It starts early in the morning. The goats are the most calm right at the break of dawn, and I do my best to get out there right as the sun is starting to peak above the mountains in the shady San Lorenzo Valley. I individually bring each goat into the milking stand, which is an adventure onto itself; goats are adamant and strong creatures, and getting what you want out of a goat can often be a battle of wills. Milking in the morning is a joy. I love watching the streams of milk squirt down into the silver pail; it forms a bubbly froth with a depression where the milk is squirting in. The milk, still warm from the goats teat, lets up a light steam. For two semesters now, I have been bringing 3 gallons of this fresh goats milk to PICA for a bread and cheese making class. We have made a simple ricotta, which involves no more than bringing the milk to 195 degrees and curdling it with an acid like vinegar or lemon juice. We have also taken on making a goat feta, which is considerably more involved. Most cheeses, including feta, are dependent upon fermentation, which is when foods are transformed with the help of microorganisms. When making cheese, we use very specific strands of microorganisms, and have to create the precise conditions in which they thrive. During these classes, we have also worked with fermentation in making bread. Bread uses yeast, either wild yeast harvested from the air, or packaged yeast, to create it’s loft. This is the stage called rising, when the yeast metabolizes sugar in the dough and respires, letting out bubbles of carbon dioxide in the bread. These bubbles create the wonderful fluffiness in bread. In all that we eat, we are reliant upon a chorus of organisms, including both plants and animals but also thousands of microorganisms from the fungal and bacterial kingdoms. Making foods such as bread and cheese give us the opportunity to relate to the organisms upon which our life depends.
Sally Neas is a farmer and writer in Santa Cruz county. She has spent the last two years working on and managing Camp Joy Gardens in Boulder Creek. She is passionate about regenerative culture and agriculture, and loves sharing this passion with others.