Thursday, August 20, 2015

365 True Things: 144/Goats

Today I helped a friend move to an 11-acre spread far out Carmel Valley Road. It's way too far away from civilization for me, a good fifty-minute drive from my house in the city—though I can appreciate how marvelous it must be to be there at night when the moon is new, sitting on the warm deck, breathing in the smell of grasses, gazing at the black sky spangled with stars, and listening to . . . silence. Maybe the sound of a great horned owl, or the rustle of a white oak, or a trio of coyotes. But no city noises, or cars, TVs, sirens, neighbors chatting in the backyard. Just beautifully naturally natural silence.

She may need a housesitter from time to time. I will offer my services.

But what made me sit down here to write was not the beautiful property, overlooking vineyards in the distance and steep hills rolling into the Ventana Wilderness. But goats.

Because back in the seventies, the place was a goat farm, for the making of goat cheese. The cheese production facility still exists: one room with small drains in the floor (for cleaning up after the cheese has been made or packaged, I surmise), another room with hooks in the ceiling and full-room-length drains against two walls, for hanging the milk solids as they transform into chèvre.

A few years ago, I visited a working goat farm, Harley Farms Goat Dairy, in Pescadero. Here are a few photos from that visit, with the captions I posted on Flickr.

The big dude on the right is Elvis.
His job is to service the nanny goats—this is a dairy farm, after all.
He exuded weariness.
He'd wander through the girls looking a little lost.
Every so often, though, everyone would get peppy and start running,
and the girls would all gather around Elvis; then he'd look a combination of
puzzled and hopeful. On top of it all, he stank
(it's a bizarre thing the males do with their own urine—goat cologne).
But apparently a girl goat likes a stinky boy goat.
There were plenty of pregnant girls to prove it.
Come February, there should be around 200 kids to prove it even more.

American Alpine nanny goats are curious and affectionate and calm.
Though off in the distance one pair spent the whole time we were there
rising up and butting heads. Playing? A turf battle?
But they did it off on their own, letting the others enjoy their peace.
Goats may be smarter than humans in that way.


Our guide, Connie, making a pat of pretty cheese,
decorated by calendula, pelargonium, and viola petals.

I have a soft spot in my heart for goats. I attribute it to my heritage: my family name is Geissman, or goatherd. At least, that's how I translate the name. I also use it to explain my comfort hopping around on and climbing rocks, and hiking up steep trails. It comes with the territory.

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