Last December, we had our 35th Anniversary Essay Contest and Noreen O'Connell was one of our entrants:
How Cheese Making Has Changed My Life
6 years ago we got our first Alpine does from a friend. Two became 6 and 6 became 14, and, as you know, herds grow exponentially. What are we going to do with all this milk?
I bought several of Ricki’s kits and started selling Farmhouse cheddar. Next came the vat pasteurizer and processing plant and now we make chevre in 4 flavors.
We have gone from backyard goaters to Milford Goat Dairy, LLC. The demand for the cheddar and chevre is so great that I haven’t had time or milk to experiment with new varieties - maybe this winter.
Not bad for a 68 ½ year old retired dental hygienist.
40 years ago, Noreen and her husband, Tim were living in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He was a biology teacher and she was a dental hygienist. They had 2 young daughters. When the oldest was in the first grade, they realized she had 50 other kids in her class. That was unacceptable! Tim began sending out resumes.
|Tim and Noreen|
They had always wanted to have a farm, so, on their 10th anniversary, they signed the papers for their property in Milford, New Hampshire, a small town in the southern part of the state, northwest of Nashua.
Through the years, they had all the traditional farm animals - pigs, cows, chickens, etc., but by the time their girls moved away, they were simply growing vegetables, apples and flowers. (They have a 1/2 acre plot where they sell "pick your own" flowers and Noreen said things get a little wild there during wedding season!)
Seven years ago, they were attending the Farmer's Union annual meeting in San Diego when a friend from Maine called to say she was selling 6 doelings. They went right from the airport to pick them up and it was love at first sight.
Now, they have 18 milking does. They keep 4 at their farm and 14 at their daughter, Marcy's farm which is located 4 miles away. They will be doubling their herd this coming Spring.
They began with Alpines, but they have been crossing them with Nubians to make "Nupines."
|Noreen's milking parlor|
Noreen keeps one buck to service the does at her farm (Oliver) and one for the does at Marcy's farm (Pony). Oliver has his own little pasture next to the does, but, needless to say, he is only allowed to be with them during the rutting season.
Marcy has a CSA selling vegetables and flowers to her members and the public. She also sells milk and cheeses and meat and eggs. Customers get to visit the goats at both farms and cut their own flowers.
|Marcy's Holland Farm CSA|
|Marcy's milking parlor|
Noreen makes all the cheese at Butternut Farm. In the summer months, she processes 17 gallons every 3 days and in the winter, 12 gallons.
She makes yogurt, chevre, and farmhouse cheddar. She's licensed ($100/year in New Hampshire), so the state comes out and inspects her facility regularly. Dairy specialists from the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension come out to test their herd.
When she milks the goats, Noreen packs a large container with ice and she keeps the milk pail in it. She wheels it out to the milking station and the milk begins cooling the minute it leaves the udder. That way it is halfway cooled off by the time she brings it inside. This keeps the caprylic acid from forming, so the milk remains without a "goaty" taste.
|The wagon she uses to transport her milk pails|
|One of the pails packed in ice in the wagon|
Noreen's make room feels cozy with several windows looking out to the fields. Her equipment shines.
|Showing some of the cultures she orders from us|
It all gets sold at the farm store or local farmer's markets.
Noreen's goal is to provide healthy food at an affordable price. Her farmhouse cheddar is $10/pound, an unusually reasonable price for a goat's milk cheese. She sells out fast, so if you are planning a trip to her farm, you might want to call first and reserve your cheese. Needless to say, it makes a great gift for the holidays.