Tuesday, April 22, 2008

River Valley Ranch: The Narrative

Our friend Sarah is nothing but extraordinary and so are her birthdays. While I've only had the pleasure of knowing her for two of them, (last year we had a lesson in silk painting) this year we make cheese, milked a goat, held baby goats and saw one being born. Adding to the fun, Ken wrote and performed the rap I posted earlier.

I got to express my inner Japanese tourist by having not one but two electronic recording devices (digital camera & video camera) at my disposal. Like a gunslinger from the Old West, I had each device ready for action. Being new to the Handycam, I also got several six+ minute clips of the inside of my pocket. Yep, still learning where the off switch is.

There must have been 20 people there and after each of us introduced him/herself and how we each knew Sarah, the owner of River Valley Ranch (Julie) taught us how to make mozzarella. This was a special cow/yak curd she had prepared for us. Yak milk has a high amount of butter fat which makes cheeses taste amazing. It's also really hard to come by so it's expensive. But everyone formed their mozzarella balls in the boiling water bowl with wooden spoons then soaked it in an ice cold salt brine to finish. The result: Yummy fantastic. After Ken & Cheeba performed the aforementioned rap, we headed out to the barns but not before putting plastic footies on like we were going into surgery.

Warned to stay away from the cranky 2-ton water buffalo in labor, we tiptoed around her and into the barn to behold several stalls of baa-ing baby goats. So cute! We held them and let them suck on our fingers & zippers. Julie then demonstrated how to milk a goat and most of us gave it a try. It wasn't all that hard or weird. But to every one's surprise one of the goats entered hard labor while we were in the barn and in the course of 20 minutes, she birthed a male goat who Sarah later named "Oliver"--of no relation to our cat even though they are both black & white and can suck down a bottle of milk in 8 seconds. But it was miraculous to see the little guy come out in all his goatasticness.

And all the while we were out there, the weather changed from sun to hail to rain. Par for the course in Seattle these days. We also met a yak named Loretta Lynn and two Swiss cows who looked like they would burst out into song with "the Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music." Unfortunately it was getting cold so we said goodbye to our barnyard buddies. We slogged through the muddy pasture, past the angry mama water buffalo, back to the house where we petted some 3-day old baby bunnies and topped it all off with a piece of goat milk cheesecake.

It could have been the methane from the manure getting to me, but I must admit there is a charm to the farming life. Whether it be getting back to basics, getting to look into the eyes of animals or enjoying the sweet rewards of fresh cheese/dairy. Thank you Sarah, Mika & Julie for an amazing, transportive experience.

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