The kids are weaned, the goats are in full flow and the dairy re-opens
It’s been a busy few weeks here at the croft. We separated the kids from their mums, earlier than anticipated due to sore and bleeding teats. Those little beasts have sharp teeth. For a while we hand milked the does and fed the kids with bottles, but they weren’t keen and were eating solid food and hay with great enthusiasm.
Once the mothers were healed up, we got out the machine and since then have been milking twice a day. These two goats are not producing a lot compared with some breeds but we are getting around 21 litres a week.
Every day is a challenge, so far we have made yoghurt, ice cream and butter. With the waste product, buttermilk we have baked some beautiful baps. The fridge is full of jars of cream and soon the cheese making will begin and we will be drowning under vats of whey. It’s almost a full-time job!
In other news we have switched Fin’s medication from Atopica to a relatively new drug, Apoquel which is extremely difficult to get hold of. It is not specifically for his particular problem but it seems to be keeping him stable and the difference in his overall demeanour is remarkable. His appetite is back and he is far happier. At nearly 15, we know we are not going to cure him of this awful disease, but we are doing the best we can to keep him comfortable and allow him to enjoy his life again.
We didn’t manage to find a billy for our girls last year so unfortunately our goat milk supply is dwindling. However, in times when the white stuff was flowing plentifully, we set out to make our own cheddar.
According to the British Cheese Board, a mild cheddar is typically ready at about 3 months of age; medium matured cheddar at 5 to 6 months; mature cheddar at around 9 months, extra mature at around 15 months and vintage at 18 months or more.
So, a certain amount of patience is required for hard cheesemaking and also a leap of faith. A cheese will not be tasted for quite some time which leaves you open for a huge disappointment. Using the same recipe which was untested, we decided to make a cheese every week for a couple of months. It took 3-4 days from start to finish per cheese, which included pressing and coating and each one was labelled and stored in the fridge.
The first one we tasted after 3 months and it wasn’t anything special, rather bland. After that we tried at 6 months and then 9 months.
They still weren’t very good, nothing like the commercial cheddars, so we lost interest and several of the cheeses have sat untouched in the fridge for over a year.
In fact the one we tried last week was made on 8/10/2012.
There was a little mould on the wax coating but we rubbed it off and cut into it. The texture was slightly crumbly and it was much more like you would expect cheddar to be. Although far from perfect but it was creamy and full of flavour with just a little tang. Certainly the best we have achieved so far. and I think we can definitely call it vintage!
We have deeds for our croft dating back to 1913. At one time it was just small stone building that probably housed both the farmer and his livestock but over the years, extensions have been added and not very sympathetically, to make it habitable for a family. Although there is now plenty of space, it doesn’t flow very well and the utility room, is on the other side of the house to the kitchen.
We use it as a dairy. It houses the cream separator, butter churn and a small fridge where the goat’s “cheddar” ripens. The layout was very awkward with the sink being right in the corner so you had to lean over to use it. We decided to swap it around, a simple sounding job but a big mistake. In order to save money we decided to replace the old stainless steel sink with an even older Belfast sink that had been sitting in the polytunnel and used for washing veg.
We made a draining board from timber that was lying around, along with a wooden stand for the sink. It looked very rustic, but quite charming. Our only concession to modern living was the mono-block tap we splashed out on. There are a lot of milky items to be washed up and the spray would come in handy.
However, once we had ripped everything out and cut pipes, we discovered the ancient plumbing, which is not a standard size. The local plumbers merchants scratched their heads in disbelief. The water is pumped from our well which is just outside the window, heated by the Rayburn and then goes into a header tank upstairs. When we finally managed to connect the old pipes to new, much thinner ones, we were disappointed to find we had no water pressure. It wasn’t designed for trendy taps. Another pump would be required to fix that problem.
But if that wasn’t enough, the plughole of the sink is leaking. We have tried all sorts to fix it, none of which has worked – so far. The whole fiasco has been ongoing for weeks which means the room is out of action but the most annoying part is that we thought by recycling we would be saving money, whereas the whole debacle has been a false economy. If we had gone out and bought a spanking new top of the range sink and draining board, we would have been better off!
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Smithy Croft, Strichen, Fraserburgh, AB43 6SL. United Kingdom