How to milk a goat

March 27, 2012 § 2 Comments

This is right up there with “skills you never thought you would need.” I fell in love with goat milk about three years ago. I never liked it before having it fresh and cold. It was delicious – not at all “goaty.” So when two milking does became available from a nearby farm, I said, “Yes” and Tim said, “What??”


Cella the Dog is waiting patiently for her sip of Brie's delicious milk. The chickens are there for any grain that falls from the milking stand.

When they arrived, we were left with two, full goats and little else.   A quick stop at Ace Hardware brought me a couple of collars, a leash (silly me) and two pails. But that evening, the realization that these goats needed to be milked settled in. Neither Tim nor I had a clue. Fortunately, YouTube and a charming woman from Scotland came to the rescue.  It looked so easy.

I wish I had video of that day to share with you.  Without a milking stand, Tim and I were left partially laying on the ground, considering what exactly we were to grab, and a slight intimidation of what those horns might do if we got it wrong.  It became apparent that it was not as easy to milk a goat in Hawaii as it was in Scotland.  Fortunately, Brie and Chevre were patient.  You see, milking a goat is not the same as milking a cow.  There is no pulling on a teat as any goat will quickly remind you.  It is all in the “squeeze.”  Now, wrap your thumb and forefinger around the base of the teat tightly enough to trap the milk inside the teat.  Squeeze with your middle finger, then your ring finger, and then your pinky, in one smooth, successive motion.  Keep your grip tight on the base of the teat, or else instead of going into the bucket, the milk will slip right back up into the udder.  This is not good – especially for the goat.  Relax your grip on the base of the teat to allow milk to refill the teat and repeat until empty.  Note, a goat has one udder and two teats.  This may come in handy someday.

Remember, all of this follows getting the goat on the milking stand, having her secured, grain in place, the udder cleaned, massaging her udder so the milk “drops down,” and sterilized jars at the ready.  When both teats are emptied, cap the jar or cover the pail, so the goat doesn’t kick all your hard work on the ground (this was not included in the YouTube video, rather it came with experience), and use an iodine solution to clean the udder.  A good scratch and maybe a brushing is much appreciated by any goat following her gift.

There it is.  Tim is our chief milker around here.  But Mia and I enjoy the task as long as we can keep the other goats out of the feed box.  I’m still not sure how Tim manages to do it all by himself.  Brie is still giving us a bit of milk after all these years.  It’s time to breed Feta in order to keep our milk production going.  However, we need to mend a few fences before we add any more goats to the herd.  If you have a goat in need of milking, refer to YouTube and Wiki How To for detailed instruction.  The Internet is a wealth of information.  If you have no goat but desire the best milk, head to the farmers market.  65% of the world’s milk production is goat’s milk.  It is naturally homogenized, meaning the cream and milk stay mixed together making it easier to digest, less allergenic, and rarely causes lactose intolerance.  Not all milk is created equal.  There is a big difference.  Remember that when you are considering spending a bit more for fresh goat’s milk.  I know my girls are getting a fantastic diet, no hormones, and lots of aloha.  Milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, kefir . . . it is all good food for the family.  Now, the discussion on raw milk versus pasteurized will have to wait for another time.  We’ve got a goat to milk.


“Mom, why is there a goat in the pantry?”

March 19, 2012 § 3 Comments

I suppose the answer to the question posed in the title of this entry begins with a couple’s vacation to Hawaii that sparked a passion for a simpler and more agrarian way of life.

Fall 2009Tim and I came to the Big Island for our first visit in 2004 and we knew within ten minutes that we were going to make the leap.  And it was a leap.  Both of us had good jobs, a house with the “right” address, a couple of cars, kids in private school.  Tim was in sales – no surprise there.  I was teaching at the time.  When school was in session, I hardly saw my own children.  I kissed them in the morning before I left in the dark, and I made it home in time to kiss them goodnight – most nights I made it home in time.  I wanted to do so much in the classroom and with so many different lessons, there were hardly enough hours in the day to make it all happen.  I loved my students.  They made me think and excel.  The administration a little less.  So you had the perfect storm:  tropical island calls and a historian is told that there is “no place for politics or religion in the teaching of history.”  I was ready for the next adventure and we bought a ten acre coffee farm in Hawaii.  Did I mention that Tim and I knew nothing of farming coffee?  We loved gardening but it is very different growing a few things to add to the dinner table and farming in order to provide for your family’s income.  The first year found us like “deer in the headlights.”  We knew the avocados had to come off the tree but we didn’t know how exactly that happened.  The transition wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be.  It was difficult to leave family and friends so far behind.  It was difficult for me to leave my profession.  Reactions to our move ranged from encouragement for cutting loose and “living the dream” to anger and sadness because they realized the great distance meant that everything was going to be different.  We had no clue about what we were doing but we knew this family had found home.

Now, I haven’t forgotten about the goat.  The question about why there was a goat in the pantry is a reasonable one to be sure and deserves a response.  But as I was hearing my daughter’s words and thinking about an answer, everything about why we moved to Hawaii came to my mind at that point.  This was not a path I planned.  It just happened.  And there are times when I find myself wishing for a more conventional life.  Usually, when I have lost my patience with our unfinished coffee shack.  “Unfinished” is key to the answer to the goat.  You see, there was a time when we had built a pantry but had yet to finish the exterior doors.  And so Brie – a goat of some intelligence and definite perseverance – learned where the oatmeal lived.  And on occasion when she thought no one was looking, she would quietly cross the temporary boards – move the glass lid without breaking it – and help herself to breakfast.  “Mia, there is a goat in the pantry because this family has chosen an exercise in letting go of perceptions of what life is suppose to be.  We have decided to do what we love to do and let go of “shoulds” and “have-tos.”  It is an unconventional life by some standards but it is a beautiful expression of individuality.”  Did my husband and I lose our minds that day when we stepped off the plane in Hawaii?  Perhaps.  But I now have a door that keeps the goats out of the house most days and I am grateful for this luxury in my life.  Prior, I never even considered the benefits of a proper door.  Now, even though I often long for a well-organized and comfortable home, wonder sometimes just how many farmers’ markets I can do in a week, and feel a bit overwhelmed by the jungle’s testing of our weed whipping ability, I do love this exercise we are living – including the goat in the pantry – and I am grateful for this simple, agriarian life.

It’s all in the vinaigrette

March 12, 2012 § 1 Comment

Perfectly balanced, with a slight “bite” on the palate, a well-made vinaigrette elevates common greens from the ordinary to the elegant. With so few ingredients, each addition is crucial. Use the freshest oil and a good-quality vinegar. My favorite is a walnut oil and apple vinegar from Normandy, France. My Aunt Anny from Strasbourg always buys me a bottle or two when I come to visit. Her salads are to die for and she shared with me her recipe. Somehow, her salads still taste better seated at her table surrounded by my French family. But here in Hawaii I think of her often. Today I whisk together the last of my special oil and vinegar for one more salad. I’m not sure when I’ll be back in Anny and Gerrard’s garden but I hope it will be soon. No worry if you find yourself without the perfect oil from France, you can substitute your favorite oil – just be sure it is of very good quality. This is not the place for GMO canola oil or the cheapest olive oil you can find. You don’t use much so use the best. My Aunt would agree.

Summer 2011

2 Tablespoons of apple vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt
¼ teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
6 Tablespoons of walnut oil

1. Combine the vinegar, mustard, onion, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Allow the ingredients to macerate for 10 minutes.

2. While whisking, slowly add the walnut oil until the mixture is emulsified. Adjust seasoning.

3. To dress the salad, place dried greens in a wide bowl. Season with a pinch of coarse salt. Whisk vinaigrette; pour over greens, being careful not to overdress – more can always be added. Gently toss until leaves are coated. Serve immediately.

It takes an ‘Ohana

March 5, 2012 § 2 Comments

In Hawaiian culture, the word `ohana means family. Traditionally it meant blood-related but now the term has expanded to mean those individuals you “adopt” or intentionally include into your family. Living on a farm means that there is a great deal of work to do and as a result, we have found that we need more hands beyond our own. Currently, Reynaldo is visiting from Peru and he has been helping us on the farm since late November. Frankly, I’m not sure how we managed so long without him. He has pruned coffee – helped Tim with numerous farm chores – and his legacy will be his expanded gardens. As you know, we have goats. These four-legged members of the family have kept our gardens from growing beyond the too small fenced area. I’ve been able to grow food for the family but expanding our production in order to serve the community has been difficult due to lack of space. But Reynaldo was not deterred when he eyed three lava beds for a potential garden area; he jumped right in and built a fence from materials readily available on the farm – coffee limbs and lava rocks. With a few minor adaptations, the fence is holding and at market this past week, I was able to bring beautiful bundles of arugula, mustard, and salad greens. Kale, beets and carrots will be following shortly. Unfortunately, Reynaldo leaves us this month to head back to his home. He’ll be missed, not only for his service but also for his good company. He is now a part of our family. `Ohana emphasizes that individuals are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another. Every time I work in the new garden beds built by his hard work and determination, Reynaldo will be a part of the planting and harvest, March 2012for he is part of our `ohana.

I highly recommend the MESA – Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture – program that sponsors international farmers to come to the United States. The program facilitates a “share and learn” experience. And for us, it was a wonderful opportunity to connect with another culture and learn about other agricultural possibilities. We look forward to adding another member to our `ohana in the near future. To learn more, visit

A Good Egg

February 28, 2012 § 2 Comments

9/08 It’s time to end my sabbatical and get back to writing about life on our Hawaii farm.  The past month or so, I have been pondering the next topic.  I suppose I was waiting for THE IDEA.  One that was spectacular and earth shaking.  I didn’t have one of those.  What I did have was a bowl full of beautiful eggs from our chickens and I decided the simple egg was worthy of discussion.

For you city-folks, you might be surprised to learn that those beautiful, deep yolk, farm-fresh eggs do not magically appear.  You need more than just chickens.  You also need those sweet, fluffy puff balls to be at least 5 months old, in good health, enough quality food and water, a clean place to lay, and sufficient daylight.  An egg’s quality reflects the care and management the hen receives and getting good eggs requires some work – and not just on the part of the chicken.  But once you have the right “ingredients,” getting delicious eggs from  a small, healthy, laying flock can happen.  I’m actually surprised that more people don’t keep a hen or two.

Every time I gather an egg from my laundry basket (yes, my laundry basket… you see my chickens are a bit too free-range) I think about what this hen has created:  An incredible combination of water, protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals in such a neat – beautiful green – calcium-rich package.  This egg is perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  It can create savory meals or sweet treats.   And she doesn’t need a rooster to produce this egg – or any of the 4,000 or so eggs she has in her body.  No, all she really needs is to be happy and she will give the gift of “real food” every other day or so.

So the next time you find yourself at your local farmer’s market, wondering if the extra dollar or two is worth spending on that dozen of fresh, organic eggs, take it from this farmer, it is.  The eggs are fresher which gives them better texture.  They haven’t been washed in a chemical bath which gives supermarket eggs an unpleasant aftertaste (do a comparison and you’ll see what I mean).  They are lower in cholesterol.  And I always ask if the hens are truly free-range.  Do some research on the commercial egg business and you’ll decide if you want to endorse the chicken industry.  If the hens are given a varied and organic diet, the eggs will have a more complex and richer flavor.  Plus, less stress and a better environment means that happy hens do lay tastier eggs.

The message for today:  Know your food – talk with your farmer – buy locally – and yes, real food, including real eggs, costs money.  Is it worth it?  After finishing my fresh herb omelet this morning, I realized that the time and effort spent on our hens is worth every mouthful.

a little bit of earth

March 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s official.  The farm sign went up – albeit a little late.  I made my list of projects I hoped to accomplish this year – one per month – and this was January’s.  I moved February’s to August so now I’m back on track!

It was a group effort on this project.  My mother did the original artwork; Tim did the lettering and did not give up on getting the post set in the pahoehoe lava;  Joseph, a new member of our ohana, weed whipped the hill – no small feat.  Lastly, I created the planting bed and set four new squash plants in the ground.  As I worked, I chatted with neighbors who were walking up the hill and they were so happy to learn that it was not another for sale or bank sign going up.  “Nope,” I said.  “We’re here to stay.”

Then, I stood back and admired our handiwork and realized that this hand-painted, simple piece of wood seemed to say, “This is where you belong. This farm will be a slow and steady progression, fraught with challenges and frustrations, but there will be beautiful moments.  Celebrate the not-so-simple task of growing and raising your own food, return to a way of life that is both sustainable and joyful, and invest in your own wellness and beauty.”  Who knew a sign could say so much.

I am open to the possibilities.  I will work on cultivating my patience and remind myself that things take time.  I will enjoy the beauty of this “diamond-in-the-rough” and look forward to what we will accomplish in the upcoming year.  Along the way, I’ll share our little piece of earth – Luana Farm.  I think a few recipes and garden ideas might be fun.  I have lots of skin care recipes that you might enjoy trying.  Making cheese is easier than you think.  And maybe we’ll try our hand at goat’s milk soap.  But first, I’m going to tackle the art of upholstery – the world’s ugliest chair is my March project.  I might be brave enough to document and share the experience.

A hui hou!


The Possibilities of the New Year

January 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

I love the new year. It provides us with so many possibilities. It’s the same feeling I had as a child on the first day of school. The new notebooks in my backpack represented a “Mulligan” or a do-over – even better – a clean slate. No matter what I messed up on the year before or whatever I did not complete, somehow didn’t matter anymore. The sky was the limit and all I had to do was plan it and do it. January holds that same feeling for me. The fact that field “1 A” (I know – it needs a new name) is still swallowed up by the jungle despite good intentions in November to “set it free” doesn’t matter. This year, I’m on target to unearth it some time in March. In fact, rather than have one New Year resolution, I’ve made twelve – one for each month. I’ve taken all those almost-but-not-yet-completed projects and delegated one for each month this year. In fact, I still have two slots left open just in case something exciting comes along and I can fit it right into September and October. This month’s mission is a farm sign at the start of our driveway. It is well on its way. Found a discarded post and wood under the house; you know me. I drew out the design and my mom is painting the most beautiful coffee branch. Next week, Tim digs the hole – no small feat in Hawaii’s lava – and with a bit of sticktoitiveness and team effort – project one for 2011 will be complete. Hopefully, that feeling of satisfaction will fuel February’s task of setting up my Etsy store for my `ili oil. For now, I’ve got that boost of new year’s energy and I’m ready to take it on. We’ll see how it goes come July. But if all twelve projects don’t come to fruition, that’s ok.  I know some of them will.  And besides another new year with all its possibilities is right around the corner.

May 2011 hold all that you can imagine for you and your family.

A hui hou,