Sunday, 8 April 2012

A Taste of Self-Sufficiency

Guess what I've been up to today?
I went on a Home Dairying Course where I learned how to hand milk goats and how to make cheese amongst many other things!
The course was hosted by Sue from "Gardenfarming", who lives completely self sufficient. I mean, how impressive is that?!
On arrival at Sue's smallholding this morning I was greeted with a nice cup of tea with a splash of yummy goats milk. I then went to meet her goats and got a lesson in hand milking Abigail, one of the nanny goats.

Here's me trying to get to grips with the technique:

And here's how it should be done:

I got there in the end, although my shoulders went a bit stiff from concentrating a bit too much on doing everything right and holding my arms in a certain position. It was great fun, but it seemed to take me forever to just get a tiny bit out of Abigail's udder, whereas Sue can milk two litres in just 20 minutes!

Here I am looking a bit too proud of my meagre results:

Just for the record: I did get more out of her than what you can see here. As my inexperienced milking attempts went all over my hands the risk of contamination was way too high for human consumption, so the pigs got to enjoy it.

Here I'm brushing Abigail as a treat for being so patient with me and my cold hands:

And here she is going back to her pen:

After milking we went back inside to pasteurise the milk in order to make cheese and Sue prepared a delicious completely home grown and home reared lunch and pudding for us.
After lunch we cracked on with our cheese making session, where I picked up some very useful hints and tips and was recommended a dairy making book which I ordered as soon as I got home. I learned a lot about making do with what you've got, rather than investing in expensive equipment.
As I'm not planning on having my own goat, we kept the goat keeping lessons quite short and went for a stroll around Sue's garden, where she grows enough fruit and veg to last her and her husband all year round.
We also went to see the chickens and Sue shared her wisdom and gave me some very handy advice.
Then she let me get in with her pigs and give them a cuddle - rather scary given their size, after all they are 250 kg each!

Needless to say I had a great day filled with fun, experiences and information. I got far more out of today than I expected including this rare feeling of having done something for the first time ever. Once you've reached adulthood you don't do many things for the first time any more. Everything is very repetitive and eventually becomes routine or it's simply a variation of something you have done before. Today I've milked a goat, which is well and truly something I have never done before. It's a moment to treasure and to remember.
As these moments of "doing something for the first time" are so rare I am aiming to have more of those and to consciously enjoy them. It doesn't need to be something as big as today, just something new, even something as little as preserving food by using fermentation. Hehe, guess who's got some sauerkraut going?
Anyway, if you'd like to get this buzz of doing something amazing for the first time, learn about self sufficiency or simply want a great day and you live in the UK, then I highly recommend getting in touch with Sue from Gardenfarming.

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