Jennie Grant lives about a half-mile down the hill from me. The day of the Urban Farm tour, I had planned to finish my travels around the city by seeing what her urban farm was all about, but didn’t get that far. Fortunately, Jennie was open to a visit, and I had the pleasure of hanging out with her on a lovely summer evening after dinner while she milked her goats.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from The Goat Justice League. I wondered whether it was a “serious” name or “tongue in cheek”; whether it would be all about activism for goats, or a funny name. Turns out, Jennie really was a goat activist, on behalf of people who want to keep them. Several years ago, after falling in love with goats, and finding herself on the wrong side of the law, she worked with the city council to change the code, such that in Seattle, goats under 100 lbs. are now classified as small animals.
Without an activist agenda, and having written a book about backyard goat keeping, Jennie’s role at the Goat Justice League is mostly back to that of a mom taking care of her family, which happens to include some animals, two of which are goats. She also has bees, a semi-feral cat named Gandolf the grey who has rodent duty, two pugs, one which she recently rescued, who needs to wear a diaper in the house due to health issues, and chickens, including Surely (you jest) – a white frizzled chicken who seems to enjoy both human and goat company at least as much as that of the other chickens. Add to this, a very human 13 year old boy, and the result is a busy household.
Jennie’s neat and orderly house, with its welcoming red door and white picket fence, sits on an urban lot overlooking lake Washington, tucked between neighbors on both sides. Only by going through the garage which opens to the back yard does one discover the farm.
Even then, evidence of the goats is invisible. They share the lowest level of the lot with the chickens and bees, below the vegetables, which clamber up sturdy trellises and spill over the walls of the upper terraces separating them from the house. If the goats had been on the topmost roof of their shed, I might have seen them when Jennie and I walked out the door carrying her collection of milking paraphernalia and a bowl of watermelon rinds – a treat for Eloise and Snowflake.
The goat shed makes me think of something Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle might have built, with its different levels of fenced roof on each section. One sits atop the hay box, another protects the chicken coop. The largest roof, on the goat’s indoor shelter, has a beautiful view of Lake Washington… Without a doubt, these goats have the best accommodations in town.
Within moments, Jennie had me putting my camera aside to learn the milking routine. It took me a couple tries to make anything happen. I was far too tentative and afraid of hurting Eloise, but I finally managed to shoot a stream of fresh milk into the funnel. Provisionally successful, I quickly relinquished my position, and the milking, to Jennie’s capable hands, content to watch for the moment. I don’t think that Eloise would have put up with my efforts for long.
Milking finished, we left the goats snacking and took the fresh milk to the kitchen. Jennie sank the jar deep in a large bowl of ice. From my visit to Mystery Bay Farm I know that chilling the milk immediately is critical for a sweet, “not goaty” flavor. While the technology of the milking process and scale of the farm may be different, Jennie and Rachael’s approach to goat care and care of the milk is the same. I told Jennie about Mystery Bay, and its cheese and yogurt as well as how I hadn’t been able to taste the fresh milk because of FDA regulations. Her response was to pour me a glass from the jar in the refrigerator which had been chilling since the morning’s milking.
Its all true. Fresh milk, from healthy, well cared for goats, is delicious. I can’t say how it compares to cow’s milk exactly, because I didn’t do a side by side taste test, but I can say for sure that it tasted clean and sweet. I would definitely put it in my morning latté!
Jennie continues to be a reference and provide support for people interested in goat keeping, with Eloise and Snowflake as her ambassadors. They can be found munching blackberries in their yard, out walking our neighborhood on their leashes, as well as at select local urban farming events.
More about the Goat Justice League
For Jennie’s website, where one can find her book as well as other Goat Justice league information, goat care tips and products go to: goatjusticeleague.org
Lori Eanes published a book earlier this year called Backyard Roots: Lessons on living local from 35 urban farmers. Jennie’s farm is one of the 35. Recently she wrote a post about the Goat Justice League on her blog.