Meet Your Farmer – Castle Rock Farm

Our meet your farmer posts feature a small family farm that we feel exemplifies the type of food system we all need to support. They show passion and dedication to raising and growing food sustainably.

Andy & Sarah

Not all sustainable farmers sell food.

This month post is onĀ Castle Rock Farm in Vacaville, California owned by Sarah Hawkins and Andy Pestana. Castle Rock Farm is well known for their high quality Nigerian Dwarf Goats and it’s where our girl Sedona is from.

But Castle Rock Farm is so much more than just Nigerian Dwarf Goats.

The Birthing Clip

When we pulled up there was a family there and on the grass were two very happy kids, of the four legged persuasion, bouncing around like popcorn. They really don’t get any cuter than that and I was starting to miss having kids around here. The family scooped them up and got in their car and left. Over on the stanchion stood a very pregnant doe who was getting a birthing clip from Andy. The clip is to help streamline the doe and keep all the goop from getting stuck in her fur when she kids. It also allows you to monitor the changes in her body that occur right before kidding.

The Bee Garden

Our tour began with the bees which were nestled back amongst the oak trees. The bees provide not only honey for the farm but also beeswax and propolis for Sarah’s main business, English Hills Soap Company – soaps and skin care products that utilize the goat milk that her goats provide. She’s currently working on rebranding to English Hills Naturals to include some new products. I’m a HUGE fan of handmade skin care products. They don’t contain all the chemicals that the drugstore stuff has and they are generally much easier on your skin and hair.

Surrounding her hives she has a California native garden, which is another passion she has. It was so much fun talking plants with her. It’s not something I get to do very often with people outside of my field. Their mission for the property is to only grow natives or edibles. Both of which open up more income possibilities. Sarah is also starting a native plant nursery and even possibly selling herbs and tea in the future.

One of the many birdhouses

Walking around the property we got to see the buffer she is creating around the edge with native trees and shrubs. There’s the greenhouse that contains cans and cans of native plants inside and out and a small fruit orchard. While caring for and revitalizingĀ  the flora on their property, the are also providing homes for the local fauna as well, including multiple birdhouses.

Lazy Goats

Of course the goats have the biggest part at Castle Rock Farm. It was a beautiful warm afternoon between rainstorms when we were there and most of the goats were lazily laying in the shade for their siesta. The ones that weren’t sleeping were chasing each other and one doe was teasing the bucks on the other side of the fence. The blubbering was some of the best I’ve heard. There was even a “la la la la la” from one of the bucks (I think it was CRF Tanzanite).

A very pregnant Infinity

Seeing some of the pregnant does made me start to question Sedona’s status. She only had about 5 weeks left of her pregnancy and didn’t look pregnant at all while some of the does that weren’t that far were huge. After talking with Sarah and Andy separately about it, I felt reassured that she was pregnant (and now it’s quite clear). We talked a lot about goat health in general and I learned a lot from them.

It was fantastic spending most of the day out there. Before we knew it we realized we had to run. They were very gracious hosts and we thank them for being so generous with their time and knowledge. I meant to buy some of her products while we were there. I’ll just have to make sure I pick some up the next time we go over there.

If you’re interested in checking out what their skin care products, you can find them online or at the Davis Farmers Market. They may possibly also be at the Vacaville and Napa Farmers market in the future.

Saturday’s Farm Diary – Novella Carpenter & Urban Goat Raising

This past Sunday Tom and I joined a group of like-minded people at Biofuel Oasis in Berkeley for their Urban Goat Husbandry Class. The class was taught be the well known Novella Carpenter who wrote one of our favorite books, Farm City. If you haven’t read Farm City I highly recommend you read it. It’s not a how-to book but a charming story of how she created an urban oasis on someone else’s vacant lot – her own squat urban farm.

Novella demonstrating how to trim hooves.

The 3 hour class was incredibly informative and I HIGHLY recommend anyone contemplating goats to take it. I wish we had taken it before we got goats. I don’t regret the decision of getting pygmy goats (as opposed to a dairy breed) at all. I’m just not very happy about how we got them as it makes our ability to breed them very difficult at the moment. I’m hoping the situation corrects itself very soon so we can get going on the task at hand – to start breeding them. Either way, we need to get them to a vet and get them tested for CAE, CL and Johnnes. We don’t have their previous vet information right now, but they need to be tested once a year if we are to take them onto someone else’s property.

Tom’s turn to trim hooves

The best part of her class was the hands on hoof trimming. We had NO idea how to do it (fortunately Bella and Daisy’s hooves are pretty good) and pictures online and in books just aren’t the same as real experience.

Novella’s quickly put together stanchion

Novella also showed us how to quickly put together a stanchion. Of course Tom will use his handy woodworking skills to make something a bit sturdier, but I was amazed at how simple it seemed to go together just from scrap wood she found around the station.
She also quickly went over how to make yogurt and also how to make cheese. We got to sample some of her cheeses which were fabulous! I am really looking forward to learning more things about goats.
She also teaches a Complete Rabbit Class that we really want to try. Her next class probably won’t be until September so we’ll just have to be patient. Urban homesteading can’t happen overnight even if we really want it too.