Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Farm Visit

Hello and welcome to the Wild Goose Farm blog. The goal of the farm and the blog is to make connections between the things we make and eat and where the ingredients come from. There won't be much in the way of broader context, so no manifestos, no global food system charts or agri-business exposes. There are better people than me to articulate those crucial points. I'll stick with what I'm doing, seeing, and learning.

This is my first year growing things, and I feel more comfortable with the term "para-farmer" to describe what I'
m doing: activities around farming that help me understand how it all works and what it all means. What I'm doing, for right now, includes brewing, fermenting, cooking, growing, composting, beekeeping, cheesemaking, building, and lots of talking to people.

Here are their two cows, Opal (the russet one), and Kaycee (the black and white).

Opal is a Jersey, which is the classic American dairy cow, selectively bred to produce lots of milk with high butterfat content. Karyn's told me her milk was most recently tested at around 6% butterfat. She just calved a week before in the photo, and even so you can (sort of) see how much skinnier she is than Kaycee. Kaycee is 1/4 Jersey and 1/4 Holstein, but half Fleckvieh, which is an old Bavarian and Swiss multi-purpose breed that is heavy and strong for producing beef and pulling plows as well as producing milk. Her milk is testing at about 4% butterfat these days (she calved 7 months ago).

Karyn and Carissa opened a few of the doors into the discussions you can have about the merits of one cow breed over another, and it's fascinating stuff. I'm going to contribute to that discussion in a small way by making cheese from both own little controlled experiemnt So far I've made a 2 pound Gouda and a set of 4 camemberts from each cow, and I'm about to make a Stilton-style blue from each.

Here are the camemberts:

Those on the left are from Kaycee's milk (1/2 Fleckvieh), and on the right, from Opal's (Jersey). There's a bamboo mat under the Opal camemberts, and they are a couple of days younger, so less mold has grow on them. But even so you can see how much taller hers are, and how much yellower. The same basic difference shows up in the Goudas (Opal's on the left, Kaycee's on the right):

In making the same cheese, using as much as possible the same procedure, with two types so far, I can see why Jersey milk is desirable for cheesemaking. It's more productive. The same two gallons of milk gives more cheese (I'll find out how much more when I finish aging and weigh them), which is more to sell. I assume it's the butterfat that's responsible. Whether higher butterfat milk also makes tastier cheese is an open question, and I think it will depend on the type.

Finally, I have to show you the Opal's 1 week old calf Bambi, because she's just so darn cute (especially with her color matched friend):