Archive for April, 2014

Farm Tour: Harley Farms

April 29, 2014

The time to visit Harley Farms, a goat dairy in Pescadero, is spring — not for the beauty (although the coast and the farm are particularly gorgeous in the springtime), but for the baby goats.

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The farm’s herd of 200 ladies deliver their kids in the spring, typically starting in March and running through the first part of May. You can simply stop by the farm (as many people seem to do) to see some of the baby goats in their pens, but if you take one of the paid farm tours, as my sister and I did last Sunday, you’ll get to hold an adorable, week-old baby goat in your arms.

The two-hour, $20 tour isn’t only about baby goats, of course. Harley’s primary business is goat cheese and the whole process — from raising and milking the goats to making and selling the cheese — is all done right on the farm. The tour covers nearly every part of the process: it starts in the fields with the goats and ends in a 100-year-old hayloft eating cheese made from the goats’ milk.

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I loved being in the pasture with the adult goats and their llama protectors (the llamas have punny names, like Dalai and Lorenzo). I avoided the llamas because I have a strong aversion to llamas (or worse alpacas!), but the goats were unbelievably friendly, which the farm says is because they’ve been handled by people since they were born. They came right up to us for a pet or to happily rub their heads against our legs, and they followed us as we walked through the pasture. (I loved the caravan of goats in the picture below.)

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The baby goats are kept in separate pens based on their age (some were just days old!). One of the farm workers showed us how to support their legs when we held them. The babies seemed happy to be held, but they moved around so much I could hardly get a clear picture of them. (The one pictured above kept trying to eat my sister’s jacket).

Milking the goats used to be part of the farm’s tours, but it became too stressful for the goats. Now the tour simply goes through the milking parlor, where the goats are milked twice a day at 5am and 5pm. Each goat produces about a gallon of goat milk a day which is enough for about a pound of cheese, but currently some of the goat milk is going to feed the babies. The remaining milk is piped directly from the milking parlor into the commercial-grade cheese-making facility next door.

Harley’s goat cheeses are often decorated with edible flowers, which are grown right outside the cheese-making room. In the cheese-making room, we decorated a chevre with borage, calendula and johnny jump-up, and then headed up to the hayloft to taste our concoction along with the farm’s chive chevre and cranberry chevre.

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The farm store, which is right beneath the hayloft, sells additional cheeses, like goats milk ricotta, feta, and fromage blanc, as well as goats milk soaps and a variety of skincare products. But there’s no hard sell on the tour. Instead, the tour ends with a push for visitors to explore more of Pescadero. Our guide, who’d worked for the farm and the Pescadero school system for many years, suggested a few places to eat and things to do in the area.

On past trips to Pescadero, I’d never been wowed by Duarte’s pies or the town’s taqueria-in-a-gas-station, but I’d return to Harley Farms in a heartbeat — to see some goats, buy some cheese, and spend a little more time on this lovely piece of land.

With the New Addition

April 18, 2014

Having a dog is so much better than I’d expected. Being at Baker Beach on a sunny 70-degree Saturday in January is pretty much my ideal winter day, but it’s even better to be there with a dog that races up and down the beach and digs happily in the sand. It always feels cozy to read in front of the heater when the rain finally arrives in February, but it’s much cozier with a shiny black dog stretched out at my feet.

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But it took us some time to get used to each other. The first time I took her out for a walk, she somehow wiggled out of her collar and raced furiously around the park, while I stood there panicking and feeling like I’d failed at dog ownership on my very first day.

Mr. WholeHog and I laughed the first time she rolled ecstatically in a pile of leaves, only to realize later that the joke was on us: beneath the leaves, she’d been rolling in a pile of shit.

We learn to keep our socks out of her reach after she ate the foot bed out of one of my slippers while I was in the shower one morning. And we’re still trying to get used to her 6AM wake up calls, when she presses her wet nose against our heads and paws the side of our bed to wake us up.

There were times in those first few weeks when I’d feel spooked when I’d look up and see her sitting silently in the hallway looking at me, but by now I’m comforted by the sight of her. Having a dog who is delighted when I get up in the morning and thrilled when I come home from work in the evenings is life-changing.

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She opens us up to new parts of the City. Even though San Francisco is on the coast, we rarely went to the beach before we had a dog, but these days we’re at Fort Funston, Ocean Beach or Baker Beach a few times a month. We’ve spent more time exploring new (to us) parks, like Heron’s Head Park in Bayview or Mission Creek Park in SOMA. We’re spending more time in Glen Canyon and on Bernal Hill. We’re going to pet stores and dog parks that we’d barely noticed before. In the last few years, I’d realized that spending time outside makes me feel happier, and the dog gets me outside everyday.

She adds new landmarks to our neighborhood. There’s the house where she chased a rat out from behind a planter, the corner where she tried to eat a discarded bagel off the street (and threw a tantrum when we took it away from her), the fallen fruits off the palm trees that she tries to eat, the crack in the sidewalk that she stops to smell. Other dog enthusiasts stop to talk to us when we’re out with her. One day I’m walking her by a grungy neighborhood bar and one of the old timers out front murmurs, “Beautiful” as we pass, and I realize that he’s talking about the dog.

And, as I assume is obvious from these rare blog posts, she remaps our lives, too. Buying a house and working to improve it hasn’t always brought Mr. WholeHog and I closer together, but we’re on the same page when it comes to the dog. She makes us laugh with her audible yawns and the terrific way she stretches her front legs out as if she’s a football referee signalling a successful field goal.

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When Mr. WholeHog and I crate-train her, we stand together in the hallway, listening to the terrible sound of her whining and crying. And the first time we leave her home alone, we crawl down the stairs together in the dark so she won’t see us leaving.

Last year, we usually spent our weekdays off together out on a hike, but this year, we’ve been more focused on dog-friendly excursions, and we usually find a way to place to stop that feels like a treat for us — getting pizza from the Del Popolo truck after a trip to Fort Funston, or checking out a coffee shop in the Sunset on our way to Ocean Beach.

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This year, we even took her with us to Point Reyes for our anniversary. She loved running around on Limantour Beach and she sat outside with us at Marin Sun Farms while we ate burgers. The drive out to Point Reyes through the rolling farmland east of Petaluma is always beautiful, but it was more entertaining this time, with the dog in the back seat, her nose out the window drinking in the new smells.