I've made some improvements in my dairy attempts. I successfully made mozzarella. Well it was successful until the stretching part then I am not sure I did it right, but the curd formed just right. Maybe I should ignore my aversion to the microwave and try that version?

I also made chevre. Which I made just right and turned out just right- but nobody liked it much.  Too strong in flavor. I used my successful batch of cultured buttermilk to make the chevre too.

We've also added to our family again:

10 little guinea keets, who are very flighty and so funny to watch.  They boys are getting used to the fact that they aren't quite as easy to catch and tame as the chicks.

In the eyes of the alpacas, this is probably the best improvement:

The alpacas came from a farm that was struggling with a mud problem. It was all mud, no grass. They lived on hay. When they got here  the goats had eaten down most of the fenced pasture. So there was some forage but not a lot. And there was a lot of buttercups- which are toxic and they avoid them. Between that, and the fact that they shared the yard with a goat who is fighting a tough case of worms, we decided to throw up a temporary pasture in the front field. We used step in posts, our old soft shelled shelter and a solar electric charger the boys found in brush. Now they have more grass than they know what to do with.

For Lakin's birthday he wanted to go to the WNC Nature Center. 

It was a nice little place. Bear, fox, wolves, coyotes, otters....

It wasn't very busy and nicely set.

I came home with major goat 

and barn envy.

Linked to the Homestead Barn Hop


5 Years

5 years ago today he came into this world.

 Welcomed home by his 3 brothers.

Coming home
First Birthday
2nd Birthday

 And he grew so fast....

Into this loving, imaginative, amazing boy

Happy Birthday, Lakin!


The Good with the Bad

 There is lots of life around us. We are surrounded by our animals- dogs, cats, fish, rabbits, duck, chickens, goats, alpacas...

These animals quickly find their way into our hearts and become part of our family. They are part of who we are and how we live. To my children their chickens are much so as a dog or cat. They hold them, pet them, hug them. 

When new additions come, it is a joyful occasion. We have 2 strong growing kids.

And baby chicks to care for.

But then there is the bad side of animal ownership. The part that hurts.

Last Friday Cohen lost his favorite bird to a predator. Prunella had gone broody under some brush and they had just found her that day sitting on 6 eggs. The boys wanted to move her but  we thought she would be okay for one night. She wasn't. Cohen cried on and off the whole day. Kept feathers he found of her's in his pocket.

And last night Paul went out to find Rylan's alpaca, Two Socks, on the ground. Sounding like he was choking. By the time I got out, he was gone. We are at a loss really as to what happened. It was rainy yesterday and we were inside all afternoon. I usually stay with them until they finish their grain but I didn't that time, so I wouldn't know if he got choked to the point of not being able to work it out on his own. He was a rescue who had a rough start, and was on the mend when we got him, but he did stay off to himself more than others. He ate. He came to the gate. And now he's gone. My 2 older boys took it hard. Rylan the worst. He went to bed in tears and woke up almost just as upset. 

Their hearts hurt for losing their animals. And mine hurts for them. 


The Botched Dairy


So about 3 weeks ago these 2 little bundles were born on our farm. And we started down the road of milk production. Bertie is a first freshener, so this is all new to her. Her udder filled out nicely after kidding- so much so that I had to milk her some to keep her comfortable until the kids were big enough to keep up with her production. So she is okay with her udder being touched, washed, etc. 


And 2 weeks after the kids arrived, it was time to start sharing. Bright and early last Monday I headed out to the pasture and brought Bertie to the milk stand Paul made me, which still sat on the back deck. I got her up, washed her up and attempted to milk. I didn't get very far. She ate her grain quickly. She got her head out of where it was supposed to be stuck. She stepped in the bowl. She stomped. And she never let  her milk down. I barely over a cup before we were both so frustrated I sent her back, unlocked the kids and let them finish the job.

The next morning I tied her head in better, gave her her grain a little at a time, and got a little quicker milking. She still stepped in the bowl. Still stomped around. I got 2 cups.  So I ordered a milker. I am sure I would have broken her eventually. But I don't have the time to spend out there with her. I go out just after 6:30 and the kids start waking up just after 7:00. It was taking 45 minutes to get those 2 cups.  She has a nice udder, but small teats and not much comes out at once. That is something I can't change. Her let down isn't the best either. 

So I got the milker. She still stomps but I can hold her leg. She can't step in the milk since it goes straight into a jar. Paul added a hook-and-eye latch to the stand to hold her head better.  So after a couple days of working out the kinks, I think we've got a system down. And now I am getting almost 6 cups in the morning. Once the babies are weaned I will milk her at night too. 

And now that I have milk- which the kids don't like to drink straight- I have started learning what to do with it. And let me say I am about as good at making cultured dairy products as I am milking. 

I started with yogurt. It ended up smelling like yogurt but looking a little more like keifer. I used a bit of store bought yogurt as a starter- which was probably getting on the old side and not of the best quality. It might also be runnier since the milk was raw. I'll try again with fresh starter and I might heat the milk more and see what I get.

Then I tried buttermilk. I used purchased starter cultures. I think I over heated the milk and killed the bacteria. It looked promising- solid except a small separation at the top when I put it in the fridge but in the morning it was completely separated- which I don't think is a good thing for buttermilk. I have more currently in the making using cooler milk.

Then this morning I tried mozzarella.  I used a 30-min recipe I found online. The curds did not set up right. Eventually I drained it and went on to see what I would get. It looked promising, but ended up too dry and not at all able to be stretched. More like ricotta. I have found, after more research, that a few changes have to be made in order to make goat's milk mozzarella. I'll have to try again with modifications and maybe with a little less "help" from Annika.

But I at least I got  2 quarts of whey out of the process. Some of which was used for pancakes for lunch.

Here is my recipe- for my large family, with lots of extra eggs in the fridge, in hopes to have leftovers but never do....

Whey Pancakes:

1 qt whey
8 eggs
1 T sugar/honey/maple syrup
4 cups flour- sometimes I replace 3/4 cup with cornmeal
4 tsp baking soda

Whisk together the first 3 ingredients. Add the flour and baking soda. Stir until just combined. 

I'd add cooking directions, but I am pretty sure everyone knows how to cook a pancake. If you don't have whey, I use the same recipe with milk or buttermilk in place of the whey.

(linked to Frugally Sustainable's Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways)


Planting Day

This week's work? 

The garden. 

New beds have a lot of prep work. Tilling. Pulling weeds and grass clumps. They boys, by the way, hated that part. We spent the better part of a day pulling all the grass we could out so that it wouldn't reroot. It was like pulling teeth. 

Adding compost. 

Now the compost. That was a fun job. Cale, Cohen and Lakin unloaded the whole trailer full in less than an hour.

Mixing it in. 

And finally planting.

Now if I can just will these little plants to grow quickly so that they can overcome the many obstacles in their way: chickens, wind, cats, dogs....

(linked to the Homestead Barn Hop)