A Bonus Post - Start October with an "Ask Me Anything"!
Yep, I'm a literal goat pimp. Your burning questions about goats, wallabies, cheese, and coffee.
I'm one month into this newsletter and loving it so far. I hope you're enjoying it too. By the way, if you dig it, please share.
I always appreciate feedback on what you like, what you don't, and what else you'd like to see here. Starting a newsletter is an evolving process of figuring out what works and what people want to read.
Last week our friend, Kerry, asked for an "Ask Me Anything."
I'll try this as a bonus post and an experiment to kick off October. Let me know if this is something you'd like to see more often.
On to the questions!
Kerry asks: We are a family of 3, but we consume a lot of dairy. Yogurt, sour cream, and cheese (of all kinds) are staples in our house. Realistically, how much milk would it take for me to make these things on the regular? How many goats did you start out with? Thanks!
Great question! Everyone defines "consume a lot of dairy" differently. We consume A LOT of dairy products in our family, but I also have found that our consumption expands to meet our supply.
It seems like there's more baked-in value to milk if you trudge out when it's still dark to milk it yourself. I'm reticent to allow any of it to go to waste. So if I have too much in the fridge, I'll start another batch of cheese.
I make yogurt, sour cream, and lots of cheese with our goat milk. I also drink a lot of milk straight and in lattes. My kids drink our goat milk, and my husband eats goat cheese and uses goat cream in his cooking. Between all of us, we use about a gallon a day.
For planning purposes, a batch of yogurt uses about 5 cups of milk. I like this yogurt maker (also, here's my goat yogurt video). Yogurt is easy to make, and I have grown to prefer goat yogurt to cow. It's a better base for both sweet and savory recipes as well as to eat plain.
An average batch of soft cheese usually takes about a gallon of milk, and the harder cheeses can take two or three.
Between all of that, a gallon a day is a pretty good average for us.
Milk animals will fluctuate their output depending on how long ago they gave birth, the season, how much and the quality of food they have, and their genetic predisposition. I have three Miniature Lamancha does in milk, and I'm getting about a gallon a day. Earlier this summer, I was getting over two gallons.
It all depends on what you're looking for and how many animals you want. The general rule is, the bigger the goat, the lower the butterfat of their milk. I could get the same volume out of a single standard doe that I'm currently getting out of my three in exchange for lower butterfat milk. I'm here for the flavor, though.
Anyway, I say all that to say this - if you're thinking about wading into the wonderful world of owning goats, take some time to assess your wants and needs. If you're getting babies, you won't get even your first milk for at least a year, so make sure you're getting exactly what you want the first time. Also, once you get on the train, you'll get addicted.
This leads me to your second question - I started with three goats, two does and a wether (a castrated male.) The two does I have since sold, and the wether is in the freezer. By the way, goat meat is both healthy and delicious. Remind me to tell you THAT story someday.
Goats are herd animals, so you can't get one; you have to start with at least two. I wanted the smaller cute goats with a little bit of milk as a bonus, so I got Nigerian Dwarves. Although I loved my first does, Copper and Foxy, I sold them earlier this year. It was time to get more serious about milk, and they would give about a pint or two at most at their peak.
I'm glad I got my first two, they taught me a lot, but in retrospect, I wish I would have started with the Miniature Lamanchas - they're the best combo of milk volume, fat, and companionship for me.
Megan: Is Welby still around, and does he interact with any of your other animals well? How does he factor into the household/farm now that you've expanded?
Hi Megan! Yes! Welby is still around. For those who don't know or thought I wasn't quirky enough already, in addition to all the crazy farming stuff, I also have a pet wallaby! Wallabies are marsupials, kind of like tiny kangaroos.
Welby is our pet, and literally, his entire purpose is to "be cute and love us." With so many animals around who serve food-based purposes, he doesn't get as much Instagram attention anymore, but honestly, he likes it that way.
Welby shares a pen with our labrador, Oxley, and they are both right off the house and have a sunroom with a dog door.
Because he's more of a house pet, Welby doesn't get a ton of interaction in the barnyard. Yes, I'm sure there could be some of that sweet, sweet viral wallaby/baby goat youtube content to be had, but he's pretty shy, and he's mostly a one-person wallaby.
He loves to sit on the couch and watch tv, lay on his dog bed, and beg for treats.
Welby did get a bee sting that got infected a few weeks ago, and he took a trip to the vet that scared us a bit because it included minor surgery. I assisted. After a round of antibiotics, he recovered pretty quickly and is back to his hoppy self.
Second question: Preference when it comes to coffee? Brand? Roast? Brew method? Drinking Vessel? Inquiring minds want to know!
After the Homegrown Year, I am back on the coffee train with a VENGENCE, and I am so happy about it. My brother bought me a Breville espresso maker as a present. It has a built-in grinder and pressure gauge, and I am A USIN' IT. I estimate it has already more than paid for itself despite its expense, considering how much I would have spent at Dutch Brothers by now.
My usual go-to before the Breville was a Chemex pour-over, and for that, I prefer Cafe du Monde coffee. I sip it slowly while I try to ignore my screaming kids and pretend I’m in New Orleans.
For everyday beans now, I have a few favorites:
My friend Nicole has this cool company, HollerRoast, where she roasts beans in Tennesse.
Christine, my other friend, made the brilliant move from Colorado to Hawaii (!!!) and started her own coffee company.
The awesome guy who bartered me for beans during the Homegrown Year also has fabulous Hawaiian coffee available here.
Here in Colorado, I also just like a nice medium roast from Boyer's. The Boyer's roasting facility was located less than a mile from our last house before we moved here. I loved waking up in the morning to the smell of roasting beans.
I was devastated to learn that it burned down in the middle of the Homegrown Year, but they're using some other facilities now while they rebuild.
In terms of a vessel - Mark bought me a mug the week after I started this substack. It’s a great size and has one of those perfect handles for cupping while looking longingly out the window at my goat herd like a real writer would. He was up at the family farm in Nebraska and saw it at a local shop and sent me a pic. I told him it was cute, but not to buy it as we were (and are) not spending any extra money until my job situation stabilizes. He bought it anyway as a talisman of my writing success. No pressure, but please invite two friends to join this substack. Ha.
Jim: Do you miss the #HomegrownYear?
Hi Jim! Yes, I miss it a lot. I think I will probably go back to a hybrid at some point. Honestly, I could probably do a Homegrown Life for almost ever if I could add olive oil. Right now, I'm still in "celebration mode," which means that I look at the food that's terrible for me and think, "I did a WHOLE YEAR! I earned this tater tot/muffin/smothered burrito/mac and cheese."
At this point, I'm learning that means I wake up every morning feeling hungover without even the fun of a party the night before.
It's time to pull it back together. Especially as it's homegrown tomato season, it wouldn't be that hard. I feel so much happier when I'm living that lifestyle.
I might try a 6-days-on 1-day-off schedule or something similar.
Señia: What are you growing now?
Right now, I'm focused on getting all the bulbs in the ground. I found these "candy apple red onions" (they're purple, I have no idea why we call purple onions red) that are crazy sweet, and I'm so excited to do another season of them.
I also have the goal of cleaning out the greenhouse this weekend (pray for me) and starting my winter veggies. These will include spinach, some late-season cold-loving peas, at least a bucket or two of carrots, and some of that fancy-looking rainbow chard.
Ann: What kind of culture do you use? Where do you source your culture?
I get most cultures for cheeses and other things from the New England Cheesemaking Company. I love their stuff, particularly their Fromage Blanc. If you haven't tried it, get a nice gallon of milk from the store and try making your own cheese just once, it's so fun and easy.
I usually use New England's culture for yogurt, but I have tried some more of the exotic cultures from Cultures for Health and have had fun with them.
Weird idea: do a bunch of different yogurts with different cultures and do a tasting flight! OMG, I might have to do this.
I also sometimes use yogurt from the store as my base culture for yogurt-making. They can usually only replicate once or twice, but it'll do the trick.
My absolute FAVORITE is the combo of the Noosa (Colorado company) culture and the goat milk. It's Un. Real.
Erik: Why don't you just sell cheese?
Hi Erik! After getting laid off, I got this question more than once. It makes sense, right? I love making cheese, and people love getting cheese; you would think that I could exchange the goods I make for dollars. That's theoretically how this whole thing works.
Two reasons: first, the cost of liability insurance and fulfilling the commercial kitchen needs of selling food products is insane. Unless I want to be a black-market cheesemaker, and I don't, the barrier to entry to make the first dollar is sky-high.
I've tried to calculate it, and it would take me at least 75 goats to make enough cheese to cover the startup costs. I love goats. I do not want 75 goats. I currently have three in milk, and that's about right for me. Also, the type of goats you need for a commercial operation is very different than what I have.
I keep the smaller goats that give yummier milk. The goats that people use to make goat cheese for sale sometimes give 12 or 14 pounds of milk a day (for context, a gallon weighs about 8.6 pounds). Also, commercial dairies have to stagger their kiddings to keep a consistent supply, so they can never leave — hard pass.
Second, trying to twist something you love into the thing you rely on to make a living can easily take the joy out of it (at least for me). I love writing about goats and evangelizing about them to others - which is close enough without staying awake at night trying to make ends meet based on how well I do at the farmers market.
I'll keep the cheesemaking as the small-batch passion for now.
Anna: Would your male goat like to try impregnating my girl goat this fall?
I mean, that is ANYTHING when it comes to an Ask Me Anything. And yes. I love goat pimping; he'll be thrilled.
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