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"All-natural lawn care", indeed.

Damon's picture

Just for some background, Delhi Township is a half-suburban/half-rural suburb of Lansing, Michigan's capital city. It looks like they are going to test using a combination of donkeys, ewes, and dogs to keep the grass short of two plots of land around their wastewater treatment plant and public services headquarters.

DELHI TWP. - Sandra Diorka was shopping for donkeys recently.

Diorka, the Delhi Township director of Public Services, was given the go ahead by township trustees to hire animals to help rescue the township budget.

Diorka noted that the township has to take care of two large plots of land on each side of Grovenburg Road near its wastewater treatment plant and public services headquarters.

In the past the department hired a seasonal laborer for six months to mow and trim the grounds at a cost of approximately $11,800.

"I thought 'why not bring in some sheep to eat the grass and save some money,' " Diorka said.

And so the plan is simple.

Buy six culled ewes, which cost between $50 and $100 each. Use them to graze the grounds until fall, when the township could either sell the wool to offset the cost, or auction them.

And a donkey and a dog - the donkey to protect the sheep from coyotes and wild dogs and the dog to herd the sheep - will live at the plant in the winter.

"The folks at MSU said a donkey would be the best choice to protect them from coyotes and wild dogs," Diorka said.

The result should be a savings of at least $10,000, she said.

Township treasurer Harry Ammon said he liked the idea because there would be less consumption of gas and less fumes from lawn care equipment. "That's what being 'green' is all about, stepping back to go forward," Ammon said.

The board would examine how the project fares at the end of the season.

Delhi resident Stuart Kogge said he loves the idea. Kogge heads the Lansing bureau of JFNew, an ecological consulting and restoration firm.

"This is a good idea," he said. "Just think of the gas that can be saved as well as the money and time. It's good to see the township isn't afraid to try something different to help the environment."

For now, Diorka said her challenge is to put it all into place before the plant's open house on May 16. She said a local sheep farmer is looking to sell his herd, and that is where she will be going next.

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Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

Being a rather conservative municipality (as most suburbs are relative to central cities, anyway), they really justify the test from the cost-savings angle, and less from the "green" angle. But, it's something worth noting when we can get to the same end from different directions.

So, I'd like to give Public Service Director Sandra Diorka kudos for innovation. I'll probably email her to see exactly how she came up with the idea.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

since before I turned forty.... check out the lehman's catalog (must do own google search) for ideas on gadgets and tools to make "old-fashioned" living easier.

A good ratcheting screwdriver, though, is just about extinct, I fear.

As is the electric streetcar.

Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

So, I sent her an email, yesterday, and to my surprise, she responded within a few hours. She said she'd been thinking about this for years, and said that plenty of other municipalities in the state already do this. In particular, she listed a wastewater treatment facility in Caledonia, Michigan that has an inventory of 60 sheep grazing their facility. She said the sheep she's getting for Delhi Township will be Shetland sheep, and that she was discussing with a resident, yesterday, about 'adopting' one of the ewes when she got my email. Lastly, she refered to the sheep as "wastewater sheep", which gave me a good laugh.

Submitted by hipparchia on

i love it.

i worked at a wastewater treatment plant for awhile, many moons ago. they had goats. glad to hear that more places are doing this.