In the Kitchen With Laura April 2014

This the fourth in my series of monthly projects that I hope will get you excited about In the Kitchen With Laura. I’m running late, but here is the entry for April.

Goat on Milking Stand at Laura Ingalls Wilder Days Pepin WI
Goat on Milking Stand at Laura Ingalls Wilder Days Pepin WI

One of the things Almanzo is known for in later life and the subject of the photos sold by the Laura Ingalls Wilder/Rose Wilder Lane Home giftshop in Mansfield, Missouri, was Almanzo’s herd of goats. After checking with my favorite goat experts and the Iowa Dairy Goat Association, I feel very confident saying that they are Swiss ancestry dairy goats. There was agreement that there were at least a couple of Saanen Goats. There was disagreement over whether the rest were Alpines or just crossbreeds.

In Almanzo’s later years, as they sold off land and settled into semi-retirement Almanzo wasn’t quite ready to completely give up farming and so he turned to dairy goats. Goats and sheep are smaller and easier to handle than large animals such as cattle and horses. Both animals have a wonderful ability to be a natural lawnmower and helped Almanzo keep the grass and brush under control (always an issue on acreages, too big to treat like a lawn, too small to efficiently make hay on). Sheep are more likely to stay close to home and goats are natural escape artists who like to get out.

Almanzo’s goats weren’t any old goats though, they were dairy goats. Domesticated goat breeds are divided into two camps, those bred for more milk and those bred for more meat. Dairy goats like those Almanzo raised are bred for producing large amounts of high-quality milk. “A really good milk goat can produce a gallon or more of milk per day for about 10 months.” That means you have to milk your goats at least once a day, often twice a day, every goat for roughly 10 months of a given year.  (Even animals bred for milk production are on a lactate cycle where they give off more milk when they are nursing, or should be nursing their offspring, and then eventually slacken off milk production when it’s time to wean them or when food stocks suffer during winter months.)

Almanzo took care of the milking itself, using a milking stand. As a good farmer who takes care of his herd, he kept rags nearby to wipe of the teets before the milking process. Laura refused to wash these for him. (I don’t blame her, there’s nothing quite as odoriferous this side of a bloated carcass than raw milk left out to rot. It’s a very distinctive smell and indescribable if you don’t know it. Add that on top of the normal smell of goat and I wouldn’t have wanted to wash the rags either.) Instead Almanzo took them into town where a woman took in washing did them for him for pay. (I hope VERY good pay. I’m sure she earned it.)
Laura did have to take care of the milk. Unless you fed it straight to some other animal (hogs, cats, etc.) it would have to be processed like cow’s milk as Laura described in detail in Farmer Boy. It would have to be cooled, most likely have the cream removed, and good farmwife that she was I imagine Laura was using it for cooking and for making butter and maybe cheese. While cow milk is by far the most common in the United States, in the world as a whole 65% of milk consumed by humans comes from goats.
The Iowa Dairy Goat Association stands behind these 5 reasons why goat milk is superior to cow milk:

1. Goat’s milk is less allergenic.

2. Goat’s milk is naturally homogenized.

3. Goat’s milk is easier to digest.

4.Goat’s milk rarely causes lactose intolerance.

5. Goat’s milk matches up to the human body better than cow’s milk.

While it was once hard to find goats milk  and goat cheese on the shelves of your local grocery store there has been a major resurgence in the last 20 years or so. Many small farmers have gone into the dairy goat/cheese making business. It is now relatively easy in most places to find goat milk and/or cheese, often produced fairly locally.

For this month’s project, go shopping and find some goat milk or cheese. Do a taste test. Can you tell the difference between cow and goat milk? Report back in the comments below.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+,  LinkedIn, and She is currently acting President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.


Published by

Sarah Uthoff - Trundlebed Tales

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+, LinkedIn , SlideShare, and . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

3 thoughts on “In the Kitchen With Laura April 2014”

  1. I really enjoyed this blog. I’m just starting a goat breeding business, although I will be raising Boer goats for meat, not dairy goats. It was fun to discover a connection to Laura and Almanzo I never knew I had!


  2. Thanks for such a great article, Sarah. The only dairies left in Boulder County, Colorado, are goat dairies with Haystack Mtn. Goat Dairy the largest and primary producer here in Longmont. I don’t care for goat milk to drink, but like some of the cheeses. Just this spring I picked up a lemon yogurt spread that I liked on fruit. Maybe I’ll try some more items!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.