Salud has worked for Harley Farms for 13 years, and knows instinctively by smell, or feel, or taste, if something's not quite as it should be. You cannot buy this kind of expertise, and she is the lynch pin of the dairy. She is as immaculate in appearance as in habit, and I know I have often let her down with my sloppier tidying! Salud, Norma, Rebecca, Luis and I took a two-day Spanish-language course in the science of cheesemaking, organized by the local cheese guild at the College of Marin. There were maybe 25 people from local dairies, all of whom knew their recipes back to front, but perhaps not the whys and wherefores of those recipes. We looked at the differences between cow and goat milk through microscopes (size of fat globules), we heard about how temperature affects the culture, we saw bacteria and measured pH. Everybody brought their cheeses on the first day, and by the way Salud and the others rushed to see them, I realized we should constantly be bringing cheeses to our dairy to taste and talk about. Mexico has a strong cottage industry of fresh cheese (queso fresco), but there are so many different cheeses here in the Bay Area.
These two days with our staff made me vow to get a microscope and pH testing kit for our dairy, to incorporate into our routine and tours. It gave Salud and the others contacts at other dairies, with all the same day-to-day issues. And it reminded me how thankful I am for the consistency with which we run the dairy and control the ultimate flavor and quality of our cheese. I must just try and live up to my staff!
It has been another magnificent year for the farm. I can't thank my amazing staff and friends enough, and wish them all a toasty holiday season. We're leaving tomorrow for an icy Yorkshire Christmas, and I can't wait! Happy New Year!
Farm manager Ryan, a man who can look cool anywhere, and especially on a barn roof. Congratulations to him and his fiancee; sorry ladies. Thanks to Poppy de Garmo for the photo!
There are always highs and lows on the farm. For all the death of beloved pets, slow cash flow, or broken milking machines, there's the dawn over the pastures, the magnificent staff, and the awards. The awards, though, are not the greatest thrill. We are humbly thrilled to win awards for the cheese, but cheese is just part of what we do, and building the farm itself makes me happiest of all.
We have used state grants to help with fencing, seeding, creek bank renovation, parking lot work, and manure hauling, but this summer began our biggest grant-aided project: water tanks. It doesn't sound momentous, but this is a huge step forward for the quality and sustainability of our water.
In the past, we used the well for our house, the dairy, the farm labor housing unit, the goats (we had 350 animals at one point), and a small parched garden! Now, the tanks will collect rain water from all the roofs on the farm, for the goats and part of the garden. We can recycle the well water going through the dairy. And next year we will dig an irrigation well for the pastures, with state of the art efficient sprinkler heads.
After last weekend's rain, we have 10,000 gallons of water in the tanks!
Thank you to Tim Frahm of the San Mateo County Farm Bureau,
You'll see Foxi panting with ridiculous happiness about the farm. She arrived a few weeks before Teddy died, with a heartrending sob story. Foxi was apparently the runt of a litter of champions, ignored for years in an 8 by 11" pen on an automatic feeder, until a tenderhearted neighbor took an interest. This neighbor attends our popular non-denominational church from time to time, and she - literally - brought the dog up to the altar for a vision of a better life. We're only half a mile from the church, so the rest is history. (I may seem like a sucker, but your sob story's really going to have to be good.)
Foxi - or maybe Panty - is an amiable dog and got on well with Teddy. We like older dogs about the farm, so this was synchronicity. Or non-denominational karma.
Our dear dog Teddy died three weekends ago in her bed. She had had a perfect day being petted on a farm tour, fetching her ball, napping in her favorite spots and eating her dinner. She slowed down in the evening and died with her head on my hand at 1am. Teddy was graceful in her life and deserved no less than this peaceful end. We have moved the fish bath from the garden for Teddy's grave, in pride of place on the farm. It was comforting to have my old friend Teri staying that weekend. She was working on new artwork for the farm, which should be unveiled soon! We sometimes have Teri's prints available in the shop - please take a look next time you visit.
If guests aren't milking goats, or delivering goats, they have to draw goats...