When Goats and Rowers Are Not Enough

I hadn’t lived in Michigan very long before I discovered that the lovely, nodding plants with the delicate white flowers filling the woods in the backyard, were an invasive plague: garlic mustard, a classic example of a right thing in a wrong place. It was brought here from Europe as a beloved garden herb, but whatever kept it in check in that hemisphere is missing from this one. It grows from inch-high to knee-high seemingly overnight, choking out other plants both wild and domestic. It seeds like a maniac, and has to be pulled up by the roots or it regroups with a vengeance. Mowing makes it worse.

I turned to my local sources for ideas on eradicating it. Burning down the entire back yard didn’t seem like a great plan. Chemicals lacked appeal. Renting a herd of goats was a much more charming option, or alternatively one could rent members of the university’s rowing club, which being a club instead of a team sport didn’t get a share of the football gate and had to raise its own money. The goats ate the garlic mustard, but I assume the rowers pulled it. I did try eating it myself, but I was not impressed.

The trouble with these methods was, they were perpetual. The garlic mustard always came back, and you had to cope with it all over again. I was thinking this over while inspecting some damage deer had caused in my yard. The deer herd has reached numbers that cannot be sustained by their usual eating habits and they are now nipping the buds off of flowers they never cared for in the past, and gnawing native shrubs down to the ground. But they never eat the garlic mustard. This means they are helping the garlic mustard compete for space and resources.

And so I advance my modest proposal. We need deer genetically engineered to eat garlic mustard. I promise I would make them welcome.

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