Adventures in Powell River: Milking goats and making cheese
Wendy has a farm in Wildwood. It’s pastoral, prolific, and park like.
She’s lived there since 1991 but the land has been a homestead since 1907. Back then it was logged and farmed by a man named Smarge, at one time supplying goat milk to the hospital.
These days there are still goats, plus ducks, bees, farm cats, and my favourite, chickens.
When it was suggested that as a Powell River Adventure I should milk something and then follow up by making cheese, Wendy was the natural choice to contact.
And so on a warm spring day, I headed across the Wildwood bridge with friends Bad Karen (BK) and Suzan to milk us some goats!
It’s a funny thing: I thought milking would be easy (squirt, squirt, squirt) but once I sidled up to a living thing, in this case a goat named Baby, I worried about hurting her. This despite Wendy’s very clear instructions to grasp an udder in each hand, make a ring with my fingers and pull down firmly, alternating between udders. No need to be gentle, Wendy said, but that’s exactly how I was. And so, no milk. Nothing. It took several attempts before there was the satisfying sound of spurting milk hitting the pail. BK and Suzan took to milking much more easily and of course Wendy’s a pro.
Fast forward several weeks to an evening of cheese making at BK’s place. Prior to this, BK, our friend Mel, and I did a test run using cow’s milk, making mozzarella and queso fresco.
There are a lot of steps but BK kept us on task.
The great thing about mozzarella and queso fresco is that they can be eaten immediately.
And there’s room to be creative.
So after our successful test run, BK and I set about to make feta using goat’s milk.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of cheese-making kits, information, and recipes available, and really, it all boils down to chemistry.
It’s important to follow the recipe, paying close attention to timing, water temperature, and techniques like the “cheese-maker stir” – stirring from the bottom up to even out heat distribution.
You can eat feta fresh but it’s better if it’s aged in a brine solution.
While I like instant gratification as much as the next person, there’s something about waiting to enjoy something you’ve made yourself, especially if you’re sharing the experience with friends. It’s the anticipation and then the celebration of the accomplishment.
This adventure taught me that many things you buy in the store can be made at home. Sure, it takes some time and effort but Powell River has a wealth of resources and skilled and knowledgeable people who are happy to share. That’s community.
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