June 29, 2015

My New Kinder Girls

Expanding my little herd

At the top of my list of things to share, here is something that's been in the works for a couple of months now and I am pleased to announce is finally a reality - the expansion of my Kinder herd with three new doelings. May I introduce

Saluki. She's 4 months old and loves being petted.

Illini. 6 months old and also very friendly.

Prairie Violet is 3 months old and the shyest. She
has given my hand a few sniffs but that's about it.

They are from Kinder Korner Farm and their names are hints as to where that is located. Can you guess?

Saluki and Illini are very friendly, but Violet is shy and concerned about being here. She and Illini have had some pretty good hollering sessions for their moms, while Saluki was a bottle baby.

What do my other girls think?

Jessie and Violet

This is typical goat behavior

The kids pretty much take it all in stride, with plenty of sparring over the log and stone steps.

Stella, Saluki, and Jessie

The adult does have taken it pretty well too,

Daphne, Stella (head down), Violet, and Saluki

although there have been several "mind your elders" butts.

My little girls from front left: Illini, Violet, Jessie, Stella, & Saluki

I'm trying on some nicknames for Illini and Saluki - Linney and Luki - what do you think?

Of my homeborn kids, Stella's twin sister Velma went to Illinois and one of the quad bucklngs (Buzz) has been sold. I still have two bucklings left which I will either sell if someone wants them or will be for chevon.

Breeding season is right around the corner so it's time to start thinking about that, for the adults at least. Kinders are aseasonal breeders so it's possible to have kids almost any time of year. For now, the doelings need to grow and mature a bit. Then I can look forward to quite a selection of kids. :)

My New Kinder Girls © June 2015 by Leigh

June 26, 2015

Coming Soon ...

I appear to be just a wee bit behind in blogging. Between the garden, the house, the critters, working on Critter Tales, and working on the next eBook in my The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos series, I just don't seem to have enough hours in a day. So, coming soon ...

My recipe for pizza sauce (as per reader requests)

Expanding my herd

Replacement for The Beast

Finishing the bay window and living room

More house deconstruction

Three cookbook recommendations

Growing grain, what I've learned so far

... and more.

Plus

I hope to get caught up on replying to comments and returning blog visits!

Until then, how about a nice photo of two very muddy but happy pigs.

Waldo and Polly

Coming Soon ... © June 2015 by Leigh

June 24, 2015

Too Many Tomatoes?

One of the advantages of a long growing season is being able to direct sow things that others must start in pots and transplant later. Such has been the case with tomatoes, and this year was no exception. I planted tomato seeds in the garden toward the end of April. It was a new variety for me, Homestead. I've always favored paste tomatoes because I make so much pizza sauce. Unfortunately I seem to have more trouble with disease with the paste tomato plants, particularly Amish Paste, our favorite. Homestead is a determinate, heirloom tomato. The advertising promise said it doesn't need staking. 'Nuff said.

Then came May with no rain. This is worrisome for a couple of reasons. One is that seedlings with their fragile root systems will be quick to succumb to the dry soil. It leaves me debating how to use the rainwater collected in our tanks - on unsprouted seeds or on growing plants? If I leave the seeds to wait for the rain, I worry that birds may find and devour the seeds in the meantime.

The tomato rows looked pretty bare in early June.

The arrival of June finally brought rain, and everything took off. Every day I was out in the garden looking for tomato seedlings, only to be disappointed that there were none. I finally decided that the seed was either bad, or had otherwise been lost, so I went to the feed store to buy plants. Being late in the tomato planting season I got a bargain - two for the price of one. I bought two 6-packs of seedlings, got two free, and ended up with 24 new plants. They wouldn't be home started but at least I'd have tomatoes.

I decided to plant them in the rows I'd previously prepared for tomatoes. I set about removing grass, morning glories, and a few other unwanteds when what did I find?

Tomatoes at last.

Yup, tomato seedlings. Finally, they were making their debut.

I cleared out everything but the marigolds (they can stay) to give them some room and planted my store-boughts in the next set of rows.

Little tomato plants with larger volunteer marigolds.
All of this put me a month behind on my tomatoes.

Now it looks like I should have plenty of tomatoes, which is okay because there are a lot of things to do with tomatoes. Pizza sauce is my priority, followed by tomato soup, and green tomato slices for frying come winter. After that it's plain canned tomatoes for soups and stews. Too many tomatoes? Never. Wouldn't you agree?

Too Many Tomatoes? © June 2015 by Leigh

June 21, 2015

Nadiring Honeysuckle

Morning bee activity at Honeysuckle Hive.
By mid-afternoon, traffic is a lot heavier!

I've been keeping an eye on my bees in anticipation of adding more hive boxes. I got the colony as a 3# package two months ago. In Warré beekeeping, boxes are added to the bottom (nadired) rather than added to the top (supered). According to David Heaf in his Natural Beekeeping with the Warré Hive, this is done when drawn comb fills about half of the bottom box, the idea being to add boxes before the bees run out of room and swarm. To monitor progress, I check through my screened bottom board with a mirror. The other day when I looked I saw this

Looking up through the screened bottom into the bottom hive box

Bees were busy building comb in the bottom box. It was time to do the deed. We removed the roof but left the quilt. I gave the cedar shavings a stir and noted that they weren't very damp, which I believe is a sign that ventilation is good. I loosened all around the bottom with my hive tool, to separate it from the stand. There didn't seem to be a lot of propolis, so the job was soon done.

Dan hoisted the hive,


while I quickly slipped two more hive boxes onto the stand.

I did not to pay attention to box order & my honey
suckle "vine" is not aligned! The bottom box has the
observation window, which was built differently.

I questioned whether to add one or two boxes. It's only June and we have a long growing season, so I'm assuming we can use two. The concern for adding them at the same time is that the hive will be top heavy until the lower boxes are filled with comb, brood, and honey. If we had a hive lift we could add one at a time, keeping an eye on how quickly the bees filled them. But with only Dan's back, I figured it would be easier to add two now. One thing I noticed is that there were quite a few bees simply hanging out at the entrance when the hive had only two boxes. With more boxes they aren't; presumably because there is more room inside(?)

Now it's wait and see. I'm not really expecting a honey harvest because this is an establishment year for this colony and the bees' needs are the priority. In the meantime, I'll just enjoy them for what they are.

Next - Getting Ready for Winter.

June 19, 2015

Too Hot For Lettuce

Homegrown lunch: lettuces, kale, radish, goat cheese, & hard-boiled
eggs. I find the variety Jericho lasts longer in hot weather than the others.

With our string of days in the upper 90s F (upper 30s C), it is simply too hot for garden lettuce. I'm always sad to see it come to an end, but eventually it becomes too bitter to be palatable and bolts.

Lettuces, kale, chopped leftover baked potato, & cold canned green
beans. My indulgence is store bought Ranch dressing and sunflower seeds. 

As admirable as our long growing season is, the sad fact is that my lettuce is long gone by the time tomatoes ripen. That means no homegrown BLTs or Marshall Field's Specials. I end up having to buy either tomatoes or lettuce.

Lettuces, kale, hard-boiled eggs, grated radish, fresh garden peas.

Such is life, eh?

June 16, 2015

Mozzarella Making Revisited

Hand-crafted goats milk mozzarella

I don't usually re-post things I've previously published on my blog, but I thought I would make an exception for my goat milk mozzarella. This is because I find myself revisiting this post at the beginning of each mozzarella making season. I need to refresh my memory for the amounts of citric acid and rennet. It's a good post with lots of good information, but I'd like it a bit more concise. Hence a heavily revised re-post.

Goats Milk Mozzarella

Preparation -
  • Let milk sit in the fridge for at least three days. Back when I was a mozzarella making beginner, I was advised that for mozzarella, at least, goat milk should be at least three days old. This has to do with pH changes that make a more elastic curd (as opposed to crumbles). I can absolutely verify that this is true.
  • Skim the cream and save. You can make whole milk mozzarella, but this is an excellent skim milk cheese.

Equipment

You don't need these exact items, just something similar

You'll need:
  • stainless steel cooking pot large enough to hold a gallon of milk
  • strainer or colander for draining whey from the curds
  • 2 bowls, I like my old crockery ones
    • one to hold the strainer and catch the whey
    • one for hot water for curd stretching
  • rubber gloves, insulated if you can find them
  • instant read thermometer
  • slotted spoon for removing curds from cooking pot
  • knife for cutting the curds
  • skimmer for diffusing citric acid and rennet solutions as they are poured into the milk
  • measuring cup 
  • smaller sauce pan for brining the cheese

Ingredients

For the cheese:
  • 1 gallon goats milk, raw or pasteurized (I use raw)
  • 1/2 tablespoon citric acid
  • 1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet 
  • 1/2 C non-chlorinated water
  • 1/4 C non-chlorinated water

For the brine: (mix and heat until salt dissolves)
  • 1 quart whey
  • 1 quart non-chlorinated water
  • 1/2 pound canning salt

To Make
  • Optional: skim the milk and save the cream for something else. Mozzarella is the one skim milk cheese that I make.
  • Pour milk into the large pot. Mix citric acid in 1/2 cup water, stir well. Pour into the milk through the skimmer. Stir to mix well.

The skimmer helps diffuse the liquids being poured,
 especially rennet, so that it mixes before curdling

  • Slowly heat to 88 - 90° F (31 - 32° C)
  • If the brine is already made, I begin to heat it now to about 100° F (44° C). If this is the first batch, the brine can be made from the drained whey (recipe above)
  • Mix the rennet in the 1/4 cup water. Pour it into the milk through the skimmer. Stir to mix well. (To read about the different types of rennet, click here). 
  • Allow the pot to sit about 30 minutes, or until the curd forms a "clean break". Clean break is when it can be sliced cleanly with a knife.
  • Cube the curds with a knife and let rest 10 minutes.

The curd is cut at an angle to hopefully make 1 inch cubes of curd

  • While the curds are resting, set a kettle of water to boil for stretching the curds.
  • Gently drain the whey from the curds through a colander or by scooping the curds from the whey with a slotted spoon
  • Pour the hot water into the large bowl. With cold water adjust the temperature to about 145  - 150° F (63 - 65° C).
  • Break the curd into small pieces and place in the hot water.
  • With rubber gloves, stretch the curd until it is smooth and glossy. If it begins to get stiff, return to the hot water for several seconds. The heat keeps the cheese soft and pliable. 
  • Place in the warm brine. Turn every 15 minutes for a total brine bath of about 2 hours.
  • Drain the brine from the cheese. Wrap the cheese (plastic wrap or baggie) and let sit for several hours in the fridge for the salt to disburse. 
  • Enjoy fresh, or grate and freeze for later use.  


My goal is to make enough for when the goats are dried up before kidding.

How To Make Mozzarella from Goats' Milk: plus what to do with all that whey including make ricotta is available as an eBook. Click here for details and where to buy.

June 14, 2015

Honeysuckle Hive Varroa Mite Count

Honeysuckle Hive
I've been monitoring comb building progress in the bottom hive box of my Warré beehive, because I want to be ready when it's time to add more hive boxes. With that time approaching, I thought it might be a good idea to do a Varroa mite count. As a novice beekeeper, I'm concerned about everything which might affect the health of my hive. If there was a problem and I needed to treat the hive, I could do it when we added boxes.

Varroa mites are honeybee parasites. Female mites lay their eggs in brood cells, the brood being the food source for the hatched mites. The mites don't kill the larvae directly, but can cause deformities and disease. Small numbers of these mites in a colony are considered "normal", but too many can devastate a colony. Some beekeepers keep track of varroa numbers and treat accordingly, some treat annually as a matter of routine, and some do nothing at all because they consider the treatment worse than the mites.

My hive has a screened bottom so the procedure was very easy, especially with a homemade sticky board. A sticky board is a thin piece of cardboard marked off in one inch squares and coated with a sticky substance such as petroleum jelly.

Homemade sticky board for a Varroa mite count

I simply marked off a piece of scrap paper into one inch squares and coated it with petroleum jelly. The petroleum jelly makes it "sticky" so that the mites cannot walk away.


The base of my hive kit has a slot in back for sliding in a sticky board. Once in place, I left it there for 24 hours.


My count was one mite. That may or may not be meaningful because much depends on the time of year and the number of bees in the hive. An autumn count would be more important because it would indicate the mite load my hive was carrying into winter. For the time being, no action is required on my part. For a novice beekeeper with her first hive, that's a comfort because it means all is well.

Next - Nardiring Honeysuckle

June 11, 2015

Go With The Flow Gardening

Last month I showed you my popcorn patch, which seemed to be loaded with more volunteer amaranth than popcorn plants. The other day I went out to weed that patch, but I could find only two seedling popcorns. That was disappointing. Popcorn isn't a gardening essential, but I do like having it for an homegrown treat. I considered pulling all the amaranth and replanting the popcorn, but then it occurred to me that if the amaranth wanted to grow there, why not? The entire amaranth plant is a useful food for our animals, so why try to plant it elsewhere when it was happy here?

Volunteer amaranth mulched with old straw

While mulching, I found another volunteer in that patch.

Volunteer Nutmeg melon

There are a couple of these nutmeg melon plants staking their claim there as well. I usually only grow one variety of melon each year to avoid cross pollination for simpler seed saving - last summer it was nutmeg, this year it was to be cantaloupe. But who am I to argue?

If only the rest of the garden could be this easy.

June 9, 2015

Hornet Trap

The other day Dan came in and said he'd just seen a huge hornet, close to two inches in length. I immediately thought of the Asian Giant Hornets I read about on a beekeeping website. These predators steal both honey and bee larvae, and, according to Wikipedia, can wipe out entire colonies of honeybees in a matter of hours. It was worrisome to think they were beginning to show up in our neck of the woods.

The next day I stepped out onto the back porch and heard a loud buzzing over my head. I looked up and saw what appeared to be a huge hornet checking out carpenter bee holes. It was easily about two inches long. Before I could think to react it flew away. It was back again the next day. I decided I had better start making hornet traps.

A 1 liter bottle, cheap wine, banana, and a bit of honey

Tipi shaped holes are cut near the top of the bottle. Flaps are folded inward

A couple inches of wine is poured into the bottle, with
a drizzle of honey and a few chunks of ripe banana.

I hung the first one off the porch roof near where we'd seen the hornets.

We haven't seen it since, but the concern for our honeybees remains. I'll get a couple more of these set up and we'll see what happens.

Hornet Trap © June 2015 by Leigh

June 7, 2015

An Odd Egg

One side. Not quite symmetrical.

Turned 90 degrees. It's flattish on two sides

I know that's not the oddest egg that's ever been laid, but it was pretty strange to me. Anyone else had any strange eggs laid lately?

An Odd Egg © June 2015 by Leigh

June 4, 2015

Goat Barn Plan C

"And which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?"   Luke 14:28
That's exactly what Dan and I have been discussing these days in terms of our proposed round goat barn. No matter which way we slice it, dice it, or julienne fry it, this would be a large and expensive undertaking. Don't get me wrong, we absolutely love the round barn idea and the plan, but the more we've discussed it, the less realistic it seems. Since we are not yet committed through either action or money, we decided to re-evaluate our needs and see if there isn't another option. Not too long ago we spent quite a bit of time at the proposed building site with tape measure and graph paper in hand.

The old "coal barn" is gone, leaving a cleared site for a new building. Carport
used to be at left, workshop in middle, remnants of coal storage on the right. 

That concrete pad was for the carport on the old coal barn, and it makes sense to use it for a new milking and feed storage room. My Plan A was to simply rebuild in the exact same footprint, using the other two sections as the area for the goats.

Goat barn Plan A. Click for larger view. Details here.

Then Dan came up with the idea for a round barn.

 photo round_barn_floorplan_zps1d96970a.jpg
Plan B was a larger, round barn. Details here. Click for a larger view.

Once we determined that the round barn was too much to build, we revisited Plan A. However, in trying to round out our numbers to utilize whole 4 foot by 8 foot sheets of plywood for the walls, we were right up against the huge magnolia tree and utility pole. We could either cut back on the length of the barn, or we could change the orientation of the main part of the barn to gain a some building room plus a little length. That's what we did for Plan C.

Plan C. Click to enlarge. The slab becomes the milking room with the
orientation of the barn giving me a porch overhang for the milking room
and a pen in the back. We still plan for a hayloft with drop chute for hay

With Plan C I lose the feed processing and equipment storage room I was getting with the round barn plan, but gain a pen for breeding / showing goats. It also gives us a little more room for the goats (or maybe it's for more goats ;). More importantly, the plan seems more doable. That's assuming we can ever get to it. Seasonal jobs become intense in spring and summer which means less time for things like building projects. Then too, Dan likes to finish one thing before he starts another, in this case the rest of the front porch, bay window, and interior trim for the front door. So I must be patient. Everything happens in it's own good time.

June 2, 2015

Non-electric Housekeeping

I've been wanting one of these for a long time.

Carpet sweeper

While I probably don't care for housework any better than the next person, I do like a clean house (theoretically, at least). One of my least favorite housekeeping tools is the vacuum cleaner. They are heavy, noisy, awkward, always dusty dirty, always with the cord in the way, and why is it that anytime I use a wand attachment all the dust blows out the back??? I admit that it is a good tool for some things, but for a lick and a promise, they are too much work to deal with.


This little carpet sweeper, on the other hand, is lightweight, easy to transport, and quiet, plus it uses no electricity (although a number of them are now battery powered, to which I say - why?). It does a decent job on our wood floors, but especially for my little area rugs. I like these little rugs because they add color, warmth, softness, and help protect the finish on the wood floor in high traffic areas. This is the perfect tool for them.

How about you? Any gripes about modern "convenience" tools? Any other ideas for non-electric housekeeping?

Non-electric Housekeeping © June 2015