Notes from the farm: February 2019

Notes from the farm: February 2019

After a busy holiday season we had some quiet time on the farm before our busy season begins.


In the cheese room we are stocking up on cows’ milk cheeses before the flood of goats’ milk comes in in a few weeks. At that time we will take a break from making cows’ milk cheeses until the level of goats’ milk we’re getting daily evens out. This winter has been vastly different from last year in that our aging room is full of all different kinds of cheeses. Be sure to check out our list of mongers that carry our cheeses on our website if you can’t make it out to the Duncan Farmer’s Market!


On the farm this month we will be welcoming another group of kids and we couldn’t be more excited!  We currently have about 60 bred does and we are expecting the first few to arrive right around Valentine’s Day and the stragglers to arrive in the first week or so of March. Speaking of kids, this will be my final blog posting for the season as I will be leaving on maternity leave shortly. Cheesemaking is hard work and I need to rest up before my baby arrives around the end of March. The goats and I almost got our timing right!


In the meantime we’ll have Rosalynn as our newest member of our cheesemaking team. We were very lucky to find her as it is tough to find people with previous cheesemaking experience – hers being with Moonstruck Cheese, formerly operating on Salt Spring Island.

Notes from the farm: December 2018

Notes from the farm: December 2018

Can you believe that Christmas is only a few weeks away? We definitely can’t, especially with this beautifully warm weather we’ve been experiencing. It’s on its way though and we are carefully planning our cheesemaking schedule around the holidays we’d like to take. Goats don’t take days off so sadly neither does farmer Cory!
Things have started to quiet down on the farm. This month we will gradually reduce the amount we milk our herd to have them fully dried off by the end of December. That way all the energy put into producing milk can be refocused on the little kidlets growing inside them for the second half of their gestation.
As for the cheese side of production we have begun to quiet down as well even though we can’t seem to keep our goat’s milk cheeses on the shelves. We are down to just the Duncan Farmer’s Market for the winter but our local retailers seem to be multiplying every week which is very exciting for us. This quiet period gives us time to do smaller “fun” batches of cheese outside of our usual line up. Stay tuned on Facebook and Instagram to see what we’re working on! Oh and try the Bellegarde, the latest member of our line up. It is an ashed fresh cheese made from goat’s milk with a unique and tangy flavour profile. It also looks stunning on a cheese plate!

Notes from the farm: November 2018

Notes from the farm: November 2018

November is here and so begins our quiet season. Most of our markets have finished up for the season, which keep us oh so busy all summer, and now is when we can start making plans for next year, and have some down time of course!

Part of making plans for next year involves mapping out our cheese creations for next year’s cheese club. The 2019 Cheese Club is extra special to us as it marks our final transformation from Happy Goat to Haltwhistle as we will be including both cow and goats’ milk cheeses. Adding cows’ milk cheeses to the roster opens up more aging possibilities. We’ve already started to make a few of the cheeses for next year’s club which will age all winter and spring (and summer for a special one) before being released. Check out last month’s blog post for more information of aging cows’ and goats’ milk cheeses. If you haven’t signed up for the 2019 Cheese Club, there’s still space available!

On the farm our somewhat unintentional breeding period has come to an end, and all of our mature goats should be freshly pregnant. An interesting thing seems to happen with the dynamic of the herd every year after breeding has finished. There is a hierarchy among the female goats that goes through a shift, but only during the time that they’re pregnant. It is most noticeable in the order that they enter our milking parlour, with the highest ranking coming in first, and this has already begun to change. The strangest part is that it will almost go perfectly back to normal once they have all given birth. Interesting eh? Well we think so!

Notes from the farm: October 2018

Notes from the farm: October 2018

First of all, thank you to everyone for your patience with our aged goats’ milk cheeses! So far we have only released our feta and Tallentire. Belmont, Tomme de Vallée, and Swansea (our renamed goat’s milk gouda) are still developing their perfect flavours. Cow and goats’ milk cheeses differ in the way they age. Over the years, we have found that aged goats’ milk cheeses only develop pleasant and desirable starting at about three months of age and have a short aging period, reaching their peak at about six months. When we started making cows’ milk cheeses, we were surprised to find that many of the cheeses were developing those desirable flavours as early as six weeks to two months, and then developing stronger flavours at a much slower rate. This is why you see cows’ milk cheeses that are aged for several years and why that is such a rare occurrence for goats’ milk cheeses. Of course there are always exceptions to these guidelines. Sizes of wheels of cheese make a huge difference in aging time as the ratio of paste (inner part of a wheel of cheese) to rind changes. Since the majority of our cheeses are aged from the outside in, this is a very important factor to consider. So the larger the wheel of cheese for us, the slower it ages and vice versa. I plan to go more in depth in next month’s post on this subject!

Meanwhile on the farm our new buck Fernando will not stop escaping from his private pen to fraternize with the ladies. After his fifth or sixth escape we have given up and allowed him to mingle for the time being. Goats tend to be at their peak fertility in late summer and fall every year which is why we usually breed our goats every summer (this past year being a bit of an exception of course!). We haven’t had a young buck on the farm in many years and we underestimated his determination so here we go again! This means we can expect to see babies again sometime in March.

Notes from the farm: September 2018

Notes from the farm: September 2018

Can you believe it’s September already? Neither can we! The summer just flew by for us here at Haltwhistle and we’ve already begun to think about what cheese will be best over the winter. We will be moving away from soft and fresh cheeses and moving toward stronger and harder cheeses that pair best with heavier winter meals and red wines. A great example is our Tomme de Vallée and Belmont. Both are firm goats’ milk cheeses, the Tomme being washed with a ripening culture blend and the Belmont being washed in white wine while ageing.

In August Cory and I had the opportunity to play around with making some lactic cheeses for our cheese club. Lactic cheeses rely primarily on bacterial culture and acidity to coagulate the milk instead of rennet, like most cheeses do. Because of this, lactic cheeses can take up to 24 hours to coagulate before they are ready to go into molds while other cheeses are fully coagulated about an hour after the rennet is added. Once a lactic cheese has coagulated, the very soft, milky curd is carefully ladled out into molds to drain for several days before it will start to resemble a wheel of cheese. The most famous lactic cheese is chèvre, the classic goat cheese that everyone knows and loves. Many of us in North America believe that chèvre is the goat cheese – the one and only. This is why we often surprise people at markets with our array of goat cheeses in all shapes, forms, and firmnesses. Even though chèvre is the most commonly seen and industrially produced goat cheese, any cheese made with cow or sheep’s milk (or yak, camel, horse, etc!) can also be made with goats’ milk. Which is why we make goats’ milk gouda, cheddar, feta, tomme, and Swiss style cheeses, to name just a few.

Speaking of goats’ milk cheeses, we are only a week or two away from starting to release our aged raw-milk goat’s cheeses at market!  See you there!

Notes from the farm: August 2018

Notes from the farm: August 2018

After a busy July we are happy to announce that we have over 40 happy and healthy little doelings. We are waiting to see if there will be a few more to arrive but the majority are here. They are a playful bunch and are already running and jumping and just generally being silly.

Once a goat has given birth there is a large influx of milk and with that comes lots of goat’s milk cheese! Get ready to see some Feta, Tallentire and Belmont, among others, towards the end of the summer. Cheese Club members will be seeing some extra special newbies as well.

In the cheese room we’ve continued to experiment with both cow’s and goat’s milk cheeses. Our latest experiment was doing Fior di Latte which is the traditional name for mozzarella made with cow’s milk instead of the usual buffalo’s milk. Some lucky people at the markets that weekend had the chance to sample our somewhat imperfect results. Mozzarella and Fior di Latte are part of the “pasta filata” or stretched curd family because of the way it is made. After the curd is formed, the whey is drained and the curds are left to mat together and acidify for several hours. Once the blocks have reached the correct acidity, they are cut into cubes then submerged in water to be slowly heated until very hot. The curd will then mat together again and become pliable and shiny. This ball of curd is then stretched traditionally by hand or with wooden paddles until the desired texture is achieved. The cheese can then be cut, shaped, and dipped into ice cold water to firm up again. Also part of the pasta filata family are Bocconcini, Provolone, Caciocavallo and Saganaki.