Our story starts, like so many good adventures, with “boy meets girl”. The boy – Rob Lawless – met the girl – Kathryn Harnish – while living in the Chicago metro area. Soon boy and girl were planning their “happily ever after”…and looking for a small hobby farm on which to spend it.
Needless to say, there weren’t many farms in Chicagoland that met our criteria – thousand-acre soybean farms in western and southern Illinois, yes; a quaint little smallholding with a cozy farmhouse, not so much. Undaunted, we started exploring rural real estate networks online and stumbled upon Aroostook County, Maine – we often joke that finding our new home in Houlton was a bit like closing our eyes and sticking one of our fingers…there!…on the map. Moving from the hustle-and-bustle of the big city to a small town 300 miles north of Maine’s southern border and just three miles from Canada was truly taking a leap of faith; hence the name of our farm!
Although we had every intention of getting started with our farming endeavors as soon as we moved, life quickly intervened…with full-time jobs (Rob as a QA manager for a local food processing company and Kathryn as a product manager for a company that serves libraries) and a brand-new, absolutely beautiful state to explore, we put aside the dream of raising animals for awhile. In 2009, however, we started to revisit the idea…we connected with a number of small cheesemakers in Maine and Vermont and were inspired by their success in producing farmstead artisan cheeses, particularly with goats’ milk. Soon, we were all goat, all the time – we enrolled in Goat School, visited a number of goat farms, read countless goat books, and ultimately chose to raise Nigerian dwarf goats.
Smaller than most goats, Nigerian dwarves are easy to handle, sweet-natured, and require less space than their larger counterparts. They make wonderful easy-care pets and are an ideal livestock choice for hobby farmers like us. And if you’re interested in a supply of fresh milk, you don’t need to look any further…although Nigerians produce less volume, their milk is high in butterfat (our most recent milk test was just about 8%!) and lacks any “goaty” flavor.
Our herd currently numbers about forty goats, all bred for outstanding dairy quality. For the 2015 season, we’ll be milking twenty-five of our does – by hand, enjoying the time with our “girls” and the quiet of our very old post-and-beam barn. After milking, we venture into our state-licensed cheesemaking facility – a garage-turned-woodshop that we converted to a “makeroom” in early 2012. Here, we put our goats’ milk to use, making a variety of soft cheeses including feta and chevre, both plain and flavored. Our products are sold onsite at our farm store or, in season, at the Houlton Community Market.
In addition to the goats, we have two livestock guardian dogs who protect our goats from predators — Gifford, a Great Pyr, came to live with us as a puppy in 2013 and now tips the scales at 120 pounds, and Pelly, a Pyr/Anatolian cross, has joined him this winter. We also have a small flock of laying hens that range free on the farm and produce so-much-better-than-store-bought eggs that we offer for sale on an as-available basis.
And in the house, we have a gang of cats and three dogs that keep us company when we’re not hard at work in the barn. And hard work it is…we often say that we’ve never worked harder, but have never had more fun. The relationships we have with our animals, our friends, and one another make for a truly fantastic life!
We’re passionate about what we’re doing – and the place where we’re doing it! We welcome visitors by prior arrangement and are always happy to “talk goat” with interested folks.