This is my first write for 2021. I thought I’d get on-to-it much sooner than this but busy life-style and procrastination have been at work! As I write this my family is in bed sleeping and I’m still up because I’m making cheese. A lesson that I’ve learned the hard way; cheese making cannot be hurried! I’ve got both cream cheese and cottage cheese on the go. And there is a very good reason for that!
Next weekend is a long weekend for us here in NZ … Waitangi day. It’s a week before my birthday and we have a number of family coming from far and wide to stay for a few days. I am cooking a meal for about 20 people and have decided to have a sit down 3-course meal. Hence the cheeses. I have feta and fettucine already made. The cottage cheese will be used in a cannelloni dish with spinach and it will be complimented with tomato and feta tart, several different salads and fresh vegetables. The cream cheese will be used for chilled cheese cakes for our dessert.
Some of my earliest memories are of life on my grandparent’s farm. I can remember eating porridge for breakfast with brown sugar and full creamed milk straight from the cows. You could put your spoon into the porridge and swirl it around in the bowl. Nothing has ever tasted so good! Other memories I have are of feeding out silage, seeing a calf born and my granddad in his gumboots milking the cows. I think I was about 4 years old! I guess in lieu of that early introduction it is not really surprising that one of my first ever jobs was milking cows. I loved the warmth of the cows in the milking shed early in the morning and the different personalities of each animal that I encountered. I eventually left farming life in my early adult years, but the love of milking has always been part of who I am! When Laurie and I had a young family, we lived in the country and kept a house cow. Our cow raised adopted calves and gave enough milk for a growing family and enabled us to have fresh milk, cream, butter, yoghurt and ice cream. We also kept a pig, who got the surplus. As the children grew up and our life style changed we didn’t have need for all that milk, so goats became a viable alternative.
My introduction to goats was a wee kid called Petal who we got from a local goat dairy farm. I raised her on a bottle and at night she would sleep with our chickens in a nesting box. She had quite a personality, raised many lovely kids and taught us much. She produced more milk that we could drink, and so the cheese making journey began. Admittingly it took a little while to get used to the lower fat milk, but now it is our norm and we don’t have any other during the milking season. Goats are very different animals compared to cows and while very stubborn, I have developed a real loyalty to our goats.
I am very thankful to Willow and Moon, my two current milking goats. Moon kidded first, back in August last year. She is young and Star is her first baby. She is a great mum and Star has grown into a beautiful young goat, who will herself become a milking goat next year. Willow is older and she had her kids about 3 weeks after Moon. She was so big I was starting to get concerned, as she was sporting an udder that nearly scrapped on the ground. It must have been so uncomfortable. We all felt sorry for her! Willow had triplets! Two boys, Rumble and Cloud and one girl, Misty. She has been amazing raising her three kids and sharing milk with us as well. As soon as the boys were old enough they were weaned and moved to ‘the boys’ paddock with their dad, Ollie. Misty has stayed up near the house and like Star, she will eventually become a milking goat too.
I milk the goats each evening at around 5:30 pm. They get fed nuts every morning with a handful of lucerne chaff mixed in. It’s a real favourite! Around 3:00pm Willow and Moon are taken from their paddock and are grazed on tethers until milking time. This allows them to forage and have some fresh food. I’m just starting to get Misty and Star accustomed to a tether. I put them out for about 30 minutes at a time, quite close to the paddock and only every couple of days. Because they have fresh pickings of food, they’re getting used to the idea very quickly.
My husband make me a milking platform for Christmas a few years back and the goats happily jump up onto it for milking. They put their heads through an opening where there is a bucket with some feed in it. I can lever two pieces of wood and hold them in place so that their heads can’t come out. (It’s not tight.) Once the goat is eating I sit on my stool and wash the teats with warm water, put on some lubricant (an organic baby’s balm) and set about milking. This evening Moon gave about 2 cups of milk and Willow about 7. The kids get the rest. Although my 3 dogs; Mica, Pearl and Petra all have about 1/4 cup of milk each . It’s nice and warm and the dogs really enjoy the special treat. Milking takes me about 20 minutes for both goats. The animals like their routine and that suits me too. Once they have both been milked the goats go back into their paddock and feed their kids.
Top: left – Willow and Moon in their paddock eating hay, right – Moon Bottom: left – Willow eating at milking time, center – Willow on milking platform with Petra (the dog), right – 2l of warm fresh milk
Goats are quite sensitive to the weather and they really don’t like rain or being cold. In their paddock they have a shed that has straw in it and that’s where they sleep. It needs cleaning out quite regularly because they don’t seem to mind where they toilet.
Well, as I’ve been writing this the cream cheese is strained and now has to sit in muslin to drain overnight. The cottage cheese just needs to drain a few more minutes and then I can salt it and put it in a container to go into the fridge. For me it’ll be a shower and finally I’ll join the rest of my family in the land of nod. Good night!
Top: left – milk heating to the correct temperature, right – curds straining out the whey Bottom: left – fettucine ready to go in the fridge, right – feta