Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Goat Farm on the Steep Sides of Pepacton Reservoir Reminds Wilbo Of Many Women of His Acquaintance.

I set off West along the Pepacton Reservoir, a long narrow body of water named for a village submerged below the waters, one of several. Each lost village has a sign that flashes upon a driver's eye as she drives by at maximum State of New York speed, fifty-five miles hour. With the Ashokan reservoir, the doomed village were relocated to the new waterline, buildings moved whole or board by board. On repeat on my mental jukebox, I have had "I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow" from "Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou" the entire journey along the reservoir, also called Perch Lake.

The sides of the valley rise steeply from the shoreline, perhaps the reason so few if any villages were rebuilt. I was driving over the speed limit west of the north shore road and a sign flashed upon my consciousness. "Dirty Girl Farm". I found a safe point and turned around, then climbed at least a mile up a steep grade.

I had to stop. Just more than a decade ago, I had bought a bar of Dirty Girl Soap at a boutique in Royal Oak, Michigan. Wrote a note, "Clean up your act", mailed note and soap to a woman I liked. Imagined writing her again if I had found the Dirty Girl Soap Factory. I was only mildly disappointed when Belle, a self-described stepdaughter, explained that Dirty Girl Farm Soap with Goat's Milk had to wait until next season. As for the woman who acknowledged her delivery of soap gleefully, she's still a dirty girl in a wonderful way, tilling in her grapevines that bear grapes treasured by Mario Batalli, taste them in the whites wines from Bonobo Winery, Traverse City.

A farm shed housed a refrigerator full of eggs, goat cheese and goat milk, even buttermilk goat milk. Buttermilk. Not just goat's milk. Goat's buttermilk. My father's mother Corrine Aino made her own yogurt in her oven and gave us buttermilk to drink. I was given pause. "I am visiting a farm and suddenly I am reminiscing about every woman I have ever known"?

My daughter and I made our peace with goats at a farm stand in Wisconsin somewhere between Sun Prairie and Madison. We had visited the farm houses where Georgia O'Keefe lived from birth until fourteen, when she ran away to Chicago. Late Summer of 2010 and I remember. My daughter had just turned fourteen. She ran away at eighteen to join a wild band of piccolos called the Marching Wolverines, ignoring O'Keefe's advice about leaving home until graduating high school. We bought apples at a barn, bushels for nothing sold honor system. We fed them to the happy goats of Wisconsin with our bare hands.

Back in 1999, when she was six, she had been feeding goats in an enclosure at Hesse Hathaway Park, up in highlands above Waterford. Feed a goat grass and goat nibbles keep going where grass becomes fingers. After a trip to the emergency room, where a kind, young doctor examined her fingers for a long time, without alarm, I learned that goats have half a set of choppers. My daughter's mother's mother told me this. So how goat's tear apart tin cans with their teeth is still a mystery to me today.

A woman I know has a fascination with all the kinds of textiles made from goat hair. She bartended at a pub I liked, and we brainstormed all the ways to easily launch a goat farm. In one scenario, we planned to lease goats out to landowners hoping to clear brush land in a sustainable way, gnawed to garden and spade ready by goat teeth. The business model collapsed because butchering the cute four legged brush brunchers she made verboten. And she has a friend, a chef famous for his goats rogan dish! Alas, goats are friends, not food. I bought a quart of goat's buttermilk a drank it along Beaverkill Creek on the way to Roscoe.

In the shed where the milk and eggs await customers, pictures of a six year girl show her milking and grooming goats. The farm rose up around this very neatly dressed, "Dirty Girl".

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