Ah, Autumn. Cider pressings, changing leaves and chilly nights -- and, in the Lum Farm cheeseroom, Bloomin' Hazel!
Here's the first Hazel of the season, aged to just over two weeks.
Bloomin’ Hazel, an aged goat’s milk chevre, brings extra star-power to any charcuterie board. Creamy and ripe, with a brie-like ashed edible rind, it is reminiscent of Humboldt Fog.
The magic of the aging process unveils itself in the delicious and creamy layer just inside the rind. This layer thickens and becomes gooey-er over the next four weeks, which is the perfect window during which to enjoy!
This Bloomin' Hazel, in all its gooey glory, has been aged about four weeks.
Crystal calls our Bloomin' Hazels our "most pampered cheese," because of all the special attention it receives.
The above photo is a batch of "Baby Hazels", as we call them. Chevre is scooped into forms to drain out the whey. They settle for about 24-36 hours, during which the forms are flipped at least twice. The whey is fed as a treat to our pigs and chickens.
When all the whey has drained, the Hazels are dusted in a mixture of ash and salt. Over the course of 5-7 days, they are flipped every day so that an even rind and bloom is formed. "I'm going to go flip Hazels" is a common statement from Crystal and Rachel during the course of that week.
Once the bloom is formed, they are wrapped in their paper packaging and age another week in the fridge. From there it is the taster's choice as to how long to wait to serve. It all depends on how much of that goo factor you'd like.
Even with all that care and gooey perfection, one of the best things about Bloomin' Hazels is their namesake. Meet Hazel:
Hazel is the capital-B Boss Lady of our dairy herd. This is due partly to the fact that she has horns -- she was born in 2017 before we began the practice of disbudding our goats. But mostly it is because of the magical combination of her smarts and her appetite.
Pretty much every story about Hazel involves barn break-outs and grain break-ins. She methodically checks all gate latches, hoping that whichever human visited most recently forgot to lock up.
We started photo-documenting for our own entertainment. Here is Hazel, VERY pregnant, and again testing the gate latch:
Perhaps her most memorable escape was when, finding the latch in place, Hazel used her horns and super-mama strength to lift the gate right off the hinge. She then headed straight to the grain hopper (followed by her compatriots) and did this:
She pulled the lever on the hopper (with her teeth?? With her horns??), releasing a torrent of alfalfa pellets. Luckily, alfalfa isn't their favorite treat, so the goats didn't gorge themselves.
This past Summer, Hazel did get herself in some serious trouble. Per usual, she broke out and helped herself to the nearest bucket of goat grain. This time, she overate enough to bloat. We'd always joked that Hazel was going to eat herself to death, but now that it looked like this actually might happen, it wasn't so funny.
A goat's rumen produces a lot of gas from the fermentation of food, and goats (as well as all other ruminants) normally get rid of this gas by belching. If something blocks the escape of gas from the rumen, the rumen will begin to expand, and the goat's belly will become tight and painful. Bloat in any ruminant can be life-threatening.
Amy spent hours with Hazel, administering a charcoal drench, massaging her rumen, and trying pretty much every trick in the book. It was a sketchy couple of days, but with Amy's steadfast care and to our immense relief, Hazel pulled through.
Did she learn from her gluttony? Nope... when she was back on her feet the first thing she did was try the gate latch.
This Spring, we were presented with another unique challenge from Hazel. She gave birth to a beautiful single kid, happy and healthy. It wasn't until the day after he was born that we realized that he had no eyeballs(!).
We weren't sure how things would go, but Hazel is a wonderful mom. She would tuck her kid (who, forgive us, is named Stevie) safely into a corner of the barn when heading out to graze. He placidly waited where she left him, confident she would come back and feed him right about the time he started getting hungry. He'd nurse by shimmying through her front legs, following the length of her belly and finding her udder.
We worried Stevie would get lonely when all the other goats headed out to pasture. We didn't want him out there, as our electric fencing posed a frightening threat to a little blind goat. So, we all spent extra time with him. The above photo is our Summer farmhand Miette, taking her break to snuggle.
There is even photo proof of Stevie making it into some non-goat zones, such as a certain teenager's bedroom.
We put a bell on Hazel's collar as a way to help Stevie keep track of his mom. It worked for him to some extent, but has been much more helpful for us. We hear the bell when the herd heads out to pasture for some grazing. Just this morning I heard the bell with a little extra echo in its ring, and knew that she had broken into the milking parlor, where the goats eat breakfast. So, we've learned to listen when we hear the bell as a means of keeping track of this escape artist.
Stevie loves his mama, and she is wonderfully patient with him. He has learned how to find the water bucket and grain, and all the extra attention from humans has made him a very sweet and trusting goat.
We're happy to say that we've found someone who wants to adopt Stevie as a pet, and so when everyone's ready he'll find himself in a new home, doted upon as a beloved... and mischievous... member of a new family. He's Hazel's son, after all.
As for Hazel, she's contentedly bossing everyone around with her horns and attitude in the dairy barn, where we expect that she'll remain the matriarch for many milking seasons to come.
Orcas artist Mike Douglas surprised us with this painting of Hazel. Thank you, Mike!!