My, What Nice Forearms You Have.

A few nights ago, in a dream, a man was hitting on me.  Granted, I’m happily married, but that had no relevance when it was a particular body part that most attracted him.  You know how when you have a dream, and you remember it the next day, you sometimes only remember a snap shot or two?  Well, the shot I vividly recalled was the inside of my bare forearm in the forescreen and him gingerly sliding his thumb along it from my elbow to my wrist, telling me, “What nice forearms you have.”  Nice pick up line, huh?

Thus is the pride of a goat milker.  Or at least me, a weird goat milker.  Strong forearms, a killer hand shake and the ability to out-squeeze any stressed out office worker in a worry ball competition.

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Some might think milking four goats twice a day is a lot of work.  It is, but it’s a different kind of work, a good kind of work.  When I go to the office, I sit outside by the milk stand under the sun or the stars in my farm clothes, talk to the goats, grab some sweet bribery for them to eat while on the stanchion and sidle up to their right sides and commence milking.  Here are the facts as they currently stand:

1.  The milk from the four goats fills up a two gallon pot.

2.  Each squeeze from a teat produces about a tablespoon of milk.

3.  There are 512 tablespoons in two gallons of milk.

4.  I milk twice a day.  That’s (at least) 1024 squeezes per day.

A lot of work?  Yes.  But, I’d rather do this as part of my profession than sit behind a desk and squeeze a worry ball 1024 times per day to get a good grip and quite possibly the ability to suspend myself from my fingertips from the barn rafters for an hour or so.  (OK, I can’t really do that.  And, actually, I don’t really aspire to do that, but it is a trait of someone with strong forearms.)

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I remember back when we first got goats, I milked two goats twice a day, woke up daily with my hands asleep in the typical carpal tunnel syndrome pattern from so much repetitive motion, and was shocked the day I witnessed my own forearm resting out the open driver’s side window.  It was (with all my tendency for exaggeration) HUGE.  I actually didn’t know where it came from and did a double take.  Only my friend Marvin’s, the fireman, forearms are bigger.   I’m not even exaggerating.

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Along with the fact that a goat milker squeezes 1000’s of times per week, bazillions of times per year, there are the intricacies of goat milking that tone a person’s forearms.  Teat and orifice size being two of the main muscle builders.

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Let’s take a quick look at a goat anatomy refresher course:  A goat has one udder…it’s the bag that holds the milk.  A goat has two teats…they are the tubes hanging down that channel the milk.  Each teat has one orifice…it is the opening that allows the milk to come out.  In my opinion, a long teat is the best.  Your whole hand can fit on there and you can complete an index to pinky finger ripple down squeeze in one fluid motion, thus capturing all of the tiny forearm muscles in the action.  A big orifice is ideal because more milk comes out with each squeeze, thus reducing your amount of squeezes per milking and therefore your propensity for carpal tunnel syndrome and sneaking desires to get that desk job you really don’t want.

On the flip side, and common to every female mammal, we all have different teat and orifice sizes.  There are the goats that need a big bra and the goats that need a small bra.  The small teated goats are the biggest challenge to milk because you can only use one or two fingers to coax the milk out.  To mimic this, pretend you’re playing a miniature trumpet with only two keys and push those keys up and down 256 times, fast.  Wait, these are small teats, so you don’t get a tablespoon per squeeze, you get a teaspoon, so increase that to 512 teensy key strokes.

No, actually in my pre-goat milking years, I had never thought twice about forearm size.  But when you shake the hand of the carpet installer and he winces, or you shake the hand of a new female acquaintance and accidentally reposition her hand bones, you gain a new appreciation for strength you didn’t know you had.

–  The Goat Cheese Lady

P.S.  This original post ran in its edited version here on the IndyBlog on March 29, 2015.

 

Posted in Farm Life, funny stories, goats, Milking | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Babies and Milk and Cheese Everywhere!

Spring on the farm is the beginning of life after the rest and revitalization that is winter.  In March, we bought a dozen new baby chicks to become our new egg laying flock and 12 goat kids were born…8 bucklings, 4 doelings, all healthy and ready to nurse and scamper and pirouette.

The excitement and anticipation of their birth brought with it something else: lots of work.

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Five new mama goats now means five goats to milk, twice a day.  Just like human females, when a female goat has babies, the milk starts flowing.

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At our farm, the babies nurse full time for a week or so, then we start bottle feeding so they get used to being handled and so we can share the milk with them.  Once they’re about two months old and are eating alfalfa and grass and drinking plenty of water, they don’t need milk anymore, so we get it all.

 

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Here’s where it gets slightly crazy: five goats milked twice a day produce about 4-5 gallons per day.  That equals a quickly overflowing refrigerator, and a high production of cheese in our kitchen!  When the fridge gets full, I pull out the half gallon jars of fresh, raw goat’s milk and decide what to make, usually 3-6 gallons of milk per batch.

At this time of year, we have brining jars full of traditional feta and blue feta, wrapped and aging Pepper Jack and oak pressed hard cheeses, fresh chevre and queso fresco, oiled rind herbed cheeses, southern Colorado style goat cheese, goat ricotta, and bloomy rind camembert (my favorite!) all in their own stages of aging or being eaten.  The aging part is definitely difficult however, only because it means waiting.  After a cheeseless and milkless winter, any cheese we make begs to be eaten and shared.  But, alas, if we eat it all now, there will be no aged cheese for the next fall and winter months when the milk flow slows down due to colder weather, shorter days and pregnant goats.  In the land of aged cheeses, patience is a virtue.

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And in the spring time, when fresh cheeses abound because of the bounty of milk, we thrill in delicious eating!

–  The Goat Cheese Lady

P.S.  This original post ran in its edited version here in the IndyBlog on April 25, 2015.

Posted in Cheese Making, Farm Life, goats, Kidding, Milking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Now That’s Cooking With Gas

For all of the cooking years of my life, I have cooked on an electric stove and have become accustomed to both the curly cue and the flat top ranges. In my years of teaching cheesemaking however, any of my students who have gas stoves at home loudly sing the praises of cooking with gas.  Lucky for me, our move to the Penrose countryside in January brought with it five acres, a household bullet style propane tank in the yard and a gas stove.

Granted, there are benefits to cooking with gas. Its proponents love that the level of heat can be instantly regulated, and when you’re finished cooking or (in my case) when the pot of heating milk is about to boil over, you can simply turn the stove off and all heat ceases-unlike electric ranges that historically have caused me to juggle turning off the burner, grabbing hot pads and attempting to yank the frothing pot off the stove before it boils over either onto me or all over the burners.

Cooking with gas does have an unexpected learning curve though, one that has twice put the integrity of my kitchen at risk. You see, cooking with gas, as one might realize, directly involves fire. Flames come licking out of the burner in extremely hot, light-other-things-on-fire, fashion. The good news is, I have not lit myself on fire. The bad news is, I’ve learned I have to change the way I make spaghetti. On an electric top, I bring the water to a boil, put the full length noodles in, leaving the excess sticking out of the pot and just let hot water and gravity take over until they all eventually sink into the pot. The day I learned that doesn’t work with gas is the day the ends of the noodles looked like the charred ends of a handful of 4th of July sparklers.

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Another cooking technique that has caused some alarm is our method of warming tortillas. On an electric range, we turn it on and throw a corn tortilla straight on the burner where it slowly heats up to a palatable consistency. There has never been need to break out the fire extinguisher. Remember previously, I mentioned cooking with gas means cooking with fire? It also means flaming tortillas. We’ve realized there can be no walking away from the burner when toasting tortillas unless you want to return to a tortilla inferno.

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In the end, I think I’ll prefer my gas stove top over all others, but the jury’s still out.  Speed and precision of cooking versus lighting my sweater on fire when I reach over the lit front burner to stir the chili on the back burner.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

–  The Goat Cheese Lady

P.S.  This original post ran in it’s edited version here on the IndyBlog on March 14, 2015.

 

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How Wheelbarrows Give Birth

The Animal Whisperer witnessed (and titled) this event:

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In the womb.

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Wow!  From this angle, she hardly looks pregnant!

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I do believe her water broke and she’s definitely dropped a little.  Better head to the hospital.

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The baby started coming in the elevator!  No time for an epidural!

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Birth.

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Awwwww, look at that little guy!  He looks just like his dad!

–  The Goat Cheese Lady

 

 

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9 Reasons I Like Living In The Country

1.  People wave at you when they drive by.  You don’t even know them.

2.  They sell death wholesale to the public.

3.  The locals tell you a country block equals a quarter mile.

4.  There’s no line at the Walmart Customer Service counter.

5.  You accidentally dial the wrong number when calling the mom of your son’s new friend at school.  Instead of gruffly stating, “You’ve got the wrong number” and hanging up, the friendly stranger on the other end strikes up a conversation.  He tells you he’s not related to the kid you’re calling about but asks, “Is he ok?” and introduces himself as the dad of another fifth grader at your son’s school.

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6.  Poles wear boots.  No, they are not my boots.

7.  Down the street, there’s a buffalo and a camel and white peacocks and a zorse (zebra mixed with horse).

8.  The sunsets are beautiful.

9.  There are stars.  No, I mean STARS.  Lots of them.  All over the sky.  EVERYWHERE.

–  The Goat Cheese Lady

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24 Hour Flu

I’m recovering from the 24 hour stomach flu, which, while in the throes of it and on the climb back out of the depths of sickness, I’ve had some really odd thoughts.  Having all the fluids drained from your body must do that to a person.

First of all, a couple of days ago, I was taking a nap.  This was pre-illness, but post nursing our 7-year-old through his bout with the virus.  I was exhausted and fell asleep for my afternoon nap when the wind started blowing so hard that I dreamily wondered if my house, not securely attached to any real foundation, might actually blow away with me in it.  I, rather appropriately, became Dorothy and found myself wondering if I was wearing the right shoes.  Red, sparkly pumps to be exact, for my touchdown in Munchkin Land.

Second of all, once completely sick, I didn’t do much sleeping thanks to a 5 day old chicken I ungratefully named Happy Feet somewhere around 3:30 am.  A couple of days prior, we purchased our new flock of egg layers…twelve three day old chicks…an assortment of Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, Cucko Marans, and Jersey Giants.  Well, one of them is not a real chick.  It is something else disguised as a chick.

If you are not accustomed to the vocal sounds real chicks make, let me introduce you: peep.  The peep can be a very quiet, I’m sleepy, peep, a screaming, I’m hungry, thirsty or cold, peep, or a frantic, You’re stepping on me you other chicks and I was sleeping and now we’re all stampeding to the other end of our box and falling in the food, peep. If you get my drift, the only thing normal chicks do is a monosyllabic peep.

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Enter: Happy Feet.  When we bought the chicks at Buckley’s, Allison told us she thought some of them look like little penguins.  Turns out she might be right.  Happy Feet sings at all hours of the day and night, twitttttttttttterrrrrrrrrrrr, chirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrp !!! (Note: To reproduce the sound you must roll the t’s and the r’s).   It’s a happy sound, if it were reserved only for waking hours. She even twittered out in perfect falsetto, “rain drops keep fallin’ on my head, they keep fallin'” at o-dark-thirty. Consequently, I’ve decided one of three things.

1.  Happy Feet is a chicken mixed with a spring robin.

2.  Happy Feet is a GMO chicken:  Genetically Modified Opera singer.

3.  Happy Feet is really a rooster.

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Third of all, and the final earth shattering awareness I had whilst ill, we have the perfect trashcan for losing your dinner in.  The plastic can is contoured with both a forehead and chin cutout, perfect for burying your entire head, should that necessity become apparant.  It also comes complete with, if your head is a couple of inches wider than mine, ear hangers.  To the delusionally dehydrated mind, the handles, as they are otherwise known, could be placed over the ears when the emergency can’t-make-it-to-the-toilet situation arises, which would free your hands up to white knuckle the nearest floor.

In other news, our 7-year-old is fully recovered.  I’m on the mend.  The house is still in its original location next to the barn.  Happy Feet did not become fodder for the wildlife and continues to entertain us during the day and cause us to spout expletives at night.  The trashcan has returned to its previously scheduled programming and no ears were damaged in the process.

Until next time,

–  The Goat Cheese Lady

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How To Break In New Cowboy Boots

When we lived in the city, I considered myself an urban farm girl.  I milked goats, made cheese, gardened, canned, pulled goat kids out of their mamas, gave shots to goats that needed them, slaughtered chickens, autopsied rabbits.  But I wasn’t what I considered a true farm girl because all of my outdoor work I did in big, black rain galoshes.  Wellies.  Mucking boots.  In my glorified vision of farm life, real farm girls wear cowboy boots and I had never broken in a pair in my life.

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Now that we live in the honest to goodness country and are building an honest to goodness farm, that seems to be a skill my boys and I need to learn.  They dream of having horses and I can’t very well send them out amongst the real cowboys in their rain boots.  As a Christmas gift, my parents presented them with their very own brand new cowboy boots.  Beautiful leather, pristine condition.  New.  And since Christmas, that is how they have remained, complete with the tag hanging off the side.  I mean, what do you do with brand new shoes?  You don’t exactly wear them out into the mud and manure in the barn, right?  But, if not, how do boots go from looking like they do on the shelf at Big R to how they look on farmer’s feet?  Do you keep the new ones new for when you go make Sunday visits and buy some old worn out ones at Goodwill for the rest of the time?  The multitude of questions began to bother me.

Enter:  April Parks, a beautiful, friendly, goat farm owner, wife and mother.  We spent an hour at her place, Parks Oasis, a couple of weeks ago, perusing her selection of goats for sale.  Also on the farm were chickens, a cow, horses and herding dogs.  I looked down at her feet and made the determination, THIS is a real farm girl.  Her children were running this way and that, playing, riding horses, training dogs…and every last one of them had on cowboy boots.

After a long discussion about copper bolusing goats and without skipping a beat, I said, “This is a change of subject, but just how do you get your cowboy boots to look like that?  Do you just buy used ones?”  I still couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that new $85 boots would be used as working boots.  It is not in my frame of reference to take, say, some brand new $85 heels and purposely metamorphosize them into dirt kicking, barn cleaning work shoes.  Really, who does that?

April’s sweet (and non-judgemental) reply was…”You just wear them!”  Not able to believe my ears, I clarified her statement by saying, “You mean you just get them dirty and worn out on purpose?”  “Yep!  That’s the great thing about boots, you just hose them off!”

Hmmm.  Seriously?

Trusting April’s advice, later that week on a hot, dusty day, I sent the boys outside where they commenced a February (??) water fight with the hose…in their shorts, T-shirts…and brand new cowboy boots.

We’re on our way to being real farmers now.

–  The Goat Cheese Lady

P.S.  This post ran in its edited version in the IndyBlog on February 14, 2015.

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