When informed that the operation could close, a visitor's common response -- "You can't leave" -- shows the pasture's value, Ms. Green says. "This is clearly a valuable resource for the community," she says. "It's very comforting to people. Nobody has a farm around here anymore."

In an e-mail, she adds: "We find that people are drawn to the animals, not just as a special or a pastoral scene from the past, but because they crave the very personal and very honest exchanges that occur when engaging in eye contact with a goat." The people, she says, "tell us stories, sometimes with tears in their eyes. Some want to work."

Woodside resident John Kay wrote to The Almanac to explain the "privilege" he and his wife have in cleaning up after the chickens and goats, the feeling of being accepted by them, and how different it is from relating to a pet.

"At the age of 70, I have discovered an affinity for animals that I never knew I had," Mr. Kay says.

"Families come because their own children have never seen a chicken," Ms. Green says. "They're challenged and moved, they're inspired, they're reconnected, and they're educated."

So far, the visitors have not included coyotes, cougars or hawks. The credit, Ms. Green says, goes to the vigilant llama as well as to a tall chain-link fence, and the pasture's proximity to heavily traveled Woodside Road.

The chickens are locked up in coops at night and tend to stay under the trees during the day, she says. They may feel inclined to stay out of sight of red-tailed hawks that Ms. Green says she's seen soaring above the far side of Woodside Road.

There are song birds and the occasional snake, which usually ends up inside a chicken.

The goats, Ms. Green says, are "smarter than dogs." An Almanac reporter saw one rise up on its hind legs and make playful butting motions toward Evan as he joshed with it.

The goats are also protective. One maintained a quietly alert position between Ms. Green and the reporter during an in-pasture interview.

In Ms. Green's fantasy, a wealthy sponsor or coalition of sponsors would buy the property and provide her the freedom to create a rural educational experience for families, exposing visitors to the skills of sustainable living such as yogurt and cheese making, organic gardening, animal husbandry, even accounting.

Farm accounting, she says, is about what goes into an animal, what comes out, and the difference, a "concrete" lesson in the basics of profit and loss. "It's a wonderful model for teaching those skills," she says. "There is a place for every profession in a sustainable living community. I'd love to coordinate those kinds of skills in this community."

Ms. Green says she plans to talk with similar outfits in the region, including the Hidden Villa farm and wilderness preserve in Los Altos Hills.

INFORMATION

For images and essays on Lisa Green's habitat, go to melodyshill.blogspot.com. To contact Ms. Green, write to her at joywithintao@yahoo.com.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeannine
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 14, 2009 at 2:06 pm

I don't know how many times I have wanted to stop and meet all of these beautiful animals!!! Every day , I pass by, and LOVE TO SEE IT!! I have spoken to more people that say the same thing. I, myself am a chicken lover and owner. I love and want goats, and envy Ms. Green and Evan as well as admire them for doing such a beautiful job taking care of all of their animals.


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