Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Booker Dechert in Earlton, New York

Booker with Annie, born last May

Did we mention that he's 13?!

He raises his own goats, milks them every day, and makes cheese.

We first heard about Booker from his mother, Larissa:

I have been amazed by son's interest and steadily increasing skills. We had a harvest potluck recently, and he prepared a plate of manchego, ricotta salata with paprika, and chevre rolled in chopped rosemary. It was a beautiful plate, and was devoured.

He milks his goat every morning, and now that she is drying off, he is having us make runs to a local dairy for raw cows' milk.

He built his own cheese press (when we refused to buy him the $300 one he wanted), and is now looking for a cabinet he can modify to make a cheese cabinet...

Amazing, and we are the lucky ones who get to enjoy the fruits of his labor. 

Milking Ruby

I asked Booker:

Do you live on a farm?

Before we moved, we were living in Brooklyn, NY.  We moved, and then slowly started acquiring different animals. We had several chickens in our backyard in Brooklyn, then once we got upstate we quickly got more.

I am living on a hobby farm now, we have four horses, four turkeys (not after Thanksgiving), an ever changing amount of chickens, and for now five goats. At least two (if Annie is eighty pounds by January she will too) will be bred this winter. So next year we'll have a lot more babies, and milk, and cheese.

How did you get into raising goats?

I can't really remember what drew me to them, but I remember in the last year before we moved upstate, I was totally obsessed with them, and it was all I wanted to talk about.

For my 12th birthday in 2011, we went to the only Nubian breeder that wasn't 12 hours away from us, Lynnhaven. I got two little reject (meaning they weren't show quality, Ruby had 'bad' ears, I don't know what was wrong with Jeanie) does from her, in April.

We bred them that December.  Jeanie, the bigger one got ketosis and died that spring, but Ruby, the other one, had an adorable buckling, and an adorable doeling the next month.

Goats are just fun, they're incredibly personable and friendly and adorable. They hear you talking in the distance and yell out loudly. One of the wethers we have (neutered boy) we like to say is a cat. His favorite pastime is to sit in someone's lap and chew his cud next to their ear. It's going to be more difficult when he gets to be 200 pounds!

So, are you milking Ruby now?

For my 12th birthday in 2011, we got the two does that started the herd I have now.

This year I had one goat give birth, Ruby, and she was giving me a half gallon of milk once a day. Frustrated with the amount I was getting, I went to the breeder and got another, one that was already milking.

She has a lot of deep seated anxiety, she doesn't handle change well, so she only gave me about a cup. I recently stopped milking both, although Ruby still makes a little, for her babies.

Before when I could get enough milk to make a gallon batch I was making all of the cheese with goat's milk, but now I use raw cow's from a local dairy farm.

Chevre hanging in the kitchen

How did you decide to make cheese?

I started doing it because that's just like what the plan was. We had goats, then goat's milk, so the immediate thought was to make goat cheese.

I've made ricotta, mozzarella, chèvre, ricotta salata, manchego, and on Monday my first gouda (not all with my goat's milk, the manchego and gouda were with raw cow's milk from a local dairy farm). I plan to make several cheddars, and a bunch of mold and bacteria ripened cheese this winter - blue, swiss, muenster, just experimenting, you know?

We know, Booker, we know.

Getting cheese out of the mold
Booker made his own press.

Cutting the manchego
Trying the manchego
Booker's cheese plate for their harvest party.


pickle5482 said...

I doubt very much if a 13 year old can make a cheese press like that!

lynn said...

Great job Booker! I am much, much older than you and I can't even manage to get the recipe for mozzerella right! Lol! Keep up the great work! You are amazing! :)

lynn said...

Great job Booker! I am much, much older than you and I can't even manage to get the recipe for mozzerella right! Lol! Keep up the great work! You are amazing! :)

fleur said...

Truly impressed with Booker! I wish he lived in my town and could give cheese making lessons! Sending him best wishes with his goats, his cheese and hoping someday he'll get a professional press. BUT in the meantime, how totally clever to make his own! What an amazing guy!

Angela said...

Well done, Booker! Love the ingenious press. Where do you get your ideas...? Books, internet, imagination?

Keep it up!! This was a joy to read. I've been wanting to move from soft cheeses to hard but just haven't quite done it yet. After reading this, I'm thinking, "If he can do it, I can, too!!" Thanks for the inspiration!

Jeri said...

He really did. I think young people today can do a lot more than we think. Maybe it has to do with expectations ...

minister of distant information said...

He did--and Jeri's right on.

Unknown said...

He has the ambition to make cheese-making the press is a lot less daunting. Kids do amazing things when given the chance. What a cool kid!

Unknown said...

Kids do amazing things when given the opportunity. Compared to making cheeses (at 13 years old), the press is nothing.

Anonymous said...

What a cool kid! I don't doubt it one bit! My 12yo is building a tree house so I know it's possible!

Lynn Fleming said...

I assure you that Booker made that press. The initial contacts he made with my while he researched his choices for goats were detailed, well thought out and precise. After several emails, he told me his Mom would have to drive him as he was only 11! He is wonderful, resourceful, kind, and a million other adjectives I can think of but don't have the time or space to type. Booker is a wonderful young man, and I am incredibly lucky to have two of my does in his young and growing herd.

Anonymous said...

What is with Pickle5482. is she like obama " you didn't make that"

Hey Booker keep up the great work and we hope to see you as an artisan cheese maker and you are on your way to becoming self-sufficent --- not on welfare and food stamps but having your own real business that hires people and creates jobs.

Trebordad said...


Congratulations! I have tried to make a similar press for my cheese and tofu, but it turned out so flimsy I don't use it. I am hoping to copy your design and build be a new one. I will call it the "Booker Press". Your work is very inspiring. I hope to try your cheese one day. Keep it up.

Gobae said...

Pickle - LOL! Why not? The plans for that press are on the internet complete with a parts list and instructions. It's a simple matter of cutting, drilling holes, and assembly.

Gobae said...

The impressive thing isn't so much that a 13 year can do this, but that he WANTS to do it!

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Roxanne said...

Great Job Booker awesome cheese press I asked my husband to make me one like you have. You did a great job

Maria said...

Awesome work Booker, your cheese press is fascinating, are you planning to increase your herd of goats? I have horses,goats and chickens,too! I'm 12 and I milk my goats,also. I raise Alpine-Nubian crosses. They are so much fun!!!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful and inspiring story! I am going to show my husband the picture of your press - maybe we can make one! Keep up your wonderful work. "To be nobody but yourself - in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else - means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting." - e.e. cummings, American author

pookiepantry said...

Truly amazed by this guy! Awesome job and stay curious, Booker!

Mike Ridey said...

I just read this, and all I can say is "Right On, Booker!" I just started making cheese about 2 years ago as a retirement hobby (beautiful wife gave me a kit for Christmas), and I've made a couple of different cheeses, and a couple of wall presses, but I'm still a little cautious.
That's the great thing about Booker; at his age - fearless! Keep it up, and remember, No worries, Mate!

Darlene said...

Oh, I KNOW you made this yourself. My son also liked to "tinker" when he was younger (still does at 21). He could make all kinds of things from just stuff laying around the house. I can't begin to tell you how many times he's taken electronics apart and made something else that worked - and he was only 7 or 8 years old. (Made an alarm for his bedroom door so his sisters couldn't sneak into his room! lol)
Great job! And gave me some ideas that I can do around here.