Hobby to Lifestyle Change
Looking back, it is easy to see how I went from cheese making to a goat milking lifestyle. I can, sort of explain it to most open-minded people. It made sense (really?) to get goats to milk. When we decided to make cheese, the natural progression was to make cheese we need milk. To make goat cheese, we need goat milk. Goat milk comes from goats. We should get goats to milk. But the addition of the goats meant that a cheese making quickly went from a lark hobby to full-on lifestyle.
Once upon a time I said I wanted to make cheese. Our favorite cheeses were primarily goat cheese, therefore I needed goat milk. I saw that there were three choices. Purchase the goat milk from a store. I checked into this option, but the prices were high and it would have been cheaper to buy the cheese. Two, I could buy milk from someone raising goats. Three, I could milk goats. Four, we could stick with using cow milk.
I nixed the idea of buying milk from someone. I didn’t know anybody who was selling fresh goat milk, but even if I had, I couldn’t guarantee how they had treated the milk. Were the teets clean (goat wipe recipe) before they milked? Were the goats healthy? Was the milk stored in a super clean jar? Was it refrigerated promptly and quickly brought down to temperature? I didn’t know and I was worried I was going to make people sick anyway. It seemed that if I were going to learn to make cheese, the goats would be necessary.
Cheese Maker and Dairy Farmer
I said that I wanted to learn how to make cheese. The next thing I know, I am a dairy farmer (on a very small scale). Purchasing goats meant learning to care for them, building a barn, fencing in an area for them, getting the equipment needed to feed and water them. The barn needed stalls so we could separate the kids from the nannies, otherwise, there would be no milk in the mornings. We had to fence in different pens for the same reason.
This was a much greater commitment than I had originally envisioned. What started off as an idea for a hobby (cheese making), soon became a full-on way of life. I was not prepared for the amount of time I was about to devote to the cute little idea that I would like to make cheese.
And yes, I am from rural Texas. One might think that growing up in Texas, I had livestock. I didn’t. My grandparents had a small herd of cattle. I had three dogs and a couple of cats (one at a time) my entire life. And now, I have seven goats. Two nannies, who needed to be milked twice a day. Each nanny had two kids and a kind generous soul had given us a bonus goat for free. FYI…There is no such thing as a bonus goat.
The goats really were fun to have. They were more like pets with big personalities.
Rhett, our free bonus goat, had been rejected by his mother. He was pathetic and underweight. He was adorable, but after a few weeks, the goats and humans in contact with him knew why his mother had chosen to ignore him. Rhett cried all the time. He was hungry all the time. He was into everything. And I know all of that is typical goat behavior. Simply put, Rhett excelled at being a goat.
Tara, the Nubian nanny, was stubborn and stomped around. Which wouldn’t have been a problem if she hadn’t been the largest goat and if I didn’t have to get her to stand on a milking platform (instructions for building a milking stand) twice a day. Maggie, an Alpine, was a doll. While I had to drag Tara to the stand, Maggie basically loaded herself on the stand like it was her most favorite place to be. She was easy and delightful. Tara was a brute.
The kids were super sweet so fun. Scarlett got her head stuck in a bucket and it was classic video footage of goat behavior. She sounds pathetically like a human kid. I was milking one day and I heard Jacob call “Mom”. I was busy and told him to come to the pen. He called “Mom” again and so I responded, with increased volume, that I was milking and he needed to come to me. Eventually, I realized it was the goats.
We Didn’t Mean to Get Goats…
Getting goats just sort of happened. The cheese making stemmed from my desire to know how to do things that my ancestors had done on a daily basis in order to sustain themselves. I wanted an authentic experience (not really, what I wanted was to dabble and then get back to the next adventure). When you go all in, you commit to the lifestyle. I probably wouldn’t have made the decision to live like this for over a year if I had sat down an planned it out. Because it happened quickly and organically, I was swept up into a more authentic experience than I wanted and this was good for me.
However, I would add that if you want to be a hobby cheese maker (like I wanted…) then find a source for goat milk and make cheese until your heart is content. The goats were delightful, but they were work and having them kept me on a schedule (theirs not mine). Because of the very limited experience that I had, I believe that I have a better appreciation for the hardships and amount of work that was once required for survival. Just buying milk and making cheese wouldn’t have shown me that.
I am all for living large and going big, but I think we maybe stepped outside of what is normal behavior for sane people. For Heaven’s sake, I’m the person who encourages people to gain experience by starting small. In short…just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should.
Great advice. I’ll have to remember that one in the future.