There's a whole lot of spring "cavorting" going on at Ugly Goat Milk Company's farm. And that means plenty of milk, butter, cheese and good times for both the animals and humans.
Karin and Rob Lawler, owners of The Truffle, arranged a Memorial Day weekend "Get-a-Whey" trip from the cheese shop in Denver to the Ugly Goat Milk Company's farm in Parker via posh tour bus, and fifty guests were treated to a meet-and-greet with farm owner Mike Amen, his ranch foreman -- and "sanity manager" -- Frank Ugolini, and all the cows, goats, sheep, geese, ducks and chickens living on the forty-acre dairy farm.
And, of course, there were samples of fresh goat and cow's milk, fresh butter and cheese, and a gourmet lunch perfect for a day out in the country.
I crawled my reluctant ass out of bed at 7:30 a.m. in order to make the bus pickup at the cheese shop at 8:45 a.m. I was thinking that in farm time, this was probably about midday.
The Lawlers know how to tour in style: The bus was posh with huge, comfy seats, very effective air conditioning, a bathroom and drop-down screens that played The Cheese Nun , a fairly new documentary about a Benedictine nun learning to make artisan cheese by hand, and the hour trip out to Parker seemed much shorter with that (I now understand why parents love SUVs with DVD players in them).
The Ugly Goat Milk Company farm is at 1701 Hidden Acres Place in Parker, and it has a shareholder arrangement by which a $40 buy-in gets you access to raw goat and cow's milk, butter and cheeses like chevre, feta, ricottas, mozzarella and -- in the future -- cheddar. The farm also produces fresh eggs, which we urbanite foodies value somewhere between gold and platinum.
The farm is gorgeous -- rolling hills, green grass, friendly, fluffy animals, and a barn so clean I searched all day for barn-elves. Mike talked for a bit about how he got started in the dairy-farming business -- apparently he found two goats on Craigslist, then a cow named "Truffle" who needed a good home, and started his farm on a five-acre plot in Elizabeth, before relocating four months ago to the more spacious farm in Parker.
Since then he's either acquired or facilitated the birthing of a modest Noah's Ark of plump, happy critters, including a couple of sweet, placid Jersey milk cows named Violette and Honey; a handful of newly shorn rescue sheep that eat animal crackers; Nubian, Alpine, Sable and Saanen goats; a few misanthropic geese and laid-back ducks, chickens, complete with baby chicks for everyone to fawn over; and a female barn cat named Roxy with advanced people skills.
Mike's animals are admittedly pampered. They are grass/grain-fed with the best quality of both, and with the exception of the geese -- hissing and displeased at the influx of humans -- they are gentle and seem to enjoy attention from the humans.
Truffle the cow came from an industrial dairy farm with assembly-line milking; she was thin and ailing with acidosis when she arrived, but has since become sleek and plump, and very healthy. Mike and Frank take the health and well-being of their animals seriously: They maintain a well-scrubbed milking area, and make sure the animals are clean and their udders get washed, checked and maintained.
"We like healthy boobies," Mike said.
Truffle is currently preggers. They put the animals on a rotating schedule of pregnancy followed by a resting period, and this keeps the amounts of milk they produce ongoing and regular, and prevents the animals from being over-taxed. I asked where Truffle's babydaddy was, and Mike said he uses stud bulls from other farms to "cavort" with the females.
Pregnant Truffle, pregnant goats -- they just had thirty babies this month -- and even Roxy the cat is currently enceinte.
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"She had a couple of gentlemen callers," said Mike, in the form of two tomcats who were plying her with their attentions. This is definitely a farm filled with "cavorting."
After the tour Mike and Frank let everyone sample their dairy wares. The cow's milk was rich, ivory and really did taste grassy and good. The goat's milk was creamy and had just the right amount of barny flavor at the finish. The handmade butter was smooth, lightly salted and a beautiful butter-cup yellow color.
The cheeses alone were well-worth the trip. The farm produces several flavors of chevre along with the plain logs, and the Mixed Spice was my personal favorite -- light, tangy cheese rolled with lavender buds, rosemary and three kinds of pepper. The feta was decently acidic but not overly so, with a well-balanced saltiness, and the ricotta was so fresh that it made the store-bought stuff pale in comparison.