05 January 2009


Our dairy goats supply a nice stream of milk for the family. Our children are lactose intolerant, so Mrs Yeoman Farmer cultures the raw (unpasteurized) goat milk into various things that they can drink. There is usually plenty of extra milk for me to have a cup or two a day to put on cereal.

When Mrs. Yeoman Farmer's mother became gravely ill, she began spending extraordinary amounts of time at the hospital visiting. As the weeks went on, and the illness grew increasingly serious, MYF had little time for anything but visiting her mother and keeping on top of the kids' schoolwork. Milk piled up in the fridge, uncultured, and unfortunately eventually spoiled. I'm still taking it out to the chickens, a couple of quarts per day, to mix with their feed. But I wouldn't touch this stuff with a 100-foot poll for anything but animal feed.

Still more unfortunately, the goats began drying up. The children did their best to milk, in between seeing grandma and wondering if "today" would be the last day to say good-bye, but nothing could stop the inevitable progression of nature: milk eventually dries up. We try to stagger the goats' pregnancies, so at least one of them is always producing milk, but it's not a perfect science. A couple of weeks ago, we were down to about a cup of milk per milking --- or about two cups a day. That was about enough for me to put on cereal, but not enough for MYF to do anything with for the children. As a result, we called a halt to all milking until the goat does can be "freshened up." Needless to say, the two older children (who do all the milking) were overjoyed to have a temporary reprieve from this time-consuming chore.

But I was left in a quandary. The milk in the fridge was getting worse by the day, and soon got to the point where none of it smelled safe. I got by for a few days with breakfasts of fried eggs or bagels, but this morning I was starting to miss my raisin bran. As much as I prefer the wonderful raw milk we get from our goat herd, it was looking like I'd need to go to the store and actually (gasp) purchase some of the pasteurized-to-death chalk water labeled and sold in this country as "milk."

And so I did. I drove into town, parked the car, sauntered into our small grocery store, picked up a basket, and continued walking deeper into the store.

And then it hit me: we have lived here for over a year, and I had no idea where the milk was. The few other times our supply had been insufficient for my cereal, I'd bought milk from a larger (Meijer) grocery store in Jackson. I'd never actually purchased milk at the independent grocery store in our town.

So, up and down the aisles I wandered, inspecting the various refrigerated cases. But I couldn't find the milk. No luck. And I refused on principle to ask a store clerk such a stupid question as "Where's the milk?"

At long last, I spotted it. Way off in the corner, in the back of the store, no doubt placed there to force people to walk past and inspect all the other merchandise on the way. I snagged a quart of milk, and some cream cheese, and headed for the checkout line.

And wished I could find a way to get our goats back in full production again. Today.


JimmyV said...

I recently tasted some cheap-o, store brand chalk water after months of high-end, organic chalk water.

I wish we had goats.

Rob Fensom said...

I milked goats for the house for years. For a family of 5 you need 4 does.The key is to only breed them every two years, let them raise their kids for 2 months then pull off the kids and milk them for 18 months until its time to rebreed them to kid down at the two year interval. In the second year as they start drying off your next two goats have raised their kids and joined the herd prior to the first two drying off. You will be miking 4 goats for two to 3 months in the summer but you can always dry of the first two early if you are swimming in milk. Rob