Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Maine Report Part Four: The Goats

The place we rented was a cottage owned by, and located on, Painted Pepper Farm, a maple syrup and goat farm in Steuben, Maine. The farm is owned by a lovely couple who raise chickens and goats (and daughters), as well as tapping maple syrup, growing some vegetables, making maple-syrup nuts and granola, and picking berries. They sell their products on the honor system from a farm stand attached to their house. The maple syrup items are inside, and outdoors there's a refrigerated case for the eggs, goat's milk yogurt and an odd watermelon or pint of blackberries.

We were surprised to learn that they do not make goat cheese. All their milk is used either fresh or in yogurt - amazing, rich, sweet yogurt. Their herd is made up exclusively of Nigerian dwarf goats, which produce a lovely milk, but not much of it. The milk makes great, but prohibitively expensive, goat cheese, so they focus on the yogurt. Actually, the yogurt was pretty pricey, too - I don't know if that was entirely due to the price of the milk, or if the elegant glass containers pushed the price up significantly. In any case, the quality of the yogurt justifies the price, and apparently their herd has quite a following. People drive several hours up the coast to stock up.
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The goats were charming animals, very interested in our comings and goings. They loved to have their heads scratched, and one would respond to attentions by making a noise deep in his throat very much like a purr. There were one-week-old babies that left us weak-kneed. (Okay, they left ME weak-kneed).
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We city-slickers also learned a few things about goat-raising. First important lesson: the billy goats will start to smell - the stinkiest goat-cheese smell - just before breeding time, and if you pet them at that point, your hands will smell for days. We avoided the petting, but we can verify the stink. Also, the vigorous headbutting that was going on in the new mothers' pen occurs every time a new goat is added to the group. The structure of dominance needs to be determined. Sadly, Peppermint Patty, the new goat to the group the first night of our vacation, ended up clearly at the bottom of the herd. She failed to headbutt with proper vehemence.

So far, none of these goats have ended up in goat stew. The farm is expanding its herd, so females kids are welcome to stay. The boys are sold as pets - apparently, their size make them popular for 4H club members, and some people like to keep them as company for horses. Learn something new every day.

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1 comment:

Julie said...

Those goats are adorable, particularly the one-week old. I don't see how anyone could be left anything other than weak-kneed by that.