8 April, 2014

Conquering Sherman Pass and a Goat Udder

We have officially been out longer than ever before and are safe and sound in Eureka, MT. Over the past week, we have ridden in three states (WA, ID, and MT), cycled over our tallest mountain pass yet, and experienced 18 hours on a farm, helping out with both evening and early morning chores.

On Sunday morning, after a full day off in Republic, WA, doing laundry, route planning, and relaxing, we were off to conquer Sherman Pass at 5500 feet. The weather looked great with blue skies, even if the temperature was only in the upper 30s as we started. As we pedaled up the west slope of Sherman Pass, we both thought that the gradient wasn’t horrible and maybe this wouldn’t be the grueling day we dreaded. While the sunny spots were dry and awesome, the shaded spots were wet at best and icy at worst. There was one particular spot with a thick layer of ice across the road which was banked, sloping downward into oncoming traffic. Doug saw this section just as a large truck was coming the other way. Fortunately, he hopped off and was able to get traction to stand still while the truck passed. He had signaled me to get off and walk really carefully after the truck crossed. As we progressed upward, the slush got thicker and the snow started. Maybe this would be the epic day we dreaded if the road conditions worsened for the descent. Fortunately, the descent was on the east facing slope and the slush and ice had melted by the time we crested and were headed down. Phew, safe road conditions. Unfortunately, it was snowing/sleeting/raining as we descended which felt like needles in our eyes and cheeks but we made it down safely and rolled into the driveway of our much anticipated Warm Showers’ hosts around 4 p.m. to sunshine again.

We crested the pass into a snowstorm that quickly turned to sleet as we descended.

We crested the pass into a snowstorm that quickly turned to sleet as we descended. Not fun at 30mph!

Late last week, when we knew for sure that we were staying at a farm Sunday night I was giddy with excitement. I had high hopes and was not disappointed. After arriving, showering, and getting settled, one of the daughters, Ellie, asked if we wanted a tour of the farm. Doug and I were eager and an hour and a half later, we had “helped” milk a goat, fed horses, sheep, cows, calves, hogs, pot-bellied pigs, a Shetland pony, a donkey, more goats, and bottle fed six goat kids that were all less than a week old. I was in heaven.

Kristin with one of the baby sheep at the farm we stayed at in Colville, WA.

Kristin with one of the baby sheep at the farm we stayed at in Colville, WA.

This farm is certified to sell raw milk, so we were also able to see the process required to milk the cows according to this standard. Disinfecting the udder and using sterile containers are just a few of the steps that we were able to watch Claire, Ellie’s twin, take care of as we continued our tour. Another thing we saw and talked a lot about after dinner was that nothing goes to waste on the farm. The cow milk that wasn’t committed to customers was used to feed the goat kids as there is an enzyme in goat milk that can cause arthritis in goats. Future buyers of the goats prefer cow milk fed goats to prevent the possibility of them getting this enzyme and there is plenty of cow milk on the farm, approximately 7-8 gallons per day. The goat milk is used to make cheese. The hogs and bulls are slaughtered for food. The chicken eggs are eaten and sold. And many of the other animals are eventually purchased by other farms. This farm is known for the friendliness of their animals. All the animals we saw we could pet and be close to without fear of injury, as the family bottle-feeds every animal they get. That was great for us.

Kristin milking Taffy the goat (not pictured: Doug also milking Taffy)

Kristin milking Taffy the goat (not pictured: Doug also milking Taffy)

Ewe looking at me?

Ewe looking at me?

Beyond the mammals, we also saw their collection of birds, including an emu, peacock, peahen, guinea fowl, geese, chickens, and many others I can’t remember. We talked with Rachael, the third daughter, a lot about the birds, and got to see a collection of emu eggs, which are a dark green, large (about 4 inches long), thick walled eggs that is sat on by the male emu. We had so much fun Sunday evening with the animals that we got up early on Monday morning so we could help with the feedings in the morning. When we were done, Angie had breakfast waiting for her girls and us produced solely from the farm, including bacon, eggs, and potatoes. We continued talking and Angie offered for us to stay another day and we were so tempted, but the sun was shining and there was a dry spell in the forecast. This time of year we had to take advantage of that weather streak.

Ellie, Kristin, Angie, and Rachael. Half of the Barton family who hosted us in Colville.

Ellie, Kristin, Angie, and Rachael. Half of the Barton family who hosted us in Colville, WA.

Morning mist rising off the pasture.

Morning mist rising off the pasture.

Monday morning we rolled away somewhat sad that we didn’t stay, but so happy to have helped out and learned a ton about the various animals and activities on the farm. Be sure to click any of the photos to see the other photos we’ve added to our Pacific Northwest gallery on Flickr.

Doug rolling over the final few hills in Tobacco Valley to Eureka, MT.

Doug rolling over the final few hills in Tobacco Valley to Eureka, MT.