Thursday, July 30, 2009

The first milking.

I was very surprised this morning that our Irish Dexter cow, Cherry Blossom, did so well on the milking stanchion. I haven't had her up there to milk in almost a year. But she stood eating her grain and hay while I milked, only lifting her foot a few times to swat at a fly.

I got almost 2 liters from her!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rose and milk soap

The gentleman that purchased our red Irish Dexter heifer, Rose, out of our cow Cherry Blossom came to pick her up today. We didn't have too much trouble getting her loaded in the trailer but both her and her mom were quite upset by the separation. Even still this evening Cherry Blossom was calling for her.

I am looking forward to starting to milk Cherry Blossom now that the calf is gone. We will see how is goes in the morning.

Oh, and the first two batches of my Goat's Milk Soap has finished curing. A local farm produce market has agreed to sell them on consignment for me so tonight I packaged some bars up to take to town with us tomorrow when we go to do errands.

I will also be listing these soaps on our esty site if you are interested in purchasing them!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Feta Cheese

So, an update on my Feta Cheese.

After the curds hung over night and drained the resulting firm ball of cheese was cut into large chunks (about 2-3 on each side) and placed into a container and salted heavily with kosher salt. I then covered it with a tea towel and let it set at room temp for two days. Several times each day I drained off the excess whey that formed from the salting and resalted the cheese if it looked as if it needed more to keep the sides covered.

After the two days at room temp I moved the cheese to the refrigerator to finish draining and to dry the surface of the cheese. By this point the cheese was very firm to the touch.

After the cheese "felt" right (firm and crumbly) I taste tested a small piece and it was the perfect saltiness. I cut the large chunks into smaller one inch pieces and packed them into mason jars with a bay leaf, dried chili pepper, chopped garlic, oregano, thyme and basil and topped off the jars with olive oil. These can be left at room temp if desired but I chose to refrigerate mine.

The biggest difference with this batch then the failed batch I made last year was that I dry salt cured it this time instead of salt brining. Last years cheese just got soft and dissolved in the brine... the dry salting worked much better for me and I love the result!

Looking forward to using it on pizza, salad and just for snacking!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dairy Day

The goat's milk has been accumulating in the fridge again so this afternoon was spent in the kitchen. The first thing I did was to pasteurize all the milk and then cool it down to 86F so I could start working with it in several recipes.

I have been hearing lots of good things about goat's milk ice cream and up till now have not made any. I took a liter of milk added a cup of sugar and a tablespoon of real vanilla. The mix then went into the fridge to cool completely and be used later on.

I then needed to decide what to make with the remaining 4 liters of milk. I have been enjoying the Chevre cheese I have been making but I have a small hoard of it in the freezer now so I wanted to make something different. I opted for a Feta cheese.

I have made Feta once in the past and it wasn't really a success. I have been doing some reading and I think I might know were my problems came from so I am game to try again. Into the milk went the culture and then it had to sit for an hour. Then in went the rennet and then sat for another hour. It was now time to cut the curds into 1/2" blocks and let set for 10 minutes. All this time a temp of 86F has been maintained. The curds are then "cooked" at this low temp and gently stirred every ten minutes for 40-50 minutes. Finally, the curds got strained through butter muslin and hung to drain for 3 hours. After the 3 hours I removed the forming cheese and turned it over and hung it back up for the night.

During my three hour wait for the cheese to drain I made the goat's milk ice cream. I happen to have a Krups electric ice cream maker (haven't used it in years though). I got the machine setup and poured in the cold mix I made earlier and the kids and I watched it go round. After about 45 minutes it didn't seem to be getting any thicker so I stopped the machine and scooped the soft ice cream into a bowl and popped it into the freezer. The kids quickly consumed the remnants from the beater, the bowl and the spoon. Evan declared, "This is the best ice cream I have ever eaten!"

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dirty job done dirt cheap!

I finally coordinated a time for fellow vet tech and local farmer S. to come to the farm to help me process our rabbits. S. has been raising rabbits since she was a young girl so she is very experienced in processing them. Personally, I have no problem butchering and dressing out the rabbits. What I have a bit of a problem with is the actual act of offing the cute rabbits I have been feeding for 12 weeks. So S. did that part and we both dressed and cleaned them out. We only had seven to do and together we made quick work of it.

I had intended to give her some of the finished rabbits as a "thank you" but S. said she had plenty in her freezer at home. She then spotted our geese out in the pasture and commented on how she was looking for a trio for her farm. Done deal! She couldn't take them today but I will hold them for her until she can come get them.

Trading skills and/or goods is such a fundamental part of homesteading. I just love when it works out so well!

Later this evening as I was locking up the barnyard for the night I went ahead and put our American Chinchilla buck in with our two does. That would put new kits to arrive the end of August and they will be ready to go the end of October.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Day of Leisure

Neil has been working hard on his days off for awhile now so we decided to take a sanity day today and spend it up at his parent's house in VA.

We went out for an early morning boat ride on Kerr Lake which was lots of fun.

The kids with Mimi Bensen.

This was Taylor's first boat ride... she seemed to enjoy it!

Then we relaxed on the beach as Evan and McKayla swam in the lake.

Later we took the kids to a local craft fair and got ice creams and hand crafted wooden swords and shields for the kids (under strict orders not to hit anyone with them!).

It was a very relaxing day... wish there were more like this!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Goodbye Chuck

We sold our Dexter bull, Charles Wallace, today. I was very sad to see him go as he was a very handsome and well behaved bull. Unfortunately, since we only keep two cows and his dam is one of them, we really needed to move him to another farm that could benefit from his great genetics and get a bull unrelated to our two cows. We would like to get a polled bull this time around so it might take awhile until we get a new bull.

Chuck did really well loading into the trailer with just a bale of hay and a little encouragement from behind. He is such a good boy!

The gentleman that purchased Chuck was here early this spring with his wife to purchase some of our ducks. While he was here today he purchased nine more ducks to add to their flock. I guess they are enjoying them!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Farm Photos from Today

This is one of four roosters from our Southern States chick purchase this spring. He tried his hand at crowing for the first time this morning. He was supposed to be a Americana hen but instead he is a Single Comb Light Brown Leghorn as are the other three roosters and four matching hens. I may keep one Roo to go with the hens... maybe.

These two hens are also from the spring chick purchase. They are supposed to be two of four Barred Rocks. But two look like the closer hen with bright orange legs, larger comb and more white to the bars. They other two look like the far hen with dull yellow legs with grey on the front and toes, smaller comb and less white on the bars.

Here is our new cria born yesterday. Looking much drier and cleaner today. He is also much more steady on his legs and his knees are pointing in the right direction now!

Gabby is one of my original two Nigerian Dwarf Goat does (along with her sister Pepper). Gabby has turned into a beautiful goat and everyone comments on her when they come to the farm.

She is also very sweet and loves to give kisses. (A rare photo of me. Taken with the camera held at arms length.)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Finally, another cria is born!

My favorite alpaca Celtic Woman, aka Celtie, finally delivered her cria this morning. A beige little male out of our stud Novio. He seems to be all legs and knees at the moment.

After stretching his legs for a bit, he had his first meal, and a good roll in the dirt before settling down for a rest.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Movie Night!

We had been promising our son, Evan, that once he turned 7 years old he would be able to start watching the Star Wars movies. Well, he turned 7 the end of May but his sister McKayla has just turned 5 and we don't feel she is ready to watch it yet so we have had to wait for the right time. This afternoon, Grampa Kork picked up McKayla for an overnight at the grandparents house. Evan was so excited!

But before we could get to watching Star Wars I needed to finish up with a new batch of goat's milk soap that I was stirring and stirring waiting for it to trace so I could pour it in the mold. I made an Oatmeal Vanilla soap this time. It was taking so long I enlisted Neil to come and stir so I could start making pizza for our dinner and movie watching.

The pizza came together quickly with the use of my ABin5 dough already in the fridge. I cut up one of the sweet banana peppers from the garden and put it on my half of one of the pizzas and it was so spicy and yummy!

Finally, Neil, Evan and I snuggled together in the living room so Evan could experience Star Wars for the first time. We ended up watching both Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope AND Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Evan was so animated during the movies. Neil and I just kept smiling at each other when Evan would cheer for the Rebel forces!

A good night!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Yogurt, Pickles and Goat Cheese

No, I am not pregnant again!

I was just feeling a bit ambitious in the kitchen today. After chores, as I was straining the goat's milk I realized it had piled up again so decided I would get another batch of Cherve cheese cultured. And as I was heating up the goat's milk to pasteurize it, it occurred to me that I hadn't made any yogurt in almost two weeks. So, into another pot went the cow's milk for the yogurt.

While the milk's were heating I was straightening up the kitchen and was trying to figure out what to do with all the cucumbers, summer squash and zucchini I had about.... pickles! I pull out a recipe for Bread and Butter Pickles and checked to make sure I had everything I needed. I got the canning jars out and into the dishwasher to sterilize.

By now the milk's were hot and needed to be cooled down in an ice water bath in the sink. As the milk cooled I started cutting the veggies which also included onions and the sweet banana peppers from the garden. I salted the veggies heavily and set them in colanders to drain for a few hours.

To the goat's milk I added the culture and rennet and set it toward the back of the stove... done for 10-12 hours. To the cow's milk I added, powdered milk, some sugar, vanilla and half a jar of yogurt from my last batch I had been hiding in the fridge from the kids. I pour the concoction into the jars and set in the yogurt maker to culture for 8 hours (we like a thick yogurt here).

Time to clean up a bit, feed the kids lunch and nurse the baby.

After the salted veggies sat for 3 hours I rinsed them off, made the vinegar brine, cooked the veggies for a minute or two, packed the jars and canned them in a water bath for ten minutes. I ended up with three and half quarts of cucumber BnB pickles and one and half quarts squash BnB pickles.

One final clean up of the kitchen and it was time to rest for a while. After dinner I will refrigerate the yogurt and then just before bed I will strain the cheese and hang it over night.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

My new love affair...

with a website, a book and bread!

If you haven't heard about the latest bread cooking craze described in the book "ARTISAN BREAD IN FIVE MINUTES A DAY" you must have your head in the sand. In a nut shell it is a method of bread baking that consists of mixing up a wet dough and storing it in the fridge until you need it. Making bread baking fast and easy (i.e. no kneading).

I have known about the book for awhile, even watched the authors demonstrate their technique on a morning show at one point. My blogging friend, M, over at Rabbit Hill Farm had told me months ago it was how she was making her bread. But, I was content with making my breads/doughs in the bread machine or with my sourdough starter. I didn't feel the need to spend the money on another bread cookbook... I was happy... or so I thought.

One day, a few weeks ago, while searching for a new bread recipe Google suggested the website for "ARTISAN BREAD IN FIVE MINUTES A DAY". I headed over and started reading their blog and I was sucked in! I wrote down the ingredients for the master recipe and headed over to to buy the book. That night I mixed up the master recipe and stashed it in the fridge so it would be ready to use as soon as the book arrived.

I have since used this great book and technique to make french baguettes, pizza and fochacia. Tonight I made these three small loaves for dinner. Fast, easy and yummy!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Independence Day Challenge

Planted - Nothing
Harvested - Summer Squash, Zucchini, Sweet Banana Peppers, Green Tomatoes (fell off the vines), Cherry Tomatoes, Radishes, Lettuces, Eggs and Goat Milk.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

What's in the bag hunny?

Neil and his Dad were working on the garage today and I wandered down to say "hi" and see how everything was going. Neil says to me, "Hey, have a look in my tool bag hanging on the wall."

So I walk over and look inside and this is what I see...

Four little birds peaking up at me!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Yummy cheese!

The goat milk I cultured last night was the consistency of thick yogurt this morning... exactly as it should have been. I strained it through butter muslin tied the corners and hung it up to drain for eight hours. Every few hours I got it down and folded the curds to help release the whey. After the eight hours it had a nice firm texture that held together but would still crumble.

I got exactly 2 lbs of goat cheese (I did spill some as I was pouring it into the butter muslin). I split the 2 lbs into thirds, wrapped and froze two portions and the third went into the fridge... after a taste test on a cracker confirmed it was edible.... yummy!

Happy Independence Day!

We went to see the fireworks in town tonight. I was a good show for a small town and the kids had fun with their sparklers.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Dog Days Begin

The dog days (a period of 40 days starting July 3 and ending August 11) are named for the Dog Star, Sirius, which is visible with the rising Sun at this time. Ancients associated this sky picture with the hot days that coincided with it. (Taken from the Old Farmer's Almanac.)

Goat Cheese

I have been milking two of my Nigerian Dwarf goat does for a few weeks now and the milk was starting to pile up in the fridge. So tonight, I figured it was time to make some goat cheese with some of it.

My recipe for French Style Goat Cheese calls for using 5 quarts of milk (I had plenty). First I pasteurized the milk by heating it to 161F for 30 seconds. Then quickly cooled it in a ice bath in the sink to return the milk to 80F. I added a Mesophilic DVI culture and some rennet, stirred well, covered the pot and let it set at room temperature for the night.

I started this cheese late so it was 9:30pm when I was setting it out to culture. It needs to culture for 8-12 hours so I will strain it when I get up in the morning.

Sorry no photos, the batteries in the camera were dead and I couldn't wait to charge them first.