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.