"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.
|Happy faces all around.
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.
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?
|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.
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.
|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.
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