June 20, 2018
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Let hungry goats help you recycle your Christmas tree

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
A goat nibbles on a branch. The animals are now being used to "recycle" Christmas trees on a farm in Maine.
By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff

The presents were unwrapped, the decorations put away and the cookies have been gobbled up. If you’re like a lot of folks, the only things remaining of the holidays are your New Year’s resolutions and good memories.

Oh, and one more thing: the Christmas tree.

It stood in a place of pride in the living room. But now … now it just needs to go. Really, it’s more than likely ready to be consigned to an ignominious future getting chipped up and turned to mulch at the transfer station. But what if your tree could have a different, and delicious, destiny?

The goats who live at the Appleton Creamery in Appleton can help. They would like to “recycle” your tree by eating it, and the more trees that come their way, the better, according to cheesemaker and creamery owner Caitlin Hunter.

“Goats are browsers, like deer. They aren’t grazers, like sheep,” she said Wednesday. “They love to eat trees and shrubs and brush. Small trees, like Christmas trees, are perfect for them. It’s a good combination of fiber and something to do.”

Towards that end, she is hosting her first-ever Christmas tree drop-off day at the farm, scheduled for 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 7 at 780 Gurneytown Road in Appleton. People who drop off their trees on that day can enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and visit with some of the 60-plus Alpine and other goats who live at Appleton Creamery. But Hunter, who chose that particular day because she grew up Episcopalian and keeps her Christmas tree up until Epiphany, Jan. 6, said that trees are welcome at the farm both before and after that date.

“The trees do need to not be sprayed,” she said, specifying that a tree purchased from a big box-type store likely came from out-of-state and has been sprayed with pesticides and so would not be suitable for her goats. “All ornaments need to be removed, and absolutely no tinsel.”

The goats also cannot eat your Christmas wreaths, because of the wire frames and wrappings, she said.

Other than that, though, they aren’t very picky.

“They eat the needles and strip the bark right off them, leaving only what I call the skeleton,” Hunter said.

Last year, her goats happily — and successfully— ate the Christmas trees that decorated Union Common during the holiday season, and so Hunter was inspired to make it a bigger event. Recently, she has opened up a farm stand and has started the Midcoast Cheese Trail, in order to encourage folks to come around and experience some of the delicacies of midcoast Maine. She is hoping more will come to her farm and meet her goats. Special events such as the Christmas tree drop-off will help with that goal, she said.

“We’ve been telling people to bring their trees by,” she said. “If people can actually find their trees again after the snowstorm.”

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