Home Dairying and Cheesemaking Class

I love the city life. The hustle and bustle and cutting-edge of it all is energizing and amazing. It is also stressful and hectic and aging. I left New York City last year after finding out that my heart couldn't take it anymore. Also, my heart just wasn't in it anymore either. I had immersed myself in my life in Manhattan so much that nowhere else existed. It was then that I realized I needed to get back to basics.

I returned home to Florida last year, and have been living with family for the past ten months. It's not an unusual story these days. Other friends and people my age are returning home for one reason or another, possibly spurred on by the state of our economy, or a desire to be closer to their loved ones and need for a support system. Once settled, I decided to take on a laundry list of things I should know as an adult such as: canning, home gardening, sewing, and cheese making and home dairying.

Home dairying, you ask? Yes. It has been a dream of mine to live in a yurt and take care of a pair of goats. Maybe it's some weird hippie gene I inherited from my Mother. She's always been the hippie home-maker; taking us on journeys of home-made discovery such as becoming vegetarian, sewing all of our clothes, baking bread, making granola. I remember one birthday in particular where I was crushed to discover a zucchini bread bundt cake instead of a Duncan Hines box cake with store-bought frosting.

So to feed my desire for modern home economics, I went to a one day course at the Crowley Folk School

Christine Abbey runs Sprawling Oaks Farm in Arcadia, Florida and makes raw goat’s milk, chevre, mozzarella, feta, fudge and beautyberry jam. The small farm raises several breeds of dairy goats, but mostly Saanens, Lamanchas and Guernseys. They also have a small flock of chickens including Buff Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds, Black Copper Marans, and Ameraucanas. Additionally, Sprawling Oaks Farm is certified Animal Welfare Approved.

I learned the basics of goat keeping from Christine, including an outline of the different goat breeds, housing, fencing, feeding, and health care. 

Then she taught the group the basics of cheese making. We got to make panir, feta, and mozzarella in class and were able to sample them. Cheese making isn't fast but it is simple. Much like canning, if you stick to the recipe and follow directions, things will nearly always come out they way they're supposed to. 

What I learned yesterday:

  • Do not buy goat's milk in the grocery store. It will never taste as good as fresh goat's milk.
  • Butterfat levels in milk differ from goat to goat.
  • Goats like to eat browse, which are shrubs, trees, and weeds. Caesar weed is their favorite, also Kudzu vine and Oak leaves, branches, and acorns.
  • Goats have no natural defenses against predators, so you must keep them safe at night from dogs.
  • Goats must give birth to give milk.
  • Goats are highly trainable, loving, and easy to care for.
  • Mozzarella cheese is easy to make and supremely delicious, even when it doesn't turn out exactly right.
  • I will own goats one day. Also I will be making mozzarella next week to put on my homemade pizza with homegrown basil. 

Jenny DeWitt

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