The Dry Season at Fat Toad Farm
The months of Jan. and Feb. are ones we affectionately refer to as ‘the dry season’ here at FTF. What that refers to is the 2 month period each year when our goats are not being milked (dry) and are re-charging their batteries and growing the kids that they’ll deliver in early March. In addition to giving the two-legged members of the FTF team a chance to take turns away from the farm, these 2 months are our opportunity to do a deep cleaning job on places like the milking parlor and to install new equipment that will shift into high gear come March and keep flying until December, 2011. This year’s new additions include:
Ø A 66 gallon Nieros milk cooler from Bob-White Systems in South Royalton, VT (www.bobwhitesystems.com) , which will chill a batch of milk from 103 (F) degrees (the goat equivalent of 98.6) to sub-40 (F) degrees in 30 – 40 minutes. Because the speed with which milk is chilled is a big factor in determining its quality, we’re always on the lookout for ways to do this job more quickly and economically.
Ø Six single burner stock pot ranges (by Imperial) from New England Kitchen Depot in White River Junction, VT (www.nekitchendepot.com), which will line up ‘cheek by jowl’ under a 10 ft long ventilation hood in our caramel room and boil caramel for 4 or 5 hours on each of our production days. We decided on this particular type of range after doing lots of research, because they’ll allow us to hand-stir our cajeta (goat’s milk caramel) in keeping with the traditional method in Mexico.
Ø Six very large, round bottom copper kettles from Savage Bros. Co. in Chicago (www.savagebros.com) that will sit on top of the stock pot ranges and start out each caramel day with 8 – 10 gallons of goat’s milk organic sugar, etc. These kettles replicate the shape and material (copper) of traditional, Mexican cajeta-making, which means that our only deviation from the traditional method is our heat source, which is propane rather than an open wood fire.
Another particularly interesting activity of ‘the dry season’ is doing Ultrasound pregnancy checks early in January — to confirm the number of pregnancies we actually have. Very cool to see tiny hooves, spinal columns and heart beats, which told us this year that 46 out of 50 does are pregnant. And last weekend, we gave the whole crew their annual booster vaccinations for enterotoxemia, tetanus and rabies, which the girls will dutifully pass through to their kids to protect them for the first few months of their lives.
We’ve carefully check our inventory of kid delivery supplies, so now there’s nothing to do — well….., maybe not ‘nothing’ — but wait until the first week of March, when we’ll receive delivery of 90-odd wet, bleating, ‘wanna stand up right now’ kid packages and be ‘off to the races’ once again. Frankly, we can’t wait!