Saturday, August 30, 2008

The KHM Crusade Team, hospital visits and a broken bone

The bus at the end of the pavement. Getting ready to head back into town.

Well, its been a busy couple of weeks. Just when I get on a roll with the blogging along comes a period of business. Thankfully, the Crusade Team visit, hospital visits and broken bone are all unrelated events. But, all have kept me busy.

The Hagins and the crusade team were in town. Wow, what a great time!! It was such a blessing to make the meetings and visit with Pastor and Lynette and some old friends from Tulsa. We invited the team out to the house for a cook out and were so excited to have them take us up on the offer. I think including us we had about 20-25 total. They had to park the bus at the bottom of the mountain and take cars up. I parked the van down there in the morning, drove the truck and Steve had the jeep. Rich had his rental car and the pilots Dave and Scott drove themselves as well. Dave used to live in Omaha, just a stone's throw from Steve's folks. I worked with his wife many years back when we both worked at the ministry. Between all the vehicles we had plenty of room for everyone. Some of the younger ones had a blast riding in the back of the pick-up, snapping pictures and pointing every which way as we went up the mountain. We saw a bunch of deer on the way back down, including a nice 5 point buck who posed for the camera and a couple of fawns.

Everyone had a great time, snapping lots of pictures and hiking up the peaks on our property. When they saw the gun we keep just inside the door, a few of the younger guys wanted to do some target shooting, but with so many people outside hiking and stuff that wasn't happening. A couple of them hung out with the animals and passed around a newly hatched chick. I forgot to get pictures till the end when the bus was pulling out, so I only have one that I snapped with Em's cell phone. Hopefully they will update their blog with some pictures. We grilled hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken breasts, along with some potato salad, baked beans, watermelon, veggies, chips, muffins, and plenty of desserts! Yum! We already have a couple of the team that have "booked" vacation time with us next summer. I'm so looking forward to that!

The day of the cook out I got a call that Dad was in the hospital. Not good news for sure. I was pretty worried about him, but he is doing well now and is out and back to normal pretty much. In fact, he & Mom are flying in on Tuesday for a visit! I'm so pumped! Can't wait to show them all I've gotten done in the past year around here.

Thursday evening Josh broke a bone in his hand. I'd like to say it was something exciting, a football injury or something equally cool, but its a boxer's fracture. Hand vs board, board won. It required a trip to the ER. Let's just say Mama wasn't happy. All the urgent cares seemed to close around 7, so we got our first experience at the ER here. They marvelled that he was 18 and this was his first visit. We laughed and explained we had only lived here a year, this was his 7th visit to an ER, we thought. We've lost track now, but this is his 3rd broken bone. Boys, sheesh! Good thing it's not his dominant hand, he can still do his homework! However football is out for a while, bummer.

They splinted it with a fiberglass half-cast and sent us on our way. I was impressed with the whole process, we got into a room in less than 5 minutes and were in and out in less than 90. 24 private ER rooms, with a nice flat screen TV in each and x-ray just around the corner made for a nice visit. We were the only ones there for most of the time.

Hopefully the next couple of weeks will be less exciting. I'm ready for a full night's sleep.

Josh's x-ray. His 5th metacarpal bone is angulated about 40 degrees. I heard him mumbling under his breath a couple of times "that was stuuuupid." I can't remember if that was before or after he passed out from the pain.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Changing of Seasons

Two weeks ago we were at almost 100 degrees. The airport was at 104 and had been over 90 degrees for 23 consecutive days breaking the old record of 18 days set back in the late 1800's. Saturday night it snowed in the high country. Just 10 miles or so from us they got 6-10 inches. Seems there is change in the air. Damp chilly mornings are becoming more common. we didn't even get out of the 40's for the past three days, till today when it warmed up nicely.

The kids started back to school today. It seemed so quiet here. I really enjoy having them home over the summer. I was a bit lost, my routine out of kilter. I think it will be a good year for Emily. She was dreading going back, insisting that this was going to be "the worst year ever." However she doesn't have a first hour class, has study hall second hour, has PE with her best friend, has her favorite teacher once again this year and has a bunch of new teacher all of which "are really nice." So, it seems we are off to a good start. She had a hard time adjusting last year, going from a class of 1600 to a class of 55, and has been pestering me to home school this year. When she finished telling me about the first day, I asked if she wanted to be home schooled and her response was a quick and solid "noooo!"

Josh is still out, so I don't know how the day went. He had a scrimmage, then BBQ and team captain voting, then off to Wal-mart to sell restaurant incentive cards to help pay for football equipment. Mom & Dad are coming to visit the first week in September, I'm looking forward to us all watching him play.

The garden is doing nicely, we've enjoyed our first bacon & tomato sandwiches. I bought 6 lbs of bacon a couple weeks back in anticipation. I remember enjoying them all summer long as a kid and could still live on them. Its just not summer with out a good bacon & tomato sandwich. I see I'll be making lots of zucchini bread too.

I got the hook up from Craigslist for apples this fall, all we can use. I'm looking forward to applesauce, apple pies, apple strudel.... I missed the harvest last year. I thought I had discovered an apple tree on the property here this spring, but after hiking down the other day to take a look, it turned out to be a full sized plum tree with just a few plums, oh well. I hope to plant some fruit trees in the next year or two as well as some sugar maples to tap. We had two maples when we lived in the city and we used to tap them and make maple syrup and hard maple candy. I miss that and had hoped to get some trees in this spring. For sure next year. I did get a few from Mom & Dad's place when we were back in Nebraska over the 4th. Three are doing very well, as are the two walnut trees we dug up. However they are a mere 3-4" tall. Guess any way I look at it, I'm a years away from reaping.

I candled the eggs tonight and made a movie, hopefully you can make out the little chick moving around in the egg. The chick has been 7 days in the incubator, 14 days to go.

Em holding one of 5 "zucchini on steroids" from the garden. Well, ya see it rained for 3 days straight and I didn't check the garden and when I finally did, well, you know.....

The peas were almost as big around as a quarter, and oh so sweet! Em & I snacked on them while watching the olympics.

Some of the smaller zucchini from the garden harvested several days back. Grilled, topped with goat cheese and dried herbs from the garden, looks delicious!

The homemade ravioli I mentioned a few posts back. It turned out great!

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Broody Hen House

Several of my hens have decided to go broody lately. I had 4 in the coop that were pretty cranky when ever I approached. Kinda cuts into the egg business when all the hens start laying in the broodys' boxes, so I fashioned a separate hen house for them and moved them out. I probably lost a couple chicks in the process, but overall It was a good move. Over time I will have more success and lose less than I would with them in the coop. I have 2 hens that have hatched out their clutches since the move, and two more to go.

I picked up this doghouse from Craigslist at no cost, made a door for it from some lumber I had laying around and added a lock and trim. It's 4x4...must have been a pretty big dog! Its heavy as all get out, but Josh & I managed to carry it out of the yard and lift it onto the bed of the truck, dumping it off at home was the easy part. I didn't have any hinges laying around, so I used some pieces of strapping instead. The hens love it.

I put a couple of eye screws into the door and side, a bungee between the two holds the door open during the day.

My nesting boxes: an empty speaker box, problem is the eggs seem to roll out kind of easily. A cardboard box, the envy of all the hens, and a kitty litter box on its end. That one got rejected by all, seems on the floor in the corner was better, oh well. Need to put some more of those cool cardboard boxes in next time!

I've also got eggs in the incubator again. I had a request from the person that bought one of my roosters to hatch them out a batch of chicks. I just candled a few and they seem to be doing well. The embryo looks like a spider, with the chick body curled in the center and veins radiating out from there. I tried to photograph it, not sure how it will show up.

Hope it shows up when clicked on, the chick is in the top right. Its just been in the incubator 4 days now. Set to hatch out on 9/2.

At $4 each, I'll make $48 for a dozen eggs. I would like to expand my chick business at some point. It would be nice to make a little extra money each spring...or even year round. At the current $3/dozen I sell them for, I am barely covering the cost of my feed. Once I process this years roos I'll be a little bit ahead. I've got a few customers who pay me $12 each for a processed chicken. When I really look at it, its a lot of work for the money, but it makes our eggs and processed birds free and a little cash to spare. The best part is that they're so fun to have around.

Em & I made some root beer today, it takes a week to ferment and become carbonated. I'll let you know how it turned out. If its good I'll make some for when Mom & Dad come to visit in a couple weeks, that and some home made ice cream...can you say root beer floats? YUM!! I'm drooling already. The alcohol content is low, between .35 and .5%. Compared to 6% for a beer, it would take about 1.5 gallons to equal a 12 oz. beer, so in that respect its pretty negligible. If my next blog enrty resembles a drunken dyslexic you'll know something went wrong.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cheese version of it.

I've learned that cheese making is really an art, hopefully I'll get better with time, but for now I am pleased with how its going. I think all three types turned out well. The cheddar is drying on a rack, the ricotta is in the fridge and the mysost is still on the stove.

I want to try Parmesan next time. I need to make a thermophilic mother culture first and just haven't gotten around to it. Hopefully this week or next.

I tired to take lots of photos of the process. I'll detail the pictures as I go.

I have a 12 quart canner that I like to use. I've put in 2 gallons of goat milk and very slowly heated it to 90 degrees. I froze my mother culture in an ice cube tray. 1 cube is equal to 1 T of culture. Cheddar takes a mesophilic culture. I add the culture and then let it ripen for an hour.

I keep tabs on the temp while its ripening, making sure it stays right at 90 degrees.

After it has ripened, I add in the rennet and stir it for a minute or two till I see it just starting to set up. Then it sets again till the curd is firm enough to make a clean break when a knife is inserted.

You can see how firm the curds are. I let them sit for 30 minutes then begin slowly heating them to 100 degrees while gently stirring to bring out the whey. The whole thing is really a time consuming process. I hold them at 100 for about a half hour and continue to turn the curds.

They are then ready to drain. I have a nice butter cloth I use to line a strainer and pour the whole thing out into another pan and let it all drain for about 15 minutes. Once the curds have drained, I dump them into a bowl and crumble them up, adding 1T of salt. It's important to use salt that doesn't have iodine in it, most table salt does. I have some nice large grained kosher salt that I like to use. I then transfer the curds to a cheese cloth lined mold and press it at 40 lbs for 12-15 hours. I then turn it and press at 50 lbs. for 24 hours. once its done it is salted and put on a rack to air dry. After 3 days I wax it. It could be wrapped in saran, but hey, the wax looks cool.

Here is the cheese just removed from the mold and the cheesecloth. I put a quarter on it to show the size.

Waxed and ready to go into the fridge to age a bit. This is one I made a couple weeks ago.


I add a pint of cream to the still warm whey that has drained from the curds and slowly heat the whole thing to 195 degrees. You can see by the picture that its already 1:25 in the afternoon. It will take a couple hours for the ricotta to be done. I started the whole process at about 7 am.

I drain the whey from the ricotta overnight. In the morning it looks good.

The finished product. I ended up with about 1.75 lbs of ricotta.


With the whey that is left over from the ricotta I can make mysost. The whey has to cook down for hours and hours till most of the liquid has been removed.

The whey reduced down about half way.

Wish I could upload the smell, its incredibly good. I decided not to reduce it all the way. Its a little on the salty side, I decided to use half of it to make cheese and potato soup and maybe cheese and rice something with the other half, so its in a canning jar and into the fridge for now.

As you can see its pretty much an all day project. But the results are pretty tasty. I think Em & I are going to try our hand at home made rootbeer tomorrow. Yum!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Homestead

Well, I got up at 5:45 this morning. Went out onto the back deck to bring in the load I had hung out last night. I have a T-post line up by the garden with four long lines, but I also strung a line between two of the porch posts out back by the laundry room. That's for when I don't want to trek up the hill to hang laundry or if I'm doing a small load that doesn't need much line. After I had taken all the laundry off the line, I looked over and no more than 3 feet from me was a nice big rattlesnake all curled up next to the house watching me do laundry.

I thought it was a rattler, but wanted to make sure before I sealed its fate, so I grabbed a shovel from the garage and gave it a nudge, sure enough it began to rattle. With it being so close to the deck and able to slip under if I missed, I hollered up to Josh's bedroom window. He was down in a hurry and, being a good aim, made quick work of things. He then buried the head.

The snake had a nice big rattle, I'm going to tan the skin tomorrow, it's rolled up in the fridge, too much going on to mess with it now. If you are easily grossed out, skip to the next paragraph. I skinned him out and gutted and cut him up and we had it for lunch. I breaded it and pan fried it in some bacon grease. The kids thought it was pretty good. Even Emily ate it, stating it tasted like chicken. That's the first I had tried snake, it was actually more tender and tasted better than I expected.

After the laundry, I got the cheese started and headed up to do chores while the milk heated on the stove. I've got one young rooster that is meaner than all get out. He can't even crow yet, but he attacks all the other chickens. So I caught him and caged him up. I'll have to put him in the freezer today or tomorrow.

I added the culture and while the milk was ripening and went back out and trimmed the goat's hooves. Its a monthly chore, I like to keep them nice and trimmed. Tigris the alpine/saanen had bad hooves when I got her, very folded over, pointed and looooong. She was literally walking on the sides of her hooves. Its taken a couple months to get them nice and it only takes 20-30 minutes to get all 5 of the girls trimmed up. I figure if you're going to own an animal, it ought to be well cared for. She takes care of me through milk, babies and eventually meat, it's my duty to care for her now.

Back inside, I added the rennet and once again let the milk set to firm up while I went out to the garden to putz around a bit. Harvested a few grape tomatoes and some zucchini, nothing too exciting.

Well, the cheddar cheese is in the press as I type. I've made ricotta with the whey, its hanging in a buttercloth to drain. I'll post my cheesemaking photos tomorrow, with a little more detail as to the process. Will make Gjetost (or less well known, but more correctly termed mysost) with the whey from the ricotta tomorrow as well. Nothing wasted. With the fresh ricotta, Em will be helping me make some homemade ravioli tomorrow, yum!

Here's the bad boy. If I encounter them away from the house, I leave em. But this close, he had to go.

I heard they made good eating, had to try it.

The tomatoes have grown into one massive patch. They are loaded, hundreds of them. Hope they ripen soon.

The potatoes are run amuck as well. I keep mounding them with dirt, but they've got to be 3' tall now. No more room to mound. Next year maybe I'll plan ahead and put up some sort of fencing system to contain the dirt. Heirloom pole beans are climbing the fence.

Zucchini. Need to shred and freeze some. We'll have some grilled tomorrow as well with the home made ravioli.

These crazy peas have been eaten off twice by the goat, but they just don't give up. They seem to come back each time with just as many pods as before. The edible pod peas are my favorite.

Herbs and some onions line the fence. Everything did great but the basil which got frosted out twice and laid on by the dog. Thankfully I still have a bunch hanging over my pantry door from last year. Ought to last me till next year.

Got a small start on firewood for the winter. My goal is to have 7 full cords (21 face cords). I think we have about 2 face cords so far. Got a long, long way to go!

My harvest for the day.

Here's where I keep the goats and chickens. Not a real high tech system, but most everything was scavenged and gotten for free or super cheap.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Goat Milking 101

Since I'm making cheese tomorrow, thought I'd share my milking chores here today. Cheddar is my main milking goat, she is a two year old nubian saanen cross. She last kidded over a year ago. When I bought her a couple months back, they told me she was dry and since she was not pregnant they were not keeping her, even though she was one of their top milkers last year. I began to milk her three times a day to build her supply back up. At first I got about a cup a day, she now is milked twice a day and is up to about 2.5 liters/day total. She is a wonderful doe, who lines up at the milking post when I arrive at the pen. I usually feed her while she is being milked, maybe that's why she lines up when she sees me coming.

I wash her udder well and squirt out the first milk from each teat to check it for anything unusual. Also, the milk in the canals can have bacteria, so its best to just let it go to waste, your milk will stay fresher longer if you do. After that I milk her out and "bump" her udder at the end when there sems to be nothing left (if you've ever seen a kid or calf nurse, you know what I mean) to get her to let down the last of her milk. Ususally I can get another cup or so from bumping her. If all the milk is not removed, next time she will make less. After time her production will go down. It takes me about 5 minutes or less to milk her out. I then turn her loose.

Milking a goat is a bit different than milking a cow, pulling on a goats udder can ruin it. It's more of a "close off the top and squeeze the milk out toward the end" process, by closing one finger down at a time till you get to the bottom. It takes a few milkings to get used to it, but then its pretty natural. Cheddar has a great udder for milking. I hope to get her bred this fall and will keep her kids to improve my herd.

Cheddar at the milking post. The chain on the fence, I just put it around her neck. Probably I don't even need that, she tends to stand pretty still for me. She's a good girl. I'd guess she weighs about 250 lbs, but she's very docile and obedient for a goat.

Her udder before milking

After milking

Here is the process. You can see, It doesn't take long to fill a glass. I then pour it into a container outside the pen to keep it free from dirt, dust and other stuf that might be in the pen. Then go back and fill the cup again...and again, and again.

Once I've finished, I pour it through a coffee filter into a 2-liter bottle. That strains out any stray hairs or alfalfa that may have blown into the cup. At first it took me so long to milk that I got a lot of floaty stuff, but now it's pretty clean when I'm done. just an occasional goat hair now and then.

Milk from just this week, and its only Tuesday morning.

Three of the girls. The smallest one is Gretel. Can you believe she is only 2.5 months old?? At 55 lbs already, she is going to be a monster when she is full grown. Weight-wise, she could be bred at 75 lbs which she will be this fall, but I'm going to hold off till next year. I have left her on mom (the shaggy goat on the right) and she gets continual access to alfalfa as well. At some point mom will wean her, then I'll be making cheese a couple times a week.

The hardest part is figuring out what to do with all the milk. I've had some minor success bartering it, but since I'm not state approved, FDA certified, etc. I can't legally sell raw milk. At the dairy they were legit, but in the 45 minute ride to their new home here they lost that. So, besides limited yogurt and cheese making, my freezer is getting full.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Happy Birthday Blog!

Well, the blog turned one year old yesterday. Wow, hard to believe I’ve stuck with writing for a whole year, harder to believe anyone would want to read the daily happenings in our lives here on a regular basis.

I’m a contemplative, reflective kind of person, so thought I’d take a moment to reflect back on the year. First, the stats. Although I know they are not completely accurate, they give somewhat of a picture. I don’t have a huge audience, but do have some very loyal visitors. 52 posts, 2810 visits, 3785 page views, 39.50% new visits, 60.5% return visits. 23 countries in order of number of visits: US, Canada, Netherlands, UK, Australia, Kuwait, Germany, New Zealand, France, Chile, Spain, Poland, Indonesia, Georgia, Italy, Malaysia, Austria, Sweden, Ireland, Russia, Bahamas, India, Japan. In the US visits from 47 states and the District of Columbia (only MT, ND and VT have not visited) Top States in the US for visits: CA, NY, CO, GA, MI, NE, FL, IN. Top cities in top state of CA: West Hollywood with 131 visits and Monterey park with 108. Average hits per day 8. Most hits in a day 36 when someone on the Back Yard Chickens forum posted a link. For those with brains like mine, I blocked my IP address when I set up the counter, so my visits wouldn’t mess up the stats. I’m on a lot posting, replacing pictures and such and wanted a more accurate picture.

Now for the heart stuff. I’ve really enjoyed blogging. Hope you all have enjoyed reading our adventures. It’s nice to be able to look back and remember when a certain batch of chicks hatched, when I planted my peas, etc. Even more so, it’s been kind of cool to see how things have evolved here and changed for us over the past year since we moved in. There was nothing here but the house and bare land. The house had been vacant for a while, so the animals were used to coming up near by for shelter and such. We moved in, put in a garden, and slowly added our coop/barn, chickens and goats.

We’ve adjusted to it being so dark here that we could actually see the Milky Way galaxy rather than just 5 stars. We went from living backed up to major highways for 14 years to living off a single lane 4WD dirt road and grabbing the binoculars when a car drives by to see who the heck is lost out here. From major city to the middle of nowhere. From barely being able to see past the neighbors back yard to a visibility of 100 miles or more across the flatlands. From an elevation of 740 feet to an elevation of 6400 feet. From manicured 10,000 sq ft lawn and perfect landscaping to rocks, scrub brush and 40 acres for a “yard”. From high humidity to technically high desert. From next door neighbors, to next mile neighbors. From a city church of 8500 to a country church of 85. From ministering to 600 kids a week to a Sunday school class of 7. From leaving home daily and having contact with literally hundreds of people on a daily basis to sort of a hermit’s life, leaving home weekly for church and once or twice a month to go to town. From Becca living at home to her now moved out on her own. From running to the grocery just a mile away 4x a week, to running to the grocery 50 miles round trip once a month and learning to stock up and make do when the stockpile runs low. From eating out 5 times a week to eating out 5 times a year. From clothes dryer to clothes line. From processed foods to raising a lot of what we eat.

It’s been a good change and a good year. The only thing I really miss is the Children’s ministry and all the kids we saw each week; the impact we had on their lives. Seasons come and seasons go, that season has passed and I know good things are in store for the future. God is bigger than the challenges we face, bigger than the economy and bigger than our failings.

I look forward to what the next year holds for us, hopefully not quite so much change. Josh will graduate and plans to go off to college. So we’ll just have Em here. I’m already feeling the pain of that. He is my right hand man when it comes to helping around the place.

I know no matter what the future holds, I can always hang my hat on Jeremiah 29:11&12: For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.

Thanks to all for a great year!

Who needs a 4 lane highway??

Both pictures are of the road to our house, we drive on 4 miles of this to get home. Those of us who live on the road chip in to maintain it. Yep, its just been mainatined.