medicine walk

We have been graced with the chance to move in some old ways.  My son Weston, myself or Elizabeth get to be goatherds, which in sheep would be a shepherd.  Taking the goats out from the farm, on up the road to the Lopez Hill area feels like medicine to my spirit.  I dream of having each of our land mates choose a day a week to take the goats up and get their medicinal forages of choice: the wild varieties that we miss with the plow and mower.  They browse on wild roses, ocean spray, willow, hardback, alder, thumble berry, you name it, they love it, and the deep roots pull up the minerals goats need.  More minerals than sheep and cattle.

This year the goats kidded fine- no assistance, but it seems hard for me to keep the weight on them and in good health coming through the first couple of weeks of lactation.  After some health issues with the goats and my own stress from all the dairy related work, i received a message in my thoughts to go up the “mountain”.  This is not just a walk, it is several hours up there so they can relax and eat and move and eat and move and lie down.  And for me to read and watch and think and lie down, and eat too.  I think, “How lucky i am to be able to maybe make this part of my livelihood, to fight my mind saying it’s not productive but to know that the goats’ health is everything if my business is wholesome cheese and milk.”

Weston is most excited about that long stick then herding goats, but never the less he is getting good at it.  The other day he lied down next to me during the DAY in the field with the goats on one of our “walks” longer then i’ve ever seen him still.  I think it was 2 minutes.  He has been coming to the Quaker meeting so that’s given him some practice in stillness maybe.  Of course i dream of him being more a part of the dairy.  He has liked to bottle feed some of the doelings we bought.

One of the most beautiful parts of this dairy farming is that i manage the goats in a way that gives them freedom to forage and gather what turns in to milk and then i collect it.  If those goats eat what was intended for them then that milk is so nutritious and good.  They spend all day eating and converting that forage that we cannot make use of in to milk.  Then i manage that milk in a controlled manner to change it to cheese by some old ways again.  Grass and the other plants they eat do not taste good to me, but chèvre does!

I don’t want to give the idea that i always go relaxing up in the little wild patches of lopez on a daily basis.  For the most part i move electric fence out in our 35 acre pasture, fuss with this or that to fix or build and feed hay in the winter, but i would like to move with the goats more.  I gain such clarity, aside from my allergies, when i go.  I have joked about taking my laptop to do some office work, off-line.

Well, please come out to see us at the saturday Farmer’s Market. We are talking about a wednesday market too, which we thought would appeal to locals wanting a more peaceful shopping scene.   Maybe you’ll get some chèvre that was from milk made from snow berry leaves, which i guess is essentially sunlight.

Off island trip to Edaleen Dairy and St. John Creamery

Marcia St. John and i have wanted to learn how to do our own, on-farm testing of our raw milk before sale, not just wait for the state to do it once a month. She got us an appointment with Edaleen Dairy(a large processor, kinda like dairy gold)where we could watch them test their milk in a lab.  This turned out be a very quick and simple process, which i knew, but i just had to see all the parts in the physical and ask a few questions.

The WSDA tests our milk once a month for overall coliforms, somatic cells, antibiotic and  other drug residues, and of course the pathogens.  I never thought i would say this, but i’m happy there is going to be a food lab here on lopez because i can use it.  I’ll need an incubator and some growth squares and then i can be extra sure the milk we are sending out is clean.

After the visit up in Bellingham i asked Marcia if i could come down and see her farm, St John Creamery in Lake Stevens.  She and i talked goats and natural remedies to some of the goat health issues we all have to deal with from time to time.  So i pushed back my ferry reservation(which i ended up missing), went to see her herd of 100+ Oberhasli goats and ended up buying two 4 day old doelings for our 2017 milkers.  They are so sweet, the breed that is.  Very mellow.  We have Alpines, and they are a rough bunch.  I told Marcia i might phase out of Alpines in to Oberhaslis.