Two weeks on a Kiwi Goat Farm
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Why goats? It's simple. We love goat cheese and we were keen on getting some hands-on experience in goat farming and cheese making. David found us GRUFF JUNCTION, a goat farm and cheese factory here in Christchurch on the net and now we are waiting for Ev, the real goat farmer.
First of all, we had a lot of questions
It all started simply with getting to know their farm, the goats and the milking. They have 250 Saanen goats and a property of 70 acres. Bud, their dog, is a good company and a real good help in brining the goats in the milking station. By the time the goats need to be milked we go out with Bud to get them. They all fit in the milking station waiting to get that delicious meal while being milked. 12 on each side of the milking station are more or less happy to deliver their milk. We learn how to stimulate the udder so as to get all the milk. A purple dot on the goats back means disease, not to be milked. Some give a little milk only, other give a lot. Some kick, others don't.
Well, where shall I start? There is soooo much to know about goats! What kind of grass they like, how long they stay in one paddock before needing to be moved to another one so as to avoid them eating the lower part of the grass containing worms. They are quite sensitive for lung and stomach worms and one is better a good observer to intervene quickly when they get worms. The goats are sensitive to pneumonia as well. After one cold night outdoors I heard a couple of them coughing. Well, as Ev says “ You have to learn their body language and observe.”
In his herd of 250 goats, Ev has the females, the Dooes, a couple of young restless males, the BUCKS and a bunch of young goats born last spring, the KIDS
Well, they took their time to get into it and after a couple of hours they started their job. Funny to see that the doose walks in circles to warm him up....well, well.....
We did some fencing as well. My fences were never straight but in nice curves.... One day we had to play the goat doctors giving them a good “drench”, some liquid medicine.
During our stay we got to know Ev, a former Real Estate appraiser and university professor. A real warm, gentle, nice good guy with a proper sens of humor. A goat farmer with a huge knowledge of what he is doing with his beloved goats. His wife, Natalie, a wonderful, warm, helpful and hard working lady being attracted more by her garden than by her kitchen (where we took over for a couple of meals). The third member of the clan is daughter Anna, the cheese maker, marketing lady, medal winner, a young business lady with a wonderful spicy humor
I mentioned the cooking before. Well, we did not cook for a while as when traveling one doesn't usually have one's own kitchen. When we learned that Natalie doesn't mind sharing her kitchen, we started to cook in a real nicely equipped kitchen...ahh, what a pleasure! A lasagne with goat cheese bechamel sauce and silver beet from Natalie's garden, beef kebabs, a goat cheese quiche (the cheese was called Greenpark Sharp and some considered it being a very strong tasting one except the two crazy Swiss), an apple pie, a feta philo pastry snack, a goat cheese roulade. That was great cooking and great dining together!
You might wonder where the lovely goat milk goes? Well, part of it is sold as non pasturised milk, another part is made into yogurt, but the biggest part is transformed into excellent goat cheese
Anna produces 13 different kind of cheeses in her small cheese factory. From the hard cheeses toward the soft cheeses these are: Gouda, Gouda with Cumin, Selwyn Farmhouse, Fendalton, Grenpark sharp (an well aged semi-hard lovely wonderfully developped cheese), Feta, Feta with Pepper, Rollestone, Springston (two white mold cheeses just lovely when properly matured), Sumner (her Brie) ,Lincoln Blue, Lyttelton Blue (two excellent Blue cheeses we loved. Goat Blue Cheese, a dream!), Fromage Blanc. We were lucky to work a couple of days for her. First comes the hygiene. Showered and dressed in clean cloths, when one steppes over the red line (the entrance to the factory) one washes one's hands with soap, puts on a white coat and a beautiful white hat (the kind one sees in all food factories). A pair of white gumboots and one walks into the factory opening the door with one's bum to avoid to bring in some bacteria transferred by touching the handle. Hand sanitizer and there we are ready to start.
There is a big milk container and two 250-liter-vats
We participated in making the two Blue Cheeses, Lincoln Blue and Lyttelton Blue
I know I'm going far too much into details, but it's so interesting!!! I will try to be shorter...
On another day, we made three cheeses a day, Gouda, Feta and Brie. The Gouda is a labor intensive cheese as the curd needs to be washed several times for 20 minutes. This means that you wash your arms and start stirring the curd. It's hard work! After a while (I forgot how long we waited) one takes out some buckets of whey and pours in the same amount of body warm water and stirs for another 20 minutes. This needs to be repeated for a couple of times. Huh! Meanwhile the feta sits and waits. As Anna said, a low maintenance cheese. The perfect partner to a Gouda!
The Brie itself has a very soft curd one just turns, soft stirring only. The tricky part of making Brie is to turn them which means that they need to be removed from one container and turned like a crepe into another one
There is a lot of work to do in a cheese factory. In addition to the making of cheese, all the orders need to be prepared. The cheese has to be cut and packaged for the Saturday Farmer's market. This sounds like easy work what it is not! Cutting an entire Farmhouse hard cheese into small 100g slices is quite physical!
I will stop here saying that I loved working in the cheese factory even if it was hot and humid and hard work. Thanks very much, Anna, for having introduced us into the art of making great goat cheese.
Where does all that good cheese go? Shops sell Gruff Junction cheese, but they pay less and have a quite high upmarket on the sales price the customer pays
If I'd try to come to a conclusion I'd say that we were very lucky to stay with the Gruff Junction clan. We got a global idea of what goat farming and cheese making mean, had great hands-on experiences, learned lots and met wonderful people. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!