Small Business Saturday!/SmallBusinessSaturday?v=wall

This is one of THE most positive mass fresh ideas I have seen in quite some time.  How awesome would it be if all of us JUST supported our local, small businesses for even one day????  I think the effect would be colossal.  Even if you had not planned to shop this Saturday, but made it a point to go out and support just one small business, it could be huge.

As a small business owner, existing solely to help feed my local community, I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate your support and just how much several of us depend on that continued support.  Without you, I certainly would not be here, and my awesome employees would not have jobs they apparently love and heavily depend upon. The figure I have seen “out there” is that for every dollar you spend locally .68 is returned to the community (compared to .38 when you shop big chains).  I would venture to say it is even higher here, as all of us are extremely locally focused in almost everything we do-food, entertainment, gifts, rent, banking, farmers markets, feed mill, veterinarians, dairy supply, water supply, septic services, sand/gravel, hay, kitchen stores, hardware stores, lumber yards, clothing, wine/cider, etc…..and the list is so much longer than this.

So tomorrow, I will be here working our farm store in the hopes you come by from 10 to 2.  You could make a lovely trip of it, and make it a point to visit even just the fine food choices we have here in Edison(Bow).  Three cheesemakers, artisan bread, and our own European grocery (Slough Food), and 2 other bakeries.  Plus you could also stop for grass fed meats at our own Island Grown Farmers Coop.  Ask me for recommendations! Please!  Ask!!!

Farm Store:
15203 Sunset Road
Bow WA 98232

Thoughts on Food Choices

As you might imagine, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about food, usually really good food.  I happen to enjoy really good food, I enjoy cooking really good food, and I love being a part of making really good food available to my local eating community.  We live in an area where these foods are readily available on a local level.  I do not consider them “elitist”, but it does maybe take a little more effort and planning to make them the main component of your daily eating.  For instance, you may need to concentrate your shopping to Saturday, if that is the day for your local farmers market.  And you might need to be able to plan your week on the fly, so to speak, depending on what is fresh and available.  But hey, this is the fun part! It gets a little more difficult when the markets start to end, as you may have to seek out the farmers individually, or rely on grocery store food for that part of the year.  Maybe a combination is what usually happens.

Goat Ricotta & Herbs Stuffed Squash Blossoms

I am certainly NOT opposed to doing the bulk (or even all) of your shopping in a grocery store.  You have the most amazing array of fresh foods on the planet in almost every neighborhood.  It is more about making good choices, cooking the food yourself,  staying away from packaged/processed foods, eating out less, and relying more on yourself.  Every day eating does not have to be “gourmet”.  Your choices can be dictated by your available time.  Save the eating out for the really good places, and make it special.

I buy so little from the grocery store, mostly coffee and wine, but certainly other staples and foods as desired.  I was in the store last week getting pasta for a wild mushroom dinner I had planned.  I had some whole wheat pasta, some fresh vegetables, some staple food items, wine, a few canned items (tomatoes), but not any “junk” food.  I was behind two women with a huge cart of food.  I wasn’t stalking them, but I don’t look at the magazines in the line, so I saw their cart contents.  It was chock-a-block full of “junk”-donuts-chocolate and plain in a box, cookies, lots of soda, chips, white bread….the only “real” food was 2 mega sized packs of ground beef and one gallon of milk.  Their total was $117.00.  They paid with their food stamp card.  They were young and fairly overweight (ok, obese).  The contents of their cart told me they do not likely cook much.  I found it sad and a little irritating that the food stamp dollars can be spent this way.

Today I found this Newsweek article along these same thoughts:

It is my hope we can all begin making the more local and more natural choices.  For me, as a food provider, it is much bigger than that.  I also provide income for 4 employees.  And studies show for every dollar they earn, .68 stays in our local community.   My guess here is that number is even higher, as they too are locally focused on their choices.  I know the women who work here are highly skilled and accomplished women who truly love what they do.  I also know they depend on this income source.  I also know I cannot do it without them.  We have created a beautifully supportive and nurturing source for your local goat cheese needs.

Goat Ricotta Stuffed Tomatoes in Season

Goats (& Cheese) Debut on KOMO4 News

On November 17, 2010 we were on the 4 o’clock news IN Seattle.  We had an assortment of our cheeses which were showcased for Eat Local for Thanksgiving.  We also brought a live goat with us, by request I might add.  It was a lot of fun bringing the goat to the city, walking him into regular elevators, through the fancy lobby of Fisher Plaza, and up to the news station.

Tom Watson and all the KOMO staff were so kind, professional, and fun to work with.  I was a bit nervous as everything happened so fast.  Debbie, esteemed goat handler, went with me.  Could not have done it without her.

Here is the link to the news clip. You may to allow Active X for it to work.

Rhonda on KOMO patio

Debbie in KOMO patio (4th floor up)

Debbie and Goat by Space Needle

Saturday Cheese at the Farm

Beginning Saturday October 23, 2010 at:

15203 Sunset Road
Bow WA 98232

Accessed by either Farm to Market Road or Chuckanut Drive.

We will trial being open from 10am-2pm on Saturdays for you to stop in for cheese selections.  Nothing fancy here. No formal tours. We have had so many requests for cheese now that markets are ending, we decided to try this and see if you like it. 

Would love your feedback as we give this a try.  Hope to see many of you on Saturday now.

Growing Marshmallows!

1st Haylage

Well, maybe not really, but this is what our Grandson thought last year when saw these in a field.  We are VERY excited to have gotten to this point this year.  It has been an odd year for grass here, cold, wet, unpredictable.  Remember when we first planted this (late) on July 2nd, as it had rained almost every day up to that point?  Then when it did not rain for over a month?  Then we had weed pressure which we controlled with mowing?  This says a LOT for the skill of the farmers we work with and also for the general health/growing suitability of our land.  Anyway, now this 18 acres is not looking too shabby!

One of the Marshmallow Stacks

 The goats are infinitely curious and entertained by anything happening in “their” yard.  We won’t feed any of this to our goats, it is all going for cow food.  We don’t feed silage feeds.  Mostly just thrilled it will go to a good use to feed livestock!  Rough count is about 50 of these large bales.  Now if all goes well, next year this will help feed our goats.

Hey Gals-Come Look!

They all had to come out and look at what I was doing walking on the side of the road with camera in hand!

Love, Love, Love….their curiosity.  They followed up by coming out to the fence to greet me.

1st Cutting of NEW Pasture!!

 Sound the bugles!  Pop the cork!  It is a beautiful day on the farm!

Our Field and Mt. Baker

Remember on July 2nd when we planted the 18 acres of new grass, then had .01 in of rainfall for that month?  Remember how prolific the weeds were?  Well, with good advice (Thanks Dave and others) and diligence, we have the first cutting done!!!  We mowed the weeds a few times and the grass took over, just as we had hoped for.  No spray, just diesel for the mowing.

This first cutting will go as cow food in the form of the giant marshmallows.  I will try to post updated pictures in a couple of days.


I am just so excited to see the progress.  My learning curve has been steep, but I have trusted the right people.

Thanks Charlie!

The Magnificient Males

It is Fall.  And in this season, the breeding for Spring milk happens.  There are several ways to accomplish a milk supply.  We choose to own, breed, milk, and nurture our own goats, producing all our own milk for our cheeses.   We breed the does every year, resulting in a kidding season each Spring. 

Smelling a Doe

Goats are seasonal breeders at our latitude.  The does “heat” cycles are triggered by decreasing day length.  The bucks know this is their one season of “work” each year.  This is why we keep them, love them, and plan oh so carefully all about them.  A goats’ gestation period (length of pregnancy) is about 5 months, or 145-150 days from breeding.  We have all LaManchas and ours tend to kid (have goat babies) closer to the 145 day mark. 

A good dairy consists of good dairy animal stock.  There is probably no absolutely perfect goat out there.  We know what traits are desirable to us, so we plan and breed to enhance those traits that have worked well for us.  All of our goats are registered with the American Dairy Goat Association.  With that they have a program whereby we can put in the registration numbers of each animal, and it will give us a % inbred profile, and also list the common ancestors that Planned Breeding will share.  Pretty slick, eh?  This is one of the tools used to plan who gets the honeymoon suite with who in the goat yard.


 We don’t put the bucks in with the does for extended periods of time.  We know our goats quite well, and we detect their heats (trust me, the bucks know WAYYYY before we do).  When a doe is determined to be in an amorous mood, the pre-selected buck is let out of his usual pasture and put in a seldom used one.  This is no small task here.  We run our bucks as a group, and they know what pulling them means, and they all push the gate trying to be the chosen one.  We just can’t get them to read the breed list!   When the doe is bred,  she is taken back to her pen and the buck is returned to his.  Again, great gate pushing ensues.  Year after year, we use the same technique.  To get the bucks distracted from the gate to accomplish the return, a doe is walked down the buck fence line.  Year after year, they fall for this and all follow the does down the fence line.  This makes the return so easy!  For obvious reasons, this is a task better suited to two humans, but can be done by one.

Waylon & Willie, Zydeco hanging back

We have never noticed any off flavors in our milk based on buck encounters.  I think our clothing probably harbors more smells than the does seem to.  Bucks do have a distinctive smell in the “rut”.  They urinate on their own faces, drink the urine of their pen mates, do some head butting, and generally become a different species.  Our guys are tame, generally pretty easy to handle, and are loved.  Even in this season, I put on gloves and still give them head pats and scratches, etc.  They almost stop eating this time of year.  Truly a one track mind!  They then spend the rest of the year eating, looking good, and not causing much trouble.


And these guys are big!  We estimate them at about 300 pounds.  They could easily pull me into the next county if they wanted to, but they don’t.  Disposition is one of my mandatory traits!  Now you see why.

So Much to Learn!

Fall Season on the Farm

Lots of things begin to shift this time of year in farm life.  The farmers markets begin to wind down, we, the care givers begin to succumb to exhaustion, and the goats change in every way.  Milk production begins to drop-but at the same time that delicious butterfat and protein rise, so the cheese yield per gallon of milk actually goes  up.  Cheesemaking recipes are seasonally, minimally adjusted.  The milk just “behaves” differently.  We now have enough years at this with the same essential lines of goats to know our particular needs and how we like our cheese to taste, and can make our adjustments.  It is a beautiful  dance we enjoy.

Goats this far from the equator are seasonal breeders.  That means they have a natural “heat” (estrus) cycle in the Fall.  This is driven by day length.  OK, so now our days are noticeably shorter, even to us 2 legged creatures.  Estrus is in full force with the herd.  They tend to all cycle nearly in sync with each other.  The cycle is every 18-21 days.  The visible signs are crying for the boys at the fence line, some vaginal mucus changes (remember we see them from the tail side twice a day, every day), tail twitching, crying and carrying on some more, fighting, big drop in milk production (which comes back up after the cycle).  There is lots of fighting, nuzzling, just odd, not the usual day sort of behavior going on.

Now the boys-they begin the cycle first from what I have observed.  In actuality, I think they have detected the female changes long before I see them.  They quit eating for the most part, urinate on their faces and each others faces (yep-that’s right-the other guy has to put his face there, and he does this over and over), and fighting for the girl is a frequent occurrence.  My usually calm, easy to handle big boys (probably 300# or so) become a bit rowdy and hard to handle.

Breedings are planned here.  Quite planned.  More on that later if you want.  Lots of detail but it boils down to genetic improvements for the herd.

So at 5:30 am as I was out with the dog, I heard all manner of crying from the barn.  Not a distress cry, but an unusual amount of noise for the time of day and darkness.  My LaManchas are normally very quiet for the most part.  This was coupled with the gentle bleat of two older does at the fence.  I call them my tattle-tales as they always rat the others out to me.  So, OK, change shoes to barn shoes, grab the phone, and go do a pajama check.  All is well.  Three does crying the fence line.  We have 9-10 bred already, I suspect it will be 14 or so by days end.

Gestation is 145-150 days (LaManchas “tend” to go on the earlier side).  So February babies galore here we come!  We plan to breed 25-28 does this year unless I actually try milking 3-5 of them through.  With goats, you can “milk through” and just keep going without re-breeding them.  I am told you get about 25% less production the following year.  That may be worth it not to kid out that many more. I don’t so much mind the the sleeping in the barn actual kidding season, it all those darling goat babies to deal with.  For 2010 we had 55 baby goats born here.  I kept 4 as replacements.  That is a LOT of good goat homes to find.

We enjoy the cycles on the farm. We enjoy the predictability.  We like working with nature and natural cycles.  And there is never a dull moment.  The unpredictable always happens too.

We Love Good Reviews!

Here is a nice review post I found on Skagit Coop’s Facebook page:

Get Your Goat Cheese from Gothberg
Posted on September 14, 2010 by Sarah

Lucky, lucky, lucky we are to have a local producer of goat cheese. All too often I hear people say they don’t like goat cheese. My immediate response is to tell them that they probably haven’t had GOOD goat cheese, and Gothberg Farms makes GOOD goat cheese.

Let’s begin with Chèvre: a fresh, spreadable cheese. Gothberg’s Chèvre is incredibly light and fluffy with a clean, subtle tang. Whenever I have a guest who says they “don’t normally eat cheese”, they always end up devouring Gothberg’s Chèvre. I love how versatile this cheese can be: delicious alone, drizzled with olive oil or honey, rolled in herbs, topped with chili flakes, peppercorns, fresh fruit or preserves… but my favorite may be eating it on Breadfarm Graham Crackers – instant mini cheesecake, yum!

Just as Chèvre must be made with goat’s milk, traditional Feta is made with goat or sheep’s milk (if this was Europe, we wouldn’t be able to call it Feta unless it was made in Greece!). The flavor of Feta cheese depends upon the type of milk used, so it is no wonder that Greek natives flock to the Gothberg booth at farmer’s markets to enjoy a taste of “home”. Gothberg Feta has just the right amount of sharp and salt; strong enough to stand out in salads, vegetable pies, or on pizza, and yet easily eaten slice after slice, bite after bite. As Feta should, Gothberg’s crumbles nicely and has a pleasant zest. Olives and Feta naturally go together, and the Breadfarm Black Olive Baguette makes an excellent match.

If you are fortunate enough to come across Gothberg’s Caprino Romano or Woman of LaMancha, take some home with you. The Caprino Romano is inspired by traditional Italian raw milk cheeses. Aged for a year, it has a surprisingly creamy texture with a well developed flavor. The peppercorn rind adds a nice touch of spice. The Woman of LaMancha is a Manchego style cheese. Also a raw milk cheese, it is drier in texture, has a wonderful nutty flavor and a smoked paprika rind. These specialty cheeses are best savored by the slice with a glass of good, red wine or whiskey!

What makes Gothberg Farms cheese taste better than some other goat cheeses? The quality of the the milk makes all the difference. Some people enjoy the “bucky” flavors often found in goat cheeses, whereas the majority of us prefer a more delicate “goatiness”. Rhonda Gothberg likes her milk to taste like melted ice cream. That can only make good cheese.

Plant It & It Will Grow

We are blessed with fabulous soils where we live.  Almost any cool seaon plant will grow here. Our water table is high, so that is good for summer growth, but not so good in winter when we get “ponding” aka lakes on our fields.

Here is a current picture of the pasture we planted just as the rains stopped coming.  Weeds have been prolific, but there is quite a bit of grass too.  We have consulted with the skilled local farmer next door and the agronomist and are opting for continuing to mow the weeds down.  Each time, more grass sprouts.  We are not certified organic, but ascribe more to organic principles than not.  So, mowing is a better choice than spraying, for us.  In the back, there is actually quite a bit of nice, green, freshly sprouted grass!!

Our little fledgling garden is managing to produce some food for us too.  This year has been cold and wet, so none of the warmer season plants have done so well.  Chard, kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, beets, potatoes-all doing just fine.

A few foods did manage to survive my neglect and crummy season.
Scarce tomatoes and purple cabbbage.
We are so blessed with our soils.  The garden is fed 100% with goat bedding compost.  It is all that is ever needed. I don’t water, weed sporadically (usually with help!) and still it feeds us partially through my benign neglect.