Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Home

Francis is on his way to his new home in Landers, California.  I made the difficult decision to give him away after a lot of contemplation and much frustration. However, it's just not very practical (nor safe at times) to have him while I'm trying to grow my dairy herd.  His dietary needs are completely different than my pregnant does, he's a little too rough with them, and much to stubborn for his own good. 

He's going to live with 2 Nigerian dwarfs on 2.5 acres where all he has to do all day is be a goat.  He'll be a lovely pet and apparently his new owners are already enamored with him.

Au revoir Francis, you're quite the character.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Welcome Home

The girls are back home.  Although I anticipated a spectacle on par with Cirque de Soleil from Francis upon their arrival he was rather...disappointing to watch. He actually didn't do anything.  He looked at them drive up and calmly watched then walk into the pen. Of course I know he's happy they're back (he doesn't scream bloody murder when you leave him now) but he doesn't necessarily seem overjoyed.

The girls are as sweet as ever but have brought back with them the smell of a barn. Both are getting a bath this weekend.

Clover was bred on November 24th so if it didn't "take" I should know in the next few days. The breeder was a very nice woman but I truly hope they don't have to make the trip up there again this season.

Assuming both girls are pregnant we should be expecting our first kids on April 23, 2011 and May 5, 2011.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Imaginary Friends

A lovely friend of my mother's suggested that I put a mirror in the goat house to give Francis the sense that he isn't actually alone in the pen. (The little guy is still mourning the loss of his girls.) What a novel idea. 

I found a 3/4 length mirror and propped it up on one of the walls in his house. Francis promptly investigated then began to bite and butt at the reflection. He would stare at it, then run out of the house to see if he could catch the goat, then he'd run back in and begin the process all over again. I'm not sure if it actually gives him a sense of companionship but it definitely gives him something to do during the day.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One is the loneliest number

The girls are gone (for the time being) and Francis is absolutely devastated. The poor guy isn't eating and he's been crying so much he's made himself hoarse. When you go to the pen he talks for a few minutes then settles long as you're in his eyesight.  The minute you get up to leave he begs you to stay.  He hasn't eaten a lot of hay the last few days but if you bring him romaine lettuce he'll gladly accept it. I've read lots of things that say goats are companion animals and need a friend.  Since I have three I didn't really see this as a problem.  However, now that he's only one it's painfully apparent. I keep telling him that the girls will come back but he's lost all faith in me. Here's hoping the breeding goes well and fast so the girls can come home soon.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The things we do for love...

Today was an interesting day. A long interesting day. Today we took the does to a farm 85 miles away to be bred. They hated every minute of it. However, it's a necessary step in the life cycle of a dairy goat. Doe meets buck, buck impregnates doe, doe has kids, owners get fresh goat milk.

My ingenious father built a cover for his F-150 truck so that we could transport the goats without the need for expensive and slow trailers. They luckily followed me right in since I was carrying a bowl of grain and they're pretty greedy when it comes to grain. After they loaded up and we began to move they started crying. I mean full-blown belting their discontent. I couldn't take it and rolled the windows up.

On our drive we encountered 30 mile per hour winds, rain, a 20 degree temperature change and a double rainbow.  When we arrived they were shivering and frightened. We got them settled into a stall, attempted to introduce Rosie to her mate and left. They cried and cried as we walked out the barn. That is, of course, until they realized they had fresh alfalfa in their pen.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Weights II

The last time I weighed the goats I used a traditional scale and the traditional method. I stepped on it with them then subtracted my weight and got the approximate weight for the goat.  Apparently you don't do this. I soon realized that when I nearly broke my back since they're so heavy. The way you're supposed to weigh goats doesn't use a scale at all.  In fact you measure around their chest and use a chart to determine approximate weight.

Clover clocked in at 30" = 84+ lbs
Rosie clocked in at 29" = 78 lbs

This chart comes from Fias Co Farm and can be found here.

10 3/4 5 26 3/4 66
11 1/4 5.5 27 1/4 69
11 3/4 6 27 3/4 72
12 1/4 6.5 28 1/4 75
12 3/4 7 28 3/4 78
13 1/4 8 29 1/4 81
13 3/4 9 29 3/4 84
14 1/4 10 30 1/4 87
14 3/4 11 30 3/4 90
15 1/4 12 31 1/4 93
15 3/4 13 31 3/4 97
16 1/4 15 32 1/4 101
16 3/4 17 32 3/4 105
17 1/4 19 33 1/4 110
17 3/4 21 33 3/4 115
18 1/4 23 34 1/4 120
18 3/4 25 34 3/4 125
19 1/4 27 35 1/4 130
19 3/4 29 35 3/4 135
20 1/4 31 36 1/4 140
20 3/4 33 36 3/4 145
21 1/4 35 37 1/4 150
21 3/4 37 37 3/4 155
22 1/4 39 38 1/4 160
22 3/4 42 38 3/4 165
23 1/4 45 39 1/4 170
23 3/4 48 39 3/4 175
24 1/4 51 40 1/4 180
24 3/4 54 40 3/4 185
25 1/4 57 41 1/4 190
25 3/4 60 41 3/4 195
26 1/4 63 42 1/4 200

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Finally got a chance to weigh the goats yesterday.  They're supposed to be 80 lbs when we breed them and I hope to do that in the next 6 weeks.
Rosie = 61 lbs
Clover = 71 lbs

Just like everything else. Clover is perfect and Rosie is not. I've got less than two months to get her fattened up and ready to be pimped out. Too bad she doesn't like anything other than hay and dates. Although grain is supposed to be amazing from the goat's perspective, my little girl could care less.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lesson #4,126 in Goat Husbandry

Goats jump.
They jump high.
They're also pretty curious and determined.
Last night my naughtiest goat, Rosie, thought it was a fantastic idea to jump on top of her house (which is 4' plus high) and then jump over the chain-link fence enclosing the pen. She was eventually captured and brought back home where my father had dutifully moved the goat house to the middle of the pen, thereby removing any temptation to escape again. 

Lesson learned: Never underestimate the jumping capabilities of a dairy goat.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Picky Eaters

You know the age old saying "goats will eat anything, even tin cans." Totally false. I mean completely and utterly false.

The saying has more truth for my wether but still far from correct. Along with hay he'll eat lettuce, carrots, watermelon and most other vegetable scraps. Clover will eat slightly less and Rosie will eat nothing that she didn't peel, rip, pull, or scavenge herself.

With that in mind, imagine how fun it is to try and feed them an herbal mixture mashed with peaches and rolled into balls. Yeah, not fun. Francis ate it right out of my hand, Clover ate it after she was pinned down and it was shoved into her mouth, and Rosie gagged and spit it all over my mother (she also bucked, screamed and bit her handler-who was also my mother).

The herbal mixture is a natural wormer and thus has to be administered. I didn't want to pump them full of chemicals (especially since I got goats purely for my own organic dairy consumption) so I opted for a natural remedy.  However, this natural "stuff" is rather repulsive, foul-smelling and difficult to force down a goat's throat.

Looking forward to the next treatment. Here's hoping they have a better taste for gooey, sticky balls tomorrow.

To the cheesemasters of Humbolt Fog

Thank you.

Your cheese is exceptional. The culinary experience of eating it is nothing short of amazing.  Enjoying this cheese inspires me to create amazing things.

So, again, I thank you.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Goat House

My goats have been living in an 800 sq ft pen and sleeping in a 10 sq ft box. I know.That's pathetic. But, they were small. They liked the coziness of the close quarters. However, this weekend my father and I built them a more proper shelter.

It's a three sided shed with a sloping roof. 

1-relatively skilled handy-person/capenter
1-not-so-skilled helper
3-sheets of 3/4" plywood (4x8)

4-right angle braces
1-skill saw
2 million screws

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The skills you learn

I've never been handy. I may be called crafty or inventive, but not handy. I can barely manage to right a tripped circuit breaker in my electrical box. However, when you have goats you're forced to figure out at least some elementary carpentry/construction/agricultural skills. They need a pen. They need a feed trough/manger. They need shelter. I guess if you're infinitely wealthy you can purchase all of these things. But what goat farmer is?

My first lesson was building the pen. (The goats happily reside in a fenced  20' x 40' pen.) My second lesson was watching my father build a manger. Here's the manger that my dad and mom built from scrap wood and small bits of purchased wood from the local Lowes.
It is exceptionally more efficient than placing hay in a trough and the goats don't have the opportunity to waste much. They have managed to jump in twice, but I suspect as they grow they will lose the ability to accomplish this. The manger also has the advantage that all goats can eat simultaneously and without disturbing the others. No more bullying to get at the best flakes!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I realized this morning that my blog isn't exactly overflowing with photos of the "kids." I think it's because 1) I'm afraid of bringing my camera and/or phone into the pen for fear that they'll jump on me and smash anything in my pockets and 2) they're so curious that the minute you take out the camera they're running up to it and sniffing it--thereby causing obscure photos of ears and mouths.

So, anyhow here are some photos that I or my sister managed to take of my fabulous caprine friends.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A farm education in Oregon

My husband I recently spent some time exploring Southern Oregon while staying with the owners of the Applegate Valley Artisan Breads who are the parents of a college friend of ours.  On the drive north I was reading the Dairy Goat Journal and flipped to an article on start-up costs for dairy businesses. The author also wrote a lengthy book on the same subject and lives in Rogue River, Oregon. I asked our hosts if they knew her and they said that they knew of her and would inquire about the farm when they delivered breads to a creamery that a carries her cheeses. As luck would have it, the owners of the farm agreed to give me a "quick and dirty" farm tour. Excitement underestimates my feelings as we drove up to the farm.

The owners of Pholia Farm, were gracious and open. Gianaclis Caldwell is the author of The Farmstead Creamery Advisor which is a delightful, if painfully honest, account of small scale creameries. She showed me the barn, milking parlor, milkhouse and make room. She also invited me to join her on the "goat run" (a 3/4 mile walk through the forest with her 38 Nigerian dwarf goats). I ended my visit at the farm by buying a signed copy of the book and berating her with tons of questions which she graciously and patiently answered.

Big Dreams

For the past few months I have toyed with the idea of getting licensed and becoming a legitimate dairy farm and creamery. Yes, I realize this idea is more than slightly premature (my does are only 4 1/2 months old) but it is worth considering at such an early point. However here are some very serious disadvantages:
Cost: Start up costs range anywhere from $20,000 to $200,000 with averages around $80,000.
Location: If your goats and creamery are not located on your residential property you have lots of time wasted through travel to and from.
Time: Owning and working on a commercial creamery is very time consuming and laborious often working 12 to 14 hour days for months.
Regulations: Trying to wade through the horrors of the CA Dept. of Food and Agriculture.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Rain rain go away...

I read somewhere in January that goats hate water. Well, they drink water but they supposedly don't like being wet.  Now, I didn't think this was all that true since Francis has frequently run through a sprinkler and played with a hose on multiple occasions. However, during a unexplained downpour this morning (what the heck is a desert monsoon?), they proved the old saying totally correct. When my father and I walked up to the pen we could hear them but we couldn't see any part of them.  As we got closer they got louder and finally when I was at their gate three little heads poked out of the wooden box. Even when I entered the pen with a bunch of alfalfa hay, nobody greeted me. I ended up soaked and placed the hay on the floor of the box. Apparently their discerning attitude regarding eating anything off a floor doesn't apply when it's raining and/or they're hungry.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Educating the massess

I recently made a batch of goat cheese (you can find the recipe here) and everyone that tried it--friends, family co-workers--asked the same question, "Is it from your goats?"

Pardon my frankness but, "Of course it isn't!"

My doe kids are 3 months old, so no, they're not milking at the moment. It seems absurd that highly educated people (including other lawyers) cannot grasp the basic anatomy and life cycle of other mammals. Do women produce milk without giving birth? Honestly, my goat kids aren't even old enough to be bred, let alone old enough to have given birth already.

So, for everyone out there who is woefully uneducated about goats this is for you:

Life Cycle of a Dairy Goat 101:
When goats are born they're called "kids";
Female goats are called "does" and male goats are called "bucks" if they are not castrated and "wethers" if they are;
Goats can be bred at around 8 months of age or when they reach 75lbs;
The gestation period is 150 days;
After kidding (giving birth to baby goats) a doe will produce milk;
Does will continually go into heat for the rest of their lives and if continually bred will live until 11-12 years.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


You've got to have a pretty thick skin to wean a goat. Honestly. They cry whenever you leave them anyway, can you imagine what it is like when you leave them and you haven't given them a bottle of yummy milk? It's awful. Truly awful. It pulls at your heartstrings.

Luckily, my girls have had many different culinary experiences in the last month, including daily doses of alfalfa. They would suck down the milk and then run over to the trough where the hay was placed. They also were given tastes of nectarines, peaches, dates, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, grapes and strawberries. So, overall, their weaning experience is relatively painless. They know that they're going to eat something and this something is usually incredibly delicious. However, this does not mean that the girls are making me feel any better about it. Both Rosie and Clover are continuing to make me second guess the decision to pull the bottle away at 3 months. They cry and bleat and scream for minutes and constantly circle around me looking for the elusive bottles.

Since before Francis arrived he was weaned. I think this is why he always seems to laugh and smile to himself when the girls are desperately trying to uncover the non-existent bottles. He knows what this is like. He's been there. He's relishing in their discontent.Soon they too will get over it. But, until then they're going to cry and scream and bleat.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

And then they're gone....

When my little Francis arrived at the ranch he was already "banded." (A procedure wherein a very tiny rubber band is placed around the top of the scrotum which continually restricts the blood flow from body to testicles). He walked around like this for weeks and I constantly checked between his legs to see the progress of this intriguing and somewhat disturbing process. Little by the little the testicles shrunk and hardened as they dried up from lack of blood. Little by little the tiny band pulled the skin connecting the sack to the body until one day...they fell off.

So, now I have a wether.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

One Month of Residence....

The goats have officially resided on our humble little ranch for 1 month today. During that month I have learned:
  • Goats love people
  • The procedure of banding a male goat is painful and possibly inhumane
  • Goats can learn their names (especially if you have a very yummy incentive for them)
  • Cow milk can be fed to kid goats and they'll never know the difference
  • If you drop a treat or hay on the ground goats will not eat it
  • Human/animal companionship is an absolute necessity in the everyday life of a goat
  • Dogs and goats can be friends
  • A halter can be made out of the nylon rope from hay bales
  • A diet high in date fruits will disrupt the digestive system of a goat
  • Pull a goat, don't push it
  • Goats jump
  • If a goat escapes her pen, she can be easily lured back with treats

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Learning to Walk

Along with training my goats to recognize their names, I'm attempting to teach Francis to walk on a lead with a halter. Of course, the halter doesn't fit his miniature head (why should I think that the smallest halter labeled "kid goat halter" would fit?). So, getting him ready for these training activities is quite the challenge. He doesn't like the bulky thing on his head so he throws his head from side to side for a good solid minute...much like this photo.

Today's session went exceptionally well since Francis followed me around far outside his pen and into new territory. One minor drawback to this excursion, which had not crossed my mind previously, was the response by the girls.  The minute Francis was out of their sight they freaked out. Not only were they bleating they were screaming. Clearly the little girls have a special place in their hearts for my boy. 

Monday, May 10, 2010


Goats are incredibly curious. They're so curious that you cannot get a new toy into their pen without them pushing and pawing at it before you get it through the gate. 

Pretty much anything is a toy to a goat. Shoelaces, shirt sleeves, tree branches, boxes, and empty milk jugs are all fabulous toys. Today, I added a wood plank and a large plastic pipe to the goat pen.  Before I could place the plank between the upside planter and the shipping crate they were already walking/jumping/chewing on it. When I rolled the pipe in they were crawling all over it and falling over each other.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Name Calling

I have decided to teach my goats tricks. I want to teach them their names. I don't care if I sound like the "crazy wacko lady who personifies her very un-humanlike animals", I just want the goats to come when I call them. 

Personally, I do not think this will be very difficult to achieve.  Yes, I know that goats are not dogs with the canine inherent desire to please but, I have high hopes that my caprine friends will pull through. For starters, I'm using a great Second, it's a food that is well liked by my current subject, Francis--the castrated male.

I began by stuffing my pockets with little pieces of dates (these types of dates) and then waiting until Francis lost interest in my presence. After I walked about 5 feet away, I knelt down and called "FRANCIS" and when he reached me I rewarded him with a date piece.  He eagerly munched on the sweet treat and then I began the process all over again.  After the first two times it became increasingly difficult to walk away from him as he continued to jump on/search me for the extra dates hiding in my pockets. He could smell them through my linen pants and was confused by my reluctance to give him the excess pieces.  However, I managed to do this process six times, each time he was rewarded with his favorite treat.  My guess is that in the next three weeks my little wether will come whenever I call "Francis" with or without the dates.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Goats and Bikes

Two of my favorite things in life are my new goat kids and my Cannondale Caad 9.  After a long day at the office, with crazy old clients complaining about money, it's incredibly refreshing to hit the road for an hour long ride. It is especially refreshing when the end of the ride concludes with bottle feeding baby goats. The lawyer world seems thousands of light years away with every bleat.

Friday, April 30, 2010

First Lessons in Goat Farming

Goats like groups.
Goats like to nibble.
Goats like to jump...on everything.
Goats like to chew on sticks.
Goats like to bounce.
Goats like to climb.
Goats like people.
Goats like dates.
Goats like company.
Goats like platforms.
Goats like children.
Goats like other animals.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New Home

They finally arrived! After months of searching, a week of manual labor, a 2 hour drive, and a few hundred bucks...they're here!

The girls are slowly adjusting while Francis is already dominating the ranch.  He was not thrilled with the idea of having dogs run around outside his pen but he's learning to accept their un-goatlike behavior. He's rediscovered milk and is determined to get his little roman nose and mouth at the bottles when they arrive for feeding time. This turns into a game of "push the goat" which we're currently winning but not for long as he's learning to "butt" very well with that little head of his. 

Lap-jumping is the newest favorite thing for the girls.  They both love to jump into your lap while you're sitting in a chair and then they leap off to start the game all over again.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How to Build a Goat Pen

A goat pen can be made of a variety of materials...wood, barbed wire, electric wire, cattle panels or chain-link.  We chose chain-link because it is sturdy and can keep predators out.  Coyotes are prevalent around here and there is a fear that with easy access they would love to take one of my little girls away for dinner. We're going to try our best to prevent this by building a pen made of 6' chain-link fencing.

Since my husband and I are anything but handy, we enlisted the help of my father to assist us in constructing the new goat home. First, we needed to stake out the future post sites.  Next, we dug post holes, then we filled them with sand.  Finally, we set posts in each hole and filled the hole with a cement/concrete mixture.  After we used a builder's level to ensure our posts weren't leaning we let them sit (or rather stand) over night.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The countdown begins

Because of a miscalculation...or rather because of my misreading of a calendar...the goats will be arriving on April 26, 2010. One week from today.

This is what the goat area looks like now. By next Monday it will have:
      • 40' x 20' 6 foot chain-link pen
      • Sun shelter
      • 1 gate
      • water bucket
      • feed trough
      • various toys and platforms
It will also have three goats in it. :) Rosy, Clover and Francis.
Rosy and Clover are Nubian sisters. Francis is a wether who is a Nubian/Nigerian Dwarf cross.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

And then there were three...

We have goats! They're still residing in Poway until April 26th but they are ours.

After seeing both Nigerians and Nubians, and speaking extensively with a dairy goat farmer, I decided that Nubians are the goat for me. So, we picked out two cute little Nubian kids (1 month old) and then the lovely lady at Urban Acres Farm threw in a wether as well.  Apparently the wether will be great company for the girls and he will help me realize when the girls are ready for breeding.

This cutie is named Rosy.

This one is Clover.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Goats for Leche

For the past few months I have continuously searched for dairy goats in the Coachella Valley but to no avail.  Perhaps they simply do not exist here.

A couple of weeks ago I visited a small goat farmer and was disheartened to see the conditions the goats were living in. Hundreds of goats to a relatively small pen and nursing does suffering from all kinds of ailments. Additionally, although I repeatedly asked the farmer over the phone if his goats were dairy goats and each time he replied yes, they were not.  We had some difficulty communicating until finally I said, "cabra por leche??" to which he replied, "oh no." thanks

Not all hope is lost because we're driving to Poway, California tomorrow to visit this farmI'm confident they'll have healthy, happy and high producing goats. I'm not confident I'll be able to afford them. We shall soon find out.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Searching for Goats

Apparently finding potential dairy goats in the desert is rather difficult.   Although we have a large farm/agricultural population this doesn't include my potential Nubian ladies.

I have almost ruled out the traditional route of going to a licensed/documented/award bragging breeder. They are supremely expensive and since they're so focused on bloodlines, are they really paying any attention to the quality of the milk?

My husband suggested I try local schools and see if their agriculture department has any animals for sale. This morning I thought I had a lead when we passed by a high school that had a sign, "Goats for Sale." Fantastic. I called the operator of the school who gave me the cell phone number to the caretaker of the farm. Then I called the caretaker. This was our exchange:

"Yeah, I've got one goat left."
"Great. Is it a dairy goat?"
"Oh no. It's a BBQ goat."
"A BBQ goat?"
"Yeah. A BBQ goat."

Now, in all my research for dairy goats I have come to know a little bit about meat goats. However, in no article or book or journal are goats ever referred to as a method of cooking.  Albeit slightly uncouth, I guess it makes the transition from farmyard to dinner table a lot easier when you're always referring to the goat as "Daisy, the star of our next neighborhood cookout."

So, the school thing didn't quite work out.

My search continues.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Warm Goat Cheese Salad

Goat cheese is pretty amazing at all times. But, it is especially amazing served warm.

Warm Goat Cheese Salad
  • spring greens (rinsed and dried)
  • lemon mustard vinaigrette
  • 6 oz goat cheese (herbed or plain)
  • 3 tbsp toasted pine nuts pulverized
  • 2 tbsp bread crumbs (plain)
Toss the springs greens with the vinaigrette and set aside. Mix the pine nuts and bread crumbs in a small bowl.  Divide and form the goat cheese into four balls. Roll each ball in the bowl with the pine nut/bread crumb mixture. Slightly press the top and bottom of the balls to form small disks. Roll each disk again in the nut mixture. Place the four disks on a baking sheet and broil for 2-5 minutes.

Remove the cheese from the oven and place over spring greens. Serve immediately. Enjoy with pain complet and a glass of white wine.

Step 1: Build Goat Pen

If you have a large cleared area of land (at least 10' x 20' per goat) you're ready to build your pen.  However, if your area is not already cleared then obviously you need to clear it before you build. And, if your future goat pen area has an abandoned pig pen in it, you must remove that first.

So, for me, it was Step 0: Remove abandoned Pig Pen.

At first glance I thought, "okay, a good 2 hours should have that chain-link fence up and out of there."  After digging down a few inches and noticing that the bottom of the fence was no where in sight, I re-thought the projected completion time. Then, after digging down 3 feet I thought, "who the hell buries a chain-link fence by more than 3 feet?"

Apparently, pigs are notorious diggers so you must bury their fence so that they can't dig under the pen and wander away.  However, I can guarantee you that there is no pig in the world that can dig down more than 2 feet and thus, to be overly cautious, no fence should EVER need to be buried more than 30".

My first battle with the pig pen ended in frustration and a very sore lower back. I dug and dug and then pulled and pulled and still that pesky fence wouldn't budge. I'm rested and recovered and today I'm bringing in the artillery. A tractor. Instead of fighting with a shovel and desperately hoping that I can unearth the end of the fence, I've enlisted the help of a tractor.  I'm just going to rip that thing from the ground. Best outcome; the fence comes up clean and intact. Less desirable outcome; the tractor pulls up most of the fence and I bury whatever is left. Either way, this fight is already won.

The future site of the goat pen

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Birthday Fairy

The Birthday Fairy arrived three days early this year. She arrived in the form of a brown cardboard box from After initially pondering "did I order something?"and then, "I thought I canceled the items in my shopping cart?" and having my husband look at me in disbelief as if he was thinking, "how in the world can you not know if you ordered something," I realized it must be instead a birthday gift.  Of course that was it, and it wasn't me suffering from the onset of early Alzheimer's.

My fabulous sister sent me these books to highlight her support of my new adventure. She also sent them to show her awareness of my absolute ignorance about goats, and the craziness of this quest. I love her.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Early Spring

Spring arrives early in the desert. Especially when you consider that the last frost is the first week in March.  In light of this, I planted my seedlings on Valentine's Day with the hope that in a few short months I'll have my own vegetables and herbs for the dinner table.

The crop this year includes:
Purple Basil
Sweet Basil
Roma Tomatoes
Big Boy Tomatoes
Italian Parsley
Sweet Peppers

Maybe by July I'll be able to enjoy a nice tomato and goat cheese sandwich with goat cheese from fresh milk from my own goats and tomatoes from my garden ;)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tangy Victory

I am writing this post while happily munching on a goat cheese tartine. (A slice of toasted bread with fresh chevre smothered on it). And yes, I made it. With the help from those splendid people at Summerhill Dairy and the fantastic folks at The New England Cheesemaking Supply Company I was able to successfully produce my first batch of chevre.

After the curds had set and the whey had over 12 hours to drain, I divided the cheese into three batches. One was mixed with herbs de provence, the other was mixed with black pepper, and the third was untouched. I then rolled them in plastic wrap and squeezed them through a cylindrical mold. Now I have three happy cheese logs sitting on the top shelf of my refrigerator.

Basic Chevre:
1 gallon goat milk (I use Summerhill Dairy since it tastes fresh, isn't goaty  and the milk is not ultrapasteurized)
1 packet "Chevre" (you can get them here from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company)
Stainless Steel pot
Stainless Steel slotted spoon
dried herbs
non-iodized salt

  • Gently heat the milk to 86ºF
  • Pour in the Chevre packet and let sit for 2-3 minutes
  • Stir the milk to ensure even distribution of the cultures
  • Cover and let sit at room temperature (roughly 72-75º) for 12 hours
  • With a slotted spoon, gently place the curds in a colander lined with cheesecloth
  • Tie the cheesecloth and let the curds hang over the sink or a bowl for 3 hours at room temperature. 
  • Transfer the hanging curds to the refrigerator to continue to drip for another 9 hours
  • Put the curds in a bowl and sprinkle with 1.5-3 teaspoons of salt, mix thoroughly
  • Mold the curds or place in an airtight container for storage. 
The cheese should last about a week and a half in the refrigerator.  However, I cannot imagine that there will still be cheese left after a couple of days.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nubian v. Nigerian Dwarf

My father and I came to the conclusion that it would be better to get the dairy goat(s) before the brutal temperatures of the summer here in the Southern California desert. However, that means I only have a few months to 1) figure out which breed I'm going to get, 2) build her (their) pen on my parents' ranch and 3) find the goat(s).

Presently I'm torn between two different breeds of dairy goats. Nubians v. Nigerian Dwarfs. Nubians are regular sized with charastically adorable floppy ears. Nigerian Dwarfs are hardy, pocket-sized healthy milkers who have a reputation for being incredibly loving and sweet with humans. Some of the issues I'm mulling over are:
  • milk production
  • butterfat content
  • tolerance for extreme heat
  • gentleness to humans and children
  • fencing requirements

Apparently both breeds similarly satisfy the conditions above, but in different ways.

Another consideration is the availability of bucks for breeding purposes. Nigerian Dwarfs are not as popular and are actually considered an endangered breed in some areas of the United States. They are also not as revered by the dairy community are are frequently ignored in essays and articles regarding dairy goat breeds.  (This actually makes me want them more.) However, although Nubians are much more well-known there aren't that many that actually live in close promixity to me.  I don't mind driving a long distance, to pick up my doe kid or junior doe, but it may be problematic during breeding time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Simple Pleasures

Sometimes being a lawyer is hard. Sometimes the hours are long. Sometimes I dream of being a full-time cheesemaker.

Today was one of those days.

Today was also a day when I remembered the batch of herbed goat milk mozzarella sitting in my refrigerator.  What a wonderful way to end a rather tedious day.

Over the weekend I attempted a rendition of Ricki Carroll's "30 Minute Mozzarella" recipe with goat milk.  It didn't exactly go smoothly but the end result, after lots of herb de provence and 2 days of resting, was quite tasty.

I sliced a baguette and placed the cheese on the little slices and then melted them in the oven.  Oh how delicious it was.  At that moment I forgot the trial from this morning, I forgot all the client emails I didn't return and I forgot that long list of tasks waiting for me tomorrow morning.  Such a simple pleasure but it quickly lightened my mood and brought a smile to my face.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Milk Rantings-Pasteurization Gone Wrong

Not that I'm a cynic (okay perhaps I am a bit of a cynic) but apparently the capitalist model has proven a detriment to my health and my milk enjoyment.

The trend among large dairy producers is to over pasteurize milk.  Why do this you ask? For the one and only reason that it increases shelf life. It doesn't provide any enhanced protection from pathogens, it just allows grocers to keep it longer before spoiling.

The problem with over pasteurization (known as ultrapasteurization) is that the process and the excessive heat kills the milk. Dead milk won't produce cheese. All organisms in the milk are destroyed leaving the protein structures damaged. Damage proteins mean failed cheese attempts.

Another problem with over pasteurization is that there is no law that mandates labeling milk as so. Most milk is merely labeled "pasteurized" with the prefix "ultra" deceitfully missing.  You will not realize that the milk has been damaged until you attempt a cheese recipe.  This can result in costly and frustrating receipe testing.

Avoid over pasteurized milk like the plague. Ask your local supermarket to provide an alternative to such a nasty creation. Buy locally. Call dairy farms and ask about their pasteurization processes.  I just contacted a regional producer of goat's milk and they informed me that they do not over pasteurize but the milk is just pasteurized. Guess who's going out and buying a few gallons of their milk? Absolutely, me.

In the words of the lovely Ricki Carroll on over pasteurized milk, "It doesn't even taste good...If all else fails, buy a cow, a few sheep, some goats."  Thank you Ricki, I intend to.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Goat Cheese Pizza

Over the weekend I attempted the simplest of goat cheese recipes. Herbed goat cheese spread. Essentially it is just goat milk curds mixed with basil, pepper and salt. The result was light and delicious. My favorite recipe to use up this herbed spread was vegetarian pizza. Trader Joe's pizza dough, homemade tomato sauce, herbed goat cheese spread, sliced tomatoes, and grated romano cheese. Yummm, I'm salivating again just thinking about it. Needless to say it was fantastic.

Friday, January 29, 2010


A word of wisdom: do not attempt a bread recipe on a weeknight, unless you're a night owl and don't intend on getting much sleep.

My husband adores brioche (which is hard to find here and no, Challah isn't brioche) so I wanted to try Julia Child's recipe for the buttery bread.  All was going well until the first rise...."what?!? it's 7 hours long?" were my thoughts after I placed the dough in the bowl and turned the page in the recipe book. Since I started around 6:00 pm this would mean that I would need to let it rise until 1:00 a.m. and then prepare it for a second rise.  So, I decided to let it rise and rise and rise until I awoke the next day at 6:45.  Apparently between the 7th and 12th hour the dough gave up and began deflating. 

I attempted to save it but it was no use. It just left the oven and although it smells lovely and tastes fine, the texture is a bit like a dense cake instead of a buttery bread.

Lessons learned?
1) Read the entire recipe FIRST.
2) Don't start a bread recipe on a weeknight.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chèvre Bretagne

This is a great recipe to use up failed goat yogurt attempts, or regular goat milk. It's also a nice alternative to the traditional "Far Bretagne."
  • 6 oz prunes
  • 6 oz raisins
  • 2 cups goat milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp cognac
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Soak the prunes and raisins in warm water for 1 hour. After prunes/raisins have soaked in the water, drain and put them in a small bowl with the cognac.
  2. Butter a 10" baking dish (at least 2" deep), line the bottom of the pan with wax or parchment paper.
  3. Preheat oven to 400F.
  4. Heat the goat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat but DO NOT let it boil.
  5. Whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla in a bowl.
  6. Whisk in the flour.
  7. Slowly add the milk to the egg/flour mixture. Mix well.
  8. Pour prunes, raisins and cognac into the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange prunes so that they are evenly distributed.
  9. Pour batter mixture over the prunes.
  10. Bake for 45 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean.
  11. Let the tart cool slightly and turn it out onto a plate and remove the wax/parchment paper.
  12. Serve warm or at room temperature.

First: The Basics

They say that the best introduction into cheesemaking is to try your skills with yogurt. Of course, my first attempt was a complete, okay maybe not complete disaster. I dove head first, with unbridled enthusiasm, toward the first recipe I found. I forgot all the recipes I had read over the years, forgot all the comments I heard from fellow foodies and instead latched onto a single recipe I stumbled upon during a google search. First mistake, do not blindly jump into a recipe without consulting other resources. Second mistake, trust your cooking abilities and instincts.

My yogurt (if you could call it anything other than ridiculously-thick-and-creamy goat milk) had great cultures as a starter but I only allowed it to sit for 3 hours. Hey, that's what the recipe said. I know now that 3 hours isn't even long enough for the milky mixture to get comfortable. Next time I will exercise patience and not disturb the little jars for at least 6-8 hours. I will also check it and make sure that enough time has passed and, if not, I'll give it more.

The Quest

I've always loved animals. I've also always loved cheese. This is my quest to find meaning in my world through dairy goat farming and cheesemaking. I am not deterred by the fact that I'm an attorney who usually works long hours, has never owned a goat, and has never made cheese. All minor details in this little scheme of mine.