Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012 Kid Reservations

Our first priority is placing goat kids into loving situations.  In 2011, we quickly sold all eight of our available kids (mostly wethers) to pet homes.  They were bottle-fed and very literally jumping into visitor's arms.  It was a rewarding experience for me and I continue to assist our customers with knowledge gained from experience, which grows every season here at Capsand Creamery.  We began a verbal reservation list at about this time last year, which is solely intended to make kid placements occur more smoothly and free up time for me in the spring when we are busier.



 

We've seen some big changes on the farm, recently.  Midsummer, we were very fortunate to purchase a new buck named Dragonfly IH Bandito Burrito *S (thank you Niko H.).  He originated from Joanne Karohl's farm in Massachusetts through breeding ARMCH Twin Creeks MB Stellaluna *D 'E with PromisedLand Incredible Hunk *S.  These wonderful animals haven proven themselves in the show ring and pass on genetics for great milk capacity.  We've bred all of our does to Bandito this fall and intend to keep a few select doelings out of him just to see what they are capable of next year.

Our first fresheners turned out to be very productive milkers, owing in part to having ARMCH Rosasharn's Uni 3*D E as a granddam.  We couldn't ask for more from our girls.  Except when you begin making hard cheeses and selling milk shares, there's never enough milk.  So we also added a mature and minature horse-sized purebred American Oberhasli named Wynona.  Despite her incredible size she is very gentle and cooperative.  She will give us registerable mini-Oberhasli F1 generation kids in March, which ideally should be an intermediate size while giving twice as much milk as a Nigerian Dwarf and hopefully retaining the high butterfat and protein levels that they are renowned for.  This is a new venture in exploring a breeding program that favors feed efficiency and milk production in a gentle smaller sized animal.

Finally, the biggest change has been a MOVE into our neighbor's solar-powered post-and-beam horse barn.  For our use, we now have three large stalls, two beautiful pastures, copious woodlands, and an insulated milk room with hot water, a milking machine, and a refrigerator.  More importantly, we have our dear friend, milk customer and compatriot in goat-loving right next door.  It's been a big year!

So if you would like to visit the farm and see what kids will be available in March, we are taking verbal reservations in the order they are received for the breedings posted here.

Please email us at capsandcreamery@gmail.com to ask questions or add your name to the list.
  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sweets for the sweet


We gave sweet potatoes one more try this season after being disappointed with them last year.  From two small shriveled roots, I began my own slips in a sunny window during late winter.  They yielded about five little plants, which I placed in a sandy area side-dressed with compost.  At first, the slips died back from too much sun.  But by then they had already begun to grow roots and once these took hold underground, the leaves returned and the plants flourished.  They were moderately neglected after that.  I weeded once and never watered, but the conditions must have favored them just enough because we had an amazing haul.

From five plants, we harvested 15 lbs of very large sweet potatoes.  We'll be planting these again next year.  I've learned that the growing tips can be used to start new plants and will sprout roots when cut and placed in a glass of water.  We already have about six little plants growing in small pots in a sunny window.  I will continue to propagate these through the winter and expect to begin next spring with an unknown exponential number of little sweet potato starts.  I love that these plants do not need hilling, are disease and pest-free, and then they very nearly pop out of the ground when it's time to harvest.  They store very well, once properly cured, are nutritious and my kids love them.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Do Not Disturb

How can you resist this face?  Glory Days is the energetic, always enthusiastic charmer.  Bandito is older and knows how to take his time with the ladies.  Breeding season is upon us here at Capsand Creamery and I'm learning all about goat psychology.  The does are too hilarious in their pronounced mood swings from rapid flight out of heat to their participation in loving when their hormones turn against them.  They are all quite individualistic and our second year breeders are beginning to divulge their personalities.  I'd feel crude to share anymore details.

It's all great fun for the goats and quite natural, if you consider herd mentality and perpetuation of the species in vivo.  Some of my colleagues are disturbed by the whole process of breeding animals, forcing them to endure a pregnancy and birth, just so we can have milk and cheese.  It's as if they may find a "professional life", doing roadside maintenance or fair displays more rewarding.  I can say, by observation, that goats know how to enjoy life, including the process that brings about new life.  They also mourn their fallen brethren.  We could stand to learn from them, I would imagine, if only someone could speak Goat.  They are teaching me...slowly.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Windfalls

Windfalls come and go but neighbors are (sometimes) forever.  We've collected two foraging forays this season.  Last year, we picked up acorns by the bag-full, shelled and then processed them to make acorn gnocchi all winter long.  This fall we are quickly running out of ground frozen acorn four, and my child is begging for more acorn gnocchi, so I begin looking for "the drop".  I feel that this isn't an oak year (of course, now that we love them) but a BEECH year.  The beech trees are actually producing something in abundance for once.  I remember my husband asking last year, "what about beech nuts, where are they?".  Well this is it...in our area.  Just watch the squirrels in your neighborhood, somehow they know what is good to eat, that year, in your yard.  We have beech nuts everywhere!  So I search the internet on what to do with them, because I'd like to deprive those nuisance squirrels of a meal and make them move to my neighbor's yard.  In reality, we have copious acres for the the wildlife to live and eat so I have no qualms about laying claim to a 20' radius of the house.


Last weekend I spent some time picking up the beech nuts.  My husband said, "don't spend 3 hrs on 'em if you find they aren't any good."  Picking them off the ground, when they are falling like this, is easy...and rewarding considering a squirrel is up top doing the hard work.  I bring them in the house and google them to know what to do next.  There's not too much information on beech nuts out there...probably because they aren't worth the time.  My time's not worth much these days, so I will try.

First, there's the outer shell that is like a bur and opens on it's own, with time.  Then, I've found once you peel out two seed casings (from the bur), that after further opening, some have seeds and some do not.  You can pry all open, if you want, and waste a ton of time.  Many have immature seeds that you cannot harvest.  And it is not predictable, based on appearance alone to differentiate between those seed casings with a seed and those without.  Instead of opening them all, you can put them into a container with water, sift off the floaters, as these will be immature, and only crack open the ones that sink.  This worked with great success, except that some of the "sinkers" will be rotten seeds.  On the whole it saved my quite a bit of effort.  The final seeds are soaking in a jar of water in the fridge to get rid of the tannins after which we will roast and eat them like expensive pine nuts.  If you have beech nuts falling in your yard, be sure to pick up the fresh green ones and process them the same day because they will rot very quickly.


The second windfall came when we walked to the corner food cart for what New Englanders call a maple creamie.  This is "soft-serve" to Midwesterners. with maple syrup added to the mix.....mmmmm.  It's nearly two miles round-trip, so a good walk for my 3-yr old and a nap in the stroller for the baby.  On the way home, I spotted two separate clusters of wild hops climbing up the power lines.  Now, this was no one's yard (in front of a business) nor was it a deliberate planting/harvest scenario since many of the hops were already post-peak and brown, I felt no guilt in my scrambling and giddiness to collect everything within reach and not totally overripe.  I walked home like we had just won the lottery.  This stuff is $4 an ounce at the homebrew store, so we definitely paid for our creamies on this particular outing.  


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Blighted and the Light

Several weekends ago, I spent my Saturday pulling all our tomatoes out and burying them in a giant pile.  Last weekend, I killed, plucked and eviscerated our twenty remaining meat chickens.  Talk about grisly work.  For some reason, ripping the tomato plants out was more difficult a chore, psychologically, than butchering.  I certainly had more in common with the animal than the plant, so this emotion surprised me.  The only explanation I have for my reaction is that I failed the diseased tomatoes and instead of watching them continue to blacken and spread late blight to my neighbors, I felt unwillingly compelled to destroy them thus ending our tomato season.  On the other hand the chickens were healthy, thriving and happy, but their end means our freezer will feed us for another year.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Early Thanks

I'm sure that I'm not alone when I say this is my favorite time of year.  For starters, I begin to mentally let go of the garden and simply appreciate every day that it produces food.  My expectations fall away and the worry fades.  We won't break any production records this year, but it was more than enough.  And if one crop failed then another was there to fill any void.  I've put up enough food to relax and enjoy the satisfaction that comes from eating what is available one day to the next.

The evenings are crisp, leaves threaten to burst into the brilliant reds and oranges that so many travel here to appreciate.  We have a sugar maple just outside our living room bay window that is the bell-ringer every year along with the tall oaks that pound out the shortening days with their acorn percussion.

There's a batch of tomato sauce waiting on the stove top to be milled and canned.  A half bushel of apples is next in line to sauce.  Every morning I pick a quart of fall raspberries with our baby napping on my back.  The goats are, at the same time, at ease that the biting insects have subsided and anxious about the cool mornings as they've begun to come into heat.  The meat chickens are also living one day at a time.  They have grown especially fast this year and will be harvested earlier than planned.

We foraged enough wild grapes to try a first small batch of wine.  Soon our local orchard will begin to press cider, which I buy in 5 gal lots for fermentation into apple wine.  Nothing says autumn like fresh homebrew.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

the short on the new

Well, I'm a little frustrated with Blogger as of late since losing my Eating at Home page, which was my minimal effort contribution to this blog.  There once was a time when "publish" meant forever...blood or ink on paper until the skin or bark deteriorated enough to be just legible.  The internet, however permanent in our lives, is not without it's flaws.  Retrieving a record of months is impossible once a "save as draft" button is pushed, which in the rules means unpublish existing page and go back to the last copy saved.  Go figure and good riddance I say!  I learned from my own writings that we tend to eat the same damn thing repeatedly, which for some reason was not readily apparent to me.  Every night I go through the same two-step of what I should fix, from scratch, for dinner.  And it turns out that I "create" the same meals on a regular basis.  Now there are those few inspirations that I get from reading someone's blog or scouring the internet using a keyword search for whatever I have on the counter that is waiting to rot and I can't think to use, but for the most part it is repetition and ingenuity from experience that matter most.  I've been cooking, experimenting and making mistakes for many years, which in most cases allows me to have an idea and run with it, without a recipe.  From now on, I will be working with what is in season using my basic skills, record or not.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

August Blues




The garden looked really great about a month ago when I took these photos. Since then, it's taken a turn for the worse. I don't know what it is about July that turns a promising group of plants upside-down with nasty bugs and weeds so much so that I don't even like to be out there in August. With our absences the Japanese beetles have eaten holes in everything, grasshoppers are zooming up and flitting out of reach every time I take a step inside the garden, squash bugs have killed the zucchini and pumpkin plants with wilt, and the tomatoes have early blight. The potato and garlic harvests were also really pathetic. I actually think there were more of both, spuds and cloves, when planted than what we collected after a full growing season. To top it off, a raccoon made a meal of what little sweet corn we were able to produce. This summer has been quite humbling.

Despite the pests and disease, we've still had a remarkable amount to eat and share with two families. We've been bartering cheese, eggs and veg for goat hay out of our neighbor's barn and the single CSA we supported last year returned for this season. The share that usually goes to the freezer is lacking, however. We did very well eating frozen vegetables through the winter and consumed nearly everything that we put up last season. Thankfully, pumpkin puree is still in excess, which we will use over the coming months. I took a few hours to organize the chest freezer last week...berries have their own compartment, meat, as well as 2011 veg, which we'll keep separate from older things that need to be consumed now. This doesn't sound like an exciting chore, but finding some long forgotten morsels to make dinner easy is always a bonus. And with the temperature above 80 degrees, who could complain about a freezer dive. On the bright side, without the extra packages of kale and beans taking space we'll have more room for when the meat chickens go over the rainbow.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bloomy-rind Divine




I finally stopped eating one of our recently made bloomy-rind cheeses called St. Maure just long enough to take a picture. We've been making this cheese for awhile now providing ample opportunity to make mistakes, repeat mistakes and finally I feel comfortable with it. When I get it right, the young cheese (two weeks after production) is a little firmer than brie with an excellent clean flavor and no hint of bitterness. At this stage, I feel a little salt really enhances the taste and we devour it on crackers. As it ages wrapped in the fridge, the texture becomes soft until it is runny and it begins to develop an acidic bite that most people shy away from. We sampled one at 8 weeks and despite its pungent smell the taste was still wonderful.

The mistake I've made with this one is letting condensation drip onto the aging cheese from the fridge's upper coil. It's not noticeable at first, always dripping when I'm not looking/thinking, but then I start to notice that the rind is smooth and yellow, instead of furry and white, and it is LOOSE. The cheese becomes gooey between it's body and rind and flipping tends to tear the rind. Despite all of this, the cheese is still yummy but definitely lacking in appearance and more likely to become contaminated. I keep the aging cheese dryer by inverting a plastic tub over it, between the cooling coil and cheese so condensation drips are diverted away. Any moisture originating from the cheese drips/evaporates away from beneath, since the rounds age on a plastic mesh mat supported by a standard plastic coated wire fridge shelf. It sounds way more complicated than it really is. Don't let the smell fool you, this type of cheese is divine and it's only a little more work than chevre.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bachelor Pad


This is the new man in the yard (left). He's older, but from great lines. We will use him this fall for all of our gals, keep any new does (hoping the boy:girl kid ratio will improve in 2012), and then breed kids to our first and younger boy, Glory Days. Bandito is from Dragonfly Farm in MA and is out of Twin Creeks Stella Luna and PromisedLand Incredible Hunk, both productive show animals to say the very least. Bandito is a little shy, quiet and very sweet...just my speed.

At first the boys had to tussle a bit which naturally brought the girls into screaming heat, but have since made good company for each other. Or at least the pee-in-the-face and mounting-each-other activity, notorious for boy goats, has eased somewhat. My daughters will never require the birds and bees talk after all of the gratuitous viewing they will engage in. This is yet another great reason to begin your own mini-farm. Early childhood education has nothing on us.

The boy's house came together in time, despite the circumstances. The walls bow and knock when they are asking to be fed in the morning. I think it may just be enough to hold their strength. The fencing, however, is another failure. I thought the gauge seemed off when I bought it at Lowe's, but otherwise was ecstatic at the price and felt committed after hauling it home, the hatch secured with bungee cord and huffing diesel all the way home. Laughably, they always escape when we are away and our goat-sitter is good enough to "fix" the fence, however temporarily. I'm fortunate they are well-mannered misters and I also know that when they really want to leave it will be short work to ease out of their confinement. Best to replace said fencing prior to breeding season or I will be sorry.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

On loss.


Every farm, however small, suffers losses and recently we have been beset by them. Several weeks ago we lost our favorite doe kid this season, Tripoli. She was gorgeous beyond belief and maybe never suited to this ugly world. After a month of wasting away with diarrhea, she finally passed. I believe now that her dam never fed her those first few days and it took too long for her to show any interest in a bottle. I should have forced a tube down her throat to feed her colostrum after 24hrs, but I mistook her disinterest in eating as a sign that her mother was nursing in private. Combine a first-freshening doe with a freshman mistake in goat husbandry and you get a wasting kid. Despite eating, she never put on weight and took little interest in running and jumping with the others. She was bigger and healthier the day of her birth than any other of her short life.

About one week before Tripoli died, we started losing laying hens to a clever raccoon. One-a-day and with no obvious signs of forced-entry, I began to blame the chickens for cannibalism and a recent change in feed. Even after discovering the thief, we failed to secure the coop against his persistent attacks. With net electric fencing installed, I finally succeeded in trapping the chicken-eater two days ago. I dispatched him and he suffered less than his prey.

Within this short period, we also lost my father to a brain tumor. Where keeping the little farm was once an obstacle to visits with family, it has become a great distraction from the reality of my father's death.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Orchard

We spent Memorial Day weekend mowing the new orchard with our scythe. It has been planted with 4 apples, 2 pear, 2 peach, 3 cherry, 3 plum, 2 apricot trees, 2 currant, and 4 blueberry bushes. This is something we can check off the long-term goal list. My parents gifted us two fruit trees last year for our wedding anniversary. The idea grew on us and it will forever be a place where I think of them.

Trying to keep up with the busy bees.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Spring Crazies

I'm in a frenzy to build a new goat shed by this weekend with rain predicted through Sunday and my husband away on a business trip. To make matters more interesting, the mosquitoes are just beginning to pop. Why do I feel like we've been here before. I have always had trouble heeding my own advice, from experience, of not to take on animals without the building and fencing already prepared, by yourself and with an infant on your back. We repeat our mistakes and failures in vicious cycles...that's my excuse, anyways. I've been ogling goat udders and lineages all week, trying to pick another buck for the two girls we have decided to keep from this season. I do not want them breeding with their "daddy" for obvious reasons, although goats do not suffer from the effects of inbreeding the way humans do. I'd like to improve our herd and the best way to do that is with an outstanding buck.

Our girls are fantastic to begin with, but everyone has a certain weakness and that's what we will try to improve with our new boy. Old Mountain Farm Ostara has great milking capacity with plump, easy-to-milk teats like her dam Anna Jarvis. Her udder attachment and length of lactation could be improved upon. Her daughters are incredibly productive milkers in their first season, so I can't wait to see what they will give after their second freshening. Our other doe line is great for completely different reasons. Trillium, like her dam, is a light milker with a deer-like physique and a calm, quiet and soothing disposition. She's passed her beauty and temperament reliably to her doe. I'm hoping that, like her dam, Trillium will also have a longer lactation than our other girls. So, I've been weighing my options and trying to decide between a buck with a champion milking dam and gentle personality or a more attractive buck whose dam has great udder attachment and is extremely vocal. I'm going with the quiet guy...we have neighbors. It also makes me think that personality is equally important in breeding, especially when selling to a pet market.

Back to building in the rain. I have two days left.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Morel Luck!


We were out in the woods again, spending a fantastic mosquito-free 70-degree day, to remove downed trees from our trails. It appears, the old aspen/poplar trees that filled our lot after the logging days have reached their mature age and are dropping quite regularly. This means we will soon have a stellar view of the river to the north, but the number of falling trees is a bit scary and has to be dealt with in some way. Novice chainsaw homeowners have arrived! My husband and I tag-teamed the kiddos and trees, with him stepping aside so I could wield the saw on Mother's Day. The gas fumes got to me after a bit and I yielded power. Having spent a few hours Saturday burning a huge pile of tree brush (our neighbors love us!), I didn't need my head swimming any more from asphyxiation. Just as I was finishing up, my 3 yr old was ambling down our long trail to bring me water when she spotted and picked our very first morel very much by accident.

I've spent the last two days of down time looking for more mushrooms, but have not had any luck. Wandering aimlessly about the woods with my eyes tired from focusing intently on the camouflage of leaves, I've a renewed appreciation for the efforts our forebears made to domesticate crops. Foraging for food would make for a difficult existence, indeed. This little treasure was sliced thin, fried in butter and divided three ways. Delicious and memorable!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Adieu!

videoOur first boys are leaving the farm for their new home this afternoon! Best of luck for many happy adventures to come. You'll be missed.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Goat Update

"Contrary" is thriving and more aggressive than her brothers at feeding time. She's just the right size to roost in the hanging feeder. Enjoy it while it lasts, little one!
The little kids are at a very fun age and putting weight on quickly. The older kids are beginning to be weaned off the bottle, as they are happy to gorge on grain and hay. They are plumping up and have been out to exercise in their yard nearly every day for a week, since the snow has finally melted. It's fun to watch their personalities develop and see them become more like mama goat. Inherited traits seem to overpower everything environmental at this point.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Garden Update



The weather has finally given us a beautiful weekend to work in the garden. Our snow is still melting in some areas, but now we have a decent area to play with. We planted two types of carrots, Nelson and Bolero, in a bed that we had just spread with our overwintered red wigglers and their casings. I've read that this is the best food for carrots and last year our harvest was improved by the vermicompost. The overall worm population in the garden is really remarkable. They've broken down all of last year's goat hay mulch into a rich substance I am tempted to call soil. However, they have also done some damage to our vegetables, so I made an effort to run the chickens over some older beds prior to planting.

Adjacent to the carrots, we planted two types of parsnip, Javelin and Lancer (OP), along with some burdock and radishes. I first read about burdock on a blog called "Living the Frugal Life" and I'm anxious to see if this root vegetable, similar to parsnip, will give us another spring dug treat to rely on during these starving months preceding the summer's bounty. The sandy nature of our soil should make it easy to store more root vegetables outside instead of limiting ourselves by what the refrigerator crisper can hold. The overwintered parsnips that we dug last week were gorgeous and a welcome addition to our meaty dinners.

Sugar snap and Oregon Giant snow peas went in just behind the carrots. I have a bad habit of not leaving enough space between rows because I'm always worried we'll run out of room for everything planned. This is going to catch up with me this summer when I need to weed the carrots. Whoops!

It took most of the weekend to transplant our starts of broccoli, red cabbage, kale, and chard. Immediately after planting, we installed row covers as a defense against cabbage moths. I also put in three varieties of edamame and some purple bush beans. It's much too early here for beans, but we're trying fava beans, which are very cold hardy, for the first time this year and I foolishly grouped all the "beans" together. Hopefully they will germinate before rotting in the cool wet soil.

Some blue potatoes went in a very sandy spot behind the asparagus and next to the compost pile, so I can top dress easily throughout the season. These originally came from the grocery as baby roasting potatoes, a few years back. Last year, the uneaten spuds began to sprout and I dug them in just to see what would happen. We were impressed with the yield and vigor of the plants. With such a small space to garden, it's impossible to grow all our own potatoes and I'd rather plant something with a more efficient output, but at the end of the season fresh potatoes are delicious and fun to dig. In some ways, it just wouldn't be a garden without a potato row.

This weekend among the quiet but familiar beds and sprouting raspberry canes, with so much gardening and backyard farming ahead of us, I actually began to wonder where the winter had gone so quickly. Such a break gives us a fresh and hopeful start to an improved season of eating.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring has sprung...without us.


Yesterday was mid-50s, sunny and a spring teaser considering today's snow. We're already a week behind our gardening schedule from 2010. Last year our cold-hardy transplants of kale, cabbage, broccoli, and chard were already outside and the bed preparation and seed sowing of carrots, parsnips, turnips, radishs, and peas was completed. This year snow is still covering 90% of the garden. Instead of getting impatient about it, we took advantage of the beautiful day and remaining snow by chopping down a beech tree that shades the back of our woodland garden. It's one I've been cursing for several years because in the spring we have full sun and easily forget what a menace this tree is once it has leafed out. By that point in time, the garlic is sprouting up, beds are planted and the tree cannot be felled without undoing the effort we've already invested in the garden.


So quite spontaneously and without too much prodding, my husband set out to the daunting task of dropping a large tree while sparing the house, chicken coop and goat shed. He's getting better with his aim, which increases with accuracy if I hedge my bet against him. Last year, in one afternoon, he nearly crushed our meat chickens a week from harvest and then narrowly missed our living room bay window with a second tree. Practice makes perfect fuel for the woodstove next winter.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Gouda makes everything Good


I waxed our first wheel of raw goat's milk farmstead Gouda yesterday. It's a little lopsided from uneven pressing and the dribbly white wax went on a bit thick. I would take a picture but it looks just like a waxed wheel of cheese (Ostara's udder is more impressive and not lopsided). Tuesday morning at 5am, my husband and I awoke to a loud crash. Still half asleep, our responses to the noise were alarm that either someone was breaking into the house or the mice in the ceiling were getting too healthy. The gym weight that was teetering on top of my Kadova mould slid off and onto the floor. There is always room for improvement. Despite it's ragged appearance, in 60 days, after it has matured in flavor, we will cut into this first cheese and appreciate the taste as well as the effort involved in producing such a beautiful thing.


This type of cheese can age for years, if it's done properly. I'm eager to have another option on hand besides freezer chevre. We consume large amounts of Cabot cheddar, which we're hoping to replace with this homemade hard cheese. I'm also very impressed by the yield. From 2.5 gallons of Nigerian milk, we now have a ~3.5 lb round of Gouda. Our next investment will be a kitchen scale, so I can brag more accurately.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Random pics from this week!

We have Amazon blue-eyed doe (back), who is so young she hasn't learned to bottle feed paired with mini-me (front), the kick-ass little lady who is inspiring me with her strength. I can't believe the size difference, which is so hard to capture with a camera. I could spend all day out there with them, but I have my own kids who need attention.



We've made our first batch of cheese! It's a white mold-ripened aged (3 weeks) cheese, comparable to camembert, called St-Maure. It's ready to go in our cheese cave, ie. dorm fridge with daily flipping for three weeks. Then I'll wrap it in some special paper and keep it in the fridge until sampling day. I'm not a patient person, so this will test my resolve not to eat it immediately.


Milking four does twice a day is taking up all my free time, but they are the best ladies I could ask for. No bad behavior on the stand to report from the first fresheners...there's just one that needs help to get on the milking stand, then she's like a statue to be milked. I'm so glad it is Friday!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Finally!













Conrad

Constance was a little behind our schedule, but knew what she was doing Sunday afternoon when she delivered two bucks and a very little doe unassisted. We have Conrad, Copper and Contrary.








Copper



















Contrary




As if that wasn't fun enough, Trillium had a blue-eyed tricolor doe in the middle of the following night. She's as big as the older kids, beautiful and very strong-willed. She will also be retained. We've named her Tripoli.





Friday, March 18, 2011

Stow Away


I love my car. Before finishing my doctoral degree, I purchased a new manual gear silver Volkswagon Turbodiesel Gulf. I drove it right off the dealer lot fully aware of the immediate depreciation and still completely ecstatic with my first major purchase. It goes further than 50 miles on one gallon of diesel. What's not to love about that? My rationale was that the debt I assumed would push me whole-heartedly into the next phase of my career. Ahem. It is paid off now, but the lien was longer lived than my postdoctoral position. It is a wonderful car that I plan to drive for at least another decade or three. Of course, if I didn't intend to keep my car forever then I might take better care of it. The back seats lay flat and the hatchback allows me to move just about anything. I've hauled garbage to the landfill, furniture, lumber, roofing, fencing, goats for breeding, live sheep to slaughter, hay and grain. Beyond that my toddler does the most amount of damage to the interior. There is a persistent six inch layer of toys, empty food wrappers, crafts from storytime at the library, and other miscelaneous kiddy crap.


So, today before heading out to the pediatrician's office for a baby checkup, we discovered that a mouse has been living in my beloved car. My daughter began to climb into her seat until she noticed that the padding had been chewed in a most identifiable way. Apparently, her car seat was full of tasty crumbs and Mr. Mouse had relieved himself quite severely and frequently all over it. Upon closer observation, he had done this throughout my entire car, discovering empty donut bags at regular intervals. For a phase of my toddler's development a bakery donut bribe was the only way I could do the grocery shopping without losing my mind. So after my daughter's immunizations, I enjoyed a beautiful day of sunshine and 60 degree weather by cleaning my car and setting a mouse trap baited with peanut butter within its trunk.


I suspect this stow away caught his ride on the recyclables that I drove to the landfill last Saturday, giving him a week to do his damage unoticed. We really should get out more!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Before 7am

I rowed on the crew team for one semester of college. "Rowed" as in row, row, row your boat...not on a bicycle, which is what may first come to mind. Out of a boat of 8 rowers, I was the 7th best. This was fun, not because I excelled at it but, because it was an organized form of self-punishment and I love to beat myself up. Who doesn't, really? We would get up at 4:30am for training, which involved various forms of torture including, but not limited to, jogging 5 miles to the lake for time "on the water", running stairs in a 10 story building, or rowing 50,000 meters on an ergometer. After practice, at 7:30am, I attended an organic chemistry lecture with another one hundred students. Our lecture hall had a balcony, that I would slip into on days when I was late. I remember struggling not to sleep through class. The best part of being on the crew team for me was not the physical fitness nor the camaraderie. It was the self-granted smugness that I carried around campus. My confidence benefitted the most. I now had an excuse to roll into class covered in cooled sweat, stinking and dirty in whatever I had worn to practice that morning. Any second glance from someone not impressed with my disposition got a look from me that said, "I accomplished more before 4am than you've done all day." This was actually a crew motto. In retrospect, it was a terrible assumption to make but one that motivated the physical punishment we endured, none-the-less.

Today feels like one of those days. I awoke several times in the night to check on a pregnant doe, so getting up at 5:30am to feed the kids their bottles, milk two goats, and feed/water everyone else was not a problem. There is no reason to do this so early except that I feel better knowing my children are still asleep when I'm outside for very long. My 3-yr old surprised me by getting up 6am. This means trouble later when she's tired, cranky and unwilling to take a nap. So after chores, I filtered the milk and cleaned the bottles and pail. Then I started boiling the sap my husband collected last night and made granola with my daughter for our breakfast. Checked on the baby, changed a yucky diaper and nursed her. This was all before 7am, which was when I used to get out of bed. So I'm sitting here in my grubbiness, self-confidence soaring despite my isolation, waiting for that goat to get on with the birthing at hand so that I can take a shower.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

New kiddos!


Ostara gave us a doe and buck at about noon today. They were still a bit damp and wobbly here, a few hours following their birth. This is the little girl, we have yet to name.

And this is her very BIG brother. He has already outsized Cordial's boys who arrived five days ago.

A kiss from Mom...

















Sunday, March 6, 2011

Boy Crazy!

Cordial easily delivered three strapping bucks yesterday. She had them at about noon exactly on her due date during a brief warm spell of 50 degree F temps. What a great doe! She's been an excellent mother, being very attentive to her babies and willing to share them with us.

Here they are in their birth order. We've tentatively named the first born and by far the biggest of three, Charlie. This guy was butting at my hand at less than a day old.
The second boy, is Chester. He looks alot like his big brother, but with lighter coloring on his head and shoulders. He's very sweet.
The smallest brother is even lighter in color and has a beautiful star of white on his head. We've named him Chance.




Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tap, tap, tap

After three years of deliberation, we've finally put in our first maple taps. It was a family affair with the baby in a front carrier and the three-year old eating snow. My husband and I did a dance around who would use the battery-powered drill. It was a freebie from my folks, so technically it's mine and I've used it more than him since most of the buildings were my projects. However, after two days of charging, the battery will last for about 10 min. So I didn't want to be holding it when the drill wound down to a low squeal of exaust. I'd rather it petered out in his hand because, frankly, I would have pitched it in the snow in frustration and we wouldn't see it again until late May. Neither of us wanted to do it wrong and be blamed later for our failings. We did our usual thing and shared responsibility. I did the first tree and he got to finish up with the last two. This way, I could blaze the path to my liking and not be holding the drill when it died, and he could follow example thus escaping blame. We've always spit things right down the middle. Every relationship has it's own comfortable nuances.

I marked the sizable maples in our back lot two years ago, in the fall when the leaves were blazing red. Last year, I collected plastic jugs from our apple cider purchases and looked into getting a large stainless steel kitchen pan for the evaporation step. We haven't yet found a pan for boiling outdoors. But I figure that we probably steam off a gallon of water a day on the woodstove and it's still dry indoors, so why not put sap in the pot. It never boils, but there's definitely evaporation going on. It's worth a try. With only three taps we have the potential to get three quarts of syrup at the end of 6 weeks, which in our area costs about $30. Daily collections in knee deep snow is great exercise. So I should be in excellent shape after six weeks AND have three lovely quarts of the "liquid gold" for FREE. In all seriousness, life really doesn't get much better.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New cheesemaking equipment



I really can't say enough about Glengarry Cheesemaking Supply out of Quebec. They have the BEST offerings in terms of moulds, rennet and cultures. Margaret Morris' book, the CheeseMaker's Manual, is now in my library and is fast becoming my favorite book of all-time. We lived in Massachusetts for several years and I attented a cheesemaking workshop by Ricki Carroll of New England Cheesemaking Supply in Ashfield, MA. I have her book, too...as part of the class. I reference it for pastuerization temps, yogurt guidelines and have relied heavily on it up to this point. It's great for the 1 gallon parties, while Morris is for the 3-5 gallon group. The irony here is that Morris' book was less expensive through Ricki's company.

In my opinion, they are in two different worlds, with separate audiences. Ricki is for novices and mozzarrella kit gifts, while Morris offers an economical source for more experienced cheesemakers. While I respect both audiences, I feel like making a batch of cheese should not require it's own sealed package of starter, which is what Ricki offers. This would result in more predictable batches from one day to another, but is not feasible when you make cheese as often as we do. One mesothermophilic bacteria culture from Glengarry has lasted for more than a year and variability is only as big as you make it by imperfect measuring. Personally, Ricki is eccentric and I believe she learned very quickly how much more profitable it was to sell reagents and information than it was to actually make cheese for sale. I remember chatting with her about my profession. It was more of a go-around-the-room and say what you do chat. She was immediately put off by my declaration of being a biochemist. I think it offended her somehow on a very personal level, as though it was counter to whatever it is she subscribes to. On the other hand, I've never met Morris.

All I can say is that I feel like we have graduated from the Ricki department into the Morris club. We purchased more moulds, mesotherm bacteria, and penicillium/geotricum bacteria, for mold-ripened cheeses. The top picture is our 1.5-2 kg Kordova mould, which is for pressing hard cheeses. It has its own mesh lining, so wrapping the cheese with cheesecloth is unnecessary. Cleaning should be a snap and the cheese won't be wrinkled by the cloth. I think it will also make pressing without an actual cheese press much easier. I'll just throw a board and weight on top of the Kordova lid. The bottom picture is of round bottom moulds for chevre, on the left, and camembert, on the right. We also ordered a plastic mesh draining mat for aging the mold-ripened cheeses. I feel like we're getting ahead of ourselves here, but then kidding is just around the corner.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Inexpensive Improvements

Some of my earliest memories are of walking the grounds at public estate auctions and begging my parents for a hot dog from the vendor wagon. Mom and Dad have an appreciation for antiques, although I think their unwaverable thrift was what beckoned them to these events. They filled our childhood home with beautiful old furniture that, as my mom would say, told loving stories of other people in different times. I attented my last auction right before leaving for college. My mother let me bid on a $20 curved leather-inlaid coffee table that I have since carted up innumerable stairs to dorm rooms and later into apartments. It has suffered scratches and dings over the years, but looks graceful in the living room of our home aside some of my parent's favorite antiques.


My best garage sale find was a $2 Hamilton Beach coffee maker that I bought more than 15 years ago and we use to this day. Since discovering Craigslist four years ago, we have made a very deliberate effort to reuse items people don't want or need before buying them new. I recently found my favorite pair of jeans at a consignment store for $4. The front button was missing, but this just gave me an excuse to wear a belt. Great finds are easy to come by when you live near a college town. Students rarely have the time or inclination to barter when they are moving, both literally and metaphorically through a turbulant period in their lives. I've also found great recycled building materials for our goat shed at a downtown shop devoted to reselling deconstruction salvage (two wood frame windows for $5). This hasn't always been convenient, but overall it has been a good experience dealing with sellers in our area. We have bought furniture, baby items and, most recently, a few things for our farm.





Several years ago, we assembled a seed-starting rack from used components. I bought each 6' stainless steel rack, with four shelves, for $25 from a local catholic church. The shelving had previously been used by nuns for storing their canned preserves. They only needed to be cleaned. We use one for books and two others for tools in the garage. The fluorescent light fixtures and bulbs are in rough shape, but they were free from my farm internship.




About two weeks ago, I found a very old and still functioning dorm refridgerator for $40. It will make an excellent cheese aging cave. This was so much more exciting for me than it really should have been. My guess is that it works better and lasts longer than anything I could have bought new.