Monday, September 08, 2008

for the love of goats

Is it 450 chickens and 32 goats? Or 450 goats and 32 chickens? Oh, I don’t need notes for that. There are way more chickens than goats on the farm.

I’m such a fan of goat cheese and such a steady customer of Dreamfarm farmstead goat cheese (sold at the Westside Community Farmers Market)! I have been meaning to go out and take a peek at all those goats who have so lovingly contributed to my cheese happiness. But, life interferes and so it wasn’t until today that I made the trek out west to mingle with the animals. Dreamfarm – to borrow from their label – “where goats browse on pastures and eat organic grain and hay.”

It happened that it was a rainy day. Still, I don’t have classes this afternoon and Diana Murphy, the head cheesemaker and goat keeper had a few minutes to spare (she runs the show with her husband Jim and a bunch of daughters, but hey, she is there, on the premises, tending to all those goats and chickens, so I will call her the CEO for practical purposes) and so Ed and I headed out to visit. Diana was waiting for us.

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Diana Murphy of Dreamfarm

The farm's not too far from Madison. Just beyond Cross Plains. A very pretty drive at this time of the year because the corn and soy fields are starting to look golden. Rain notwithstanding.

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Let me say this: in the past few months, I’ve fallen in love with a handful of dogs that have crossed my path. A Labradoodle on Cape Cod. A Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier in Chicago. A mutt in Madison. But nothing, nothing prepared me for the surge of love I felt for these goats.

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Look at them! They run up to you, check out your backpack (if you have a backpack), they nuzzle you and look imploringly at your face, so that you just want to pick them up and place them in your lap!

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…At which point they throw back their ears and grin, looking for all the word like light aircraft, flying straight at you!

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Diana tolerated my quickly escalating (and very vocal) crush and then reminded me that goats need to be milked. Every day. Whether or not you have relatives in Poland, or yearnings for France, or daughters you absolutely must visit regularly on the east coast.

And the chickens? Remember, there are also happy hens. Gorgeous. Kind of shy though. Definitely not lap material.

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I’ve written before about my attitude toward chickens. They absolutely depleted the meadow by my grandparents’ village home in Poland. But Diana’s chickens are different. When they eat up the seeds and bugs and who knows what else, she moves them to the next slice of meadow.

So is it easy to raise chickens and sell eggs? You’d think yes. Think again. Moving the hens around – fine, there’s that. Picking up eggs from 450 hens daily, where each hen lays an egg 5 days out of the week, and then, by hand, scrubbing each egg clean and filling the boxes… Oh, it’s our evening activity, Diana tells me. Right. I surf the Net, try to imagine a blog post, munch on Angel Fluffs and worry about the work that I have to do tomorrow. Diana + family ensure that a bunch of families have wonderful eggs for the week ahead. Whose is the nobler task?

On our way out, we stop by the Dreamfarm cheesemaking facility. The cheese is already an organic product, waiting for certification. But more importantly, it is so very very excellent. I’m eating some right now. With dill and garlic. I could have selected one with other herbs. Nettle, for instance. All made by hand. Creamy, so very creamy! Jealous, aren’t you?