Perhaps the most unexpected sight in Wichita on Friday morning happened at 8:30 on a quiet neighborhood street off Ridge Road between Central and 13th Street.
A woman with Willie Nelson-style braids and a Barnyard Weed Warriors T-shirt who’d been driving since 3 a.m. pulled up to Teajai “T J” Kimsey’s front yard in a 28-foot livestock trailer. She released 75 goats up the driveway.
“All right, girls,” Mary Powell said to her 73 female goats and two neutered male ones. “You ready to go to work?”
As the trailer advertises in handwritten lettering, “We are baaaad on weeds!”
Kimsey sat on a plastic white chair near her front porch and tried to process what she was seeing all over her yard and — briefly, accidentally — her neighbor’s yard.
“Goats. Strangers,” she said as media cameras rolled and Powell and her team corralled what she called her “work crew” with temporary electric fencing.
“This feels surreal,” Kimsey said. “Also it feels like the culmination of a big vision or goal.”
When she moved into the house in 2007, Kimsey tried to fight the yard’s poison ivy but wound up with such a bad reaction, her doctor called in his intern to marvel at the severity.
So Kimsey had to ignore the yard as brush and weeds and who knows what else sprouted and spiraled into a 2-story jungle that she suspects irritates her neighbors as much as it does her.
Years ago, Kimsey read about businesses elsewhere using goats for brush control.
Powell, who lives on a farm in Hunter, two and a half hours northwest of Wichita, started her business in 2016.
“If I’m going to babysit the goats, I’m going to make some money at it,” she said.
“I’m a traveling farm, basically, is what I am,” Powell said. “I’m bridging the gap between urban America and rural America.”
Along with her four dogs, Powell’s helpers Friday were a couple of people who likely will start their own goat-weeding business next year. To Powell’s knowledge, that would be the only other business like hers in the state.
“It’s growing mainly by word of mouth.”
She said goats are born to eat unwanted vegetation, including poisonous plants, and that they enjoy it as a treat instead of the hay they normally eat on the farm.
“I couldn’t give them any better food,” Powell said.
“You know, goats have a very bad reputation as being very destructive animals,” she said.
Powell said she channels that energy into something productive.
“They have no idea they’re working.”
Goats, according to Powell, have enviable metabolism.
A few of the goats wear bells that tinkle with their constant movement.
They all have a permanent hint of a smile that gives them a friendly countenance that belies their ability to aggressively dive in and devour noxious weeds or pop up on their hind legs to jump and grab at branches much higher than they are.
“They’re very mesmerizing,” Powell said.
They mostly move in groups, almost like a flock of birds simultaneously changing directions and moving together to a new patch of yard.
The goats went straight to munching after marching off the trailer, and Kimsey agreed they looked happy.
“Don’t they? Like, ‘Oh, goody!’ ”
Looking at the thick, overgrown area between Kimsey’s driveway and a fence — which was not visible because of the brush — it was hard to imagine the goats could accomplish much in a few short hours.
However, five minutes into their visit, Kimsey pointed out that “you can already see through where you couldn’t see through before.”
Someone mentioned that there was a herd in her backyard, too.
“Things you don’t hear in the neighborhood,” Kimsey said.
Powell rushed next door to the yard of Kimsey’s neighbor Hannah Johnson when a number of the goats jumped into it.
“But, Hannah, didn’t you want something in your yard gone?” Kimsey said.
“Yes, exactly,” Johnson said. “It’s all according to plan.”
Powell apologized to her in between shouts to her goats and dogs.
“Oh, (expletive),” Powell said as the goats didn’t listen. “Get back in there! Come on. Get in there!”
When that didn’t work, Powell resorted to another method to get the goats back over the fence.
“Oh, look,” Kimsey said. “She’s got them by the tail and the head.”
She added, “Worth every penny, right? And the side show along with it.”
Powell charges based on the size of the job and whether she has other jobs in the area. Kimsey’s small-but-overgrown yard cost $400.
She felt she got her money’s worth from the goats and Powell.
“She’s every bit what you’d imagine a goat lady to look like: pigtails and all,” Kimsey said. “I mean, if you were to meet her in a store and ask her what she does, and she said, ‘Goat lady,’ you’d go, ‘Of course.’ ”
The goats gathered back on the driveway as Powell began loading up Friday afternoon around 2:30, and Kimsey surveyed the area.
The goats did not care for her walnut saplings, though they did strip them bare, and Kimsey was able to walk along and snap them down.
“I have been walking in there quite confidently . . . . No worries at all. I didn’t see an ivy leaf in sight.”