Category Archives: goats

Hello Again

Whoa, I think I went through a time warp and lost a couple of weeks. Springtime is a crazy season for any farmer, and I’ve been doing a lot of book-related travel, which has compounded the problem. Ghosttown Farm has gone pretty quiet, too, while I’ve been traveling to New York, and spending a week at primitive skills camp (which was mind-blowing, more on that later…). The rabbits are now at LaBrie Farm in San Lorenzo, which will most likely be a permanent change. The goats are still up north getting stud service, as no one has gone into heat yet. Here are some of Bebe and Ginger’s suitors.

In other farm news, the Muscovy ducklings arrived, and here they are in their duck car.

Problem with the duck car: the windows have to be cracked so it doesn’t get too hot in there, and one night we think a rat got in and killed three of the little guys. So tragic. The rats in the garden have gotten really aggressive ever since I stopped doing food waste composting out there, which was basically their breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So I’m guessing they smelled the ducks (and the duck food) and went into the car. I’m pretty bummed about the whole thing. So now the ducklings are over at Abeni’s house until they get big enough to bring back to my place. In the meantime, I’ve taken to setting rat traps and feel a bit Charbonneau when I go out to check my traps.

Besides that, the mad schedule continues! In the next few weeks, I’ll be at the following places:

May 11, 12:30

Ecotopia revisited: A conversation with Ernest Callenbach and Novella Carpenter

Join us for an on-stage conversation with Ernest Callenbach, author of the cult-classic, Ecotopia, and Novella Carpenter, an urban farmer and author of Farm City. With its vision of white bicycles, a creek running down Market Street and a female president, Ecotopia (dubbed “the novel that predicted Portland” by New York Times writer Scott Timberg) has gained renewed attention in recent years as urbanists and naturalists alike consider a dizzying array of strategies for living in a resource-constrained world. Where are we now, relative to Callenbach’s vision of the future?
654 Mission Street,
San Francisco, CA 94105-4015

May 12, 6:30pm

CommonWealth Club, The Commonwealth Club is at 595 Market St. in SF, Second Floor

Panel Discussion with:

Jason Mark, Co-manager, Alemany Farm; Editor-in-Chief, Earth Island Journal
Novella Carpenter, Author, Farm City
Christopher Burley, Founder, Hayes Valley Farm
David Gavrich (aka The Goat Whisperer), Founder, City Grazing

Sarah Rich, Writer; Editor; Co-founder, The Foodprint Project; Co-author, Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century – Moderato

May 14, 5:30 PM Olympia Public Library, 313 8th Avenue SE, Oly, WA

May 15, Keynote Speaker, Write in the Woods, Shelton, WA 12:00; Reading and Paperback Release party at Sage Books, Shelton, WA

May 17th, 8 p.m, Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa Street, San Francisco

Porchlight Reading Series: The Last Taboo, Stories about Money

We wish for it, complain about it, lose it, watch it get burned up, and constantly agree it can’t buy us happiness or love. Oh, money! Tonight we will count the ways you taunt us!

Featuring stories from:

Journalist/Farmer Novella Carpenter

Columnist/Blogger Ramona Emerson

Public Health Entrepeneur David Grosof

Comedian/Actor David Moss

S.F. Bay Guardian Executive Editor Tim Redmond

Broadcast Producer/Professional Dilettante Jenn Suttlemyr

General admission tickets: $12. Buy tickets in advance here. Tickets may also be available at the door.

Ages 21 and up.

May 19, Pop-Up General Store, 5-7pm

Grace Street Catering, 4629 MLK at 47th Street

I will be selling salad mix, braising greens, leeks, and fava beans! Hope to see you

May 20, 6:30-8pm at Revival Bar at 2120 Shattuck, Berkeley

“Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat,” is a new book by author and sustainable food activist, Temra Costa. Join Costa and inspirational, local women in celebration of the book’s release.

May 22, SF’s Free Farm fundraiser @ 999 Eddy Street, San Francisco

3:30 Talk by Novella Carpenter, Author of Farm City

Music Provided by: Lia Rose

Food Donated by: farm:table, Mama’s on Washington Square, Greens, Maggie Mudd, and Bi Rite Market.

A family friendly afternoon at the Free Farm. Join us for food, wine and coffee tasting, Carla’s kid’s corner and more


Meet Bebe

I wrote an essay about milking the gorgeous but sometimes bratty Bebe for EatingWell magazine. You can read it here.

And for the kind people who’ve written me to find out what the heck Bebe looks like, her she blows, pictured here on the first day I brought her home, with me and my friend Marg….

And now here she is, with one of her first kids, Orla, who now lives down the street and has kids of her own….

And here she is this morning, eating her kraut, which she loves.

My plan is to take her up North to get boarded and bred when I go to NYC in April. The Biofuel Oasis won a grant from Eileen Fisher, which supports women-owned businesses so we’ve all been invited to go to New York to meet EF and hang out for a few days. I can’t wait. And Bebe will get to meet up with some handsome buck while I’m off partying–talk about win-win. Look for adorable goat kid photos in September…

Goat Town Tour, Dec 20

Due to popular demand, I’m going to have another farm tour!

When: Sunday, December 20, 11am-2pm

What: Signed copies of Farm City, Goat Town t-shirts, fried green tomatoes, and hot chocolate made with goat milk for sale. Goat snuggling and tours free.

Where: Ghosttown Farm, 665 28th Street, at Martin Luther King

How: Don’t park on 28th Street!! Park on MLK, and walk over. Please. I’ll give you the stink-eye if you drive down 28th Street, which is a dead-end street where my neighbors enjoy parking their cars.

My garden looks like hell, especially in December, so arrive with low expectations.

See you there!

And then there were three

I started this week with six goats and now there are three.

Yesterday Moses came over with his friend and whole family and we sent Eyore/Pretty Boy “back home” as Moses put it. Moses is the owner of a liquor store a block from my house. He’s was a goat farmer in his country, Yemen, and so my goat’s death was swift and painless, facing east, and filled with prayer and respect. Still, it was really intense and sad, and I must admit that killing my little goat made me seriously question the wisdom of eating meat.

My friend who raises pigs and treats them like her children until slaughter time confessed to me that she’s going to get out of the pig business. It just breaks her heart. So all you vegetarians:  don’t think that just because I raise meat animals, I’m a remorseless meat eater. In fact, because I am so close to it, I almost begin to feel resentful of meat eaters who blithely eat lamb and never have to think of the fact that a little cuddle-butt had its throat slit so you can vaguely enjoy a gyro.


After Moses left, taking his share of the meat and all of the offall (!), I went out to the garden and processed the goat hide. It’s really beautiful and soft, black and white, and so I want to save it. I stretched it out between some boards and scrapped the fat and meat off it. In a few days, Tamara Wilder is coming to teach a class at my farm about animal processing, so I hope to get tips from her about how to braintan the hide so becomes soft and supple. She is a wise woman, and will be demonstrating in the class humane ways to kill animals, and respect them by using all of their parts.

That night I went to do a reading at Mrs. Dalloways Books. I found myself getting choked up while reading the section in my book, Farm City, about killing my Thanksgiving turkey. I actually had to go through my thought experiment again to re-teach myself how I came to justify eating meat. The biggest one is simply economic: farm animals reach an age when they become a strain on the budget of a farm–it’s either eat them or lose money feeding them. Since, as we’ve learned (ahem) that a farm is defined as producing food not feeding pets, I had to make the decision to harvest the male goat.

Then I remember that keeping animals is a way of life for me, and many other people. I like being around farm animals, I raise and breed my dairy goats, and they will occasionally have male offspring that I can’t keep. From these males, then, their meat will sustain my life. That is why I’m so glad Moses–fount of goat farmerly knowledge–comes over to help. And because I know the whole story of meat: joyous birth, happy goat playing, naps in the sun, I often choose not to eat very much of it.

The other two goats that left the farm–Orla and his daughter Milky Way–didn’t “go home”. They went over to 18th Street, at my new friend A’s house. I’m so excited to have a fellow goat farmer only ten blocks from my place. We have plans to share buck service and milking and going on feed runs. Orlie and MW seemed very relaxed about the journey over to their new digs. Before long they were eating and pooping and seemed to be settling in. I’m always amazed how adaptable goats can be.


I milked Bebe this morning, letting her know that I was sorry about her son’s departure. She stared forward, chewed her cud and let down six cups of creamy milk, more than usual, because this time I got her son’s share too. And for that, I was thankful.

Class Info________________________

For those of you who might be interested in taking the animal processing class: Tamara coming to GT farm this upcoming Sunday, Sept 13. The class will focus on how to humanely kill a chicken, a rabbit, and how to use all of the meat, bone, fur and feathers from these animals, as a way to truly respect and thank them. Each participant will get to process their own animals. It will be truly empowering. Class will start 10am and last the whole day, and costs $100 which includes all materials, and you will go home with the animals you processed.

Here’s the agenda:

10-11am: Introduction and check in, things to think about, etc….

11am -1pm: Rabbit killing and processing

1-2pm: LUNCH (cooking hearts & livers) cook pre-killed rabbit in some way

1pm: put fat on to render

2pm: pour off fat into containers

2-2:30 construct racks and string up rabbit skins to dry.  Demo of stages of tanning.

2:30-3:30 killing, plucking & processing chickens

3:30-4:00 finishing up and farewells

There are a few slots left: email me at novellacarpenter at gmail dot com if you’d like to sign up.

For Sale: Three Goats

Okay, I’m starting to feel like I’m swimming in goats in my backyard. The kids are now 3 months old and should be sold to good homes. I’m having trouble letting go, but I know it’s best for everyone involved. I’ve decided to sell Orla, my first freshener, her daughter Milky Way, and her half sister, Hedwig, the horned mini la Mancha.

A little bit about them:

Orla was born on the farm March 17, 2008 (white goat at the top of the stairs). Her papers from the National Dwarf Goat Association are pending (I’m so lazy about registering!). She is very sweet and cuddly and is a beautiful white goat without horns. This spring, she gave birth to two twin girls without problem. Though she has wonderful body formation, her milk production has been disappointing (this is why I’m selling her). I would recommend her as a pet or as breeding stock. $100.


Hedwig was born on the farm May 1, 2009. She’s a blend of Nigerian Dwarf and La Mancha, and as a hybrid, can’t be registered. She has very strong dairy characteristics. She also has horns, and so would not be appropriate for people with small children. I had thought she was a hermaphrodite, but am fairly sure she is indeed a girl. She’s really smart and cool, like a dog. $50.


Milky Way is a dream goat, born on the farm May 5, 2009. She has very good character and great milk lines on her father’s side. She might be a champion milker! She’s not registered but I can get her registered once her mom, Orla, is registered. She is very small and cuddly, pictured here at two weeks old. $150.


What you should know:

Goats need friends, that is why I’m selling these three together. You’ll need a backyard or farm with a good fence, protection from predators, a goat loafing area, plenty of water, and good hay (alfalfa and grass hay). The goats also like tree branches, leaves, jade plant. So you should know they will also freely eat your trees and bushes. I recommend separating them from the garden. The ideal is that you won’t eat these goats, they have been raised as pets.

If no one steps up for the goats, I’ll have to put them on craigslist. But I’d rather know the buyer so I can give advice and visit the goats and see how they are progressing. I’m especially curious how Hedwig and Milky will be as milkers.

Email me directly if you are interested and want to know more:

novellacarpenter at gmail dot com.

Open Farm Tour, Food, and Demos: August 29

FYI: no need to RSVP!

I’m really excited about the Eat Real Festival to be held in Oakland August 28-30. There’s going to be sustainably-raised meat taco trucks, dinners held at restaurants that feature produce from urban farms like City Slicker and People’s Grocery, ice cream cones and a beer garden.

A lot of people have emailed me to say they’re coming to town for the festival and they’d like a tour of Ghosttown Farm. So I figured, hell, let’s make a whole day of it, with demonstrations, tours, bookselling, and a campfire where I burn all the wood and branches that have accumulated on the property. And it’ll be a good excuse for me to clean-up the damn place. And you can all laugh at my pink and red house (thank you my landlord).

Here’s the schedule:


Chicken Slaughter Workshop

Many people who keep chickens recognize that one day they will need to cull a member of their flock. In this demo we will show best practices for killing the bird humanely, how to pluck, clean, and rest the bird for the dinner table. Chef Samin Nosrat will then demonstrate how to butcher a chicken quickly and efficiently into eight pieces and make a rich stock with its carcass. The class will also include a cooking demonstration with tips on how to season, roast, braise and grill so that you can extract maximum flavor from your backyard bird, as well as recipes for using all the offal, heads and feet so that none of your bird goes to waste.


Farm Tour and book signing

I will give a tour of the farmlette, telling the story of GhostTown Farm, which has played host to turkeys, ducks, geese, and pigs. It now features rabbits, chickens, bees, and goats. I can sign copies of Farm City and books will be for sale.


Farm Snacks

Just-picked food from the garden will be plated up and served a la carte in the garden. Items will depend on what’s ripe in the garden but most likely will include heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, green beans, homegrown eggs, goat milk, yogurt, and cheese, and local honey. Donations are encouraged.


Goat How-to

Many city people are becoming more interested in goat husbandry. I’ll explain how I raise my goats, the trials and tribulations of goat ownership, and give a hands-on demonstration of how to milk a Nigerian Dwarf goat, and a demo of how to trim hooves.


Farm Tour, II

Same thing, different time.


Open Grill

Bring something from your farmstead (or the store) to drink and grill. We’ll have a campfire and a bbq set up for whatever you want to cook. Mostly, though, we’ll just relax and meet each other, and talk about the day’s events with a big smile.

Here it is in a nutshell:

what: GhostTown Farm Tour, Food and Demo

where: 665 28th street, oakland, ca (at mlk)

when: Saturday, August 29, 10am-10pm, see sked above for exact times

how much: free, but donations gladly accepted