Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day Two making cheese

The milking part is pleasant, warm, clean and easy -- or relatively so. Goats are clean and intelligent animals. From what I've seen of cow dairies, there is no comparison. To put it simply, tales of being shat upon, or filthy teets at a cow dairy are not exagerations. Plus they are large and stubborn animals, cows. Sheep, I'm told are quite stupid. Should your lands flood, goats will find the high land, climb a stair well or a tree, what-have-you. But sheep will simply baaaa and drown. So, here I am amidst a range of goats of different ages and races, and what a pleasure it is. They leap quickly into place for their feed and milking. They make room for you to put the suction cups on their teets. No kicking, relatively minimal farting, and perfectly at ease with the handling and manipulation of our hands upon them. The milk flows quickly and smoothly -- numerous hygienic measures are followed sensibly and not onerously -- and a short hour later, we've milked all 36 and are ready to head to the dairy.

Just a note. Before milking, the goats are given some fresh hay to pump them up a bit. Then they munch away on their grain while they are milked, and afterwards they can head out to the pasture, or eat more hay in the manger. Salt licks are on the walls in the barn. And, should you try to milk them dry, it is nearly impossible. We milk till the teets are softened and supple, but even then, if we hand-milked there would be more. So, you stop when there is far less.

Today I helped flip and return to the molds the cheeses poured into their molds yesterday morning, and already flipped once yesterday evening. I didn't maul them too badly, and after a hundred or so, the gesture began coming naturally. As with any repetitive gesture, be relaxed. Tension makes everything worse.

We then moved onto the tiny cheeses -- much appreciated by restaurants and makers of toasted goat cheese salads. Again, we had a metal guide for 90 molds. However, we had to place these 90 molds on the stainless tray before placing the guide on top. Getting the spacing right is an art, and in each instance a bit of fiddling and putting back in order necessary. With these guides, you can practically dump your curdle on top and simple smooth it around into the molds. I tried to do it a bit more elegantly than this, but truly...

Then our clean up, prepping cheeses in paper for selling to Aurelie's various clients, and back out the door. Tonight, we'll turn the tiny little cheeses I filled today. As there are 580 or so, I should get some good practice with that flipping wrist action, don't you agree?

Meantime, Filou got a nasty little weed in his paw -- what the locals call espégao, or la folle avoine -- resembling a tiny shaft of wheat. It is pointy and akin to an arrow, it wants to go in, further and further, and is terribly difficult to remove. He has had these twice in the past years in his ears, but this time it is between his toes. Shepherds are good people to bring sick dogs to. Aurelie helped me remove a bit of the points of this nasty thing, and to disinfect the wound. But, 24 hours later, he is still limping and the wound is weeping. The verdict is to keep disinfecting, and let the wound abscess to push out what is clearly still inside. If we've not accomplished this by tomorrow, I do have a veterinarian beside my home in Avignon and will see if he can help.

Mon brave chien accompanies me nearly everywhere, lying so calmly at my feet (or at the feet of the head of the household). He enjoys the goat barn and has made friends with the resident mama cat who's a master huntress of rats, rabbits, mice and more. However, when I disappear into the dairy for an hour or more, he wines at the door, not accustomed to my abandoning him in this manner. Perhaps he'll get accustomed to this just like his mistress?


Naimhe said...

Berets off to you, not only for your efforts, but also for your excellent description of them. Cheesemaking is next on my list of goat related activities, but in the meantime, we've featured you and your blog on AllThingsGoat.com

If I find myself in Avignon again, I'd love a tour.

Madeleine Vedel said...

Thank you Naimhe. This time at the farm has been years brewing... I've known and frequented goat farms in Provence for over 10 years -- but always as a visitor. I have watched, interpreted, explained the process for years -- adapting to the style of each shepherd. And now, finally, I'm putting my hands on the goats and on the curdle. It's truly lovely and fun. By all means, do come for a visit! Thanks for the mention, and I'll put a link to your blog from mine in the next goat post.