The Bleat Beat – Life on the Farm
Welcome to the Bleat Beat Blog! Here you’ll find a window into the daily life at Redwood Hill Farm.
Get to know the smart, affectionate animals that give us this wonderful milk we use to create healthful, nutritious products. Redwood Hill Farm is more than just a purveyor of goat milk products, and we’ll share all aspects of life on a family farm, including our organic fruit orchard and vegetables gardens, our commitment to sustainability and being good stewards to the land.
Part 1: Growing Our Own Drought Resilient Goat Feed – Tagasaste
Conserving precious water is on our minds as we are facing another year of severe drought in California. We’re resilient folks, and are constantly looking at ways in which we can do our part at the Farm as well as at the creamery. Redwood Hill Farm Manager Scott Bice’s most recent water-saving project on the farm is one we’re very excited about. We are now growing some of our goat’s feed, a drought-tolerant, leafy shrub called Tagasaste, right on the farm – and the goats love to eat it.
Chamaecytisus palmensis, “Tagasaste”, is a small-spreading evergreen tree that can grow 9-12 feet high. A native plant of the Canary Islands, Tagasaste is grown and used widely for animal feed in New Zealand as well as in Australia and other parts of the world. (Cytisus proliferus is another varietal, and it is also commonly known as Tree Lucerne)
Tagasaste is also a well known “fertilizer tree”. Fertilizer trees are used in agroforestry and permaculture designs to improve the condition of soils on farmland. As a member of the legume family, it is a nitrogen fixer: it captures nitrogen from the air and puts it in the soil through the roots and falling leaves. The trees can also bring nutrients from deeper in the soil up to the surface for other crops with roots that can’t reach that depth. (Source: New Zealand Tree Crops Association · NZTCA )
At Redwood Hill Farm, we’ve started with half an acre trial in an open area of our apple orchard. The trees love the loamy soil, have proved to use little water once established, and are adapting well.
Besides a green feed crop for animals, Tagasaste provides shade and shelter, controls erosion, and serves as habitat for birds, some of which eat and control pests.
There are multiple reasons we decided to plant Tagasaste trees on our farm:
- They are perennial shrubs that need very little water and that, once sheared, re-grow and produce more forage on less acreage than traditional goat feed like alfalfa and grass hay. In our northern California climate, growth slows during the shorter and colder days. It is evergreen, but we harvest just 7-8 months of the year.
- High in protein, Tagasaste is nutrient-dense—an important factor for our goat’s diet.
- With Tagasaste we can eliminate a portion of the alfalfa and other hays that are otherwise trucked in for the goats. Because of the drought, feed prices are ever rising – this doesn’t only reduce our carbon footprint, but is a good business decision as well.
- Tagasaste blooms are high in pollen and nectar for our bees at a time when other sources are scarce; flowering occurs from Winter to very early Spring.
And the final reason we’re excited about Tagasaste? Our goats love it!
How much do you know about goat kids? At Redwood Hill Farm we’ve been raising dairy goat kids since the mid 1960’s, and over the years have learned much about these intelligent, cute and cuddly young animals. Here’s our ‘top ten’ of fun facts about goat kids.
Humans and goats have enjoyed a close relationship for thousands of years. Nicole Bice, pictured left, and her brother Colton, below, are the next generation of human kids growing up with goat kids on our Certified Humane® farm—kids playing with kids, living and learning together on the farm.
by David Bice
Redwood Hill Farm has been a family farm for over 45 years. It began in 1968 when our parents, Cynthia and Kenneth Bice (with then seven kids), moved from Los Angeles to Sonoma County and bought their very first goat named “Flopsy”. As a family and later under the leadership of oldest sister, Jennifer Bice, we have been making our cultured yogurt, kefir and artisan cheese for our goat milk loving customers since the early 1970’s. We invite you on a journey to follow our fresh goat milk as it travels from our Certified Humane® goat farm in Sebastopol, CA, to your neighborhood store.
“Goat people” love to collect all kinds of goaty items. Enjoy this collection of some of Jennifer’s favorite art pieces collected over her 45+ years of owning and loving dairy goats.
We’ve set our annual Farm Tour dates and hope to see you
Mark your calendars and please join us this year as we celebrate life on our goat farm. Our dates have been set, and we hope you will be able to join us in beautiful west Sonoma County, a truly magical place in springtime.
The winter “eating” holidays are all about sharing with family and friends. Entertaining, a house full of party guests or perhaps simply a few intimate friends. Perhaps enjoying a few extra days at home with family and friends, or garnering “oohs and aahs” when you bring a platter of your favorites to a holiday potluck.
Whether you’re serving cheese as an appetizer or as part of your dessert course, have fun by using Redwood Hill Farm’s unique, delicious artisan cheeses and along with a few simple suggestions we’ve discovered over our more than 25+ years of crafting goat milk cheeses in the farmstead tradition.
2014 Spring Farm Tour: lots of happy memories…
The first weekend of our annual Farm Tours are behind me with a head full of happy moments shared with family, employees and a farm full of new friends. We’re all on our second cups of coffee this morning as we laugh and share stories of a great weekend!
Redwood Hill Farm customers from near and far drove up beautiful Thomas Road in Sebastopol to arrive at the farm, park in the olive and apple orchard and walk Apple Blossom Lane to enjoy a taste of farm living.
As part of a fundraising event recently for The Ceres Project, we hosted a “Mystery Tour” of 25 people who crawled the back roads of Sonoma County to learn, taste, and enjoy some baby goat love at Redwood Hill Farm! Thanks to Lorelei for the lovely blog post and pictures from a simply wonderful afternoon for all.
We are honored to donate probiotic kefir and yogurt to the meals program each week applaud founder Cathryn Couch, founder, for caring so deeply about local community.
Note: this blog post ran for the first time last fall. The farm was so beautiful, and this pumpkin pie recipe is so special, I’m sharing again for this Thanksgiving. Enjoy, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving feast with you and yours.
Thanksgiving is upon us…
and right on cue are blustery days, intense fall colors, and a sprinkling of rain showers to green up the fields on the farm. Recently on an extraordinarily fine day, I spent the afternoon with Jennifer and we made pie. Jennifer and I share a passion for cooking, along with Scott, David, Shelley and a few other siblings! As a large family growing up together on Redwood Hill Farm, cooking with fresh goat milk and seasonal produce from the garden each year became a natural part of our life. Now, some 45 years later, we all have favorite recipes when it comes to gathering for holiday meals and this pie is very special.
How we control the flies on our organic farm including complete plans for “Mother Nature’s Fly Trap”
We are totally committed to protecting our environment and the health/safety of our employees and goats. Therefore, we have a policy of zero tolerance for synthetic chemical pesticides. Cleanliness and sanitation are the first line of defense against such pests as common flies. Their larvae need a moist, nitrogen rich area in which to incubate and hatch. In so far as possible, such habitats are minimized in our management. However, certain areas are always problematic on a working farm, such as around and underneath platforms supporting water tanks. Insect predators are routinely distributed to such areas to feed on the fly larvae.