Here in Duck River, Tennessee, we are having one of the most beautiful displays of fall leaves I can remember. The view from our back deck is a kaleidoscope of color. The oaks are showing their deep red, leathery foliage. The thin, crisp fall leaves of the maples turn bright yellow and orange while the poplars and sweet gums are covered in magnificent golden yellow fall leaves. Even the fiery red leaves of the sumacs add touch of beauty to this year’s fall splendor. The peak time to see fall leaves in Tennessee usually begins in mid to late October in East Tennessee, reaches into Middle Tennessee in early November, and spreads to West Tennessee by mid to late November.
While we are enjoying the scenic views this autumn, our goats are loving it because fall leaves are a prized treat. They spend hours each day hoovering up as many leaves as possible. Dried hardwood leaves are a wonderful source of nutrition for goats because they are loaded with many deep-earth minerals like carbon, calcium, silicon, potassium, and trace elements. However, some fall leaves are toxic to goats, especially wilted cherry and azalea leaves. Even a small amount of these poisonous plants can be fatal to goats. Luckily we do not have any azalea bushes and the few cherry trees on our property are out of range. The most abundant hardwoods growing in and around our pasture are white and red oaks, silver maples, hickories, sweet gums, and poplars. We also have a few pines and cedars which make good winter snacks for our herd. It would be awesome if we could rely on our goats to keep the fall leaves from piling up in our front yard. But unfortunately our goats can’t keep up with the huge amount of leaves that fall in our yard each autumn.
If it rains on the fallen leaves, the goats refuse to eat them. Contrary to popular lore goats are picky little creatures, as they should be. Too much water in their diet can cause them to become bloated, which is a dangerous condition that can result in death. We’ve had quite a bit of rain lately and there’s nothing our goats hate more than getting wet. They don’t seem to mind the fog or misty fall mornings but as soon as a single drop of real rain hits the ground the entire herd heads for the barn as fast as possible. They will camp out in the barn all day long if it is raining. As soon as the rain stops the goats will come outside again but they will not eat soggy hay nor will they eat the wet fall leaves.
Soon the fall leaves will be gone, or at least they will have all fallen. Chances are that a good bit of them will stay piled in our gutters and on our “lawn” (a term I use loosely) until spring. We tend to procrastinate when it comes to yard work, especially raking leaves. Right now there are leaves on our roof, on the front porch and the back deck. There are leaves covering the tops of our boxwoods and piled all along our walkway. There are leaves practically everywhere you look. But around here there is always something more important to do than raking leaves, like making a batch of goat milk soap, playing with the baby goats, milking the mamma goats, or enjoying an afternoon view of the autumn trees.