Monday, April 22, 2013

There is Beauty

We bought this farm at a price we could afford because it needed work. Grime, brokenness, and trash were abundant. It was overwhelming and a little depressing to move into a place that had been so little cared for.
Just a fraction of the garbage we've collected since the ground thawed

But we saw the beauty that could be. And we kept seeing it. And we're still seeing it now.
Sometime, someone, cared enough to plant daffodils

I love this old outhouse.
We've created a new campfire pit. Can't wait to make new memories around this
The pens are built and the first chickens are on pasture.
 Now, there's sunshine and green grass

And the kite-flying is GREAT here



Monday, April 15, 2013

Cheese! You can Make Too

Cheese making is in my future. Of  that, I can say more confidently now. I tasted my first "aged" goat cheese a couple nights ago and it was love at first bite. I went a little crazy in the gourmet cheese section of Wegmans and purchased three kinds, actually: Humboldt Fog, which is an aged tangy, moldy bleu type cheese, Garrotxa, similar to Romano or Asiago I would say, and a Sweet Vanilla Cardona Cheese, which was the mildest and had a faint buttery vanilla flavor. Yummm, all three. My favorite was the  bold Humboldt Fog. Worth each and every of the $6 I paid for the small wedge. Anyway, I came away quite excited. See, I love our raw, fresh goat's milk. And I love the farmer's cheese I make from our goat's milk. But I just haven't cared much for any of the Chevre's (soft, fresh, cultured goat's cheese) I've tried. Too goaty. Yes, I just said that. And since the idea of becoming a semi-serious cheese maker has been kicking around in the back of my mind, and since I bought this book: Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking, The Ultimate Guide for Home-Scale and Market Producers
by Gianaclis Caldwell
 and have drooled over the pages, I figured I better discover whether I even like the stuff or not. Are ya with me? 
And I do.
 I even chose them over the dark chocolate cake that night. And happily! Gasp! I have hidden what's left in a corner of the fridge so that it's all mine. And I really like to spoil my children with good food. But I just love this cheese too much. It's mine. I've had so many requests for cheese that now I've ordered the cultures and it's time to start learning, darn-it. And now I know I'll like it. And I'll even play around with different Chevre recipes too, cause I really want to like that.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. For the last few years, this recipe has been my old standby solution for the Spring and Summer too much milk in the fridge need space now (!), dilemma. Well, this and yogurt, and ice cream. But I'll save those for another day. This cheese is yummy. And really easy. And the good news for you, readers, is that you can be a cheese maker too. Use any milk you want! Just not ultra-pasteurized. It won't form a good curd. Here's the recipe if you wanna give it a go :)

Ingredients: 1 gallon whole milk, 1/3-1/2 cup vinegar or lemon juice (I like vinegar results better), and salt.
That's it!

Let's make cheese:
Heat your milk (slowly, while stirring frequently) to 190 degrees F. The milk should just be starting to really bubble/foam up. Do not bring it to a full boil. Remove your milk from the heat and SLOWLY stir in your acid (vinegar or lemon juice). Don't overstir. You should notice the white curds start to separate from the yellow-ish whey. Cool. Let it sit (don't stir here) for about 20 minutes until you really have good separation. Then ladle your curds into a cheesecloth (or muslin, or even pillowcase) lined colander. Let drain there for a few minutes, then add salt to taste, gather the ends of your cheesecloth at the top and tie together and hang your sack of cheese to drain ( I use a long wooden spoon handle over a pot) for 10 minutes to a couple hours. Depends on how firm you want your cheese. We like to eat it tend to devour it while it's still warm, so it never gets hung long! Man, it's good warm! At this point you can refrigerate it for a week or so. Some say the taste improves after a day or two in the refrigerator. But I like it fresh! This cheese doesn't melt well, but is great in salads, on sandwiches, and even chunky on pizza or focaccia. If it makes it past your kitchen counter, that is.
Ladling the curds
This is not my picture. But I love the simple-ness of it. Though I can't help thinking, "what did the poor cheese do!?" Does it not look like a hanging? Lol.
Our finished product.
Have fun!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Saturday was my birthday. The 35th one. Brenna's worried I'm getting old and has been all the more clingy because of it. Silly girl.
Joe took me out to lunch as a treat. Getting there with six clean kids was the real treat. Here's a little peek into what's usually involved in getting our six kids out the door and looking halfway decent:

It took me the better part of the morning to get them all cleaned up from their morning outdoor play. As I took the littlest ones out to the van, I noticed that:
"a" the carseats were not in the van where they needed to be, and
the goats needed water.
 I sent Joe for the carseats, set Isaac and Charlotte down next to the van with a stern warning not to move, and set out for the water bucket. It took all of 72 seconds to refill the goats' water. But in that time, Charlotte in her pretty white sweater and pink leggings had settled down in the middle of a mound of fresh dirt, and was digging her little heart out with her clean little hands. Isaac, not to be outdone, had toddled up the porch steps and was trying like a brave little one year old to climb right back down them. Except he doesn't know how to climb down yet. And all I see is the concrete pad awaiting his little head at the bottom. And both Isaac and Charlotte are in opposite directions. And of course neither are paying attention to my frantic screaming. (and my morning coffee has worn off long ago) Obviously I run for Isaac first and am glad to say that I saved him from certain peril once again. But by the time I reached Charlotte her white sweater was a pretty shade of mushroom grey, with matching hands and face. By this time, my oblivious  awesome husband had finished with the carseats and turns, smiling at me, proud he's done something to help, right about the same time Ava shows up ready for lunch, in her pajama pants. The girl that wears dresses to do her barn chores. Oy. After all this, lunch was a lovely affair. Isaac flirted shamelessly with the waitresses.  And Joe and I made up over vegetable lo mein.

The pulsator on our milking machine broke. Not two weeks into using it. Joe's hoping it's minor and has ordered a rebuild kit for it. In the meantime, we're back to milking by hand, and thankful we don't have 50 goats just yet.

Joe broke ground on the garden a couple days ago. Hard, backbreaking work, even with a tiller. It needs done a couple more times before we can plant, but it's started. Maybe someday we'll have a plow. Today we discovered that the small overgrown field next to the barn was REALLY soft (it's been frozen up to this point).  Under the sod, we found black compost about a foot deep. Gold. Must've been where the cows from years past were kept, waiting their turn to come into the barn for some fresh hay and a milking. I was busy much of today digging that out and transporting it by wheelbarrow-ful to the garden plot. Again, backbreaking. Again, can someone say TRACTOR? Oh well, the physical labor is exhilarating. Joe says I'll be as skinny as a supermodel in no time. Uh huh.

Meanwhile, Joe's been busy tearing out old fencing and setting new.

Setting fence posts. Man's work.

The babies are growing fast. The kids love to get them out to play each day.

Sorry for the blurry pictures. It's just so much easier to carry my iphone around than the lunky camera.
Until next time,

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Last of the Kids

And as quick as it began, it was over. Kidding season. Of course, we only had three does kid this year, so not like a whole farm-ful or anything. It was a year for bucklings. We got five. And two doelings. Of course we'll keep the doelings as we are in the process of building our herd. Slowly. Two of our bucklings have already gone as pets to some farm friends. I was so happy to find them a good home. Brenna was so sad to see them go. Sadder than expected. I found her crying after they were carted off to their new home. Sweet, shy,sensitive Brenna. She seems to feel things on a different emotional level than the rest of us. Or maybe she's just five. Either way, I hope she's able to adapt to this way of living and come away not too scarred. Today, we received our first batch of broilers. In 8 weeks they will be dinner. How to break this to her gently? We've told her if she wants to play and make friends with the chicks, then stick to the laying chicks. They'll be around longer. I love her sensitivity and am pretty sure that I was that way once upon a time.

Joe with our last two bucklings. Cuties. All three.

We've moved the laying chicks to our outdoor brooder house. And they're doing well. Already almost all feathered out and big! Today the broilers went in our "extra" room in the house where they'll be for about a week before moving into the brooder house with the others. Within a couple weeks they should be out on pasture permanently. We'll receive 50 more broilers about every three weeks until fall. Chicken anyone?
Inside the brooder house

Brand new chicks, fresh from the mailman

Easter weekend was lovely. And it also happened to be Charlotte's 3rd birthday. Double the celebration! It started Friday morning with some out of town guests we hadn't seen in a couple years. They arrived early as we were coming in from milking. I was embarassed by my barn clothes, my undone hair, the chores that needed tended to before we could visit, and had hoped to get a shower before their arrival. Growing up, my mother was meticulous. She was an excellent housekeeper, hostess, and mother. Her children were always clean, her rugs always vacuumed. I didn't grow up on a farm. So, I'm still getting used to the fact that my life is going to be just a little messier than hers. And that's ok. We settled in with our old friends and had such a nice time together. And they didn't care that I hadn't showered, and that the milking buckets all sat in the sink. The rest of the weekend was filled with family and how nice it was to pile most of our loved ones in the dining room for an Easter Feast/ birthday party. I'm so grateful for my large dining room and for those that I love filling my house. Happy Easter- He is Risen!

Today, Spring arrived. And so it was time to set up the trampoline. Something the kids have been begging for since we moved in, in the dead of winter.

Ahhh, Spring. I knew you'd come. Someday.