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Monday, July 25, 2011

Crafty Cheese

After watching a video on Etsy about Urban Cheesecraft, I was inspired to dedicate this post to my friend Sarah, who, for as long as I have known her, has always wanted to have her own organic dairy goat farm. She thinks that the idea of her owning a goat farm is a dream at best, but I think that she could so very easily make this a reality if she just dreamed a little harder.

By now you probably know that I'm not a huge fan of dairy for dietary and health reasons. Not that I will deny that the taste of cheese is good, I just can't eat it with digestive success. Still, I've been curious about home dairies and backyard dairy goat keeping for those who do like and can eat dairy. I think keeping your own animals and producing your own milk products is the much more responsible thing to do than buy your milk from a big industrial dairy where the animals are treated horribly, and live in nasty conditions. The second best thing would be to buy from a humane farm, but unless you can actually visit that farm yourself and see what goes on there with your own eyes, you really just don't know. A label will tell you anything you want to hear.

Of course, there is still one sticky thing about dairy. That's the fact that animals have to be pregnant and produce young to produce milk, and a lot of the time those babies are going to be byproducts. I'm not so sure I could deal with selling babies to be eaten or otherwise just so that I could have cheese, so I don't know if I'd ever actually breed my pets for that purpose. It's interesting when you take responsibility for your food choices, you really begin to question the way things are done and sometimes the food really doesn't seem that appetizing when you fully understand where that food comes from and what it takes to acquire it.

Anyway, I was on a fairly long library waitlist for Homemade Living: Home Dairy with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Cheese, Yogurt, Butter & More, and was thrilled when I went to the library last Friday and found that it had already come in. Like all of her other books, I thought this was a great book, especially for beginners. It is full of photographs, stories about real dairy product makers, and step-by-step instructions on how to make everything from butter to yogurt. The only thing that I felt was missing, was how to care for the animals that produce the milk to make all of these products. I guess I just assumed that because her books on beekeeping and keeping chickens were mainly about the care of the animals, and only partially about the products they produce, this one would be the same way. Unfortunately there wasn't anything about tending goats or cows in this book. There are other books I hope to check out on that particular subject though, like The Backyard Goat: An Introductory Guide to Keeping and Enjoying Pet Goats, from Feeding and Housing to Making Your Own Cheese. Just waiting for it to pop up on our interlibrary loan system.

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