Kids, kids and more kids: A visit to a goat farm
May is always a crazy-busy month, what with all the end-of-year activities like class picnics, sports days, thank-you brunches, field trips and classroom activities. Yes, field trips and classroom activities happen throughout the year, and I could just stop volunteering and make my life easy. But this year all the coolest ones seemed to happen at the end of the year, so busy or not, I had to make time for them! Take the cow eye dissection -- no way I was about to miss that. Then the very next week came Jammy's field trip to Harley Farms Goat Dairy, and I've been wanting to visit that place since forever, so of course I had to go.
Harley Farms is located in Pescadero, CA, a 1-hour drive from our school. It's a restored 1910 dairy farm, with lush green fields and a 100-year old farmhouse.
Our tour started in their edible flower garden (we'll get to that later), where our tour guide gave the kids a brief history of the farm, and a rundown of their herd (200 alpine goats and about a dozen llamas) and a description of life on the farm.
Our tour guide let the kids into the field where the goats and llamas were grazing, and they went crazy stroking and petting everyone. The animals were surprisingly calm and tolerant given that 24 3rd graders spent about half an hour patting, petting, stroking and feeding them, not to mention laughing hysterically when one of them poo'ed. Thankfully there was no chasing, tail-pulling or yelling.
I don't particularly relish the thought of having goats drool on me, so I kept my hands to myself and kept myself busy snapping photos of all the kids (human and animal) -- but even I couldn't resist the opportunity to hold the littlest babies.
After we left the babies, we stopped for a quick (but thorough) hand wash, then went into the dairy to see how goats were milked. Sadly, we didn't get to see any actual milking, just the milking machines.
Then we put on some hairnets and entered the farmhouse kitchen, where our tour guide explained how different kinds of goat cheese are made. He showed the kids (just the human ones, we left the goat kids in the barn) how they decorate their cheeses with edible flowers: line a mold with plastic wrap, lay petals and leaves on the bottom, press a layer of cheese on top, sprinkle herbs on the cheese, finish with a final layer of cheese, then seal the cheese with the plastic wrap.
The class then got to decorate their own wheel of goat cheese: the tour guide passed around a lined mold and asked every child to add a flower petal, then packed in cheese and herbs. Then everyone went back into the flower garden and the tour guide gave everyone a piece of bread smeared with the cheese they had just decorated. Jammy isn't a huge fan of goat cheese, so I was surprised and pleased that he tried and loved it -- he and most of the class had five or six helpings! The farm had a shop where they sold their cheese and other goat's milk products, so I bought a few chèvre wheels to take home (one of the advantages of being a chaperone driver!).
Everyone had brought their lunchboxes with them, so after the tour was over the whole class ate lunch out in the field, seated at picnic tables or under a tree. It was a fantastic field trip and we all had a great time. Jammy described it best when he told me, "It wasn't like a school day at all, it was just a fun day".