Farmstay U.S. Blog

Created for and by travelers and the farmers, these posts will cover a variety of topics related to farm stays in the U.S.

Archive for tag: California

Mariposa Creamery goats on stumps

Mariposa Creamery is a small micro-dairy offering a farm stay in the middle of the historic Zane Grey Estate in Altadena, California. Who would have thought you could take a real farm vacation in the Los Angeles suburbs?

Besides being able to stay overnight on the farm, guests can opt in for cheese-making classes and a chance to taste a variety of the cultured milk products produced by the resident Nubian goats. Goats are milked twice a day and guests are allowed to try their hand. It's harder than it looks, but the goats are patient teachers.

 

Mariposa Creamery breakfastGreat for couples or young families with at most two small kids (due to the size of the Airtream trailer that resides in the middle of the garden), Mariposa Creamery has been selected by Airbnb as one of the Top 40 on its Wishlist. Could it be they were chosen because their promotional photo shows baby goats in front of the Airstream? Or could it be just the most interesting, fun, natural, foodie stay in LA - and for only $169 per night?!

We sat down with Gloria Putnam, goat herder/cheesemaker/farmer to find out more about her farm oasis and what it's like to be an urban farmer.

What is the landscape and setting like around your farm, especially since you are so close in to LA?

We are in a suburban neighborhood. About 15 minutes from downtown LA. And only 5 minutes from the hiking trails of the Angeles National Forest.

What is the Zane Grey Estate known for and how does the farm fit into it?

Mariposa Creamery Zane Grey EstateThe Estate is on the National Register of Historic Places, both because the western author Zane Grey lived (and died) here, and also because it was built by architect Myron Hunt, who is most famous for building the Rose Bowl in Pasadena but also for building many other commercial and residential structures in the area and was an early pioneer in poured-in-place concrete construction.

The property has no history of farming before our project. But it's an ideal location for a suburban farm because the lot size is large compared to most properties, and Altadena has zoning laws that allow livestock. Altadena is kind of an urban farming hot spot in Los Angeles.

What do guests typically do when they visit your farm?

Mariposa Creamery milkingThe most popular activity is the morning goat milking. Guests can watch or get a private goat milking lesson. Many students plan their visit around a food crafting class offered on the Estate by the Institute of Domestic Technology. Others arrange for private cheese making instruction.

Off farm, guests enjoy visiting the nearby Huntington Gardens and hiking in the mountains. We have a collection of ruminant-related DVDs in the Airstream that are also very popular!

Could you describe your accommodations in a bit more detail, e.g. is the trailer best accommodating 2 adults or can a family with kids squeeze in?

Mariposa Creamery AirstreamOur Bambi is the smallest trailer made by Airstream--only 16ft. Think Tiny House size. The main bed is a little bit more narrow than a full, so fine for a couple that doesn't mind a night of snuggling. The dinette also folds down into a smaller bed. We've had up to families of 4 work it out, but that's a little bit tight. Families of 3 and couples are the most common guests.

How/when did you get into farming and what’s your background?

We've been farming here for about 7 years. Our dairy goats are the main focus, but we also keep chickens and quail, and have a reasonably sized vegetable garden and herb garden. We were motivated initially by just wanting good food. But now I think we are mainly motivated by our love of our animals, and an appreciation for the magic of what they do: make milk out of grass!

What drew you to goats, cheese, and small-scale farming (be it a certain breed, a certain type of growing method, etc.)?

Mariposa Creamery charcuterie (goat sausage)I love milk. And goats seemed an obvious choice since our space is relatively small compared to most farms. Our goats are Nubians, so they make especially rich milk, which is great for drinking but also high-yielding for cheese.

The most fun part of small-scale farming for me is learning something new, since I didn't grow up on a farm. I love learning about the goats, how to best keep them happy and healthy, and how to make the best use of their generous offerings. I'm a scientist by training, so cheese making is a natural hobby for me.

Anything else you think travelers might want to know?

Mariposa Creamery cheese making classOur farm's focus is education. We don't sell our milk or cheese although farmstay guests get to enjoy both while they are here. We teach cheese making classes and operate a dairy internship program for locals. There aren't many farms or ranches near Los Angeles, so it's a great place to invite people to come and see what what small scale farming is like. Everyone who visits is surprised by how friendly the goats are. The most common comment I get is "They are just like dogs!" Except dogs don't give you their milk!

 

 

So ended our conversation with Mariposa Creamery, obviously great lovers of goats, hanky-panky aside. Did we forget to say that their Mariposa Creamery Facebook page is full of the daily antics of their four-legged friends, including sneaking in through windows into the kitchen and getting stuck in all manner of things?! A visit to this farm is sure to bring some peace into the middle of an LA stay, but also a few tales to tell!

Farm Stay Story - Mariposa Creamery

Our first entry in the Farm Stay Stories contest is brought to us by Helene Garcia of French Foodie Baby. This story about her family's visit to Mariposa Creamery in Altadena, California first appeared on her blog on June 19, 2013.


 

At the goat farm...

 

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The other night, at dinner time with Grandpa and Grandma, Pablo was served some pork chop with mushrooms. He happily grabbed his fork in one hand, and with the other hand, picked a mushroom from his plate. He examined it, and turned to me: “La mer?” Loosely translated as: “Does this thing I’m about to put in my mouth come from the sea?” We then had a conversation about the forest, the place where you can find bunnies, deer, trees, creeks. And mushrooms.

I felt very happy about this exchange, because I realized that Pablo is interested in where his food comes from. He knows it’s not just magically there. Not only does he know a process of shopping, and cooking went into it (which he participates in more and more), but he also knows the food grew, or lived, somewhere. And I have, without giving it much thought, just as part of our conversations at the dinner table during our family meals, pointed out to him where the things he eats do come from. Shrimp, fish, oysters from the sea. Herbs from the garden. Apricots and peaches from our market friend Sam’s trees. Cherries we picked ourselves. Eggs laid by chickens. I am very matter-of-fact about naming the meat we eat as well, whether it’s duck, chicken, lamb, etc.

Way before our children ask us where babies come from, they should ask us where their food comes from. Or at least, let’s hope they do. And let us have a good answer for them (one that does not include an unpronounceable ingredient, as Michael Pollan advises). If we want our children to eat and enjoy real, nutritious, clean foods and give them a lifelong love for them, we must 1/ have, 2/ nurture, an interest in those foods, a curiosity of the what (it is, it tastes like, smells like, feels like, looks like), the how (it was grown, made, prepared, cooked), and the where (it comes from.)

This pursuit of connection with our food, this love and interest for the sources of our food, has been so fulfilling, nourishing, as it were. And it led us a few weeks ago, to Mariposa Creamery Farm Stay, in Altadena, California.

Gloria and Steve, who both have day jobs while running this goat and farming community, welcomed us in their haven for a couple of wonderful days. By wonderful, I mean the type of vacation that makes you wonder whether that should be your full time life. Because then, every morning would be a little bit like this...


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We wake up early and step outside within a few minutes of waking. We hear the birds, and the goats in the distance. Haphazardly dressed, Pablo refuses to put shoes on and wants to go explore the vegetable garden. It exudes free growth. It’s not a perfectly trimmed garden with ranks and beds. It’s a freestyle vegetable jungle. Pablo explores, passed the tall fennel, chards, amaranth, squash flowers, around the artichokes and the shiso.


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I try to follow but his small size gives him the advantage, to explore and find treasures. And a treasure he does find. “Tomate”. There, hidden in the depths of this jungle he’s so simply made his own, hangs a small, perfectly vermilion tomato. He extends his little hand and gently picks it. We both take a bite.

Oh, that bite.

He continues on, feeling the earth on his feet. Steve greets us as he picks some chards for our breakfast. The goats bleat over there, on the other side of the big house where many people of all trades seem to evolve productively.  We walk over there. Pablo stops by the berry bush to pick a blackberry, and we meet the carpenter, whose shop is next to the creamery. He shows us how he spreads the seeds of the wild flowers around every so often. So they keep growing wild throughout the property, and they do. Bright orange and yellow blotches everywhere, which a certain goat might be allowed to exit the enclosure to enjoy, every once in a while...


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We wonder into the chicken enclosure, and find Gloria grabbing some fresh eggs for breakfast. Pablo is eager to hold one. Pablo is eager to hold two. One gets broken, so he holds on to the other one carefully. Lesson learned.

Now for another lesson, a goat milking lesson. The suggestion that I may milk the goat straight into my coffee enchants me. I follow suit.

Pablo is familiar with the milking movement, as it is also the sign for milk in sign language, which we used when he was an infant. This was always his favorite sign ;-) But he is a little intimidated by Brin, the goat we are getting our milking lesson with.


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He decides it is wiser to feed her treats while we learn. He watches baby goat Spike get some milk from Brin.

The fresh milk tastes exactly that. Fresh. It is not gamy as I expected, though I like gamy. It tastes very mild and delicious. Oh the wonderful things that can be made with that milk. And Gloria and Steve do make so many of those wonderful things here. They teach a cheese making course I am hoping to take some day. And yogurt.

We hang with the goats for a while, the 5 months old one are just about Pablo’s height. They are terribly photogenic. Dare I say hams even?

Petting, nudging, observing, climbing, jumping ensues. Kids.

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We get this sense of family. The goats, Biscuit, Apple, Ice Cream, Rhubarb among others, are raised with love and warmth. It radiates.


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It’s breakfast time. What a feast Gloria has made for us. One of our most memorable breakfasts ever. Fresh squeezed orange juice from that tree, right behind us. Homemade bread, with fresh chèvre. Homemade jam, homemade ketchup. Roasted potatoes, fresh herbs. Artisan sausage from a friend of theirs. Pablo discovers a love for sausage. And eggs of course. Sauteed chards with homemade goat feta. Goat milk yogurt. Brand new apricots deposited by a neighbor in the mailbox last night, packed in an egg crate. Juicy as can be.


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This is how people lived hundreds of years ago. This is how some people live today, right here in a suburb ofLos Angeles. And how wonderful, brave and beautiful.

After breakfast, Pablo wanders on the path in the back of the house, among the wild poppies, fruit trees and artichoke plants, holding a piece of cheese in his hand, mumbling to himself “squeeze, squeeze”, the goat milk the cheese came from.

I love that he can experience this freedom here. This rich environment.

Certainly our morning is a very romanticized version of farm life, which is tremendous hard work and commitment. But what a worthwhile venture.


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It sometimes feels like the kind of life that I want, for myself, for Pablo. At the same time, I have no idea how we could get there, or how it would fit with the other stuff our life is currently made of. Sometimes we must make choices. As long as we don’t live by default. Food for thought, for now.


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Words and photographs copyright Helene Garcia / French Foodie Baby 2013.

Please join us in welcoming a new member to Farm Stay U.S... Lucky Goat Family Farm, located in beautiful Big Sur, California!

Lucky Goat 1

 

Lucky Goat Family Farm is equally inviting for families with children as it is for romantic couples, singles, or groups of friends. Each day begins with milking the goats, making cheese, checking the troughs, and watering the gardens. Guests are welcome to join in, or just relax on the spacious decks overlooking the ocean.

The farm hosts have been making goat cheese for 26 years and they offer a special goat cheese making workshop (by reservation, with a separate fee from the stay).

Lucky Goat 2

 

The cottage has room for up to five guests to stay and experience this haven for wildlife and livestock, including goats, sheep, horses, cattle, sheep dogs, deer, bobcats, fox, and condors.

The farm is located close to Pheiffer Beach and the Cultural Center of Big Sur, Loma Vista, where visitors can find great music and wonderful shops of local crafts.

Want to see more? Visit the Lucky Goat Family Farm listing on Farm Stay U.S.

Serina Harvey and her two sisters founded Flip Flop Ranch in 2003. The ranch, located in the desert of Southern California near Big Bear Lake, combines a farm stay with heritage livestock and farming therapy for women who have been victims of domestic violence. The ranch's mission is "To build healthy relationships between people and the world around them." We are excited to share our interview with Serina, and give you the inside scoop on this fascinating place.

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1. Neighboring farmers laughingly dubbed your place "Flip Flop Ranch" when they noticed you and your two sisters -- city slickers turned farm girls -- doing ranch chores in fiip flops! Have you found any chores that you can't do in flip flops?

 

There are few chores we haven't learned to do in Flip Flops, but there are some.  It's difficult to shovel in flip flops, for example, although not impossible.  Milking the goats is definitely a challenge, mainly because they have a tendency to step on your toes and boy does that hurt.  We have horses and cows and we don't do any serious work with them in our flip flops.  That is one thing that we will actually change out of our flip flops for because if a cow or horse steps on your toes, you are in for some serious damage.  I'm racking my brain to try and figure out what I won't do in my flip flops and I can't really think of anything else.  I don't like wearing flip flops when it's really muddy outside, but fortunately that doesn't happen very often in the desert.  Also, sometimes when I'm planting in the garden I will sit back on my feet and the ground can be very hot in the summer (again, it's the desert) and my poor toes get burned.  Most of the time I just put a towel on the ground first, but sometimes I change out of my flip flops.  Any activity that has a big likelihood of resulting in permanent toe damage, I will change out of my flip flops for.

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2. Tell us about your heritage livestock! What kind of, and how many animals, do you have?

Just about all of our animals are heritage livestock.  We have 30 Cotton Patch geese, 100 Dorking chickens, a handful of Nigerian Dwarf goats (and we want lots more), some Australorps, Bourbon Red turkeys and Guinea hogs.  We have somewhere around 300 animals and we sell hundreds every year.  The cotton patch geese and dorkings are our biggest sellers and they make enough to pay for themselves, plus a pretty decent profit.  We raise the bourbon red turkeys for thanksgiving and hope to sell Guinea Hog meat soon.

3. You also have an orchard and organic gardens. What do you do with all the food you raise?

We use most of the food we raise in order to feed our guests and then we sell most of the rest of the food to them when they leave!  It's like built in customers.  Direct marketing is really the best way to make a profit for a small farm. You cut out the middle man, farmer's market costs, transportation, etc.  We make jams from our fruit, zucchini bread, garlic pumpkin seeds and many more value-added products.  Our guests become hooked on the great food we serve and want to buy some to take home with them.

flipflopranch-peaches4. Tell us about your ranch's setting. What's the landscape like, and the climate?

The ranch is located in the High Desert of Southern California.  The landscape is very much like a western movie setting and the area is actually very popular for filming movies.  Roy Rogers and Dale Evans used to live out here and John Wayne and many other cowboy celebrities would vacation here.

The desert is shrubs, cactus, Joshua trees and gorgeous sunsets.  It certainly can get hot here, but the desert nights make it totally worth it.  In the summer, the nights are perfect with a billion stars in the sky.  Winters can also be chilly, but most of the time, summer or winter, it's between 70-90 degrees with very little humidity.

5. What kinds of things do guests typically do when they visit?

Guests are welcome to do whatever they want when they're here, but most guests help feed the animals during the morning and afternoon feedings as well as help to milk the goats.  The little ones (well, the big ones too) help collect the eggs.  The more industrious guests help harvest food from the garden or orchard and maybe join us in the garden to plant or weed.  The very industrious guests grab shovels and join in with the hard work.  During the downtime, guests can swim in the pool or play billiards, air hockey, darts or fooseball in the game room.

6. What are your accommodations like?

We offer four rooms in our 3,000 sq ft house.  All of the rooms are a good size with some of them just downright huge. Our biggest room has 2 queen beds and a twin with room for some blow up mattresses (available from us) for a large group to sleep on.  The rooms are pretty simple, but comfortable and clean farm house rooms.  We are starting to work on some farm murals and cheerful paint on the walls and are constantly trying to make the accommodations nicer and more comfortable because we want our visitors to be happy.

7. Your ranch is also part of a domestic violence nonprofit program for women who are victims of violence. How does the program work, and how does it fit in with your farm stay?

I am a farmer, but I actually have my doctorate in marital and family therapy.  In all my copious spare time, I offer farming therapy for military personnel with PTSD and for women victims of domestic violence/abuse.  Nature works amazingly well to heal people and research has shown that farm work, even without any therapy, can create significant improvements in people's mental health.  I simply take it a step further and combine farming with actual therapy.  Trauma seems to melt away while you're milking a goat, bitterness disappears with every pumpkin that grows, and self-esteem builds with each jar of jam that is made.  Our farming therapy program is something that I and my family really want to expand.  It brings meaning to our lives, as well as our clients', and a service-oriented purpose to our farm.

8. What meals do you serve, and what's on the menu?

We serve all sorts of things at the ranch.  We eat with our guests so we have to cook for ourselves as well as them.  Sometimes we get bored with the same thing so we have the attitude that our guests are joining US for dinner, rather than us joining THEM.  Tonight we had smoked brisket, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, salad and watermelon.  However, we've also had taco bars, spaghetti and sloppy joes.  I make the most amazing enchiladas.  For breakfast, we usually have some variant of pancakes, bacon and farm fresh eggs.  My pancakes are becoming (slightly) famous because I sometimes make them in crazy designs like cows, chickens, goats or even a six-shooter.
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Fore more information on Flip Flop Ranch, visit their Farm Stay U.S. Page and http://www.flipflopranch.com.

A couple of weeks ago, we welcomed four new members to site who joined us in March. Today we bring you Part II of that post, with three additional farm and ranch members to introduce!

Ovenell's Heritage Inn at Double O Ranch, Concrete, Washington

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This 580 acre working cattle ranch is nestled in the rugged foothills of the North Cascades, along the Skagit River. Enjoy abundant wildlife, and seasonal ranch activities like the round-up in September, or the birthing of calves starting in February.

Ovenell's Heritage Inn can accommodate up to 43 guests -- anywhere from 4 in a cabin or 6-8 in a guest house. Meals are self-prepared, breakfast may be included. Children under 12 are welcome, as are pets, weddings, private parties, and other special events.

 

 

Flip Flop Ranch, Lucerne Valley, California

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Described as "the middle of nowhere" by the farmers (yet close enough to all the big sights), Flip Flop ranch is situated on 40 acres in the high desert of Southern California. They specialize in raising endangered heritage livestock, like Cotton Patch Geese (pictured), rare breeds of chickens, and more.

The farm can accommodate up to 24 guests with a variety of rooming options. Meals are are self-prepared in the full kitchen, or shared family style. Children under 12 are welcome, as well as wedding parties, reunions, and other special events.

 

Happy Hills Alpaca Farm, Monroe, North Carolina

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Located less than 30 miles from Charlotte, North Carolina, the denizens of Happy Hills Alpaca farm invite you to relax among the shade trees and watch the alpacas graze. Guests can simply enjoy their surroundings, learn to spin alpaca fiber into yarn, or get down and dirty with alpaca training.

The farm can accommodate up to 4 guests at a time with a guest bedroom and an RV. Meals are included with family style dining, cookouts, and refreshments. The farm allows one well-behaved child under 12, as well as weddings, parties, and other special events.