We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Growing Up With Goats, Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery, and a Recipe for Goat's Milk Infant Formula

My Traveling Tales by Linda

"Goats are always testing you," said Debbie. " They're like Zen masters. They can tell instantly if you're faking your feelings. So they play games with you to keep you true. People should go to goats instead of psychiatrists." ~ from Even Cowgirls Get The Blues by Tom Robbins

Ruth is enamored of the kids at Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery.
   Blessed is she who lives in Sonoma County, California. As Michelle is fond of saying, "Linda lives in Sonoma County—where the animals in the pastures are happy and all the good stuff grows."   Indeed, I do feel extremely fortunate to have lived in the county for the past eight years. Being a lover and seller of food (I have mixed feelings about the descriptor "foodie"), I have certainly been able to indulge in my passion for being able to visit and talk with many producers of the products that this part of California is famous for. It is a remarkable experience for me to converse with and spend time with these brave souls who make our food, and I do not say that lightly. Let me clarify—they produce real food.


   This post is actually the final post in a series of three. I shared previously, that last October, I went on a Team Build with my Team Leaders at Whole Foods Market San Rafael. Our three-day adventure, included visits to local producers in the area. The first of three visits was to Redwood Hill Farm. We paid subsequent visits to Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company and to Pozzi Ranch. I saved writing about Redwood Hill Farm for last, because I wanted to make a second trip to the farm in the spring, when there would be many kids being born, and because it is the story that is nearest and dearest to my heart. I hope that I won't do an injustice to Redwood Hill Farm's story, if I take a moment to zigzag back in time, and share a piece of our sisters' history. It seems like the perfect time to reveal the reasons why it is that I am so darned fond of goats.

Once upon a time there were four sisters (three of whom milked goats):
Juliette, Michelle, Maria and Linda (left to right) at our LaSalle Canyon farm. 

Snow was our German Shepherd who is on the far left. We are sitting on our 
"bridge" that spanned the small creek that ran through the property.
      Once upon a time there were four sisters who lived on a micro-farm in Lompoc, California in the early 1970s. I still find it incredulous that my parents (99 percent our Dad), desired back in the late 1960s while living on the outskirts of Los Angeles, to be able to live a self-sufficient life on a small piece of acreage. Mind you, there were no latent-hippie leanings in this man. Our dad most definitely was a precursor to the modern day survivalist. He was of the opinion that the future that we were headed into was definitely dystopian in nature, and he was an individual who plotted to have a plan for surviving, what he believed would be, the imminent apocalypse.

Happy faces all around.
   Picture this if you will—as a young girl I find myself going to the first day of school, mid-year through the first grade in a different city. I wake up one day and try and navigate an elementary school with an asphalt playground and a much different routine than that to which I was accustomed at a more rural elementary school. Every person I encounter is a stranger.
   Our family moved to Canoga Park from Yucaipa, California when I was just six, and Michelle, my youngest sister, was still a few years from being born. Then—just when I think I am getting the hang of city life and my new baby sister—our family uproots and moves to the Central Coast in 1968. We rent a house in Lompoc for a somewhat luxurious year for me, where I actually have my own bedroom with a fireplace and city view—until Mom and Dad purchase my father's utopia: a five-acre parcel with a two-bedroom house, and a large downstairs garage (which became a bedroom for the three oldest sisters). The property has its own well and a year-round creek running through it. There is a big red barn encircled with livestock pens, and a portion of the long and rectangular property is planted with something called "permanent pasture" on which we will raise beef cattle, which we will later eat. There are also eight very long rows of thorny boysenberries, which we girls came to despise. The harvesting of those boysenberries became the most hated of our summer jobs, in addition to all of our regular chores. So, faster than you can say farm girl , I am attending a new junior high (once again all strangers) where the kids have known each other since kindergarten, and I live ten miles out of town. On weekends, we work on the farm instead of hanging out with friends and having fun. Time to transform again.



   The reason that this saga winds back to Redwood Hill Farm is this—one of the chores that I am referring to was the milking of the goats that our parents purchased soon after we moved out to the farm. Our dad was given goat's milk in his infancy which ended up saving his life.
   We three oldest girls each were given a doe that we were responsible for milking before school, and then again after school. I have such vivid memories of donning my hooded winter jacket (which hung on a peg by the back door, and I am wearing in the photo below) over my flannel nightgown on many a chilly morning. After zipping into my jacket, I would slip on my cowboy boots while my sisters, Juliette and Maria did the same. Then we would head quickly out the back door, and down to the barn, with flashlights and clean pails for the morning milking in hand—nightdress-ruffled-skirts kicking up in back of us.

Maria, Juliette, Michelle and Linda with our goats Chrissy and Tina (left to right) circa 1970.   
The four of us in the horse corral on our family farm. 
   When I described this morning routine to Scott Bice, the farm manager at Redwood Hill Farm, he chuckled, and said that sounded like the same experience of his sister Jennifer, and his other older siblings who at about the same time were milking goats morning and night at a dairy in Sonoma County that their parents purchased in 1968—the same year our parents decided to leave the Los Angeles area.
   Scott is the youngest of ten children, and by the time he came along, as he told it to me, the family had moved. He was raised in Hawaii—far away from Sonoma County and the goats that his sister Jennifer had come to love. This was the same with our family. Farms require absolute day in and day out devotion. Six years later, our mother was having health issues, the farm being on the foggy edge of the Pacific, turns out, was not good for her lungs. Our family doctor recommended that our family move to a more dry climate. As I went off to my first year of college, mom and dad decided to sell the farm, and along with it, the goats and my dad's dream to live the self-sufficient life.

Char, a long-time family friend of Redwood Hill, was our tour guide for the day.
Our team gathers to hear about the history of Redwood Hill Farm. 
What could be more quintessential at a farm than kitties in the window?
   So it was with a great deal of nostalgia for me, as you might imagine, and a good bit of déjà vu thrown in for good measure, that I presented myself and our group on a fall morning last year at Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery which is a goat dairy (and yes—it even has a red barn). Jennifer Lynn Bice assumed ownership of the original family farm in 1978, and has built the present day dairy into a thriving business that makes award-winning goat milk products and produces champion dairy goats. My team was there to learn about the operation of the goat dairy and taste the delicious products that are made from all that goat milk. Our tour was guided by Char, who is a long-time family friend. After giving us a short history of the dairy, Char let us tour the barn and meet some of the goats before we gathered under the oaks to taste delicious cheese.


This is an adult male goat. Does and kid goats are super friendly and docile. 
Billy goats, true to their reputation, grow up to be cantankerous and really smelly.
Most of my Team on the tour that day had not really interacted with
goats before. Most seemed surprised at just how friendly and curious
the goats turned out to be. They crowded close to be petted.
Goats love to nibble on everything. Scott had cut branches that morning for the 
goats to chew on during the day. Our dad used to cut willow saplings from the creek 
which our goats ate like they were the finest delicacy.
   After getting to know the goats a bit, tour the milking parlor and interact with the does in the barn—it was time to taste cheese. It always surprises me when people say they don't like goat cheese. Good goat's milk is made into some of the finest cheese in the world. And in case you didn't know it, goat's milk is easier to digest than cow's milk. People who think that they are lactose intolerant can often eat goat products (especially fermented ones) with no ill effects. Jennifer Lynn Bice went on to create a line of lactose-free products called Green Valley Organics.
   Our dad came close to dying as an infant when he was a low birth weight baby and then contracted pertussis—otherwise known as whooping cough. According to our Grandma Elsie, our dad's young life was saved by goat's milk. It was suggested by a neighbor who raised goats in the 1930s in Yucaipa, California. The goat's milk turned out to be the only thing that he could keep down. After being fed small amounts of goat's milk over the next tenuous weeks, his health slowly continued to improve, and he went on to drink goat's milk thereafter. This was the reason he wanted to have goats on our farm. He thought that goat's milk would be a healthier choice for us to drink than cow's milk.




Redwood Hill Cheese: Bucheret, Cameo and Fresh Chèvre in a cup. So good!
Our Team tucks in to taste several varieties of cheese. What a beautiful setting!
Our picnic spot in March when I made a second visit. Sonoma County thankfully
just got enough rain in February to make the grass green.
   So having had a great time hanging out with the goats and tasting cheeses at Redwood Hill—ruminating (hee hee) about my childhood with goats that warm October day—I wished that I could return in the spring when all the new baby goats arrive. In fact, I did call back, and set a date with a very busy Scott to return just a couple of weeks ago, because I don't think there is anything more adorable than a group of baby goats when they are hopping about and feeling frisky.

On the morning that I visited Redwood Hill again, this champion La Mancha doe named, 
Avena, was about to give birth. Her discomfort was palpable.
   Jennifer and her family have built an amazing enterprise here in Sonoma County. Quality and sustainability have always been, and remain her guiding principals at the dairy. She has gone on to become one of the most influential people in the goat dairy/cheese making business. Not only does the dairy produce products renowned for their quality and flavor, but the award-winning herd produces breeding stock for other goat dairies across the nation. In addition, I was most impressed to see that the dairy and farm run entirely off of solar panels. A truly impressive achievement. I would genuinely like to thank the Bice family for being so hospitable and spending time with me at such a busy time of the year (not that there is ever a slow time).
   If you would like to pay a visit to the farm, there will be open house weekends for the public coming up in May and June. Check out their Facebook page to rsvp.

Scott Bice holds a baby buck that had been born a few hours earlier. This little guy will be sent to be breeding stock at a new farm as soon as he gets his land legs (which is very soon with kids!).
Baby goats do not nurse from their mothers at the dairy—they are fed by means 
of this clever invention.  They are not fed plain milk, they grow healthy on kefir.
The green paint in the ears helps keep "who's who in the zoo" straight with
all the new little ones arriving daily.

Goat's Milk Infant Formula—A Recipe for Humans

   According to one legend, yogurt originated when the goat was first domesticated in Mesopotamia about 5000 BC. Warm goat milk, stored in gourds in the warm climate, naturally soured and formed a curd. According to Dr. Frank Kosikowski—“Someone with sufficient courage tasted this clabbered mass and rendered a favorable verdict. History was observed in the making, and yogurt was on its way.”

   Originally for this post, I was going to feature a delicious cheese from Redwood Hill Farm, pair it with a salad and a great herbal vinaigrette—nothing wrong with that, right? After all, goat cheese is finally getting the attention it deserves in the gastronomic world, and nothing could make me happier! But when I was in the middle of writing this post, and remembering how our Dad's life was saved as a baby by drinking goat's milk—in fact, that's how we sisters ended up milking goats in the first place—another idea all together took hold of me.
   Instead, I am choosing to share a recipe for an infant human's first food. If discussing lactation and breastfeeding turns you off, now would be the time to turn back. However, if you are interested in the magical properties of goat's milk for humans, and you have a baby that does not have a source for mom's milk, I think you are going to find the information in the rest of this post very interesting.*
   At the beginning of my career in selling Natural Products in 1992, I was reading voraciously on many subjects that were completely new to me. My then partner, Richard, introduced me to the writings of Dr. Bernard Jensen, DC, ND and PhD. Bernard lived to the ripe old age of almost 93 and overcame several serious health conditions during his long life. Dr. Jensen thought very highly of goat's milk. The book that he wrote entitled Goat Milk Magic: One of Life's Greatest Healing Foods , is still a popular volume.


   My niece Maddie was born in the mid-nineties. In the early days of motherhood, my sister Michelle had established a good breastfeeding routine with Maddie, and my niece was thriving—that is until Michelle had to return to her very stressful job in sales when Maddie was just a few months old. Within a very short time, Michelle's milk dried up. Nada. This was a cause for great alarm as you might imagine. In today's world where moms go back to work when infants are very young, this is not an uncommon situation. Even so many years later, although I am not selling nutritional supplements everyday on a sales floor anymore, I still encounter families frequently who are undergoing a similar situation. For one reason or another, Mom's milk is just not available any longer. This is indeed a very serious situation for any family who cares about the quality of its infant's milk/formula, which is generally recommended for a minimum of one year. At the time that Michelle's breast milk was waning, Richard remembered that Dr. Jensen had published a recipe for an infant formula using raw goat's milk. At that time, raw milk could still be purchased readily in the United States (which I regret very deeply to say that it is no longer easily found for sale). After their own research, Michelle and Jay made the decision to try out my crazy goat milk formula idea for Maddie. Not so crazy to us really, since we had the history of our dad's life being saved by goat's milk as an infant, backing us up. Seventeen years later, Maddie is a very healthy, intelligent and beautiful teenager. (Good nutrition, as well as genetics play a part in bone structure and tooth health.) In all honesty, I believe that Maddie has taken antibiotics only once in her life thanks, in part, to her Auntie Linda's natural solutions—and the first of those solutions was goat's milk infant formula made at home.

Maddie, photographed here at age 16, has above a 4.0 grade average 
and has a black belt in Chun Kuk Do. She was raised on a goat's milk formula.
   You can do your own research on pre-fab infant formulas. The news is bleak. Even the so-called "natural" brands have added ingredients that are dubious at best, including refined sugars, soy, rice, carrageenan and high arsenic levels. Plus, dehydrated formulas are lacking in the vitality that is inherent in fresh products—enzymes being a big loss. An important note—goat's milk is lower in vitamin B12 than human breast milk, and will need to be supplemented. Not difficult to do.
   After a little research on the net, I found a similar recipe that we used for Maddie on a blog called Pure Mamas. For the recipe, click here. The ratio that we used was this: 6 ounces of goat's milk to 2 of ounces organic carrot juice.
   If I were to make this formula today without access to milk from my own goat, I would choose Redwood Hill Farm Traditonal Plain Goat Kefir (goat milk with probiotics). After all, this is what that the baby goats at Redwood Hill Farm are raised on, because they benefit from the probiotics as well. Cheers to Mamas and babies!


*This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such. You must not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.   


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