<strong>Diane Urbani de la Paz</strong>/Peninsula Daily News
 Rachael Van Laanen and her son Quince, 5, care for the animals — including 40 American Alpine goats — at Mystery Bay Farm on Marrowstone Island.

Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News Rachael Van Laanen and her son Quince, 5, care for the animals — including 40 American Alpine goats — at Mystery Bay Farm on Marrowstone Island.

Mystery Bay Farm welcomes spring season

Farmsteading described on tours on Marrowstone

NORDLAND — Pippi’s time came Monday morning.

“Our job is to help the baby breathe,” farmer Rachael Van Laanen said, as Pippi, the rotund American Alpine goat, delivered the first of her twin kids at Mystery Bay Farm.

At this dairy, not far from Mystery Bay State Park, Pippi was starting a busy spring.

“You got it, girl,” said Van Laanen, as she, farm worker Rachael Dunn and neighbor Blaise Sullivan watched over the birth. They helped clear fluid from the newborn’s mouth, and then Pippi went to work cleaning its coal-black coat.

They say the first sound a baby goat makes is its name, Van Laanen noted as she ran to get Pippi some refreshing molasses water.

Listening to the newborn, Sullivan and Dunn thought they heard “Emily” or “Evie,” but then came the next twin.

Unlike the first, who was born in typical Superman style, head and front hooves first, this baby was a breech presentation. Van Laanen stepped in to help deliver.

“Two boys. Pippi!” said the farmer, who has a herd of 40 goats plus six chickens, a cat and a horse at Mystery Bay.

Van Laanen, husband Scott Brinton and their children, Cora, 12, and Quince, 5, run this certified Grade A dairy and sell fresh cheese, yogurt and cajeta, a Mexican-style goat’s milk caramel sauce, across Jefferson County.

As spring kidding season wraps up, Van Laanen is looking toward farm-tour season. Mystery Bay is open to school groups and other visitors by appointment, with information at mysterybayfarm.com and 360-385-3309.

“This is a whole different way of farming,” she said.

In a two-hour tour, visitors find out what farmsteading means: self-sufficient, small-scale care for animals and land.

Perennial silvapastures, water catchment, solar hot water heating, integrated organic gardens, fruit and nut orchards — Van Laanen teaches it all, along with a full cheese tasting.

Before establishing the farm 12 seasons ago, Van Laanen, who is from Boulder, Colo., studied ecology. She learned the impact agriculture has on the planet’s health, and she found her passion: making change through sustainable farming.

Most of all, “I love the babies,” she said.

“To watch the little beings come into this world is so magical. I spend a lot of my days with these animals, and I value all that they teach me,” she said, showing a visitor the pen full of 3-week-old kids, all scrambling to get near her.

“There’s a lot of joy in relationships with animals,” said Van Laanen, adding that worrying about their welfare also keeps her up at night.

This life brings “the highest highs and the lowest lows,” from season to season, she said.

Van Laanen markets Mystery Bay dairy products at a select few stores: the Food Co-op and Finistère’s Lawrence Street Provisions in Port Townsend, Chimacum Corner Farmstand and One Straw Ranch, Marrowstone Island’s online grocery at onestrawranch.com.

The Port Townsend Farmers Market, when it opens April 3, also will stock Mystery Bay goods, but only for customers who shop the online market at JCFmarkets.org.

This season also is the second one Mystery Bay Farm will offer an add-on to Finnriver Farm’s CSA, or community-supported agriculture, shares. Jefferson County residents can order the weekly boxes of produce from Finnriver and, if they choose, supplement them with dairy products from Mystery Bay, flowers from Diamond Day Bouquet and Finnriver-milled grain.

Information about the May-through-October CSA program, which fills up quickly, can be found at www.finnriver.com/home-farm.

Janet Aubin, Finnriver’s farm manager, is not a consumer of many animal products. Mystery Bay Farm is her notable exception, she said, because of its animal care and land stewardship practices.

The cheese is “fabulous,” Aubin said, elaborating she likes Mystery Bay yogurt with a bowl of local blueberries and fresh chèvre on a spring salad.

“I love the cajeta,” she added, “on apple slices, especially the Gold Rush apple, or as a glaze on a chocolate cupcake.”

Knowing the farmers at Mystery Bay — knowing their methods — enhances the experience, Aubin added. “I feel good about eating their products.”


Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

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