Henceforth, no spring will be complete for me without a visit to Harley Farms in Pescadero, California–a goat farm and cheese factory nestled in a green and picturesque valley moistened by ocean fog. I’m sure a visit any time of year is nice, but what happens in the spring? Baby goats do, that’s what. As of April 1st or so, 267 had been born. Goat fans can not only tour the farm, the fields, the barn and the cheese kitchen, but also pet endless (very friendly) adult and baby goats, and even, with the explicit consent of Harley Farms, pick up, hug and kiss the babies. And even–can you believe it–milk a goat!! I was in heaven for two hours, and that wasn’t even counting all the free samples of fresh goat cheese I scarfed down in their little shop.
All the babies are descendants of the first six goats acquired by Dee Harley over a decade ago. They are watched over by three guardian lamas, who instinctively protect their goat friends from predators in the fields. The babies stay with mama for about four days, then they are penned up together–separated by sex–and fed on re-hydrated sheep’s milk as mama returns to the milking parlor for twice-daily milkings, at which she delivers about a gallon a day.
What else did I learn? A baby goat may nurse vigorously on your finger, but it won’t hurt. A grown-up goat enjoys gently chewing on your clothes–they browsed on me like a shrub! A socialized goat really likes people and petting. Milking is hard–imagine getting a secure grip on a turgid water balloon and then coaxing the water out through a pinprick, a tablespoon at a time. I suspect carpal tunnel didn’t originate with the typewriter, but with the domesticated dairy animal.
And the take-away advice: next time I’ll choose gardening clogs over tennis shoes (they still smell like barnyard) and perhaps bring some knee pads, so I can kneel in the muck for maximum petting pleasure and picture-taking prowess.