Hi! And welcome to my first ever Goat Note. My name is Jenn, and I am an amateur knitter, passionate cook, devoted thrifter, cheesemaker, soap maker, student of words and farming. I also really love goats and my husband Paul (not necessarily in that order, sort of depends on the day). In this space, I'll be sharing stories, recipes, ideas, complaints both of a caprine nature and otherwise , as well as plenty of goat content. I'm excited to share my stories, as well as hear yours.
"Were you always into farming?" "Did you grow up on a farm?" These are two of the most common questions I am asked, along with, "Did you know that you're really tall?" The answer to the first two questions is a no, while the answer to that final questions is a resounding yes, of course I know.
As a child, I was close to, and greatly admired my Grandma Imogene, a badass farm wife/mother of five/chicken lady/sewing/knitting/maker extraordinaire. I'd like to think I have been blessed with some of her varied and formidable talents, as well as her expressive eyebrows (Thanks, Grandma!).
In truth, as a child, I hated outside work and didn't have much interest in changing that attitude. Experiencing pioneer life was much more fun to do through Laura Ingalls Wilder's writing, Dear America books, and my American Girl dolls. However, I always did enjoy camping (foreshadowing!).
What really changed my life's trajectory, not to be too dramatic, was my first post-college job. During undergrad at the University of Iowa (go Hawks!) I had filled out an Americorps profile at my mother's suggestion. At that time, I had applied for several interesting programs, although none of those worked out. I graduated in December 2009, my Americorps profile as forgotten as my freshman year papers.
However, about a month after I graudated, I received an email from the Backcountry Trails Program, informing me I was being contacted because of the boxes I ticked on my Americorps profile. A chance to live and work in the wilderness? In California?! I knew had I had to apply (see? Foreshadowing). To my eternal gratitude, I was accepted. That season of trail work was six months of the most miserable, daunting, life changing, and beautiful work I had ever done. Every day I am thankful for the lessons learned.
The main lesson? Despite many years of thinking otherwise, it turned out I actually am not an indoor cat. I love to be outside! I love working with my hands, getting dirty and sweaty, and solving problems that are a unique blend of the mental and physical. Farming seemed, to me, like a natural progression. I found a couple of internships: first on a grass-fed beef ranch where I learned how much I love cows, especially raw cow's milk. Next, I transitioned to a market vegetable farm in very rural, very northern California where I learned how to cook, how to take care of plants, why I should care where my food comes from, and that trellising tomatoes will give you green armpits.
The road that took me back to Nebraska detoured through a year in San Francisco, which was full of beautiful friends, glitter, amazing drag shows, incredible food, a job at a grass-fed beef company, and a crash course in artisan cheese at my second job at Cowgirl Creamery. Thanks to Cowgirl Creamery, I learned that while selling cheese was a complete blast, I actually wanted to be the one making it. It was then that realization struck me: DUH. I knew an artisan cheesemaker who owned a small, all grass-fed Jersey cow operation. I emailed her, asked for a job, visited the farm while on a trip home for my nephew's christening, and was back in Nebraska in almost no time at all.
Then, because big changes love company, about a month after I moved back, I was introduced to the man who would become my husband, Paul.
So, that kind of brings you up to speed. Paul and I are like many modern farmers: we both work off-farm jobs (him, for the USDA, me at a local community college, as well as a cheesemaker at Branched Oak Farm) while we help operate a small family farm with my in-laws. We also have this little goat business, and I've got all these crazy, big dreams. So, we're like many people out there who are on the regular grind, while also trying to grow our goals into reality.
If you would have told me ten years ago that I would be a grown ass woman living in rural Nebraska, raising goats, I would have laughed, and then maybe cried a little bit. Then again, if someone had told Paul he would one day be married to an opinionated goat lady, he probably would have run the other way when he saw me. Thankfully, we can't go back in time to tell ourselves what's to come, but we do get to benefit from everything they can teach us.