The significance was probably lost on Clover as she stood quietly and patiently at the cow stanchion inside Glensheen Mansion's carriage house Friday morning.
But the French Alpine goat was the first animal to be milked inside the historic building since the 1970s.
"I'm sure this is the fanciest stanchion you'll ever stand in, for sure," said head gardener Emily Ford, feeding treats to the animal to keep her calm.
Goats at Glensheen? This weekend, yes. And perhaps more to come. A partnership between Glensheen and Duluth's Two Willow Farm has four goats roaming part of the old animal pasture turned rain garden below the parking lot, gnawing away invasive weeds like goldenrod, tansy and raspberry brambles. It's a natural solution to a thorny problem. Since the estate is on Lake Superior, eliminating gardening chemicals whenever possible is the goal, Ford said.
If all goes well, other parts of the property will get the goat treatment, too. It's part of a long-term plan to reintroduce animals to the estate, with a horse and Guernsey cow possibly to come, said Dan Hartman, director of Glensheen.
"We really want the carriage house to not only look but smell like it would have smelled," he said, back when the Congdon family lived at the estate. "Had you come by boat 100 years ago, you would have seen animals on the cliffside looking down at you."
Along with Clover, Nigerian dwarf goats Phoebe, Brighid and Bellina grazed their way through the rain garden, still dotted with crab apple and apple trees from the 1920s. The goats had the rare honor of staying overnight at the estate, inside the green shed amid some hay.
Ford found them snuggling together Friday morning, and so warm that "they didn't want to get up," she said.
The animals are commonly used for weed removal because of their four-chambered stomachs. Goats are able to break down woody plants, making them good for clearing brush, said Jahn Hibbs, owner of Two Willow Farm.
The Glensheen job is their first.
The estate's historian gave the nod to use the cow stanchion for milking, which turned into an unusual sight for visitors touring the grounds. One even asked to try the goat milk. Clover handled the new environment well, Hibbs said, and the goats seemed to like their surroundings, curiously watching those watching them.
"I was their farmer for about five minutes, and now I am just their agent," Hibbs joked.
Chester and Clara Congdon built the famous 39-room mansion from 1905 to 1908. It sits on 12 acres and is now owned by the University of Minnesota and operated as a house museum.