Monday, January 30, 2006

Cats on the Goat Farm

Last Friday, a dear friend of mine gave me a fantastic treat: she took me to a lovely goat-cheese farm in the Jerusalem hills. It’s called Havat Ya’aran—that’s “Ya’aran Farm” in Hebrew—and it is an absolutely beautiful place. The family who lives there built their home with their own hands, grows their own vegetables and herds the goats that make the cheese. They also have horses, chickens and olive trees. I don’t know whether they press their own olive oil, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did.

The farm has a picnic area for visitors, and when my friend and I sat down there to have our lunch, we got a visitor of our own. Actually, we had spotted her earlier, curled up in a pile of straw in a corner of the horses’ stable.

Cat licking yogurt bottle

My friend shared her goat-milk yogurt with the cat, who accepted it enthusiastically and asked for more. When the yogurt was all gone, my friend let the cat lick the inside of the bottle, as far as her tongue could reach. The cat must be used to visitors because she is super-friendly. I guess we weren’t the first ones she’s shared a snack and skritches with, and we probably won’t be the last.

As my friend and I were preparing to leave, two more cats, probably our new friend’s littermates, came running toward us. One was particularly disappointed over having missed a yogurt snack, but we gave her plenty of skritches, which she received happily. When my friend took a picture of me at the entrance to the farm, this kitty did the figure-eights at my ankles, purring and meowing loudly for attention and quieting only when I bent down to pet her.

Cat at my ankle

Here she is, watching us get ready to go.

Cat watching from rock

Havat Ya’aran is in danger of being closed down, through no fault of its own. The family does not own the land, but was given the legal right to live there and make use of it. They have created a beautiful place and provide a good and healthy product. It would be a shame to lose this lovely farm. Locals, if you go to buy cheese there, please be sure to sign the petition in the store asking that the family and their farm be permitted to stay.

You can find more information about Havat Ya’aran (in Hebrew) in this Ynet article, In Search of Fine Cheese.

(Check out this week’s Carnival of the Cats at Laurence Simon’s. Laurence is pinch-hitting on very short notice—kol ha-kavod to him.)

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