Thursday, September 3, 2009

Back at the Goat Farm

Sorry, no pictures today. I forgot my camera! Will do better next week!! Some elegant goat portraits would be nice, no? maybe some textured hair, miss-shapen horns, bales of hay? I'll see what I can do. Wouldn't want my posts to bore you!

Well, a week later, with my kids in school and the weekly program slowly coming into shape, I was able to bop off to the goat farm (an hour's drive) to milk goats, make cheese and lunch with my dear friends, Isabelle and Paul Pierre. My plan is to spend every Thursday there, and during vacations, a few days in a row.

I arrived this morning just shortly after Aurelie and went right to work. Monday she shifted the goats from a twice daily milking to once daily. This meant being far more conscientious about truly emptying (to the best of our abilities) each teat. It also had caused a bit of congestion in the teats of a few of the goats. So some were letting down their milk more slowly then others and needed more attention, massaging, and general coaxing to get their teats empty.

One goat, Bonne Belle, had particularly congested teats ever since she'd first milked. Apparently, she'd given birth to twins and was nursing them fine (Isabelle and Paul Pierre always left the kids with the goats for the colostrum) and so had the production for two kids. But, one day she rejected one, continuing to nurse only the remaining one. With milk for two, she fed one, and thus begat her history of congested teats. To each goat her own particular history...

Another goat, Attia, is susceptible to infected mammaries, and so Aurelie had done some homeopathic preventive medicine. She had an herbal mixture that she injected via a syringe into the teat -- very very carefully. It was strong smelling, and for the next 48 hours she hand milked this teat and passed the milk to the dogs. Strange flavored goat cheese doesn't sell well... However, Filou happily lapped it up.

With the switch from twice daily milking to once, the quantity has actually not been significantly reduced. She was getting 7 not too full containers of milk, and now she gets 5 very full containers.

Once the milk had passed through the strainers and filter, the rennit and whey from the day before were added (to the still warm milk). We flipped the 150 or so cheeses from yesterday back into their molds -- with a different technique than I'd been using last week. I took note! And I flipped out the cheeses from the day before yesterday onto the grills to be put into the drying room. Aurelie turned over the cheeses in the drying room, and switched the racks around, putting yesterday's below, making room for todays, and taking earlier ones out and into the aging room, cave d'affinage.

We then switched to ladling out of the three day curd into the molds which was pretty quickly done. While this was all going on, I kept up with the washing up, disinfecting, etc.: The milking pumps needed rinsing, washing and filling with water before they were hung in their storage spot till tomorrow. The tanks needed rinsing, washing and rinsing. The molds from the day before needed rinsing and washing (these go in the 5 minute machine). The floor needed squeegeeing where I'd spilled some milk (yes, it happens!). And the stainless cheese trays from the day before needed rinsing, scrubbing and hosing down before passing the squeegee to remove excess water.

The cheese lab is unorthodox with its terra cotta tiles on the floor and white washed plaster walls, but it is very easy to clean and to keep clean. Half way up the walls and all around the sinks are close fitting white tiles. These too scrub down easily and rinse well. It shows that thoughtful architects, not young folk blindly following the European Union Hygiene police, built this lab. Though it does not conform to code, it has often been cited as an example by those with actual authority amongst the inspectors. This laboratory has never had a serious incident. Well-conceived and easy to clean, it breathes.

What is interesting to me is that Aurelie is now accustomed to making her cheeses here. But, the plan is to build a different lab over on her father's land. Will she follow the same principles? And, will she be able to transfer over her cheeses to the new lab by simply bringing over her whey? I'm not sure. The walls of this lab are her partners in making her cheese. They bear the imprint of years of successful cheeses in the form of layers of spores from past years -- good spores, good bacteria, good mold. This is what helps cheese take and age as it should. A brand new lab won't have these...

We'll wait and see. For more information about goats do take a look at the site All Things Goat

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