And so October is in and we finally got a little rain. I don’t even think it amounted to 0.5,” but at least it was something… we even have a few puddles in the driveway! That’s quite a novelty for us this summer.
Since I need to be finished with milking before I go away toward the end of this month, to that end I have been spacing out the milking schedule a little more and more. I know some folks go from twice a day, or every 12 hours, to an 18 hour divide (which means the middle of the night), but I back it off to once a day as I am lowering the feed ration a bit. The first few days are tough, lots of milk in that udder and almost tough to get it emptied before the girls rebel and want off the stand.
And so I am working on this right now. I don’t want to stop milking, I love the milk that we get in the autumn, the curds are larger and we get more cheese for our efforts out of each 3 gallon batch I make. But this year family obligations and another weekend (a fun weekend), have conspired against me! Two 4-day weekends in a row that I will be out of town. Neither my husband or my son milk. Even if one of them started, the girls wouldn’t be trusting them all that quickly. The milk and cheese thing really is my specialty, so I plan accordingly.
I have been milking just once a day for the past 5 days, and I did my first 36 hour separation today. I won’t milk again until Tuesday morning. On Wednesday the girls are going to be wormed in preparation for breeding, and that will effectively mean the end of the milk usage, even though I will continue milking farther and farther apart. We have a 7 to 9 day withdrawal on the wormers that we typically use, so by the time that is up, so will the milk!
Another year’s cycle is coming around, and as much as I love Joni Mitchell’s rendition of The Circle Game, I am kind of sad to see this part of the year go into dry dock. But, then we have the excitement of the Breeding Game to attend to! Farming is all about the yearly cycles, and each one is exciting in its own way. And this year I get to experience it all without the stress of the day job. Yay for retirement :*)
Getting our two groups of girls together seamlessly was very nice, but we now have another problem: not enough milk!
Betsy, who is now 6 months old, had been separated from her mother for over two months. I have had varied luck through the years with weaning; sometimes I can separate kids and does for 6-8 weeks and when they get back together, everything is fine and I can continue milking the moms. It does not always go so well, however! And this is one of those times. After all the does were reunited, 4 days went by and I continued milking Battie with the same amount of product that we had before. But that little bugger Betsy soon caught on that she could get the goods before I milked them away, and Battie finally gave in. (Betsy didn’t let up on her and Battie knew when she was beaten…)
Sigh! My cheese production is suffering… with only the two does milking, getting that cut down by a lot is not boding well! I will do what I can with the milk from Pippi, and make smaller batches of chevre. Maybe it’s time for me to try some small samplings of different cheeses. Hope I have time, I am busier now in retirement than I was when I was working :*)
The Train is on a full schedule these days. I am only milking two of the goats, Pippi and Battie, but each milking is getting me 3/4 of a gallon. This means that every 48 hours I have enough milk to begin a new 3-gallon batch of chevre (with leftover milkiness for my grandson and for anyone who wants it in coffee). It’s lovely! As the lactation season goes through its cycle, I get more and firmer curd structure, so I actually can get more cheese per gallon than I do early in the lactation cycle. Yesterday I got 15 chevre forms out of the 3 gallons, and earlier in the season I was lucky if I got 8 or 9.
Most of my days are spent on the chores surrounding handling milk and cheese. Sanitizing! But it’s worth it. I will end up with a good amount in the freezer to dole out during the long winter and the early spring. If I can find a day when I am not running in 20 directions, I have to try and make some more Haloumi and Mozzarella as well.
Maybe I will be able to dabble in some aged cheeses as well this fall. If I can find a wine cooler, and then also dig out a place to put it. Definitely a work in progress!
That time came to us here at Ruit Farm a few weeks ago. Our girl Betsy the Guernsey was quite overdue for weaning, actually. A few weeks ago I put her in with the larger group of does, which shares a fenceline with her mother and auntie. (Big debates in the dairy and sheep world over the best ways to wean, whether it be whisking the babies away so they cannot hear or see mama, or whether it is to the opposite side of the fence.) And a week later, I took our girl Pippi out of the larger group, and moved her in with the two Guernsey girls.
The acclimation time has differed for the two different weaner groups. Betsy has had a very difficult time being separated from her mama. She gets pushed around by the big group quite a bit, but she is holding her own. Pippi’s two babies have been sad to be separated, but they aren’t inconsolable. And the difference is that I left Pippi’s twins in with their cohort, but Betsy not only got separated from her mama, she had to go into an alien group. Poor girl! I am hoping that if I re-introduce her back in with her mother in another month, that she will not nurse, but just be happy to be back in her element.
And so we have milk! I have been madly making cheese. A few batches of chevre, one small batch of Haloumi, and a batch of cheese that I hoped was going to be chevre, but turned into something halfway between a partially cooked-curd cheese, and something indefinable. I kept it, pressed it, and may just have to use it as you would use curds. Poutine anyone???
Yes, a new batch of chèvre is in the works and we got curd! I was a little anxious, but I had about 2.25 gallons of fresh goat milk. So yesterday I started a new batch and swaddled it with towels, to be opened this afternoon. I remembered both the culture and the rennet, this time. Phew! It’s early in the milking season (calculating from when the kids were born), so the curds are still very delicate and we don’t get quite as much return for our milk amounts, but it’s amazing, nonetheless.
So when I scooped out the curds, I got 8 forms filled with curd, and the rest of the curds got sent into the colander, so maybe I can salvage all that I couldn’t scoop with my spoon. I added wild Maine blueberries to one of my forms, so that should be a little bit of a treat as well.
I am not separating my does and babies this week because I am getting ready to go on a little bit of a fiber retreat with some friends this week, on the island of Vinalhaven. I can’t wait! But to keep things simple for my husband, who is doing chores, the babies will have to take up the slack on the milk end of things. They won’t mind at all!
A week from tomorrow, hopefully the babies will be separated from the moms and I will be seriously milking twice a day. It’s Weaning Time! Gotta get some serious cheese in the freezer.
This spring has been totally upside down and crazy. I have not gotten going with milking even though I meant to do so, weeks ago. For the moment I am milking in the afternoons. A few days ago I began separating SnowPea and Pippi from their babies right after breakfast, and after milking in the afternoon they are reunited with their brood.
I had moved the milkstand into our hay greenhouse for the winter, where we do things like hoof trimming. My old situation for milking has changed in the past year, and I wasn’t sure that this would work out. But the weather has been quite dry, so I am just pulling the milkstand out of the greenhouse and milking in the open air. Awesomely wonderful! The sky and the trees are as lovely as the milking is soothing, and it’s all coming together.
I have been doling out the frozen chevre in the past month or two, as I am down to just a few left from this past milking season. So I was very excited yesterday to get out all my cheese equipment and sanitize it up and get it ready for the first batch. I had 3 gallons of milk ready to go, so I set it up yesterday and warmed the milk, added the culture, and popped that pot under 3 towels to rest. This morning as I opened up the pot, it was a giant fail. No curds in sight. Mama mia! I was counting on this batch as the first one of the year (some of which I was intending to take on our yearly outing to Vinalhaven island, next Thursday). OMG. Phage or what? Culture that was too old, or did I not drain the milk pot enough after sanitizing? I left that pot on the counter for at least 2 hours, and I stirred it and pondered it for that whole time, in between other activities.
This has bothered me all day, and as I was playing it through in my head yet again late this afternoon, I finally knew what the problem was. What a bird brain I am. I forgot the rennet!!! I guess it’s the curse of the first batch of the year. Just not into the routine, still. Sigh. I hope to do better.
Although, come to think of it, the whole day had that August feel to it. Very cool morning (yay), a little rain, and then just general cloudiness. While I was doing chores this afternoon, the fog began to move in very quietly from Round Pond harbor, which made me think of Carl Sandburg’s poem “Fog” (1916)
The fog comes / on little cat feet. / It sits looking / over harbor and city / on silent haunches / and then moves on.
It was a quiet day here on the farm. I spent the morning trying a batch of goat milk mozzarella, and it was quite an elegant failure. I probably should not have used any citric acid. The curds got glossy and stretchable, but never made itself into “real” mozzarella, just kept rolling around. It’s firmed up in the fridge now and I may be able to use in in a baked ziti or something, but it’s not what I set out to make. I will be trying again soon, though. :*)
In the meantime, the chevre is going well, and I continue to crank that out. I have to get a new backlog into the freezer for next winter. I would hate to be without that, and so would many of our friends, I think!
Really? Cold, cold and more cold. Little bit of snow every few days which covers the ice in the driveway, so the footing is continually hazardous. But the sun this afternoon felt so wonderful! 28F was such a treat! And they are teasing us with the promise of 40F this Saturday :*) It really better happen. Particularly on the cusp of Daylight Savings.
I want to believe that we will warm up to spring. But unfortunately, nothing feels “normal” this year. Who knows? I am just hoping that the 22nd of March is fairly warm and clear so that our last shearing will not be a nightmare, but a celebration. Yes, our last shearing. I am very sad about this, but we need to be planning for our next great adventure, which involves working toward a licensed goat dairy. My bursitis and arthritis are not going to allow me to be moving flexnet fencing down in a sloped pasture this summer for the ewes. So we have been making some tough decisions this winter, and it looks like we will just be raising goats for the next few years. And planning for a cheese-making future. It is my passion, and now seems to be the time.
Of chevre for 2013 is in the works. The weather has not been our friend this month, and I have decided to begin drying off SnowPea. I usually milk right through the middle/end of January, but the temperatures and the weather have not been particularly helpful this year. So I am shifting things up a little and calling it good. (It was -8 here this morning, not usual for this time of year on the coast!)
We have a ton of chevre in the freezer to get us through until kidding sometime in April, and I think that SnowPea and I are in agreement that now is probably a good time to call it quits!
It is truly The Last Week of the summer break! Lots of things to do, and I have been without my car, my trusty Subaru Forester (bought in the fall of 2002, a 2003 model with 225,000 miles on it), as it had some serious electrical problems. I wasn’t sure that our mechanic would find the problem, but at least as of tonight he says that it’s ready for a little more life. That’s one relief for the moment!
I have been frantically trying to organize the things in the house that will make life easier for being organized after I go back to work. And the heat and humidity have returned, so I have not been sad to be doing many things in the house. One of the jobs that I have been putting off for at least a year (I know, pathetic!) is hemming two pair of lovely linen slacks. I have worn them a few times, but when I go up stairs I am in danger of tripping on them. So I finally got that going. I love hand sewing of almost all types, love quilting, love machine sewing… but I HATE hemming! Particularly pants. Grrr. I am glad that I did the black pair at midday. It was tough enough to see what I was doing then, I wouldn’t be able to it tonight! I have one more leg to do, and then I hope they all look ok. If they don’t, I will ignore it if possible. As long as there is no tripping going on :*)
Another thing that I have been able to get going on is making chevre again. I am not keeping all the milk we get from SnowPea, a lot of it is going to our piggies. But for two days a couple of times a week I am keeping the milk, so I can at least do a 2.5 gallon batch. Having only one goat in milk is kind of like a mini-vacation, but it has its challenges too. I guess I have not lost my chevre touch, the newest batch is delish! I marinated one of them in olive oil, garlic, red and black pepper, fresh rosemary, and a little parsley. It was better than good! Looking forward to an autumn of making chevre and socking it away in the freezer for the spring.
And here’s to hoping more than one goat gets bred this fall!
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!