Rumour and humour: Google gets its goat on

Just because your business is in high technology doesn’t mean you can’t resort to low-tech problem solving.

Heck, look at Google Inc.’s recent efforts to thwart wildfires around its campus in the northern California city of Mountain View.

Google’s secret fire-fighting weapon? Goats. Yes, the search-engine titan has brought in around 200 of the omnivorous grazers to munch fields around the so-called “Googleplex.”

“We have some fields that we need to mow occasionally to clear weeds and brush to reduce fire hazard,” Google director of real estate and workplace services Dan Hoffman wrote in a posting on the company’s official blog(

“Instead of using noisy mowers that run on gasoline and pollute the air, we’ve rented some goats from California Grazing to do the job for us (we’re not ‘kidding’).”

(Note: The author of this column takes no responsibility for the “kidding” pun.)

Renting goats is apparently a fairly common practice in the wildfire-prone Golden State. Indeed, according to California Grazing, the goat-provider hired by Google, “we currently have 800 environmentally friendly, self-propelled weed eaters for weed control and brush control, that are ready for your project.”

(Unfortunately, the company does not offer its services in Canada, so you’ll still have to keep that lawn mower in working order.)

Apparently, Google also rented a border collie named Jen, who helps manage the goats.

“They spend roughly a week with us at Google, eating the grass and fertilizing at the same time,” Hoffman wrote. “It costs us about the same as mowing, and goats are a lot cuter to watch than lawn mowers.”

Mr. Hoffman, we respect your pragmatism and environmental consciousness, but the fact remains: you need to get out more.

More high-tech for low-tech problems

Next up, a high-tech solution to a low-tech problem: According to news reports, a British man helped deliver his baby son recently by following clips on YouTube after his wife went into labour early.

Marc Stephens, a 28-year old engineer with the Royal Navy, was apparently caught out when his wife Jo went into labour early three weeks prematurely at their home in Redruth, England.

He typed “how to deliver a baby” into the Google search engine and, as anyone following along at home can see for themselves, was offered dozens of how-to options, including “How to deliver a baby in a taxicab.” (The answer: Get in the taxi with the baby and tell the cabbie what address you would like to deliver the baby to. Get out once you’re there, being sure to tip extra.” Good one, Google.)

After helping Jo give birth, Stephens rounded up his two young daughters and the whole family went by ambulance to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in nearby Truro. Within hours they were all back at home, including son Gabriel.

There was no word on whether the newborn’s middle name is something Internet-esque, although “Gabriel Google” does have a ring to it…

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