Mountain Top Goat Gardens


A biography of homestead experience.

Mountain Top Goat Gardens

Life on a Mountain with Goats,

Garden, Music, Art, & Love.

Life on a Mountain with Goats,

Garden, Music, Art, & Love.

Goats, Gardens, Art, Music & Love.

A Partner in Time Production.

#1 Spring, 2015


Explore the exploits of a couple of

creative refugees from urban living in a

forest growing food, making cheese, &

discovering our abilities; living a life of

multi media art & music, playing guitar

& violin music, as the musical duo

FRISKY BRISKET. Writing, making,

art, & food. living with nature, and the

creatures that sustain us. Goats, our

mascot, the great anarchists of

domestic animals. Birds; Chickens for

eggs, & Pigeons for grace, Honeybees

for the flowers & fruit, & for the buzz. A

Dog for comfort, protection, &

exuberance, & Cats, because they are


and, a cast of thousands, both

unseen, and relished; the wild birds

we encourage, the Goldfish that

patrol the Pond, the Dragonflies that

burst forth in multitude once or twice

a year, if you are present to

experience it, & the high flying

Geese that announce their north &

south passage seasonally.

Welcome to our world.

As an Artist, this media offers

unprecedented opportunities, but,

with the daily chore load of our

complex life style, this will

necessarily become a sporadic

project. As I discover new abilitiesand

the limits of my patience when it

come to screen watching, finger

tapping sessions I hope in the future

to offer more inspiration to others.

Joshua & Tanya are:

Partners in Time.

© 2015 Joshua Golden/Partners in Time

Life as Art.

Located at 2,100’ and 8 miles inland,

on a Southwest facing mountain top,

we are a non-commercial, off-grid

farmstead, in Northern Mendocino

County, California. Making Art,

Music, & Food together for over 30

years, & Homesteading since 1989.

With a small dairy goat herd,

chickens for eggs, fruit trees and

vines, and a diversified garden that

provides year round food

production, we a focus on organic,

open pollinated crops, intuitive

permaculture, and natural processes.

Our work includes; animal

husbandry, cheese making, soil

building, seed saving, garden & forest

management, building projects,

music & art.

Grounded by


not a very good place for farming. The

only reason anyone would live on the

top of this small mountain is economic.

Scarred by heavy equipment harvesting

old growth Douglas Fir has left scrubby

and dense second growth, and all the

hardwoods that flourished in the newly

opened canopy. The soil has been

scrapped to rock for roads and

landings, and the topsoil was never very

deep. The winds are intense. We get

gail force storms out of the south in the

winter, and thermal gusts from the

north in the spring and summer.

Though abundant water appears in

springs all over the hill, the water we

control is below the most level and

open sites. We arrived here with

dreams of self sufficiency, and learned

that is never a feasible concept.

And yet;

There is no way to accurately describe

being in one place over time, engaged

with and observing the cycles of nature.

The annual transit of the sun, ever

changing shadows. The coming of

seasons and the tasks they require,

Daily rituals that contribute to

sustenance are informed by conditions

on the ground, the realities of reality.

Nature is our guide.

This 20 acre parcel was affordable, but

conditions are less than ideal. This is

Scratching the soil for twenty six years,

adding to it tons of composted biomass,

and little else, pumping water with a self

regulating solar pump, raising goats &

chickens, playing with bees & pigeons,

grooming the forest, & plantings, and

reaping harvests- both work-a-day &

experimental, has made this a glorious

place. We rely quite heavily on food

produced on site, purchasing mostly

exotic fruits like Avocados, Bananas,

Oranges, & Melons earlier than we can

produce. Eating in season, utilizing what

is available, and supplementing this with

basic staples, we are not ”self sufficient”,

but tenaciously self reliant. ☆

Growing up in the suburban San

Francisco Bay Area, we both had, early

experiences in the surrounding hills and

coastal areas. The foothill habitats of

the coastal ranges, offered both the

intimate experience of untrammeled

nature, and, a vista of the of the

impending urban sprawl that threatened

it. Early memories of the scents and

sensations of these forests and meadows

imprinted a love of our home region in

both of us. We met each other while

attending a unique high school- in the

waning days of California’s educational

excellence, and progressive

experimentation. Our alternative school

‘with-in-a-school’ offered all the

resources of a well funded district,

combined with the freedom and

flexibility to design our own education,

to meet our individual needs. We both

credit any success we claim in life, to

t h i s p h e n o m e n a , a s a u t h o r i t y

questioning, independent thinkers, we

surly would have become public school

casualties had we been forced to

continue our education in the usual

way. I credit my early interest in growing

food with a small seminar style field

trip, Where we met John Jeavons and

toured the original research garden of a

non-profit organization, with a mission

to feed the world efficiently- Common

Ground, on a hill above Palo Alto.

Coming of age, we could not hope to

find affordable housing in our home

town, and so began a slightly miserable

life style of wage earning, edge dwelling

creativity in the cheap seats of the

Peninsula. I had briefly attended Art

school in San Francisco, while Tanya

trained as a chef. This had turned into

working at restaurants, print shops and

cafes, leaving us wondering, how we

could possibly ever live our dreams.

Eventually desperation lead us to

escape. Packing away and selling off our

belongings we headed for Mexico, and

new horizons, new experiences,

inexpensive opportunities, and,

Montezuma’s revenge. Traveling the

length of Mexico by train was a trip to

remember- winding slowly from the

volcanic heights of Mexico City to

Oaxaca in a vintage American Pullman

sleeper, was romantic but the whole

experience, the heat, the language

barrier, stress & illness found us beating

a retreat after only a month. ☆

The Garden:

A vibrant living thing which feeds us.

Recognizing that the garden is a

complex, dynamic environment, and

not a mechanized factory for food

production, is a key to a human scaled

subsistence farming. Often it appears

that backyard gardeners in this country

seek to emulate commercial production

techniques, creating miniature versions

of big agriculture, and repeating many

of it’s mistakes. The standards of

production that we have come to expect

are predicated on the practices of an

industrialized agriculture that has only

been in effect for around 100 years. Yet

through out the long span of post

agricultural humanity, people in

cooperation with plants, seasons, and

available resources have fed themselves

and created fuel and fiber.

My operating principle has always

been; it can’t be that hard to survive, but

the absolutely necessary addendum to

this is: if we do the right thing. That may

be the hardest thing. Who knows what

the right thing is anymore? Generations

of information and wisdom have been

lost or set aside as agriculture has

progressed and diminished. Left to

‘experts’, the practice of growing has

been established and codified as an

extractive process. Unfortunately, this is

exactly the opposite way nature

operates. The additive process of

natural production is based on growth,

which invariably brings decay. As the

cycle repeats endlessly, countless

generations of living organisms

participate in transforming,

recombining, and, adding to the raw

materials that sustain everyone and

everything on the planet.

With these notions as my foundation, I

seek to grow food as intuitively as my

modern mind can manage. I defer to no

expert opinion, but observe conditions,

and approach the problems of pests and

nutrients conservatively, mimicking

nature with tolerance and adaptation.

The results speak for themselves. As we

daily, year round, eat fresh food from

our garden. Our garden is large and

diverse to guarantee this.

Nearly anyone can grow something to

eat, but relying on the garden for a

constant supply of nutrition necessarily

becomes a way of life. There is no

separation in nature, a true integration

of living and lively hood is a

prerequisite for a natural process of

living. Acquiring sustenance is an

ongoing and necessary challenge that

requires a commitment to the process.

The aphorism- “The best fertilizer is

the farmers shadow,” exemplifies this

principle. The work is not all difficult,

but success depends seasonally, on daily

participation, and observation. The

cycles of the garden are always

churning, there is no beginning or end

to the garden, just the process. This can

make starting a garden from scratch a

challenge, but once the appreciation of

cycles is established, a holistic approach

develops priorities organically, and the

wheel of the year turns evenly. My year

is defined by tasks I take for granted,

the seasons of new seeds, the seasons of

new soil, the seasons of observant

waiting and grooming, the seasons of

abundant joyous growth and gathering,

and the seasons of rest and recharge.

Timing is one of the most critical

components, a plant in it’s proper time,

given a decent chance, can’t help but

grow. The decent chance consists

simply of adequate soil tilth, nutritive

material, space, sun, and water. Tilth,

the physical condition of the plant

supporting soil assures adequate

permeability to the essential elements of

air and water, and encourages expansive

root development so that the plant may

find the resources it needs to grow and

completing it’s lifecycle, fruit. Nutrition

consists of organic material, anything

that has lived, and the biota that

supports the break down to it’s

molecular components, along with the

available minerals in the soil, these are

the building blocks of new life. The

space a plant occupies helps determine

it’s size, and productivity crowding

many plants together diminishes the

available sunlight, nutrient base, and

capacity of the plants. Solar exposure, is

crucial, the sugars of life are created by

the photosynthetic capacity of plants

leaves, the fuel for this process is

starlight from our nearest and dearest,

the sun. Water keeps it all going, the

presence or absence of water

determines life spans and the adequacy

of the plants purpose. some plants can

survive Drought, but all plants need

need water to grow, and flourish.

Milk & Manure is the answer to the

question; Why goats. Milk as a food

source has enabled humans to survive

and flourish forever. There is some

controversy over the use of milk as an

adult food, as milk is indeed produced

as nutrition for baby mammals. But

once the argument devolves to basics

like; grains, fruits, & vegetables grow

only too produce seeds, or meats can

only be used for the motive force of

animals, we see how narrow & flexible

human thinking can be. There are no

definite rules when it comes to food

sources, only what works, what is

tolerated, and what is expected.

Humans have evolved to be omnivores,

opportunistic feeder’s and milk

producing animals were cultivated for

the nutritious milk they produce as

soon as it was possible.

We are not big liquid milk drinkers, but

we do add raw milk to our our morning

bitter bean extract- coffee, and use milk

for cooking & baking. For a long time

we made yoghurt, but since we acquired

some Kefir grains, this much simpler

cultured product has taken its place.

Our bread & butter is a soft Chévre, a

creamy style of cheese that is easy to

produce and delicious to consume.

Pressed, aged hard cheese is a little

more challenging, but many amazing

cheeses have been made over the goat


Manure is a major product of animal

husbandry. Considered waste by some

management systems manure is the key

ingredient to healthy & productive soils.

Goats in particular convert course

material into immediately useful

fertilizer. And when composted with

their bedding is an ideal worm food,

producing twice digested worm castings.

Our garden production depends almost

exclusively on this continuously

renewing resource, and rewards us with

abundant nutrition.

© 2015 Partners in time/Joshua Golden

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