This article was published in the June 2015 issue of the Irish American News under the “Guilty Pleasures” column.
When you discover what you love to do at a young age, career changes can be difficult. However, it is possible to go from horseback riding to goat rearing, just ask Nicky Haynes.
Haynes was an international award-winning horseback rider, but because of a disease that acts much like MS, she had to abandon riding in her mid-twenties “I was lost for a while, caring for my horses, but unable to ride them,” she said.
Lucky for Haynes, her love for animals did not stop at horses. She did some research, much of it via the internet, and decided to adopt a goat. Soon she was trying her hand at showing, breeding and milking. Her small hobby farm is located less than ten miles outside of Belfast, Northern Ireland.
No matter what she’s pursuing, Haynes brings drive, determination and courage to her work. She had little to no experience raising goats and chose a breed not as commonly kept in Ireland, the British Alpine. During her first show, she came in third. After her unexpected win, the more experienced goat farmers advised Haynes to get a second goat (these creatures prefer to be kept in pairs, if not herds).
The black and white mammals are also known for being very active. Upon meeting them, I found Haynes’ 12-goat herd to be quite mischievous, too. Getting close to the mothers meant getting every loose zipper on my coat tongued and tugged at with their curious mouths and lips.
“It’s hard work, but being around the goats calms me,” said Haynes. She works at the farm twice a day for hours on end, doing anything from milking to watching the kids release excess energy in the pen she has set up for them.
Her greying Irish Cob, Geronamo, keeps a watchful eye from one of the many stalls. “I brought him in out of the rain to dry off for a few days.” The old boy had clearly been rolling around in the mud because his coat was clumped with dirt.
“Could I brush him?” I asked.
“I’d appreciate that,” Haynes replied. I grabbed a brush and went to work.
As if she has time to spare, Haynes is developing a business using the extra milk from her goats. She has made various flavors of fudge and a goat’s milk caramel syrup, which was used during a recent cooking demonstration by one of Ireland’s well-known chefs, Rachel Allen.
I tried my hand at milking, but couldn’t get a drop out. Haynes resumed her position near the udder and easily squeezed milk into the bucket at her feet.
“It took me an hour to milk a goat for the first time,” she said, reassuring me. After many hours of practice, Haynes can now milk a goat in about ten minutes. As long as the goat doesn’t kick over the bucket, she’ll collect 13 ounces of the pure-white liquid from each mother every day.
I asked her if she ever gets overwhelmed by it all, but she said no. “This is what I do; I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else.” As she finished her sentence, her young and rambunctious German Shorthair Pointer pawed at her.
“Woody! Get down,” she shouted at him. Clearly tough love goes a long way in a barn, where the animals would have their way if it weren’t for their benevolent caretaker.
“He’s a nuisance,” Haynes smiled as she patted Woody’s head and gazed across the stalls at her bleating herd.
Mom’s Fudge (with a goat’s milk twist)
Instead of using evaporated milk, try goat’s milk if you can find it at your local famer’s market or specialty grocery store.
3 cups white sugar
3/4 cup butter (unsalted)
1 1⁄2 cups goat’s milk
1 (12 ounce) package semisweet Ghirardelli chocolate chips (or other fine baking chocolate)
1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow crème
1 cup chopped walnuts
Grease a 9×13-inch pan. Mix sugar, butter, and goat’s milk in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly to dissolve sugar. Continue stirring while bringing to a slow boil and cook until the mixture reaches a soft ball stage, or 234° F.
Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips until melted and thoroughly combined. Beat in marshmallow crème, walnuts, and vanilla extract until mixture becomes thick and glossy. Transfer fudge to the prepared pan and let cool before cutting into squares.