Monday, July 25, 2011

Bloomy-rind Divine

I finally stopped eating one of our recently made bloomy-rind cheeses called St. Maure just long enough to take a picture. We've been making this cheese for awhile now providing ample opportunity to make mistakes, repeat mistakes and finally I feel comfortable with it. When I get it right, the young cheese (two weeks after production) is a little firmer than brie with an excellent clean flavor and no hint of bitterness. At this stage, I feel a little salt really enhances the taste and we devour it on crackers. As it ages wrapped in the fridge, the texture becomes soft until it is runny and it begins to develop an acidic bite that most people shy away from. We sampled one at 8 weeks and despite its pungent smell the taste was still wonderful.

The mistake I've made with this one is letting condensation drip onto the aging cheese from the fridge's upper coil. It's not noticeable at first, always dripping when I'm not looking/thinking, but then I start to notice that the rind is smooth and yellow, instead of furry and white, and it is LOOSE. The cheese becomes gooey between it's body and rind and flipping tends to tear the rind. Despite all of this, the cheese is still yummy but definitely lacking in appearance and more likely to become contaminated. I keep the aging cheese dryer by inverting a plastic tub over it, between the cooling coil and cheese so condensation drips are diverted away. Any moisture originating from the cheese drips/evaporates away from beneath, since the rounds age on a plastic mesh mat supported by a standard plastic coated wire fridge shelf. It sounds way more complicated than it really is. Don't let the smell fool you, this type of cheese is divine and it's only a little more work than chevre.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bachelor Pad

This is the new man in the yard (left). He's older, but from great lines. We will use him this fall for all of our gals, keep any new does (hoping the boy:girl kid ratio will improve in 2012), and then breed kids to our first and younger boy, Glory Days. Bandito is from Dragonfly Farm in MA and is out of Twin Creeks Stella Luna and PromisedLand Incredible Hunk, both productive show animals to say the very least. Bandito is a little shy, quiet and very sweet...just my speed.

At first the boys had to tussle a bit which naturally brought the girls into screaming heat, but have since made good company for each other. Or at least the pee-in-the-face and mounting-each-other activity, notorious for boy goats, has eased somewhat. My daughters will never require the birds and bees talk after all of the gratuitous viewing they will engage in. This is yet another great reason to begin your own mini-farm. Early childhood education has nothing on us.

The boy's house came together in time, despite the circumstances. The walls bow and knock when they are asking to be fed in the morning. I think it may just be enough to hold their strength. The fencing, however, is another failure. I thought the gauge seemed off when I bought it at Lowe's, but otherwise was ecstatic at the price and felt committed after hauling it home, the hatch secured with bungee cord and huffing diesel all the way home. Laughably, they always escape when we are away and our goat-sitter is good enough to "fix" the fence, however temporarily. I'm fortunate they are well-mannered misters and I also know that when they really want to leave it will be short work to ease out of their confinement. Best to replace said fencing prior to breeding season or I will be sorry.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

On loss.

Every farm, however small, suffers losses and recently we have been beset by them. Several weeks ago we lost our favorite doe kid this season, Tripoli. She was gorgeous beyond belief and maybe never suited to this ugly world. After a month of wasting away with diarrhea, she finally passed. I believe now that her dam never fed her those first few days and it took too long for her to show any interest in a bottle. I should have forced a tube down her throat to feed her colostrum after 24hrs, but I mistook her disinterest in eating as a sign that her mother was nursing in private. Combine a first-freshening doe with a freshman mistake in goat husbandry and you get a wasting kid. Despite eating, she never put on weight and took little interest in running and jumping with the others. She was bigger and healthier the day of her birth than any other of her short life.

About one week before Tripoli died, we started losing laying hens to a clever raccoon. One-a-day and with no obvious signs of forced-entry, I began to blame the chickens for cannibalism and a recent change in feed. Even after discovering the thief, we failed to secure the coop against his persistent attacks. With net electric fencing installed, I finally succeeded in trapping the chicken-eater two days ago. I dispatched him and he suffered less than his prey.

Within this short period, we also lost my father to a brain tumor. Where keeping the little farm was once an obstacle to visits with family, it has become a great distraction from the reality of my father's death.