Saturday, February 22, 2014

Did someone say Cheese? February 22, 2014

My ladies are getting rounder and starting to look as if they are really overfeed, but we are seeing changes and we know goat's milk is on its way.  I have to really start learning how to make cheese.  The farmer posted on Facebook she was planning a cheese class.  I want to take the class and so does Mr. Bootsie, he is in for anything involving good food and cheese is good food.  Today, February 22, 2014 the cheese class was held and we hosted the class in our kitchen.  What a thrill to meet like minded folks who are interested in making their cheese,  There was talk of milk shares, goats, sheep and cows.

The milk was  simmering on the stove, yogurt in the proofer, another cheese being drained and I was just amazed.  Curds and whey I have heard the nursery rhyme all my life and today it became real.  Mr. Bootsie has made a real simple cheese but this was like cheese country.  I learned quickly you can do other things while the cheese is processing.  There were 2 types of cheese made, Brie and another like provolone, temperature of the milk and type of ingredients added is what changes the flavors.  There was lots of time to sample and sample we did.  Yogurt was the best I have ever tasted.  The cheese decorated with flowers is chevre, There was chevre with flavored with ginger,  cinnamon, walnuts and herbs.  Wine and cheese go together, wine jigglers with the chevre were the best.  

The milk came to temperature, the cultures and rennent were added.  The magic started, we could see the cheese forming,  it was time to cut the cheese into squares and there I stood amazed to see this process happen.   After draining the whey it was time to put the cheese in to the cheese press.  

After the cheese was put into the press, the farmer started introducing the different cheeses she was making.  The sampling began, and we ate until the other cheese was put into the press.  I have been so impressed with the farmer and her knowledge,  she has a wonderful gift of sharing.  Many of you in Central Virginia will know the farmer, Valerie Trjan is a good friend of our little farm,  without her and her Lou, we would not be having little goat babies this spring, there would be no cheese coming after we start milking because we would not be thinking of milking.  Valerie has been a helpful neighbor taking our duck eggs and putting them in her incubator, the good news is, yes, our eggs were fertile and Yes, there will be little yellow fluff balls with orange beaks  swimming in a few weeks here on the farm.

I added to Mr. Bootsie's to do list as there is a cheese press in our future and he said he can make it.  I just wanted to share with you this lovely presentation of cheese.  There is blue, Swiss, Brie and some I don't remember the names of, but they were all yummy!!!   I have been reading about the how's and why's of making cheese but cheese came to life for me today.  I hope all of you are ready for our goat babies and cheese, because this farmer is filled with joy just thinking I can make all of these wonderful cheeses.  

This is another move toward us being able to provide for ourselves.  I know it may take a while for my cheese to look this delicious and have the flavors I enjoyed today.  But now I know it is possible and I will be working on learning the process of cheese making.  

All of this is fun, but the goat barn needs mucking, this is going to be the first order of business for me next week.  Time for me to start the tomato and pepper seeds.  I want the first seedling ready to plant in the garden April 15th.  Here we go again!  Isn't it wonderful the circle just keep going and going.

Have a great week, I'll be back real soon with more happenings on Triple Creek Farm!!!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Triple Creek Farm, February 15, 2014

After all of the winter we had been through we really thought we were prepared for this week.  Of course, you check to be sure you are right.  First thing I did was count the bales of hay.  I had Saturday the 15th marked on the calendar as the day I needed to pick up hay.  After checking, I became concerned, we could make it to the 15th, no problem, but we could not make it to the 22nd.  I called to see if the hay could be picked up on another day with snow on the calendar again for Saturday.  Well, I must have cried and begged properly, because the farmer let me come over and get my 10 bales of hay and now I know my girls will be well fed.  My life would have been interesting with 4 goats, 2 months from having babies and no hay to feed them.  This problem fixed.

Checking the weather report Friday, I saw wonderful temperatures are heading our way after this next round on Saturday morning.  I can't wait.  Our land is so moist I am not sure if I will be able to plant potatoes March 17th or not.  I did plant some in the fall but I wonder if they have been eaten by the moles.  I kept telling Mr. Bootsie there is going to a Valentine's snow and then the weather would improve.

The farmer came over to visit the goats.  She took a look at one of them, said twins and the goat we were in question about, well, no more.  As I stand quietly by the fence watching I see movement on the right side of my ladies.  I can see the little dumplings moving and I get so excited.  When the farmer left she took my duck eggs  and she will put them in her incubator to see if they are fertile.  I think they are, as I am seeing the bull's eye when I crack them.  If so, I will have baby ducks in 28 days.  My hen's eggs have a really good bull's eyes in them, but I need to wait for a broody hen.  Springtime is going to be interesting here on our little farm.

We prepared for the snow, watched the snow, shoveled the snow, had more snow and sleet.   Now I sit by the window waiting for the snow to go away.

During the snow, we stayed up all night and Mr. Bootsie went out to remove the snow from the cold tunnel every 2 hours.  I know to many of you this sounds dumb but it is necessary.  I remember many a time when I was growing up, my Daddy would go out during the night and pull snow from the roof of our house and barn.  Snow is heavy and not a friend to the farmer.  Snow and fire are two things a farmer can do without.  I am so pleased Mr. Bootsie is willing to help me when the weather is bad.

 The good news. we did not loose the electric power, the trees stayed in the ground and did not fall on anything.  Saturday morning, Mr. Bootsie fired up the big truck and after it started, very quickly our drive was open to the state maintained road.  Once again we are connected to the world.  I must say I really did not think about being cut off from the world, with careful planning and stock-piling we had everything that was needed.  The wood rack has come in very handy because it has enough wood in it to last until we can begin bringing in wood daily.  Mr. Bootsie had reminded me a few weeks back we had not used the wood from the rack and I said to him, just you wait ...we will need it.  With 8 to 12 inches of snow it is difficult to get around and dangerous when trying to carry wood.  Now,  he is so pleased there is a wood rack by the door.

My city boy learned quite a bit during this winter.  When he worked I took care of everything; but, now he is home helping and is seeing why I do things the way I do.  It is getting much easier as I am not having to explain my decisions.  He is starting to take some responsibility for getting chores done and this is making my job a lot easier.  I really may have the time needed to milk the goats and make cheese.    Life never stops it is just one adventure after another.

Time to put another week to bed and start dreaming about what I will be getting into next week.  Stay safe and keep counting the days until spring, oh, those of you South of the Equator just keep enjoying your summer.  Until...There is something new to share from the farm!!!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Snowy Saturday Afternoon, February 8, 2014

As I look out of the window, I see snow flakes falling.  Mr. Bootsie just came in from the pasture lot, 2 eggs in his hand and another empty water bucket.  Gave me his report of another one of the girls in one of the nesting boxes so maybe there will be another egg shortly.  There are baby plants growing under the lights and more seeds waiting to be planted.  It sounds like a springlike day but I know different.

Momma duck decided to take a break, there was no duck eggs laid  Wednesday thru Friday.  I was a bit concerned thinking she may have given up on my allowing her to have a nest.  The freezing nighttime temperatures are continuing and I would rather wait a little longer.  My girl has never set, I have been told ducks are difficult to set and I really do not want her leaving the nest after a couple of days.  I do not have a hen which would take over for her right now.  So we shall wait until spring.  Saturday morning there was another duck egg in the coop, meaning she is continuing to lay eggs.

Maybe the bucket of chickweed I took to the runs yesterday reminded her I was still taking care of them in the cold.  I harvested the chickweed from the cold tunnel and there is more.  The moles do not eat the chickweed, but; they have been eating the mustard and Holland greens.  My experiment putting the chard and spinach in pots and sinking them in the garden soil seems to be working.  The chard is large enough to gather for salad greens.  If you plant only one green and have never grown chard,  plant some this year.  This green is so good for you and may be used like spinach.

Soggy, the land is like a sponge at this point and there is more moisture coming.  I usually do quite a bit of work in the garden in later part of February but I think this year we shall be drying.  I can work in the tunnel to get the early garden going.  I have enough covers to make another row tunnel and I may be doing this next week.  I am thankful for the rain and snow we have had.  I am looking forward to a lush spring.

Earlier this week, I was asked about how we have kept the animal's waterers during this cold spell.  So, this is what we did.  I have my schedule which the animals must adapt to.  I feed and water every morning around 8:30, everyone is given warm water.  During this bitter cold there was warm water for the flocks around 11:00, I usually do not check on them before 1 in the afternoon but these conditions controlled how they were cared for.  One o'clock the eggs are gathered (because of the cold temperatures the eggs have been gathered each time someone comes to the coop) and there is warm water again.  In the afternoon we may not need to watch the water as we did find some spots to place the waterers so they did not freeze. One of us found ourself making a 2 to 3  o'clock walk to the pasture lot on the coldest afternoons, just to be safe.   We were bedding down for the night starting around 4 in the afternoon, so, again, there was warm water for everyone.  All of the outside waters were emptied and turned over so there was nothing to freeze in them.  The chickens were given a second batch of warmed oatmeal on some of the coldest days.  Yes, some days there were 4 or more trips to check on them.  The goats were given raspberry tea with honey and it was warm.   These babies are our farm animals, I was raised to care for them because they take care of us.  Our crew made it through this bitter cold winter and we did also.  Momma taught me how to take care of my animals, also, taught me to take care of myself.  I was never allowed to stay in the house because it was too cold to go outside.  Everyday you must go outside for a few minutes, yes, we did.  We went out to take care of our flock and ourselves, things have not changed for me, running our farm is no different than helping my parents with their farm.

I have no love for the clip on heat lamps.  I have seen too many coops and barns burned from using them.  We have no electric in any of our coops or the barn.  This will save me from forgetting and have a terrible loss.  One of the worst barn fires, I have ever seen, was caused by lightening.  My family was there to ache with the property owner because as it burned to the ground there was nothing that could be done to save the barn or the animals.

As I check outside, the flurry has stopped, I am sure the goats are back outside! The chickens will come from under their coop and find treasures in the leaves and ground to eat.  The ducks may never have realized it was snowing, they just seem to stay busy finding nourishment in the leaves.

Thanks for sharing this lazy Saturday afternoon on our farm.  The farmer is thinking of spring and I know it will come once again.  If you are out and about stop by, I made a coconut pie Friday afternoon and I would love to share with you.  Well, my rocking chair is calling me, so until next time...Stay safe, happy and healty!!!!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Triple Creek Farm, Reflections, February 1, 2014

I have been thinking about what, yes, what to write about this week.  The cold has just taken all of my go away and I was thinking I would just feel sorry for myself and not write a week in review.  BUT, Saturday morning, I rolled out of bed and for the first time in many days I did not have to bundle up to do the morning feeding.  Some of the water bowls were not frozen.  I came in and looked at the calendar, February 1, the first day of a new month.  I set down to check my facebook page and that is when it happened.  I found myself wanting to share about the month of January, the sad discouraging month where I felt like nothing was accomplished.  As I was sitting there enjoying my misery it started walking across the the window of  my memory...Why this past month has been one of the most important months here on our farm...

Momma duck started her nest but the eggs froze, her eggs were gathered and we are waiting for the weather to be a little warmer.  There was always a doubt about her eggs because she and Deedle did not have the best relationship.  One day this week Mr. Bootsie from the coop saying you do not have to worry about fertile ducks eggs any longer.  This will make the setting of our girl a much happier time because now we can look forward to deedles!!!

With all the hens molting and only 2 girls hatched in the spring, I have been very careful using eggs.  I wanted my stash of eggs to make it until my layers returned to producing.  Finally all of the girls from the July hatching have started laying.  I was able to boil a dozen eggs and not think about what I may need them for.  Within a few days with 6 girls laying, I will be overrun with eggs once again!!!  A problem I will be looking forward too!!!

The plug was pulled on the heated greenhouse, there was not enough in there to pay the price to heat the greenhouse in the extreme cold temperatures.  But what a lesson I learned.  I am going to cut back all of the plants and see if they put out from the roots and I know some of the plants are fine because they were blooming when I pulled the protective row cover off of them.

The cold tunnels out in the garden with no protection were opened on Friday, I walked in knowing there would not be anything, in some areas I had loss but in other areas the plants were happy.  Plenty of chickweed for the girls, the ground was not frozen, I pulled chickweed and found volunteer chard and pac-choi plants which needed to be transplanted.  The peas plants suffered the worst, I may be able to cut some of them back, they may grow and produce peas this spring.  The row tunnel was checked and the greens were growing and beautiful under the row covers.

All of our flock, our goats, chickens and ducks made it through, I was pleased as there was no frost bite in the coop.  There was extra protection placed around the barn and coops but the fur and feather babies made it through with no loss or sickness.

Now I am sure some of you are asking why as I so pleased.  You see we just made it through the coldest January in many a year.  This is our first time being a farmer on our own.  When I was young, I had the backup of knowledgeable  parents who could help me through something like this.  But Mr. Bootsie and I were on our own.  There are folks who wonder, when they visit with us, why are there farming magazines in the bathrooms and on the kitchen counter most of the time.  We read and study always trying to learn what to do if...Well, the if came and it was cold, bitter cold you could fill a water bowl with warm water, and return minutes later to see a chicken trying to break ice.  The duck pond became so thick we could not break the ice.  Those of you who experience this every winter are laughing but here in central Virginia this is not the normal.  Our day time temperatures should have been in the high 30's to mid 40's, the night lows would have been the temperatures we experienced as daytime highs, below freezing.  This has truly been an adventure for us.

February 1, dark of the moon, time to plant the seeds we grow under light for our first planting outside. I brought all of the soil into the house so it could warm and all of the seeds are in pots of warm soil  around the wood stove.  As soon as I see life we will set up our grow lights and grow these plants to be put in the garden in mid-March.  It is amazing how quickly my mind changes, with the planting of my seeds, there was a rebirth, a new beginning, I am ready for I will be putting plants in the soil in 6 weeks.  What a wonderful world we given are the pleasure of enjoying,  I am so excited about the miracle of the seed.  How can that tiny seed produce the wonderful food we will be eating for the next year!!!

I hope all of this is behind us and we move forward with the spring of 2014!!!  With the help of the kefir milk, fresh eggs,  good farm raised and preserved food there was no sickness on our farm.  The lesson we learned...we can do this... but, I would rather not have to use the knowledge we learned this year.  I really do like the mild winters and am hoping this record breaking January was an exception to the rules of life.

As we move forward, I THANK YOU for visiting with us, setting by the wood stove and enjoying a cup of something warm to drink.  A bowl of homemade soup made with veggies from our pantry.  As I heard Momma say so many times...You'all Come Back, now.