I don’t have them often, but when I do, it’s stupendously awesome.
Andrew was going to be doing the CSA delivery, which left me on my own at home. The weather was brightly crisp, warming as the sun rose higher above the horizon. This perfect day was made even better by the fact that EVERYTHING went SMOOTHLY for getting the delivery and boxes together for him to take off early. Finally! That’s because we got the boxes mostly packed in the cooler the night before, ahha!. Conveniently, the walk-in cooler also is where we keep beer, so I cracked a cold one and started dividing the bountiful harvest between the boxes for the week (we have 9 to 11 members receiving a box each week.) There were boxes of sweet and some spicy peppers, the last cucumbers and green beans and eggplants hoarded and safely stashed before the frost descended upon us last weekend. We had collected fresh cilantro, thyme, tomatillos, baby lettuces, cabbage,
So, CSA and duck egg orders loaded up, off he goes. I’m a solitary one at heart, and I really enjoy my space when I can get it. On the to-do list was a myriad of tasks: defrost stand-up freezer, clean eggs, collect dragon langerie bean plants/pods for drying in the hoophouse and next years’ seed, pick nice apples for CSA stocking up, start apple jelly process of cleaning and boiling and then straining the fruit, make corn cob jelly, make a big batch of rabbit-touille with all the random tiny weirdo bits of veggies left after packing the boxes (like mini eggplants, soft peppers, too large green beans, garlic with soft cloves.)
Last year I made corn cob jelly with our own corn cobs, not wanting to waste anything from our precious corn! It was pretty good, very unusual. We don’t eat alot of sweets though, so I only just tried it a couple days ago. This year our corn did horribly, but I bartered with some local folks who also farm organically- my goat cheese and duck eggs for their sweet corn. I’ve got 34 pounds of kernals put up in our freezer! It’s not tender and crispy prime eating corn, it’s more old fashioned chewy, super corny. After removing the kernals from the cobs, I had 100 naked cobs to use somehow. I planned on the jelly again, on this, the prefect day. But after a weirdo premonition overnight, I researched the corn cob jelly and decided I can’t rely on the internet for 100% safe jelly recipes. Most jelly is made from fruit, which is safely high acid, but corn is not a fruit, so making a jelly with it’s cob juice, seemed questionable. Some people said they used their corn cobs for stock making. Hmmmm. I did go ahead and boil the cobs for an hour or so, then after I pulled them out, as the liquid reduced I poached my 3 rabbits in it for another hour and half. I pulled them out of the broth to cool off, added some white pepper, salt, basil and tarragon to the boiling cauldron and let it keep reducing.
First I emptied our stand up freezer into a cooler. We have a bit of pork left from Rosie, some rabbit hides, 3 chickens, and some highland beef we bartered for, not too much in there, so it was a perfect time to get that thing defrosted. It’s also imperative, when you are trying to eat from your stocks, to know exactly what they consist of. I don’t want weird things lurking in the freezer!
Next, I yanked up the dragon langerie plants I’d left to mature their pods. This seed is pretty expensive to buy, so saving our own supply makes sense. They are gorgeous beans, waxy cream color with lavendar stripes. Tender and tasty! The plants went into the hopphouse to finish drying up.
After that, I went down into the northwestern “gully” of our farm, with buckets in hand, to pick apples. Man, I have been finding such treasure troves of apples this year. Thank you anonymous bees who did such a great job pollinating! We don’t keep bees ourselves, not yet, but I am so glad we can provide them with a chemical free place to come collect nectar and pollen for their hives, wherever they are. It’s exhilarating to see hundreds of shimmering pink orbs hanging low off the branches. The prospect of lugging all the heavy buckets of apples up and out of the gully is not so great though. Andrew had brush-hog mowed a path down there as far as he safely could, so one by one the buckets were brought to the path, 8 in total, all from one tree. I only collected the ones from the branches, because windfalls usually are wormy, and also I’ve been finding the trees before they drop their fruits. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m no spring chicken, and the prospect of climbing up into a perilous scraggly apple tree kind of freaked me out. If I fell out of it, while Andrew’s gone, that could be really bad. But I do it anyways, and not only is it tremedously fun, I can then reach the best sun-kissed perfect apples. Totally worth it!
I did have a couple buckets of windfall apples to deal with from a few days back, and I washed them, chopped them up and simmered them til soft. Then they got ladled into a cloth lined colander over a bucket, to collect the nectary juice. I left that to strain slowly overnight for jelly making the next day. The viscous liquid stays mostly clear if you don’t rush the pulp dripping by pressing on it.
The corn cob stock had reduced by half, and after Andrew got home and we’d gone to collect the buckets of apples, I started washing all the random veggies left for my rabbit-touille and throwing them into the pot. I picked all the meat off of the rabbits’ bones and put it in there too. The bones got put in th freezer to make more stock from later. The aroma of this concoction after I added some fresh basil, dear me oh my.
Before we sat down to big bowls of nourishing hot soup, we reloaded the defrosted big freezer, then pulled up the next episode of Masterchef on our laptop.
Last summer, with a little bit of precious “fun money,” I grabbed a 6 pack of local brew, from Dave’s Brew Farm. It had a label which called to me- an upside down goat in a Whirlwind, called Matacabras. After I got home, I sat down with my herd of goats in their pasture to chill a bit before 6pm milking time. I cracked one of the beers open, sipped on the sweet and rich brew, while the goats gathered around for pats and scratches. I really overdid it that summer with 6 milkers, wrangling pots and gallons and gallons of milk and cheese every single day. It really turned out to be too much for me to handle while doing everything else, trying to make a living on our small scale farm, because I couldn’t legally sell any of that milk or cheese made from it. Last summer was when I started to fall out of love with goats, to be honest, because the bubble burst shortly thereafter.
A couple weeks passed, and we had a visit from the State Ag Department. Someone made a complaint that we were selling goat cheese at a Farmer’s Market. We had been attending a Market, but we were NOT selling goat cheese there, or anywhere. I knew better. But the inspectors had come to check and let us know that unless we had a Grade A dairy and a license to be making and selling cheese, we could not sell cheese. I knew that, and I assured them I did know that, and would NEVER do that EVER.
No matter how you feel about raw dairy products, this state does not allow the sale of raw milk or homemade cheese. When I first got 2 goats in 2005, I had dreams of operating a secret raw milk buying club, set up to work around the laws by having the members owning the goats and paying me to milk them for them, and then they could come collect their goats’ products. It was very exciting to imagine, and pretty profitable on paper. But the risk of going to jail, or even to court, in reality, was too high for me to take, especially as my beginning farming adventures joined forces with my new husband 3 years ago, and we became a legitimate farm.
I still get emails from friends who want milk or cheese, and even from total strangers. “Can I make a donation for some of your feta?” How I wish! I do believe an informed person has the right to consume what ever they find appropriate, but I cannot be involved in this process. Truly, if you want to access raw milk, you have to get your own animal, or move to a state which does allow raw milk sales. I’ve felt bad to turn people away, but I’ve also felt a bit frustrated that some of them take it personally. Hey, essentially, you are asking me to risk our farm or my going to jail so you can get your dairy fix. It’s not personal, it’s just my logical choice.
The other element of dairy as a food source, is the adorable offspring that must come forth into the world every spring. Dairy goats have to have babies yearly to make milk. My first goats’ kids were my gateway from veganism to meat eating. As a beginning goat keeper, striving towards self-sufficient homestead, I had to participate in the entire cycle of life, nourishment and death. I knew in my heart my vegan days were coming to an end. At first I sold the boy goats to a few friends who came and harvested them on my little beginning farm. But, if I was going to drink the milk from my goats, I should also be open to eating the meat from the male kids. In order to truly live off the land and what you can grow and raise in this climate, you pretty much have to eat meat. I also had a revelation of the life cycle when a tiny peregrine falcon attacked a blue jay in front of me, visciously ripping out the jay’s feathers as it concluded it’s death grip. Nature isn’t cruel by it’s own standards, there is predator and there is prey. We all have to eat. We can choose to be compassionate (is the falcon not compassionate? does it care if it is?) while also sustaining our bodies with nourishing, humanely raised and harvested meat.
Matacabras refers to a goat-killing wind in Spain. I’m not sure if it’s a regular event there, or a legend. We just finally completed our own “matacabra” here on the farm. My goal is to get the goat herd down to a single goat, which sounds crazy. We’ve been up to 17 goats several times over the past 3 years! I’ve selected May as the goat to keep. She’s a great milker (a gallon a day) and she is also the queen/herd boss of all the goats, so her being the one and only actually makes sense. May’s got an attitude and she does not play well with others because of it. I do love to eat and make feta cheese, and I do need goatmilk to make my soaps for our CSA, so I need one milker, and that’s all. Not 6! She’ll provide all the milk we can drink, all milk I need for the soap I want to make, and plenty for feta.
We had a lot of baby goats born here this spring, and a bumper crop of boys. 4 mommas gave birth to 10 babies, and 8 of them were boys. As adorable as they are, there is always a bit of bittersweet moment when you check between their legs and see testicles. What that means is you have brought a life into the world which will be harvested later in the year. Boy goats can’t be milked, and they cannot all be kept as pets, or trekking partners. The answer is to give them a good life with space, sun and play, mothers’ milk and pasture to eat. And then when the time comes, a peaceful end. The first 3 kids we harvested for our CSA member dinner. The next 3 were harvested by our local butcher, to be sold to our customers. The last 2 boys were harvested yesterday. I carried them out, Andrew pulled the trigger, and I cut the jugulars. Then I skinned and gutted them. I have come a long way! We’ll be putting one in our freezer, and bartering the other for beef from some local friends who harvested their highland cow who was being too aggressive. The barter economy in our area is amazing!
I’m not exiting from goats entirely. Reflecting on all they have taught me is quite astounding. I am very grateful to all my goats for what they brought to my life! Metallika, Edith, Maple, Helmuta, Priscilla, Cassanova, Ruby, Rosie, Rocky, Honey, Brenna, May, Segway, Mabel, Valentine, Destiny, Vivianni, Sesame, Cedar, Walter, Romeo, Blackjack, Catalpa, Thuja, Trixie, Two Tone, Schatzi, Mayday, and many more.This year I took a break from milking goats, and I REALLY enjoyed the freedom so much. The thing is, when you are trying to make a living on a farm, you only have so many hours in a day, so much energy, and then there are the laws to comply with. I don’t need and can’t afford to be a milk maiden, not until raw milk sales are allowed in our state. Then I might consider it, if the numbers add up.