Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Getting my Goat

See -- friendly goat smile!
This past weekend we went to a workshop up at Cold Antler Farm in Cambridge, NY.  The workshop was called "Goats and Soap," and in addition to knowing I would enjoy it and really wanting a weekend out of the city, I had a theory: either this would totally get me over the idea of wanting goats or it would make it worse, but at least it would be an informed worse.  I would know what it was that I couldn't have in a city back yard, and why I wanted it.

Apparently, folks, I am not cured.

The goats were cute.  The goats were friendly.  The goats were freaking photogenic.  The goats give milk, which makes soap and goat cheese.  Think about having a source of goat cheese in your back yard.

At the farm, we started out the morning by making goats milk soap.  We did this first so it would (hopefully) have time to cure so we could take some home.  That didn't cooperate, but it doesn't matter; I know what we did and soap-making doesn't seem so mysterious now, either.

A handsome buck at Common Sense Farm
While the soap was mixing, we talked about goats: how to keep them, what they were like, why Jenna wanted them in the first place.  We got to meet her two goats, Bonnie and Ida (her daughter).  Bonnie is still giving milk, so Jenna started her off and then most of us took a shot.  I got it on the first try!

We broke for lunch after that, and when we returned to the farm we piled into cars and drove down the road to Common Sense Farm.  They have a fairly large goat dairy (20+ animals), and they make a lot of soap as well.

We didn't get to check out their soap operations, but we did get an exhaustive (but fun) lecture on goats from Yesheva which covered everything from cleaning and trimming hooves to milking to giving injections to how to deliver a kid, with stories interspersed and her six year old daughter diving in and out like a barn swallow, helping and chatting and picking up every cute baby animal within reach.

After the conclusion of Goat 101, we went upstairs in the barn to visit the hatchery, where they raise chickens, turkeys, ducks, pheasants and probably more.  There was an enormous white peacock roosting in the barn rafters, tail drifting down like some bizarre feathered chandelier.  Everything was spotless and smelled more like straw and wood shavings than birds, and it made me want to come home and clean the chicken coop.

Cold Antler Farm - barns and birds
Common Sense Farm runs to about 200 acres, much of which is garden.  On our way back to Cold Antler Farm, we took a tour of their vegetable gardens, which were enormous.  They're totally organic, so some of the weeds were pretty spectacular as well -- but as we were told, that is why you pay so much for organic produce, all that work has to be done without chemicals, so it's a lot more labor intensive.

It was such a nice day I considered volunteering to weed a row of carrots as a thank you for their hospitality, but I didn't want to hold up the group.  And I think Mario would have thought I'd lost my mind.

Common Sense Farm - sheep
My main concern going up for the workshop was what he would think.  I'm happy outside, generally the dirtier the better, but he's an indoor-at-the-desk-in-the-climate-control kind of guy.  Nothing wrong with that, but I was afraid he'd develop a severe allergy to all the nature he was about to encounter.  And I don't mean specifically grass and plants, but country, animals and a very different mindset than he's used to.

He came through it like a champ, though -- I shouldn't have worried; he's interested in absolutely everything, even if it's not something he wants to do.  And he's an information junkie, so Yesheva's talk about goats really impressed him, he's fascinated by anyone who has amassed a store of knowledge on any topic.

And he milked a goat.  And held a baby duck, courtesy of that same six-year-old girl.

Chickens at Common Sense Farm
And I think he understands the goat thing now.  I don't think he'd want to live at Common Sense Farm, or even Cold Antler Farm, but if we ever get outside the city and have some more ground, he wouldn't be surprised to find another half dozen or so chickens and a goat or two smiling sweetly from what used to be the garage.

There's another event in October called Antlerstock.  I went back in 2012 and it was a blast -- two days of homesteading fun with a little something on every topic imaginable.  Working on going back this  year.

If any of you don't read Jenna's blog, check out the link above.  She's a wonderwoman on a small scale, willing to tackle anything and always pushing to make her dreams a reality.  As we all should.

Jenna Woginrich with her dogs, Annie
and Gibson, and lamb, Brianna


RhondaBuss said...

Get a goat and call her your pet :) There has to be a way to get around the no livestock laws.

edube said...

Karen, I emailed you a couple of years ago suggesting that you would like goats. I loved mine and still miss them after moving to the city .7000 If you're heading in that direction, you won't regret it!.

Marjie said...

My grandmother once bought a goat for her "boyfriend" for his birthday. Arnold the goat lived on a 1/4 acre lot in Norwalk, CT, right across the street from the Stop & Shop, and went everywhere with Jack, even to teach his plumbing classes at the local tech college. Arnold was photogenic and personable, a great advertisement for goats everywhere. Looks like the ones you visited were the same.