The Farm Series: Western Culture

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Now that we actually have a farm, we can get a bit more serious about researching where we’ll obtain our animals. We plan to raise dairy goats and laying hens, with the intention of producing enough milk, cheese and eggs to supply our own kitchen as well as our cooking school. Because healthy animals produce healthy food, it’s essential that we know exactly where our animals come from.

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We still have a lot of work to do on both our chicken house and our goat barn to get them ready for animals, and we don’t plan to purchase any until next spring. We want to make our reservations now, however, so that when we’re ready we’ve got animals waiting for us. Small dairies especially need to know in advance how many animals they can sell during a given season so they can plan their breeding program.

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Let’s learn about goats!

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This is not the first time we’ve posted photos of #totesadorbs baby goats, and it certainly won’t be the last. We’ve known since we first invented Quiet Farm in our heads that we want to keep milking does, so as with all other aspects of farming, we’re learning how to do that from books and the University of YouTube and on-farm experience, too. By the time we actually find our farm, hopefully we’ll (sort of) know what we’re doing.

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Some fun facts about goats:

  • Goats have a reputation for eating just about anything, including clothes, trash and other inedible items. This is entirely untrue; goats are browsers, rather than grazers, and are naturally curious. They use their lips and teeth much as we use our fingertips – to investigate unknown objects – and they’re actually quite fussy about what they’ll eat. Goats also only have teeth on their bottom jaw, not their upper.
  • Goats are fantastic climbers and love to quickly attain the highest perch available – hence the popularity of goat yoga. Goats can climb trees!

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The Farm Series: Mountain Flower Goat Dairy

Part of our grand plan this summer, our transitional period between our round-the-world trip and our journey to find Quiet Farm, is to visit and volunteer on as many farms as possible. As we’ve said before, we can learn something from every single farm.

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We’ve volunteered on vegetable farms (both cold and warm) before, but because we’re virtually certain we’ll have goats, for meat and milk, on Quiet Farm, we wanted to spend some time with these lovely creatures this summer. And that brought us here, to Mountain Flower Goat Dairy in Boulder. Mountain Flower is a non-profit committed to a few different key goals that we respect wholeheartedly: community engagement and education, sustainable agriculture and humane animal husbandry, and land conservation. All of these are tenets we plan to incorporate into Quiet Farm.

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Smart, inquisitive, affectionate and productive…goats are popular for good reason.

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Mountain Flower Goat Dairy is a raw-milk goat dairy, the only one within the city limits of the Kingdom of Boulder. There is a lot of controversy surrounding raw milk; the sale of it is illegal in most states and dairies must often sell “herd shares” in order to operate legally. It’s important to familiarize yourself with both the pros and the cons before forming your own opinion on raw milk. In MFGD’s own words:

“The primary focus at Mountain Flower Goat Dairy is to provide a supply of the most gorgeous, clean, healthy goat milk possible while demonstrating to the public a working urban farm. We are the only dairy in the Boulder city limits and we are delighted to fill this food void for our community. We allow the public the opportunity to own a portion of our herd and thereby gain access to raw milk.

A spirited debate exists over whether raw milk should be made available to the general public or not. Raw milk advocates have an uphill battle to shatter paradigms that remain from a time when little was known about microbiology and modern refrigeration did not exist. We believe it comes down to a person’s right to choose what food to put into their own bodies. We make a point to keep informed on and involved in the issues related to raw milk. We encourage you to do the same.

We do what feels right to us. That is to raise goats the way nature intended eating grass and alfalfa, grazing in the fields, playing with each other, being loved by humans and eating organic grains. We milk our goats in a low-stress environment and treat their milk with the utmost care, cleanliness and respect.”

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Relocating to greener pastures.

Mountain Flower keeps about thirteen adult does on hand for milking at any given time. They breed most of these does every year and either keep the young to expand their own herd, or sell the kids to families or farms who will uphold their high standards. Some of the kids are eventually used as pack animals, or family pets, or for meat.

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Up you go, darling.

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Cleanliness is of paramount importance in any dairy operation.

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Small goat dairies may still milk by hand…

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…but milking by machine is much quicker and more efficient.

Dairy goats are milked twice per day; the amount of milk they produce varies wildly based on grazing availability, season, breed, weather and other factors. While it’s now common to find goat cheese in grocery stores and on restaurant menus, goat (and its related value-added products) have only been well-known in the U.S. for about forty years or so. Despite being the world’s most commonly-consumed meat, goats are a relatively recent introduction to American palates. Goat milk, yogurt and cheese are now easy to market, but goat meat is still a hard sell – and the honest truth of any dairy operation, no matter the animal, is that approximately fifty percent of the babies born will be male. That logically means slaughter for meat, a reality that we’ll fully accept on Quiet Farm.

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Pensive goats in thought, probably about how to escape their grazing pasture.

What we learned during our summer at Mountain Flower is that these are truly incredible animals. They are passionate and irascible and difficult and gorgeous and moody and infuriating and loving – just like humans. We learned that they remember you and your weirdly soft yet nubbly leather gloves and that there are few things more comforting than a doe leaning up against you for an aggressively affectionate scruffle. We acknowledge that the realities of raising livestock mean that they will eventually (hopefully) grace our table, and that we’ll be even more thankful for the gifts they’ve given us. We learned that we want these animals in our lives and on our farm.

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Fresh goat milk is truly amazing. Oh, and it makes incredible cheese, butter and yogurt.

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Ready for customers.

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The definition of “free range.”

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What’s going on over here?

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Come on! Who doesn’t want to cuddle that sweet face?

Know thy food, and know thy farmer. The more we learn about these animals (and farming in general), the more we want to know. Quiet Farm, here we come.

P.S. A huge thank-you to the wonderful team at Mountain Flower Goat Dairy for hosting us this summer. Catherine and Dennis, thank you for sharing your land. Michael, Maddie, Kallie and Ryen, thank you for showing us the ropes. Please come see us on Quiet Farm.

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The Farm Series: Colorado Aromatics

Simply put, we are killing it over here at Finding Quiet Farm! In addition to our new FAQ Series (which already has not one but TWO posts, on salt and cooking fats), we’re launching yet another new programming line-up. This series is focused on farms, because we’re focused on farms. Also, we think sometimes our audience might need just the tiniest break from the constant lecturing on food politics blah blah blah and know your ingredients blah blah blah. Behold: pretty pictures from The Farm Series!

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It’s not much of a secret – our blog title might actually give it away – that N and I plan to buy a farm. We want to find a piece of agricultural property between fifty and one hundred acres, but we only plan on farming the tiniest portion of that land. The remainder we want to turn into a nature reserve of sorts, a place where farm guests can walk for miles and hopefully see native birds, plant life and more. We want our farm to fit comfortably into an existing place; we don’t want to bulldoze acres of wetland or turn a previously wild space into a bare, sterile monoculture.

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Longs and Meeker Peak, looking west from Colorado Aromatics.

Great; those are all lofty goals. But how do we do this? How do we go about the process of 1. finding a farm and 2. determining if that farm is the right place for us? Our answer: we visit as many farms as we possibly can, in Japan and England and in the U.S. And we talk to farmers and we volunteer on farms and we just make every effort possible to get as much experience as we can before we jump in with both feet. It might not be the right answer, but it’s our answer.

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A couple of weeks ago, we visited Colorado Aromatics, north of us in Longmont; we are always appreciative of any farmer who opens up their property to visitors. Colorado Aromatics offers “farm-to-skin” products made from plants grown on their nine-acre property. They are certified naturally grown, which allows smaller market growers to achieve recognizable certification without jumping through the (somewhat absurd) hoops required by national organic certification programs.

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Colorado Aromatics’ primary crop is lavender, which grows beautifully in much of Colorado’s high-plains desert climate. But they also grow a wide variety of other medicinal herbs, plus they keep chickens and goats who provide valuable manure for the farm’s plants. Any good farmer knows that well-raised animals (and their waste) are an essential aspect of a healthy farm.

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Everyone needs backyard chickens!

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Angora goats are most often raised for their lovely wool rather than their meat or milk.

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Lavender in the field.

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Bees love comfrey!

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Calendula in flower.

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Black peppermint.

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Bulgarian roses, grown for their intense scent (and oils) rather than their appearance.

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Fennel in bloom.

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The distillate operation.

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Red clover drying.

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Here lemon balm is an actual cash crop rather than an invasive weed, as most of us in Colorado perceive it.

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The drying room.

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One of the many varieties of lavender grown here.

Thank you for hosting us, Colorado Aromatics!