Friday, March 28, 2014

I Used to be Scared of Goats

I'll admit it. I used to be scared of goats. It's not something I am proud of either. I put off living with them for a long time because of it, too. Let me be clear though. I wasn't scared of the animals. I loved goats. Goats are cleverness on the hoof. They are wily and bold. If you haven't been outsmarted by a goat so far in this short life it is only because you probably haven't owned one yet.

No, I wasn't scared of the animal but the idea of a dairy. The fear was not based in logic either. I knew that I had zero problem with the idea of twice-daily milking. Honestly, the idea excited me. I looked at catalogs with milking pails, udder balm, and antique glass quart bottles the way some women look at handbags. I bookmarked chèvre recipes, researched breeds, and found that the goat farm memoirs were some of the best modern farm writing out there. (I'm talking to you, Josh KP). I wanted goats in my life and I didn't care if they meant a tight leash on my area code. My home is my paradise and having animals that I get to work alongside daily is nothing short of magical. I wasn't scared of the work, the commitment. What I was scared of was dissapointing other people. Hear me out.

That may not make sense to some of you seasoned homesteaders, but for those of us who had to jump the fence and start from scratch in country living the idea of having to be home to milk every twelve hours is a foreign one to our family, work, and friends. It is a lesson in proximty even the most idealistic farm-dreamer finds daunting. You can leave a flock of chickens, sheep, or a few horses in the care of neighbors and friends while you go on vacation or to your cousin's wedding. But finding someone to milk your goat at 6AM and 6PM isn't so easy. No just milk either, but strain and store the milk, feed and raise the kids on a bottle schedule, santize and care for the equipment, and THEN take care of daily chores..... that's a lot to ask people.

The idea of having to be home and turn down family or work obligations was scary. When you are living in the corporate world and all your coworkers are staying late in the office and you can't? It looks bad. When you aren't at that cousin's wedding that requires a six hour drive (one way!), to some folks there it looks bad. Not everyone grasps the deployment that is agriculture. You can't leave all the time. Like a soldier at war you are at your post. You can leave sometimes when you arrange care in advacne through neighbors or farmsitters, but for those of us living alone with dairy animals and limited funds? You don't go places. I am more than okay with that but it has come with a lot of guff. Since getting dairy goats (my third season milking) I have heard everything there is to hear about goats from non-goat friends and peers. I have been told it is unnecessary, restricting, unrealistic, overly-romatic, and irresponsible. Since milk and cheese is at the grocery store and farm stands I am being willfully selfish having animals of my own that take away my time and energy.

Friends, if someone tells you that doing what you love is selfish, they are assholes.

I got my first milking goat when I was at a place in my heart and mind that no longer required permission from others to be happy. I wanted to have that beautiful loop of birthing, milking, kitchen, craft, and growth. Raising goats is like watching the seasons, like seeing the history of the world in the spin of one wheel of the year. You see sex, birth, bounty, and feel the warmth of blessed babies in your arms. You can make cheese so creamy and pure it melts in your mouth and stuns guests. You never run out of food! Lord! To have a milk machine in the backyard is insurance in these times. And not just milk and cheese but cream for coffee, soaps, meat, hide, horn, carting animals and backpacking companions. Goats are a blessing and I can't imagine living without them. I can't imagine not having that need of my person every twelve hours to offer another soul relief. I can't imagine not having a fridge full of real food and springs without the anticipation and thunderjoy of kids. I have no regrets. I don't need to go on vacation for the five months of the year my goat is milking. It's worth it.

So I raise to you this piece of homemade bread, garlic and basil chèvre, and firelight. Goats are good. Being needed is good. Milking in the backyard is good. And doing what makes your heart sing in an angry world is very, very, good.

Now get your goat.


Blogger Unknown said...

Some don't understand this concept with just dogs, and being a single person. I'm sorry but I HAVE to be home to let my dog out on time unless, you person, who is keeping me is going to clean up the mess and take the blame given from said dog for keeping the dog alone for so long. So keep fighting the good fight, if I had my drothers I'd be right there with you with some land and a few goats, one day.

March 28, 2014 at 2:13 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

It's their eyes that freak me out! But I do love their spirit. And I hear you about not being able to leave the farm for vacation etc. Luckily we have several people who have offered to come stay while we are away and amazing neighbors who have offered to pitch in as well. You do your thing Jenna, I will not judge.

March 28, 2014 at 2:43 PM  
Blogger acupuncturepxie said...

I love this. And I love my goats. Thank you so much for your words and work on this blog.

March 28, 2014 at 5:00 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Very well said, Jenna! I couldn't agree more! Care to share that chevre recipe?!

March 28, 2014 at 8:07 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

1. Heat gallon of goats milk to 86 degrees in stainless steel.
2. Add packet of chevre culture, stir well into the warm milk.
3. Take off heat and let it sit with a lid for 12-20 hours.
4. Milk sets into happy thick curds you can slice with a knife
5. Strain through cheesecloth in a colander
6. Cover and let drain 6-10 hours
7. Salt, place in containers, refrigerate up to a week.

8. I season mine with basil and garlic salt :)

Produces two pounds of fresh soft cheese!

March 28, 2014 at 9:02 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

instead of #2 you can use 2 drops of liquid rennet and some lemon juice. That is what I have been using. I don't measure but I assume it's around a 1/4 cup of lemon juice for a gallon?

March 28, 2014 at 9:02 PM  
Blogger Grampy said...

Ahh, you "Live with Sass". A way of life I promote. Similar to a goat. Not for everyone. I welcome you to visit my blog.

March 29, 2014 at 5:41 AM  
Blogger Grampy said...

Ahh, you "Live with Sass". A way of life I promote. Similar to a goat. Not for everyone. I welcome you to visit my blog.

March 29, 2014 at 5:41 AM  
Blogger aart said...

Ditto Frankfurter D....and frankly(haha) I prefer the company of my dogs over those people who don't get it.

Vacation with dogs, when you're broke...can't afford the gas for the trip let alone the boarding/pet sitting costs.

Even chickens need twice a day care, gotta lock em up safe at night then let em out in the morning...tho you could probably leave them cooped for a day or two.

I'm scared of goats too...having some physical limitations, I'd be horrified if I couldn't care for them properly because of my knee/ankle going out as it often does. Not to mention the costs of adequate fencing and housing...cause I wouldn't be able to chase them down if they got out.

But I do plan on getting some milk from a nearby goat keeper and trying the cheese thing.

My daughters friend made some goat cheese just by leaving it out on the counter...not sure of the details, but ye gods, it was good!!!

March 29, 2014 at 5:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen to that! I love my goats and can't imagine my daily routine without them. My 'family' has adjusted to my lifestyle...and plan around my milking schedule! Some day I imagine myself like Tasha Tudor shuffling along beside her lovely companions. Keep up the good work!

March 29, 2014 at 5:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so -- I don't know, encouraging, I suppose. I don't have any animals at the moment (not even a dog -- I have been waiting for being in an appropriate situation for one of my own for years). Whenever I tell people I want to have my own small holding, with a small cow (I've always wanted a cow, never been that intrigued by goats), people always talk about the commitment. But ... I like routines. I like being responsible. I've also usually been the one travelling -- at some point my friends need to make the reciprocal effort to come see me! And when they do, when I am in the One Day House (for which I am saving up, slowly), I will have the most amazing food for them.

It's nice to be reminded about the pleasures of routine and household rituals. Thanks.


March 29, 2014 at 7:33 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Leave the babies with their mama and milk once a day. You get less milk, but it frees you up enormously.

March 29, 2014 at 7:38 AM  
Blogger Debby Flowers said...

Well said Jenna. While my chickens and goats are not cost effective in the purely economic sense, to me, growing my own food is priceless.

And I love the animals.

Keep doing what you're doing girl!

March 29, 2014 at 12:24 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm mostly scared of their ability to escape! That has been the one factor keeping me from being a goat owner.

March 31, 2014 at 11:20 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 31, 2014 at 11:20 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

I just posted a link to your blog post on my facebook page. Sometimes it is so hard to articulate why I want to work with goats, why I'm willing to be tied to the farm, and you said just what I needed to say.

When I work with my goats, I am full and content. Our bonds are strong, they trust me, they give me Purpose and a reason for being, they nurture me as I nurture them.

Thank you for saying it so well.

March 31, 2014 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger laurie said...

I made chevre with dried cranberries, walnuts and a bit of orange zest. Swoon worthy and almost dessert-like.

My plans for everything changed recently when I joined my husband on the road driving truck. I miss my chickens and geese and all the plans for goats and a horse. They'll happen, just later. I come to you for a fix. So thank you, Jenna.

April 1, 2014 at 7:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well written, as all of your posts are!
I get my first Alpines in two weeks, I'm busy building shelter, putting up fence and day dreaming about that wonderful cheese! I can't wait!!!

April 1, 2014 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger Cindy said...

Loved This. I Understand Completely. I Have A Small Farm And Am Thinking Of Goats Or A Cow. Everyone Gets All Up In Arms When I Say That. They Are All Upset For Me Because I Will Be So Tied Down With A Dairy Animal. I Just Smile And Say. "I Know."

April 5, 2014 at 9:42 PM  
Blogger Theresa/ said...

Loved this post....probably because what you said here is exactly why I don't have goats yet. I want them in my soul. And it is so encouraging to read how you powered thru to have them add value to your life. Great post.

April 10, 2014 at 12:21 AM  

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