Who in their right mind would actually PAY money to go milk someone’s goat for them, and then make their cheese?
Probably no one in their right mind, but that is exactly what I spent my Saturday doing! And, if I might add, I had an absolute BLAST doing it!!!
I have been watching Craigslist and researching goat farms, looking for goats for sale in the area. In the process, I came across a lady who owned a few goats just south of us, and she offered classes in milking and making goat cheese. I did a little research on her and found she has developed quite a good reputation in this area. So, I signed up to take a class. I figured I would learn to make a few cheeses and learn that final dairy-goat step of hand-milking, in the hopes of being as prepared as possible before I start milking (later this month, hopefully).
We started the day by helping with morning barn chores. We would have collected eggs, but the chickens had decided not to lay since it was so chilly last night. The goats, however, were more than ready to be milked out. So, we all crowded into the little milking room, she set everything up, and invited the first goat. A very experienced Nubian named Lucy walked in, hopped up on the stand, stuck her head through the head-gate, and started munching her grain. The host proceeded to clean her teats and explain what we were to do. We 3 students then took turns milking her. Despite the fact that she had a near perfect udder, with long, easy-to-grab teats, I was truly surprised at how difficult it was to find the correct amount of pressure and the right rhythm to get those faucets to turn on! I think it took a good 15-20 minutes of us inexperienced handlers to get that poor, patient goat milked out (with a bit of help from the host, of course!)
Lucy was excused, and then an adorable little Alpine/Nigerian Dwarf named Lilac was invited in. Everything worked about the same, except that Lilac was a first freshener (her first season being milked), and her teats were only about 2 inches long. What a difference that made! She was a lot harder to milk, although, I am proud I was one of the 2 students that was able to get the faucets flowing. She was a bit squirmier, but still as sweet as she could be. I think she is just a more active goat in general. I also found it interesting that even though she was only 2/3 the size of Lucy, she produced about twice as much milk.
Last, but not least, Lilac was eventually excused and another Nubian (whose name I forgot) came in for her turn. After all the goats were milked, we were introduced to the other farm critters, including several meat rabbits free-ranging with the goats, a pile of chickens, a couple of pregnant goats (one of which was due to pop any day), and finally, we walked into the nursery and got to visit with first-freshener Star, a perfect Nubian specimen, and her new twin doelings (girls).
After the grand tour, we all went into the house and learned about goat milk and cheese. We got to filter the milk, sample the fresh goat’s milk (still warm from their udders), and then divide it up between the 3 of us students. Over the next couple hours, we learned to make garlic-and-herb chevre, mozzerella, and ricotta. The cheese making was followed up by a delicious farm-fresh brunch, using a portion of our cheeses and some cool goat’s milk to drink.
It was an absolutely great morning, I had a terrific time, and it was wonderful moving from strictly book-knowledge to some hands-on experience. I know how to make 4 types of cheeses now (I learned how to make cheddar some time ago), and I’ve learned the basics of hand-milking. I must admit though, that milking will obviously take some practice to become proficient at. I’m barely coordinated enough to walk and chew gum at the same time, so trying to remember the finger rhythm necessary to milk, in addition to aiming those hoses into the bucket was a bit challenging. I squirted myself at least once with each goat, and with one goat, I thought I wasn’t getting any milk out of the far teat, but soon realized that I was squirting the milk straight out the side, and over the edge of the bucket onto the wall. Oh well, you live and learn, I guess!