Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Winter Slow Down

Everything has slowed down now that most of the winter holidays are behind us and we are down to the animals that we plan to keep from year to year.  Kissee is getting kinda large with those twins in there and her milk is nearly dried off.  Partly that's my fault, we started moving her to 1 a day milkings and her numbers tanked.  Now here we are about 20 days away from her planned dry off date and she's giving so little milk its not really worth the effort to clean the pail, strainer and strip cup.  So tonight is her last official milking, anything beyond this will be to keep her comfortable and nothing more.  We will miss that milk for sure.  Store bought cow's milk, even the organic, tastes old to me.

The hens are still laying in nearly full force.  We are getting anywhere from 8-14 eggs a day, one of those is a duck egg.  I'm in awe of our duck, she lays more reliably than the hens do!  Anyhow, these girls easily overwhelm us in their quantity of eggs so I took about 7 dozen to the family Christmas and needless to say I returned empty handed.  Our chicks are still doing great, we still have the remaining 7 and the 2 that appeared to be roosters still do look like roosters so once the weather improves for spring we will add them to the deep freeze.

I think I might have mentioned it already (I guess I can go look it up) but I had started making goat milk soap back in November and we can finally use the bars.  They aren't great at sudsing but they are really nice feeling on your skin, not drying at all.  They remind me of Cetaphil in how they feel in your hands, but without the dry it leaves behind.   The first batch was Oatmeal, the second which I made in December is lavender/mint.  Now that one I can't wait until its ready!  Its smells so amazing!

So that's whats going on here.  Nothing too exciting.  Anything going on with you?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Who needs a blood test when you have ultrasound?

My neighbor is proving to be quite the person to know.  He's been talking to us about a friend of his who is a local vet trying to sell of some of their dairy goats.  I was telling him we were planning to add another doe in the spring and maybe get a buck to breed with (Those long trips to Angola, I love that breeder but I don't care to ruin my truck again).  Anyhow that particular vet was ultrasounding her goats on that particular day and she came out and did ours too.  Kissee is having at least twins and it appear her pregnancy is healthy.  Makes me so happy to know this.  So come around March 15th we will have a couple spring loaded goat kids around here :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

A year in review - 2011

I realize this isn't yet the end of the year but since we are already planning for next year, this feels like the time to review this year.

This year has been a whirlwind.  I'll start by bragging about my son, which is way too easy.  So this year M turned 2 and since his birthday he's just exploded in words and now even has short sentences.  He's learned the alphabet; he can't read it in order completely yet but he can identify the letters and for most of them he knows what sound they make.  He also recognizes his numbers, but he gets a little hung up on counting.  He's picked up some really good manners, by osmosis....he's just seen us do it and followed suit.  That makes me so proud of him when he says "excuse me", "please", "thank you" and "bless you" (for sneezes).  He's getting easier to understand all the time and that makes caring for him both easier and harder.  He's now always telling me he's hungry but if I put food in front if him he refuses it.  Frustrating!  For all the frustration though, he's totally worth it.  He's such a good boy for us and while I think he's probably in his terrible twos, this really isn't too terrible. 

Now about the farm-y stuff.  Our chickens are doing so well.  Last night I picked up 14 eggs out of 17 layers and its nearly December so I'm wondering if I'm freezing all these eggs in vain.  Of the September/October chicks, 7 are still around- growing very well and the flock has accepted them without any problems.  They don't need their mamas any longer so I can't even tell who the mama hens are any longer (we have 4 nearly identical black ones).  As a recap though, we began the year with an order of 25 roosters (+5 free), 6 buff orphingtons, 3 blue Andalusian (+1 free) and 2 Americaunas- plus we were gifted 7 mixed breed laying hens and we end the year with 5 buffs, 4 blues, 2 americaunas, 5 mixed breed laying hens, 5 mixed breed pullet chicks and 2 mixed breed cockerel chicks.  Plus about 27 roosters for our freezer.  I'll sum that up as a successful year.  We lost 4 chickens to injury and natural illness. 

If you recall we started with 7 turkeys and 6 of those thrived and ended up in our freezer.  One I'm cooking today.  Their weights ranged from about 18lbs to about 30 some odd pounds dressed weight.  Of our ducks, we started with 7, we kept 3 for entertainment/breeding/eggs and 4 went to our freezer.  One of those are left in the freezer and I think it might be Christmas dinner.  We had 2 geese, one died at about 5 weeks-ish and the other, Bruce, is still going strong.  I think he's a bit lonely though.  We're working on that.
 The goats have been a sharp learning curve.  From them getting out and into the feed (and having a near emergency result from that) to learning to milk the goat once we brought her home- they've been by far our biggest challenge.  We still are learning as they continue to break out of fences and find new trouble all the time.  We've also become extremely attached to their sweet faces and personalities and I see how easily I could become the "crazy goat lady".  We took Kissee to the breeder this fall, nearly ruined the interior of my Trailblazer trying to get her there and back and now we aren't really sure if she took.  I really hope so but we won't likely find out until sometime next month when we get blood sent in for her pregnancy test.  

I stopped calculating the garden yields (hanging head in shame) but it did really well for the lack of planning.  Next year we are already planning and the garden will be expanded.  We really want to move the garden into a 4 season garden with the use of row covers and hoop structures to extend our seasons.  We've found that storage space is really one of our biggest obstacles.  We did move the orchard from our 9 acre lot to here so its the beginning of what I hope will be a very productive orchard.  We moved also 4 blueberries and about 5 raspberry plants.  There are a few more perennials to move but most of our big investments are now here. 

We've been pretty fortunate overall.   Its been hard and we've learned so much in a very short period of time.  I'm both busier than I used to be but I find myself in a position where I really like being home doing the things that this home needs.  I get burned out a bit on redundant work like cleaning house, dishes and stuff but fortunately there are plenty of things I'm learning that break up the boring stuff to keep me moving forward. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Impossible to get a good picture of Kissee
Never quite up for posing
These babies are getting big! 7 weeks old
9 weeks old- rooster
Look muffs!  Hoping she's going to lay green eggs, maybe blue
Young Rooster
Family Pictures :)
I'll fill y'all in on all the happenings later :)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Meso Cheese Cultures decoded

A while back I made up these flash cards of the bulk cheese cultures (from the dairy connection) I use and how they translate to those cute little packets they sell at New England Cheesemaking Supply.  I use this information all the time and I was thinking maybe someone out in cyberspace would find it useful too. Who knows.  I'd love it if you'd leave me a comment if this helps you.  It's nice not to feel like you are connecting :)

Here goes:
Mesophillic MA019- for hard and fresh cheeses.  Makes Cheddar, Colby, Feta, Chevre, etc. 
  • Dose:
    • 1/8 tsp to 1 gallon, 
    • 1/4 tsp to 2-5 gallons 
    • 1/2 tsp to 5-10 gallons milk.  
  • Milder than MM100
  • Cultures:
    • L. lactis
    • L. cremoris
  • Replaces:
    • Mesophillic Starter
    • Mesophillic DS
Mesophillic MM100- for fresh cheeses. Makes Camembert, Gouda, Feta, Blue, Chevre and others where buttery flavor and/or eye formation is desired 
  • Dose:
    • 1/8 tsp to 1 gallon, 
    • 1/4 tsp to 2-5 gallons 
    • 1/2 tsp to 5-10 gallons milk.  
  • Cultures:
    • L. lactis
    • L. cremoris
    • L. biovar diacetylactis
  • Replaces:
    • Fromage Blanc DS
Mesophillic Aroma type B a/k/a Flora Danica- for soft goat cheeses.  Makes cottage cheese, sour cream, cultured butter, cultured buttermilk, fresh cheeses, Havarti, baby Swiss, Edam, Gouda, creme fraiche 
  • Dose:
    • 1/8 tsp to 1 gallon, 
    • 1/4 tsp to 2-5 gallons 
    • 1/2 tsp to 5-10 gallons milk.  
  • Cultures:
    • L. lactis
    • L. cremoris
    • L. biovar diacetylactis
    • L. mesenteroides subsp. cremoris
  • Replaces:
    • Buttermilk DS
    • Chevre DS
    • Creme Fraiche DS
    • Flora Danica DS
    • Fresh Starter
    • Sour Cream DS
Now every one of these that it replaces that has a DS after it I believe that it has rennet added to the packet.  So obviously you'd follow the recipe for that cheese and add rennet where it calls for it.  If you are using the book Home Cheesemaking and you want to make a cheese that uses a "DS" probably should be getting a more advanced cheese making book.  That's where I am.  I've moved out of that book and into a different one to get better recipes that allow me to easily use the bulk starters.  I still use Home Cheesemaking a lot.   Its not going anywhere.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Posting my salmon patty recipe so I don't forget it

Sad, right.  Anyhow, this is the best salmon patty I've come up with yet. 

2 foilpacks of salmon
1 duck egg (2 chicken eggs- approx)
10 saltines or about 1/2 cup oats
1.5 tsp ranch dressing mix (I use penzey's)
1/4 cup chevre
1/4 cup fresh diced onion  (chives or green onion would probably be better but this is what I had)

mix well, form into patties and into a hot cast iron skillet with a decent layer of lard or oil....brown both sides well :)  Serves 3-6 depending on how hungry the people you are feeding are

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Goings on in the fall garden

rainbow chard, planted in July is going strong
Packman broccoli, in flower.  This attracts a lot of bees and other pollinators
My lettuce and spinach patch, now about 30 days or so old and we are picking from it.  Cut and come again style.
My root trio- radish, beet and carrot.  Radishes are about done, beets in about 30 days and carrots for winter.
This radish is starting to bolt.  Its easy to tell from the broken leaves (usually its one big leaf, lobed leaves are for bolting radishes)
same trio bed with radishes removed.  It really loosens the soil nicely for the beets and carrots to grow
from near to far: turnips, rutabaga, kohlrabi and spinach....all 30 days in
hard to see but if you look closely I've got onion seed sprouts started here to overwinter for spring next year.
Spring lettuce gone to seed.  Also attracts pollinators and provides me some seeds.
anyone know what this is?

Broody #2 and her babies

Imagery of today

My boy <3.....even grumpy he's handsome
Whats that saying about a bird in the bush?
4 of the 6 new chicks
my son feeding the goats
the babies from last month
York.....he's such a sterotypical goat

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

more chicks, pics to come later

I'll try to get some video with all the chicks for you.   We have 8 right now ranging from about 20 days old to 1 day old. They are so cute, just wait and see :)

Last week was a bad week, I hurt my back and so I've been babying it since.  Its still not quite pain free but its improving.  Lots of moaning and groaning about and barely keeping things up around the house.  I did manage to get things caught up yesterday pretty decently and today its pretty much stayed in a good place.  Between yesterday and today I've been pretty productive.  Yesterday I finished the goat yard, just a bit of fenced space right outside their stall for the winter months and today I got the stall cleared out and fresh bedding down. 

I went to my grandparent's house after all was done enough around here and picked pears.  I must have around 1.5 to 2 bushels of unripe bartletts to play with now.  The tree exacted revenge for my stealing its fruit by dropping a large one right onto my forehead from about 20 ft up.  Ouch!  Rang my bell for a second, took a rest and got back to working on it.  My plans this year include pear butter and dried pears, which I do every year and I'm hoping to do some basic canned pears too.  I'm not the biggest fan of pears in their raw form so I probably won't eat any raw.  I am tempted to pick up some additional fruit at the store and make my own fruit cocktail.  That should be fun for my son to try.  I don't think he's ever had it since I won't buy the canned ones at the store.  (I know, I'm a bad mom ....or a good one, depends on your viewpoint)

Also in canning news, I managed to dig up and salvage my sweet potatoes after the voles nearly destroyed my entire harvest.  I pressure canned the rescued bits in quarts and we haven't tried them yet but I'll bet they are tasty.  They sure smelled good cooking.  I also cleared out the frozen fruit from the freezer and made us some jams and jellies.....mulberry jelly (tastes like grape), mixed berry jam, spiced peach blueberry and black raspberry (which came out way too stiff).  The black raspberry is really the only one that didn't turn out but I found out that if I put a big scoop of that very stiff jam in the bottom of my yogurt before I set it to culture overnight then it softens nicely and blends without adding moisture so the yogurt doesn't become a drink like sometimes it can.  I love when mistakes work out. 

Turkey day went well, aside from a few mistakes.  The big tom was too big for everything.  I ended up sitting on him and unfortunately it was like riding a bronco.  I got hit so many times over.  He was huge.  The hens all went much better and the only thing that went badly there was that we used a 5 gallon bucket with hole in the bottom and she broke the bucket and fell.  Both she and the tom were used for ground turkey meat and I parted out her breasts for meals in the future.  The hens weighed about 18lbs average dressed out, the tom we didn't dress out but we parted him out to 16lbs of meat so I'd say he was probably around 25lbs if we'd dressed him out.  I think he might have been as much as 40lbs live.  HUGE!  2 turkey were pieced out.  4 left whole, 1 for each of our families, 1 for a barter (family pictures) and 1 for us later to decide what we are doing with. 

I think that's all I have for now.  I'll try to find my camera tomorrow for some video of those babies!  So cute!!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Dude and his progeny

Chick #1
Chick #2
The Dude and his golden girls

Busy busy- fencing, eggs, cheese, canning

Good times going on around here.  Hard times too.  I hate to admit but funds are low right now so getting another goat is going to have to wait.  Luckily ours is going to reproduce in the spring so with any luck we'll have a doeling (or two) out of her and we can build our herd a little more slowly but at a pace that fits our budget a bit better.  My sister (as in the best sister in the whole wide world)  has so kindly ordered the meds for Kissee to get prepared for breeding for me so we are almost ready.

The goats have been escaping a lot so we cleared all the weeds from the fence line and ran many tests on the fence and charger before we finally opened the back of the charger and there is a significant black smoky mark on the circuit board.  Needless to say the charger is dead.  So today we got our gloves on and installed a section of "real" fencing that was left by the prior owner of this house.  There are a lot of sections of used fence too so we will be busy tomorrow installing the next piece we can find that might be long enough to cover our shared fence line with our neighbor.  I'm especially concerned that they might get the idea to go that way being as our neighbor grows a very large market garden with lots of goat temptations.    Its a fairly temporary solution, but like I said, funds are low so we make do with what's on hand.

The garden is really growing all the fall/winter veggies pretty well.  I planted a section with a trio of radishes, beets and carrots....idea being the radishes harvest first, then the beets and the carrots being the slowest.  So far the radishes are about half way there.  I also have planted turnips, rutabaga, kohlrabi, spinach, lettuce, bunching onions and snow peas.  I don't know if we even like turnips or rutabaga but  we figured the goats and chickens will enjoy them if we don't.

The pullets from April's chick order are starting to lay.  At least 4 of the 5 Buffs started laying right after they turned 20 weeks.  The Americaunas started laying last week at 22 weeks old.  Still waiting on the Andulusians to lay. The duck started laying too, everyday without fail so far.    Two of our hens went broody ( I think I mentioned it but maybe I didn't) and the first one hatched 2 of 3 eggs and the babies are so cute!  The second broody hen has about 6 eggs under her, 5 chicken and 1 duck.  I slipped the duck in there hoping to win the lottery and get another female duck....and to see if the Cayuga drake was hitting his mark.    When I candled her eggs the other day the duck egg appears to be developing.  I'm not sure yet what I'll do if the hen gives up early and the duck egg doesn't hatch.  I don't think its going to be a big deal but when the time comes I'll be watching the hen.

I canned some carrots I got on sale a couple weeks ago, they turned out great!  Why didn't I do that sooner? Tonight its tomato puree.  Tomorrow its roasted peppers and I'm to can some chicken noodle soup and chicken and rice soup as well as just canned chicken and broth.  We are butchering the turkeys next weekend so I really need the freezer space for them now. 

Also tomorrow I need to get crackin on making some cheese.  Our milk inventory is a little high so I think some Queso Fresco is in order.  My husband wants more kefir and our son just adores yogurt.  I think that will use up what we have on hand.  I really want some cottage cheese sometime this week so that will be next up.  I picked up some cream at the store so goat ice cream is on the menu soon too.....see why I'd like another goat?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Updates and my evening routine (in pictures)

The two black hens in the back are the broody ladies
This has been an eventful day/week/month in the world of chickens.  I lost a black hen today, found her in the bushes dead.  She looked like she just fell asleep and didn't wake up.  She's one of the original bunch that were a gift from a friend so I'm sad to have her gone.  That leaves 6 hens, 2 of which have decided to go broody.  One of the broody girls has made it 16 days so by next weekend I think we may have chicks!  My other broody girl just went to the nest today so I plan to slip her a duck egg and see if she'll hatch it out too. 
buff orphs to the rescue!

Luckily my young buff orphington pullets are starting to lay and as of now I have 4 of them laying eggs, albeit tiny and infrequently, but they really are making a difference with 2 hens down and 1 gone.  My pekin duck (as mentioned above) is laying eggs daily and I couldn't be happier to see it.  I don't really want more ducks but I do want to see if either of our drakes are doing their "job" so that's why I'm going to see if the broody will hatch one out for me.  Both my husband and son like duck meat so a few ducks each year probably wouldn't be too bad.  I think 7 for us was too many though.

I recieved a gift from a friend of some old cast iron pans in need of repair, they had heard I was trying to make the switch from my old toxic non-stick pans.  I now have them up and running with a fresh seasoning and they are better at being non-stick than my old non-stick pans were already.  I couldn't be happier with their turn out.  I made pancakes with them using both this morning, unfortunately the smaller lodge pan started sticking so it went back in the oven today for a new coat of oil for seasoning.  Hopefully this time I'll have a better outcome.

before milking (not her fullest udder)
after milking

Kissee is going back to the breeder next month to be bred.  I'm going to go with the breeder's recommendation for bucks to see what offspring we end up with.  I know wishing doesn't get one anywhere but I'm really hoping she throws both a buckling and doeling so we can have some goat meat for the freezer.  I've only had goat once and I liked it but I don't know if I actually tasted the meat being as it was a highly seasoned satay. 

I was at the fertility doc this morning, got all my scripts to get the meds so here we go again.  My first official month of trying will be October.  I'm not going to post the play by play, but hopefully it will result in some eventual good news.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pictures from today

 I took some pictures today, I don't have a ton to report so I'll let the pictures and captions tell it.

Love finding a Praying Mantis of this size in the garden

Mammoth sunflowers

new radish seedlings

This is "One Eye" Willy, he's a silver leghorn...he's in a cage because "The Dude" would kill him.

Broody hen day #3 out of what 21

Broad breasted Turkey hens at 20 weeks old

Broad breasted white Tom, 20 weeks
a face only a mother.....who am I kidding, I can't wait to have him for dinner

One of our original "mutt" hens.  (off to the side is a curious turkey inspecting my camera)

My handsome boy!

Our pullets, now 20 weeks.  The two in the back are Blue Andalusians, the front is a Buff Orphington

My son just loves these girls, they almost let him touch them

Our latest trick to get the older girls to lay in the same place all the time....wooden eggs from Hobby Lobby.  Its working!!

 Our feed organization system.  The upper two are sunflower seeds and cracked corn.  The two below them are chick starter and layer feed.  The two off to the right are dairy goat feed and alfalfa pellet.  In the shelf above those I keep bags of loose minerals, baking soda, kelp and diamond x yeast

York, looking over the gate as usual

see that farm in the back there?  I just love seeing the sunset over that farm.  It'd be nice if I didn't have to see our torn up yard (septic field replacement) to look at it.

"The Dude" our White Wyandotte flock rooster

Bruce the African goose, our flock guardian

Kissee loves apples, so does my son

Our cayuga crested drake and unknown crested gray drake