Friday, October 28, 2011

Another Quiet Week

It's been just another quiet week here on the farm. Just the simple, aimless ramblings typical of rural life. I've been working on out smarting Daisy calf, something one would think an easy task considering she's just a cow. yah, right. A baby cow with nothing but time on her hooves to figure out how to get into her Mommas pen to suck milk. Anybody who says "stupid cow" is simply frustrated because they've been outsmarted. I did manage to get a half gallon of milk last night, Goober cow did not let all her milk down in anticipation of me being outsmarted again. So, it looks like my newly found success with the Jersey cow milk will have to wait for a Saturday or Sunday batch of cheese.

Speaking of success, the wheel of caraway cheddar came out great. All I did was reduce the cook temperature by a couple of degrees and the result was a moister wheel of cheese instead of the rock hard, dry cheese I was producing. I'm thinking it has something to do with how rich the milk is.

So, this week I started a jar to capture some wild yeast so I could take pictures of it. It didn't work out so well. It happens tho. Wild yeast is all around us in the air. I have found it to be a weather and time of year challenge here. Sometimes it works out great and sometimes not. I also find I have more success if I have been baking bread all week. The yeast I capture is readily available from what I've been baking. So, basically, here's how you capture wild yeast. You need a decently sized bowl (not metal) or a large jar ( I use a glass, 1/2 gallon canning jar) and mix 1 1/2 cups of warm water ( I let my water sit for a day to release the chlorine) and mix it with 2 cups of flour. You'll need to cover this mix with a cloth of some kind to keep the no see-ums out of it ( I use butter muslin and a canning jar ring). You will also need fresh air. This does not work if all the windows are closed up, the yeast is outside. The mix needs to sit 3 or 4 days and if you have bubbles on the surface, you captured yeast! If not, dump it and try again.

I have a few old wives tale tricks I use to attract wild yeast but I can't be sure they actually do anything at all so I have omitted those for now. Once I verify they actually do something for the yeast and not just my own mind, I'll add them in. I will also add instructions on how to make those old fashioned live yeast cakes I remember my Mother and Grandmother using when I was young in the next post....

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Expo and farm stuff

I took a drive this morning down to the annual sustainable living expo and walked around, looked, talked to a few people and I promised a nice lady I would post here on the blog about making rennet from thistle and how to make your own yeast for baking bread.

Right now, I need to take my son to town for parts for his truck so hang in there, I'll be back to write up a storm soon!

Whew! What a long day! I made my son happy as a clam, he hasn't quit smiling yet.Here's why... I've got a purple flare side Ford pickup truck. i got it from my Dad a few years ago. The "Barney mobile" (my fellow coal miners dubbed her that) is like getting a hug from Dad every time I get in it. Well, as the kids have grown, my college daughter drove it back and forth to school. Wow, was she hard on ole Barney. Barney sprung a leak in the gear box seal which eventually burned up the power steering pump which locked up and threw the belt. More like mangled the belt. So, Barney has been sitting here waiting for the money to repair her. Then, my son decided he wanted to fix her up and use her to go back and forth to a job which he hadn't found yet. He piddled on her and every now and then I'd give him a suggestion(can't have Mom do it, oh no) and with a few temper tantrums and some tool throwing, he finally got her ready to go. So, today I took him into town for his last 2 parts. The belt and a replacement battery since he burned up the other listening to the radio while he was working on her. I did have to help him with the belt, he just didn't get it on right. he turned the key, she fired right up! Power steering works and sh'e back to purring like the kitten she is. Boy, is he happy! Maybe since he spent all that time on her fixing her up, he won't be inclined to tear her up. Time will tell....

Okay, on to the Sustainable Living Expo. Overall, it was actually full of great information. The problem is, there wasn't anything there for ME to learn concerning sustainable living. I did gain some knowledge about the Emerald Ash borer I did not know, plus I got a good lesson on what it does, what to look for, where it is in the state, etc. I enjoyed the bushcraft fire starting demo, even tho I have already mastered that art. I got into a conversation about the thistle sitting on the table they were using as a fire starter. Thistle, if you collect it before it gets to the 'downy" stage can be used to make rennet for cheese making.

Here's how you do it-

Harvest your thistle flower as the pod begins to turn brown but before it makes the 'down" if it is downy, it is too mature to create rennet. Allow your thistle flowers to dry completely. Then, using a mortar and pestle, crush and grind your thistle flowers into a fine powder. Once you have your powder, add some warm water to the powder and allow to soak around 15 minutes or so. The water mix will turn a dark brown. I use a fine muslin to strain any plant solids out of the water mix. The dark brown water is your thistle rennet.

Now, I can't give you exact measurements on the amount of thistle powder or the water, I just kind of eyeball it. I normally crush 4 or 5 thistle and add probably around a 1/4 cup of water.

Thistle rennet also gives your cheese a pleasant twang you don't taste in store bought cheeses.

Now, I need to go find my notes on the wild yeast capturing and the home made yeast. So, stay tuned...........

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More late Season Veges

The neighbor came by with more late season peppers and we picked the last of the tomatoes from the vines. We're supposed to have a hard frost tonight that is going to finish off the plants. The butcher block is full of veges and I have 2 more 5 gallon buckets waiting to be processed. I put a round of peppers in the dehydrator last night before milking time along with a wheel of caraway cheddar into the press. I have been working with the milk quite a bit since the cheese seems to be finishing out much drier than what I expected it to. I am leaning toward thinking it is due to the large amount of cream on the jersey milk. So, this batch of cheddar got a slightly reduced cook temperature in the hopes it would make a more moist end result. We'll just have to wait and see how it goes...

It's an unpleasant 40F with rain this morning. I really need to get some straw moved around so I can get Goober back in the barn. I don't like being cold and wet and she doesn't either. The goats finally decided it was time to sleep in the barn and Daisy calf make herself a bed in the old barn where some of the straw bales are.

Since it is just so yucky outside today, I'm thinking I will get some sauce simmering on the stove and whip out some soap. I am waiting a bit tho since we're waiting for a call from the doctors office. Looks like hubster will finally get some attention for his deteriorating gall bladder. Modern medicine is infuriating to say the least.

Oh, in case you haven't seen it on the news, the peanut crop for this year is a disaster. Prices for products made with peanuts are slated to triple in price very soon if not already. I stopped in at the local Kroegers yesterday just for a look-see while hubster was in the doctors office and a 40 oz jar of Jiff was $9.39 with the same size peter Pan being $8.79. I also checked in at Aldis, the same size jar there was $3.59. If you like peanut butter, you better go get some now. Enough to last for a while at least.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Play Time is Over

Well, my mini vacation is over. One of these days I will blog about why I was on mini vacation but not today, LOL. Last night, I chopped up some late season sweet peppers and got them dehydrating for soups, sauces and stews this winter. Plus, I picked some late season beans and tomatoes. I'm going to can up the beans and make a sauce from the tomatoes for some of my favorite food this week (Italian food!) to go with that riccotta cheese I just made.

I put my fat foot in the picture with the argonaut squash to give a better idea of the size of these things. I ordered the seeds this past spring from Gurneys for my neighbor who graciously brought me these 2 monsters. I'm going to cook them up and can them for making pies over the winter. I wont bother trying to save seed tho, supposedly the seed doesn't germinate too well (according to the amish guy who suggested my neighbor grow them).

I've got lots of work to catch up on around here and plenty of cooking, canning and other projects for the farmstead. I also pulled the frozen milk out to make a batch of soap.

Lookie what came in the mail for me! A wonderful lady named Coley sent me a box of blackberries! How cool is that? Thank you Coley!

Well, I'm off to do some cooking, more soon!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Common Sense or Lack of

This past week has been a real trial in patience. I guess I'm getting old because the younger generation is just, hmm, how can one put it, oblivious maybe? Inept? Uneducated? Completely lacking in common sense?

Okay, here's a good example- Family lost in corn maze- I heard the 911 call on the radio this morning, there is NO reason I can think of that anyone could ever be "lost" in a corn maze. That is of course, unless there is some invisible force field keeping them from just walking thru the stalks of corn toward the lights they could see over the top of the corn. I would have never in my wildest dreams ever thought there were humans out there so stupid they couldn't just figure out all they had to do was walk thru the corn stalks to get out. 25' from the edge of the field, they could see lights and hear cars going by. Darwin award winners for sure.

This is our world now. we have created it to be this way. We have raised our children with the television, cartoons and video games. Our children are incapable of thinking for themselves. What this produces is a young adult with no life skills and not even enough common sense to know when to bathe let alone the ability to take care of themselves. These "children" (young adults) repeat things they hear on the radio and see on the TV and internet like those things are the gospel and have no comprehension of real life. They are simply walking puppets with no original thought and are unable to do anything without being told what and how to do it. We have FAILED. We have failed ourselves, our children, our society and our world by not instilling normal basic common sense into the next generation.

This week has had it's fair share of mishaps to go along with the general aggravations that exist here on the farm now. Hubster made another visit to the hospital for his gall bladder and we are currently awaiting the appointment for the discussion about removal or more meds. I vote for removal already! On top of that, I'm waiting for tires to come in for the truck. I'm running on a patched tire on the duals with it's partner tire going flat every couple of hours and the tread is already hanging by a thread with the wires showing. So, I'm holding my breath until Wednesday and I will have to use the money I had set aside to finish the chicken coop to pay for a tire. The other one will have to wait a couple weeks for me to cover the cost. Just something that has to be dealt with, it's just life. It's what happens when you're making other plans!

Lucky goat is enjoying the cooler temperatures and is romping thru the weeds in search of those delicious treats. He doesn't mind the burs much since he knows he can always wipe them off on Mommy's pant legs while he's begging for his daily cookie! Yoda doesn't much care, it's just too comfy on that blanket awaiting it's turn in the wash machine...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Playing With Seedlings

I've been working on trying to show one of my neighbors how to start seeds for their garden and the difference between just the peat pellet and good compost. Both these seedlings sprouted at the same time. The difference is the big one was put into the compost soil, peat pellet and all, right after it sprouted and the other was just left to grow on it's own. These seedlings are 2 weeks old, both large red cherry tomatoes. Both are growing on the same shelf in the window, right next to each other. I didn't even sift the compost, I just scooped some into the container.

These tomatoes will be my indoor plants for this winter.

There's nothing particularly special about the compost, it's just horse manure, hay, straw, a little sawdust, some rabbit, goat, chicken and a little cow manure in there too. Mostly horse manure tho. I don't turn the pile over, it's just occasionally heaped up with the latest additions which tend to end up spread out around the main pile.

The secret to strong plants and a successful garden is the soil. The more organic material you can get, the better. Plants need nutrients to thrive. Water alone will not do the trick. Commercial potting soils have a limited amount of nutrient available in them and it quickly runs out. Adding a good organic compost to your garden will ensure that your plants achieve maximum potential.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Good Week

It's been a good week but busy just the same. I managed to get to the goat auction with Blackie and Spud. They both sold for what I considered a decent price and I managed to NOT buy anything. Kind of hard to buy when you're broke, LOL. One of these days tho, I'm going to have a small flock of hair sheep. Hair sheep are just too cool. My son threatened to make me walk home while i was playing with a couple late lambs. He said to me "No Mom, you are NOT getting sheep!" LOL

So, the goat money combined with a little money from selling straw off craigslist and I finally have all our over due bills paid! Woohoo! Progress!

I'm getting closer to making good cheese. Daisy calf decided she didn't like being weaned and knocked a loose section of the barn wall out to get to Goober and I didn't get any milk for a couple of days. This mornings milk wasn't much to speak of so I think Daisy will find herself back in the pole barn stall all by herself where she can wake the dead mooing for another week. I can't wait for the moon sign, I have cheese to make!

I still haven't made that batch of soap. I know, shame on me.......

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Saturday Recap

A quiet Saturday with a little farm clean up, still plenty to do around here. I got a visit from my college girl! It's nice to get a chance to visit with her, she's starting to grow up now. A full time job plus school and a part time assisting coach job is wearing her out. I told her "welcome to my world!"

So, since we had such a nice visit, supper ended up being one of her favorite "Moms cooking" meals. I whipped up some pizza. The mozzarella cheese I made earlier this week melted beautifully. The only problem was, I used it all! So, now I need to make some more. good thing I have 4 gallons of milk in the fridge!

I'm still planning on making a batch of soap. I have just one bar of soap left in the cabinet so I really do need to get a batch made. with the 30 day "curing time", I'll be running out of soap just in time for the new batch to be ready. Guess I better get to it, eh?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

September Wrap Up

I've been piddling around the farm all week, working on shaping our new farm helper into a country boy. A few small projects and normal life as usual here. Yoda the tomcat is making sure my sack of cornmeal corn doesn't run away on me!

I got lucky with craigslist for once. I posted an ad to sell some of the straw I baled this summer and sold a few bales right away. It allowed me to pick up 100' worth of fence and another goat feeder. A little measuring and cutting on some scrap wood laying around (I never throw that stuff away, I might need it!) and now all the girls can eat at once without pushing and shoving. Polar bear did a little supervising, making sure we actually intended to feed somebody with the new contraption.

Since I spent a day outside supervising the farm work and making sure it all got done the way I wanted it to be (just did it myself, LOL) I ended up with 4 gallons of milk in the fridge. So, a big batch of farmers cheddar got made. I like the farmers cheddar because it's a relatively quick cheese to make. One I don't have to constantly stand over to ensure a good outcome. It's just got a 12 hour press time so it's a good, moist fresh cheese for eating. I'm slowly getting back into the cheese making groove and it won't be long before I get back to having good wheels from every batch. Making great cheese really is an art form and you get a little rusty when you don't make it all the time.

I still have that milk in the freezer for a batch of soap. I might find the time to get a batch whipped out before the end of the weekend. I've been asked to make pizza first tho, LOL. So, maybe soap tomorrow!