I know, “glamping” is a weird word, but by the end of this post you might just think glamour camping at the farm sounds pretty awesome.
When I received an invitation to visit Chaffin Orchards in Northern California, I was so excited. A few days camping under the stars with some blogging, foodie and farmer friends (and my sister!) sounded like so much fun, and I really wanted to learn how to milk a cow.
What I wasn't expecting was to fall in love. With the farm, it's history, and Ellen. The cow.
As a kid I spent many a summer at Camp Mosey Wood in Pennsylvania. My abode for those stays was a wooden floored, canvased sided tent with two cots head-to-head on each side.
You can imagine my surprise to find this Cadillac tent cabin. We arrived at night, and the interior was aglow with a simple candle chandelier.
Our tent was toasty warm from the roaring fire in the wood-burning stove, and the beds were made with crisp, white bedding and down comforters. In the morning, there were coffee beans waiting for the hand-cranked coffee grinder on the wall.
After a bit of time to lounge about under the olive trees sipping a cup of joe, we were off to move the chicken fence.
The Chaffin chickens are truly pasture raised birds, and on this morning they needed to be moved in their egg-mobile to a fresh part of the olive orchard where they'd have free range over new weeds, bugs, lizards, and dropped fruit.
(By the way, if you are still buying organic, free-range eggs thinking that this is what you're getting, think again. Those other chickens are in crowded barns, entirely on chicken feed.)
Unlike the typical American mono-crop monstrosities, Chaffin is as close to Old McDonald's farm as it comes: 2000 acres of the oldest olive groves in the country, stone fruit, avocado, citrus, goats, cattle, sheep, chickens, and more. Gorgeous, pastoral bliss.
To round out our authentic Chaffin experience, we toured the property on this blue hand-painted bus. Chaffin is renowned for their award-winning olive oil and the trees along the side of the road hung with black, plum, and green olives.
With mandarin season just hitting it's peak, we learned the proper way to pick citrus (with clippers), and got to enjoy the fruits of our labor too.
I knew I wanted to try my hand at milking a cow – mostly so I could check it off my bucket list – but I enjoyed this classic farm experience more than I thought possible.
Ellen is a miniature Jersey, one of two milkers at Chaffin. Check out those sweet, giant eyes and ears!
Brought into the pen just to make the milking easier, Ellen and her buddy, Shasta, typically range through the orchards near one of the farm houses. Kelsey, the livestock manager, patiently instructed us as we took turns trying to milk.
Whether it was the satisfaction of actually getting warm liquid out of her udders (not as hard as I thought!) or a deeper connection to the source of my food, I can't stop thinking about that milking. I wake up some mornings plotting how I can get a little cow or maybe a couple of goats in my backyard. Farm fever.
And then there were the Shetland sheep. Take a look at these gorgeous creatures! They jogged on over when we arrived looking for a snack. A flock of sheep grazing under some fruit trees with the sun setting over the hill. Really, does it get any more romantic than this?
I'm not quite naive enough to think I really have what it takes to to be a real farm girl, but boy do I love the farm fantasy. Evenings by the campfire, days spend working in the sun. And that freaking adorable cow.
This spring when Chaffin opens their Feather Down Farm Stays to the public, you can bet your floppy-eared Jersey I will be heading back with my whole family in tow.
Big, big thanks to all of the lovely folks at Chaffin Family Orchards for making us feel right at home on the farm. See you again soon!