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!
Oh my. What a day! It’s been a totally crazy weekend. Yesterday I basically spent the day on the road picking up and delivering the fresh pork for our customers as well as for ourselves. Our wonderful butcher is a little more than an hour away and yesterday my husband had also scheduled our new Subaru for replacement tires. (I know, it only has 3,000 miles on it, why the new tires? The tires that Subarus come with are actually very good ones, Yokohamas, but they are not great in ice, snow and really rainy conditions. So John wanted to put my favorite Michelins on while we could still sell the original tires). As a result, I didn’t get as early a start as I had planned on. By the time I made the rounds the afternoon was well on its way, and I still had to put our meat into our freezer (an athletic event, at the least!). So there went Saturday.
This morning was a big morning: worming time for the does and the ewes. I do not worm regularly unless they need it, although we try to do Famacha scoring as regularly as we can. But sometime in November when the ground is beginning to freeze and the cold weather is here, we worm everyone just to get rid of any nasties before the winter. I don’t worm them in their paddock area, I set up a pen outside the paddock and worm them in there on an empty stomach. Then I make them wait for breakfast. Not a happy bunch! After a few hours they get fed, but I keep them in the outside pen for as long as I can so they shed their wormy poops out of the paddock. I can’t always leave them out for the whole day, as I like to do, and today we had to go get hay, but they were out as long as we were home.
Worming was just the first of the strenuous activities, however. After strong-arming the does (they are definitely not happy about the nasty tasting stuff) and hustling the ewes I was tired enough. But I needed to get all my cattle panels wired together before the winter, so I did that, and then I got a third paddock gated so I could put Jingle the donkey and Beige Boy the buck into that one. Not a happy scene, I am afraid. Jingle was not pleased to be in that pen, and when the buck was introduced, she went crazy. That was just the beginning! I then put all the does in with Bagels the buck and Zorro the llama. Another crazy scene. By the time I finished chores, most of the inmates had settled down. I am concerned about the does being stressed with this move, as they have all been bred by hand in the last two weeks. Sometimes stress can cause them not to “settle” or not let the fetus implant. If so, hopefully they will come into heat and get bred again. Don’t want to make this too boring for Bagels!
One other activity that is keeping me busy every day is making chèvre. We gave most of SnowPea’s milk to the pigs while they were here. After they left, I went into high gear, starting a new batch every three days or so. I know that freezing is anathema to most cheese gurus, but I find the chèvre we freeze is quite good on the other end. So most of my batches go right into the freezer, and I use some of it right away (as well as share the goods with friends and family!). So that is what I am left with tonight, beside the laundry, packaging up the newest batch. And then I think early to bed is in order.
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!
It’s here! Very exciting stuff. The week has been quite the eventful one because the flu has hit our local high school pretty hard. As the week has progressed, more students have dropped every day along with a good chunk of the faculty (up to about 43% of the student body). I rotate between the high school and the middle school, so hopefully I have not come as face-to-face with the offending virus as closely as I might have. My sinuses are stuffy and a scratchy throat has plagued me this week, along with a little wheezing, but over all, I am REALLY glad to be home and am ready for a very relaxing weekend!
Daytime temps have been above freezing all week, so I have re-acclimatized to not piling on quite as many layers, and chores have been a relaxing pleasure. Having one less goat to milk has made a huge difference in the quality of chore time, and I am enjoying a few extra minutes with my girls at each milking. Chevre-making is going ahead at two batches a week, so I am able to sock away a really nice stock for the dry months. I had been considering going down to one milking a day in preparation for drying off the does, but I think that I will put that off for another few weeks. I love the routine and the contact with the does. And I can’t imagine life without them.
I am so very glad that we are now able to use the milk from our goats again (we had prepped them for artificial insemination with CIDR hormone inserts). The withdrawal period was 10 days, but I waited two weeks as I did last year. After having this year’s goat kids so late in the season, it has pushed my whole milking and cheese-making back. But I am working full-speed to try and get as much chevre made as I can before the winter gets too nasty to want to be milking in a greenhouse with no ends to speak of.
Got to get some cheesy goodness into the freezer to last us until next year’s kidding! And before that we want to enjoy it all during the holiday season. Great stuff.
If it’s summer, it must be cheese time! The goat milk is flowing and I am milking and making fresh chevre two or three times a week. Anything that we don’t consume or share with friends goes into the freezer so that we can enjoy it all winter. I also am having some fun with making cream cheese. Especially with those lovely native Maine blueberries!
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!