Goat People Do: An in.side look at Pure Luck Dairy
By: Grayson Vreeland
When I arrived at Pure Luck dairy in Dripping Springs, the place was alive with activity. Amelia and Ben welcomed me into their cheery home, where their two small children were having a dance party. The house is right at the farm, only steps away from the hundred or so goats they keep, as well as the chèvre processing facility. When Amelia and I ventured out to meet the goats, they were all in a field where, according to Amelia, they knew they weren’t meant to be. She laughed, “all these rotten ladies – oh, so bad!” as she ushered them to the barn, where they began chowing down on hay.
Amelia grew up right across the street, and she always had goats. “This was my mom’s deal. We grew up with goats, and she decided to start a dairy.” They had goats long before they started a commercial dairy twenty years ago, and when I asked her why, she said, “It was just a homestead. So my mom always had goats, which goat people do… You know, I just love goats. Goat people do. They’re very smart, they’re fun, they’re kind of like dogs in that each one has their own personality and their tricks.”
The does are milked twice a day, and it only takes ten minutes to milk a dozen of them, six at a time. The rest of their time is spent eating hay selected specially to meet their needs, walking about, occasionally getting into trouble, and generally counteracting goat stereotypes. According to Amelia, “Goats by nature – you can look at them and see that they’re clean. There’s a lot of smells around here for different reasons, but generally they want to be clean, they don’t want to get wet, they don’t want to lay on dirty things, they don’t want to eat dirty things. That’s their nature, and when you hear someone hear that they’ll eat anything – no, unless they’re underfed.”
Amelia is “mom” to these goats. She says a lot of people ask why she doesn’t let the mother goats raise their babies, who she separates to another part of the farm. “I’m actually ‘mom’ – I brought your bottle to you, I brought your dinner to you, when you needed help, I helped you… They’ll ask for help. And I’ve noticed – these are like, two year olds here. When they get older, they do move away. They’re still friendly and they still like me, but they don’t come up like this,” she says, referring to a goat who approached her, soliciting pets and attention.
Later we visited the kids that were born a few months ago, who were very excited to see Amelia and me. A number of them jumped up on me like friendly dogs – one even sucked my thumb. The kids they keep are all female. Amelia pointed out to me, “Out in the barn, those are mothers and daughters and nieces and grandmothers. So with a herd that’s that highly related with females, it’s hard to use a buck from our farm.” Males go to other farms, and she says, “The most important thing for us is that they go somewhere that they’re cared for and they have a value.”
Like a mom, Amelia never really stops caring for the kids who grow up on her farm; she continues to care for them even after they retire from milking. “Basically if you get old here, you’re not going to leave, because they – as I said about creatures of habit – they’re born here, and they’ve had every meal here, they know all of these smells, and for them to leave – I know that’s a hardship. It’s not the same kind of hardship for a doe in her young prime, where she can go to her new farm and beat somebody up and just get in there. But if you send an older animal, and just like our old people, they move slower, they have less resistance.”
But aside from the goats, of course, there is the chèvre. Amelia showed me the very small cheese plant where they make the cheese and explained the process to me.
A: So this is the cheese plant where we make the cheese. We don’t walk in there dirty, so there’s only a few of us that make cheese. What this is – do you guys sell the bulk curds there [at in.gredients]?
G: We have the bulk chèvre, and some of the molded chèvre, and the June’s Joy.
A: And that’s what I meant, the bulk chèvre. So this is bulk chèvre. And this is day three, and it’s been salted, and it’s draining, and tomorrow it will go into the tubs.
G: Oh, so it’s almost done.
A: Yes, it’s almost done.
G: So what happened to it before now?
A: So let’s say, this is the milk right here, and here is the bulk tank, and it’s got cold milk in it. So we milk morning and evening, and the milk goes into the tank. So each room really has a separate function, and this room is for holding milk. So Monday morning we’ll hook the pump up and set up the piping, it’ll go through the wall into the vat pasteurizer, which is that big, round vat over there – and then the milk is pasteurized, and it’s pasteurized based on the type of equipment that you have.
G: Is that like being heated?
A: Yep, so it’s heated to a certain temperature and held for a period of time, and then it’s cooled off and brought down to cheese-‐making temperatures, and then the cultures are added. And it’s lactic acid bacteria, and what they do is, they consume the lactose and produce lactic acid, and that’s what tartens cheese. So basically, you have kind of like a yogurt product at that point, and it is scooped out in thin layers into baskets, or in this case into a bag that’s a mesh bag, and it drains, and once it’s mostly drained about twenty-‐four hours later, the salt is added. The salting stuff is actually really important, it encourages the rest of the drainage, and it also stops that bacteria from growing too much more, because of the harshness of the salt. It also gives the cheese flavor. And that’s what happened today – the baskets were emptied and the cheeses were salted and also draining, and the same thing is happening here, so that’s the four days of chèvre, so it’s a fresh cheese that’s made pretty quickly.
Amelia didn’t leave me wondering about the results of this process. She sent me home with June’s Joy, mixed herb chèvre, basket chèvre, as well as a dried chèvre in olive oil and herbs that she scooped into a mason jar for me from a jar on her own kitchen table. All of it is tart, creamy and extremely satisfying. The combination of sweet and sour in the June’s Joy nearly brings me to tears.
I have admired Pure Luck for their chèvre for some time now, but now I also admire them for how they live their lives and love their goats.