I´ve been away from New Orleans for a good part of this summer, staying on a ranch in the Northern Panhandle of Idaho. There’s 90 acres there, and the ranch has more animals than I would ever want to be responsible for in my normal life: cows, horses, geese, chickens, ducks, turkeys, cats, dogs, and goats. There’s also a half acre garden, 100 blueberry bushes, and lots raspberries and strawberries—more produce than I would ever want to jam, can, or pickle.
The whole time I’ve been here, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned, or done this summer that I can apply to my New Orleans yard. The pasture-raised meat chickens are an interesting possibility, and so are the turkeys and geese. But the turkeys are pretty noisy and the chickens involve a lot of plucking for a few pounds of meat.
There’s two beautiful Nubian does out on the ranch, and at the peak of summer, they produced a gallon and a half of delicious milk a day. Fresh, unpasteurised goat’s milk is the purest, cleanest milk I’ve ever tasted. I think I’ve been ruined for life; I just don’t know how I’ll be able to go back to store-bought, homogenized, pasteurized, vitamin D infused products on the refrigerator aisle shelves that try to pass themselves off as real food. So, even though it’s an unlikely possibility, I’m thinking about keeping goats.
By unlikely possibility, I mean it’s probably an extremely unlikely possibility, at least in the near future, especially since the lot I’ve been using the last few years for gardening/ animal foraging has been sold. That sort of thing is bound to happen, when you farm on a city lot that isn’t yours, but it may take me some time to find a suitable replacement. So, I’m just researching the possibility of city goats, brushing up on my goat husbandry, and practicing making cheese.
Nubians are full-size milking goats and are probably too big for city life. But the Nigerian Dwarf is a goat breed with milking capabilities that is half the size. Urban farmer Novella Carpenter, author of the book, “Farm City,” keeps two Nigerian Dwarf does for milking in her Oakland backyard. (Read about her adventures in urban goatkeeping at ghosttownfarm.wordpress.com).
Goats are considered livestock in many cities and are not legal, including New Orleans.
But the city of Seattle recently passed legislation allowing goats within city limits, and goats have the advantage of being cute and friendly, so neighbors are less inclined to complain about them. But they also need to be milked twice a day, at regular times, and they need to be fed hay and grain if there isn’t grass to forage on, and they need to be bred every year if you want them to produce milk. Which of course means that you have to sell or eat the offspring. In all honesty, for my laissez farming city lifestyle, goats may be too much regular trouble. I like animals and fruits and vegetables that only need a lot of work a few times a year and then a little maintenance regularly beyond that.
Being on a ranch where I have a gallon and a half of fresh goat’s milk everyday to experiment with though, has been a revelation:
homemade goat’s cheese is awesome. To be honest, I have had many more failures than successes, but even the cheeses that haven’t turned out as expected were still delicious. So my plan for fall in New Orleans is to buy goats milk from Bill Ryals at the farmer’s market and keep up with my cheese making education.
For cheesmaking supplies, Brewstock, at 3800 Dryades St., carries some kits and cultures to get started, but for more intense home cheesemaking production, turn to the Cheese Queen, Ricki Carroll of New England Cheesemaking Supply Company (cheesemaking.com). Her book, “Home Cheese Making,” is the generally excepted reference book on the subject and can be purchased at the St James Cheese Company at 5004 Prytania St.
Feta is my favorite cheese that I’ve made from the book with a low failure rate. To make it at home, you need only need five ingredients, including salt, a stainless steel stockpot, some cheesecloth and a reliable thermometer. Good Luck!
Goat’s Milk Feta
• 1 gallon goat’s milk • 1/4 tsp lipase powder dissolved in 1/4 cup of water • 1 packet direct set mesophilic starter • 1/2 tsp liquid rennet diluted in 1/4 cup of unchlorinated water
1. Combine milk and diluted lipase, and heat the milk to 86 degrees F. Add the mesophilic starter and stir to combine, then cover and allow the milk to ripen for one hour.
2. Add the diluted rennet and stir gently until it is fully incorporated through the milk. Cover and allow to set at 86 for one hour (if it is cooler than 86 in the room, turn the oven on warm for a few minutes, turn off and put the pot of milk in the warm oven).
3. After one hour, once the curd has separated from the whey, cut into 1/2 in cubes. (Don’t worry if you can’t get them that small—I never can, but it still seems to come out fine). Let the cubes set for ten minutes, then stir them gently.
4. Pour the curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth. Tie the corners of the cloth together and hang the bag to drain over the sink (or in the refrigerator with a bowl underneath to catch the dripping whey) for 4 hours.
5. Untie the bag and cut your cheese into 1 in slices, then 1 in cubes. Salt to taste, then cover and allow to age for 4 to 5 days in the refrigerator (if you can stand the wait!)