A source of pride also, farmers are masochists

Those of you who have been following the farm this Winter have probably also noticed how many events we've been having. Every weekend we've opened the farm to Cuddling Events and Goat Yoga as a way to help fund a few very necessary capitol improvements on the farm.  We've been in a bit of a stalemate waiting for our pasteurizer to get delivered (we upgraded last year to a larger one) and so the events have been our only source of income.

But this past week our pasteurizer was delivered and first thing Monday morning Matthew made our inaugural batch of cheese. We were cooking with a purpose...our first CSA pickup was that weekend and we needed to fill our first boxes. All Winter long Matthew and I have been brainstorming about how we can make our CSA the best goat dairy CSA possible and now, finally, we're getting to prove it to ourselves.

As I was packing up boxes on Thursday night I caught myself smiling openly and feeling very proud.

Matthew and I love events at the farm. We love seeing the joy on people's faces when they interact with the goats, when they see a peacock spread it's tail feathers for the first time, when they hear a flock of guinea fowl chatter about...I really feel that our farm is a delight for the senses if you open yourself up to all the amazing ecosystems that are thriving here. We love seeing children come to the farm to actually touch and really interact with our animals. We love seeing people who never believed they would enjoy a yoga class find peace and balance in a class filled with goats. I could go on and on, but you get it, we have worked really hard to make our farm magical and we are proud of how far it's come. Sharing our farm may bring tears to some of our customer's eyes, but it's also therapeutic for us.

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Buuuuuuuuut, at the heart of what we do we are a goat dairy. We make food. We milk our goats two times a day, rain or shine, and then, three times a week, we turn that milk into the most healthy and pure food you can buy. Like most farmers, we feel a calling in our souls, a yearning to take something raw and good and turn it into something that is beautifully nourishing. Whether it's those farmers who take plain dirt and turn it into soil which in turn grows fruits and vegetables or it's those farmers, like us, who forge mutually beneficial relationships with animals, we do what we do to feed our communities.

We have signed up 15 people to our CSA so far (and I am so grateful for every single one of them). The amount of money we are making from these 15 people signing up for a 3 month CSA is comparable to the amount of money we can make from one Goat Yoga Session. I'll say it another way. For 3 months of work, of milking goats, making cheese, packaging cheese, and all the administrative work that goes with managing a CSA we will make as much money as we make when Matthew teaches a 50 minute goat yoga class.

There's only one thing I can take away from this.

Farmer's are masochists.

Realizing just how little money we can make when compared with the relative ease of events should make me consider a new business model for our farm.

But then we would have to give up the one thing that feeds our souls.

As I was packing up those boxes, lovingly placing every piece of cheese into the CSA box, I was so delighted with our little goat dairy. We had to work exponentially harder for the CSA money, and yet, it was the money I was most excited about making.

I've said it before and I'll say it again.

We are so proud to feed our community. We are proud of how our farm works in harmony with nature, ultimately making our neighborhood healthier, and we are proud of how our products represent only the best parts of our food system.

Thank you, again and again, for supporting us on this journey.

Also, it's not too late to sign up for our CSA. Just visit our webpage to send us a note!

And if you're thinking about cuddling you'll want to do it in the next month as our cuddling events will end when our babies are weaned! You can always view the most up to date schedules on our website.

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Farmers need more than your "support"

Farmers are enjoying a little bit of a renaissance right now.

It's considered romantic, and even a little glamorous to grow food for your community. Part of this is due to how many small farmers (like myself) present ourselves to the world. We work every single day, around the clock, to bring you food that we're proud of. In order to get people excited about it, we post really beautiful photos of the farming process. 

And it works. 

People are flocking to farming facebook and instagram pages to soak in the virtual farming experience and feed their souls through imagery. 

Let me be very clear. 

I am so thankful for every single follower we have on the world wide web. Many of you are our customers and judiciously share our content across your own social channels to help bring awareness to what we are doing. This kind of relationship is the most valuable relationship we can have with our community. 

Those of you who aren't local are just as important. Every time you comment or share you're keeping the conversation going. Additionally, if you're following us I'm willing to bet you're also following your own local farms. And I hope you're supporting them with your dollars. 

Small farms cannot exist without communities rallying behind them. 

While I don't officially speak for all farmers I feel pretty good about saying this in the broad sense. 

Farmers need more than your "support." 

A few months ago Matthew and I were invited to be part of Cochon555 again. You may recall my excitement last year when we were asked to provide a pig for the culinary competition. If you're not familiar with Cochon555 here's some verbiage I took from their website: 

Created in 2008 in response to the lack of education around heritage breed pigs, Cochon555 is a nose-to-tail culinary event dedicated to supporting family farmers and educating buyers about the agricultural importance of eating heritage breed pigs...At all events, we source only the highest quality ingredients and products...If you like tasty pig, our goal is to buy the "best breeds" from farmers doing it the "right way".

The epic culinary tour starts in New York City in late-January and culminates with the finale, Grand Cochon September 30th in Chicago, marking our first decade...Bottom line, we are educating the nation one bite at a time and creating a safer food future to be shared with our children. Source.

In short, Cochon555 is 5 chefs, paired with 5 farmers (who provide 5 heritage breed pigs), and 5 wines.

Before I became a farmer I was obsessed with chefs (truth be told, I still am). I love cooking shows like Top Chef and I have always bent over backwards to fulfill a restaurant order for a chef.

Being part of Cochon555 was huge for me (Matthew didn't really care but he never turns down an opportunity to go hang out in the big city). We were so excited to be a part of this event that we caved when they asked us to come down on our price of $4.25/lb to $4.00/lb. This was a small price to pay for the incredible marketing opportunity Cochon555 would be for us.

Except, it wasn't. 

The event was fun, yes. Cochon555 is a feast in every sense of the word. The plates the chefs put out are incredible, the wine is flowing freely, their are a lot of side exhibits showcasing other bites (olives, cheese, etc.) and there is a lot of music and laughter. 

At the end of the evening they brought the "punch kings" up on stage. These were the bartenders associated with each restaurant that were competing for best mixed drink. They presented each of them in individual fashion and then announced the winner. The same thing happened for the sommeliers. They brought them all up on stage, introduced them, and then announced the winner. And then they called the chefs up to the stage. Same deal. Introduced them and then announced the winner. 

You might be asking yourself, where are the farmers in all of this? 

I asked myself the same question. 

If this is an event about honoring the farmers wouldn't it make sense to bring them up on stage? I mean, I get it, we're usually a pretty dirty bunch, except we weren't that night. Every single one of us farmers was all cleaned up and feeling very proud of the work we do.

You can only imagine how my heart sunk when they asked the farmers to raise their hands in the crowd. 

I felt like an idiot putting my hand in the air among 300 (500?) other people where no one except the people on either side of me saw me raise it. 

Sure doesn't feel like a "know your farmer" kind of moment. 

I went home after Cochon555 feeling a little deflated and a little bamboozled. Later when I was doing our books I calculated that the slaughtering we had to do for the competition, which included a full scald of our pig so that the skin was intact, was more expensive than our normal slaughter so we actually lost money on our pig. 

Sad Face. 

Fast forward to this year. Cochon555 again reached out to us. Would we like to provide a pig? I said yes, sure, but we charge $6.00/lb. They asked if we could come down in price. 

No, I said. In fact, here's what I specifically said: 

"Unfortunately, if we come down on that price that puts us into the territory where we're donating our time and energy to farming, which, as I'm sure you know, farmers are notorious for, to their detriment." 

We didn't hear anything back. When I finally followed up asking for confirmation they confirmed that yes, they had found another farmer, only because of cost reasons. 

Here is an organization, who touts themselves as supporting the family farming of heritage breed pigs, who is also unwilling to pay what a family farm raising heritage breed pigs is saying it costs them to raise an animal on pasture. 

Please. 

Do not tell me you support small farmers and then nickel and dime them all the way to the bank. 

When you see us at a Farmer's Market and you think our product is amazing, don't negotiate with us. We have AGONIZED over how we price our products. We lose sleep over our pricing models. We are literally working our bodies into the ground to bring you food we believe in. 

NO ONE IS GETTING RICH. 

I realize I am preaching to the choir when I say this to the people who read my blog but it's worth repeating.

If you want to actually support small farmers than you have to do more than just write a fancy statement on your website or put a bumper sticker on your car. 

Farms, despite what we may project on instagram or facebook, do not run off of rainbows and dreams. We require real money to attempt to make a living wage. Farmer's Market Season is upon us all around the country. Many farms are waking up from a sleepy winter and are filled with excitement and anticipation at what 2018 may bring (farmers, I am convinced, are hopeless optimists). 

This year, if you don't already make it a weekly (or monthly) practice, could be the year that you shop at a farmer's market instead of a grocery store. Local Harvest has a great tool to help you find the market closest to you >

We will be at Tumwater Farmer's Market on Opening Day, April 18th and at Puyallup Farmer's Market on Opening Day, April 21. We hope to see you there. 

Final Thoughts: 

I am not mad at Cochon555. I still think it's an amazing event. The amount of love and passion the chefs put into their dishes was inspiring on so many levels for me. The chef we were paired with, Derek Ronspies of Le Petit Cochon in Freemont is one of the most talented individuals we have ever met. Matthew and I dream about the food we've eaten at his restaurant (which I should note, he buys directly from local farmers). The music and atmosphere at Cochon555 is absolutely top-notch. As an event, it's very very well done. As an event that followed through on a promise to this farmer, it fell a little short.  

Three generations, four girls and four goats

This morning we woke up early (as we always do) not just because we're farmers, but because we have two small children who think sleep is for the weak.

Matthew and I were tired. We are in full blown kidding season and, right before we went to bed last night, two of our Mamas appeared very close to kidding. Matthew and I took turns doing barn checks throughout the night while also juggling two children who, I swear to you, coughed all.night.long.

I poked my head out of the door and looked down into the barn and much to my surprise there were four little babies standing on their own. At first I thought both mom's must have had their babies.

Meanwhile my mom, who is staying in our home while we finish the final adjustments to her trailer, was getting dressed to go check on mamas. (Since my dad's death she has carved out a little space on the farm to make her own. This will allow her to come and go from her home in Oregon and essentially set up roots in her Grandchildren's backyard).

Mom came inside almost as soon as she went down with the news that one of our Mamas was still pushing and it didn't look very productive. (Those four babies I saw belonged to another goat!)

Somewhere in there Matthew's mom (who we are so lucky to have come hang out at the farm on the days she doesn't work) appeared in my kitchen offering to go help feed babies. Yes! Great idea! But first we have to go check on the goat in labor!

Myself, Gizmo, and two of her Grandmother's suited up to head to the barn. Banzai and Matthew suited up to head to the milking parlor. Divide and conquer!

When we got to the barn it was obvious our sweet goat was in distress. We quickly got to work trying to decipher what was happening in her uterus. Normally when you have to "go in" to help a goat you run into something recognizable. A mouth, a foot, a butt. Something that makes sense. But when we went into Skipper we encountered nothing but a warm mass. Upon first entry we couldn't find anything to grip onto. Luckily, my mom has larger hands than Matthew's mom and I and was able to get an entire body flipped around. She was able to present two hooves (a good sign! pull!) but we recognized immediately, those feet belong to two different goats. So we had to push one goat back in and readjust some more. Finally the first goat came out. Gizmo, my four year old midwife, immediately went to work cleaning it up and drying it off.

But the rule on goats is: If you pull one baby you have to pull them all. The Mamas are just too tired and spent from pushing unproductively they don't have the energy to push more.

So we went back in. Another wonky goat. This one came out almost folded in half. And then we went back in. Another goat. Backwards. One more time. Another goat. Sideways.

A MESS OF BABIES.

But we got them all.

We.

My mom. My mother-in-law. My daughter. Me.

Four women. Three generations.

Female farmers.

There aren't that many of us.

But, in no way, do I run this farm on my own. Matthew, my husband, is the rock of this farm. He milks goats, he makes cheese, he fixes EVERYTHING when it breaks (and so many things break), he hauls feed, he builds things, he mucks stalls, he keeps the goats healthy, he feeds the pigs...and so much more. This farm WOULD NOT exist without him.

And yet, when you come here, you might notice, there is A LOT of pink on the farm.

Bright pink doors, pink feeders, pink collars, even our cheese label is pink.

You see. Pink is my favorite color. And truly, who doesn't love pink?

It makes our farm beautiful and yes, pretty girly.

But that's exactly how Matthew wants it.

He is of the mindset that farming is such a male dominated field it's hard for girls to see themselves doing it. Which is why, when girls come to our farm, he wants them to be able to see themselves owning their very own all pink farm.

Which is why it was so powerful to me to share a somewhat scary goat birth with my daughter and two of her Grandmothers.

She got to see three women in her life be strong, calm, confident, patient, and comforting. She listened to us as we talked to each other with respect, as we detailed what we were feeling and worked out our next plan.

She stepped right in and followed our lead.

Never once did she cry, or whine.

I couldn't have been more proud of her.

Four girls delivered four baby goats this morning.

And it was beautiful.

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And then, after that, she finished up morning chores.

Because, like all farmers, she knows, the animals wait for nothing. Not a crisis. Not a celebration. Nothing.

24/7, 365 days a year.

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Why do we charge for cuddling?

I stayed up all night, pinned between a nursing toddler and a stuffy-nosed, snoring 4 year old, writing this post in my head. I have debated not writing it all morning.

Matthew and I opened up our farm yesterday to host 5 paid events. What I mean by that is, you bought tickets to come to the farm, in this case, our Chocolate & Cuddles Events, where you get to snuggle with baby goats, bottle feed them, and then you leave with our hand-made goat cheese truffles. We also sampled our AsiaGoat and encouraged people to walk around our farm (it was a beautiful day!) to meet the rest of the goats, the horses, the peacocks, the guinea fowl, the chickens, and the pigs. 

We are so grateful to all of you who came out and enjoyed your time on our farm. 

We are so grateful that we are able to offer this experience to our community. 

Getting to go into a warm hoop house and pick up, play with, feed, and become one with baby goats is a truly soul-filling experience. 

I also like to say it's cheaper than therapy.

Which brings up the main point of this post. 

Yes. We are charging for tickets to these events. Charging for tickets means we are able to keep them small (so that everyone gets a truly personal experience with the babies) and, honestly, it's how we pay our bills. 

Last year we spent $37,000 on animal feed for our goats. We brought in $56,000 at Farmer's Markets. That's not profit. That doesn't include the wages that we pay so people can work them (because we are only two people, we have two small children, and we still have to make the cheese that gets sold at the markets); the packaging costs of cheese; market fees; gas; the cost of free product that we sample so people will want to buy our cheese; blah blah blah blah blah. 

And that's just to feed them. There is the cost of the chemicals that we use to clean our milking equipment, the cost to upkeep our machinery, the electrical bill to run everything (we pay extra so that our power comes from alternative energy sources), the cost of bedding, repairs to animals shelters, insurance, etc. 

Let's not even talk about the hourly wage we're not collecting. 

Why am I saying all this? 

It's not so that you feel bad for us. We could quit the dairy tomorrow and Matthew could go back to being a full time ER nurse and we would be fine. This dairy is our dream. Every day we consciously make the decision to wake up and keep milking. Every day we feel lucky that we have a shot at living our dream. 

I am saying this because as a small farmer I feel like it's my job to help educate our community on why we charge for these events. We had a few situations yesterday where people showed up, unaware that it was a ticketed event day, and then, upon partaking in everything our farm had to offer, declined to pay. 

I hate confrontation. I always have and I always will. And at first I was angry about these people. 

But I've moved on from anger towards that very small sample size to gratitude for the vast majority of our community who not only support us but who are grateful that our farm exists. 

No one is getting rich. Believe me. In fact, all the money our farm made this weekend went right back out the door to pay for our vet testing to get licensed as a raw milk dairy and to pay to repair our bulk tank (the tank that keeps our milk cold after we've milked). Every single penny is spoken for. 

But, because we had these events we were able to pay for these expenses without going into debt. Debt, as you can imagine, is every small farmer's enemy. 

We aren't subsidized by the government. Grants are available, yes, but I've been applying for the past 5 years and have yet to receive one. You can't imagine how much time a grant application takes (or maybe you can), suffice to say, it's a lot. 

Agritourism, for us and for many small farms, help us stay afloat. Because they are on our farm our overhead is low and we can often tend to issues and animals in between events. 

When you support small farms through these events you're helping close the gap and essentially, helping us keep our doors open. Keeping our doors open means that amazing things, like a goat dairy, get to be a part of your community. 

You've probably often heard the term, vote with your pocketbook. 

When you support small farms, through these events, you are essentially saying, yes, I would like to keep this little gem in my neighborhood. I support sustainable farms. I support farmers who care about the environment and the welfare of their animals. I support having a place that opens their doors to schools, daycares, and Girl Scouts so that tomorow's adult's can actually see where food comes from. 

From the bottom of my slightly jaded, but mostly grateful heart, thank you to all of you who continue to come through the gates of this farm and spend your hard earned money. It is our honor to bring you closer to the animals that make your food and it is our privilege to provide baby goats for cuddles. 

We could not do this without you. 

Thank you. 

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Mini Documentary about Lost Peacock Creamery!

Uncle Leo (Matthew's younger brother, who lives on the farm with us, and who is going to college and studying film) made a mini documentary about the farm! And it is so good!

Of course, we're a little biased.

This farm is so much work. But seeing it through someone else's eyes, it's also SO BEAUTIFUL. I'm feeling so grateful and full right now...we hope you enjoy watching this mini documentary as much as we did.

And a huge thank you to Leo for using his talents to help tell the story of this first generation farm and the wildlings that live on it :)

The truth is, we're all a little mad around here

Last night we went to a wedding. We were out late (for farmers, especially) dancing and eating cake (two of my favorite things). Gizmo learned how to YMCA and Banzai tried his hardest to catch the garter belt. The kids were in heaven hanging out in such a festive setting (there's no doubt about it now, we are raising two very gregarious extroverts). Matthew and I enjoyed getting to dress up, dance, eat, and, you know, be merry. We had made the decision before-hand, we wouldn't milk the next morning. It's getting time to dry the girls off for the last few months of their gestation so the morning after a late night felt like the right time to do it.

We slept until 9 a.m. this morning.

All of us.

I can't believe it, I'm still in shock.

Of course, this doesn't count the few times a night Banzai still woke up and the odd request Gizmo had for a kitten to be placed in her arms in the middle of the night.

So it wasn't uninterrupted (I mean, let's be serious here, we're parenting a 4 year old and a 2 year old). But. Our bodies did not get out of bed until 9 o-clock this morning.

Is this how other people live?!

Since our last frantic post of all the things we needed to get done before winter, things have started to slow down. We still have some big things to get done, of course. The horse shelter needs walls (it's only a roof at this point), the pasture needs to be limed, we are re-grading our driveway, re-shaping the main dairy girl's pasture to change the way the field drains into the barn, the parlor still needs rain gutters on it (and trim, if I'm being greedy), and then there is the end of the year power washing that will happen when we dry the girls off completely. Chores still happen twice a day and we're still making cheese every day. And we're still packaging for our distributor (Farmstand Local Foods) order once a week, our Beechers order (Seattle can't get enough our Thai Garlic Chevre, it seems!), and Proctor Farmer's Market (last day December 16th!).

But, all that considered...things have really slowed down on the farm.

For the second year in a row we participated in the Downtown for the Holidays parade with the goats (Bjorn, Toto, Lady Clara Von Chaiserstock III, and Ziggy Stardust); our new herding dog, Zac; and our mini horse, Noomi. We wrangled in a few more friends this year (including my Mom!) and managed to avoid the rain by exactly 23 minutes.

We've reached the point in the season where it's easy to forget how hard we ran ourselves all year. It's a dangerous place to be. The fatigue and exhaustion that kept us a little paralyzed all year, allowing us to function through muscle memory alone, has given way to a more ballsy approach that has us slightly convinced we can take over the world. There is talk of expansions and whispers of growth. Matthew and I toss ideas out to each other almost jokingly, as if to say, I know this is crazy, but...

Except maybe it's not crazy.

We're about to wrap up our second season of dairying and, from a first glance, the business didn't lose money. We're nowhere near making a living wage, or even, if we're being serious, a wage. But with a few tweaks here a few changes there, it's easier than not to see how the dairy could, in fact, turn a profit in it's third year.

It feels reckless to even write that. As if, by suggesting that farming could be profitable, we're tempting the gods to strike us down and prove us wrong.

But the truth is, we believe the farming can support our family. Not just because we grow and trade for all our own food. No. We believe that farming can create a salary, a retirement, and even college funds for our children. Is that greedy?

I don't know.

What I do know is that we work 14 hour days in the on-season (sometimes more). We have thrown everything we have into this dairy. We have devoted all but one day a week of Matthew's career to milking goats, making cheese, and running the farm (he still works in the ER as an nurse one day a week to keep his credentials up). We schlepp our kids to farmer's markets on the weekends, force them to work alongside us in the milking parlor and in the field (thankfully they seem to love it) and, with few exceptions, devote all conversations to talk of dairy.

We eat, sleep, breathe this farm.

Is it greedy to think that it could provide for us the way we provide for it?

No. It's not.

Matthew and I have always said, from the beginning, that this farm is meant to enrich our community. Many of the improvements we made this year were in an effort to expand our parking and event space, a necessary move to ensure more people can set their feet on the ground of a real working farm. We are passionate about not only helping children understand where food comes from, but also showing them what real food looks and tastes like. Our cheese (with the exception of the flavored chevre) has just four ingredients. Goat milk, vegetarian rennet, culture, and salt. Our yogurt has just two ingredients, goat milk and culture.

You cannot. Absolutely cannot. Find a more pure and beautiful dairy product to feed your family. Dairying may have left me with a lot of uncertainty, but of this, I am positive.

Our products are the best and, with few exceptions, everyone's diet can benefit from a little bit of goat cheese in their life.

And so, it's our mission, no, our obligation, to continue to grow our business and continue to spread the good word on cheese.

It's crazy, right?

Yes. It is.

But the day we stop feeling a little crazy about this farm is probably the day that it's gotten the best of us and we should sell it all. I am convinced, there is absolutely no other way to run a small business or pursue a dream, than by being a little crazy.

On December 16th we'll be having our last Open Farm Day of 2017, from Noon to 3 p.m. We will have Santa in the Event Space and I'll be taking photos (which will be available for digital purchase for $40 each). It will be free for anyone who wants to sit and talk with him though, so please, bring your kiddos out, feed the goats, sample our cheese, and, pick some up for your holiday table. We would love to see you and spread a little bit of our goat-ey Christmas cheer :) And, maybe, a little bit of this craziness we call our farm.

Come see us:

Lost Peacock Creamery 5504 Cross Creek Lane NE Olympia, WA 98516

Werk, werk, werk, werk, werk....

Every single year I have been a farmer I find myself in the same state of panic and frenzy as I am right now. You see.

Winter is coming.

Last week we had our first taste of the rains when it literally poured buckets.

Or maybe that was just my tears of frustration and agony.

This beautiful, amazing work that we’ve chosen for ourselves has a terrible habit of turning you into a ball of sadness and doom when the rain comes.

It also brings to light everything that’s wrong with your paths, shelters, and pasture.

Mud. Flood. Mud.

Cue the nervous breakdown.

Matthew and I stayed up late one night and made the ultimate list of everything that was wrong with our farm, and everything we needed to get fixed immediately.

And then we went on a begging tour. See this text message below? Matthew's sister was coming home from college and his mom was trying to figure out our schedule so they could all come to the farm. (I'm the one on the right basically saying, "werk werk werk", Matthew is the one trying to make work sound fun, and Leo is the one laughing because he pretty much hears the same thing from us all day, every day).

Pretty much anyone who dared to text us last week we asked to work. Through the luck of good friends we amassed a pretty solid work party.

And then we worked.

Did I mention it was still pouring?

Our amazing people worked right alongside us for two days straight. They pounded posts, they dug fence holes, they chopped firewood, they planted trees…and they did it all with a smile on their face.

At the end of the weekend we were a little rejuvenated, feeling a little less doomsday-ey. And then, Monday morning, bright and early, we were in the pen with the teenage goats, and in just those 5 minutes, added at least 5 more urgent tasks to our list.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This farm is my heart and soul, but dang, it sure can kick you when you’re down.

And it’s not just the farm. It’s the business.

We make incredible cheese. I mean, truly, this cheese will make a goat believer out of anyone. And our yogurt! Oh! Our yogurt! We have received so many personal emails about how our yogurt is literally changing people’s lives. From helping with someone’s weight loss goals to fixing chronic upset tummies, our yogurt is the favorite of so many people. We even got a call from a woman who called us to tell us how much it had helped her cat’s health problems! There is nothing like our yogurt on the market.

But here we are, begging vendors to stock our cheese. Every night after we put the kids to bed we send at least three emails to potential places that may want to carry our cheese. Most people don’t write us back. Some people write us back with initial excitement but then nothing comes of it. Some people ask for samples, which we always provide, but then usually nothing happens. And then, a few of these interactions turn into actual sales, but usually only after months of dialogue.

The truth is, the world of grocery is so hard to break into. And we are feeling it.

So. Just to recap. The farm’s emergency list of projects is a mile long, the rainy season is upon us, and we still have so much cheese to sell.

Are we having fun yet?

The answer. Surprisingly. Is yes.

This business is a family business. I wake up every morning with my husband and our two kids, feeling so lucky to live on this farm. The strength of people we are creating on a diet of fresh air and goat milk is truly remarkable. I mean, where else can kids dress up in their rain gear and jump in puddles while their parents pound fence posts?

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I still believe in our mission to create food for our community. I love opening our doors for farm tours, classes, events, and goat yoga. At the end of the day we aren’t ready to stop hustling.

Don’t quit your day dream, people. Don't quit.

Ps. If you want to come to goat yoga, it's supposed to be sunny this weekend and we have a class! Get tickets online >>

Is this a family run business?

Last weekend we held our first Open Farm Day in quite awhile. We love opening our farm to our community and it does our souls so much good to see our followers and neighbors enjoying our animals and eating our cheese. Ideally, every weekend would be Open Farm Weekend, but, unfortunately, all of this (picture me gesturing around at all the poop on the farm) takes manpower to run and right now we don't have enough. But, what we do have, is awesome.

While chatting with a visitor this weekend she said to me, in reference to the people we had helping, “So, is this like, a family run business?”

My answer was yes.

This business is run by Matthew and I. We are the husband and wife owners and operators. We handle the majority of milkings and herd care. We are also the only cheesemakers and, even though it’s our least favorite task, we can usually be found packaging cheese at 11 pm the night before a market.

Leo, Matthew’s younger brother, also lives on the farm while he goes to college. Leo is responsible for the daily chores (morning and afternoon) that includes feeding the 80+ heartbeats we have living on this farm. Leo is also highly proficient in milking which allows us to leave the farm for a few days at a time, and, as a general rule, he is willing and able to help with whatever we need from him. He’s also great at accents, always has music playing around him, and is THE BEST Uncle.

Every farm needs a Leo.

Every farm also needs an Annie and Johnny. This husband and wife team, in conjunction with their son, who happens to be Giz’s best friend, are a force of perfection. You know how to tell if someone loves your farm as much as you do? Have them sell at a Farmer’s Market. As a general rule owners outsell employees at markets. It makes sense if you think about it. An owner is absolutely and completely vested in the product. They also know everything that went into making it, and, more importantly, they know how much is riding on the success of a market. In short, owners know what bills they need to pay and how much they need to make at a market in order to cover them. They’re hungrier. You could also argue that when an owner talks about their product at a market they’re more passionate and more engaged. All of this translates to more sales.

When Annie and Johnny volunteer to work our markets (you read that right, we don’t pay them) they outsell Matthew and I. Every.Single.Time. And you know what? Save for a few technical cheesemaking questions, they are always able to answer every market goers question about our farm and our product without even asking us. The way our animals are raised, the way we milk, the way we make cheese, shoot, even the names of every animal, they know it all. And we never even had to tell them. They’ve just spent so much time working on this farm that they’ve gleaned the knowledge from experience. Last Open Farm Day Annie sold cheese while Johnny did a dump run and then spent 5 hours turning a downed tree into firewood. On most days of the week you can find our families together at the farm, working, playing, or eating.

Because the food, people. Matthew and I grow it, but Annie and Johnny know how to cook it. And boy can they can cook it. Last night Annie made pork roast (from our pigs) and halloumi (from our goats) while Johnny dazzled all of us with his goat cheese cheesecake (the main ingredient was our chevre). I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: Farmer’s have access to the most incredible ingredients in the world. Either what we are growing on our farms or what we are trading for at Farmer’s Markets. Rarely do we have the time to do these ingredients justice.

Which is why every farm needs an Annie and Johnny.

Of course, these people are so much more than that.

When we got invited to Cochon 555 (that's us up there, out for a night in the big bad city) th they were right there with us. When we got picked up by a distributor they rejoiced just as much as we did. When we have to process animals they’re right alongside us. And when we have to make hard decisions around putting animals down they’re shedding just as many tears as us.

When my dad died they trekked the 7 hours down to Oregon to grieve with us. When our son was born Annie was in the room taking photos, some of which will never see the light of the day, because frankly, no one needs to see “that” much of Rachael in labor ;)

This is also probably the point where I throw in we’re very close but we don’t wife swap. Because, no judgment, that’s just not for us.

Friends are the family you make for yourself, and that’s exactly what we did. Our children are being raised as siblings—My mother and Matthew’s mother are grandparents to all of them. We expect the same amount of hard work from their four year old as we do ours.

It doesn’t necessarily take a village to raise a child, but dang, it is nice. And between Uncle Leo and Nana and Uncle Johnny (which is what our kids call them), we’ve created a pretty cool little village here.

So when you ask, is this a family run business?

Yes. Yes it is.

And we are so lucky.

In honor of my father

My father passed away last Sunday, at 3:51 in the morning, after a two year fight with stage IV pancreatic cancer. When he was initially diagnosed doctors gave him a 1% chance he would make it as long as he did, more likely they told him, he would be gone in 5 months. Of course my dad wasn’t ordinary, so it surprised none of us that he was able to fight as long as he did. And a fight it was. He went two consecutive years on chemo, never taking a break. At the end his body was completely destroyed.

The day after my dad left this world his death was front page of the local news. The main focus of the article was on his last 10 years as a state champion track coach for Marshfield High School. My father was a huge figure in his community, a larger than life presence, he had the unique ability of making you feel like you were the only person in the room when he spoke to you. Before that he flew F15s in the United States Air Force. And before that he earned a world record in the 40-yard shuttle hurdles, while a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy.

But that’s not what I’ll remember most about him.

Being raised by a fighter pilot is like being raised by Zeus himself. Other kids in school had dads who were teachers, or mechanics, doctors, or lawyers. But my dad? He was the greatest fighter pilot in the world. How did I know that? He told me so.

Do you know the difference between a fairy tale and a fighter pilot tale? A fairy tale starts out, “Once upon a time.” A fighter pilot story starts out, “No shit, this really happened.”

Except in my dad’s case, it was true.

He could break apples in half with his bare hands. He could juggle pretty much anything you threw at him. He could split logs in a single heft.

My dad was the strongest, handsomest, fastest man I knew.

One time a girl in school saw a picture of my dad and shrieked, “Your dad looks just like Arnold Schwarzeneggar!”

Nevermind that he was Asian. She was right. He was a perfect specimen.

Of course, being a fighter pilot in the Air Force meant my dad was gone a lot. And for the most part, my mom raised us. But when he was home you knew it.

Whenever a group of people got together my dad was the life of the party. The first to start a game of charades, the first to start telling jokes, and the first to put on music (he loved Motown).

Everyone who knew my dad would say the same thing. “Your dad is so fun!”

And he was.

When my dad was home we did everything together as a family. He called it Forced Family Fun (Triple F). The rule was each member of the family got to pick something to do on their weekend. My mother usually chose a quilt shop in a neighboring town, my brother chose comic book shops, my dad was partial to battlefields and historical landmarks, and I usually steered us towards anything that ended in ice cream. And we all went. There were only a few rules: No friends allowed, just family. And you will smile. Oh yeah. And you will have fun (hence the forced part). But the thing is, we didn’t have to fake it. Our family really did love each other.

My brother and I were best friends. From a very young age my parents would always say the same thing. Friends come and go, but your family is forever. And it was true. Especially for us. Moving every couple of years meant we said goodbye to friends a lot. But your family. Your family was always with you.

My mom and dad were the other constant we could count on. Their love for each other was palpable. The respect they showed each other, the way my dad would talk about my mom in public, the way he would catch her eye in a group of people. He would tell anyone who would listen that he married his high school sweetheart, his true equal, and the love of his life.

Not that my dad was big on saying “I love you.” As an adult, if I spoke to him twice in one day on the phone, he would only say “I love you” the first time. Even if I said “I love you,” he would answer, “Yep” and then we would hang up.

Not because he had stopped loving me, but because he really was a man of few words. Every thought he gave voice to was carefully crafted and spoken with an intention to teach, inspire, or force action.

Everything my dad did warranted an audience. He was one of those magical people who, I was convinced, walked among giants before coming down to Earth to start a family.

As an Air Force officer my parents attended a lot of black tie affairs. Watching them head out for the night, my dad in his full mess dress and my mom in a full length ball gown, was like watching the King and Queen head out into the world. The best part was the pride my dad would emit having my mother by his side. It was intoxicating.

Of course, my mother was always happy to be there. As an adult she often shared with me that she still got butterflies when my dad would walk into a room. She would have followed him to hell and back…and ultimately, that’s what she did.

We brought my father home from the hospital after complications arose from a shunt they had just placed in his liver (the bile duct was blocked and his body was shutting down) knowing that his chance of ever getting healthy enough to continue chemo was slim to none.

Turns out it was none.

My dad lived his life according to a quote by Vince Lombardi, “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”

Never was my father more proud of me than when I deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Service, especially military service, was one of his true measures of success. Having already followed in my father’s footsteps by graduating from the Air Force Academy and running Division I hurdles I am positive he would have loved to see me complete a career as an Air Force officer. I can only imagine what his first thoughts were when I declared I wanted to start a goat dairy. Financial security, 401ks, and retirement plans were extremely important to my father and being a farmer didn’t necessarily bode well for employer matched contributions.

Every time he talked to me he would probe. What does a successful goat dairy look like? How do you make great cheese? What was my plan to achieve excellence?

The first time I brought Matthew home to meet my parents I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was bringing a tree hugging hippy of a man into the home of my father, the world’s greatest fighter pilot. At the end of the visit, as Matthew and I prepared to leave, my dad handed me gas money for the 6 hour drive home. I instantly made a joke about being a poor goat farmer. Instead of laughing though he shocked me by saying, “Yeah, but you’re rich in love.”

He was right of course, and I think he knew that, in Matthew, I had found my most perfect match. He couldn’t have known though, that love would come full circle.

After we brought him home from the hospital, with the promise that he could die at home, not hooked up to any machines, and surrounded by the people he loved, we were unprepared to understand exactly what death would look like.

The last full sentence my father ever said to me was a promise to die with grace. Even on his death bed my dad was committed to what he saw as the most excellent way to die.

And it was Matthew, my tree hugging hippy of a man, who had experience as a nurse in end of life care, who stood vigil with him, treated him with honor and respect, and helped us ensure that we could keep our promise to him to die at home. The last few days of my father’s life were not comfortable, beautiful, or easy, but as a family, we were there to help him pass to the other side.

And he did it with grace.

And, because of Matthew, who took on the role of his caregiver, we were able to focus on holding him, talking to him, kissing him—loving him.

My father died at 3:51 in the morning surrounded by his family. And even though he didn’t answer me when I kissed his cheek for the last time and said “I love you,” I know he was thinking it—and that’s always been good enough for me.

If you knew my father, or would like to honor his legacy, please consider making a donation to Tribute Hall.

 

 

 

 

 

Lost Peacock Creamery Summer Camp

This past week we hosted 16 kids at the farm for Lost Peacock Creamery Summer Camp. Their days were filled with animals, sunshine, goat cheese, and very frequent dips in the water troughs (us Pacific Northwesterners aren't used to heat and the week of summer camp brought about record breaking heat levels).

They picked blackberries and made them into jam, hunted for sticks to fashion bows and arrows, milked and painted goats, and, above all, they played.

With each other.

Side note: That super cute guy with 2PorkShakur is Uncle Leo, Matthew's brother, who lives on our farm full time and was head camp counselor.

I read an article in NPR recently, and it shook me.

The entire article is worth reading (along with a similar article from The Atlantic), but here's some snippets:

Today's teens are just not spending as much time with their friends in person, face-to-face, where they can really read each others' emotions and get that social support. And we know from lots and lots of research that spending time with other people in person is one of the best predictors for psychological well-being and one of the best protections against having mental health issues. Source.

The author, an American psychologist, is talking about what she has dubbed iGen. "Born between 1995 and 2012, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet."

iGen is showing mental health issues across a wide variety of indicators. They're more likely than young people just five or 10 years ago to say that they're anxious, that they have symptoms of depression, that they have thought about suicide or have even [attempted] suicide. So across the board, there's a really consistent trend with mental health issues increasing among teens. Source.

So what does that have to do with our summer camp?

Our camps are designed to mimic the outdoor adventures that many of us grew up with. Our farm is a safe place, with a perimeter fence, adult supervision, and enough rules to make sure no one gets truly hurt. In between all that there's plenty of time for them to forge relationships with each other and utilize their free play muscles, all while interacting with and learning from each other and the animals.

In doing that they grew bigger and stronger as human beings.

Because really, that's what it's all about.

This farm makes strong people. Matthew and I are raising two of them, but every time we open our gate to a group of kids, I'm reminded that this farm is truly magical.

Can this farm singlehandedly fix the mental health crisis facing our children's future?

No, probably not.

But I'll be darned if we're not going to try.

 

A little bit of an update

The last time I had this big of stretch from the blog my life was in literal shambles. I was a single parent, I was struggling to stay afloat financially, and I was in the lowest place I'd ever been emotionally.

Thankfully! That's not the reason for my absence from the blog this time.

We are busy! And busy is good! Because busy is paying the alfalfa bill! Wahoo!

It's been so long since I posted I don't even know where to start. So, in no particular order, here's some facts you might want to know.

Farmer's Markets

We are selling at three farmer's markets this year. After a repeatedly dismal showing at Capitol Hill Farmer's Market in Seattle we realized we could no longer justify the 9 hour days we were devoting to being there. For the few people who came to see us on a weekly basis, we're sorry we couldn't stay. But, we are still in Seattle! Here's our official schedule. Tumwater Towne Center Farmer's Market 7000 Capitol Blvd SE Tumwater, WA 98501 Wednesdays, 10 am to 2 pm

Queen Anne Farmers Market Queen Anne Ave N & W Crockett St, Seattle, WA 98109 Thursdays, 3-7:30 p.m.

Puyallup Farmer's Market 319 S Meridian Puyallup, WA 98371 Saturdays, 9 am to 2 pm

Restaurants

Back when we had television I was obsessed with Top Chef. OBSESSED. I have always had somewhat of a crush on the culinary world, so when chefs started writing us asking for cheese, I peed my pants a little. Right now Mike at Our Table (in Olympia) has our halloumi; Derek at Le Petit Cochon (in Freemont) has our halloumi and our chevre (side note: if you're on instagram follow Derek. His menu descriptions are amazing and his food is truly beautiful, @petitcochonsea); and Adam at Mt. Rainier's Paradise Inn just did a wine dinner with our ricotta. There are some more pairings in the works that hopefully we'll be announcing soon!

Grocers

At this point our most steady grocers are the food co-ops on the Eastside and Westside. Beechers in downtown Seattle (literally, across from Pike Place Market) sold out of our Thai Garlic Chevre in just 4 days so hopefully that trend continues!

Olympia Food Co Op – Eastside 3111 Pacific Ave SE Olympia, WA 98501

Olympia Food Co Op – Westside 921 Rogers St NW Olympia, WA 98502

Beecher's Handmade Cheese 1600 Pike Place Seattle, WA 98101

Products

We've found somewhat of a rhythm making chevre, honey vanilla chevre, thai garlic chevre, halloumi, asiago, and yogurt and, when we have spare milk, Matthew is playing around with some new cheeses! Of course we are constantly analyzing what products are selling best and what products are costing us too much to make/package. I never would have guessed there would be so much math involved with running a goat dairy!

Goat Yoga

We are having a blast hosting goat yoga! Matthew LOVES leading these classes and the goats think it's pretty awesome that all these people keep coming to their pasture to hang out with them. We've noticed such a positive change in the goats (even our most standoffish ones) enjoying this beautiful time with people. We have a session coming up this weekend (July 8) and then another on July 22. We will likely add some more throughout the rest of Summer as long as there is continued interest.

Summer Camps

Summer Camp is almost full for the bigger kids and we just opened up a summer camp for the littlest kids (think, Giz's age, 3.5 to 6 years old). If you're interested in signing up for one there are details on our website.

View all open events (goat yoga and camps) on our website >>

Recognition

We have officially been designated a Thurston County Green Business. It may not seem like much, but we're proud of the little bit we can do help heal our land. We use only wind and alternative energy on our farm, our dairy uses only LED lighting, our whey (a necessary by-product from the cheese) is fed back to our pigs which means it stays out of the landfill, and we continue to benefit from our arrangement with Top Rung Brewery to take all their spent grain (another necessary by-product from beer making) and feed it to our animals. In addition, we package our cheese in Green Restaurant Association products which is part of a program to keep approximately 350 million plastic water bottles from ending up in landfills every year and our yogurt is bottled in re-usable glass.

And, after a lot of paperwork and a very formal inspection, our farm has been designated Animal Welfare Approved! The way we care for and raise our animals has always been a high priority for us but it's nice to get the formal recognition :)

And now it's July. Goodness sakes. There's a few potentially great things in the works right now that I'm bursting at the seams to share with you. But...until then, thank you for being part of our journey, for your continual caring, and, of course, for your love and support. Matthew and I are so grateful every day for the people who cherish this farm (even if it's just virtually) as much as we do. Goat smooches from us!

We GET to be tired.

This weekend I celebrated my birthday. 34 years old!

Matthew and I woke up the morning of my birthday at 5 a.m. and scooped the Sainte Maure cheese that had been incubating all night. Thankfully Leo, Matthew's younger brother who lives on the farm while he's going to college, offered to do our morning milking and feed the animals. We then loaded up ourselves and the kiddos to head to the Puyallup Farmer's Market (which has an 8 a.m. showtime). Matthew and I took turns working our booth and playing with the kiddos (Puyallup has an awesome playground right next to our booth which is lucky for both our farming kids). After market ended at 2 p.m. we drove back to Olympia, dropped some yogurt samples off at the Westside Co-Op to see if they wanted to order any, and then headed back to the farm to milk (32 goats now) and do chores (feed the pigs, feed the three different barns of goats, feed milk to the bottle babies, and feed the mini horse) before heading inside to make dinner. We celebrated my birthday with some cupcakes and candles and then started the never changing bedtime routine anyone with children is all too familiar with. After we got both kids to bed Matthew and I headed back into the make room to salt and turn the cheese. And then finally, somewhere around who knows when, we poured our tired little bodies into bed.

Living on a dairy farm, and especially living on a dairy farm that makes their own cheese, is painstakingly tiring.

We milk our goats twice a day and we make cheese every third milking. We are currently working two markets but in June we'll start two more. When we're not selling at the market we're dropping our cheese and yogurts off at various places hoping to strike up a wholesale relationship, plotting and scheming our next event at the farm, or researching our next cheese make. Oh yeah. And we're raising two tiny humans.

Did I mention we're tired?

But here's the thing.

We are so lucky.

Our bodies—These shells that we've been given, made up of flesh and bone and muscle. Yes, muscle. They were meant to be used. How lucky we are that we are strong and capable enough that we can plow through day after day of this gut wrenching work.

Our kids—oh! Those kids! Banzai is almost a year old and he is FINALLY at the point where strapping him on our back and getting to work is no longer a liability or a test in who can handle his moaning (you know how some babies just moan when they're not pleased) better. It would be faster to do this work without our children strapped to us, or without having to pause for a meltdown, or (my favorite) stopping to admire a special rock or stick, but then, what's the point of raising them on a farm? How lucky we are that our children are growing up learning the value of work, understanding what it means to take care of something bigger than themselves, and can name where every ingredient on their plate came from.

Our souls—Dang. Our souls. We're literally living our dream. To live on our farm, to raise our children, to make ridiculously fabulous goat cheese and yogurt, our souls are fulfilled. This week Matthew and I had a team meeting and discussed where we want this creamery to go. To date we've branded ourselves by making chevre, feta, halloumi and yogurt. We're really proud of our products which we know are universally palatable and have made goat believers out of even the most finicky eaters. But at the same time, there's so much more to goat cheese than what we've been doing. So we have decided to expand our repertoire and really start experimenting with what it means to be cheesemakers. Last week we made Saint Maure, a bloomy rind cheese, and this week we made Asiago. Conversations between the two of us pretty much focus around geeking out on making cheese. How lucky we are that the work we are doing nourishes our creative spirit and inspires us.

So yeah. We're tired. In fact, if you have read this blog for any amount of time you'll notice that being tired is a common thread in my posts. At this point I'm pretty convinced that tired is just my homeostasis.

But how lucky we are that we get to be tired.

We GET to be tired.

There's a difference.

It's the difference between someone laughing at your joke because they think you're funny or laughing because they don't want to make you feel bad.

It's the difference between talking to someone who you think is listening to you just because they're in the same room as you or having a conversation with someone who pushes other distractions aside to focus on you and what you have to say.

It's the difference between being with someone who puts up with you and being with someone who gets you.

We have a dream.

We get to live it.

And, because of that, we get to be tired.

Our cup runneth over.

Spring Break Camp 2017

When Matthew and I decided to open up the farm to kids for a full week, we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. We knew it would be fun, because, of course it would be. But what we didn’t know is that it would be transformational. Our campers were outside from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every single day. Rain or shine (we had both). On the first day one of the campers came to me halfway through the day and asked if she could change her shirt due to a relatively tiny amount of dirt on the sleeve (everyone brought a change of clothes, just in case). I said of course she could, but she might want to wait until after we did worm bins because she was going to get a little dirty doing that too. She agreed. And then we both completely forgot about her being dirty--It was her mom who reminded me when she happily reacted to her condition at pick-up.

Camp was structured into a healthy balance of free play, farm chores, and educational sessions. Camp was truly a family affair with Matthew's mom working as our head counselor. She did awesome! And, as a special bonus, we purchased coloring books for our campers designed by Matthew's step-dad, you can see them on Amazon! Throughout the course of the week I found myself researching the health benefits of playing outside, looking for confirmation that what we were doing was a good thing. In one startling statistic from the Child Mind Institute, “The average American child is said to spend 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors, and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen.” That seems a little startling to me and my first response was that can’t be right. But then I thought, yeah, maybe it is. Because the key word is “unstructured”. The farm, with 11 acres of perimeter fence, provided enough of a clear boundary that allowed us to let the kids truly roam, explore, and, just be. They problem-solved, imagined, built, and worked as teams. Sure, they got a little “Lord of the Flies” on us at one point, but even that was pretty cool to watch.

The kids renamed every single animal on this farm (and wrote them down for me so I wouldn’t forget), created intricate villages (with entire oral histories to describe them), ate goat cheese or yogurt every single day (and loved it), and went home at the end of the day absolutely exhausted. By the end of the week the kids were milking goats on our pipeline machine like seasoned pros, “wash, strip, dip, wipe”; opening gates (and closing them behind them! First farm rule!); feeding a mass of unruly bottle babies without getting frustrated about being mauled by hungry goats; and, probably the most important, learning about how strong and capable their bodies truly are.

Matthew and I joke that when it’s time for our two children to head to Spring Break Camps we’re going to have to send them to the city so they too can get a different experience then they’re used to. Because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about-experiencing new things.

On the last day of camp, in the last hour of parent pick-up, as if we had planned it, Mary Jane gave birth to a little girl and a boy, right in front of the kids. It was raw, it was slimy, and, it was perfect.

Kind of like childhood should be.

Raw.

Slimy.

Perfect.

We're changing our name! It's kind of a big deal.

There's this guy I know.

He works with a bunch of girls. Girls with attitude. Sass. Hormonal girls.

Pretty much all his co-workers are female. And a lot of them are usually in a pretty cranky mood.

Everything in his workplace is pink. Hot pink.

His business partner is kind of ridiculous, often showing up to work with some newly painted sign she wants him to hang in a precarious spot.

And he never complains. Somehow he always seems to find a way to feel grace.

Hashtag, grateful.

Because this guy I know. He's not like any guy I've ever met.

He's smart. The science of cheesemaking is not just something he's interested in, he studies it. He's driven. Being a small business owner is something he sees as a gift, not a burden. He's talented. Not only is he a trained carpenter, he's also a musician. He is equally creative in both. He's kind. He's funny. Shoot, he even likes to cuddle (even more than I do). He fills my world with a kind of love I didn't know existed.

It's never been a secret that this farm was something I started with a different man. Our biggest product was pork then and the dairy was something only I was passionate about. In fact, the dairy didn't exist. It was a dream I was clawing and fighting to make happen as the rest of my world crumbled around me.

It's a dream that did happen. But, it's not because of me.

Matthew is, without a doubt, the backbone of this dairy. I can say, without any reservation, this dairy would not exist without him. No really, even if I hadn't fallen in love with him, he is the carpenter that I hired to finish construction. I was so broke in the midst of my divorce I paid him in pork (not a metaphor).

Of course, the rest is history, we fell in love, we got married, we had a baby, and, we got licensed as a Grade A Goat Dairy.

Somewhere in that whirlwind year the farm changed. What started as a utilitarian farmstead fell into a state of disrepair and then blossomed into the magical place that is now. Five years ago you couldn't pay a worm to live here. Now, much to Giz's delight, every single overturn of a rock or a stick reveals a whole host of worms.

There is life here. Real life.

And suddenly, The Farmstead just doesn't seem to fit us anymore.

So Matthew and I made a big decision this weekend.

We're rebranding.

We're sloughing off our past and emerging as something we're really proud of.

We're becoming the Lost Peacock Creamery.

I'll say it again because I love it so much.

Lost Peacock Creamery

What the heck does it mean?

Anyone who has been to our farm has noticed our peafowl. We started with 4, a purchase we brought home in anticipation of our Summer wedding at the farm. Those 4 peacocks have morphed into 9. 4 of them were hatched here and one, a beautiful pure white peahen, just showed up one day. We have no idea where she came from. We have no idea why she stays. In fact, why do any of them stay? Before we brought home peafowl everyone warned us if we let them free range they wouldn't stay. The thought of penning up these amazing birds was too painful to imagine, so we took our chances.

And now they are everywhere.

Have you ever seen a peacock in real life? They are SO BLUE. If someone showed you the color of a peacock on a paint chip card you would say to yourself, there's no way that color occurs in nature.

But it does.

If you had told me a love like this existed in real life I would have said there's no way two people could be so well suited to each other.

But they are.

This creamery, this silly little goat dairy, it's our love story.

Sometimes on your way to a dream you get lost and find a better one. And sometimes a lost peacock stumbles upon a new place, and calls it home.

That home is now the Lost Peacock Creamery.

 

 

 

Mythbusting

There are two myths that we're currently combating at the farm. The first is that male goats stink. Almost every single person who has contacted me about bottle baby goats this season has requested female doelings (and, specifically, female polka dotted nubian doelings). I get it. Really, I do. I love polka dots more than pretty much anyone on the planet. And, what's not to love about those ears? They're so long, so luxurious. Look, if that's what you're into, I support you.

This is what I tell everyone.

If you're not going to milk them, you don't need a girl. And, arguably, a castrated male goat will be the best pet you've ever had. Because, once we castrate them (and we do it for free!) they lose that primal urge to pee all over their faces and live their lives as a big stinky, lovable mess. Plus, for whatever reason, the boys always seem to steal the majority of the polka dots in the womb. So if it's polka dots you're after, your odds increase with a wether.

The second myth is a little more in-depth, but, basically, it's the belief that if you are going to eat meat, you need to eat the animal before they turn a year old for the most lean, tender experience. In fact, it's the only way to avoid "gamey" and "tough" meat.

This, simply stated, is not true. On our farm we eat meat. But, we pride ourselves in eating meat that is ethically grown and responsibly harvested. Our pork, which many of you also fill your freezers with, is grown slowly, on pasture, giving it the ability to develop a richness in flavor that tastes unlike any pork you can get from the grocery store. The chicken we eat comes from roosters, which inevitably hatch on our property, and then grow out on their own, foraging food from pigs or goats. Sometimes they are less than a year old but mostly they live to be about 2 or 3 before they get too ballsy for their own good and eating them becomes another way of keeping the peace on the farm. And while many of our goats will retire at the farm (a right they have earned after devoting their lives to the dairy) there are some that have a different purpose.

An excellent example of this is a goat that we have been feeding for over a year. We bought her as a 2 year old last year with her mother, who was in milk, and kept her on the promise that she too would breed and be a great producer. In the time we have owned her we have yelled at her more times than I can count. She is a pill. She jumps fences, she steals food, she upsets the harmony of the farm...basically she does whatever she wants and she doesn't care who knows it. Of course we put up with it because her mother is one of our favorite milkers. But then, she had her own baby this year, and her udder was nonexistent. Not small in a way you might expect from a first time mom, just, not there. And, she didn't even really like her baby. For us, that was the final nail in the coffin. We pulled her baby to make sure she couldn't hurt it and also to make sure it got the vital nutrition it needed and we have decided that this goat's ultimate purpose will be to feed our family.

The stigma around eating older animals is centered around one main argument-they don't taste good.

Of course this is false. And, in order to disprove this myth once and for all we're bringing James Bear Award Winning Author and Butcher Adam Danforth onto the farm for a one day workshop. Adam is going to break down one of our older rams into seamed muscles and market cuts and then we are going to offer a blind tasting of unique muscles, exploring varying tastes and textures, followed by an in-depth discussion of each muscle cut. Finally, there will be onsite cooking demos to demonstrate techniques to maximize the flavor of these complex meats.

This class is not just for people who farm. This class is for anyone who is passionate about food and cares about what they are consuming. This class is also for those who want to discover and eat the most flavorful meat they can.

Our hope is that this class is a jumping off point to stop prioritizing age and tenderness over the life the animal lived and the impact that animal's life had on the environment.

Adam is kind of a big deal in the food world, and we're honored that he's chosen to work with our farm. Get your tickets today!

Sign up for our workshop online at Brown Paper Tickets >>

If you'd like to read more about Adam check out the following links:

 

Love this moment

In the past week we have welcomed 21 babies onto the farm. As of now 13 moms have delivered. We have 23 more to go. The sleepless nights are, well, sleepless. For the most part moms have been delivering on their own but we still try to be at every birth in case something goes wrong.

The other night, after Matthew and I put the kids to bed, my mom and I (who was visiting from Oregon) suited up to go back down to the barn to check for impending birth. When we got there we noticed Bella, one of our Nigerian/Nubian crosses was about to start pushing. We hunkered down in the corner and waited for what we expected would be an easy birth. Bella's sister Skipper had just delivered quadruplets a few days before with no issues at all. As Bella started to push Mom and I both had the same feeling wash over us. Something felt off. We watched her push for about 10 minutes with no progress. Almost simultaneously Mom and I made the same decision. We needed to pull a baby. I ran inside to get Matthew and the three of us got to work.

When I first went in Bella, it was a total mess. The baby was so disorganized I couldn't find feet or face. Finally I sorted out her feet and tried to work their way to the birth canal. Halfway through the extraction Matthew and I switched spots. He donned a new pair of gloves and I went to Bella's head and held her in my lap while he and my mom worked to try and get the baby out. Finally Matthew got him out in a pile of fluid and mucous. We all thought for sure he was dead. My Mom jumped in anyway and started working to dry him off and started giving him mouth to mouth. About 5 minutes later we heard the tiniest little mew. He was alive!! Bella, who was still laying in my lap, crooned for him so we brought him around so she could start licking him. I went inside to nurse Banzai (who still doesn't sleep through the night) and we waited for Bella to pass the other babies we felt for sure were in there. We saw her contracting but nothing was happening.

Amateur mistake.

After some quick research we realized the cardinal rule, "If you have to pull one, you have to pull them all." It's way too much work for the Mom to labor unassisted after undergoing the stress of having a baby pulled.

Que my mother stepping in to save the day (night?).

She donned the gloves and went in, LIKE.A.BOSS. Quickly and systematically she sorted out and pulled babies. Around 2 a.m. Both Matthew and Leo (Matthew's brother, who we are so lucky to have live on the farm permanently) were in awe of her grace and calmness. I of course didn't think anything of it. I was raised by her. I know what she can do. Later when the boys asked her where she learned how to pull babies she answered, "I saw Dr. Pol do it with a cow."

Of course my mother was referring to the show on National Geographic. And also, in case you were wondering, my mom is also capable of separating Siamese twins at birth. She watched that episode twice just to make sure the information stuck.

We ended that night around 2:30 a.m. in the barn with the passing of Bella's placenta and then spent the rest of the the time to sun-up caring for the triplets who needed to be fed every hour or so with a syringe. Oh yeah. And Banzai. And Giz who comes to the big bed to cuddle in the wee hours of the morning.

We need a bigger bed.

And more sleep.

But then. We wouldn't have moments like this.

Or this.

Or this.

Or this.

And then how else would my mother be able to put all her surgery information to good use?

We may be tired but at this time in our life, this very moment, we are one of the lucky ones who GET to be tired.

But, we're also getting smarter.

Last night we were back in the barn at midnight dealing with Princess Snuggleton, one of my favorite milkers who has never, in the three years of kidding with me, wanted to nurse her babies. Our WWOOFer happened to be on hand for that birth so I pawned off night-time nursing and cuddling on her. You know, because I think it's important to share the joy of babies and sleep deprivation with everyone involved. Which is also why our best friends have set up their own version of a Goat ICU in their laundry room. Ideally we like to keep babies on their mamas for the first seven days, but sometimes they don't latch, or need extra help, so we're parceling them out.

Imma gonna love this moment but I'm also gonna help other people love it too. That's what makes me so nice :)

psssst: Do you love that Diaper Cake? My girlfriend who owns Tiers of Joy sent it to us when Banzai was born. I don't know if she knew just how perfect it would be when she made it, but it kind of hits the nail on the head. Plus. Now we have diapers for the indoor goats :)

Piglets, ponies, and poop

Here in the Pacific Northwest we're on track for our wettest February on record. So. Much. Rain.

Our two mama pigs, who normally farrow in the forest were unable to keep their litters of pigs alive so we were forced to pull the surviving piglets. It's not ideal, one of the things I love about our farm is how our pigs are managed with very little input from us. Unfortunately, this also means they're not used to being told what to do. So, when we tried to bribe and cajole them into their farrowing huts they were not interested. We packed fresh, dry bedding out to them in the forest, but even that proved to be futile. There was just so.much.cold.rain.

When Matthew came inside with an armful of cold piglets I did what any other farmer would do. I got the heating pad out, drank a beer, unthawed some breast milk, and turned my empty beer into a bottle for them.

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The piglets have finally moved off the bottles and are drinking from a pan (thank goodness, the middle of the night bottle feeding was not fun when paired with middle of the night Banzai nursing). And, now, happily, our Spring Break campers will get to be up close and personal with these pigs since they're being raised up closer to the house.

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We still don't have baby goats, but.

BUT!

We finally did it.

We bought a horse.

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I don't even care that she's miniature. She fills the horse sized hole in my heart that has been aching to be filled since I was Giz's age.

Giz named her Noomi. When I asked her what that name meant she said, "It means 'she farts', because ponies fart."

You see, we're not raising your typical girl over here.

The other day Giz said to me, "Mommy what do you love about yourself?"

I said, "Oh! What a fun question. I love that I'm a hard worker, that I always look at the bright side, and that I'm your mommy. What do you love about yourself?"

Giz: "I love pooping, and farting, and peeing, and farting."

This kid. Over the weekend we cleaned the dairy while Banzai napped to get it ready for the start of the 2017 season. Giz scrubbed for over an hour, while we sang songs from "The Sound of Music," and talked about the things that make us happy. The night before that we spent two hours in the garden getting the beds ready for planting and hunting for worms (one of her favorite past-times). She thrived in both situations. This little three and half year old kid has a better work ethic than the majority of adults I've met in my life.

Not only is she unphased by work, she seems to thrive on it.

Which is good, because, soon, soon! we'll be up to our elbows in placenta, milk, and poop.

Giz can hardly wait :)

A few more notes:

  • If you haven't signed up for our goat class yet, you might want to consider it! The handouts alone will be great but the hands on training you'll receive to draw blood, give shots and trim hooves will be priceless. Plus it's a chance to interact with other current and future goat people in our community! You can sign up at Brown Paper Tickets >>
  • As soon as we have enough goats in milk to start making cheeses we'll have an open farm day and you can come meet all the babies first hand! But fair warning, those piglets have teeth and squeal like the dickens when you pick them up.
  • Spring Break Camp still has openings! You can sign up your camper online >>

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I regret nothing

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Cute and Spunky VW Bus for Sale.

That’s what I titled the craigslist ad.

And then two days later it was sold.

Am I sad? A little. That silly little bus brought me a lot of happiness just from being parked in our driveway.

But. That’s the problem.

It spent the majority of its life parked in our driveway.

We originally bought the bus as a cheese delivery vehicle. In reality, tooling up to Seattle at 5:30 in the morning for a Farmer’s Market isn’t really that fun in a vehicle that maxes out at 60 mph, has no heat or air conditioning, and has no radio.

I know. We’re spoiled. But you know what? Farming is hard. We probably shouldn’t make it harder just because it’s adorable.

And so we found ourselves leaving the bus at home and driving up to Seattle in our truck.

Which means this vehicle, which we paid real money for, was just sitting in our driveway. Wasting away. Not making us any money.

So we sold it.

It was a “grown up decision.”

The reality is, many of us that become farmers, do so on a childish whim. We cling to the romance of turning our labor and our relationships with animals into food that tastes better, looks better, and feels better than anything you can buy on the shelves of a grocery store.

And those of us who support farmers directly, whether by buying from farmer’s markets, or shopping local options in grocery stores or co-ops, cling to the notion that food is personal and should not be taken for granted.

Farms feed our inner child—that most pure spot in our souls that still squeals with delight when we see a baby goat bound across a field of green clover. Indeed, it’s the romance of helping birth a creature in the middle of a thunderstorm, or the magic of turning milk into cheese, that keeps us going.

The other day Giz and I returned home to find a litter of baby pigs in the forest. I strapped on her brother and we trudged down to the forest to bring the mama food, water, and some extra bedding to help insulate her nest (because she REFUSES to give birth in the huts we bought for her). The entire way Giz was in full midwife mode. She was calm around the babies, careful around the mama, and so attentive to the situation I felt my own mama heart bursting at the seams. This farm, this ridiculous farm in all it’s child-like glory, is raising two of the best children in the world.

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Farming is hard (I know, I know, I say it all the time) and so when we get to experience these miracles, we are rejuvenated. Our will is re-instated and we are able to vow to fight the good fight (you know, the one where we care about where our food comes from) another day.

Which is why it’s easy to make decisions about your cheese delivery vehicle based on cuteness and not necessarily efficiency.

We’ll chalk that one up as a whoopsie daisies.

No harm, no foul.

And while I’d love to say that this farm will never make a mistake like that again, I would be lying. This farm is my spirit animal. And my spirit animal makes mistakes, believes that dragons used to exist, is still holding out hope unicorns are real, and refuses to run a farm based on profit alone.

Lucky for me Matthew’s inner child likes to color on the same page as my inner child. As long as we can create magical worlds for our children and the community we live in, we will.

That I can promise.

And while we're on the subject! We're filling up spots for our Spring Break camp faster than anticipated! If you'd like for your kiddo to spend a whole week here experiencing poop, babies, and goat cheese first hand, you can register at Brown Paper Tickets >