St. Maure de Touraine

I’m trying my first mold-ripened cheese! This lovely French cheese seems like the height of sophistication, yet it is a simple riff on a very easy recipe.  You make a batch of chevre, innoculate it with white mold, drain off the whey in forms, and when the curd is solid enough, remove the form and roll the ‘buche’ in salt and ash and age it! I took over a little fridge we had that wasn’t getting used, and have it set at its warmest setting – about 52 degrees. The buches should begin to develop a white mold rind that will turn them from coal-black to a soft grey, and the inside will become creamy and smooth. YU-HUM!

Here’s what mine look like on day 1 of aging:

st maure day 1

The sticks are inserted to help turn the cheese daily without harming the developing rind. Also note the dish of water at the bottom of the fridge to help maintain humidity in the ‘cave.’

Here’s what (I hope) the finished product will look like:

photo borrowed from artisanalcheese.com

I want it! (photo borrowed from artisanalcheese.com)

Cheese and Honey and Beer and Everything!

Gah! I just cannot seem to get my blog on lately. Things have been bumpin around the Domestead, but it’s not like I’ve been so busy I couldn’t spare a moment to write about it. Just not feeling like writing I guess.

But that’s just nuts, because here I am, with so many of the goals and dreams I have been working towards for so long finally coming to life! And I’m just like, meh. I also haven’t been taking many pictures, which is the very most effective way for a blogger to self-sabotage, because a post without pictures just hardly seems worth the trouble.  Sad really, because I started the blog more as a record for myself of all the progress I’ve made on my different projects and schemes.  It’s a nice place to visit and reflect on where I started and where I am now.

So stop being such a lazy schmo and write a damn post, lady!

Okay, here goes:

CHEEEEEESE!

*doing the cheese dance* (very sexy)

Wonderful delicious chevre!

Wonderful delicious chevre!

The last ball of my second batch of fresh mozzarella. Hard to keep on hand during tomato season!

The last ball of my second batch of fresh mozzarella. Hard to keep on hand during tomato season!

So far we’ve made mozzarella and chevre and both are just so so good it hurts.  Roomie Paul’s ultra homemade margherita pizza with fresh from the garden tomato sauce, basil right off the front porch, and our own goat’s milk mozz? Yes please! Or would you prefer the flatbread with garlic and herb olive oil, shaved summer squash and whole padron peppers from the garden, and homemade chevre? Umm…are you kidding me?

*more cheese dancing*

Peaches and our new doe Lily are producing about 2 quarts a day, although we’re trying to dry off Lily because we’re hoping she’s prego.  Kind of too bad as Lily is a dream to milk, the only hard thing being getting her off the milking stand once we’re done.  Peaches has finally settled into a much less violent milkstand routine, thank goodness.  I think she didn’t like sharing her babies’ milk with the humans.  She found it offensive and wrong (regardless of how much grain and adoration we plied her with).  But now the babies are gone and Lily is here and things are working well. We haven’t had to buy milk for weeks! Our 3 little wethers all found wonderful families to live with, and although it was sad to see our little buddies go, we have plenty of baby goats in our future. Which makes it a very bright future indeed. And cheese!

Look at all that milk! And we're splitting between two households, so that's just half a week's worth. Cheerios anyone?

Look at all that milk! And we’re splitting between two households, so that’s just half a week’s worth. Cheerios anyone?

My bees are going gangbusters right now which is so good to see. We harvested one frame from them and after one million years (I’m pretty sure) of straining the crushed up honeycomb, we now have a very cute amount of dark, delicious Ranch honey! Yay! And I only got honey all over myself like 5 or 6 times throughout the process, so hey, lookin good.

Cute amount of honey. And credit to sister for the adorable little honeypot!

Cute amount of honey. And credit to sister for the adorable little honeypot!

Next up: the Fella and the Pa have become brewing buddies! They currently have a batch of IPA fermenting in the bottles and 5 gallons of honey porter (YUMMEH) to get started this weekend. Unfortunately 5 gallons of honey porter requires significantly more than a cute amount of honey, so they might have to be un-homesteadly and go retail for that part of the recipe.

American IPA, currently hiding out in the dark waiting for the big reveal in two weeks.

American IPA, currently hiding out in the dark waiting for the big reveal in two weeks.

And other stuff, like I won my case in the California Supreme Court and was in the newspaper and got interviewed on the radio and everything (still waiting on the paycheck though…anyday now guys…for real). And we’re almost finished redoing one of our bathrooms, taking out the junky vinyl and putting in real tile and all that jazz.

Phew! So that’s a pretty comprehensive update. I won’t be a phony and promise more regular posting, but I will say that I will try.  Adieu for now!

Breakfast of Champions

This was my breakfast this morning:

Sprouted wheat toast with homemade chevre and garden tomatoes.

Sprouted wheat toast with homemade chevre and garden tomatoes.

Milking Peaches is like spending the morning in the Thunderdome. Today she refused to get up onto the stand for about 20 minutes.  I tried to lift her up and she struggled violently and we both fell over.  After that she just paced back and forth until I pretended to leave the milking parlor and she thought she could get away with eating her grain without being milked. She jumped up there herself but tried to jump off when I came in and I had to wrestle her just to keep her on until I could close the stanchion. Then she kicked and kicked and fought me pretty much the whole time. We got a little hand pump milker (like a breast pump for goats) because that’s what her last owner used, but I can’t even get her to stand still long enough to get it on her. I am getting pretty good at milking her by hand but more than once she’s managed to kick a pretty full pail out of my hands, spilling it all over me and everywhere and giving her something to slip around in dramatically as she struggles against the torture.  I have bruises all over my chest from getting nailed by her hocks as she tries to kick at me (I can prevent her from connecting with her hoof but those bony hocks hurt pretty bad too).  Every morning, the session inevitably ends with both of us panting and cross and totally filthy.

I am starting to dislike this goat, I cannot lie.

Still, I got a good 16 oz from her this morning and that was just off the one side she’d ‘let’ me milk. I have to use quotes there because she doesn’t let me at all, she just fights even worse when I try to milk the left side of her udder. If I could ever milk her out I am confident I’d get a quart at least. She’s a good producer! Just a terrible awful rotten no good milker.

So, this morning, dirty and frustrated and smelling like a goat’s behind, I took my pail of milk and headed back into the house. Then, after a shower and a much needed cup of coffee, I got a chance to enjoy the spoils of war.  Light, fluffy, with just the slightest tang, this goat cheese is so incredibly delicious! With a little salt and pepper, topped with fresh garden tomato slices, my breakfast tastes like victory, even if it’s really just a draw.

Peaches: 1, Sara: 1

Stay tuned for the next round.

It’s a Start

milk!

Oooooh I am so excited! Guess what I’m having in my coffee this morning? Okay, the picture above probably gave it away, but yes! I am having goat’s milk from our very own goat!

I know there’s only about 3/4 a cup there, but believe me, it is a victory.  I’m not even going to go into the year plus of effort and learning we’ve put into becoming dairy goat people before this day even arrived. The barn building, the loss of our first doe, the adventure in breeding and bringing little kids into the world, not to mention all that hay. You’ve already heard all that. I’m just going to start with what happened yesterday.

Gina (my goating partner) and I decided that yesterday was going to be milking day number one.  Although neither of us had ever milked a goat before, we’d watched youtube videos and read books and I hoped it would be at least a little bit like milking a cow, with which I had some experience. So we got Peaches up onto the milking stand, sweet feed in the bucket, our little stripping cup at the ready. Oh so giddy were we!

Then we tried to touch her udder, and it became clear that this was not going to be easy. In fact, it took about 30 second for us to start thinking it might actually be impossible.

Peaches is, um, how shall I say, a headstrong gal. She’s a her-way-or-the-highway kind of goat. We’ve all gotten along pretty well but then, we haven’t really asked her to do anything for us before. Now there we were, fondling her parts like the milking virgins that we were, and she was not having any of it. She tried all the moves: yanking her head out of the stanchion and trying to make a run for it, kicking, bucking (that one could’ve sent a person to the hospital if she’d made contact), and sitting right down on top of her udder, the bucket, and our hands. We couldn’t get one drop of milk out of her. Not one drop.

Luckily, we had an appointment later on to meet with a Nigerian Dwarf breeder nearby to see about buying one of her does – because three baby wethers and another two already in the barn does not a dairy herd make. This kind lady offered to give Gina and I a milking lesson, on two different does so that we could get a sense of how each doe’s udder is a little different.

The first thing we learned is that our Peach has what they call bad milking manners. Yeah, to put it lightly. This woman’s goats were literally clambering to get onto the stanchion to be milked. And once up there they enthusiastically participated in the milk-for-grain exchange that is the dairymaid’s bargain.  No squirming and definitely no kicking, just standing there calmly munching away. Wow! The first doe had lovely big teats that were easy to handle but had tiny orifices so she was slow to milk. The second doe had smaller teats and an udder attachment that wasn’t ideal, but her orifices were huge and the milk just gushed out. We got a feel for how to get those little goat teats filled with milk before  squeezing from the top down.  It was a great experience, and Gina and I felt a renewed hope that we would be able to get Peaches to get on the bandwagon.

(We also picked out a new little doe to join our herd, but I’ll save that for another post.)

So this morning we set out to try it again.  Back to the barn we went, with our milking kit and a mason jar chilling in a bucket of ice.  It took a minute to get our stubborn mule of a goat onto the stanchion and into position, but we did.  Sitting down on the stanchion right beside her with our shoulder against her haunches (something else we learned from our lesson) and we reached under and grabbed hold and then yes! That telltale sound of a stream of milk against the side of the pail! Huzzah!

It wasn’t all perfect from then on. Once the sweet feed was all gone, Peaches sat on our hands again, and fussed in the stanchion. But we got some milk! And even better, we got a sense that this is going to get easier, that we’re all going to get comfortable with this, and it won’t be a battle forever.

We strained the milk right there in barn and poured it into the ice cold jar and put the jar back in the icy water. Then I brought it into to my house and took my first sip of fresh goat’s milk. Yes, my first. Talk about a leap of faith, I’ve done all this work to have a dairy goat and never tasted fresh goat’s milk before, nutty. It was delicious! Sweet and rich and not ‘goaty’ at all, which was a relief and a delight. I love the goatiness of goat cheeses, but I wasn’t all that excited about goaty coffee in the morning or goaty cereal. But all the blogs and books and experts were right about chilling down the milk right away. It’s tastes just like cow’s milk, except fresher and a bit sweeter. Lovely!

So, start up the band and play the victory march, we have milk at last!

When You Don’t Notice It

Sometimes the really big things happen without being noticed.  Which is to say, when you’ve given yourself a very long list of goals and dreams to tackle, sometimes it’s possible to wake up years later and suddenly realize you’ve made them real.  Transformation rarely happens overnight, and the effort to make changes is usually incremental.  As much as the thought of going ‘poof!’ and having a whole new life seems wonderful, it can’t be as good as taking a moment to realize how far you’ve come on your own – without magic – through your own conviction that the direction you’ve chosen is the right one.

It might seem trivial, but this thought came to me as I was transferring another batch of chicken stock into my big mason jars to store in the fridge.  (Note: I use chicken stock ALL the time, even in summer) I’ve been pretty busy with work and chores and life and pushing into the yoke without taking the time to look up and notice the field, so to speak.  So then I remembered this: A couple of years ago (which, as I approach 40 seems a very short time indeed) chicken stock came from boxes.  Sure, I knew how it was made and could have made it myself, but I was an urban singleton, and the cheap, convenient bounty of Trader Joe’s was just around the corner. When I moved back to the Ranch I even continued to buy chicken stock for a while until my savings dwindled to the point where I realized even the little purchases had to be rethought. $2.99 a quart for something you can make from scraps?! Heck no!

So I started buying whole chickens, cutting them up for parts or roasting them whole, and boiling the bones just like my mom had always done when I was growing up.  I found that when a whole chicken was roasted with the leftover tops and ends of a leek or two (recycling veggies! who knew!) shoved in the cavity, not only was the chicken extra delicious, but throwing the whole carcass, leek and all, into the stock pot made the most lovely stock imaginable. Huzzah!

Then, the other day, as I was funneling a gallon or so of homemade stock into the mason jars as has become a regular activity for me, I realized the big thing that had happened.  The stock was made from a chicken I’d raised myself! Of course raising chickens wasn’t something that came and went without me noticing, as readers will know, that experience was new and exciting and a lot of work. I definitely was conscious of every step. But it wasn’t until I was pouring that stock that I actually stopped to look back, all the way back to Sara from a couple years ago, buying 4 cardboard containers of chicken stock every week.  From that to putting big glass mason jars of homemade stock from home grown chickens into the fridge!

And then I started to notice other things too: discussing with my roommate how my green tomato pickles (which I made on a whim last fall because my Roma tomato plant was covered with fruit that was never going to ripen before the first frost) were the best thing ever to dice up and mix into tuna fish salad, and how it was a shame they were almost used up. Or searching for the last jar of peach jam – made from the peaches of my own tree – in the pantry so that I could whip up another batch of that spicy-sweet Asian marinade I concocted for the locally raised grassfed beef short ribs we had in the chest freezer.

And it made me realize that other big dreams are right on the horizon now.  We just ordered the filters and strainers we’ll need when we start milking Peaches in a week or so.  I am making plans for how I will harvest my first batch of honey.  And the 12 tomato plants I started from seed this spring have set fruit that is just about to ripen.

There are so many things I wanted to do when I moved up here, so many things that seemed nearly impossible, or at least impossibly slow to take shape. And now here I am, the dreams are real, the fruits of my labor are ripe and ready for me to enjoy.  It’s like putting on a coat you haven’t worn in a while and finding $20 in the pocket: you earned the money, and you put there to begin with, but for a little while you forgot you were looking for it and then suddenly there it was. It’s like that, but way, way better.

Babies!

The babies were born last night! All THREE of them (the Fella was right).

The deets: She had them all by herself sometime between 4 and 8pm.  We checked on her and gave them all some ice for their water around 4 and then when we went to put them in for the night, there were babies! They are all boys (darn) and all healthy.  There is one guy who is bigger than the other two but none of them is worryingly runty. They are the sweetest things ever and Mama P is the best.  We moved them all into the new barn (supposed to be a kidding shed but she beat us to it!) which is still not completely finished.

So without further ado: baby goats!!!

The flip flop (a women's size 9) is for perspective.

The flip flop (a women’s size 9) is for perspective.

So so tiny!

So so tiny!

Can barely walk and he's already climbing on Mom.

Can barely walk and he’s already climbing on Mom.

The Great Big Belly

Peaches almost due

I’ve been slacking off on the goat updates! Peaches is, as you can see, VERY pregnant.  She is due around the 7th of July, and we’re keeping a pretty close eye on her. She’s her usual self, which is to say hungry, slightly grumpy and unfazed.  If you put your hands on her belly you can feel the babies kick, which is so fun.  You may recall, we had an ultrasound done in March to confirm the pregnancy and at the time the vet could only see one fetus, but I’ve decided there are at least twins in there. I mean look at her! The Fella thinks there are three. We’ll find out soon enough. Baby goats! Yay!

Peaches almost due 2

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