Goats in a Hand-Harvested Food Year

Episode 55
For the Love of Goats

Goats in a Hand-Harvested Food Year


Have you ever wanted to produce 100% of your food? Well, that’s exactly what Alexia Allen and her husband Daniel Kirchhof did in 2017. In this episode, she talks about how goats played a central role in their year of hand-harvested food. They ate nothing — not even salt — that was not harvested by them or their friends.

How did they get the idea to go a whole year without purchased food? What did they do to prepare? How did goats fit into the picture?

Alexia talks about her experience making cheese without purchased cultures or rennet, as well as how she as a former vegan was able to butcher some of their baby goats to make rennet from the stomaches. This episode includes my favorite laugh-out-loud moment when Alexia tells us about a 6-year-old’s assessment of the cheese she made with her homemade rennet.

I also share our experience from many years ago trying to make cheese without store-bought cultures, and we talk about how much tolerance we have for learning things by trial and error. And ultimately, how important is it that we strive for total self-sufficiency?

For more information

Alexia runs Hawthorn Farm, an eight-acre teaching farm in Woodinville, WA. You can visit the farm online at …

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More on growing your own food and making cheese…


Introduction 0:03
For the love of goats! We are talking about everything goat. Whether you’re a goat owner, a breeder, or just a fan of these wonderful creatures, we’ve got you covered. And now, here is Deborah Niemann.

Deborah Niemann 0:18
Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s episode. This is a really special episode, because we’re gonna go a little bit outside of goats—but not too much. Goats will still be the focus of the show. Today, we are talking to Alexia Allen, who is reclaiming suburbia just a few miles northeast of Seattle in Woodinville, Washington. And of course, goats played a big part of that. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today. Welcome to the show, Alexia!

Alexia Allen 0:45
Thank you so much, Deborah. It is a treat to be here. And I love this time of year, and being on this show is just part of the juicy goodness of this late summer season. So, thanks for inviting me.

Deborah Niemann 0:57
You’re welcome! This is gonna be a lot of fun. When you first contacted me and told me about this, I thought, “You know, this sounds exactly like the talk I give at a lot of Mother Earth News Fairs and other conferences and stuff.” The name of the talk is “Goats as the Centerpiece of a Sustainable Homestead.” And what I talked about in there is how, if you have goats, not only can you have milk and meat, but you’ve also got fertilizer; you can have fiber; you can have leather. They’re just amazing. And they are part of this beautiful biological loop on your farm. Like, they can feed the land, and then the land feeds them, and then they feed you, and it’s just so beautiful. So, take us back to, like, when this idea to spend a year consuming only hand-produced food… How did that happen?

Alexia Allen 1:51
Well, like so many wild and crazy ideas, it started in the blossom of a new romance with my sweetheart Daniel back in 2011. And he and I both have a background in wilderness survival skills. And for years, I had had a little game on my suburban acreage of eating one thing from the landscape every day—one egg from my chickens, one clover or dandelion leaf off of the lawn, one raspberry from the raspberry bushes. Just every day, I looked for some little nibble from my landscape. And so, when Daniel heard about that—and he combined that with an idea from one of his students who had spent an entire month eating wild foods. Daniel was visiting me in December, and he said, “Hey, are you up for a pop quiz where, for the next two days, we only eat food that has been harvested by hand? No grocery store involved. What have we got?” Like, we know we’re going to survive; we have enough calories to go through two days. So we tried it. And we loved it. I mean, we had a little handful of dried corn. We had different wild conifer needles, like cedar needles, to make tea. We had a whole frozen chicken. We had some eggs. We had some kale. We didn’t have any salt. You know, we didn’t have spices. But we had enough to get by.

Alexia Allen 3:20
And we had so much fun with those two days of meals that we said, “Hey, the next time we visit”—we were in a long distance relationship—”next time we get together, let’s try this again.” And so, of course, we were just filled with enthusiasm to gather cool new foods to share with each other. And, Daniel being the visionary guy that he is, said, “What if we work towards an entire year of this? What does that look like? Let’s set our sights on doing an entire year of hand-harvested food in 2017. What do we need to do to build our skills now, starting in 2011, in order to get there?” Because we had a long way to go. I didn’t grow up gardening or homesteading; I have just been bumbling my way through a lot of this. And, I love how it really ties into my human capabilities of figuring out how to inhabit a landscape and get good food. I love it! It’s like I live in a giant, four-dimensional, edible crossword puzzle.

Alexia Allen 4:25
So, in 2012, I fell in love with a goat at the fair, brought her and a buddy home, and started milking goats. Because, as you know, goats are alchemists. I can take the blackberry brambles off of our land, put them in the goat pen, and get milk out of it. And they’re so friendly. I tell people who come and are just amazed by my friendly goats who come when I call; they’re like, “Wow, I didn’t expect them to be this friendly.” I say it’s like having dogs but you get goat cheese, too. Like, this is fantastic! I adore these goats. And, I’ve had as many as eleven goats at a time, and now I’m down to three, which is really manageable. We get 2 gallons of milk a day, which is what I aim for for most of the year, and our landscape has transformed through feeding these goats. And our landscape has transformed for the better. I personally don’t enjoy eating blackberry leaves; the goats do. And, even though I am crazy lactose intolerant myself, I’m feeding ten people, and I love making cheese. So, the goats are capturing that solar energy that lands on the farm and turning it into delicious creamy milk. I have two Nigerian Dwarfs and one Lamancha goat. So, between the three of them, I’m cranking out cheeses all summer long.

Deborah Niemann 5:49
That’s awesome!

Alexia Allen 5:51

Deborah Niemann 5:51
And, because you mentioned that you’re lactose intolerant, there may be some people listening who are thinking, “Oh, I thought you could drink goat milk if you’re lactose intolerant.” So, I wanted to clarify the difference between a milk allergy and lactose intolerance. Because all mammalian milk has lactose in it. That’s just milk sugar. Like, you have to know why you have a negative reaction to cow’s milk if you can’t consume the milk in a store without discomfort. It could be that you are lactose intolerant, or you could just be allergic to the protein in the cow’s milk. And if it’s the latter then, yeah, you can totally drink goat’s milk and sheep milk and camel milk and any other milk, because your allergy is to the specific protein rather than the sugar. So, just wanted to clarify that in case anybody was wondering, because so many people just throw any kind of discomfort when consuming milk: “Must be lactose intolerance.”

Alexia Allen 6:49
Mm-hmm. Yeah, thank you. I have a lot of people say, “Wait, you’re lactose intolerant? But, you should be able to drink goat milk, then.” I’m like, “No, because goat milk is incredibly sweet and filled with lactose.” But I appreciate the fact that the goats make it. I really, really do. And I’ve just made many, many cheeses over the years. And like I said, the goats are real alchemists when it comes to transforming the landscape and using products that we humans can’t eat and that they gobble up.

Deborah Niemann 7:19
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, because we move our goats all around our farm, and right now is when they are in our backyard. And they’re around our pond, and they are eating leaves off of the willow trees and all kinds of bushes and stuff that grow around the pond. And it is wonderful, because they… You know how, like, ponds usually kind of have slopes that go in. Like, you can’t get in there, anyway, with a mower or equipment. But the goats do a fabulous job of landscaping for us.

Alexia Allen 7:52
Yes! I used to have such huge issues with blackberries. When I moved to this land in 2003, it was some very overgrazed pasture and walls of spiky Himalayan blackberries. The Himalayan blackberries are pretty much gone; I almost miss them. It’s not because we’ve had the goats roaming around so much—although we do go out on goat walks with them. I have so many fruit trees and things it just makes more sense for us to go harvest armloads of vegetation for my prima donna goats. And it’s fast. It’s easy. It gets us humans in touch with the landscape and caretaking it. We bring those brambles into the goat pen; the goats munch it down. Every 6 months we move the goats to a new pen and pile up all the leaves, all the droppings, all the little zucchini stems that they didn’t eat, pile all that up, and make the most exquisite compost. It is chocolate-cake quality compost; it is so good. And then we will put that compost into the garden, and wherever the goats were living, that becomes another garden bed. So, my husband has built me what he calls “The Empire of Tiny Goats.” All these little pens where again, like, I live in a crossword puzzle. “Okay, if I’m moving the goats at this time of year, where do I move them? What do I plant after the goats have been there? How long do I let that paddock rest before the goats come back? And how do I manage the compost that the goats have left behind?” So, I’ve become kind of a connoisseur of… You know, I’m not just fermenting the cheeses; I’m also making the amazing compost. And it really does wonders for the garden, because our goats, you know, they get all the great minerals and things that you recommend. It’s given my herd a huge health boost, and the resulting compost shows it. I mean, it makes plants capital-G grow.

Deborah Niemann 9:51
Yeah. That’s awesome! So, what are some of the ways that goats contributed to your year of home-harvested food?

Alexia Allen 10:00
Well, we encountered The Hunger Gap, which is that late-spring, early-summer time when we don’t have any more beets in storage, and all the potatoes are getting sprouty, and all the squash are kind of mushy and cardboard-flavored, and all we’ve got in the garden is lettuce. “Wow, okay,” you know, “what do we do now?” But then, the goats give birth, and all of a sudden we are up to our eyeballs in goat cheese and chicken eggs. You know, we could just eat goat cheese-omelets with loads of greens, and that will get you a long, long way. Like, that is really good food. So, timing the breeding of the goats so that we have that resource during that “hunger gap” time of year was absolutely fantastic. And even though we haven’t continued on such a strict official food challenge, I mean, the goats are still the keystone in terms of getting us our dairy products for sure.

Deborah Niemann 11:00
Have you been using the goats for anything other than dairy products?

Alexia Allen 11:03
I had a couple of fiber goats who were buddies for my buck when I was keeping a buck goat, which made more sense when I had, you know, seven or eight does. And I don’t keep a buck now. So, I had some fiber goats. I’m a spinner and a weaver and a knitter; I mean, it was hard to keep up with that much angora fiber then. I do brush my little Nigerians for their cashmere every spring and, you know, get enough to make a little lace cashmere scarf. So, it’s primarily the company, the dairy, the kids that they produce, and the compost-building powers of the goats that are their main contributions to our particular homestead. And we certainly eat extra kids or kids we can’t sell, although we live in such an urban area that we typically are able to sell all our kids pretty handily.

Deborah Niemann 11:56
Mm-hmm. Yeah. I think that was one of the things for us, initially, when we first got goats, because they are so sweet and personable that we thought we could never eat a goat. Like, that would be like eating my dog, you know? Like, they’re just so sweet and everything. And then I remember… We were vegetarians for fourteen years when we first moved out here. And, you know, we had the goats for goat cheese, and we had chickens for eggs, and we had no plans to ever start eating meat when we moved out here. But I also didn’t want to keep buying chicks from hatcheries every few years to keep the eggs going. So, I got some roosters with my hens; I think I got, like, four roosters and twenty-four hens. And, within a couple of years—because 50% of your babies are going to be males. So within a couple of years, we were up to forty hens and about twenty-four roosters. And they were fighting and literally killing each other. And so, we had a long conversation about, you know, “There is imbalance in this ecosystem.” The roosters do not like having this kind of competition for the ladies, and they are doing what roosters do with lots of testosterone to eliminate the competition. And, “Is it humane to let them do that?” Because when they fight, it does not look humane. And we finally came to the conclusion that, you know, quickly decapitating them or cutting their jugular was a much better way for them to end as opposed to having their eyeballs picked out and things like that. And it’s like, they have one bad moment. They don’t know what hit ’em. You know, like, it’s been a beautiful life right up until that last second. And then it was just kind of a matter of, like, you know—so we started eating the chickens. And then it was just a matter of, you know, like, “Huh, well, now we’ve got too many baby goats, too many male goats. What are we going to do?” So then it was just a gradual progression. You know, in nature, the herd gets culled naturally. So.

Alexia Allen 14:14

Deborah Niemann 14:10
And I discovered that—I actually, I had never had goat meat before. I discovered I actually loved it. It’s really delicious.

Deborah Niemann 14:17
One of the things that surprised me was when you told me that you were on only 8 acres, because so many people think that, you know, if you were going to do what you just explained, that you would have to have at least 20, 30 acres, maybe even 40. Because, it sounds like a huge undertaking. Because, like, the goats provided fertilizer for you… So, can you talk a little more about how you utilize the 8 acres?

Alexia Allen 14:44
Sure! And one of the things that kept it a little simpler was that it was really just me and my husband doing this challenge. Now granted, we did get married during that year, and so we did a hand-harvested wedding feast for, you know, 50 or so people, and I was very nervous coming up to the year of a challenge. Like, “Are we gonna have enough to eat?” You know, “I don’t want to run out of stuff. This is kind of terrifying,” because I just don’t have a good sense of calibrating to how many jars of tomato sauce do we use in a year? How many apples will we eat over a course of a winter? How do I really preserve things well, so that we get to eat every day? But, we actually didn’t need as much as I feared. It doesn’t take too darn much to keep me alive, it turns out, you know? A lot less than I worried about. And some of that was me observing, like, the basic nutrition of the soil. Where I live, it’s, you know, it’s been pastureland for a zillion years. It’s been overgrazed. It’s not necessarily what I would consider nutritious soil, even back when we started doing this. And I realized that I was getting food cravings. Like, I just wanted to eat a whole bunch of dried apples, even though they weren’t really, you know, filling a need for me. And then a friend brought us kelp from the ocean. She’d gone out in her sea kayak, and harvested kelp herself, and brought it back to us, and she dried it out. Gave it to us. I ate kelp. My food cravings went away.

Deborah Niemann 16:25
Wow, that’s interesting!

Alexia Allen 16:26
I ate kelp, and my food craving—so I was like, “Wow! I am hungry for certain nutrients that I’m not getting from plants grown in this soil.” And that woke me up to giving my goats kelp. All of a sudden, my goats aren’t, you know, tearing trees apart anymore. All of a sudden, my goats aren’t, you know, just like, raging against their fences all the time. They have what they need. So, that woke me up to amending the minerals in my soil. And we actually, you know, we had enough calories. We had enough space. I gardened less than an acre that year. And I don’t do a lot of small grains, so I didn’t worry about baking bread or anything. We grew some corn, which is the best, you know, hand-processing homestead grain, in my opinion. And big props to the ancestral corn breeders who made that magic happen, that we have this incredible plant today. So, I wasn’t growing wheat or anything. And we had all the space we needed. We weren’t really hungry.

Alexia Allen 17:28
But. Okay, maybe we were using 20 acres somewhere else, because we did buy animal feed; we rang up a pretty impressive bill at the feed store for our chickens, you know, for our rabbits, for the goats, for my ponies. So, there is ghost acreage out there somewhere that fed us then, and that has really enhanced the land here. So, I don’t know exactly where all that land is. And we keep trying to reduce our reliance on external acreage and keep more nutrients cycling right on our land. Again, it’s like this fun game of: For every nutrient, for every bit of solar energy, for every raindrop that falls here, how do we make those units of energy do as much cool work as possible while they’re here? So, while we do bring in nutrients, I also try to do stuff, like, I experimented growing barley to feed my goats through the winter. So I had a, you know, 250-square-foot patch of barley, and we’ll see what happens. Can I grow more squash and use that to feed the goats through the winter? So yes, we humans survived just fine on what we had. And we produced a lot more animal products than we needed; my husband and I have had a variable number of people living at the house through the years, and those people always do get to eat some quantity of the food we raise. So we were, you know, raising eggs for 4 to 10 people, and you know, raising plenty of rabbit meat and plenty of dairy products for everybody. So, we were producing more than he and I strictly needed. But you’re right, we were relying on somebody else’s labor and acreage to feed our animals.

Deborah Niemann 19:14
That is fascinating. I know when we first moved out here in 2002, we wanted to be completely self-sufficient, you know? And so many people will ask that, like, “Oh, are you completely self-sufficient?” And you don’t have to be out here very long to discover that, like, nobody is going to be completely self-sufficient. Like, that just does not happen, even 200 years ago when people were traveling West in wagon trains. They purchased food, like rice and flour and salt, because, you know, obviously we can’t produce all those things. Nor do we really need to, you know? And the interesting thing about goats that… I always say, “If I had known as much about goats 19 years ago as I do now, I probably would not have wanted to have them, because they’re not native to North America.” So for most of us, we don’t have what they need to survive. You know, like, when we first got goats, we had terrible problems with nutritional deficiencies here. And I can tell you that—since we had cows and sheep also—that if you forget to put out the minerals for the cows and the sheep, not a big deal. You know, like, okay, it’s a little embarrassing to admit, but we’ve gone months, even, with the sheep and the cows not having minerals, and it was not catastrophic. However, goats—it’s not an option. Because they’re browsers, and so, like, here on the plains of Illinois there is no way that we can give them what they need to thrive.

Deborah Niemann 20:51
One of the last things I wanted to talk about, because a lot of people ask about this, and that is the idea of purchasing cultures to make cheese. Because, most cheese is cultured. Y’all, this is… If you don’t make cheese, let me just tell you, like, for 2 gallons of cheese, we’re talking about like, an eighth of a teaspoon or a quarter teaspoon, so it’s miniscule in terms of volume. I’m not even going to do the math to say, like, what tiny percentage that is in the whole batch. But, you did try to do it the old-fashioned way without purchased cultures. And how’d that go?

Alexia Allen 21:29
I made one cheese that might be the best cheese I have ever or will ever make uing my own kind of home-fermented cultures. Let’s say out of 15 cheeses, one was incredible, three were chicken food, and the rest were somewhere in the middle. So I was like, “Wow, this is quite a range! I’m not really getting reproducible results here. And, for all the time and effort that I put into cheesemaking, I am just gonna go ahead and buy the cheese cultures and the rennet.

Deborah Niemann 22:04
I totally understand how horribly disappointing it is to have all of your sweat and tears and time rolled into a batch of cheese or yogurt or something, and have it just completely flop. You know, and early on in this conversation, I said that our original goal was to be 100% self-sufficient. And so we thought, “Hey, we’re gonna make our own culture for our cheese.” And unfortunately, our experience was even worse than yours. You know, you said that you had three batches that were chicken feed; we had three batches that we did not even think they were safe enough to feed to the chickens.

Deborah Niemann 22:40
Because, we made a mother culture, and we stored it in the freezer. And this was, I don’t know, 15 years ago, so I don’t even remember how long it’s supposed to last, but I think it was like 3 months, then you need to make a new one. Well, the first few batches of cheese turned out just great, you know? No complaints at all. And it had not been 3 months yet; I think we were expecting that, you know, this mother culture was going to last another month. And one day, my husband went to check this cheddar that was in the press. And the final press on cheddar is supposed to be 50 pounds. And, he happened to notice that the pressure gauge was at the very top—like, literally off the chart. It was a heavier weight than that gauge was made to measure. And when he looked into the press, he saw that the follower was tipped at an angle. And so he immediately removed it, and discovered that there was some kind of weird gas growing in there. And the cheese was, like, full of like massive, massive bubbles. And he’s like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t understand what happened,” you know? “Some stray bacteria must have gotten in there or something.” So the next day, he tries another batch. Same result. Next day, he did it again. And that’s when I finally—the light bulb finally came on. And I said, “You know, I don’t think that mother culture is good anymore.” Like, “This looks like some kind of wild yeast or bacteria or something is taking over. Like, our culture is not doing its thing,” you know? And I think that’s why people need to really understand the principles behind cheesemaking, so that they know, like, okay, a mesophilic culture is not supposed to create gas like that. You’re not supposed to have thousands of tiny bubbles in there that make your cheese press try to explode on you.

Alexia Allen 24:37
Wow! Yeah.

Deborah Niemann 24:38
So, another thing: A lot of people ask us if we have made our own rennet. And again, I’m just like, “No, I’m not even going to try that one.” But you are more brave than me, and you did try. So, how did that go?

Alexia Allen 24:52
Oh, gosh. Well, as most of you listeners probably know, rennet is made with the enzymes that are in the stomachs of young milk-drinking animals. You know, baby goats are the original cheesemakers; they drink the milk, and then the enzymes in their little stomachs turn that milk into cheese curds. So, you know, anciently speaking, people would just… You just take those baby goat stomachs, and you would prepare them somehow—which is a little mysterious to me—and then you can use those little baby goat stomachs to curdle your milk and make cheese. So of course, a lot of commercial rennet today is made from calf stomachs, and there are various vegetarian options, as well.

Alexia Allen 25:41
So I said, “Alright, if I’m doing this year of hand-harvested food, I really want to take this seriously and see what I can do without getting anything from the store.” You know, no cultures, no rennet. So, “I can grow my own rennet, because I’m growing baby goats.” So, this was a really tough part. And it kind of lingers in my mind to this day. But, I did what a lot of goat raisers around the world do, which is kill the male kids very soon after birth—either at birth or, like, within a day or two afterwards—so that I had some super-fresh baby goat stomachs. Many of you, anybody who raises goats… I mean, baby goats are adorable, and they are a lot of work. It was definitely tough for me to do this, but I wound up with some goat stomachs that I dried in the dehydrator. And then I tried using them to make cheese. Like, just putting in a little section of that goat stomach, swirling it around in my pot of warm milk to make cheese. And it worked. Like, lo and behold! However, it’s a little hard to calibrate. You know, I can’t exactly measure 1 teaspoon or, like, how much enzyme is in this stomach. And there’s so many variables there, and I just don’t have the experience; I didn’t have the experience, and I’m apparently not going to go out and gain more experience with this process, because they are also enzymes like lipase, which breaks down lipids in those goat stomachs. And in fact, you know, goat and lamb lipase are known for making really sharp cheeses. It gives you that piquant flavor, which is good up to a point…

Alexia Allen 27:21
I made some cheeses using this kid rennet, and made some somewhat edible cheeses. And I had this little 6-year-old friend over at my house once; it was kind of a cold day, and she was hungry. So I thought, “Well, I’ll warm up a nice slab of my cheese in a frying pan, you know, it’ll get, like, crispy and brown. It will be, like, this tasty melted cheese. She’ll love it.” So, I cut off a piece of cheese, I put it in the cast-iron pan, it’s bubbling away on the stove; the little girl is looking more and more upset about this whole process. Like, “Is Alexia gonna make me eat this thing of cheese?” And finally she says, “Auntie Alexia, I don’t really want to eat that cheese. It smells like throw-up.” I was like, “Wow, honey, you are not wrong, actually!” Like, this… You know, the stomach content part of the rennet really came through in the aroma of the cheese. So I was like, “Okay, this is, um… I’m not winning any converts to home cheesemaking here.” So, you know, I kind of used up the rest of my kid rennet and have been happily using store-bought organic rennet ever since then. And it’s been just fine.

Alexia Allen 28:38
So, I mean, that really did get me into a whole different strategy of raising kids. I’ve pretty much tried all the different methods of how to rear kids and what to do with them. And maybe it’s just, as I have moved into middle age, I get less and less tolerant of the adolescent male of pretty much any species. And so, you know, baby goats, they’re adorable, and they’re a hassle, so depending on what we’re doing in any given year, I may or may not want to keep baby goats around for variable lengths of time. They drink a lot of milk; sometimes they’re really hard on their moms udders and I have to separate them from their moms anyways, then I’m bottle raising kids… And I just don’t have a lot of patience. I just know this about myself. Like, patience for young bawling creatures—not my thing. So, with goats, I can just sell them or eat them, which is really convenient. And we’ve certainly eaten a fair amount of goat over the years. You know, raising Nigerian Dwarfs, you’re not winding up with large amounts of meat, but it is totally enough to flavor a soup and, you know, grind up some goat burgers. And it’s been worth it for me.

Alexia Allen 29:52
I was vegan for many, many years. I decided to be a vegetarian when I was 10 because I really, truly love animals. And it really didn’t make sense for me to eat them. And then when I moved to the Pacific Northwest and had, like, an intensely physically active lifestyle, I once saw somebody eating beef jerky, and I just leaned in. Like, “Wow. I want that. Like, I need to eat meat, somehow, in what I’m doing. And I want to do that with integrity.” So for me, that’s been raising my own meat. Like, basically all the meat I eat is from animals I have known and loved and cared for for their whole lives. And it’s a huge shift. Like, teenage vegan Alexia would not be pleased with what 43-year-old Alexia is doing now. But I really feel that connection to those animals. All the animals on my farm have one bad day. And I don’t eat a lot of meat, because I realized, you know, really what it takes. I’m asking a lot of that creature. So, it’s a bit of a paradox. And, you know, I let the goat kids grow up a little longer now that I’m using store-bought rennet, and I think that’s probably good for everybody. But that was my adventure in, like, really trying to make cheese from scratch—homegrown cultures, homemade rennet—and it worked. And it was less reproducible, and a little less delicious. I’m sure if we worked on this project over several generations, we would get some awesome microbiomes happening, you know, here, and we would develop our own local flora for the cheeses. And it would work. But I’m just not quite willing to enter into that kind of learning curve right now. I want to make good cheese right now.

Deborah Niemann 31:46
Exactly. Yeah. I think that’s one of the things… So many people, they ask, “Well, what did people do before the we had the Internet, and we could order cultures and rennet, and order lye?” Because people have also asked me if I make my own lye, and I’m like, “No.” And the bottom line is consistency. You know, how much time do you have? And how much tolerance do you have for wasting ingredients as you are figuring out the learning curve?

Alexia Allen 32:12

Deborah Niemann 32:12
So, you know, we discovered pretty quickly with those mother cultures that we did not have a great tolerance for wasting our precious milk with failed batches of cheese.

Alexia Allen 32:23
Yeah. Absolutely. And, even using store-bought cultures and rennet, my cheeses have gotten a lot more reliable, you know, just through my own skill and observation as a cheesemaker. So, there are so many factors at play here. Like, we’ve just got to reduce the number of wildcard variables here.

Deborah Niemann 32:45
Yeah, exactly. This has been such a fun conversation! So many of the things we do here are, like, really deep and heavy, and I’m taking notes that, you know, when I’m doing everything, and this has just been so much fun to talk to somebody else who has utilized goats in so many magnificent ways on the homestead. Thank you so much for joining us today!

Alexia Allen 33:06
It is such a pleasure, Deborah. I’m just cheering you on. I just have the sense that you have done so much for goats around the country, around the world, through helping educate people about how to really observe and be with their goats and take great care of them. And I’m just indebted to my goats. I’m made out of goat milk. So, it’s a very close partnership. And I’m really grateful for what you do. Thank you so much!

Deborah Niemann 33:31
Thank you!

Deborah Niemann 39:55
And that’s it for today’s show. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to hit the “subscribe” button so that you don’t miss any episodes. To see show notes, you can always visit ForTheLoveOfGoats.com, and you can follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/LoveGoatsPodcast. See you again next time. Bye for now!

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Goats in a Hand-Harvested Food Year

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