on the eve of a new year

Raw Milk Feta & Rio Santiam

On the eve of this new year, 2016, I have helped milk close to 40 goats and worked a Portland Farmer’s Market, selling cheese made from those happy goats’ milk. I have been here for less than 48 hours and have already learned so much.

I landed in Portland late Tuesday night. One of the farmers’ daughters picked me up from the airport and we drove 45 minutes West through patchy fog and suburbs. Although it was dark it was obvious when we reached the edge of the Tillamook State Forest; winding highways lined with large [evergreen or pine] trees. We were getting close to Gales Creek and Fraga Farmstead Creamery.

We arrived and unloaded my gear. I am temporarily staying in a room off the side of the barn. I can look through the window between my room and the barn and see goats looking right back at me (a slice of my heaven). I will be moving up to the loft once a few of the current WWOOFers move on this weekend. This room with a goat view does have a purpose. During kidding season someone can sleep there and periodically peer through the window at the kidding pen where expectant mama’s rest and see if there are any new, fuzzy baby goats (also a slice of my heaven).

When the sun rose the next morning, the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range welcomed the evasive sunshine.

I have arrived!

I met farmer Lis and we promptly got to work on feeding and milking. This was the highlight of my day. “The goats are a bit crabby,” she said. “It has been rainy and gloomy for days and the pastures have been too muddy. The goats have been cooped up in the barn. Goats hate rain.” I quickly day dream as I am reminded of the time I hid under a raised silo with our first two goats, Tullah and Coffee during a midsummer downpour.

After 4 rounds of milking 8 goats at a time with their line system and bulk tank, we had 1 round left. We went in the goat pen to sort out the last few milkers and open up the barn gate to the pasture. “Watch this, they are going to go crazy,” said Lis. The big goats bolt to the pasture and sunshine, kicking and jumping as they go. The littles ones decided to take advantage of the open hay feeder and munch away, only to realize they didn’t like to be left alone and proceeded to run out to the sunshine and fellow goats. Seeing that many goats run to a hilly, tree filled pasture is something I will never forget.

We finished the last round of milking and that afternoon and evening were spent at the People’s Co-op Farmer’s Market in Portland. It was fun to see and meet so many people. The WWOOFing concept is more widely known here so it was easy to explain that was I was a WWOOfer from North Dakota, here to learn more about goats and dairying so we can diversify our vegetable CSA back home. I thought I may get some funny looks. North Dakota, really? But instead I was met with kindness and curiosity. So many were happy to hear of the local food movement in North Dakota and the exciting changes we will see in 2016.

I am so eager to continue to share my journey here in Oregon with all of my family, friends, and food community back home. Happy New Year!