Sunday, December 29, 2013

Frozen Water

Everyone has issues in the winter.  I can deal with most things, even repair minor fencing issues in the winter.  But the big thing for us, frozen water.  Hauling water for a herd of cattle, a group of horses, 100 chickens, several goats, and several pigs everyday, a couple times a day, takes more time then I have in a day.  Caring for three small kids, DH off at work half the day, hauling water to everyone is not an option.  So, of course we turn to deicers.  Now, this may sound like common sense, but I don't think you get just how cold it is here.  You see, here -60 C (-76 F) is not uncommon as lows a few times during winter.  Thankfully, most years -50 C (-58 F) is the normal low.  Although, -70 C (-94 F) is not unheard of, but thankfully very rare.  So, add in some wind, and you have colder then some of the deicers can even thaw.  Now imagine the power goes out for a few hours.  It happens a couple times every winter.  Right now the floating deicers work the best for us.  The sinking ones tend to still freeze on top.  When you have four troughs though, the power can really add up.  So, then, what do you do?  We have looked into some other ways and found something that we will be trying this next winter as we have to have it set up prior to the snow falling.  We are thinking of using system that recirculates the water by shear heat rising and cold falling.  The tank will have a line that leaves the bottom (cold water) and enters into a wood stove or metal barrel.  As the water heats it will rise to the top.  The line will be coiled inside to allow the most heat (without getting the water too hot) to come in contact with the water in the metal coil so that as it heats and rises it will then flow out the top and back into the trough.  With a good sized log and a system designed for long burning (controlling how much air enters the barrel can do this) we should be able to keep it defrosted most of the day.  I obviously cant tell you how well this works til next winter.  But we are always open for alternative ideas to keeping water defrosted.  I also have heard of using fire brick, putting it in the oven for a couple hours in the morning, then setting a ceramic crock on that to keep rabbit waterers defrosted for a few hours.  As it stands, anything we haul water to that does not have a heater will freeze in about an hour.  Lets hear some of your ideas!  Oh, and just as a side note, here trying to break the ice open on top, does not work as the whole thing freezes solid.  So what have you tried?  What worked and what didnt?  Any changes to your system you would make?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Location Importance

This is one thing I find not everyone actually takes into account.  Your location can be your savior or your downfall.  So, lets break this down a bit.

1.)  Climatic location:
This one is not thought of often.  If you could have a farm, were would you want to be?  Well, lets really think about this.  Dream of a place that is warm, but not hot year round.  Green and little irrigation needed.  You can grow your own stuff when ever you want to.  Yeah, that place with the creek running through so that you don't have worry about water.  Trees to provide shade.  Yeah, that dream place, you are picturing it now.  That place, does not exists.  Once you realize that, you will be ahead of the game.  Realize that you if you decide to purchase new, you have the world (or your country) open to you.  So, realize that nothing is perfect, unless you figure out how to make it so for you.  For warm climates you may have to dig extra wells for adequate water.  For freezing climates you may have to find a way to keep water defrosted.  Coastal climates you may have to have buildings that will stand up to a hurricane.

2.)  Location to city:
The location to your nearest city can be very important depending on the type of farm you are going to do.  If you are going to grain farm and sell to an elevator, then it wont matter as much if you are close to a city.  If you are going for a mixed farm and sell the products of your farm to the general public, then being close to a city will be the best thing for you.  It gives you the outlet you need with out traveling long distances yourself.  On the other hand, you don't want to be too close to a city.  Closer you are, the higher your chances of violence occurring on your farm and towards your animals.  Also the closer you are to a city, the higher your taxes usually are going to be.

3)  Location of your farm buildings:
(a)This is just as important as the other two.  Your farm buildings need to be located where you can access them.  May sound easy, but think of this.  It is winter, you live where it snows, and you just got hit with a snow storm.  Getting to your farm buildings may not be as easy as you think.  Or the opposite.  You are in a very hot climate.  When the weather is 100 F and you have 90% humidity, just walking 500 feet to a barn carrying bales of hay can really over heat you.  So think of your climate and weather when you are planning your buildings.
(b)Another thing you need to take into account is the smells.  It is a farm, and they are animals, and they do defecate.  So, if you are going to have them enclosed for any reason, you may want those buildings a bit farther from your home so that there is not an unpleasant smell if you choose to open your windows.
(c)Also, if you have a water source you may think that having your barn close to that to water animals would be logical.  But think of your average rain fall or snow run off.  Be sure to not place it within a flooding area or an area lower then the surrounding land so that your barn will be dry.
(d)Do you plan on moving animals from one pasture to another?  How will they access the barn?  The water source?  All of these things, plus a lot more has to be considered when you are looking at locations for your farm buildings and fences.

Your locations, climate, buildings, and closeness to a city, are all things you need to consider when you are wanting to start a farm.  If you are buying and starting from scratch if you consider these things carefully that can be your first success, or your first failure.  These things can all be overcame, but it is not easy.  There is hope for those, like us, that inherit a farm and you have to figure out how to get around every one of these.  But if you are starting new, do it right and do it in a way that works for you to start with.

Monday, June 17, 2013

How to choose your chickens

When we first got chickens we thought we did a lot of research.  There is nothing like trying them and seeing what works for you.  But where do you start?

1.  What do you want from your chickens?
      This is going to be the most important question.  If you want a breed that is great for laying eggs, then you do not want something that lays very little eggs or very few eggs.  If your reason is meat, then you do not want something that will not give you what you want.

2.  How are you going to house them?
     How you are going to house them really makes a difference.  If you are in the city or a small urban acreage and they will be confined in runs or huts, then you need a chicken that will do good in that situation.  If you will have free range or pasture birds, then you need something that will fit in that environment.

3.  What do you want to do with the chickens?
     Will your chickens be pets, show birds, a backyard flock, or there for production only?  Some birds are very flighty and not suited for pets.

4.  What type of environment do you live in?
     This is one people often forget.  If you live in marshy areas where it rains a lot and is wet, then you need something suited to that.  If it is very hot, you do not want something with a lot of feathers.  If it is very cold, then something with a smaller comb is good.

5.  Color of egg matters?
     For some people it does.  So, knowing the color of egg is something to be looked at.  Eggs come in three primary colors.  White, brown, and blue.  There are varying shades within this group, but those are the primary three visual colors.

There are so many variations inside each of these questions that it would be impossible to narrow it down to one breed great for you.  Personal opinion will always be part of it.  So, how do you narrow it down?  Well, that is where the questions help.  Once you have the answers to the questions above I suggest you visit Henderson's Chicken Bred Chart.  This is an excellent chart to narrow down your choices.  Once you have an idea of what breeds you are looking for you can then source them out.  My suggest on that one is highly dependent on where you live, but in general you can either purchase from a hatchery or breeder.  If you look for a breeder you can Google it, look at local charters for that bred, or attend poultry shows.  Information on hatcheries are readily available online.  I hope this helps for those just getting started.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Unexpected kidding!

We had two baby goats born unexpectedly.  They are twins, one boy one girl.  Both are doing great now.  When we purchased the mom we were told the wrong due date.  Just goes to show, watch your animals.  I was present for the birth, but thinking it was the wrong date, was prepared for the mom to abort, not deliver live babies.  They are both premature, but strong.  They love to play and eat.  Oh man do they eat.  Their mom had developed pregnancy toxemia.  Which in goats is ketosis pre delivery.  So we have two bouncing babies jumping and climbing everywhere.

Sounds pretty straight forward saying it like that doesn't it?  Well, lets see if this will help put it in perspective.

Our Pearl (the mom goat) had stopped eating.  We believed she still had two months of pregnancy left.  We could not get her to eat anything.  We tried Doritos, oats, wheat, barley, calf mana, alfalfa pellets, boss (black oil sunflower seeds), peanut butter sandwich, apples, bananas, spinach, berry's, twigs from maples, and several types of hay.  She would eat none of it.  Even tried to coat grains and such in sweet molasses, corn syrup, and brown sugar.  Goats have a sweet tooth.  She would only eat a few bites of grass hay a day for three days prior to her delivery.  She was in great shape prior to this.  I had noticed that she started to develop an udder and had asked some goat knowledgeable people and all agreed it was really early and to watch her.  Well, I watched her.

Two days before she delivered she was acting off.  She still refused feed, didn't want me to leave, would call for me.

Then the day she kidded (gave birth) I noticed about half way through the day that her stomach drastically dropped.  That means that instead of looking fat, you saw her spine, a gap, then a stomach that was down to he knees.  That is a precursor to birth.  I know that from the cows.

Then about two hours later she had mucus.  So, I knew then there was no turning back and she was in labor.  Now, some background info on goats.  Two months shy of a due date, the babies would not have been alive and they would have been hairless and tiny.  So, I ran in the house, grabbed a garbage bag, sent a message to a friend about Pearl and hoped for info on what I could do.  I logically knew I had no choice but to wait with her.  But I wanted to be able to do something.

So, out I went.  She was walking around pacing a lot.  More mucus.  No visible signs of impending birth.  I go back into the house to draw up a b vitamin shot.  I grab my phone so that I can check messages out in their hut.  I go back out less then 10 minutes later.  I am just in time to see the birth of the first twin.  Not expecting to have any live births I had nothing with me.  It is dark outside at this point and I have only a small light to see by.  I notice it moved.

Wait, what?

It moved again.  The bag was still covering it.  Pearl, a first time freshener (first birth), didn't know what to do and the baby was too small to get out of the bag on it's own.  Pearl moved away.  I rushed over to remove the bag from the nose.  Wait, it has hair.  Ummm, it is breathing!

OMG, it dawned on me, the due date was very wrong.  These guys still had round heads and no teeth.  Goats are born with teeth.  The hooves are still pure white.  It is so cold outside it is shivering already.  It is just laying there breathing.

Without thinking I grab it and put it in my coat and run in the house.  As soon as I get in the door I yell for my daughter to grab a laundry basket and as many clean towels as she can find in a hurry.  She is at the steps with the stuff by the time I get to the living room.  I grab a towel, rip off my coat, remove my sweater, finish removing the sack from the baby and wrap it in a towel.  At this point, I just know I have a breathing baby with hair (although it was not a full coat).  As a second thought I check and it is a little doeling (girl).  Oh wow.

Pure adrenaline is coursing through me now.  I realize I still have the shot in my pocket, how it even got in my pocket and out of my hands I cant remember.  So, I figure I will grab a few more towels and go check Pearl.  All of that took less then 5 minutes.  I run back out with a new sweater on.  Coat is a mess, so it is left to be washed.

I go back out and I bump Pearl.  It is similar to the Heimlich maneuver for a goat, but softer, to see if you can feel any other babies.  I felt another one in there, it is distinctive when you feel it.  So, I sit and wait.  Less then 10 minutes later (15 minutes between babies) out comes the next one.  I can see that Pearl is fatigued.  She just lays there and I move the sack of it's nose like the first.  She gets up, buts moves away again.  I remove the sack and wrap it in a towel.  This one is a tiny bit bigger then the first.  I take it in, it is a boy.

So, now I have two premature baby goats in my house, a fatigued and confused first time freshener in the goat house, and my husband is supposed to be asleep because he has to get up for work in 3 hours, but instead he is holding our baby who is four months and screaming to be fed and put to bed.  I rush out a bucket of warm molasses water to Pearl.  She is downing that.  I milk some colostrum (the first milk rich in antibodies).  I come back in finish drying the babies, get new clean towels under them, and try to feed each a bit of colostrum from a bottle.

They have a suck reflex.  Thank goodness!

So I lay them together, and cover them with a blanket to keep them warm.  I take my own baby so hubby can sleep.  I get her fed and in bed and by now it is almost 1 am.  I pass out just hoping that everyone is alive in the morning.

5 am and I wake up.  The baby goats have yet to make a sound.  I check, they are breathing.  I check and they are still breathing.  Good sign.  I go to check Pearl and take more molasses water.  She drinks half and has past the placenta.  All very good signs.

Hubby comes home on his breakfast break at 7 am to help me milk Pearl out.  I feed the babies again.  They can not stand.  Then my baby gets up and my normal day starts.  I then sit to take a breather.

Then the fun of raising two bottle babies.  I took them to the vet soon after.  Both had problems, but nothing they wont grow out of.  They were three days old before they stood.  Vet estimated them at 13 days early.  At first I had to feed them every two hours like new born babies.  They were just under 3 pounds each at birth.

First photo is them at 4 days old, sleeping.  It is a normal pop can for size reference.  Hooves has darkened and coats are growing, but still thin over the joints.
Next photo is them today with one of our other goats, Snowflake.  They are growing fast.

Just goes to show, be prepared for anything, no matter how improbable.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Choosing livestock

One of the first things people need to think about if they plan to move to a farm, start a farm, ranch, hobby farm, or anything else with animals is what do I get?  I dont think most people put enough thought into what they want to get until they have gotten a few things and realized it can be disastrous   The first thing you need to take into account is your needs/wants.  We were lucky in that this farm is a generation farm so it is debt free.  We had to build our house, but the land was paid for.  There was no animals here, so we had to put up fences, buy animals, shelters, etc.  For most people, they will be buying the land, so money will be a factor in every day life.  So your first thing you may want to do is cut down on your grocery bill.  This takes time, effort, and money.  I know, sounds odd, but growing your food is a long term investment and will pay for it's self, but not in a week.

So, growing your own food.  You have veggies, fruits, beef, pork, chicken, turkey, dairy, etc.  You have to choose what is going to be the first and easiest thing for you to do when starting off.  Here are some guidelines that we learned the hard way.

1.  First thing you need to do is make a list of what you want to accomplish.  If it is just in your head then no one else will know.  Your partner or children or family or friends that may be willing to help wont know what they can do or where to start without a list.  Personally, I always make lists, it helps me see what is most important.

2.  Prioritize that list.  Which animal is most important to what you want to accomplish?  Is it dairy?  Poultry? Beef?  It is all up to you.  But how do you choose the importance?  Well, here are a few things to help you accomplish that:
     A.  Which is easiest to start with for you?  If you have no prior knowledge, chickens may be the easiest.
     B.  Which will be the cheapest to start up for you?  Do you have fencing on your property or will you have to put them up?  Do you have feeders and a way to water them?  Will you have to buy feed for them or will you grow it?
     C.  Your personal comfort level.  Some people are afraid of birds.  Some wont go near a calf, much less a full size cow.  Some are afraid the pigs will bite them.  You have to really think and maybe visit a farm to see what you are comfortable with.
     D.  Is there anyone local to you that is willing to help teach you or will you have to learn on your own?  That is a big one because if you start with say a dairy cow, that is expensive, but saves a lot of money.  However, if they are not cared for properly they can die pretty fast.  So you want someone to help you or have a great vet that is cheap.

3.  Do research.  Look at your list.  Which thing was most important to you?  Your research should be centered around the animal most important to you.  Here is what you need to look for:
     A.  Social needs of the animal.  Is it a herd animal?  Then you have to have at least two.  Is it a flock animal?  Then 5 is better.  Is it a small animal that will be caged like a rabbit?  They can be alone.
     B.  How many of the animal chosen do you need to meet your goal?  Do you want to have your own chicken to eat and eggs to eat?  Do you want just enough milk to drink a day or do you want to make all your own dairy?  You have to know how much you want from this animal to know how many of the animals it will take to produce that.
     C.  Space.  How much space is needed for the amount of that animal that you want?
     D.  Fencing/Cage.  How much fencing will you need to put up or how many cages will you need to build?
     E.  Feeding.  How will you feed the said animal?  Do you need commercial feed?  Do you need hay?  Do you plan to grow your own?  Do they need minerals?  BTW, if you think that you can ever get away without having to give any animal a mineral and you do not have perfect soil with no snow cover ever, then you are lieing to yourself.
     F.  Water.  Most will think this is easy, and for most it is.  If you live in a warm climate, then you have to understand that they will drink more and thus need more water, so will you have an automatic system or just fill them up twice a day?  If it is a cold climate, really think about how you will keep the water from freezing or will you just give them water two to three times daily?
     G.  Shelter.  What type of shelter is needed for that animal?  If it is something like a rabbit, then you just need the cage and in the winter a small area they can get out of the wind.  In the summer, they need shade. If it is cattle, will you build a barn or just a three sided lean to?
     H.  Medical care.  Last but not least, how will you provide any vet care?  Will you provide vet care?  You will at least need to have a good vet that you can call and get medical advice from and that you can purchase the needed medications from.

4.  Set goals.  Now you know everything you need for your animal.  So, where do you start?  Well, first thing is containment   Put up your fences!  Your fencing needs to be suitable for the job.  Dont use two strands of barbed wire if you are going to get goats.  Dont use a 3' high fence if you are getting poultry.  Put up proper fencing and you will have a lot of issues solved already.  Next is the shelter.  They will need it to get out of the weather.  Then food and water set up.  Set your goals according what you can accomplish.

5. Do your list!  I know, repetitive.  But you need to have everything ready before you bring home your new animal.

6.  Now you are ready to get your animal.  So, where do you go?  Well, there are recommendations for every type of animal.  But, to make it short, contact breeders, associations, neighbors, other farmers.  Ask them if they know of anyone reputable to buy from.  Soon enough you will hear just a few names that keep coming up.  Your best bet will be to buy from those people.

7.  Get your animal home and enjoy them.  It is work, but if you let it, it can be enjoyable too.

Monday, April 1, 2013

What you learn.

Recently I posted about making butter and soft cheese.  I had a friend ask me how I learned to do this.  This year on the farm we have had some really joyous births and await several others.  Again, I get asked questions concerning how I learned to care for these animals.  It occurred to me that most people have gotten so far away from the farm and where their food comes from and how their food is made and grown that a lot of knowledge has been lost.  For me, I mostly read the books dating back to the late 1800's as they have the best information that has nothing to do with commercial feeds.  Then it is a lot of experimenting and putting everything into practice.  I was raised in the city and before I moved here I had only grown a few veggies.  It is amazing the things you can learn that after you learn it you sit back and go, wow, that is just common sense!  So, I will try to tell you what I know and what I have learned and then we will learn more together.

Our farm raises Highland cows, Jersey cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, and goats. We use commercial feed for the rabbits only.  The others we grow our own feed and just get minerals for them.  We live in a climate that most would never live.  It is a zone 1B.  Yes, you read that right.  1B.  We do get colder then that sometimes, but not for very long.  The hardest thing is watering the animals as it freezes in less then an hour.  Even a greenhouse will freeze in this weather in the winter.  So, our choice of planting is very limited.  We are still young at farming and still learning.  If you think you can learn everything about farming or animals you might as well stop reading now.  You will always learn something new.

So, what would you like to know about or learn first?

Friday, March 15, 2013

What is Clean?

I wonder if I can even remember the meaning of the word, Clean.  Growing up in the city and living mostly in town houses or apartments, I got used to small spaces.  I don't mind them very much.  But, I do like them to stay clean so that I am not stepping on things.  I don't mind dust.  But my floors, that is my pet peeve!  I really don't mind having toys on the floor from the kids.  What gets me is the dirt, straw, mud, stuff, that ends up on the floor and spread over the whole house in a matter of an hour of the floors being mopped.  I like to get out of the shower, walk across my floor, and still have clean feet!  We have hardwood floors because carpet and farm just doesn't mix.  Even with rugs at both doors, it seems to spread like wild fire.  You cant keep shoes outside as the winter is 7 months and snow and below 0 temps for most of it.  In the summers we have spiders so badly, again, you cant just leave shows outside.  So, I have a rule, shoes off at the door and there is a shelf to put them on.  For the most part, everyone follows it.  At the front door, very quickly, I get a mound of wet dirt, straw, and everything else you cam imagine from a farm.  Oh yes, and we don't have real dirt.  It is red clay mud!

Now, small children don't seem to care what they step in and where they track it.  So, with them running through out the house, it gets tracked from the door, through the kitchen, into the living room, and it is a mess.  Now, we live on a farm.  Yeah, I know you know that, but do you understand what that means?  That means (especially in winter so they don't freeze) going out four times a day to check for eggs, going out twice a day to milk and then feed calves, to go out and water everyone which requires hauling it by the bucket out of the house to each and every animal, and then going out to feed all the animals. Why don't we try to do all of it at once you ask?  Kids!  With a 3 month old I am nursing, I can only be gone for an hour or so (and that is if DH is home) before I have to come in and take care of what ever I have done and get washed up to feed said infant.  Not to mention cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the other children in the household. So, it is done in spurts.  If DH is at work, so most of the week, it is done in spurts as fast as I can.  Usually during said infants nap time.  So, that is A LOT of in and out.  And that is just by me.  That isn't including DH going in and out, DD1 letting the dog out to go potty, DD2 thinking she has to follow me everywhere, well, you get the point.  So, we have migrating mess on the floor several times a day.  While I am outside DD2 thinks she has to open the door and yell for me every two to three minutes, thus tracking it further and further in the house.

You would think that hardwood floors would allow you to keep it cleaner, I have to say, maybe cleaner, but never looks clean.  No sooner does it get mopped then it gets tracked on.  Is there such a thing as a clean house on a farm?  I say it can be.  Is there such a thing as a clean house with small children?  I say sure.  Is there such a thing as a clean house on a farm with children?  Sure thing is one of the two adults don't have to do chores outside and just has to clean inside.  So, in reality, is there such a thing as a clean house, with small children, and in this day in age where one parent is working and the other is home and thus has to do chores outside as well as inside?  Nope!  At least not in this house.  One day, maybe.  For now, the problem is solved with slippers!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tricky Chicky

One of the most bothersome and annoying things that happens on a farm with animals is the escape artist!  They can be any animal, at any time, and in any circumstance.  It can be a one time thing or an every day thing.  Here is one such story of one of those animals at one time.

A week and a half ago we had gotten a few chicks.  DH had wanted some black copper marans for a while and we finally got some.  Well, it is still around 15 F outside, so the chicks would not live out there.  They were just a few days to a week old and were not feathered out yet.  We have two wooden show boxes for poultry with a wire front and everything else is solid.  If I turn them on their backs then the wire faces up and they make great brooders for very small amounts of chicks.  So, I set them both up, split the chicks to have five in each box, get the straw in the bottom, the feeders full of food, and the waterers on the stands.  I have them in the house because they wont survive outside.  A small number of chicks is ok to be inside, but a large number will make too much dust!  So, the chicks are all set up and in their brooders and growing fast and feathering out well.  Now, some chicks are more inquisitive then others.  Some just want to run and others like to see what is going on and those are always the first to say hi and see what you have.  Well, I know that in every breed there are different personalities.  So I should not have been surprised when I found that one little chick loved to see what was going on in the house.  It would get on top of the waterer and stick it's head out of the top of the brooder and look around.

This went on for a few days and it just looked around.  Watched very intently what was going on.  Now, I have a dog in the house.  The chick could clearly see the dog.  If someone walked by the brooder it would get down and act as if nothing was happening.  If the dog went to investigate it would jump down in a game of you cant catch me.  I was finding it funny that this little one was so intent on seeing the world.

Well, I was sitting in the living room and I heard some flapping.  I look up and that little chick is on top of the waterer again.  I smile and watch it for a moment and then as I start to turn I notice it is jumping.  I knew that if it's wings were open there is no way it could get through the wire.  So I don't think much of it, but I watch to see what it is doing.  Then I notice, it is jump and grabbing the wire with it's beak.  At this point I start laughing and wondering if this is a chick or a parrot!  So, the head, neck, and part of the chest is above the wire, the chick's legs are stretched straight out to make it as tall as possible.  Then his head disappears for a split second and then up it comes.  It gets all the way to it's stomach and then falls back in as it's tail caught the back of the wire.  So, I watch longer just to see what it does.  It trys it again.  And again.  And again, but this time, it grabs the wire in front of it as it jumps and pulls its self up onto the top of the wire.  It's tiny chick feet grasping this thin wire trying to keep it's self up right and flapping its wings in an effort to not fall.  So, now this tricky little chicky have figured out how to get out of the brooder.

Wonderful.  Now I have a new escape artist.  So, now I cover that part of the wire so that the chick cant get out while on the waterer.

Butter Anyone?

In sticking with the spirit of using what we have and throwing out less and making things stretch I decided to try cultured butter from whey.  I had NO idea that cheese wasn't the butter fat.  I knew it was butter, but I thought that cheese took that too.  I was so wrong.  Apparently, once you make cheese (non acid cheese) you can separate the cream and butter fat out of the whey and use that to make cultured butter.  I used a recipe I found online to make it.

I took my cream separator and separated the whey after I my attempt at cottage cheese the other day.  I had read that you can make cultured butter out of this whey.  I got a really good amount of cream out of the whey and put it in the fridge to cool off.  I let it get down to about 56F and then put it in my blender like the recipe said you could.  It started to separate, but would not clump.  I tested it and the temp and shot all the way up to 90F.  So, I put the mixture in the metal bowl of my mixer and throw it in the freezer.

Now, this whole time I am in my kitchen doing this, I am very skeptical   I am thinking, who in their right mind would every make butter from whey?  I was sure it would taste really nasty.  Thinking it wasn't going to work no matter how cool I got the cream again.  It looked weird and I thought the whole idea of making butter from whey was weird.  I think that I should mention, I live in Canada, but I am American and was raised the in USA.  You say butter there and they dont ask if you want sweet cream or cultured, they ask if you want salted or unsalted.  I must have lived a very sheltered life as I had heard of cultured butter but had no idea what it was or even tasted like.  Everyone knows that you take your cream off the top of your milk to make sweet cream butter, BEFORE you make your cheese, not after!  So this process seemed very odd to me, making butter from whey.  Oh boy do I have a lot to learn!

So it gets back down to temp and I use the paddle of my mixer and guess what?  I watch it and it is starting to clump!  After the cottage cheese fiasco I was stunned that this was working!  So, I keep watching and there it is, a beautiful ivory  colored lump of butter.  Did you know that your cream and butter will be ivory instead of yellow if the cow is fed more grain and less pasture?  Pastured cows will produce a golden yellow cream and butter.  Since it is winter here and our pasture is under three feet of snow, our cows are fed grass hay and get grain making it ivory.  So, I rinse it three times until the water is clear and then I press out any water.  I put it in the fridge (more afraid to taste it this time then with the cottage cheese) and let it harden a bit.  I didn't add salt to it as I usually don't like salted butter, but that is sweet cream butter.  The next day I taste it.  WOW!  Amazing flavor.  I am shocked it tasted good.  I had heard so much bad about cultured butter, but this was great.  But next time I will add a little salt!  I kept hearing about it having a sour flavor with what I read.  I really detest the taste of plain cultured buttermilk.  Yet I like buttermilk pancakes.  Odd I know!  Anyway, I assumed that it would taste similar to buttermilk and it's sour flavor.  Nope.  Now, I have also read that the butter flavor will be slightly different depending on the cheese you use and what the cow is fed.  I found this cultured butter very easy to do and a great flavor.  It is one that I will have to keep around my house.  But, that means I will have to keep trying to make cheese too!  In time.

I was asked recently what the flavor of the butter is like.  Well, the best way I can describe it is to take 1/2 cup of your regular butter, add in about 1 tsp sour cream, and whip it together.  The texture is very light.  Not heavy.  More like a whipped butter from the store.  Also, you know that oily residue left in your mouth after you eat store butter?  Yeah, that isnt there.  It melts so easily in the mouth too.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Cheesy Times Part 2

Well, we will have home made cheese, at some point.  But what we ended up with is great flavors anyway!  So here is how it went.

We decided to try cottage cheese.  Pretty easy, many people make it all the time.  Well, apparently not that easy!  Did you know that if the milk happens to be pasteurized too long, stayed in the fridge too long (even with good dates), or the cow that you got that milk from happen to be later in her lactation (milking cycle), then your cheese wont turn out?  Yeah, I didn't know that either.  Since our milk is coming from our own cow and we pasteurize on the stove, there could have been a few things that goes wrong with the milk.  Long before we even start to make the cheese!  Well, our cow is later in lactation.  Not having known how this would affect the cheese, I dove right in.  I had so much milk that I had tried two batches at once.

I took my milk (home pasteurized)  up to the temp for the culture.  I added the culture and then the rennet per the recipe.  Ok, it is looking good so far!  Now the wait.  I swear this is the hardest part of making cheese.  Waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting.  Oh yeah, and waiting some more.  5 hours later we check it. Curds sort of formed, but not ready for cutting and not like it should be, they are extremely soft.  So I wait and check about every hour.  Finally around 8 hours later I check and it still is very soft.  The first of the two I decide to finish off and the other to let it sit.  So, not wanting it to be a total waste, I cut the curds like you are supposed to (well, as close as I could for my first attempt) and start my cooking process.  It cooks, but because the curds never got as strong (is that even the right word) as they are supposed to be it doesn't hold up great.  It is ok for cottage cheese though.  So, I start my rinsing process.  Once it is done I put it in the fridge.  Later, I go taste it.  The flavor is wonderful.  A bit soft, but not bad.

The second one I had let sit longer while I did this one.  The second one was even softer (having let it sit) and I decided to still finish it off too.  Well, I cut and cooked the curd.  It seemed to fall apart in front of my eyes.  All that work was gone.  Not to mention my idealistic self esteem I was gaining from the first batch tasting so good.  I cooked it to the length it required.  I also added about half an hour extra as it said if the curds were soft that you can cook it longer.  Well, that didn't work.  It was like a mix of cream of wheat and oatmeal.  I try to drain it.  Not working.  It wont drain.  The curds are so small and soft that it just wont do anything but get caught up in the butter muslin I was using.  I figured, it is already ruined, to not make a bigger mess, I will squeeze it to drain the whey.  I started that and remembered, we have a small cheese press.  So I put it in at 30 lbs.  I let it sit like that for about an hour.  Took it out and it made a nice little clump of cheese.  It smelled great and even tasted great.  So, got my wheels working and figured, why not add some spice to it and make it a spreadable cottage cheese flavored thing?  Added garlic and parsley.  Was wishing I had chives (next thing I need to grow).  Spread it on some veggie flavored crackers and just melted.  It was so good!  So, I may not have ended up with cottage cheese on this try, I still got a great spread!

To sum it up, no cheese is easy til you get it right!  The most stressful thing of is getting the curd right.  The best part of cheese is when it tastes right.  I would say that means you need to get it right.  Yet, I think it is fun to just try and have FUN doing it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Chessy Times Ahead?

As part of our life style we are hoping to achieve we have to start actually using everything we produce on the farm.  For the last two years we have had dairy cows.  Guess what?  We have (even yesterday) purchased dairy products.  Yep, I still would drink milk from the store while everyone else drank the cows milk.  We do pasteurize it, but that is because I haven't came to grips with the raw milk idea yet.  I know I know, it is healthy and as long as you have clean practices then it is best.  Our cows are all pastured so we don't have to worry about the barn cleaning and such.  But, it is something that I one day will over come.  Now, I never liked the cows milk from home.  I tasted it and I hated it.  We raise Jersey's.  Well, everything is a learning process.  Guess what we learned this week.  If you have Holstein milk, it tastes like the store.  It was the amount of butter fat in the Jersey milk that I couldn't take.  We got the Jersey's for their high butter fat and it turns out I cant bring myself to get past the strong taste.  Ironic I know.  So, since we now have a Holstein on the farm, I will be transitioning to that.  Ok, that saves some, but what about butter, cream, and heaven forbid, cheese.  We decided we have to learn to make it.  We have put it off for a very long time.  I personally didn't want to have anything to do with it.  I will do just about anything else.  But I didn't want to make cheese or cream or anything of the sort as I didn't want to be stuck to the stove all day long.

So yesterday we decide we are going to be ambitious and make something.  We made cottage cheese.  It didn't turn out just right, but that was our error and we figured it out.  But the taste was amazing!  It practically melted in your mouth too!  Ok, what to try next?  Cultured butter.  DH wants it, so why not?  Ok, then what?  When trying something new I always find I have more questions then answers.  Well, I did some research and found that out of one gallon of milk, I can make cottage cheese, then strain the whey to make cultured butter(all be it a small amount), then use the rest of the whey to make Ricotta!  Holy wow efficient.  What I didn't count on was the two day process it would take!  We saved the whey from yesterday's cottage cheese attempt and then had some sitting over night to finish this morning.  So, I have been at the stove cooking the curds.  Oh yeah, and guess what?  I enjoy it!  Shocked and surprised here.  I am not stuck at the stove.  I have plenty of time in between everything to go and do what I need to.  We will see how it all pans out.  I will update later about how it all went.  It is looking like we will have cheesy times ahead!  Wonderful flavors, experiments with spices, a sense of achievement and a great money saver!

For those that are interested in learning how cheese or butter is made, here is a great site for Cheese making.    I have learned a lot and even got my supplies from them.  They have good recipes to try.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lonely Paths

Some people are made for this life style.  Other people would never make.  And yet there are those that are not made for it that try every day to live it for the simple values it teaches.  When you think of farming you think of fields of grains or hay, cattle or horses in the fields, chickens in the yard, and neighbors sitting on your porch with a cup of tea.  You never think of the weeks it takes to plant those fields when you are alone in a tractor for 12-14 hours a day.  You don't think of the trips through the snow to check on a cow you know is close to calving at all hours of the day and night.  You don't think of the lack of sleep.  You don't think of hours upon hours you spend just feeding the livestock or mucking out stalls.  You don't realize that you will be so busy you wont have time to make friends that can come over and sit on the porch with a cup of coffee or tea.  Especially since that cup or tea or coffee is either at sun rise or it is an iced drink in the later afternoon when it is too hot in the summers to be out there working under the sun.  Most people, or maybe it was just me, have an idealistic idea of what a farmers life is really like.  For me personally, I don't mind the work.  I actually enjoy being out there to watch the calves born.  I love to bottle feed the ones we choose to keep for projects.  Milking a cow is very relaxing once you get the hang of it.  It almost becomes your therapy session.  Talking to the cow while you milk, you know you can tell her anything and you will never be judged for it and it doesn't matter what you say.

I was NOT prepared for the solitude this life style has ment for me.  I am not an out going person so meeting people is not very easy for me.  I lived in the city and was raised in a city.  I had neighbors within yelling distance.  Neighborhoods with kids so you met other parents.  Here we are so rural that meeting your neighbor you either get in the car and drive there or you walk the two and a half miles to the nearest neighbor.  If you were a couple farming, you could go out to a club or social event in town to meet people.  With a very young family and being next to a very small town there are very very few things you can do.  Here locally it is either hockey (which we have no children old enough to do) or it is swimming.  Otherwise, there is nothing for a family.  No parks or playgrounds.

It is a lonely path that we choose.  It makes you cherish every path that crosses yours.  For our live style can be as lonely as a path in the snow!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Milking Time Woes

We have several cows to milk daily here, so hand milking takes a really long time and if you have any sort of problems with your hands you cant do more then one, if that.  So, we use a milking machine.  Well here is how our last day has went!

Yesterday we had a new cow arrive.  She came from a dairy and was off the line so she is hand shy, you cant touch her, she doesn't know how to walk on a lead rope, nor has she been hand milked.  So, we put her in a small building that has a head gate in it as a wooden stanchion would not have held her.  She is used to being milked at 5 am and 5 pm.  So we go out at 4:45 pm last night to get her ready.  We have our bucket of warm soapy water to wash her udder, our milking pail and machine, oats, and a brush.  I run the head gate and DH pushes her in it.  Basically that means that he walks behind her and they don't like being touched so she will walk away.  You don't actually push on the cow, that is just what it is called.  So we get her in the head gate.  She is standing still and being really good.  We bring in the milking machine and turn it on so that she can hear the noise.  She doesn't move much.  I take the brush and start to brush her and she does really well.  By this time I am very surprised by her being so calm.  It is extremely unusual for a new cow that comes off the dairy line to be this still and calm.  I have two things going on in my head.  Either we are the luckiest people out there or she is going to explode at any minute.  DH washes her udder. She just stands there.  I get her whole left side (that is the left side of the cow, not my left side looking at her) brushed out.  We put the milking machine on her.  And guess what.....  She stands there!  OK!  By this time I am thinking her exploding is less and less likely.  Then we notice the machine is sucking, but not cycling.  That means that the machine is giving one big suck.  It should suck and release, suck and release.  Yeah, uncomfortable is all I can think.  So, he takes it off and we are trying to see what is causing the issue.  We had spent about 3-4 minutes fiddling with the machine by this time.  Suddenly I see DH lung forward.  SHE KICKED HIM!  Now, if you have ever seen a cow kick you know they can kick in any direction unlike a horse.  They kick in front, behind, and to the side.  DH was standing about a foot away from her to her left and about half way up her body.  So she kicked forward and out to catch him.  I have to admit, it was a well placed kick.  I am torn between laughing from the stunned look on his face and seeing if he is ok.  Of course I do both.  DH isn't very pleased.  He moves slightly farther away and goes back to checking the machine.  No sooner did he get involved with the machine and ignoring the cow, she did it again!  This time he popped her back (it is a light slap on the hip to say "no").  She stood there a bit stunned that she was reprimanded and no sooner did he turn his back, she did it again.  By this time DH is getting very agitated and I am trying to respect him and not fall on the floor laughing.  He stood there facing her.  She just stood there chewing her cud.  So he again turns his attention to the milking machine.  And again, within seconds of turning his back, she kicks him.  Now I have to give the cow a bit of credit here.  She is not hurting him.  She is lightly kicking.  A cow can break bones if they are really pissed or scared.  These kicks are more like she is telling him "come on, get this going".  Sort of a hurry up thing.  DH gets pissed and takes the machine out side to work on it.  No sooner does he leave then she stands there chewing her cud again.  I am laughing so hard inside by this time.  You know, it really is hard to laugh inside without showing it on the outside.  So, he figures out what is wrong and goes to get a tool.  I go right next to her and start to brush under her chin and down her neck and over her dewlap (that part that hangs in the front of a cow).  She stretches her head out as far as she can and leans in to the brush really enjoying it.  So, now I know her soft spot.  Grain and a good scratch.  That is the way to a cows heart!  After getting things fixed milking now goes well.  But this first milking sure left an impression.  I like this cow!

And so, here is Lily, our new cow.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Snow, love hate relationship

It is simple.  Snow and I have a love hate relationship.  I love to hate it.  There are only two good things about snow.  It provides moisture for the ground and it makes things look nice.  Every thing else about snow, I hate.  The ice that forms as it starts to melt and refreeze.  How you have to dig everything out.  Tractors getting stuck.  Having to walk through it sinking to my hips to check the animals.  How the fences get covered and a five foot fence becomes a two foot fence, or less.  You cant open gates.  Cars sliding on roads.  Any one of these can be annoying.  For me, the worst is the tractor.  We currently feed large round bales.  The tractor is the only thing strong enough to move them.  Well, stuck tractors means unable to feed properly, unable to plow driveway, and unable to pull out our own vehicles when they get stuck.  Next it is the fences.  They are five foot fences, we should not have issues with them going OVER the fences.  But guess what.  That is exactly what they are doing.  Stepping right over it.  Luckily the horses don't try to step over it.  The cows are easier to get back in.  The gates are frozen in and so much snow on each side you have to dig them out.  That takes time to dig out each gate and that can kill your back.  Imagine a 16 foot gate you have to dig out enough so that the tractor can get in to put bales in for the animals.  Then you just hope that as you drive the 14 ft tractor through the 16 ft fence it doesn't slide into the fence or secondary gate.

With all of this it makes you rethink how you are doing things.  How to change it so that the snow won't be such an effect on your daily life.  So, here is our order of business   Build covered hay storage lofts in each pasture and stock them with small square bales.  If we just have to walk out and throw hay off into a manger below then we will not have to worry about a tractor even starting, much less getting stuck.  Also, the milking animals are too far out.  Their pasture is 21 acres and across the dam.  Hiking through four feet of snow to go get a cow and then hike back twice a day is pretty hard on the legs.  Especially when you have many other chores to do.  So, we are making a small "winter" pasture up close off the barn for the winter months. When the snow falls we will now move the milking cows up into this small pasture.  Once it is melted we will open the gates and move them back to their summer pasture.  We designed it so that the pasture will have large gates that just stay open all summer to prevent any obstruction of movement.  Once we do the changes then I hope we can just enjoy the winter and the snow.  Maybe take up cross country skiing!  Then photos like this will just bring back good memories instead of having to stand in snow up to my hip!  Happy winter folks.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Life Lesson

There are many lessons you learn living on a farm.  One that has hit home lately is the life lesson.  Not the lesson of life, but the life lesson.  How important life is.  On the farm we have life born often.  Spring and summer is full of new life.  But what about the old life?  We recently had tragedy hit when our best cow suddenly past.  She was in the prime of her life and is a cow that can never be replaced!  With every passing of life you are reminded about how important every life really is.  Annie was our family milk cow and a wonderful nurse cow.  She would take any calf of any age at any stage and raise it.  She never had issues with us touching, catching, or handling any calves that she had.  She was a very important life that cant be gotten back.

Since the beginning of November (four months ago) we have had 5 births here on the farm.  Annie had her calf, then we had our baby girl, then Linhe had a heifer calf, then Blackie had a bull calf (was lost to coyotes), and then the newest one just two days ago is another bull calf.  We are even awaiting another birth from Bella at any moment.  The lesson of importance of life is an ever on going event on a farm.  It is more then a matter of being important because it is a life.  It is more then an emotional reflex saying it is a baby and must survive.  The importance of every life hinges on our very own survival.  We don't just live on a farm, we live off the farm.  The new heifer will be our new cow in two years, bringing a new life into our farm every year.  The bull calves (unless specially kept to bred) will be our food in the fall.  Every chick hatched is either breeding stock or going to freezer camp.  When your life depends on the life of another, the importance of that life is so much higher then you could ever have imagined before.

This was the first lesson I learned when I moved to the farm.  Life of your livestock comes first.  Their lives have to be of the utmost importance for you to eat and live.  The healthier they are, they healthier you are!

How it started

House built by DH great grandparents!

We all have our own beginnings.  It is more about what we do with what we have then how it got started.  But, here is our simple start.  This farm is a fourth generation farm.  My DH great grandfather homesteaded this farm.  His great grandmother followed his great grandfather here two years later.  They had a mixed farm.  They raised holstein cows, pigs, and chickens.  When his grandparents took over the farm, they made it into a grain farm, got rid of all the animals.  That worked well for them as his grandpa also worked off the farm so they didnt have to always be here.  They are passing it on to DH.  I married DH three years ago and moved here.  His dream was always to have it a mixed farm the way his great grandparents had.  This is our story of trying to achieve this now shared dream and raise a very young family at the same time.  And supposedly have time to keep up with this blog!  There will be laughs and dreams, tears and nightmares, but in the end, it will be what it will be.  Hope you at least find it interesting.