Tag Archives: Natural Bridge

What I really learned on my summer vacation: goat-milking and cheese-making

Okay, I’ll admit the first 2/3 of my vacation wasn’t intended to be educational although I did learn a few things while relaxing on Tybee. Helpful things…or at least helpful for the next time I’m near a beach. I now know that that the sting of a jellyfish does not always cause an adverse reaction on humans, and, by watching a few very young experts, I learned how to pick them up and fling them to the beach. I also relearned how to ride an upright bike. This was not an easy task for one accustomed to a recumbent bike, and there were a few moments in which I hoped no one was watching.

Leaving the ocean behind was, as usual, difficult. Fortunately, we had another few days before returning to reality. Our destination? Elk Creek Farm in Natural Bridge, VA, where my brother, James, his wife, Karen, and their college student son, Adam, live with a bunch of goats, a bunch of chickens, two donkeys, two boxers, one African Grey parrot, not to mention fish in the river that their property borders. There’s a huge garden which, at the time of our visit, was producing carrots, lettuce, beets, peas, onions, garlic, spinach, and a variety of herbs. There were fresh raspberries, strawberries, and if James had run up into the mountains, probably some other berries.

In previous visits, I’d learned to kayak through the rapids (sort of), so this time I had set two new goals before arriving: to learn to milk a goat and to learn to make cheese. With Karen’s direction, I managed to do both. I have proof, thanks to my husband, the chief videographer.

Milking a goat

Turning milk into cheese

Stretching the cheese

What a perfect way to end our vacation — we returned home with a large cooler full of fresh vegetables, some soft goat cheese, and a large round of goat mozzarella, which is better than anything you’ll buy in the supermarket. The ingredients include only milk, salt, rennet and citric acid. The whole process for mozzarella took just 30 minutes and the cheese can be used immediately. I’ll definitely make it again at home. According to the recipe, if your milk is ultra pasteurized, a better option is to use nonfat powdered milk.



Catching up..and staying up…with “the boys”

Since my four brothers each live at least 500 miles away, it is rare that I actually get to run with them. And usually when I do run with them, I’m slightly out-of-breath, pushing myself a little harder, trying to keep up with them. Seems I’ve been doing that all my life…from our childhood days of basketball rounds of Horse and neighborhood kickball games. Always catching up.

So when it appeared two of “the boys” would be here on the day of the Pandora Jingle Jog, I suggested we run it together. One of them — the oldest and a resident of Tucson — grudgingly agreed, reminding me that the predicted temp for that day was 12 degrees. The other one — the third oldest and a resident of Natural Bridge, VA — was still in recovery from an ultra that he’d run the weekend before, said “Only if we run slow.”

They arrived with more running apparel than regular clothing, but still griping about the cold. Still, they were game for the 5K run. On the way to the race, we discussed strategy and agreed to run together. Actually, I think they asked — again — if I would run slow. What did they think? That just because I’m younger, I’m suddenly faster?

We warmed up and I listened to them discussing which way the wind would be blowing when we started out and finished. Running into the wind at the start is a lot better than at the end. At least on a cold day. For me, ice was the bigger concern, but I figured if I went down, they were going first. I didn’t intend to land on pavement.

Off we went with about 60 other brave (or stupid — depending on your perspective) souls. James and I, running side by side, peered behind us at Phil, who was grinning. A distance bicyclist at heart, he was — of course — drafting already. Always a wise guy.

The next 3.1 miles went pretty much like that — a trio of revolving drafters. Toward the end, I began to feel myself slowing…my breathing was off. They were five steps ahead of me when I heard “Where’s Mary”? Magic words. That always forces me to catch up, which I did. Phil, me, James

We finished together, holding hands. I’m sure we looked pretty stupid, but hey, who cares? It was fun and for once, I stayed with them. We ended up with age group ribbons — they tied for second place — it was a first time they fell into the same age group. A first for me since there are always fewer women in my age group…not that I’m that fast.

But the best part was stopping in to see our mom afterward and giving her James’ door prize — a Christmas pillow with a photo insert. In it is a photo of her five kids.