Our next farm was in Houston, MN at Kara Kahl Farms run by Doug & Mary Thompson. Doug and Mary were the people who you read about in books – specifically ones documenting the history of the people, their connection to the land and animals and their community. The ones who lived life truthfully and simply.. knowing themselves and doing what they needed to do to get by. They were both very kind hearted and open people who were filled with ideas and passions and we knew that we would learn a whole lot more than just about goats on this path. We were very happy and appreciative to spend a few days with this couple.
The first day Doug greeted us and showed us where we’d be staying. We were introduced to their very friendly King Charles Spaniels – Zoia & Sophie as well as their parrot and their other two very energetic dogs – a corgi named iolo & mini collie named pico. After a big salad for lunch Doug took us over to Kara Kahl Farms – right down the road from their home. He introduced us to their 27 French Alpine & Swiss Toggenburg goats and their many kids who were just being introduced to this world. We jumped right into goat farming – cleaning kid pens, and dispersing hay. Next, we tackled a fencing project to extend the goats grazing area into the nearby field. The sun was oppressive and made you realize just how grueling farm life could be. Moving too quickly would leave you exhausted so you gain some insight into the slowed down pace of rural life as well as a heightened respect for men and woman who spend a lifetime doing this. After an afternoon on the farm we went back to the house for dinner and met Mary, a delightful woman and an engaging conversationalist. Throughout the day we learned a bit about Mary through Doug who spoke of her fascination with Russia and traveling in general – as evidence by her collection of beautiful handmade Russian collectibles and art hanging on the walls. Dinner was full of thoughtful conversation and we were engaged by their stories and finding out a bit history of about Minnesota. In that moment I felt appreciative and connected – again proving that the people make the place.
The next day we got an early start to beat the heat and spent the morning gardening. Rory turned up parsnips while I planted a few rows of sweet potatoes and weeded their baby chives and collards. We were greeted by Joe the cat – a friendly fellow that rolled down the hills while we worked into the late morning. We took a break for lunch. On the way to the house we stopped at Marge & Earl Kitchen’s house – their neighbors, friends and fellow goat farmers. They were certainly a lively bunch with a lot of personality and stories to share. They were featured in a book called The Year of the Goat. The story follows two people who dreamed of leaving the workday world for a life of simplicity and freedom. Having lived in the city for many years they wanted to get back to the land and decided to take a year away from the city and their jobs and explore the world of goat farming. Which was quite fitting due to our ideas and reasons for heading out on our own journey. It’s really great hearing about the ideas people have and the energy they put out their by making dreams a reality. It’s encouraging and makes me realize that we made the right decision taking this journey…
After lunch we decided to head down to the Root River Bike Trail that extends deep into Minnesota. When we returned we accompanied Doug to help with the daily chores of – feeding the kids & the bucks and milking the does. At the busiest part of the season Doug could spend 3 or more hours doing these chores twice a day. He has developed systems for feeding the kids and milking the does. Each kid gets it’s own individual bowl of milk and must be watched so they get an equal amount of nourishment. The does are milked 4 to 5 at a time where they are fed their grain base while they are milked. Doug showed us how to milk a goat by hand and by machine. Milking a goat definitely is not as easy as it looks. I got nervous in my first attempt and let Rory lead the way. Doug made it look so easy – he was so connected to these animals. You could tell just by the way the goats acted when he walked into the barn – so much appreciation and respect for him – they all called out when he’d walk through as if communicating with him in a different way. They depended on him for everything and he in turn gave them everything that they could need. Most all of the goats were raised by hand and you could tell that they were loved by the way they treated you. As guests of Doug’s we were treated with care and curiosity (they seemed to have a thing for Rory’s clothes – always nibbling) and felt a bond with these highly intelligent animals. Which brings me back to milking – after a time I finally found a rhythm and felt more comfortable and connected with the goats. They had patience with me which in turn put my nerves to rest and allowed me to just be. It was really interesting being an outside force – trying to be in tune with such animals..
We said our goodbyes to the goats and headed back to the house for another fine vegetarian meal made by Mary. In the morning we enjoyed her company before she headed off to work. Doug made it back from chores with some time to spare to give us our Certificate of Expertise in Goat Farming at Kara Kahl Farms. It made us smile. Saying goodbye to Doug and Mary made me realize just how much you take with you after you’ve met people like them. I’m noticing in each place we visit that I am still me but I am changing. Picking up new ideas and understanding… feeling enlightened and empowered… feeling touched and appreciative of life and the people who truly l i v e everyday.