WellesleyWeston Magazine

SPRING 2015

Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

Issue link: http://wellesleywestonmagazine.epubxp.com/i/460705

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it's early afternoon in Weston. The wind is sharp but the sun is shining, so the Burress family has decided it's time to take the goats for a walk. "Ever been on a goat walk?" John Burress asks some family friends who have dropped by. Their blank expressions answer the question. Coats and hats quickly fly on and it is down to the goat shed to begin a 20-minute hike with five humans and six very pushy goats. The presence of goats in Weston, especially on a typical suburban property, can feel incongruous when residents square the clich├ęd stereotype of carefully manicured landscapes with the notion of live- stock keeping. But in both Wellesley and Weston, there are dozens of families who either keep goats, chickens, or rabbits; tap trees for maple syrup; or grow and put up fruits and vegetables, all on properties that don't in any way evoke the word "farm." "People are very passionate about it," notes Lenny Izzo, Director of Wellesley's Health Department, whose office grants livestock permits for the town. Izzo estimates that there are currently 20 permits for live- stock currently in Wellesley, mostly for chicken keeping. The Town of Weston has granted 23 permits for a wider range of livestock, includ- ing horses and sheep. According to Izzo, the permitting process in Wellesley is straightforward. Residents apply for permission to keep livestock and must prove that neighbors won't mind a few feathered or hooved residents moving in next door. There are set back rules and in Wellesley, rooster owners must attend an annual hearing. A yearly visit from Izzo and Animal Control Officer Sue Webb ensures adequate animal care and management. The initial process separates the deter- mined from the dilettantes. "We want folks to raise the animals prop- erly," Izzo says, "and have them succeed." Most backyard farmers who persevere do it from a deep sense of connection to the natural world. "I'm a country girl who shouldn't live in the suburbs," says Wellesley resident Marsha Sussman, whose mod- est backyard boasts nine chickens, two rabbits, a tiny vineyard, and woodlot. "I love my chickens, the kids do too." Sussman began her live- stock keeping by doing a good deed. "I work at Tenacre School," she says, "and the chicks that they raised during the school year needed a home over the summer. I volunteered." That was 18 years ago. Now "they are part of the family." Wellesley resident Amie Smith was also the recipient of free birds. "We got them from a friend's father as young birds," she says of her four chickens. "They are a really fun and amusing hobby." Smith's chickens cluck peaceably as she shows a visitor her setup. The dazzling plumage and plump bodies seem to be the archetype of showcase birds. "These are Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns," she says. "Both are hardy New England breeds." All livestock owners interviewed emphasized the inverse ratio of 'work in' to 'pleasure out' when raising animals in their backyards. "Oh, I don't know, maybe 15 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night?" answers Vicki Modest when asked about the time commitment involved. Modest, along with her husband, John Burress, raises those walking goats, along with 50 chickens and two roosters. Besides the daily feeding and watering, other chores include coop and shed clean- 117 s p r i n g 2 0 1 5 | W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e Farming P A U L B U R N S / C O R B I S A L L I S O N I J A M S S A R G E N T writer

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