About this time of year, I have to call my mother. 'Lisa's in labor!'? Four years ago, we had to call the veterinarian for an emergency Caesarian birth. Lisa, named for the vet, was such a sickly baby goat we couldn't take her horns off, as we usually do. My mother, visiting from Yorkshire, raised the pathetic Lisa lovingly, to become our most bossy, dominant goat, now with the status of a favorite child. There are framed pictures of Lisa in my mother's house...
Anyhow, Lisa's had her babies this year. The mothers usually give birth close to the herd, but Lisa demands that we get into the pen too. She'll wait uncomfortably until we've climbed over into the pen with the rest of the herd.
There are late nights at birthing season, but luckily we have Andrew and Griff on the farm. They are actually fabulous designer/architect people, here from London to transform our house, but instead of drawing up plans they are rolling up their cashmere sleeves for the birth of baby goat after baby goat, or ransacking the edible garden for our chicken eggs, or cooking us dinner while we wash off the afterbirth. It should all lead to an amazing understanding of the perfect farmhouse. Including more framed photographs of Lisa.
When you see a whirlwind of a woman strip and paint the Little League snack shack, and whip up home-made quesadillas, brownies, real coffee, and other snacks so delicious that even the owners of the famous local restaurant get in line, you can either feel idly sorry for her potential daughter-in-law, or hire her, quickly.
Looking back, we started to lure Maggie Foard to the farm about five years ago. Maggie's son was in the local school's production of Aladdin, and we'd loaned a week-old baby goat for the market-scene. Maggie ' always up for a challenge ' couldn't resist taking home the goat, named Aladdin, naturally, and we kept in touch. Maggie has gone on to write a book of goat cheese recipes (published later this year), and is now our resident chef.
Our Fromage Fancies, new this February, are Maggie's creation. They're a moreish truffle of chevre and chocolate, and we've sold out in the shop both weekends. Give Maggie time, and we'll have a line outside Harley Farms to beat that snack shack!
It's nippy and pinched outside, suitable weather for woolly socks and looking forward to the future. December was such a party month, with our shop in full holiday dress, and our Christmas bazaar, and our annual staff dinner.
We held our bazaar for both weekend days, and the barn was jammed to the rafters with crafts and shoppers! My highlights were the fabulous goat photographs, and tiny Christmas tree fairies, made by local girls. They both approached me to see if they could bring their stuff to sell, and they both sold out. The bazaar was also honored by a visit from rarely-seen Three-Fingered Bil, of whom more later..
We ended the year with a county sustainability award ' the cherry on the top of a really wonderful 2007. Sustainability is about using the best of our natural resources, and looking to the future. We cherish the past by maintaining our farm buildings, built so well almost a century ago, but we don't aim to horse-plow the pastures, for example. Last summer we perfected a goat cheese paint, and after seeing how it stands up this winter, we'll be ready to offer our paint for sale.
And, our staff dinner was a luscious beef bourguignon, from one of the three cows we raised in 2007. Many of us don't eat much red meat, but this was a real feast and celebration of all we've achieved so far.
Finally, no baby goats yet this year, but we expect them to arrive very soon!
Just after Thanksgiving, we said goodbye to Tony, who'd been here for a month. Tony is a neighbor of my parents in Yorkshire, and, last May, very kindly offered his house to Pescadero ladies when we flew over in a group to surprise my mother on her seventieth birthday. Some of the friends hadn't been to Europe before, and Tony hadn't been to the United States, so he came to try it out! While he was here, Tony built a pen for visitors to pet the baby goats, not to mention painting, and fixing, and generally making things better. He had words of advice on our business, and, on antique-hunting trips, found some of the gorgeous old milkcans you see in our shop. I have to say, I envy celebrities not for their lovely glowing faces, red carpet gowns and babies with Brad Pitt, but for their assistants with clipboards. The sheer joy of being accompanied by somebody who makes things happen is one of the best feelings in the world. We didn't work him to the bone he was allowed off the farm occasionally! - and everybody enjoyed entertaining him, not least the ladies who stayed with him in Yorkshire! We're missing him - and all those expertly-made cups of tea - and look forward to seeing Tony again soon.
When I taste our cheese, I know it flaunts our hundred-year-old pastures and the brisk saltiness of the winds off the Pacific, but I'd go further. The French word terroir, about how wine or food expresses the region in which it is made, is all-encompassing: you can taste soil, climate, culture and tradition. And we've got such a tasty town here!
We took a break on Wednesday to watch the town Halloween parade. The sheriffs close the street, there's a stream of witches and devils and ghouls from the local school, all the businesses bring out candy, and the local park ranger always takes the day off to appear in elaborate disguise. It's small-town nirvana.
Of course, when I was seventeen I couldn't wait to run from my parents' small town, but now I appreciate the quirkiness and the conviviality of tradition. We have a vibrant farming community, and you taste that in our cheese.
I have my parents' neighbor Tony here for a month ' though he could probably stay for years given the dollar to sterling exchange rate. It's always fun showing visitors around, and he has milked, pasteurized, and painted the barn with our new goat milk paint. He even likes the cheese!