Wednesday, March 24, 2010

THINGS TO DO IN SAN DIEGO with your Montessori child

Yes, that's right!  Located in Ramona, The Oasis Camel Dairy is home to 34-rolling acres of pasture and America's first camel dairy.  Gil and Nancy Riegler, the owners and caretakers, have devoted themselves to caring for the magnificent creatures for over 20 years.  
We ventured up to Ramona one weekend afternoon, meeting up with a few other families from our son's Montessori school.  The Rieglers introduced us to several of the camels and showed us how the babies nurse, and also showed us how they milk the camels.  It was fascinating and fun!  We all took pictures and had an opportunity to pet the massive creatures.  My son was a little shy - they are very, very big.  And, no, they did not spit on us - maybe we were lucky.  There was talk of one day allowing camel rides at the dairy.  We all purchased several bars of Camel's Milk Soap - which is actually quite lovely.  A good time was had by all - what a unique experience!
I am sure you are wondering "Camel DAIRY?"  Well, here is what the Rieglers have to say:


The most commonly asked question we hear is simply ... why?


Why milk camels?  Why invest so much professional and personal time and resources, completely change your life, move to a large, rugged property where you can toil away at a "pet" project that you don't know is even marketable?


The answer is because it is important.  Because it needs to be done.  Because in other countries across the oceans, adults and children suffering from a wide variety of maladies including colitis, crohn's, autism and diabetes have found relief and reduced their symptoms with raw camel's milk.


We are not scientists.  We are not suffering from nor do have children suffering from any of these diseases.  But we know people who are.  We know people whose children are.  And we are working to find a way to help them acquire camel's milk.


This is a long reaching project with many steps to take.  The first steps have been huge.

1) Awareness and education.  We do outreach ... lots and lots of outreach.  Through live presentations, newspaper articles, television appearances and magazine articles, we educate the public about the wonder of these magnificent animals and the benefits of their milk.

2)Viable retail product.  What good is milking a bunch of camels if you can't do anything with the milk yet?  That's what we asked ourselves ten years ago.  Gil came up with the idea of making camel milk soap.  Based on a modified goat's milk recipe with special steps to maintain the delicate properties of the camel's milk, our camel milk soap
(made right here on the dairy in own kitchen) now sells around the world. Everything is done right here on the dairy. 


3)Availability.  Until we started the Oasis Camel Dairy, camel's milk was not readily available in the United States.  Although there are thousands of camels living in America, nobody had trained them to offer their milk on a daily basis.  Now, any research project can come to us and be supplied with the raw milk they need for their studies.


We now have four camels trained to share their milk with us.  We have three more going into training this spring after they have their calves. Our goal is to have twenty females with an average of ten milking each year.


4) Making Raw Camel's Milk available to those who need it.  The laws concerning the public sale of raw milk are very stringent.  However, individuals who own camels can legally drink their own camel's milk.  So Gil and I get to enjoy fresh, raw camel's milk whenever we like.  People always ask us what it tastes like... ours tastes like very fresh, mildly sweet low fat cows milk.  Like with any milk, taste can change depending on what the animal is eating.  

There are definitely obstacles.  We are forging ahead into territory unfamiliar to American mainstream.   Female camels are expensive to purchase, slow to mature, and don't always mother their calves.  Their reproductive cycle is very long.  After a thirteen-month pregnancy, there is still no guarantee the camel will be milking.  If after calving she does not bond or something happens to the calf, it will be well over another year until you have the opportunity to try her again.  Because when it comes to milking camels, no calf... no milk.


So here we are just a 40 something married couple with a BIG idea and a small bank account.  Our camel milk soap, tours, camel safari rides plus our other interests including the bird show, the wild west turkey stampede and Gil's work as a quartz crystal cutting artist pay the bills while the camels continue to gestate our "pet" project.


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