Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Rituals

Almost every Sunday I drink my coffee while my husband cooks us breakfast (lucky me!) and I make out my menus and to do list for the week. I then jot down the few things I will need to pick up at the grocery store (this week it was 5). After breakfast I clean the kitchen and start my Sunday ritual. I make granola for our breakfast during the coming week. It is a basic recipe with oats, maple syrup, organic canola oil, cinnamon and vanilla. I add whatever nuts and dried fruit I have on hand. I also cut up veggies, wash greens and lettuce and purge the refrigerator. This helps make short work of salads or having them on hand to toss in the steamer. The vegetables that look sad go into the broth pot along with all the trimmings, leaves and peelings. I also fix a large pot of soup. This is our "soup of the week" that can be lunch or a quick supper, along with a salad.
Today's soup is a creamy kale. I have lots of milk on hand and the kale is trying to make a comeback. I actually picked a large basket today. I put sausage, potatoes, onions and of course the veggie broth in it. I hard boiled some eggs for lunches or quick snacks. I also started some sprouts, buttermilk, sour cream and yogurt.

Once I had all that going I headed to the barn. The babies are growing like weeds, puppies and goats alike! Mama dog is now very proud of her brood and lets me hold them without trying to take them out of my hands.

I rinsed water buckets and filled mineral feeders. They are plowing through the minerals these days, I will have to pick up more this week.

While I was feeding the big barn , hubby was handling the smaller one. Apparently he didn't latch the gate tight and the two "boys" I moved last weekend made a beeline back down to where I was feeding. So we got to move the big alpine buck and Icelandic ram AGAIN. As we were dragging the ram up the drive, hubby made the comment that this was quite a workout. Ya think, I mumbled, did this last weekend. I moved the buck myself, as he had places to go later, and the buck still sports that lovely "aroma".

Feeding finished, I went to get the milking buckets. I moved Jasmine yesterday to a small grassy patch and boy did she repay me for it! I don't push her and she only gets grass, hay and minerals. She is late in lactation and I still get 1 1/2 gallons a day, milking just once daily but today was well over 2 gallons. Looks like there will be another cheese making frenzy this week!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Where Are You Spring?

I saw robins today. A case of onions (30 bunches) and 75 pounds of seed potatoes are waiting patiently in the garage to go in the ground. The meat birds have been ordered and goats are being born daily but still no visible signs of spring!! It was another cold, windy day here on the homestead. I am beginning to feel a bit panicky about getting the spring garden in. The ground is extremely wet and there is no way we can turn the garden to even attempt to plant. The weather is calling for yet another chance of snow this coming week and a cooler than normal March along with above average precipitation. Yuck! Enough already!! Normally by this time we have had several warm days and early veggies have gone in the ground. Snow peas, lettuces, spring greens...~sigh~
We did manage to get some things done. I baked early and delivered to the store. We split and stacked a load of firewood and finally got all of the ewes in one pasture. That in itself was a grand accomplishment! I checked the cashmere's coats but they are still a couple of weeks out from combing so that got put off to another day. Not as much as I had hoped to get done but a few things marked off the list!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

One Wild Week

It has been wild and busy week! We had a beautiful weekend and spent all daylight hours working on fences. We finished the permanent cross fence in the front pasture and will now be able to pull the animals off to allow it to grow out into our hay. This will be the "boys" pasture until we cut. They will still have a fairly large paddock area and barn. I moved my big buck and younger ram-or shall I say they moved me- from the lower fields to this pasture. I started relocating the ewes as well but didn't quit finish that task. This coming weekend I hope!
The saanen doe that kidded Thursday started feeling bad Saturday. She was off feed and refused her grain. She also didn't really want to move around much. By Sunday I was really worried because she seemed worse. I wasn't sure what I was dealing with. Her eyes were fairly pink, I didn't think she was wormy but gave her a dose of wormer anyway. I wondered if she may have a bit of infection from having such large twins so decided to give her a round of antibiotic injections. It is not something I like to do but wanted to cover all bases. I didn't want to loose her!! Monday she started picking at food and Tuesday had her almost back to normal. Today she was a real pain, pushy for feed.. her normal self, so all is well on that front.
Tuesday we checked the Virginia property and yes, they are still buried in snow. We arrived home at 8:30 p.m. or so and I headed down to milk and check critters. My cow always gives me a "Do you know it's dark and what took you so long?" look when I am that late milking. I discovered the LGD had blessed me with 7 puppies while we were gone and the last cashmere had kidded. I got the kids under lights and checked the pups. I called it a day around 10.
Yesterday was a work day so not much was accomplished except for chores and baking. Today I baked as well and spent the better part of the morning feeding hay and rearranging once again. The wind was blowing extremely hard and the temps were in the 30's. I brought all the goats and kids in the barn and closed the doors to a crack to keep the wind out. Tonight's check revealed all were warm and content.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Never a Dull Moment

Today started off tranquil enough. I got up a bit earlier to bake and catch up a few things in the house. After I delivered bread, I ran a few errands (waiting for it to warm up!). I picked up my grain co-op and got part of it unloaded and put away. The sunshine kept calling though, so I headed outside not sure of what project I might attack. I decided to check on all the goat kids and didn't make it much farther than that. The sun was so warm, shining into the barn, so I pulled up a five gallon bucket to sit on and let all the kids out to play. For the next 45 minutes or so I was completely entertained by the little munchkins. They ran and jumped and fought. They would stop by for a kiss and to be held for a few minutes before they were off again. I did manage to clean the hall of the barn and get hay in the feeders.

While I was finishing up the hay I noticed one of my bird dogs acting a bit strangely. As I started toward him I noticed he was covered in blood and it looked like he was eating something. When I called he came running to me and the "something" was his upper lip. I just about died!! Somehow he managed to practically rip it in off. I scurried around rounding up babies that were now having way too much fun to go back in their stalls. No cooperation at all on their part. As I passed the expecting does I saw one looking like she was in the beginning stages of labor. Grand.

S0 I ran to get the truck and a blanket for Ringo and called the vet to let them know we were on our way. Once there, they took him straight back. The prognoses? He needed surgery to put his lip back together. They told me to go home and they would call. I absolutely hate leaving my critters in the care of others (hence, no vacations) but leave him, I did.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch.... I arrived home just in time to see the second kid born from the doe that looked "iffy" when I left. These were the biggest kids, by far, I have ever had born here. I really wanted to jump in there and help, but unless I am absolutely needed I try not to interfere with nature. I finished up with afternoon chores while keeping an eye on the new kids. They were trying to get up and she was cleaning them, so all looked well.

I headed back up to get my milking pails. When I got back to the barn the second kid looked liked he was tired and lethargic. In an effort not to lose hot water and cleanliness, I started milking, all the while worrying and keeping an eye on him. Mama doe was washing and doing her job and he was responding somewhat. I milked with record speed and stashed the milk in the fridge so I could tend babies. I milked the mom and bottle fed colostrum. Within minutes the kids came to life and were doing well. They are so big and clumsy!! I milked and fed colostrum again in about 2 hours and finally they were strong enough to nurse about an hour later. So it seems the kids are going to be fine.

I will pick Ringo up early, after I bake in the morning, and before work. Just another day on the homestead...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Say It Ain't So!!

My afternoon check at the barn revealed a set of newly born twins from my favorite alpine doe. They were a lovely shade of white. White? WHITE!!! No, no say it ain't so -- I have been eagerly awaiting the birth of a registerable kid out of her all year. Sigh. So yes boys and girls it seems the white winged wonder has struck again. The saanen buck I sold in the fall apparently crossed yet another fence before he left. So I now have two sets of twins out of him, neither, of which I had planned. Had he still been here today I would have cheerfully choked him with my bare hands. He is batting 1000 and I am at 0. Egads! I truly hope this kidding season turns around soon..

Everyone is healthy and so all is well. I will keep her doe kid anyway. She is an extremely heavy milker-- a gallon + a day. Her milk is mild and sweet and makes wonderful cheese.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Another Snowy Saturday

This is the view from my studio this morning!

Last night it was snowing when I got home from work. I hurried down to milk the cow and feed the kids and before I was done the ground was white. Thank goodness my husband had been kind enough to do all the other evening chores including bringing up the firewood. We settled in for a quiet meal and warm fire.

I checked the weather about 1:30 this morning and knew it would not be necessary to get up at 5 a.m. to bake, we had at least 3 inches at that point. So, I was able to get a luxurious extra 2 hours of sleep! What a splendid and unexpected gift. My husband said he checked to see if I wanted breakfast but decided I would rather sleep than eat so did not wake me. Good choice he was told ;o)) The store did open late, so I just baked 9 loaves to drop at noon. I also made granola for the week and got a batch of yogurt going.

Being that I was surprised earlier this week with the arrival of a cashmere kid I decided to move them all to the lower barn for closer watching. While in "captivity" I trimmed feet and checked eyes. Feet were too long and in desperate need of trimmimng but eyes looked good. As I checked the last doe I noticed she was thinner and her udder looked as if it had been nursed on one side. I couldn't feel a baby so that meant she must have kidded yesterday. This was not good since a baby was nowhere in sight. I spent the next couple of hours walking and looking for a kid. I took her back to the pasture in hopes she knew where it might be and lead me to it. I kept hoping it was asleep somewhere. She kept repeatedly going to the same spot where I imagine she gave birth but there is was no baby to be found. With all the snow it was tough looking for a kid- dead or alive. I have kicked myself repeatedly for not moving them on Tuesday night but it was a crazy week and I just dropped the ball. My heart just breaks for her. I plan to leave her out there tonight .... just in case and will search again tomorrow.

My husband and I walked the other pastures to discuss the cross fencing that will have to be done in the next week or so. We usually put up temporary fencing to keep the animals off the hay field and the lower pasture to allow us to fertilize and the grass to grow. They are dry lotted for abour 2 months. We decided this year we might as well make a permanent fence line. However, this requires materials we don't have on hand so we can't start today.

I finished up the evening chores and milking. All the while I was fussing at the bottle kids. They are a constant distraction. Always looking for kisses and a bottle! Their crazy shenanigans keep me laughing. It is taking much longer to do chores these days.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Yet Another Baby...

I just started the evening chores when I heard a small cry. It was from the front pasture and in the sheep barn. I peered over the side wall to see an almost dry but very new cashmere kid. I scampered in and scooped it up calling to mom to follow. For once she was agreeable and followed to the big barn. After a bit of rearranging I got them settled in a clean stall with a heat lamp, fresh hay, water and grain. A lovely little white doe, I think I'll call her Tuesday!!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Let The Games Begin

No, I don't mean the Olympics or even the Super Bowl. This week two darling little goats arrived two weeks ahead of schedule. Or at least ahead of my schedule! The Nigerian that I was so worried about blessed us with a doe and a buck with no complications other than she has NO milk. grrr.. So now the little darlings are being bottle fed. I have left them with their mom in hopes that she will come into milk at some point. I had a goat do this last year and about 2 weeks after giving birth her milk came in and she went on to produce very well all season. This Nigerian twinned last year and nursed her kids with no problem at all. Who knows? I just hope this is not an omen of how the kidding season is going to go.

Jasmine, the cow, is being kind enough to share her milk with the babies so I do not have to buy replacer. Even better, I milk straight into their bottles at night so I don't even have to heat it up.

I checked all of the other does today. The older dairy does' udders are starting to fill so it looks like we will soon be running amok with lots of kids. Unfortunately the weather is not cooperating and it looks like it will stay cold and wet for quite a while. This means more stalls need to be prepared and more lights need to be hung for warmth. The LGD puppies are due in 2 weeks, so I need to get a spot ready for her as well. I know what I will be doing tomorrow!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

All Things Milk

I have spent the last two days creating goodies from the previous week's milk. There were about 7 gallons begging to be made into something. Early yesterday I got a pot of chevre going and made a batch of vanilla yogurt . Once the chevre was draining I started a pot of cottage cheese. It was late when I finished that up, so I started again this morning.

The first thing I did was to skim all the cream from the remaining gallons. You can see that was about a quart of cream to each gallon. I have a vita-mix blender and use that for making the butter. I put in about a quart of cream at a time and let it run until it gets really creamy. Scrape down the sides and continue this process until you see the butter separate out of the cream. Once that happens you can drain off the butter milk and save for other uses. I usually feed it to my chickens but it makes great biscuits and pancakes! Next you need to wash the butter with cold water until the water runs fairly clear. This will require several rinsings. If the butter gets too soft, shove it in the fridge for a few minutes and then continue. Getting as much whey as you can out of the butter will make it last longer without becoming rancid. At this point you can salt it if you want-I salt for table use but not for cooking. After I finish with the rinsing I fill 1/2 cup molds with the soft butter and put them in the freezer for just a few minutes to get hard. Run a knife around the edge and they will pop out. Now they are ready to use! I usually
wrap them individually in wax paper and store in a freezer bag. These 1/2 cup rounds are perfect for baking.
Once I finished up the butter making I made 2 batches of mozzarella. The chevre I made yesterday had completed draining so I made a few rounds mixed with Italian herbs and crushed red pepper. This is really good as a spread on crackers or bread. I saved some plain for adding to mashed potatoes or cream sauces.
Lastly I put on a pot of feta to ripen. That should be ready this evening and will drain most of the night. Tomorrow I will slice and salt it. It will then age for a few days before being crumbled and served on a salad. Some I will leave plain and some will be seasoned with sun dried tomatoes and dried basil.