Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spilled mozzarella

Hmmm, I thought my mozzarella cheese was good.  I may have to rethink this.  Today a woman and her 4 children came over to see my goats and then I showed the mother how I make mozzarella cheese.  She gave her children a taste and one cute little blonde ate hers and promptly threw up.  Seriously, I didn't think it was all that bad.  The mother assured me she just gagged on it.  This made my dogs very happy, if you know what I mean.  Sorry, did that make you gag?

I'm finding other ways to use my milk besides the obvious ice cream, cheese and yogurt.  This week I made cajeta (pronounced caheeta).  It's a Mexican confection that can be served over ice cream, cheese cakes, apple slices, or whatever you like.  It's kind of like a caramel syrup, traditionally made from goat's milk. It took me 3 hours to cook 3 quarts of milk, along with sugar, cornstarch and baking soda, down to this much syrup.  I was afraid I'd burn it so I kept the heat lower than it probably needed to be.  I had read it should take at least an hour and a half.
Some friends of ours invited us to pick sweet cherries from their trees a few days ago before the birds got them.  Free fruit?  Yeah, James would never say no to that.  Surprisingly (and very generously, I might add), he offered the majority of them to me to make wine from so I made a gallon. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Adding rabbits to our menagerie

Yesterday I drove more than an hour to get these guys.  Here's a blurry picture of Clark.  I'm sure you'll see more pictures of him in the future.
And this is Vivian and her 2 kits.  I don't know their genders yet.
Cute aren't they?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Copper Killing Cone and a Rivet Tool

Last year when we harvested our turkeys I made a killing cone out of some lightweight flashing.  It barely held up through 6 turkeys but it got the job done.  Yesterday I finally made a chicken-sized one since my friend has been giving me roosters every now and then. 

This time I used leftover copper from when we had our roof done.  I've used this copper for all kinds of things and will be disappointed when it's gone.  A friend loaned me his riveting tool to hold the cone together.  I'd never used one and was going to buy one because I thought it would be cheaper than ordering a killing cone online and paying shipping.  What a neat tool.  It was so simple to use and really handy.  I'm trying to think of what else I'd use it for if I bought one. 

I cut out a piece of paper in the shape and size I wanted my cone to be to use as a template.  I got the dimensions from someone else's blog.  It took me no more than 30 minutes to make the cone.  It still has rough edges but if a chicken fits in I think I'm going to be really happy with it.  No more hanging roosters by their feet with a bungie cord.  Thanks, John, for being so generous with your tools.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wine Making

After yesterday's strawberry wine post I had 2 people ask me how I make my wine so I thought I'd tell everyone.  First I talked to some old-timers around here who made wine (and other spirits) for years.  They were around 80 years old. 

"Let's see - get your fruit, sugar and water and put it in a bucket."

"How much fruit?"  I asked.

"Oh, enough to fill a pot, ah reckon".

"How much sugar?"

"I expect right much".

"How long do I let it sit?"

"Mmmmm, well, can't really say.  What do you think mama?" he looks to his wife.  She smiles and shrugs.

You get the picture.  I didn't learn how to make wine from them but they had some really great stories to tell.

What I did do is order a beginner's wine making kit from Midwest Supplies  http://www.midwestsupplies.com/starter-winemaking-equipment-kit-with-double-lever-corker-upgrade.html   along with the add-on kit.  I don't think it cost more than $140.00.  That includes the glass carboy, 5 gallon bucket, corker, corks, additives, cleaners, bottle brush, air lock, mesh bag for fruit, hydrometer, syphon, bottle filler and a nifty recipe handbook, which is where I get all my recipes from.  There are recipes in there you'd never dream of.  All but the additives and corks will last you a lifetime.  I don't use any of their wine concentrate kits, just our own fruit.  They also sell beer making supplies which might be kind of fun to try too. 

Since then I've bought more carboys and buckets so I can make more at one time.  If I gave you the recipe it wouldn't mean much until you tried it yourself.  Making your own wine is dirt cheap too.  Save your bottles or ask friends to save them for you.  If you order your kit now you can have it all ready to go before the blackberries are ripe.  It might be a little late for your strawberries though unless you buy them from somewhere that has an extended season.  Ours are just finishing up. 

Here are a few recipes from the handbook that you may never have had:
Green tomato wine
Rose Hip
Raisin "sherry"
Banana Spice
Firethorn (Pyracantha)
Prickly Pear

They also have recipes for meads
Apple cider
Rum Pot

 Let me know if you try making wine and what unusual ones you try.  Also, if you know an old-timer that can tell you measurements and directions please share them with me. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Strawberry Wine

I've been making wine for 4 years now and every year I try to make a new kind.  Each year I make wine berry wine from berries James picks back in the Jefferson National Forest behind our cabin.  I think the second year I added a blackberry wine, then paw paw.  Last year I tried my hand at beet wine and yes, it was very good - and gone, I might add.  Yesterday and today James picked 17 lbs of strawberries so I can make 5 gallons of strawberry wine.  I'm kind of surprised I haven't tried it before because he grows strawberries every year.  Maybe he was just too tired of freezing them or making them into jam.  He isn't much of a wine drinker so you might appreciate how generous it is that he grows and picks the fruit so I can make wine.  He even removed most of the stems for me.  I think it's going to be good.  I'm definitely going to make beet wine again this year.   If our orchard produces well maybe I'll make some peach or apple wine.  I did attempt pear one year and it was probably my least favorite.  At least I only made one gallon of it.

On a more sobering note.  Today I had to put down our rooster.  Remember he was attacked along with 5 hens a week ago.  I've been keeping him in his coop till he recovered.  He had begun crowing again a few days ago and seemed interested in going outdoors so this morning I opened the door for him.  He stood proud in the doorway, flapped his wings and then did a somersault onto the ground.  He quickly recovered.  I had decided today that I was going to name him Stevie after Stevie Wonder because he swayed back and forth like him.  He pretty much stayed in one spot but I saw him nibbling on some oats I threw on the ground for him.

I had errands to run today and was gone for several hours.  When I got home I saw Stevie standing close to the same spot I left him.  I got a camera so I could video him for my blog tonight and announce his name.  I was sickened to find him missing all the feathers on the top of his head, his eyes damaged and flies flying around his face.  He still stood and swayed.  I'm pretty sure The Imposter (our newer rooster) attacked him.  I was sad and wished I had kept him in the coop but I kind of had a feeling he wasn't ever going to fully recover. 

I cried just a little bit as I buried him and pondered why I tried nursing this rooster back to health and felt sad about losing him when just Saturday I butchered 4 others to put in our freezer. 

I said goodbye to Stevie, told him he had been a good rooster, washed my hands and poured myself a glass of store bought wine. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Happenings at Elk Cliff Farm

It seems like so much has been going on here lately.  I have an hour to kill while I wait on my curds to set for gouda cheese so this might be a good time.  We're getting lots of milk now so I'm making cheese just about every other day. 

May 8th was Holes In My Jeans' second anniversary.  I can't believe I've been able to stick with it for so long.  I've never been much of a journaler so I'm feeling pretty proud of myself.  I usually write in my journal when we take vacations so I can go back later and remember what we did, where we stayed and who we met.  When we get home I stop writing. I'll see if I can do this another year.

I've sent 5 of my goats to new homes and 4 more leave this weekend.  I cry when each one leaves even though I'm glad for them to find new families.  I've learned that 5 or 6 milkers is my ideal number to keep.  Anymore and it takes longer than I really want to spend each morning and night.  I'm also finding it easier to say goodbye to the babies.  My barn just isn't big enough for the 15 babies and 7 moms I had this kidding season.  James is so kind to clean out the poop every morning while I feed and milk.  It's a real mess in there since the moms want to sleep nearby their babies who are locked up for the night.  Hopefully when the kids are gone the barn will have a chance to dry out.

Two nights ago we had a chicken massacre.  Something carried off one hen and left 3 more dead in their coop.  The rooster is still alive but looks like he's had a stroke.  He carries his head to the side and is staying in a different (hopefully safe) coop.  I don't know if he's eating or drinking but he seems to be hanging in there.  So now we only have 3 layers and 13 one month old chicks.  We also lost 6 five week old chickens 3 weeks ago that I had hatched.  They were locked up in a shed and something squeezed through an inch and a half crack and ate all 6.  I'm pretty sure it's a weasel doing all this damage because my neighbor saw a weasel kill her chickens.  I will be building another coop this next week.  If the rooster survives this I may just have to give him a name.  I've held and petted him and he doesn't seem to mind.

This morning James took Darla in for surgery.  Darla is the little girl I blogged about awhile back who had the abscess on her neck and we had in the house for 2 weeks.  She has been having fun with the other kids and acting normal in every way except for the abscess that kept returning, so the vet removed the lymph node with the abscess.  She told me this was very risky and asked that I not hold it against her if Darla didn't survive.  Of course I said I wouldn't.  She's already done so much for us.   I felt like we needed to give Darla one more chance since she's such a sweet girl.  I just returned from picking her up.  She did very well and is recovering in a crate in the barn.  I thought of bringing her in the house but decided she'd be happier being able to watch her playmates and mom.  I hope so badly she recovers and this is the last we'll see of the abscess. 

Along with spring comes visitors.  It's beautiful in the Shenandoah Valley this time of year.  We've had lots of rain so everything is really lush and green.  My friend, Judy, was here last week, followed by some of my family.  I love that we live somewhere my family and friends want to spend their vacations.  James is down by the river now showing a friend of ours the space she is planning to have a youth bike tour stay.  They will be here to begin their trip and end it with about 4 days on either end.  It sounds like a pretty big set up with port-a-johns, picnic tables and a kitchen area.  In between those 2 weekends we'll be having another group of 25 to 30 staying here - a mission team from my parent's church.

Yesterday a women's health class from Washington and Lee University came here for a field trip.  They milked the goats, I gave them a tour of the garden and talked a little about what we do here on our little homestead.

They picked strawberries, lettuce, peas and asparagus.  It was fun listening and watching them as some of them did these things for the first time in their lives.  I remember the first time I saw asparagus growing and thought it was pretty cool too.

Afterwards we went back to their teacher's house and made mozzarella cheese.  Again, they were pretty fascinated with how milk turned into cheese so quickly. They ate a pound of cheese in about 10 minutes. 
It's busy and sometimes frustrating or sad but we're having fun.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pees in the garden

I read an article today about how mixing urine with wood ash is a great fertilizer for your tomatoes, in fact you can expect your yield to be 4 times greater.  This seems to me to be the ultimate eco-friendly fertilizer.  We burn a lot of wood and, well, sometimes you just can't make it into the house in time to reach the bathroom.  We've read before that peeing around your garden may dissuade animals from eating your vegetables so this may serve 3 purposes - fertilizer, repellant and an excuse to pee outdoors.  Apparently it works just as well on corn, cabbage, cucumbers and other crops (it did not mention peas).  In case you're concerned about getting ill from this fertilizer the article also said this:

The university study, published in this month's Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, found using nitrogen-rich urine does not carry any risk of disease.
When combined with wood ash is perfect to provide minerals and reduce the acidity of soil.
Report author Surenda Pradhen said the findings could lead to a new source of cheap fertiliser without the need to use potentially dangerous chemicals.

I'll let you know if James gives this a try and what his results are if he does.  Now if someone could tell me of an eco-friendly weed killer that won't also kill desirable plants that would be awesome.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Poor Lex

Lex would probably be so embarrassed to know I'm putting his picture on here looking like this but I know you'll all be kind.  I have no idea what he got into.  Today his face has returned to its normal size. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chip off the old block

James and I are collectors - treasure hunters - gleaners.  Ok, we pick up stuff on the sides of the road.  C'mon, admit it, you do it too, right?  James is much worse than I.  I bet he's accumulated at least 10 ball caps he's found while running.  He also finds tools, bungy cords, toys and even some things he doesn't recognize but brings home anyway (???).  If anyone needs a gas cap just go for a run near a gas station.  James says for at least 100 yards past a gas station you will find many of them along the road. That's how we got our last one.  I wonder if another runner has picked up one of ours. 

We don't have curbside trash pick up.  We take our stuff to the dumpster.  Sometimes there are great finds left outside the dumpster for others to take home.  Lumber is one of my favorite finds.  Sure, we may have to pull nails out but you never know when you're going to need a scrap of plywood or a 5 foot long 2x4.  Since our son grew up watching us be trash pickers this has rubbed off on him.  He's been known to call me and say, "hey, there's a ____________ at the dumpster.  Do you want it?" 

By now I know my mother and father are probably shaking their heads in shame.  "Where did we go wrong?  At least we have two other respectable daughters". 

Last week Adam was out driving some back country roads and found something on the side of the road that spoke to him.  Yes, it's true, some things just call out to you to be picked up.  His friend backed the truck up and Adam somehow got this beast of a find into the bed.  I'm pretty sure he had no idea what he was going to do with it at first, but he told me later that he thought, oh, Mother's Day is coming up.  I'll give it to Mom.  Before I saw my gift James told me it's a gift no other mother will be receiving.  I think he was right.
Now I need to come up with an idea how to use it.  It's a beautiful piece of wood. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Electric goat fence

UPS delivered my Premier 1 electro netting 2 days ago.  I was pretty excited to put it to use.  I told you earlier I'd been letting the goats and donkeys loose in the yard so they would have access to more lush green grass than what is in their pasture.  The only problem with that was I had to stay with them to be sure they didn't eat our fruit trees and flowers, which they tried to do many times.  It was getting harder and harder to keep all 22 of them where I could keep an eye on them. 

Yesterday I experimented with the fence.  I enclosed the piece of our yard closest to their permanent fence.  I was a bit nervous watching them get closer and closer to the netting.  I've had a fear of electric fences since I was a kid and got stuck to one at a neighbor's horse farm.  My sister had to pull me off the fence and felt the charge through me.  I remember that so clearly.  Of course the voltage on this fencing isn't near what I touched as a child.  Still, it was hard watching the goats (especially the kids) touch their noses to it and run away screaming.  Our dog, Lex, was the worst.  He screamed like someone put a taser to him. 

 It's been kind of hard to watch but it seems like everyone is catching on.   Ummm, except for Shiloh, my big, sweet doofus, Shiloh.
I bet he's touched it 10 to 15 times.  I'm beginning to wonder if he likes it.  Each time he touches it he takes off in a run and kicks his back legs up in the air.  It's not long before he has his nose to it again. Silly boy.

The chickens, however, seem to have caught on very quickly.  I haven't seen one of them touch it yet.  Maybe they sense the electric without touching it. 

I wonder how long it will take this big doofus to forget and touch it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Swimming in milk

This is milk from just 2 days and I'm still not milking 5 of the girls at night yet.  I have to make cheese just about every other day.  I can't complain my girls aren't producing this year.