Phantom pregnancy. I thought that was something that happened only on daytime TV. But no. It happens to goats. Now this doesn’t surprise me. EVERY year so far Pixie’s been, hmm, difficult. She’s not the type to flaunt her sexuality. This means we never really know when she’s in heat. Pixie withholds the telltale signs behind a cool, Victorian exterior. So we fret and discuss endlessly. Was that tail flick a sign? Was that mucus a sign? In agreement we drive her to a friend’s and lead her into the buck stall telling her it’s an old-fashioned cotillion and her dance card is full.
This year we thought Pixie got the dance right. She looked to be in “standing heat” because she stood there and took it from a buck with great genetics. We assumed we’d have at least triplets. Phantom pregnancy. Zero babies, no milk. To cap the climax, our friend with the bucks nearby quit the business and dispersed the herd before we could utter a small cry—no! We need your bucks!
When shopping for a young buck, you don’t worry about their SAT scores. You want strut and style (I want style). You want a man to swagger and make the ladies take note. Who cares if he hasn’t read the classics? No long courtships, no waltzes. You want straight up sex (between the goats).
My husband found an ad on craigslist, spoke to a man on the phone and after a few minutes we realized this guy who knew all the same goat people we did was Brad Kessler, famous author of GOAT SONG (I think anyone who writes a book like his should be famous). We were pretty sure we wanted to raise Nubians and Brad’s description of life with them sealed the deal years ago.
His photographer wife Dona Ann McAdams took the photo for the book cover which was the reason I decided to read Brad’s book in the first place, because despite loving animals I usually hate reading about them. Dona’s black and white photo of a dignified doe drew me in.
As soon as I saw Dona and Brad’s herd I knew we found the right genetics (I mean looks). They led us into their whitewashed and cheerful barn full of well-taken-care-of (doted on) goats. When Dona called a name a Nubian with bright eyes responded. Here was relationship and love. Sigh.
Have you ever had one of those days when you think the highlight is going to be picking up a used washer on craigslist and then you end up having tea in a beautiful garden sampling the best goat cheese you’ve ever had? Long ago I’d made fresh chevre on a farm I worked at and remembered how smooth and almost sweet it was. No one in my family believed me. My husband figured we were doing something wrong with the acidity (or something) while I was secretly thinking that maybe I didn’t love goat cheese as much as I thought I did.
Turns out I still love goat cheese (done right). The stuff at the store is nothing like fresh chevre. Hope abounds now for next year!
And then there’s our bundle of joy. Brad and Dona had one little buck left when my husband spoke to them. I stood in the background listening in. Take him! Nubians I’ve been seeing recently have pointy-nosed thin faces. Not Brad and Dona’s goats. They have chunk. Their eyes are soulful and their noses Roman. And they’re BIG. My husband was impressed, too.
Brad and Dona named the young man Butch (but that’s my mother’s nickname for my brother) so we re-named him after Tim (Texas Forever) Riggins, the womanizing, drunken and adorable fullback of the fictional Dillon Panthers on the only TV show all seven of us as a family became sort of obsessed with for a while, Friday Night Lights.
Name it and claim it, young buck. There’s a whole bunch of women waiting for you to step up.
Thanks, Brad and Dona for a delightful afternoon!
For Tim Riggins fans:
For Goat Fans:
When I became a vegan years ago I eventually lost all ability to think rationally. It’s just the way I’m built–some screwed up serotonin levels or something. Let’s just say I was intense. At first I felt so light and guilt-free as a vegan, but it didn’t stop there. I wore leather boots and used fossil fuel and had the stray plastic container in the cabinet–my toothbrush was plastic and I began to really hate life.
After a brush with death, a gigantic loss of blood and some worried doctors urging me to eat the Wendy’s burger one of them ran out to get me, I ate meat. My mood improved and life went on–until we bought some land and decided to make cheese. In my fantasy world the milk would flow for years after a few cute little kids came along. But no. The cute little kids come along EVERY year. There comes a point when you can’t feed all of the animals and have to sell them–or kill them and eat them.
Obviously I knew this all along but when you go food shopping you don’t have to deal with it. You pay more attention to the cart with the wobbly wheel than to the memory of the disgusting mistreatment of animals you witnessed watching Food Inc
A few weeks back we spoke with a very kind, very decent cheese maker who suggested we throw our two bucklings in with his bunch. Our friend had tried for years to find homes for the little guys but couldn’t keep his business going feeding all of them and even selling them at a loss. Now a mysterious man comes and takes the babies and raises them for goat meat for the ethnic markets. Our friend was like, “I don’t know how he does it–I don’t want to know.” I understood exactly but when we got home I cried for our two bucklings.
In the end here’s what we’ve decided: We’ll keep the boys and try to give them away as pets if someone is willing to bottle-feed them. But if no one comes along we’ll name them and raise them and love them with the lucky does and one day we’ll eat them. Every day will be good until that one last day. It sucks to be a guilty sinner, but then even vegans can’t escape contributing to death or dying themselves. What a weird world we live in.
Most of the soft cheese is kept plain and frozen, but I’m experimenting with a breakfast cheese with maple syrup (of course), cinnamon, walnuts and a dash of vanilla. We used it for ricotta pancakes last night and even with a double batch we hardly kept up with demand.
Best summer tomato meal for the lazy:
Throw raw tomatoes in blender with garlic, basil and oil.
Toss in Mozzarella (or in our case failed mozzarella).
But with a sigh of relief I can tell you that we’ve made a great mozzarella (only once so far after a few failed attempts) and this beauty–a Lithuanian farmer’s cheese. This will make you feel like a star (well, only if you count cheese making as star worthy). All you do is boil a gallon of milk, take it off the stove and throw in 3 eggs, a cup of sour cream and a pile of caraway seeds then some vinegar. (or is it vinegar then the sour cream?) If you really want the recipe I can post it for you. The curds develop almost instantly. You then drain it in cheese cloth and press it for a few hours and it’s done. I thought I liked it yesterday plain with salt, but today I bought cheap sesame crackers and have decided it’s my new breakfast–until I make myself sick of it.
Okay, so there is an upside to waking at 6 am to milk a goat and that’s cheese. After two weeks of thinking poor Pixie Dust had menigeal worms that attack the spinal cord causing much damage and possibly death, we think that in fact, she’s copper deficient–which is definitely easier to treat. Isn’t it fun not knowing what you’re doing and having the lives of others in your dumb hands? Who knew that a black goat that suddenly turned copper on her flanks probably had too little copper? And the curved hooves and general malaise? We thought it was pregnancy depression or something. Ugh. But now she seems a bit better and my hands are getting muscles from all the milking and today we made our second batch of mozzarella cheese–it was less than stellar but it was our own.