Saturday, April 3, 2010

Finally alive again...Spring!

Still froggy and slightly stuffy, but way better than I've been. Not sure quite what took me so long.

Today, I woke up early, and after taking the dogs out, went down to the barn to milk Pineapple. I was so surprised that she gave about 3/4 of a quart of milk. While this is nothing compared to a fancy milk-goat, that would end up being more than 1/2 gallon a day if the babies weren't taking the rest of it. The good news is, they are a month old on the 5th, so it's just one more month before we wean them and the milk is mine...all mine.

We're struggling a bit with the milking stand. It's made for full size goats, and Pineapple is a Nigerian Dwarf/Alpine cross, so she's not full size. Even with the top bungied tighter (yea, I'm fancy here) she can manage to pull her head down to the bottom and squeeze it out. Luckily she does it when I'm close to the end of milking, so there's just a bit of a hassle with me trying to continue to milk while simultaneously trying to offer her more grain behind my back so that she stays there, happy. Oh, and then I have to fend off the cats who would like to be petted *now* and are wondering why I'm sitting at their level but continuing to ignore them, and also keep Pineapple from sticking her foot in the bucket while the whole thing is going on.

Milking is not yet a zen time for me.

It will be, soon. Pineapple will get used to the routine, the cats will learn to leave me alone (the squirt gun is coming out soon) and the babies will be weaned so they'll stop screaming for mom. And then milking time will be peaceful, and zen-like, and happy. Right now it's kind of frenetic, and aggravating, and difficult.

That's the funny thing that you learn when attempting enterprises like this one. When you start, it's difficult. It's hard, it's a pain, it's not working, it's...

And then, little by little you correct one thing and then the other and learn. Then the whole system starts to move smoothly. At least, that's been my experience thus far.

Today, I'm attempting to make cheese. Which is why I'm sitting here in the house on a beautiful sunny day instead of being outside getting my onion sets in (which will happen today I am convinced). I've never made cheese before, and my last attempt failed miserably, so here we go.

I didn't have quite enough goats milk to make the batch entirely goats milk, but it's 3/4 goats milk, 1/4 whole cows milk from the grocery store. We'll see if that affects the taste or the curd at all. But since today was the day I needed to make cheese and I only had 3/4 gallon of milk saved up...well...such is life.

I've heated the milk up in a stainless pot to 88 degrees, and then added rennet. I then try to keep the milk at 88 degrees (which is proving to be the biggest challenge thus far) until the curds form. This is the stage I'm at right now, waiting for those curds (can I hear a chant? go curds, go curds, go curds). Once the curds form, I need to cut them, and then firm them up by keeping the heat up for another hour.

After that, I pour the curds and whey into some cheesecloth and strain a bit, then add my herbs (which consist of some garlic and onion grass from the back yard), and then put it in the fridge to strain some more. Once it's strained, then we'll have a nice soft cheese to put on our crackers for tonight.

At least, that's my hope.

What could possibly happen is that it won't curd up, and I'll end up with a pot of...stuff. Last time I was able to pour it into some soup that I had made, and it made it really good, but I'm not making soup today. *sigh*

The Reluctant Farmhusband has just made brooder box #3 for me, because my chickens are getting big! My plan is today to take them out to the garden, cover it with some netting, and let them enjoy the sunniest part of the day. I have to keep an eye on them though, and can't do that while I'm making cheese, so maybe they'll have to wait.

26 chickens are a lot of chickens by the way when they get to be this old. They are all still alive. I hadn't really counted on that, I really did think we'd lose some. They are now old enough I think to be called pullets rather than chicks. They are developing these beautiful yellow feathers on top of their black background. They are Purdue colored chickens...oh that's kind of funny now that I think about it...they are Boilermakers (okay, that's really sad pathetic sick humor...sorry).

Okay, checking on the cheese again...will post whether I'm successful or need to make another pot of soup.

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