by Laura Johnson
Carol and Lon Coulter moved to Ashe County 20 years ago to live a simple life. “And then I don’t know what happened!” Carol laughed. Far from simple, they now juggle jobs at ASU’s Sustainable Development Teaching and Research Farm and the National Committee for the New River with milking goats and making cheese – among a whole host of other things.
When they first bought their 20 acres in Crumpler, the land was overgrown. “We had a lot of multi-floral roses and briars,” Carol said. “It hadn’t been farmed in about 20 years.” After struggling to cut it back on her own, a friend advised her to try goats, and the rest is history.
“I went out and bought three dairy goats, two does and a buck, and I didn’t know what I was doing,” Carol recalled. “I mean I have no background, I grew up in New York City!” Soon the first two babies, Snow and Surprise, were born. “After they were weaned there was milk, and we like dairy so we made ice cream, cheese, yogurt and kefir.”
They gave cheese to friends who advised them to start doing it on a larger scale, and by 2009 Heritage Homestead had become a licensed dairy. They now make goat cheese and fudge, selling at the Ashe and Watauga farmers’ markets, in local shops, on-farm and online.
Lon runs the cheese kitchen while Carol gets up before 5 every morning, eight months out of the year, to milk the goats. “I’m really animal oriented,” Carol explained. “And I love baby everythings.” New babies, called kids, arrive every spring.
Lon, who Carol calls “Mr. Pioneer Man,” also has a folk art studio, a blacksmith shop, a woodworking shed and a garden. “He does hand-tied broom making, basket weaving, hide tanning, blacksmithing, wood-stove cooking, gourd making, candle making and soap making,” Carol recited. “He was born about 100 years too late,” she smiled.
The folk art studio and blacksmith shop will be featured at this delightful stop on the Farm Tour, along with the goats and the dairy. Their beautiful land, a blend of woods and pasture, is a sight to see as well. “We have great respect for nature and earth,” Carol said. Although there was financial incentive to clear more land for pasture, they chose to leave it wooded to protect the springs.
“We’re not driven by money,” Carol said. “We just want to live a good life.” While they may not have achieved simple, it undoubtedly is good.