Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Turn up your volume because she's kind of quiet (Chy, not me).

I've been wanting to get her on video braying for a while and finally she did it on cue.  She does it a lot now that she's discovered how to get attention.  Yesterday she was full of herself and probably did it more than a dozen times.  Sometimes it sounds more like heehaw than others.  At times, when she's really loud, James says she sounds like a fog horn.  I'll try to get a louder one another day.  I need to carry my camera around more. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sam-I-Am will be pleased

Our 2 pullets who were born here in June have finally started laying eggs.  One of them started a few weeks ago and I was so disappointed to find she laid a brown egg like the rest of my hens.  I was told our rooster was an Araucana rooster, which is a blue egg laying breed (actually a crossbreed) so his genes crossed with my brown egg laying hens should produce a green egg layer.  I'd given up hope on these girls and figured I was going to have to purchase some blue egg layers this next spring if I wanted any colored eggs, but then today when I went out to check the nests I was surprised to find this very pale green egg.  It's hard to tell in the picture that it's green because it's so pale but take my word for it.

And here's the girl who laid it.
Now if only we had some ham.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Donkeys on the loose

Since I let the boys and girls out to roam the yard yesterday and today I thought it only fair to let Chy and Shiloh have their chance too.  I assumed when it was time to get them back in the fence they'd follow me with my bowl of sunflower seeds back to their barn.  Apparently the dark green grass and freedom won out over sunflower seeds.  They stayed out for more than 2 1/2 hours and only returned when they were ready.  Everyone is looking fat and happy tonight.  Shiloh was especially excited with his new found freedom. 

It started to get cold as the sun set so I left them out there alone.  Every now and then I'd look out a window to see where they were.  I looked out the front dining room window and there was Shiloh jumping on his mom's back.  It looks like he was doing something else but actually he was over her side.  He does that a lot.  Sometimes she walks with him like that and it's so funny to watch him walk sideways.
A while later I looked out again to find them by the outdoor kitchen.
Each time I looked out a window and didn't see them my heart would sink just a little.  I only had to look out another window to find them.  Like the side dining room window
The kitchen window.
After awhile it became funny.  Here's a look out the living room window.  Please ignore the dying orchids in the foreground.
And then here's the view out my den window that I see from my desk.
The sidelight of our front door.

The only place they didn't venture was our garden.  Most of their time was spent above the orchard.

Where the goats also loved exploring.  Or down below where Shiloh was running.
As you can see, I love my donkeys even though they have minds of their own. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Picture Day

Today was sunny and 50's but it was very windy and felt much cooler.  I'd post a picture of me dressed for winter (coveralls, hood, neck warmer) but there was no one to take my picture because James was doing his last long run before his Hellgate 100 run.  You'll just have to imagine me looking my best as I ventured out in this weather.  I know, how am I going to make it through winter if I find 50's so tough? 

The goat and donkey's pasture is pretty much stripped bare so today I let the girls out to graze in the lawn  for a few hours.  They didn't go very far even when I encouraged them to.  Here's a picture of them grazing along with the dogs who are trying to figure out what "this grazing thing" is.
I figured it was safe to go inside and eat lunch since no one was going to escape anytime soon.  Every now and then I'd look out the window and do a head count.  They must have gotten bored because when I went back outside they were playing hide-n-seek.  Fresca was doing the searching and everyone else was hiding in the same bush.  I don't think they were fooling anyone.
The whole while the girls were out the boys sunned themselves.  Here's Dodger, the goat-in-a-box.  He's our unicorn.
And then there's a goat-in-the-box and a goat-on-the-box with a donkey trying to get in-the-box.
Chy wasn't too shy about kissing my camera.
She and I seemed to have turned a corner.  Today I was brushing the boys and Chy came up to me and chewed my sleeve wanting to be brushed.  Of course I stopped brushing the boys and gave her a full brush down.  She loved it.  This was the first time she let me do that.  She used to be afraid of the brush.  Hmmm, milking might be right around the corner.  I don't think I'll hold my breath though. 

After the girls went in I let the boys out for a few hours.  They're much more adventurous and wander farther.
Thanks to them I got my rose bush pruned.
 I was surprised when they turned their noses up at the arugula.  That's what we're having for dinner.

I made soap yesterday and this morning it sliced very well.  I hope it comes out ok.  I won't know for at least a month.  This one has sage in it.  Today I ordered some essential oils to add fragrances to my soaps.  I haven't done that in the past.  I ordered Caribbean Coconut, Eucalyptus and Spearmint, and Almond and Honey.  I also ordered coconut oil, palm oil and shea butter.  It's hard to find these oils around here.

It's about time for me to call James for dinner, another variation-on-the-theme-of-turkey, turkey salad.  For lunch we had turkey sandwiches.  Last night we had turkey soup.  I may freeze the rest of the bird.
Happy day-after-Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Garden Treats

This afternoon I pulled up some pea plants that never made it to harvest and offered them to the goats and donkeys.  As you can see below, they were a hit.
We gave them some arugula too since we have so much.  Chy devoured that. 

It was another lovely, sunny day today so the chickens basked in the rays and made nests for dust baths.
They didn't look the least bit stressed about Thanksgiving.  Better a chicken than a turkey, though I read my sister-in-law was eating chicken tomorrow, not turkey.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NOW it's a greenhouse

A friend and I were talking this morning about feeling so fortunate that maybe we should worry because our luck might run out.  I've thought about that most of my adult life.  Can anyone be so lucky for so long?  I don't know if I'm doing something right or I'm lucky or charmed or blessed or .......?  This friend said someone once said to her not to say, "what did I do to deserve this?", but, "how much better can it get?"  I like that.

The reason I'm thinking about this today is because I had another one of those days that was just perfect.  The same friend I mentioned (a new friend/neighbor) came over and milked my goats with me.  We hung out a while, still getting to know each other and talking about what we love - animals, and yeah, some other girl talk.  I'm happy to know there's someone nearby who could milk my goats when I'm in a fix or want to leave town and shares my affection for goats.

Later another friend came over and helped me and James put the plastic on the greenhouse.   Susan had a greenhouse of her own a while back and is a "can do" kind of person so we couldn't have asked for better help.  The 3 of us tried to figure out how we were going to get the plastic from one side of this huge (to me) greenhouse to the other side and James came up with the idea of using poles with towels wrapped around them to attach to the plastic so we could reach the top and pull it over.  I wish we had a video of us doing this but at this point there were only 3 of us and we needed all our hands.  Here are the poles.  Of course duct tape played a big part too.
There came a point when we needed even more hands to help us get the plastic tight.  That's where Adam and his friend, Garrett, came in.  To put this greenhouse covering on we really needed 5 people.  From here on out it was smooth sailing.

I think it looks really great.  I can't wait to see what James grows in it.

Spending a day with James, Adam and our friends doing something really cool.......seriously, how much better can it get?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What's new, you ask?

Maybe you didn't ask but I'm going to tell you anyway since I have your attention.  Well, we got our new camera so I'll post a few pictures just for fun.  I'm not sure if I like it as well as our other one yet.  I don't think the pictures look any better.  Maybe it's the person behind the camera.

Shiloh is really growing.  I was comparing photos from our old camera to our new ones and came upon some of him as a newborn and I realized how much he's changed.  I really don't see it on a day-to-day basis.  Here he is today next to his mom.  He's still just as fuzzy and adorable as ever.  The goats are used to the donkeys now and don't run from them like they used to.  It's fun watching them interact.
I probably shouldn't write this but, we haven't had any predator problems lately so the chickens and ducks are all fine.  I had to get rid of the 2 guineas because they had terrorized my chickens so much the rooster wouldn't even sleep with them anymore.  He slept with the goats.  Now that the guineas are gone he's back with the hens.  Two of the roosters had to go too because it was also too much for the hens.  One little girl would hardly come out during the day.  Now she's back out hopping around with the rest.  Everyone seems happy.  Now that the days are shorter we're not getting many eggs even though one of my young hens has finally started laying.  We thought they were laying them somewhere else but my chicken expert friend told me one day she only got 2 eggs from 40 hens.  I didn't remember getting this few last year but this friend also told me that I can expect a 20'% reduction in egg production each year of a hen's life. 

I'm pretty sure all my girl goats are bred now except Polly, who I won't breed till January.  This means things have settled down in the boy's pen, thank goodness.  Even tiny little Daisy is probably bred and will be the first to kid in late January.  I'll be praying for a very tiny, healthy baby and an easy delivery since Daisy is so young.  This was not a planned pregnancy.  She's so small she can still walk through the cattle panels so there was no way to keep her from the boys.  Every day it's getting to be a tighter and tighter squeeze for her but she can still do it.  She spends much of her day outside the fence and browsing in our yard. 
Yesterday a man stopped by while I was outside watching the goats and asked me if I would consider loaning some of them out for a Christmastime event nearby.  To make a long story short, they'd be in a pen while thousands of people walked past.  I told him that A Night Of Miracles sounded like something I'd like to visit but I didn't feel comfortable loaning my goats.  He was very understanding.  When I asked Pessa later on if she would have been interested she said no.
Adam is home for Thanksgiving break.  It's fun having  him and his friends around again.  Adam and Manley were out testing the sight on Manley's rifle in our field.  Manley had missed a buck that morning with another gun and blamed it on the sight.  To his credit, he's a good shot and usually gets a few deer every year.  He gave us a bunch of venison last night from a deer he got earlier.  Two of Adam's college buddies who live nearby were over yesterday because they had already run out of things to do.  They said they were used to being at school where they were always busy (I'm sure they didn't mean just school work).   The 4 guys went out for a drive and called us to tell us they were watching a white deer with black ears grazing along the river.  They took pictures to show us.  I wish I had one to post here.    They came back and cooked venison on our  BBQ pit and made corn on the cob, marinated asparagus and rolls.  They must eat well at school.

I'm just now getting back to this blog entry.  I started it last night, continued it this morning and now at 6:30 PM am just getting back to it.  It's been a great day.  A friend of mine invited me to join a turkey/rooster processing get-together 3 miles from our house.  I hadn't met the woman who raises the chickens and turkeys but have met her husband because he owns the sawmill I got my barn lumber from.  I was so impressed with her and her children (in their 20's) and their whole setup.  She's a builder, gardener, food preserver and a real do-it-yourselfer.  She builds and sells really nice chicken coops and raises all kinds of poultry.  It must be nice to have your own sawmill and lumber.  They were a close-knit family and seemed to have great fun together.  We probably processed 6 turkeys and 6 chickens.   Even the grandmother and grandchildren participated.  I got a tour of their root cellar and learned a few things too - a completely enjoyable afternoon.

I just got called for dinner.  Adam and the same 3 friends are cooking dinner again, venison burgers, vegetables on the grill and a cherry pie.  It made me laugh to be called for dinner.  Usually I'm the one who does that.
 I better stop now before I get caught up in something else. 


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I miss our camera

You may have noticed that the last 4 of my posts had no pictures.  That's because the shutter stopped working on our camera.  I was taking pictures and then all of a sudden it wouldn't open.  Bummer.  We really love the pictures this camera takes and I didn't know where to go around here to find a camera repair shop.  I called Canon to see if they could help me fix it.  They said it sounds like the spring broke that makes the shutter open and that I could mail it to them to take a look or that I might be interested in their Loyalty Program.  I never heard of that so I let them fill me in.  For just $75.00 they would sell me a "refurbished" Powershot A1100 IS camera, which is somewhat comparable to ours, and I would just have to mail our old one in the package they send me along with the new camera, free shipping.  I decided to do it.  The camera will be an upgrade from the one we had because they no longer make our model.  This one has 12.1 mega pixels instead of 8.  I asked what "refurbished" meant and they said it wouldn't be a used camera.  It may have had a damaged box or came from a store that didn't sell it etc.  So we're getting a $245.00 camera for only $75.00.  I thought that was a pretty good deal.  They will recycle our old camera.

We didn't have a digital camera until 2 years ago when we bought one for our trip to Italy.  Well, I did have an $18.00 one I used for taking pictures of our house remodel, but that's not the same thing.  The new camera will be here Friday.  I can't wait. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

I need to make myself more clear, I guess

One problem with writing (at least mine) is that I think I'm giving enough information to get a point across but the reader may interpret it another way, which is the case with the helicopter landing in our field.

I got an email from a friend today commenting on how creepy it is that they found a dead man in our field.  That wasn't the case at all.  The helicopter landed in our field because it was the closest place to the wounded man's house where it could land safely.  Also, the man isn't dead.  He's recovering pretty quickly, so we've heard.  Apparently he was cleaning his gun and shot himself.  He has lost the ability to speak but I imagine that will come back in time. 

Just in case my other entry about the dead man in his driveway wasn't clear, he wasn't murdered.  We don't know how he died but it was probably health related. 

The only murders that have taken place here in the past week were 2 guineas and 2 roosters.  You can interpret that any way you'd like.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Meeting neighbors

Today I went for a walk because it was such a beautiful day.  I planned to walk a few miles and then stop to visit some friends/neighbors I haven't seen in a while.  After just half a mile Danny (another friend) drove by me in his truck.  He didn't realize it was me until he was already past so he called me from his cell and gave me a hard time about something, as good friends do.  Then he said for me to stop at their house and visit his wife, Kathy, if I had a chance.  I wanted to finish my walk first and wasn't sure if I wanted to make 2 visits today because I'd never get anything done.  I didn't stop to visit her.  I went on to the other couple's house as I had originally planned.  While there they took me across the street to meet another neighbor who lives just across the creek from us but I'd never taken the time to introduce myself to.  I thought she and I would have some things in common because she has goats, dogs and chickens.  We got to know each other a little and I really enjoyed the conversation.  She's lived there a year and a half and I'd never even seen her.  She says she hasn't met many neighbors but that it's her fault because she's not a very social person and she usually stays in her house or back yard.  I'm hoping she'll stop by to visit sometime like she said she will.

When James got back from his run a little while later we went for another walk, this time to visit Kathy since I didn't stop there earlier.  Once again her husband was driving our way but this time he stopped to talk.  He told us their 58 (?) year old neighbor died today.  Someone found him lying in front of his car in his driveway where it appeared he had been for hours.  Had I turned right to visit Kathy this morning on my first walk I probably would have seen him lying there.  He only lived 1/2 a mile from us but I didn't know him, but then neither did Danny and Kathy and their property abuts his and they sold him the house.  It seems really unusual for Danny not to know this person because he knows everyone in the area, it seems. 

I wonder if the dead man knew more of his neighbors would they have looked his way as they drove past his house.  I think I'll continue to meet my neighbors.  Who knows, maybe it could save my life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mixed feelings about hunting season

I've heard lots of gun shots lately so I'm guessing deer hunting season has begun.  Yesterday a friend and I hiked the Devil's Marbleyard and when we reached the base of the trail I realized we forgot orange vests.  We improvised.  Susan found a yellow bag in her van and tied it to her backpack.  I knew the woman who lived across the street from the trail so I asked her if she could loan me something orange to wear.  She found a sweatshirt for me and I tied it around my neck.

Tomorrow James is doing a 22 mile training run with some others who are running the Hellgate 100.  He has his orange vest ready to go.   I'm glad.  I recently read about 2 people whose dogs were shot by hunters.  I don't understand why people shoot without knowing exactly what they're shooting at.    Guns make me nervous but that doesn't mean I dislike hunters. I appreciate the venison our friends give us.  If any of you hunter-friends are reading this and have extra meat I'm sure I can find room in our freezer for some.

Please be careful out there.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cheese cave

Our camera isn't working so I can't show you a picture of my new cheese cave.   Actually it's not a cave.  It's an old bank safe that's in a very small room in our basement.  I put 4 containers of water in the bottom drawer and it brought the humidity up from 55 % to 85%, which is just where I want it to be.  The temperature is around 58, just a little higher than I want it but better than it was on the other shelves I was using.  The cheese will be in the 4 drawers above the one with water.

I put some pine tongue and groove boards in the drawers today to set the cheese on and it sucked the humidity right out of the air.  I'm waiting for the wood to absorb some of the moisture before I put the cheese in.  I hope this works. 

I made some gouda cheese a few days ago and added some Liquid Smoke to it.  I hope it has a nice flavor.  This is the first time I've tried it.   It smells real nice.  Maybe one day I'll get really brave and try smoking it with real hickory smoke.  I've been reading the Cheeseforum.org website and realizing how little I know about cheese making.  It just motivates me to learn more.  I bought another cheese making book this week, hoping it will answer some of the questions I have.  I hope in another year I'll be making cheese with more consistant results.  

PS. I haven't heard a whole lot more (just rumors) about the guy who was shot.  We know him and he's a real nice guy.  He helped us move a piano and also inspired us to build the snow plow this winter. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Helicopter landing

One of our friends called me and asked, "are they setting up for a helicopter landing in your field?"  What?!   I looked out my window and saw 3 emergency vehicles in a triangle in the field.  James continued to work in the garden so I knew he hadn't seen them either.  Minutes earlier we heard lots of sirens but that's not all that unusual so we weren't watching as ambulances rushed down the road in front of our house. 

Sure enough, in a few minutes a helicopter landed in our field near the gate.  Two ambulances met it there and after a few more minutes it flew away.  Some of the firemen met us at the edge of our yard to tell us they had cut the chain on our gate to get in and that someone had been shot.  They seemed reluctant to tell us about the shooting and would offer no more information than that.  I don't know if it was a hunting accident or a violent act.  I'm sure we'll hear by tomorrow. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The big cheese

I'm pretty happy with the way my manchego cheese wheel came out.  I hope it tastes as good as it looks.  The letters in it could be a little sharper but I still think it looks pretty cool.  I wonder what they'll look like as the cheese shrinks and dries out some. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A cool, rainy day at Elk Cliff Farm

I don't think I've ever mentioned Elk Cliff as the name of our farm.  It's named after the small rock cliff above Elk Creek that runs along 2 sides of our property.  I guess there were elk here at one time.  Kind of hard to imagine. 

We had our first fire in the wood stove for the season today.  It feels and smells wonderful.  I'll be tired of it in a few months but for now I'm enjoying it.  Rain is always a good excuse to spend the day in my kitchen.  I had accumulated more than 5 gallons of milk so making cheese was a must today.  My regular cheese press and mold/form doesn't hold that much cheese so I used my newly made mold.  One of our stainless steel stock pots had a pin hole in it so I cut the bottom out of it with a Dremel and a cutting wheel.  It worked great.
I was lucky to find a cake tin that fit perfectly in it to use as a follower (the thing that presses the cheese).  On the last pressing I placed the letters EC, for Elk Cliff, on the bottom so it will be pressed into the cheese.  The letters are those children's plastic ones with magnets in the back so you can put them on your refrigerator.
Luckily the letters E and C can be turned upside down so they'll read correctly in the cheese without me having to find a way to use the magnet side.  I hope it comes out well.   I made Manchego cheese which is soaked in a brine solution made of salt, water and calcium chloride.  I'm considering washing it after a week with grappa, something I was introduced to in Italy.  I thought it might be interesting to start experimenting with different washes to instill different flavors in my cheeses.

I also decided to try making butter again today.  Polly, my Nigerian Dwarf (thank you Mollie), has been giving me a good amount of milk lately for a dwarf.  Her milk probably has more butterfat than my other goats so I decided to keep her milk separate today and use it for butter making.  I put a pint of it in a jar, along with a little cream that stuck to the jars I poured milk out of to make cheese,  and shook it for about 30 minutes.  I got at least 1/4 cup of butter from it.  I'm thinking I might keep a pint of a different goat's milk each day and do the same and see whose milk I get the most butter from. 
I had to make butter today because I was also making bread, the same bread I posted the recipe for a while back, only today I made it a little bit differently.  I followed the same recipe but let it rise in a bread pan.  When I preheated my 6 qt. dutch oven I placed another bread pan inside so I rolled the bread out of one bread pan into another when it came time to bake.  I was hoping for a  more upright loaf-shaped bread this time and it worked.  I really love this bread and will keep experimenting with it. 

As I said in my profile of this blog, most of the things I do is by the seat of my pants.  Today I decided I should start keeping journals of my cheese making so if one turns out really good I can repeat it.  I still don't do that with my wine making.  It's always a surprise. I'm going to try to be more disciplined and organized.  We'll see how this goes.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Farmhouse cheddar cheese taste test

Today Lucas and Ann came over to pick up the cheese we made together a month and a half ago.  Remember how I blogged about how much yellower his cow's cheese was than my goat's?   Farmhouse cheddar only has to age a month so that's why we chose that recipe.  We decided it was time to do a taste test.  We took a slice of each.  You can see the difference in the color in this picture.
They didn't taste anything like each other.  They were both ok but not great, in my opinion.   I like the cheddars that are aged longer.  I'm going to rewax mine and see if I like it any better at a later date.  Tomorrow they're coming over again and we're going to make another cheese from their milk.
There's so much I want to learn about cheese making.  I'm going to call a local cheese maker and see if I can visit them, see their operation and pick their brains.  I had their cheese last week and it was excellent.