Friday, July 7, 2006

Gooseberry picking, goat selling and sheep milking

We spent this morning with a potential goat buyer. She is just now starting her herd. She is from Virginia and arrived early enough to watch the morning milking and try her hands at it. Then we introduced her to all the goats, and she told us which ones she'd like to buy if we decide to sell them in the future -- or alternatively, which ones she'd like to have a kid from. Then we came inside, and I showed her how to make yogurt from sheep milk and queso blanco cheese from goat milk. (Yes, that means we milked our Shetland sheep! More on that later.) Then we made pasta and sauteed queso blanco, a main dish I created.

After lunch, she left to visit a nearby alpaca farm, and Mike and I went into the woods for gooseberry picking. We have a 5-cup bucket about 4/5 full. Tomorrow, we'll be having gooseberry muffins for breakfast. They are delicious -- somewhere between the taste of raspberry and blueberry. The wild raspberries aren't quite ready yet, but we nibbled on a few early ones as we made our way through the woods. We also discovered an unusual tree in the woods, and Mike's research online showed us that it is a cucumbertree! I didn't know such a tree existed, but the pictures match up.

Now, about the sheep milking ... A few days ago I got the bright idea that we could milk our Shetland sheep. I noticed one of the sheep had a very impressive looking udder -- at least as good as some of our goats. So, I convinced Margaret to milk her. Since catching sheep is not easy, we decided to put her in a smaller pen, but then she got lonely, so I decided she needed a friend, whom we could also milk (since her babies are two months old already). Well, now I know why no one milks their Shetland sheep. It took us four days to get a quart of milk from the two of them! Margaret said she loves milking them because they have very soft, easily milked udders, but the quantity is quite small. Now I also understand why their babies don't nurse as long as the goats. Some people say the ewes wean their lambs, but now I think the lambs just give up around two to three months of age. It's just easier to drink water and eat grass than to chase down the mama for a sip of milk -- and I do mean a "sip" because that's all the sheep have at this point. So, Shetland sheep are not dairy animals. I am hoping the Icelandic ewe proves to be more productive when she freshens next spring.

The top picture for today is Carmen, the goat who won grand in the show two weekends ago. I had posted a picture of her in the show ring and a picture of her as a baby, but then I realized I didn't have any pictures of her beautiful, sweet face. Katherine took this picture for me a few days ago.

The goose is one of the goslings that arrived on Antiquity Oaks slightly more than three months ago. I can't believe how fast they grow!


june in florida said...

Carmen is beautiful, can we have a picture of the shetlands please and what do you do with geese? Eggs? Do not say the unmentionable!

Deborah said...

I'm sorry to say that we had planned to raise the buff geese for food. They are on Slow Food's Arc of Taste, a list of endangered food animals. It's sounds weird, I know, but food animals become endangered when people stop eating them. When there's a market, there are people who are willing to raise them. It's amazing what Slow Foods has done for heritage turkeys. Just five years ago, there were only about 1,000 left in the whole country. Today there are several thousand because people have started raising them again for Thanksgiving. The buff goose is even rarer than the heritage turkeys were. There is only one hatchery in the country that hatches them, so independent farmers can make a big difference in whether or not they are here for another generation to see. I would be thrilled to sell breeding stock to other people, but if that doesn't happen, I'd be happy to be able to sell them as Christmas dinner. These particular geese, however, are here to breed and make more more geese!

gnightgirl said...

Nice post, as usual; aren't gooseberries very tart?

I learned a lot from the comment you left June also; an amazing twist to endangered animals: eat them!

Deborah said...

Gooseberries are deliciously tart -- a bit more tart than raspberries but not as much as rhubarb. Some people might not like them plain, but with sugar in muffins or pie or jam, they're delicious! This morning as I was enjoying gooseberry muffins for breakfast, I started wondering why they haven't been sold much commercially. My only guess is that some people might not like the seeds. There is only one seed per gooseberry, but they are tiny and get stuck in your teeth like raspberry seeds. I guess the other possibility is that they are rather labor intensive. You need to snip off the stem and blossom end after you pick them. Seems like someone could invent a machine to do that though.

BTW, I just use a blueberry muffin recipe and substitute the gooseberries.


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