Sunday, August 31, 2008

Making feta and unpacking

The feta curds draining into a bowl - in the laundry room sink.

The salted feta in a pan - this aged overnight under that towel.

Today it was time to use up some of that goats milk. I started my first cheese making project - Feta! I followed two from Granny Miller (who's blog is in my side bar) and one from Fias Co Farm (also in the side bar). Basically, I brought the milk up to the right temp, added the culture, waited an hour, added the rennet, waited some more, cut the curds, waited some more while occasionally stirring the curds, drained the cheese, cut the cheese (he he!), salted it, aged it, and then submerged it in brine. Right now, it's further aging in the fridge. I'm not 100% sure I'll like this version, since I left out the lipase powder at the beginning since I didn't think I had any (I was in the freezer). This shouldn't matter - it'll just be a milder feta. I hope to try it next week for the first time, so I'll be sure to post how it tastes.

Feta pieces in brine for aging and storage.

I only made a fairly small amount because I couldn't comfortably fit more than 1.5 gallons of milk in my big stainless pot. After I was done, I remembered that I had a larger pot and as it turns out, that pot fits nicely in my waterbath canner pot to be used as a double boiler. Next time, I'll be able to double the size of my batch! H ordered plans to build a cheese press and he's ordered some of the right culture. I think he's going to try mozzarella first - then cheddar or some other hard cheese. Should be fun!!

While I was making the cheese, H did a lot of work outside. He managed to clear out the gutters and trim the big pine in the front of our house. He also discovered that the french drain installed by the previous owners (to keep the basement from flooding) is clogged somewhere under our front lawn. That'll be a fun project to dig up come this fall, not. He also managed to finish roofing the goat shed and we discussed further improvements (building a stall for kidding and adding doors).

Lastly, we got some things organized in the house. I managed to get the laundry room unpacked and reasonably organized for now. It still needs painting, so once we do that, we'll set that room up as part dog room (so that they don't drag mud into the house once the rains start) and part storage/laundry. We also got the basement room predominantly done. Thanks to H, the baseboards are finally up and we were able to move in the rug. Then we put the big chair and ottoman, my desk and the small TV cabinet in there. It'll be my office and a nice cool reading room as well. Most of the stuff in there is basically just placed where it will go - I still need to do a lot of unpacking and organizing. I do have to get the shelving installed in the former closet (we are making 'built ins' there) before I can do most of it though. This is predominantly a winter project. It was nice to be able to move that furniture out of the main part of the basement. It freed up a lot of room and H managed to do a lot of unpacking down there because of it. This is important because we will need to move the big TV cabinet from the apartment down here sometime this weekend. We attempted to get it yesterday, but we could not get it down the stairs from the second floor of the apartment building - I wasn't strong enough to carry it at those angles. I suggested that we get a screwdriver and remove all three doors and the three drawers - and maybe that'll make it light enough for me. The plan is to give that a shot at a later date (but before Sept 9th when we are done with our lease).

And when we were returning from our unsuccessful little jaunt to the apartment - we come home to find this in the field across the street!

I can't even imagine what we would have done had this guy landed in our goat pasture or something!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Blackberry recipes

We have had a lot of blackberries in the fridge since last weekend, and it was time I didn't something more permanent with them. First order of business was to make more jam. I'd crushed 5 cups worth when we picked them, but didn't have time to do anything with them all week. I had ordred a food mill/sauce maker last week and it arrived yesterday. I decided to give it a shot with the jam. My plan was to use it for half the berries and use crushed berries for the other half. I ran most of my crushed berries through the mill and it produced about half the sauce as I had expected. So I added more berries until I had enough. With the exception of one minor accident due to my poor first attempt to attach the mill to the counter top (that caused much of the highly staining liquid to splatter!), it went well.

When I had enough sauce, I made jam using the same recipe I'd used the first time. It made 5 pints of seedless jam. All 5 jars sealed perfectly and they are quietly resting in the pantry downstairs.

Then I set about using the balance of the berries. I pulled out a blackberry crisp recipe that I'd saved. It was super easy to make and it tasted absolutely amazing!

We worked together to harvest the last of the apples off the tree that has been dropping them like crazy. We picked about a bushel's worth. I set about sorting them and about 2/3rds of them went into the basement for storage for now. The last third is going to go towards applesauce. As soon as I have time, I'll give applesauce a shot. I may wait until I get more of another type of apple, but we'll see. This tree was the one of all of them with the least amount of apples, so we will be up to our ears, eventually. And the pears? We have way, way, way more of those!

Yesterday, we had the guy from the siding company by again. We signed the paperwork and got ourselves on the schedule. I'll have an official date sometime this week, but we expect it to be about 2 or 3 weeks. When I knew that the guy was coming over, it served as a catalyst to move 'cleaning the house' higher on my priority list. I felt like I'd really accomplished something when both bathrooms and the living room were spotless. I love having a clean house!

Oh, one last little update - I MADE YOGURT!! Yes, you read that right. I successfully made yogurt this morning! I actually followed the same procedure I'd tried one other time, but for whatever reason, it worked today. The bad news? I didn't like it much. Figures, huh? I decided to make yogurt cheese out of it. I strained it through my cheese cloth and then threw it in the fridge. I'm going to mix in some garlic and chives and make a cheese spread out of it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Taking the plunge

This is a mock up of our new paint choices (from website). The walls and trim are about right, but the door color looks more brown than it should. It's more a deep red in real life. The darker blue will be for both the shutters and the deck (we don't have a picket fence).

So, we've decided to do the siding work before winter. We have been able to make the necessary funds available and we have set up an appointment to get our siding project on the schedule for this fall. The company will complete the siding job (including the weather proofing) and then we will do the paint job immediately afterward. We are also going to keep the old siding that is in the best condition to use on our little garden shed. There are boards that are rotted and a few walls need replacing. The old siding on the addition part of the house is newer than the rest of it, so hopefully it'll be usable. The remainder of everything they remove from the house goes to recycling. We will generate as little trash/landfill as possible in this process.

Keep your fingers crossed for us that opening up these walls does not reveal dry rot or missing insulation that will cost us even more to remedy!

Yesterday I discovered that we were making a few rookie mistakes when it came to our chickens. The first is that when we went to buy additional feed (after we finished the first bag), we bought 'layer crumble'. They were already eating 'crumble' (as opposed to pellets) so we figured that was ok. The 'crumble' part was not the problem. 5 week old chicks should NOT be eating layer feed! Ooops!! We made an emergency run to the feed store last night and picked up another bag of the grower/starter feed. The layer feed has added calcium and other ingredients that are not necessary for chicks and that can actually harm them if they are not producing eggs yet. I hope that a week of the wrong feed won't do long term damage. We put the balance of it into bins and will save it for later. They shouldn't go on layer until we've seen the first eggs...

The other rookie mistake was adding perches to the 'run' part of the coop. By putting them outside the coop, I am encouraging them to roost outside and that is not a habit we want them to pick up. Once they get to free-range, we want them to WANT to go back into the coop at night. It's safer from predators in there than in the run part. Plus, if they get used to roosting outside, they may end up roosting in trees and we can't have that.

The things we are doing right? Keeping them locked in the coop/run/tractor all the time for the first couple of weeks. This allows them to feel safe and it makes this spot 'home' for them. This way, when we do let them out, that's where they will naturally go when it gets dark or when they get scared. We are also doing right by the heat lamp. Basically, we turn it on only on the nights where it'll be cold (less than 65 degrees). The chicks are almost fully feathered, so they are close to not needing it at all. I've noticed that when the light is not on, they tend to sleep all in a pile in the corner of the coop. That's normally ok except that our coop has no bottom, so they are killing the grass in that one spot. We are going to put some type of bottom on it eventually, but until then, I want them to sleep on the perches!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Biking and buffalo

The view down our road from our mailbox - and basically what we see first as we bike to work.

I'm very happy to be able to report that I biked in to work today. I had planned on biking home last night and then in again today, but that didn't work out. I left work last night all dressed in my biking gear and discovered that my rear tire was very flat. I could have sat in the parking lot and changed it (I always carry a spare tube), but I was fearful that whatever caused it would keep causing it as this was my second one in less than 2 weeks. I just got in the car and drove home.

Turns out, riding would have been a mistake. The flat was caused by a hole in my rim tape that I'd already tried to patch with electrical tape once before. Had I put in a new tube and tried to ride home, I would have likely flatted and been stranded on the side of the road somewhere! The other problem was that without new rim tape, I had no way of fixing it so that I could ride any other day this week, either. I was not pleased. Luckily, my generous husband offered me one of his wheels (he has a spare pair). It happened to be the same size as mine, so I accepted his offer. I changed out the tire and got the bike all set up to ride the next morning. Fast foward to this morning, and WOW, riding that bike with a MUCH nicer and lighter wheel made a ton of difference in how it felt. It was so much easier and less tiring! Now I'm shopping for new, lighter wheels for that bike. It's currently got heavy duty touring wheels (they are basically bullet-proof) and I really don't need that for my commute. Anyway, the ride in was good and I'm sitting here feeling way more relaxed for having gotten some good cardio in!

When I was out milking Sass in the dark this morning, I kept hearing this wooshing sound coming from the neighboring field. I couldn't see anything (it was still very dark) and when I listened quietly, the best I could guess was that it was the wind blowing in the grasses. It just seemed odd that it only appeared to be coming from that field. Anyway, I ignored it and went about my business as usual. Not long after H got up, both dogs tore out the back door at a full run...barking like mad. H yelled 'buffalo' from his position at the bathroom window and told me to get my camera. I pulled the dogs inside, grabbed my camera, threw on my shoes and went out back. Sass was getting nervous while the dogs were barking, but once I'd shut them inside, she calmed down again. But man...the buffalo were amazing!

There were about 10 or 15 of them. They were right near our fence, so I approached and snapped a few photos. It was still quite dark, so only the ones where I was really close (so that the flash illuminated them) actually worked. They were really cool to see so close. H was feeding them apples and they loved them. They wouldn't take them from his hand or anything, but when he threw them out there, they gobbled them up.

H tossing apples to the buffalo - he's in the middle holding a big plastic bin in his hands (sorry it's so dark!).

We had to cut our visit short so that we could get ready to leave, but it was a neat way to start the day. By the time we were ready to leave, I noticed that they have moved on, so I let the dogs out again.

As we biked up the road on our way to work, we passed the same buffalo one more time. I guess they make the rounds of the perimeter of their enclosure. I'm now thinking that the wooshing sound I thought was wind was likely them, moving slowly along the far side of that same field. Based on the speed at which they seem to would put them at our fence right about when we saw them. It's a little odd to think that I was out there in the dark with 15 buffalo. It just seems so primitive and yet definitely very cool!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Scheduling difficulties

Another picture of the awful state of our siding and the lousy paint job

Last night we got a second estimate to have our siding replaced. To go with the Hardi plank siding (same as the first estimate) the cost with the local company was the SAME. We even asked him to run an estimate with vinyl siding just to see...and it only saved us $1K. I was thankful because I really, really would rather have the Hardi board stuff. So now, since this is way more than we had planned, we have to decide if we want to do this now, before winter hits...or do we wait until next spring giving us a little time to set aside some money. I have a feeling that we'll be waiting.

I did not get new pictures taken of the chicks, so I'll do that at the end of this week and call them the 5-week old pictures. I did find out this morning that they are using the perches in the coop and that makes me happy. I also stuck a couple of wooden dowels through the chicken wire on the run part of their home so that they had outside perches to play on. They use them that way all the time! We just have to make sure that they don't perch there at night or a possum is likely to grab one and that would not be pretty.

I've received a lot of emails from friends, family and even strangers about how impressed people are with what we are doing. Before anyone starts thinking that this is all cute animals and delicious country cooking...I figure that I'd better reveal a few of the not so picture perfect sides of this endeavor.

This morning, I set the alarm for 5 am so that I could get up, get the goat milked, feed and water all the animals, get something to eat and pack a lunch in time to leave at 6:30 am to bike to work. H got up at 6 and I was still no where near being able to leave. The goat wasn't ready to be milked at o'dark-thirty, so that took longer than expected. The cat was way too interested in the chickens this morning, so I had to be extra careful when feeding them and changing their water - so that took extra time. Then when I got inside, I discovered that we had no more glass jars for milk. They were all in use! I had to shift some milk into freezer bags and sanitize the jars before being able to strain today's milk. Then I realized that I'd defrosted meat for dinner, but I hadn't marinated it yet. I had to do that before work, knowing that I had a late conference call tonight and wouldn't be home in time to do that if we wanted to eat before 10 pm.

I ended up telling H to go on without me. I finished up my morning routine with tears in my eyes. If 5 am isn't early enough to be able to ride to work, what is? 4:30 am? So that means at most I can get 6 hours of sleep a night? I can't go to bed any earlier...I've got things to do at night, too. Maybe a 3 hour commute is just too much in conjunction with a farm and a full time job. Sometimes I wonder if this is all even possible. Am I kidding myself??

Anyway, as I was noticing the gorgeous day dawning over the goat pasture, I decided on a compromise. I made a double sized lunch, packed an extra work outfit and my biking clothes in my pannier and threw my bike in the back of the car. I'm going to bike home from work today after my conference call, and bike back in to work tomorrow morning. Then I can drive the car back home tomorrow afternoon. As much as I'd rather ride a full commute with company (my H), getting to do it half on one day and half on the next is better than nothing.

On Sunday, our ride started out stressful because I felt that taking 2-3 hours out of my weekend time for 'fun' is a bad idea. That's just wrong, right? But there is so much to do, and just not enough time in which to do it. The bathrooms need cleaning. The dining room table is still piled high with boxes. There are piles of broken down boxes everywhere. There are stains on the carpet from the move that still need steam cleaning. I have boxes of clothing lining the back hall. The guest room bed is piled taller than me with misc stuff that needs to be organized and put away. The piano is serving as a holding place for random things that probably all need to go into a yard sale that is still weeks away from happening. The laundry room is in chaos with things collecting there that don't belong there. The basement room is only about 1/2 done and the rest of the basement is a sea of boxes, 6 deep in some places. The garage is piles of stuff with walkways cleared through it to get to the things we need (and there is no way even one car could fit in there right now)...the shed is a pile of garden supplies in complete disarray. The lean-to only has 2/3 of the roof shingled and the chicken coop has no nesting boxes yet. The yard is only 1/3 mowed, the row garden needs weeding, the apples need picking, there is wood and oil to be ordered yet, and the siding is in sad, sad shape. All this is slowly eating away at this 'type A' personality of mine. It does not sit well with me - I pray that I can keep myself in some semblance of calm until we have time to work through all this stuff. Clearly things are not the idyllic picture I often present here...

Maybe someday I'll get this all down to a better routine/science. It is possible to do it all, right? That's what my mom always told me. "You can do anything you set your mind to"...well damn it, I intend to prove it (eventually).

Monday, August 25, 2008

The buffalo return

It looks like Monday's are the day that the buffalo get access to the field behind our house. I got up, went to feed the dogs, and while I was giving them water, Maggie ran outside for a quick pee before breakfast. She immediately started barking like mad. It was the 'hey, something is out here' bark, too. I looked, and sure enough, a HUGE prehistoric looking buffalo was just on the other side of the fence not 25 ft from where Sass and Buddy were munching. Neither of them seemed too concerned. I went about my inside work and by the time I'd headed out to do the milking, the buffalo had moved on. I am thankful that they all seemed to live quietly together this time. I've been terrified of Sass hurting herself in our absence should the buffalo reappear while we were at work. I guess their excitement and running around the last time was what upset Sass the most. If they are calm, she appears calm. Kind of like the dog whisperer, huh?

Last night, H ordered plans to build our own cheese press. We want to be able to make some of the hard cheeses, so a press is necessary. I still have plans to make feta, I just need to find time. This coming weekend, I'm taking Friday off. No reason other than my desire to have 4 days off in a row with a good chance of getting a lot done AND getting in some fun bike rides. Maybe I'll be able to make some cheese then.

Tonight I'm leaving early to meet the rep from the second siding company. This company is the same company that has done some work on our house when the previous owners had it. I'm really curious to see what they come back with for an estimate.

Tonight I'll be making more blackberry jam, and perhaps picking some more apples. I'll also be uploading all the photos off my camera and updating the last few posts in this blog! I will need to take and post 5 week old chick pictures on Wednesday, too.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday biking and blackberries

Today's 'harvest'

Yesterday after the siding estimate, we ran a few errands. I picked up a water bath canning pot (big enough for 7 quart jars) for a great price at a local discount store. I was also able to pick up some sturdy hooks to add to the goat shed for use in milking. I needed a place to hang the milk pail out of the way while I did chores and another place to hang the lantern when milking in the dark. I also talked H into the long handled 'fruit picker'. I can't wait to make use of it later this week!

After we got back, I installed the above mentioned hooks and installed 2 removeable perches in the chicken coop. I still don't know if the chickens are using them yet because they scatter when we open the door, but I imagine that they'll get used to them eventually. My only fear is that they are too slick since I used broom handles that were already varnished. If I don't see evidence of their use in the next couple of days, I'll take some sandpaper to the finish and rough them up a bit.

This morning, we decided to go for a bike ride. After the chores were done, we headed out. I'd mapped out a route the night before, but only had a cue sheet printed out (because the map was too hard to read). The ride started out ok, but we made a wrong turn and headed towards Hagg Lake. It was actually a nice ride up there, so all wasn't totally lost. Then we turned around and headed back. We continued on our route and made a second wrong turn. This one wasn't my fault though...the directions were wrong. Anyway, we headed into a nearby town (which was smaller than our town!), and looped back towards the way we came. All in all, it ended up being 28 miles, but we were angry and fighting with each other most of the route. It wasn't pretty. The rest of the day was somewhat tense because of it, too.

After we got back, I adjusted a few things on my commuter bike in preparation for commuting to work on Tuesday. Then I started up the mower and got to work mowing the lawn. I did about 1/3 of it before the rain started. During that same time frame, H managed to shingle another 1/3 of the lean-to before it got too slippery to work. We then moved the chicken coop to fresh grass before heading inside. H ran to the store to get plumber's putty to replace the faucet in our bathroom sink while I headed out to pick blackberries (in the rain). I picked 3.5 quarts of blackberries (1.5 of the wild and 2 of our cultivated ones - with H's help). I also picked our first zuchini and a few tomatoes which we had sauteed with our dinner.

Zucchini & tomato saute - one step closer to our 100 foot meal!
I mashed the right amount of berries for one more batch of blackberry jam, and the rest are in the fridge. I'll make the jam Monday after work. I'm also going to make a blackberry apple crisp recipe I found - and we'll definitely be eating these on cereal and ice cream every chance we get! I think I may even freeze a few quarts with the next harvest. The wild ones won't likely freeze well because they are too easily squished. The cultivated ones are firmer and more likely to survive a freezing.

The next step will be figuring out how to preserve all the apples, plums and pears for the winter!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Home improvement sticker shock

A 'before' siding photo

In order to ensure that our house will stay solid and strong for the next quarter century, we have been working towards improved siding. Our original plan was to replace a few boards of the existing siding, sand it all, and then repaint it. Upon further investigation, we discovered that it's not in very good shape at all. We set up a couple of appointments to have estimates for replacement done. The first one was this morning.

This company is top rated in the country. They do an extremely thorough job including sealing the house prior to applying the siding. This is very important in a wet environment like the PNW. If we want this job to last, it has to be done right.

The estimate for replacing all the siding was about double what we had expected! We will have to do some serious priority rearrangement in order to afford it. On Monday we have an appointment with another company to do the same job, so we'll see how that goes. It's a really, really difficult decision for us because of the price. We know this will GREATLY improve the value, life and appearance of the house. If we were planning to sell it, we'd do this in a heartbeat because we KNOW it'll pay for itself. But, since we plan on staying, it's hard to qualify the value when buying this now will be a financial burden. We also have to decide ASAP. This is becaue this company is about 5-6 weeks out in scheduling right now. If we get it done in that time frame, that may (or may not) leave us a weekend or two of clear weather in which to paint it before the rains start. We HAVE to get it painted before winter. Decisions, decisions...

Last night we had some friends come by to meet the animals and see the house. It was kind of last minute, so they had to see the house in all it's neglect. How embarrassing! At least we had one room unpacked and the kitchen was clean. We then all went out to a local place for sushi. Yum!

Prior to our company's arrival yesterday, we'd set about picking some of the apples on the one tree that is dropping them. H worked on picking up all the fallen ones while I climbed a step stool to pick them off the tree. I got about half a bag full before we had to call it quits. I couldn't reach them anymore anyway. I need a taller ladder and a fruit-picking thingamajig.

Our first (of many) apple harvest.

I put most of the apples in a cotton mesh bag and hung them in the basement pantry. I threw a few in the fridge for general eating and I washed, peeled and sliced 7 of them to make a baked apple french toast recipe I found online. I used fresh french bread, seven apples of unknown variety (good baking type), 3.5 cups of fresh goat milk, 8 eggs (from the, sugar and misc seasonings and spices. I assembled it all last night and this morning I threw it in the oven prior to starting my morning chores. It was done baking right about when we were ready for breakfast and YUM!!! It was delicious! (Good thing, too...since it made enough to feed an army!). The recipe is here: Apple & Spice Baked French Toast

Delicious! It reheats really well, too.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The yogurt saga continues

The yogourmet maker.

Goat's milk - on the way up to 180F for one of my previously failed attempts...

Yeah, I still suck at making yogurt. I can't seem to get it right! Last night I heated 2 quarts to 110F, and then split them in half. One quart got the appropriate amount of the freeze-dried culture and went into the oven. I heated up the space to about 110, turned on the light, and turned off the oven itself. Then I set the jar on the rack in the back corner near the light. I've heard that this is a good way of keeping your culture warm and happy. It didn't work. Either 1) the culture is bad or 2) our crappy broken oven isn't sealed or insulated well and it wasn't warm enough in there all night. Or both. Either way, after 9 hours, the milk was still milk - but smelled funny. Lovely.

The second quart went into the yogurt maker and I added live culture organic yogurt from the store. 9 hours later, I had another container of smelly milk. What is going on??

Today I had another discussion with a raw milk yogurt 'expert' at work. I also spoke with H (who is out of town) and we all came to the same conclusion. I get one more shot, and then I need to give up on making yogurt!! For my last attempt, I am going to follow a recipe from "Goats Produce Too" a book written by a woman who raises Alpine dairy goats in Michigan. Her book came highly recommended, and since she also uses raw Alpine milk...her methods should work for me. If not, I'm done. If H wants to give it a try, he's welcome to do so, but I'll be done with it.

Can you imagine my excitement if I am successful after all this? I think I'll scream out loud if I actually see creamy yogurt tomorrow morning! If I fail, I still have plans to make more blackberry jam this weekend - so at least I'll feel like I'm capable of something!

This weekend, we have a couple of small tasks on our plate. First of all, we need to move the chicken coop/tractor. The chickies are doing a number on that grass patch. I think we need to make a point of moving it every week at the very least. We also need to put up the perches and add a door to their opening. I'd also like to get the water proofing done if it stays dry enough.

The other thing we have to do this weekend is harvest apples. We have one tree that is dropping them like mad, so we need to get out the ladders and grab them off the tree as soon as possible. I also want to clean up the hundreds that are already on the ground before the dogs eat too many of them and get sick from the bugs/worms.

We have an appointment to meet with someone about getting an estimate done on replacing our siding. I can't wait! I'm dying to see how much it'll be. I'm fearful of the total cost, but man, what an amazing improvement it'll make on the not only the appearance of the house, but on the longevity of it as well.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Milk in the freezer

I am up to my ears in goat milk. Just this morning, I noted that I have 1.5 gallons of milk in the freezer and 2 gallons in the fridge. And every day that I don't drink or use a bunch of it, it grows by a half gallon! There is a woman here at work who has expressed an interest in buying some of our milk. I'm thinking that I should take her up on it. I just don't know how much to charge!

In the meantime, I've been freezing extra milk in ziplock double zipper quart size freezer bags. I pour the strained milk into the bag, zip it up, lay it on a plate, and set it in the freezer. I use the plate so that the milk freezes relatively flat for storage purposes. I've also read that there are a couple of ways of canning milk for future use as well.

In order to best store raw goat's milk in it's original state, it is very important to bring the temperature to 40F (optimum storage temp) as soon as possible. "Grade A" storage means you've gotten the milk to 40F in less than 30 minutes. With household equipment, that's not really possible. "Grade B" would be doing it in less than 60 minutes. We were putting the freshly strained milk (in a quart ball jar) into the freezer for a bit and then moving it into the fridge. That only gets the milk to temp in about 90 minutes and that is only if you shake/stir it occasionally. Not good enough. Then I read that submerging the container in ice water is a good way of cooling it. It's faster, but again, you have to stir it and you have to attend it (keep adding ice) the entire time it is cooling. That'll get it there in about 45 minutes if you are attentive, but who has that kind of time? So, the next best thing is to use the ice bath method for a little while and then use the freezer. I've been doing this for the past couple of days. We'll see in the next week or so if that milk stays fresher longer or not. As it is, milk just put in the freezer for about 30 min to 1 hour and then into the fridge keeps for a little over a week. If this new method gets us to 2 weeks, I'd be very pleased. As it is, when raw milk goes 'bad', it doesn't really go sour. It gets a little off tasting and smelling, but it's still usable...particulalry for cooking. We dont' like the odd taste, so when we have milk that gets to that state, the dogs get a treat. They love it! We've had to throw very little milk away since we started. Most of it was in the form of 'bad' yogurt!

Anyway, this morning, I did the bath/freezer method. Unfortunately, I was in such a hurry to leave on time that I forgot to move the container from the freezer to the fridge before I left for work. This is the second time I've done it! Luckily, I've been using plastic lids on the jars instead of the metal ones (which will rust over time). The plastic lids will flex - so there is little to no danger that the jar will burst - the lid will just pop off like it did the first time. Sometimes I'm an idiot though. As I put the jar in the freezer, I even told myself 'don't forget it, this time'. Duh!

So I've been doing some research on the yogurt thing. First of all, I'm pretty sure that the last time I tried it, it would have been fine except for the addition of the powdered milk. I was fearful that the culture wasn't working right, but upon doing further reading, I'm thinking that it's probably fine and that I didn't use enough. Tonight I'm going to try it again, using the same culture, but using more of it. I also have some store bought yogurt that I'll try as well (using a different method). I will report back tomorrow morning if I have yogurt or not!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How to simplfy

The roses are blooming again - even without my attention!

When my husband and I decided to move out here to the PNW and to buy a small piece of land and start our own little 'homestead', the idea was to simplify our lives. Are we on track? I think so. Because of the price of land here, we had to take out a larger mortgage than we wanted. It's certainly affordable with our current salaries, but with the economy on shaky ground, what happens should one of us lose our job? I *think* we could make it on one salary, but all improvements would have to come to a grinding halt. We owe $ on two cars, but selling the Prius should rectify that. Not only will one car payment disappear, but applying the remainder towards the other car will bring us down to only having to pay on it for another year before that one is paid off too. We have student loans, but no credit card debt. We do pay towards our retirement and we have other investments as well. All in all, I'd say that we are in a very stable place, financially.

I'd like it to be better. I'd like to be debt free. The plan is to pay additional towards the mortgage each month. We didn't on the first payment because we are still paying rent on our apartment, but once that is done, we will start chipping away at that mortgage.

Eliminating debt is one form of simplification. We are working to provide more of our own food from our land. Freezing and canning the harvest (and the milk and milk products) will help us offset food costs in the coming winter. Once I get the pantry set up, rotating our food and having all the things we need on hand to prepare meals makes life much easier. Less last minute trips to the grocery store will not only save us money, but save us gas and most importantly, time.

This weekend we have a couple of companies coming over to give us estimates on residing our house. We will also get our insulation evaluated. We have about a cord and a half of wood, and we will purchase some more to get us through the winter. We will also be filling our oil tank shortly (just to have it). The goal is to insulate and conserve as best we can to avoid throwing our money in the home heating toilet this winter. Again, simplifying instead of wasting.

Already, I'm getting better at managing my 'animal' chores each morning. And each day, I come up with new ways to make it easier. Just last night I got the bright (and necessary) idea of using a plastic bag as a cover for the milk bucket. This keeps out the rain, dust, etc and makes it easier for me to complete the other chores while the milk awaits my attention (instead of having to take care of the milk immediately). Keeping a small, water-proof container of chicken feed near the coop saves me the trip back to the garage to keep them fed. I just ordered 4 resealable lids for the 6 gallon plastic buckets we can get a HD or Coastal. The lids will allow us to use these buckets to store the feed in an airtight way - which will be essential when the rains start and moisture is an issue again.

Is my life simpler? Not yet, but we are getting there. I'll admit that it's difficult living in two worlds. At work, I'm an engineer working on high-tech products for a very consumer driven world. At home, I'm a farm wife. Like anyone else, I struggle with finding the balance. Some weeks, work wins the power struggle...some weeks, the farm does. I don't have much free time, but considering how much I enjoy the farm work, I'm ok with it. I've never been one to embrace inactivity for too long anyway.

In many ways, though, this whole endeavor has truly simplified our lives. I no longer yearn for things like nice cars, exotic vacations or gorgeous clothing. I still appreciate beauty, of course, but at the same time, I see those things and think of all the waste created in their production. I feel good about our choices. I don't feel like I am missing out on 'life' by not traveling to Europe. I've always taken pleasure in simple things (like the smell of warm dirt, cut grass or lilacs), but now it feels like I notice those things way more often. It gives me a sense of peace. In so many ways, I don't feel like I can adequately explain it. Maybe it's just contentment. Contentment makes life more simple.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

blackberry cobbler recipe

I've had a couple of requests for this recipe, so I thought I share it here in case anyone else was interested. My husband found this recipe online from in the southern food section...and it was delicious. We made it using 100% wild blackberries, so if you have cultivated ones that are even more 'perfect' then it'll probably been even better! (my comments in italic)

Blackberry Cobbler

2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 cups blackberries, picked over, rinsed & drained
1 cup flour (we used whole wheat pastry flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, cold, cut in small pieces (we used Smart Balance sticks)
1/4 cup boiling water

Preparation: In a large bowl, stir together the cornstarch and 1/4 cup cold water until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Add 1 cup sugar, lemon juice, and blackberries; combine gently. Transfer to a cast iron skillet, about 8-inch. (we used a stainless, oven-proof casserole pan)

In a bowl, combine the flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 1/4 cup boiling water and stir the mixture just until it a soft dough is formed.

Bring the blackberry mixture to a boil, stirring. Drop spoonfuls of the dough carefully onto the boiling mixture, and bake the cobbler on a baking sheet (line with foil to avoid a mess) in the middle of a preheated 400° oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the topping is golden. Serve warm with vanilla (goats milk) ice cream or whipped cream.

Oh, and as an update: the blackberry jam was WONDERFUL!! It's so incredibly delicious - all I want to eat is jam on bread...all day long! ;-)

The recipe for that was super easy. 5 cups of crushed blackberries (5 cups after washing & crushing), 7 cups of sugar & 1 packet of certo pectin. I followed the recipe that came with the pectin and it turned out perfectly! My only additional note was that I got a 1/2 pint extra than the recipe said I would (luckily, I'd sterilized an extra jar, just in case).

The other animals

H with Maggie when we adopted her at 4 months old.

So I've introduced all the farm animals, but I don't think I've formally introduced the animals that came with us to Oregon from North Carolina. Besides the two goats and the 12 chickens, we have two dogs and a cat. All of them were rescue animals from a shelter in NC. Kitty came to us first. He was adopted as H's pet when I had my former dog Tango. Tango was not friendly to other dogs, so when H wanted a pet of his own, we settled on a cat. They got along well once Kitty learned that Tango was in charge. Then Tango got sick and rapidly declined. Less than two months later, she left us for a 'better place'. I was heartbroken....still am. She was a wonderful dog and I still miss her often.

But, I grew up with dogs so it was weird to not have one. I lasted about 3 weeks before I had to hear the pitter-pat of doggie feet around the house again. We went to the same shelter where we got Kitty and met Maggie. Maggie was a 4 month old puppy that was born in the shelter. She knew no other life. We are guessing that she was the last of her litter as she was alone in her cage and all of the others had multiple dogs in them. She was so incredibly adorable and when we got to take her out of her cage, we both just fell in love. She was such a sweet puppy! Affectionate and playful... She sat in my lap while we filled out the paperwork and she got more "awww's" from the people passing through. She was 25 lbs at that point. We are pretty sure that she is part boxer, part chow and part shepard. We call her the 'super mutt'. Her boxer comes out in her playfulness and her slobber...the chow genes have given her the softest, fuzzy fur...and she is most shepard when she is around water. Loves to play it in, hates to swim. She's got tiny little feet like Tango did who also loved water but hated to swim (Tango was shepard/doberman).

Maggie was a little difficult to house train. She was afraid of a lot of things (having never been exposed to anything) and she was sneaky. She is a smart girl though, so once we caught her mid-mistake and showed her the right way of doing it (outside), she was good to go. She is definitely a pleaser and likes to do the 'right' thing. She and Kitty got along fairly well from the start. Maggie can often be too rough with him, but he knows that she's always good for a game of 'chase'!

Charlie and Kitty enjoying the NC winter sun together.

Two months later, we decided that Maggie needed a canine we went dog shopping again. We met Charlie. He was very, very quiet and when we took him out of the cage, he was very attentive of us, very sweet, and not timid at all. I was hesitant to get a male dog, but H was totally sold. We took him home and introduced the dogs right away. The first thing that struck us was that Maggie's energy was MUCH higher than Charlie's. We were afraid it was going to be an issue when the second day, he was even more subdued. I took him to the vet, and lo-and-behold, he was sick. Kennel cough. We got some medication and withn a couple of days, he was feeling like himself again. And that quiet, calm dog we thought we'd adopted? GONE. Yep, Charlie had plenty of energy to match Maggie. What a pair they make! Charlie isn't as fast as Maggie, but what he lacks in speed, he makes up for in enthusiasm. And he is 100% dedicated to H. By his side - faithfully at all times. The vet was immediately convinced that Charlie is part bassett hound and part golden retriever. He has a howl that is 100% hound (and a very deep, reverberating bark)...but he's a lover like a golden. He'll take attention over food any day (except when the food is raw goat's milk - he's crazy about it!). He's also a big fan of swimming - particularly if there's a stick to fetch.

Charlie and Maggie watching the goats through the fence.

Now, 2 years later, the dogs are like brother and sister. They have their disagreements, but they are dedicated to each other. Maggie dotes on her older brother (Charlie is about 9 months to a year older than her) and Charlie tolerates her annoying traits. Charlie also gets along well with Kitty. As Charlie is less 'rough' with him, Kitty tends to cuddle up to him when he's in a calm mood (whereas Maggie is for playing). When all three are in a playful mood, the house is NOT quiet. I wouldn't have it any other way!

They really all are characters, and we are happy to have them in our lives.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Early Morning Panic!

Sassafras - up close an personal (and in a panic-free state)

What a morning!

I awoke at my normal time, fed the dogs and the cat and was prepping the stuff for milking Sass when I started to hear the gate rattle. I glanced outside and saw Sass and Buddy running around the yard like they were crazed. I didn't understand what was going on, so I put on my shoes and grabbed my sweatshirt to go and investigate. Next thing I know, I hear Sass bleating at the top of her lungs from the gate. I tear outside and stop short in my tracks for a half a second as I see what is upsetting the goats. The field behind our goat field is full of buffalo of all sizes - running around like they are puppies. I've never seen such activity from such HUGE beasts (that look so prehistoric!). I'm standing there for a few seconds, as the dogs ran into my legs (I'd stopped right in front of the dog door). They too came up short as they stared into the field for a second or two. Then they started barking like crazy while I snapped out of my awe and ran to the goat gate.

Turns out, Sass had broken the carbeaner holding the chain and bent the fence latch open just enough to get herself stuck in it. She had gotten her head and shoulders through but then it had closed again around her middle and she couldn't get either in or out. I held her with my legs while I got the latch undone and released her. I led her back into the fenced area against her will and tried to secure the gate behind me as best I could. It was pretty mangled. Meanwhile, the dogs are barking like mad - and I can hear H (still in bed) yelling for Charlie to shut up. I can't leave the gate as Sass is clearly terrified and repeatedly throwing her body against it. When she realized that wasn't getting her the desired result, she started running at the gate in an attempt to jump over it! I'm trying to calm her down, but frankly, I was a bit freaked out too. I've never seen buffalo so active - and I just started having visions of what would happen if they decided that they wanted into our yard. Would that fence hold them? I doubt it! I know ours certainly wouldn't! Do buffalo attack people? Goats? Dogs?

Sass was wild-eyed, shaking, tossing her head...totally freaking out. The buffalo were HUGE - and two of the biggest ones were right next to their fence which put them all of 5 feet from our fence! One of them started eating the bark off a tree that stands between the two properties. I was doing everything I could to keep my imagination from running away with me - I didn't want Sass to sense any more fear in me than she'd probably already noticed.

Luckily, the barking dogs got H out of bed. He came to the door and was yelling at them while I was yelling to him to come help me. He didn't have his glasses on, so he didn't see the buffalo! Once he'd put on shoes and his glasses, he came out to help. While I held the gate, he went to scare off the buffalo. All but a couple of them had already moved up the field and out of our view already. He managed to encourage the last two to leave as well. Then he held the gate while I ran and got the milking stuff. He had to help me as it was hard to calm Sass down enough that I could milk her. Once we'd done that, we took turns guarding the gate while the other person ran chores. I filled their water and hay, then he got a new chain and tried to bend the gate back. We managed to secure it as best we could and by then, Sass had returned to normal. As all this was going on, poor Buddy was so confused. He kept following Sass, but instead of her being a comfort to him, she was freaking him out. Luckily, he didn't seem to be disturbed by the buffalo.

Then the thunder started! Yes, rain...for the first time in like 2 months! I put some fresh hay in the lean-to for the goats to bed on and luckily, as long as it's raining, they'll probably stay in there and not see if the buffalo come back. Had I not been there this morning, Sass would have likely either severely hurt herself on the gate, or gotten out and probably gotten run over. I pray that nothing happens while I am at work today.

Though, if it weren't for the goat panic, I might have enjoyed the experience of seeing the buffalo playing in the field. They are pretty awe-inspiring beasts up close. (and no, I did not think to grab my camera, so I have no pictures to share...not that I had a spare hand with which to take one anyway!).

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A success and a failure

I guess I'm not cut out for making yogurt. Seriously, it's not supposed to be so difficult, is it? I screwed up another batch today. Actually, I screwed it up yesterday, but had to throw it out today.

I made this batch using fresh goats milk, a purchased culture from Dairy Connection, and powdered milk (for thickness). I followed a recipe, to the T...and yet, it was gross. I used the Yogourmet, so I'm pretty sure it wasn't a temperature issue. I used a thermometer to make sure I was hitting all the right temps in preparation, too. Because goat's milk doesn't produce a firm yogurt, often either powdered milk or gelatin is added. I opted for the powdered milk recipe, and it didn't turn out good. When it was done, there were large masses of solid - probably from the powdered milk. I threw a mini-hissy fit when I discovered how gross it was. H teased me for a bit, but then told me to keep trying. He encouraged me saying that eventually, I'd get it right. I'm not so sure, but I'm not giving up yet. I'll try again tomorrow. I figured out how to move a multi-hundred pound lean-to with a piece of pipe...I should be able to figure out how to make yogurt from goats milk, right?

For the success...I made blackberry jam! Not only did I make blackberry jam, but I also successfully canned it using the 'water bath' method. It went very well. I made the jam using more than 2 quarts of blackberries, sugar and pectin. I followed the directions from the pectin (which were very similiar to a recipe I'd found online). First I boiled the sugar and the berries until I got a full boil that could not be stirred down.

Berries and sugar, on the way to a full boil...

Then the pectin was mixed in and the mixture was boiled for one full minute. Then I removed the mixture from the heat and skimmed off the foam. Then I laddled it into the hot prepared jars, added a lid and set the jars in the make-shift water bath canner I put together.

My water-bath canner creation - it's a big pot with a silicone pot holder on the bottom to keep the jars from clanking into each other and off the direct heat of the bottom of the pot.

With the jars in it, the pot holder remained in place and did it's job.

The recipe made 4 pints plus one half pint of jam. I then boiled the jars for 10 minutes and then set them on a towel to cool.

The finished jam!

While I was cleaning up, I heard all 5 jars 'ping' as they sealed. I still haven't checked the seal as the recipe says to let it sit for 24 hours. I'll check the seals and try the jam tomorow, but I have high hopes. The jam left in the pan was already setting up, and I did lick the spoon to make sure it would be tasty. All in all, a success!

Now I need to get a larger pan so that I can boil the quart jars for canning pears & apples this fall. We are headed towards a bumper crop! I would LOVE to get my hands on a nice cider press, but the good ones are crazy expensive. I think we'll start saving our pennies and hope to have one purchased before next years' harvest.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A room is done!

We still have plans to replace the 1980's vertical blinds, but until we decide on what we want, they'll stay.

Finally...only 2 months after we move in (and 3 months after we closed on the house), we have a room complete. I managed to get the last box unpacked on Saturday, and the living room is finished. It's now the only room in the house without a single cardboard box in it! I was getting frustrated on Saturday, so it was nice to get at least one thing on my list accomplished.

The chicks at 4 weeks old.

They seem happy in the coop where they have bugs to hunt and room to spread out a little.

The chicks are now just over 4 weeks old. They are living in the coop full time now. On chilly nights, we turn on the brooder light (which is in the coop by extension cord), but lately with warm temps, we haven't bothered with using it. As soon as their adult feathers are fully in, we won't need to give them any supplemental heat. They are close...basically, only their heads are still 'fuzzy'. We are pretty certain that two of our leghorns are actually roosters. They haven't crowed yet, but they got larger than all the other chicks faster, and they have larger combs than the other two leghorns. I've read that they should start crowing at about 4 weeks, so we'll see if they start making some noise soon. If they are roosters, we'll probably keep one and let the other fatten up for the pot. We'll see though...killing and cleaning a chicken is not high on my list of farm chores I'm looking forward to acquiring! ;-)

H cooked a delicious blackberry cobbler today. We made it from blackberries picked from the wild around our property. We had so many, we've had them on our cereal every day this week and he still had enough for cobbler and I have enough to make jam tomorrow. The cobbler came out delicious and it was expertly accompanied by our first attempt at ice cream made from goat's milk. We made a frozen custard using eggs, sugar, vanilla and milk, and it came out delicious. I think that next time, we'll make sure to use fresher eggs...and it will be even better!


Friday, August 15, 2008

Work, work and more work

Plum variety that will likely be the next one to ripen.

I can't believe how quickly things changed for me at my job. Last week, I was searching for things to do to keep myself busy. This week, I've stayed until 8 pm three days so far and worked through most of my lunch breaks! It's I'd much rather be busy than bored, but it's tough. I didn't get in my second commute by bike this week. I wanted to do it today, but after not getting home until almost 9 last night, I just did have time to prep everything before passing out. I was exhausted! So exhausted in fact, that I had trouble falling asleep. Figures.

Working all these hours is also tough on the garden. I was trying to get out there to hand water every day, but this week, that's just fallen off. In fact, I haven't been out there since Sunday! H did get it all well watered yesterday, so we should be ok. I'll spend some time out there this evening, I think. H has a softball game, so I'll have some time to myself and spending it in the garden sounds like a nice idea.

The chicks apear to like the coop. This weekend, we are going to add the sliding door over their opening to the run area, waterproof the outside, and add the perches. We still need to build nesting boxes, but considering that we are still 3 months away from our first eggs, those can wait a bit. Right now we have the brooder heat lamp in the coop. We turn it on at night so that they stay warm, but I unplug it every morning. Once they are fully feathered, we'll stop using it all together. Today marks 4 weeks since they arrived. I'll take some updated photos tonight. They now have tail feathers and are really starting to look like chickens!

Sassafras is doing well. I saw her and buddy playing yesterday morning. She doesn't try to get out of the fenced area anymore. I think she's happier now that she has company. This weekend, we'll get that 'burn pile' out of there so that we can remove the temp electric fence and give them full access to the whole space. We are finding that her milk production is increasing. Happy goats give more milk, perhaps?

Oh, my yogurt maker arrived yesterday!! Big props to Living for super speedy service and shipping. They had the best price, too. I read all the instructions last night and I hope to make our first good yogurt this afternoon. I also will stop and pick up a bag of ice on my way home so that we can give our ice cream maker a try as well. Mmm, fresh goat milk vanilla ice cream with blackberries, anyone?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Busy times

The coop where the chickens now reside.

I've been really busy at work lately, so my lunchtime blogging has suffered! I only have a few minutes today, but I figured I'd swing by and throw a few details out there.

H moved the chickies into the coop/tractor yesterday. We are expecting normal temps today, but much warmer than normal for the next few days, so it seemed like a good time to do this. They appear quite happy out there! The funniest thing was watching our cat stare at them with rapt attention. He has no way of getting to them, so they are safe. But it's the first time he's been exposed to them since they first arrived and it was fun to watch. What was less fun was watching the neighbor's orange cat doing the same staring early this morning!!

H also built a table of sorts for the goats. It's basically a plaything for them. They can climb on it and play 'king of the table' if they want. We'll see if Sassafras will play with Buddy. I'm guessing that she will eventually!

I was up early this morning to milk her. It was dark, so I grabbed a camping lantern that was sitting in the garage. It was kind of cool to be out there with the goats as the sun was starting to rise. I was up that early because I biked to work again today. My goal was to do this 2 times this week. Day 2 was supposed to be Friday - but with temps forecasted to be 100, I'm not sure how I feel about it. I may just do it anyway! It was a nice ride in this morning. I think that I was holding H back as he seemed to want to go faster than I could manage. We'll see how that goes this evening...

I ordered a Yogourmet yogurt maker. I picked it out because it holds up to 2 quarts and I have a few recipes that are designed for 2 quarts. I also spent a little time this morning talking to a woman at work with LOTS of yogurt making experience. She gave me a few helpful I think I'll be ready to try again very soon!

That's about it. I'm off to the lab. Work has been much busier this week and I think that's a good thing. :-)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Prius for sale

Buddy tells us what he thinks of us! ;-)

Plums and pears together - next year, both trees will be better pruned to avoid crowding!

Today I listed my Prius for sale. I spent a good part of the day yesterday vacuuming out all the dog hair. It was even all over the ceiling of the car! It's now as clean as it'll ever be...and hopefully, it'll soon belong to someone else. I listed it for about $2K less than other cars of the same caliber were listed, hoping to generate some interest. I don't know if it'll sell at the asking price, but if it does, I'll be selling it for the same price I paid for it. Unreal. The plan is to pay off the loan on it (obviously) and then put most of the remaining money towards paying off the other car. What little is left will go towards buying firewood and filling the oil tank before the fall weather hits.

Yesterday, H finished up most of the lean-to. We had to rotate it again as we learned more about Oregon winter weather (apparently, the rains come from the south during the winter a southern facing lean-to is a bad idea). We rotated it, put on a front wall (that comes part way down) and added the missing side. He also started adding the shingles, but it turns out that we didn't buy enough. We'll try to get more this week. It looks nice though, and last night, both goats slept in there...together! We think they are becoming friendly. So far, Buddy doesn't really run from me in fear, but he won't approach me, either. I'm working on trying to win him over with treats, but it's hard because if I have something yummy with me, Sass wants it too and will butt Buddy away. We'll get it figured out sooner or later.

The chicks are fighting fairly often. I guess that's normal for 3-4 week old chicks - they are establishing a pecking order. The only problem is that one has gotten a number of his lower back feathers plucked out by the other chickens. I read that this could be due to too hot temps, or too crowded living conditions. Considering that it didn't happen until we put a cover on the brooder, we think they might be too crowded. It's supposed to get warm again this week (temps in the 90s), so I think we are going to move them out to the coop a little earlier than originally planned. We can rig power to it, so that we can use the heat lamp in the coop at night (when it gets cold), so it should be ok. They'll definitely be safe in there, too. We need to install the perches, build the nesting boxes, and enlarge the door and add the sliding cover part before we can let them loose in there. I'm thinking that we can get this done tomorrow night - and get them out there on Wednesday.

I attempted to make yogurt again yesterday. I used a real culture (ordered online) and tried in incubate it in a cooler filled with hot water. The yogurt didn't set up at all. Ugh. I tried finding a yogurt maker locally yesterday, but no one carried them. I may just have to order one. I don't know if this isn't working because I'm not mixing it right...or if it's that the temperature isn't where it should be. I'm thinking it's the latter. I figure that using a real yogurt maker will eliminate a bunch of variables and I can figure out what I am doing wrong. We did buy a hand-crank icecream maker yesterday. That'll be fun to experiment with!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Farewell little chickies!

Chicks at 3 weeks old.

One of each type in this shot.

The brooder cover H created today.

Sassafras and Buddy together - they are slowly becoming friendlier to each other.

The lean-to with the mineral feeder and the hay net.

I finally sold three of our chicks tonight. I've had an ad up for awhile, but haven't had any luck. All the people who have contacted me until today were looking for 3 of the same type of chicken, not three different ones. I was tempted to change our plans and sell three of one type (we did not want to do that), but I'm glad it turned out that we didn't have to. One of each type went to a woman in our town who wanted to raise chickens for eggs and as a learning project for her children. As much as I'm a little sad to see them go, I'm glad that they are going to a nice home.

We had to make a cover for our brooder today. The chicks were perching on the edge of the box and if they got startled, they often fell out of the box on to the garage floor. Not only were we having to chase them down all the time, but I was starting to find chicken poop all over the place! Now they have a nice chicken wire cover that H created from the left over pieces of trim we removed from the living room when we bought the place. It turned out great and for some reason, the chicks seem more calm with the cover on!

Today we had to run to the apartment and do our final cleaning. So far, we've sold the table and chairs, but we are still working on getting the entertainment center sold. We were able to vacuum and clean the whole place, and we moved the last of the things we had there. It's now 100% empty with the exception of that entertainment center. On the way back home, we stopped at Wilco and checked out their selection of stuff. It seems like a nice place...their prices weren't any better than our local feed store, but they did have a larger selection, so it's good to remember if we needed something unusual. We did pick up a small feeder for minerals for the goats, and a hay net. H saw something online about using a horse hay net to feed hay to goats. It helps them eat the hay with less waste. So far, they both seem to like it.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A new addition!

This is our new goat, Buddy! He's a Pygora goat with B-type fleece.

His face is just adorable.

Here H is holding him. He seems to tolerate us well enough. Hopefully over time, he will come to actually like us!

Today I had an all day seminar at work. As the seminar is just beginning, I received a message from H on my voicemail. When we had our first break at 10:30 am, I was finally able to listen to it. His message said that he was headed over to the Pygora goat breeder right away because they were going out of town for the weekend. I called him right immediately and lo and behold...we now have a second goat!!

Yep, we are now the proud owners of a cute little Pygora goat wether. We are debating on a name for him, but we think we've settled on Buddy. He's got chocolate brown legs and face, and his body/fleece is a light grey color. He was born in March, so he's only 5 months old. Sassafras is pushing him around quite a bit (head butting and light biting) and he's a bit timid of us still. He does follow Sass around though...I think he's used to a close-knit goat herd, so hopefully she'll accept him soon.

I didn't get to meet him until late this evening, so it was too dark to get a good picture. I'll take some tomorrow and post then (along with new chick photos - they are getting big!!).

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A day at home and biking to work

This is the mixte frame bike I sold on Wednesday. This is also the bike that H was convinced was trying to kill me, so perhaps it's better that someone else is caring for it now?!

Yesterday I awoke with a nasty migraine. I opted to stay home from work and 'nurse' it. My nursing ended up being work around the house!

After the morning chores, I decided that living out of bags of food on the floor of the laundry room was getting old. I pulled out the shelf liners I'd bought and I got the upstairs pantry cleaned and organized. Our laundry room feels bigger without all that stuff on the floor. We still have not painted that room, but I'm purposely holding off until winter. In the mean time, I need to get a few hooks hung in there. I also need to move the pieces of the big desk/work table that we were going to put in there. I've decided that the table belongs in the basement and that I'd rather have a chest freezer in there instead.

When the pantry was done, I grabbed a paintbrush and finished painting the built in bookshelf in our living room. Once that's try, I'll be able to unpack the final box of books and DVD's. I need to find the right picture/artwork boxes for that room, too. Once I get those hung, we will have our first room that is completely done!! That'll feel nice.

Then I put on my big brimmed hat and headed out to the garden. I wanted to mix a little blood/bone meal into the soil and do a good watering. Then I gave the baby trees a nice drink. The hay we put down for mulch seems to really be helping to keep the moisture in. I realized when I was working that I've never grown anything in an environment like this. This dry weather in the summer is so very, very different from all the places I've ever lived. I have to keep reminding myself that this is NORMAL and that we have to find ways to make it work. We are not in a drought. There is just no humidity (to speak of) here and it's weird. The soil dries out much faster than I always expect.

After the gardening, I needed to be in a cool area (my head started pounding worse out in the sun). I decided I'd get something accomplished in the basement. I tried gluing the new vinyl baseboards up in the 'office', but they weren't sticking. I need to devise a plan to hold the baseboard flat against the wall while the glue dries. I put that project aside for another day.

Lastly, I had to meet a girl back at the apartment so that she could test ride the bike I'm selling. I decided that I no longer need my mixte frame upright, around-town bike anymore. I loved having it while I was living in an urban area, but it will only collect dust in the garage at the new place. She ended up liking it and paid me my asking price. The best part is that I got more for it than I bought it for, so the difference covered the cost of the new tires, fenders and basket that I'd added. I basically got to ride that bike for 5 months - totally free! Plus, that $$ will now go towards the purchase of a companion goat for Sassy.

We have contacted a local breeder of Pygora goats. She's got some wethers for sale that I think would suit us. A Pygora goat is a cross-breed goat (originally from Oregon) that is now a registered breed and that gives fiber. Some goats have fiber like Angora, and some more like Cashmere. It depends on the goat, but we'd be happy with either. We figure that if we are going to increase our animals, they need to be ones that will do something for us! So not only will Sassafras have a friend (and be MUCH happier), but we'll have fiber to harvest! How cool is that?

Lastly, I biked to work today. 18.5 miles each way. H rode in as well and it was nice to have company for the first 85% of my ride. Then we go our separate ways... It was a good ride but I'm actually REALLY looking forward to the ride home. I wonder why that is? I'd like to get to the point where we are doing this at least 3 or 4 days a week. I want to be in condition to do it every day even if I don't need to.