Death, life, and goat’s milk

  • 2014-04-03
  • By Mike Parr

JUST KIDS: Longer days and warmer weather have brought new goats and fresh milk to Lightning Tree Farm.

ALUKSNE - This past month has seen some highs and a low at the farm. I had to say a tearful goodbye to my faithful canine friend, Barney. His chest infection worsened - despite treatment - and I had to decide it was best to end his suffering. On March, 8, I sat with him while the vet put him to sleep. We had been together for a little over four years. It will take a long time to overcome the emotion of losing a much loved companion.

On a positive note, all of the goats have given birth. There are now five kids running around the shed enjoying their new lives. With four bucks and a doe, at least three of them will be destined for the cook pot; though I am considering a plans for a goat-cart! It would certainly give the locals something to chat about if they saw me riding into village for supplies.
It is surprising how quickly the newborns are growing. The first, born four weeks ago, already has horns and is exploring on his own. While I sat with Big Momma when she was giving birth he climbed up on my shoulders and stood watching the whole process with me. After just twenty four hours the kids are up and running. I find them sleeping or playing in all sorts of unusual places around the barn, much to their mothers concern.

With the kids comes milk. I’ve become quite adept at milking and have enjoyed experimenting with the results. So far, Ellie, Jeb and myself have enjoyed goat milk biezpiens, mozzarella and lashings of milk to drink, and that is just from the milk of two goats. Once Big Momma and her second in command join in the daily milking regime, I will be working hard to find use for the daily pints, though the idea of making my own cheddar is high on the wish list.
Goat’s milk is remarkably tasty. It certainly beats the plastic containers of heat-treated white stuff that you get from the supermarket, and, being raw milk, it lasts a long time. My first attempt at making biezpiens saw me waiting nearly three weeks for the milk to turn sour - I finally resorted to heating the milk and then leaving it to turn.

The purpose of living alone on my farm is to rediscover lost arts — like making cheese — and crafts while enjoying the simplicity of country living. The use of modern equipment can make work around the farm much easier, but there is a deep satisfaction to finishing a job using old tools and methods. At the end of each day, I feel like I have worked well, and needless to say, sleep comes easily. Learning techniques and skills of bygone methods of farming helps keep them alive - not lost to the wonders and simplicity of modern technology.

Wandering around the land I can see life beginning to return. The trees are in bud and small shoots are starting to push their way through the leaves and dead grass. I hear birdsong around the house, and it won’t be long before my vegetable beds start to hint at the produce that will soon be gracing my table. I guess it’s time to dust off my old recipe book and also brush up on my canning and preserving skills.

My next major project involves preparing for visitors for the farm and building a pig shelter. I’m going for some of the older breeds rather than the pink meat that usually lands on your table. How will they compare? I don’t know yet, but one thing I do know for certain, is that I will be looking forward to my first pork chop!
My hermit life is far from boring. Every day brings a new challenge. I may wake with creaking joints and an aching back, but I still wake with a smile.