Sunday, October 3, 2010

In Which I Study Goats

Losing little Gwenly got our weekend off to a bad start, but the weather, cool and brisk, was absolutely glorious for the first of October.  Saturday was blustery, but other than that, a light jacket provided enough protection. 

This was the annual Kaw Valley Farm Tour weekend.  Why, you ask, does someone who lives on a hobby farm actually want to drive around looking at other people's farms?   Because I like a busman's holiday, I guess! 

Actually, I had only to drive less than a mile down our own road to the first stop, Screamin' Oaks Farm, of Roxanne McCoy.  Roxanne operates a small Grade A Dairy, and milks a dozen or so goats, along with keeping chickens, peacocks, a burro, some calves, .... you get the picture.  While I drive by her place many times a week, she and I pass each other, she coming home and me heading out in the morning, so we are on different schedules. 

There were many people visiting the farm, and lots loved visiting the many animals.

Roxanne has a clean milk room, and makes chevres as well as wonderful goat milk ice cream (more, please!) 

However, for the purposes of demonstrating to the farm visitors how a goat is milked, she milked on a milkstand in the barn hallway, so the kids could try.  It was fun to watch them learn how to bring down the milk, and she was patient with all, even the tiny ones. 

I went to only two other stops of the 21 participating farms this year, mainly because Keith was getting ready to leave for a three day trip, and I had a lot to do here at home. 

After church this morning, I visited Landeria Farm, in Olathe, Kansas, run by Kathy Landers.  It was most impressive, on a huge scale compared to Screamin' Oaks.  The barns were beautiful, and everything as neat as a pin.  Ms. Landers gave a most informative talk about her cheese-making procedures, telling the groups that she is very interested in making fine hard cheese.  We were allowed to look at her cheese-making room, which was spotless and very interesting.  The fun part for me, though, was looking at her herd, and watching a milking.  As they milk 36 animals twice a day, she has hired help, who not only milk but are apprentice cheese-makers.  Their cheeses are aged in two root cellar-like caves on the property for 8 months before selling.   I enjoyed looking at the goats and watching the milking process. 

The goats are brought in, twelve at a time, through a trap door in the wall which is lifted to allow them through.  Once on the milk table, they are hooked into their stanchions where they have a treat while being milked.  The trap door is closed and the end of the milk table is lifted so that the milker can get by.  The does eat patiently while their udders are cleaned, allowing the milker to check each bag as she goes by.  Then she takes a cup and takes a squirt from each udder before beginning, also checking for any problems such as a wound or incipient mastitis, etc. 

Once she is sure that everyone is okay, she begins to hook the milking machines to the udders and turns them on.  The milk begins to flow into a holding tank, and then is released into a bulk tank in the cheese room, once all the does have been milked out.  The whole process took maybe twenty minutes. 

While Landeria Farm specializes in hard cheeses, they did have chevre on their tasting table, and it was interesting to compare the two farms, the chevres of Landeria had a little earthier taste than that of Screamin' Oaks, but I loved both, as I am a soft cheese aficionada. 

They also had many 4H kids helping, and one was in charge of the "goat rides". 

And the other thing I enjoyed was seeing the does in their everyday living conditions, which gave me lots of ideas for our goats to come....

Though we are considering keeping two or three does once I retire in 23 months, we want to have our infrastructure in place (this time!) before we jump.  We are also studying different goat breeds, though we like the Alpines that I saw this weekend. 

We'll have a much smaller operation, of course, just for our own personal use and gifts.  A warm barn is all I want! 

I learned a lot this weekend, and will continue gathering information before we jump off the end of the dock with goats.  

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