The Bucket List: Milking a Goat and Making Goat Cheese

Maybe milking a goat isn’t on your bucket list. Maybe you think I’m a touch eccentric to so boldly admit that I’ve always wanted to milk a goat. Maybe I am eccentric, but I’m also unequivocally stoked that I was able to cross milking a goat off my bucket list. Better yet, I managed to keep the goat from putting her foot squarely in the middle of that bucket, or knocking it over for that matter.

As much as I love my suburban homestead, I definitely have a hankering for acreage in the country with more chickens, more bees, a flock of sheep, a warren of rabbits, and a dairy goat or two. Such a set-up is a lot to bite off and tackle with my level of experience, so in many ways, if we do ultimately move to the country, our suburban homestead is an audition of that dream. We’re making mistakes left and right in the garden or encountering new pitfalls that we’re learning how to manage. Each new pest is an opportunity for us to learn something new and implement a new practice that will let us be more successful.

Some skills, though, are much harder to practice in town, even in a town with fairly liberal homesteading laws. Milking a goat is definitely one of those skills. I can’t even own a dairy goat in town! Heck, I haven’t even been able to find lightly pasteurized goat milk in any of my local stores—not even the local organic co-op had anything that I could’ve turned into goat cheese.

You can imagine my jubilation, then, when we were invited to a friend’s house whom we hadn’t seen in quite a while and I discovered they now had dairy goats and one of them was in milk. In milk! In goat’s milk! In fresh-from-the-goat goat’s milk! We may have visited to practice archery and chit chat, but I was so obviously tickled that she dropped off a quart of goat’s milk the next day. I quickly turned it into chivo fresco, a recipe I hadn’t been able to make true to form from One Hour Cheese and had instead made entirely with cow’s milk. I shared that I’d love to make the chevre but I needed a half gallon, and she promised to keep me informed of when they next had enough milk. I am a lucky gal indeed.

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I swung by her house a couple of days later and ran into her husband—another good friend. After stocking up the car with nearly a gallon (swoon!) of fresh goat’s milk, I ventured that I’d love to come learn how to milk her myself. After all, I can’t buy a goat in my someday future world of a farm in the country without knowing whether I can milk her. He volunteered to teach me, we set up a time, and I went home to make chevre. Which I did. It’s delicious. I made two batches: One I kept for myself, and the other I brought with me at 7 a.m. Sunday morning in exchange for not only the goat’s milk but also the milking lessons.

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I’m fully aware of what a terrible picture this is of myself, but I’m happy to share it all the same! The goat may have other feelings…

The lesson went fairly smoothly. If you’ve never milked a goat, the motion isn’t at all what you’d expect. Instead of gently pulling down as you’ve indubitably seen in cartoons or videos of cows being milked, you kind of cut off the top off the teat with your hand and then squeeze it to produce the stream of milk. And repeat. Every so often, my friend had to remind me that there’s none of that yanking in milking a goat, but he repeatedly told me I was doing an excellent job. I was also working quite slowly; the goat was emphatic that I should’ve been done by now at the end, and I had to prevent a few close calls with the bucket of milk. My friend let me keep most of the goat’s milk I had milked myself as an extra special treat.

I can now more clearly envision having that dairy goat on that one-day-future farm. Now, you’ll have to excuse me, I have some cheese to go make.

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Just enough for some halloumi!

 

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