Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Extracting Honey

I extracted honey for the first time on Saturday and I can't believe it. I got 5 gallons!

I know they are terrible pictures, but you get the idea.

We have still be trying to settle in with the goats. I'm starting to get a routine going with them and they are starting to become friends.
Still dealing with some preditor problems with the chickens, so there has been lots of tractor reinforcement, then more tractor reinforcement, then more...... I'm so sick of carpentry.
Today I need to build a goat shelter. I'm so sick of carpentry....

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Our Goats

Wow, it has been a busy couple of days. I feel like I haven't quite recovered from being out of town last weekend.

Yesterday we picked up Trixie and Konstance.

I thought we'd be able to drive straight back home but things can never be that easy. Jeff's work truck broke down and we had to meet him at the GMC dealership...with the goats! We were pointed at, stared at and had people stopping by the truck. Even some of the sales guys came out to look.
As my dad said, "The Clampetts live!".
We finally got home and were able to finish up the milking stand. Thank you to Fiasco Farms for the wonderful plan!
Trixie decided that she would just bowl over the electric fence a couple of times, so I am having panic attacks about goat escapes now.
Milking went very smoothly this morning. We got about a pint from Trixie and a quart from Konstance. I watched Konstance's prior owner get 1/2 gal from her yesterday. I think we fell short when Cole took over when I went to chase Trixie down to put her back in the fence.
I have since made sure that Trix has had her nose zapped a few times and I am hoping she's developing a healthy respect for The Fence.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Great Milk Debacle

K was kind enough to invite me to share my "Great  Milk Debacle" post from my blog

As of late I have been getting quite interested in becoming slightly more self sufficient. (Some day soon I will write down a list of all of the projects that I want to get my hands on, however that is a project for another day.) I can't pinpoint a specific reason, as with me there are always a multitude of reasons that lead to my action, particularly when trying something new. I like to weigh each side of the situation available to me before I make a conclusion as to how to proceed.

Inspired by my sister, K's, adventures into the world of cheese-making I ventured out to our local cheese-making store (which also happens to be a pretty cool brewing store!) to pick up some of the ingredients/tools I'd need,after researching a bit more and picking her brain. I have to make mention as to how gracious and patient she is with me when I try to explore something different that she has previous knowledge on. From French Bread, to gardening, to attempting cheese she has been so wonderful, and not only a source of knowledge, but of support and at times my cheering squad. Thank you so much, K, for enduring my countless questions with such grace and patience, for allowing me to bounce ideas off of you, and for you taking the time to teach me. I love you, sis :) 

So note that I said "attempting cheese"? Yeah...attempt is the crucial word.

This was my first attempt at making mozzarella - not pretty. At first I thought that the culprit was temperatures that fluctuated due to a thermometer more suitable to brewing than cheesing and while I still believe that to be a source of part of the problem, my second attempt showed me that there was more to this. 

This was my second attempt, if you recall, after purchasing a digital thermometer not only for this but to make my own Greek yogurt. I'm happy to report that the yogurt fared much better than this..erm..I don't know quite what to call this. All I know is that it looks so little like mozzarella that had I had an Italian nonna, she'd be quite displeased with me. As it so happens I don't, given my Scottish/Irish-Ukrainian/French background - so no nonna's were harmed in the making of this erm..lump.

While I was happy that this at least looked like it could start to take the shape of mozzarella, I will admit that I was quite dismayed and more than a bit frustrated that something that was supposed to be so easy to make was proving to be quite difficult. If you know me in my kitchen, you know exactly how frustrated I was. I went to K, we bounced ideas off each other and after quite a bit of thought came to the conclusion that the methods of pasteurization in Canada must vary to that of those in the United States, with the thought that Canada must "ultra-pasteurize" the milk sold here. I did a bit of research as to the pasteurization temperatures and they are in fact higher in Canada than in the United States. Canada legally requires any milk that is to be sold for consumption to be heated to 161.6°F for 16 seconds before being cooled to 39.2°F while the FDA requires that the milk be heated to between 125ºF -161ºF and then cooled to 50ºF. There are a variety of reasons listed for pasteurization, one of which being that this increases the shelf life of milk. Given that my normal brand of milk, I learned, is manufactured in Quebec, this means that they have to put the milk through a process called "ultra-lkpasteurization" so that it will last longer through shipping time and then on the actual store shelves. K mentioned that the initialization of  required pasteurization was originally due to cows being confined on lots adjacent to a distillery, around the time of the War of 1812. At her mention I did a little bit of research and the reading was quite interesting (if hard to find..hmm..) I urge you to have a a look of "A Brief History of Raw Milk", I found it quite informative and more than a bit interesting.

So where am I going with this?
The pasteurization process removes and alters a good bit of things, not just the bad bacteria, such as B6, vitamin C and folate,  and alters the mineral components, specifically calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulphur (and other trace minerals). As a point of reference, the pasteurization process is shown to remove 50% of calcium from the milk. Wait, what? But milk is supposed to be an "excellent source" of calcium..That rings true too for how in my recent nutrition class I was taught that, despite what we have grown up believing, milk wasn't the best source of calcium, and this kind of underscores that. When I went to make cheese, I found it odd that I had to buy calcium to add to milk but given how new I was to it I just shrugged and did it anyway. Think about it, I have to add calcium to make up for what's been taken out -  Despite the media/government warning us about the risks of osteoporosis and how North Americans on whole are not getting near their daily recommended intake of calcium. Am I the only one who feels that there is a problem when you have to add calcium to milk?

There are so many benefits to raw milk. There have been links to it possibly improving lactose tolerance, preventing the development of asthma and other allergies, and more digestible than pasteurized milk. It's also been linked to weight loss because it's fats are easily digestible. These are only a few but I do ask that you read a rebuttal to the FDA's article pertaining to raw milk.

So what to do? I looked around for different types of milk, ones that were less pasteurized but to no avail. In Canada there is a national law that states: “No person shall sell
raw milk, raw milk products or farm-separated cream other than to a licensed dairy plant or milk marketing agency”. The Canadian government supports this law by stating that there are health dangers linked to the consumption of raw milk, and even put forth an official statement to that effect. Interesting..I recall there being a massive recall from Maple Leaf Foods a few years ago. If you click the link you will note that there are mention of cheese..that had been made by pasteurized milk..

I also have to scratch my head at statements put forth by the Canadian government and by the FDA. If you look at the FDA's website you will notice that they make it sound like raw milk is a death sentence, listing 10 different disease-causing pathogens found in raw milk. If you look at the list, can I ask you to ask yourself if these are limited to raw milk or if they can be found in items that are readily sold, in regulated form, at our supermarkets. The FDA claims 3 deaths, 2,659 cases of illnesses and 269 hospitalizations. Ok, what about the ingestion of junk foods (I can't tell you how many repeat offenders I see in the hospital due to an addition to McDonald's burgers and fries)?

If the government is so extremely concerned with our well-being and health why is something like tobacco still legal? Honesty, when have we heard anything truly beneficial about tobacco use? The most recent statistics released by the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation indicated that "Smoking contributes to more than 37,000 deaths a year in Canada, of which almost 11,000 are heart disease and stroke-related (29% of all smoking-related deaths are heart disease and stroke-related)." in addition, "Almost 6,300 non-smokers die each year from exposure to second-hand smoke." and go one to say that at our current rate "approximately 1 million Canadians will die over the next 20 years as a direct result of smoking and second-hand smoke".

I'm sorry for ranting about this, but I find it quite frustrating that I can choose to smoke, choose all of the medical complications but I cannot choose to drink raw milk. It is my choice, or should be. I'm a consenting adult who is supposed to be a decent enough judge on elections, smoking, drinking, driving, creating a family..but milk is where the line is drawn? What happened to our right to liberty, to choose? 
While I understand if you don't necessarily agree with me on choosing raw milk over pasteurized (it's your choice and I respect that, just like I have mine) I pray that you do understand my frustration that I am not allowed to make a choice as to the milk I want to drink.  There have been raids (yes you read that right, government seizures and raids) of raw milk being sold for consumption, surely there are better things for our tax dollars to be doing?  I find it so very sad that there is a black market for milk. We are supposed to be living in a land of freedoms unparallelled, and while tobacco and so many other dangerous things remain legal, raw milk isn't.. 

The good news is that the United States is far less stringent than Canada in regards to the sale of raw/real milk. Each state is allowed to create their own laws in regards to the sale and consumption, though most mostly limit sale for animal/pet use. I came across a site that not only has very interesting information, but tells you where you can purchase the raw milk in your state (and I believe the laws for your state as well). The link for y'all, since I love ya: http://realmilk.com/

Just another sign I was born on the wrong side of the US-Canada border.. :-p

I'd love to hear what you have to say on this :)

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Herd

I am officially riding the crazy train. I just bought 2 dairy goats. Both are 4 years old, registered, lactating and have given birth to triplets in the past.
Meet Konstance. She is a LaMancha.
And this is Trixie. She is a first generation MiniMancha which means her mom was a LaMancha and dad was a Nigerian Dwarf.

And no, they are not missing their ears. LaManchas have tiny little nubs of ears. I know it's not as cute, but they make up for it in personality and milk production.

I also picked up 50 more chubs and got them situated right before the sky opened up. Fortunately they stayed dry in their makeshift tractor-brooder. I really just did not want them in the food storage area of the chicken coop again.

I'm off to see how everyone fared last night.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Caught One!

I reinforced the bottom 15" of the chicken tractor with 1/2in hardware cloth in the 94 degree soup yesterday. Thankfully, it seems to have worked. All the chicks survived the night and we caught one of the culprits!

On Tuesday, we went out to my friend's goat farm and.....Bought a GOAT!!!! Her name is Konstance. She is a 4 year old LaMancha who is currently lactating. We pick her up on Thursday. I am either going to get a buckling to keep her company until she kids or another doe I'm looking at on Craigslist.

Silly me didn't even get a picture of her! But I did find a patch of chanterelle mushrooms on his farm. I wish I had them here. We sauteed them up and had them with dinner.

Speaking of "Caught One", I was just interrupted from posting by my boys yelling that they'd found a mouse nest (it wasn't in the garage, honey). They decided to share their find with the hens. Much hilarious chicken TV ensued.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Don't be fooled by this cute little face. These guys are vicious killers. Last night they reached their dirty little paws into my chicken tractor and pulled heads and limbs off of 6 helpless chicks. I am so mad I could scream.

I'm off to bait the trap and add hardware cloth to the bottom of the tractors.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Out to Pasture

The meaties have just moved into their new digs. I had hoped to get them out of the brooder (aka the food storage area of my chicken coop) on Saturday but we've had nearly 3 inches of rain in the last three days. I didn't want the little chubs to drown!
Clyde the duck has been showing the others how to eat grass and bugs. He's also taken a couple of laps around the waterer. Looks like I'll be changing out the water more than I'd expected.

This afternoon we're off to look at goats and get some goat milk for cheeses. I'm not sure where I'm going to fit cheese making into this week, but I'm sure I'll think of something.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Brie to Be

Actually it's Camembert, but that doesn't quite have the same ring. I whipped these up yesterday with some Publix whole milk. It's the first time I've attempted this style cheese and I didn't want to waste my money on good milk when I was likely to flub up.

These are the cut curds ready to be ladled into the molds. At this point the milk has already been warmed, allowed to ferment for 90 minutes with the appropriate cultures then set with rennet and cut into 1/2 inch cubes.

Here the curds have been set on a draining mat. They are pouring off whey! And here is where I realized that I did flub up- forgot to add the salt. No biggie, I just salted the outside when they finished draining. Now I can call it Kristin-embert....or not.
This is what you get after draining for about 6 hours. Notice how much whey drained off. Whey goes to the chickens. They LOVE it!

And finally here they are salted and ready for aging!

This is a stinky raw goat bleu of my own creation. We enjoyed it last night after about 2 months of aging. It was sharp, nutty, creamy and wonderful! It was supposed to have an edible rind, but the rind got away from me while I was at the beach for a week, so I cut it off.

In chicken news- I was going to move the broilers out to pasture yesterday, but we have rain in the forecast for today and tomorrow. It was so cool last night, that I opened the bedroom windows. I didn't realize that the chicks' light in the coop would cause my rooster to crow at 3:22 AM! And to add insult to injury, one of the little cockerels decided it was a good time for him to learn to crow.

Off to get another cup of coffee.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Up and Running!

Perhaps I should start at the beginning. I am a suburbanite married to a farmer (who doesn't farm, but that's for another time). I was raised in the 'burbs, my parents were raised in the 'burbs and my grandparents were some of the first to live in the 'burbs when suburbs were a new thing.

We live on 8 mostly wooded acres just outside the 'burbs. Our home was a compromise between me, who wanted to live in a *shudder* neighborhood and my farm-blood husband who would have merrily stuck us on 500 acres in the middle of nowhere.

The first thing I did was put in a vegetable garden. My mom and grandfather had always had big backyard gardens and I missed picking dinner. Then I got a few laying hens- well more than a few but again that's a different story. Next came the honey bees, quail and mushrooms. By this point, I was officially bitten by the farm bug.

Through all this, my husband continued scouting land for the farm, even contemplating a quail hunting plantation 30 miles from nowhere! Nothing seemed to work out. So I started praying about it. God answered with The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). He had entrusted us with 8 acres and we were looking for more instead of using what we had!

That's when I started praying about how to build our farm. I had already planned on goats, but the fencing is expensive and we haven't been able to swing it yet. I read advice to "start with something you know". I thought vegetables? Our vegetable garden produces just enough to feed my family, my parents and have a few extras to give away (zucchini anyone?). To expand the garden would mean more deer fencing and years of soil building to have something vegetables could grow in.

Which brought me to what else I knew- chickens. By this point, my chicken empire had grown into about 2 dozen laying hens and a rooster. Extra roosters were sent to freezer camp. I am not making any money selling eggs, but I enjoy my birds and customers so much, it's worth it. Some of those customers had been asking about meat. Then a friend turned me onto a farmer named Joel Salatin who is probably the king of pasture raised broilers.

I figured I was onto something here and set about building my first chicken tractor. The next day, we visited another farm to purchase raw milk for my cheeses. He was butchering broilers and had a line of people coming to pick up their monthly chicken. I went home, ordered a chicken plucker (happy anniversary, baby), 25 chicks and built another tractor.

I have presold 18 of those chickens and have had to put people on waiting lists for future chickens (50 more chicks are on their way). I pray that we are taking the farm in the right direction. Thank you for your interest and support!

What is different in this picture? Quack, quack. That's right we received a duck stow-away. His name is Clyde.