Changing Directions

When we first moved to the homestead, our goal was to feed the family without becoming slaves to the livestock.  With that goal in mind, we installed an auto door on the chicken coop so the poultry can take care of themselves with less input from us, sheep because they can graze a good portion of the year, and meat breed goats because they too don’t require much daily input.

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That all changed when our neighbor talked us into the dairy cows.  With the addition of the cows, followed by the dairy goats, suddenly we were where we never planned to be: tied to regular milking.  However, the partnership with the neighbors works beautifully as we only have to milk every other day and can still travel and have some flexibility.  We also elected to milk our cows and goats only in the mornings, rather than twice a day.  It means a little less milk (though we still get plenty) but a lot more freedom.

However we still owned the meat goats.  Compared to lambs, who can grow to eating size in 5-6 months on only their mama’s milk and then grass, goat kids grow a lot slower.  And we’ve realized that though we like goats, we have plenty of lamb meat, so don’t really need the goat meat.  Keeping both dairy and meat goats means either maintaining two bucks (and a means of keeping them separate from the does in order to control breeding), breeding a dairy buck to meat goats (resulting in even leaner kids) or breeding a meat buck to dairy does (resulting in kids who won’t produce high volumes of milk).

We considered the option of AI (Artificial Insemination), thinking we could give up a buck altogether and simply breed the does via semen ordered through the mail.  But, it turns out goats are one of the more challenging species to AI due to a short heat cycle that makes it difficult to time it just right.

So – we made the decision this week to give up the meat goats and focus on dairy.  The meat buck and doe have been sold and the two remaining kids will fill our freezer before winter, leaving us with only the two dairy does to maintain for the time being.  A dairy buck is in our future but for this winter it will be nice not to have to deal with him.

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Spilled Milk

Most days milking is uneventful and the cows give over a gallon each for us to turn into yummy cheese, yogurt and ice-cream.  But sometimes this happens:

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I choose to say “no use crying over spilled milk”. But I can easily understand why the expression “kicked the bucket” came to mean “dead”.

 

Baked Custard

What do you do with a surplus of both milk and eggs?  Make custard of course!  We hadn’t been milking long before we found ourselves in that situation and, seeking a way to use the surplus, I looked up recipes for baked custard.  However I didn’t like any of the recipes I found as they used too few eggs.  So, I took a bit of this and a bit of that to create my own version of this wonderful dessert, that HWA has nicknamed “hot ice-cream”.  Here is my recipe for baked custard:

3 cups milk (we use raw milk, either goat or cow)
8 eggs
⅓ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt

Break the eggs into the bowl of a food processor, and process for about a minute until they are thoroughly mixed.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix again.  Pour into a glass or ceramic baking dish.

Place the baking dish into another oven-safe container that is somewhat larger.  Pour water into the second container until it comes about halfway up the sides of the custard dish.

Bake for 40 minutes at 350.

That is all.  It doesn’t get any easier!

I tried to get a photo before anyone ate any but you have be faster around here than I am apparently.

I tried to get a photo before anyone ate any but you have be faster around here than I am apparently.

Wheyst Not, Want Not

Well, you knew I had to do it eventually, right?

The best part about having our own fresh, raw milk – as far as I’m concerned – is learning to make cheese.  I approached this with some trepidation, believing it to be complicated and time-consuming and have been pleasantly surprised to discover it is neither.  The ingredients that go into it are simple and the possible varieties of cheese, seemingly endless.  I’ve now made about a dozen batches of raw milk cheddar and we are thoroughly enjoying them – more and more as I get better at it.

But – as you are probably aware – the by-product of cheese-making is whey.  Lots and lots of whey.  Because it turns out, a gallon of milk yields a small chunk of cheese and a correspondingly large pot of whey.

As I always do when faced with “what do I do?” I turned to the internet, asking the question about how best to use the whey.  There are many, many answers out there.  “Feed it to the chickens”.  “Feed it to the pigs”.  “Feed it to the dogs”.  “Feed it to your tomatoes”.

I’m certain every one of these is a great option.  But my first thought was that if all of these animals like whey so much, why isn’t it fit for human consumption?  So, being the human guinea pigs that we are, HWA and I poured ourselves a glass each and tried it.  And guess what?  It is delicious!

HWA likes his straight.  Good man.  I like mine with a dash of ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar) added to it.  Sometimes I also add a teaspoon of raw honey.  Ahhhhhh.  So good!  The ACV makes it a light and refreshing summer drink and I’ve become so addicted to it that when we run out, I truly miss it.

Recently I returned to google to answer another question: “What is the nutritional value of whey?”  I liked the answer – it is rich in many essential nutrients.  In fact, it is so good for us that I feel practically virtuous drinking it.

So screw the chickens, dogs and tomatoes (we don’t raise pigs).  We’re keeping our whey for ourselves.

Don’t wheyt. Try it and whey for yourself wheyther tart, salty whey isn’t whey nourishing and refreshing on a hot summer day.  Finally, we’d love to hear what you think about this cheese by-product and/or puns.  Please whey in with your comments!

                                            Curds and Whey

Curds and Whey

Oberhasli Goats

When we got the cows earlier this year, it was a huge departure from everything we have done on our homestead to date.  We always said we did not want to raise dairy animals due to the time commitment compared to raising meat breeds.  But, when our neighbor suggested the cooperative arrangement we decided to give it a try and have found that it works amazingly well.  Over the months we’ve had the cows, we’ve settled into a routine with them that works for all of us and because we share the responsibilities we still have flexibility to travel when we need to.

Meanwhile we LOVE having the fresh, raw milk readily available.  However we’ve been surprised that the yields aren’t as high as you’d expect from a cow, because the cow is raising her calf AND we are splitting the milk between two families.  Then, while browsing another website I read that some dairy goats will produce up to a gallon of milk per milking – far more than we are getting from our cow!  Further research and discussion with our neighbor, as well as talking to several people I know who raise dairy goats, and we started to wonder if goats aren’t a viable proposition after all – especially if done in the same cooperative fashion as the cows.

Enter two Oberhasli does and their three doe kids.  When the opportunity to acquire them presented itself, we discussed it and decided to add to our dairy production.  Oberhaslis are a dairy breed from Switzerland that are lesser known than Nubians, Alpines and Saanens – the most popular dairy breeds in this area.  However what we read about them is that they are friendly, docile, easy to handle and that their milk is sweet-tasting and has a milk fat content similar to cow’s milk.  Conceding even to ourselves that we must be nuts, we decided to go for it, and though we had to drive some distance to see them, we found them to be just as described.  The seller demonstrated milking one while she ate her grain without even putting a halter on and tying her up.  She milked about 4 cups of milk within minutes while chatting to us and answering our numerous questions.

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The three kids are about two months old already so will soon be weaned.  The plan is to sell them and continue to milk the does.  We now look forward to making raw goat cheese and ice-cream in addition to the yogurt and cheese we’ve been making to date from the cow’s milk.

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The goats are settling in and becoming part of the herd, and we are adjusting to another variation in our daily routine.  Life stays interesting.

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Making Butter

I think I was most excited about being able to make my own butter, when the reality of producing our own milk set in.  We use butter on toast, sandwiches and in baking, so go through quite a bit of it.  Falling back on everything I knew about butter-making (which was very little), I decided I would need a butter churn and immediately started to research the various models available to decide which would work best for me.  They range from manual to powered and from about $15 for a small, manually operated device, to several hundred dollars for a larger, electrically powered machine.  I wound up feeling more confused than ever as I read user reviews of the various types.

Eventually I turned to YouTube, needing to see these machines in action so I’d understand better what would work.  And while reviewing videos on YouTube, I ran across one using an ordinary blender – standard in most kitchens.  Intrigued, I watched and decided before buying another gadget, I would try making butter in my VitaMix blender.

I skimmed off the cream and once I had a mason jar full, poured it into the blender and turned it on low. For a couple of minutes not much seemed to be happening.  Having whipped cream on numerous occasions, I knew the cream was thickening, although the blender moves so fast even on low that I couldn’t see the change occurring.  Soon the cream was so thick that it was no longer moving at all.  But, as I watched, it started to move again, and over the next 20 seconds appeared to turn back into liquid.  I turned the blender off and peered inside to find that the liquid was the buttermilk and floating in it were some beautiful chunks of butter.

I poured off the buttermilk (which I kept), then added cold water to the blender, and whizzed it again for a few seconds.  I repeated the cold water wash twice more, until the water ran mostly clean, then strained it all until only the butter was left.  After shaping it into a log wrapped in parchment paper, I set it in the fridge until it was firm.  The result?  Truly wonderful butter that we have since used with great enjoyment.

Yogurt

Our family eats a lot of yogurt so milk will never go to waste around here as any excess is so easy to whip up to a batch of yogurt.  Yogurt has to be one of the simplest products to make, uses large quantities of milk, and is enjoyed even by many people who don’t like drinking straight milk.  In fact, yogurt is one of the most widely eaten foods world-wide.

All that is really needed is culture and a way to keep the milk at a constant temperature of about 110F for an extended period of time.  Although not essential, I did break down and get a yogurt maker since it is thermostatically designed to do just that.  I bought this model along with an extra set of jars to go in it so that I can make a new batch even while one batch is waiting in the fridge to be eaten.  Culture is even easier: any plain yogurt made with live cultures will work.

To make yogurt, heat a quantity of milk (either full cream or skimmed) to boiling point, cool to 110F, add culture and any flavoring desired (e.g. a few spoonfuls of jam), place in the jars and put the jars in the yogurt maker.  Set the timer, turn it on and that’s about it.  Different lengths of time will produce a thinner or thicker consistency so there is no right or wrong – just experimentation and personal preference.

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