Author Novella Carpenter’s essay on her inner-city farm.
"Loved this article! Can't wait to read more, and to find out if I can buy bebe cheese in the East Bay. Thanks! "
In December, I bred her again. I took her to the farm where she had once lived, for stud service. “Still two cups?” the farmer asked me.
“Yep,” I nodded. “A really good two cups,” I added with pride.
In May, Bebe gave birth to two gorgeous black-and-white kids. I helped with the birth, and Bebe seemed grateful. I doted on her babies. No longer standoffish, Bebe started snuggling up to me. We would sit for hours in the backyard, me reading a book, she nuzzling my side and keeping careful watch over her kids. I weaned this set of twins, and began milking Bebe again.
On the first day of weaning, Bebe got on the milking stand and I did a double take: her udder looked enormous. I set to milking. The pail soon filled with milk. I had to reach for another container. Bebe munched on her oats and barley as usual, her gold eyes looking straight ahead. Six cups. I kissed her flank. I thought it might be a fluke, but she regularly milked out four to six cups.
I had to let the farmer know. She seemed surprised to hear about Bebe’s increase in output, shocked even. My fridge became filled with gleaming white jars, and I realized I could start making cheese. And so I did, starting with chevre and ricotta, and eventually graduating to blue cheese, cheddar and bloomy rind cheeses, which I age in the guest-room closet of my apartment.
Why did Bebe finally start giving more milk? I attribute it partially to the food I fed her, and partly to the fact that her kids were larger and thus demanded more milk. But I also believe that Bebe had finally accepted me: as both a parent who provided food and shelter, and as a kid, who needed her milk.
Novella Carpenter’s inner-city farm in Oakland, California is the subject of her book Farm City and her blog Ghost Town Farm (novellacarpenter.com), where you can follow Bebe’s progress.