The farm saw a lot of growth in 2015. Our first kidding season went by without any major incidents. As a result, our goat herd grew from just four goats in 2014 to twelve by mid-2015. We brought our first pigs onto the farm, and tripled our flock of chickens. Of course, I can’t forget the addition of our LGD (livestock guardian dog), Michonne! We also opened the farm stand and started our CSA program, and as a result we've been able to provide local whole food to many more families in our community, and we couldn’t be more grateful for their reliable support.
Many times in the past year, Aaron and I have stood in the pasture or goat barn or farm stand and said to each other, “I think it’s working. It’s actually happening.” It’s in those moments that I experience a sort of tempered excitement, as though feeling too giddy could be the proverbial pinch that wakes me from my dream.
Now don’t get me wrong, we’ve had our share of losses and challenges this year on the farm. We’ve learned a lot of lessons that we carry forward into the New Year, which I’m sure will continue to deliver its own forms of heartache and frustration. But during the past year, Aaron and I have settled into a nice rhythm on the farm, discovering our respective niches and bringing our vision of the farm into sharper focus.
We hope to continue growing in 2016, and so we’re excited to announce some of the ways we plan to do so, starting NOW:
First, I’m really excited to announce that I am developing a “Goat Milk 101” class. Each class starts with the morning milking, where participants will learn about managing goats in the milk parlor, feeding and goat health maintenance, milking, proper sanitation practices, milk handling, and other aspects of goat care. This is a hands-on class, and so I hope to provide the opportunity to actually milk a goat for anyone who wants it. From there, we will take our milk up to the kitchen and explore the many ways that we can use goat milk in the kitchen. We’ll start a batch of caramel sauce, and then move to a cheese, such as chevre or ricotta before mixing up some beautiful milk and oils and turning them into soap. And of course, we’ll sample and snack along the way. Each participant will be invited to take home a sample of everything we make. It doesn't get much more farm-to-table than that!
This class is for anyone who might be thinking of getting into goats, has “milking a goat” on their bucket list, or is just looking for a fun morning with friends. Classes are available on Saturdays or Sundays, and class start times are flexible, although typically the goats need to be milked before 10 a.m. I expect the class to run 3-4 hours in duration. If you’re interested, contact us, and we will work with you to schedule a date. Group size is limited to no more than 5 participants and is appropriate for children 12 and over. If you don’t have an entire group or just want to come on your own -- don’t worry! Let us know you’re interested and we’ll put together a class of pairs and/or individuals. What a fun way to meet people!
.I’ve written elsewhere about my struggle with the garden, so I won’t lament that here except to say that my “green thumb” remained the palest shade of pistachio throughout 2015. Barbara Kingsolver has said that vegetable gardening in the desert is like writing fiction. You have to start from scratch, put all your energy into it, water the heck out of it, and innovate the whole damn thing. Just as in crafting a novel, you force this plot where there was nothing. Whereas gardening in the East is like writing non-fiction. You just let it happen and omit the stuff you don’t want. I grew up in Florida, where water was abundant, soil tended toward fertility, and high winds only came in the form of the rare hurricane. It was easy to cultivate a garden there. You just pointed to a spot -- a scrubby, weedy, already productive spot -- and removed everything but what you wanted to grow there. Here, well here I just don’t know what to do. I keep putting so much effort and sweat and work and time into my small garden plots, only to find the production is less-than-compelling. I would make a poor novelist.
Nevertheless, we have made the decision to pull up some of our existing flower beds and replace them with either vegetable crops or xeriscaping. These beds are already irrigated, up by the house (hence, relatively safe from the livestock), and some of them are in prime locations for growing vegetables.
So what does this have to do with you? Well first, we don’t want to let these beautiful floral bulbs that we’ll be upending go to waste, so we are adopting a “U-pick” sort of system for the flower plants. We have several varieties of beautifully flowering, hardy perennials (including lilies, gladiolus, irises, and more, see photos below), and plenty of small pots and gardening implements for you to use. They’re gorgeous and pretty low-maintenance. If you want some, make an appointment with us and you can come dig them up and take them home for $1 per plant. Yours to admire.
Second, I need a mentor. I have the desire and can make the time to grow vegetables, but I’m lacking the know-how. I can’t bear the thought of aimlessly raking and seeding and weeding and watering any more beds of dirt without some notion that it’s going to amount to more than a single head of cabbage.
So. If you or someone you know has some experience in organic/permaculture gardening in zones 9-10, send them our way. Ideally, we’re looking for a gardener in need of a garden. Someone who would be interested in coming here to grow alongside us and share his or her knowledge. In turn, we’ll share the harvest.
So as we say "Adios!" to 2015 and look forward to 2016, we do so with the anticipation of good things. Growth. Nourishment. Fun! We hope you will be a part of it!