Thursday, August 28, 2014

Goats and goat cheese

The Husband has been doing a wonderful job of milking Lucille twice a day. Helen is not the least bit cooperative, but then Lucille (her mother) wasn't last year either. Second time's a charm?

I am in the process of my fourth attempt at chevre, that soft goat cheese that tastes so much better than what you can buy in the store. For almost as long as we have been coming up here, we have been buying it from Alyssa, of Painted Goat Farm, at the Cooperstown Farmer's Market.

Maybe, just maybe, after years of practice with the chevre, I will be able to recreate the aged cheese that she calls a "Cinderella log" which has ash in the otherwise white rind, but we are a LONG way from that!

For now, I am reading 3 different books and whatever I can find online. My first try was edible, but did not set curds as well as it should have. I lost a lot of it in the whey. You are supposed to be able to use just vinegar or lemon juice (no rennet or starter) but that recipe involved heating the milk and I did not have a dairy thermometer, so possibly it was the wrong temperature. My second attempt (as described in Brad Kessler's book Goat Song) was perfect, but I used some of Painted Goat's goat yogurt as the starter, and have not gotten anymore since then. So the third attempt was not so starter, I used more rennet, and it came out kind of dry and rubbery. I started the fourth attempt today with a tiny bit of Chobani yogurt and less rennet.

When the proper starter (mesophilic) and dairy thermometer arrive in the mail next week, I think most of my problems will be solved. Chevre is supposed to be one of the easiest cheeses to make, but without the right ingredients, and trying to follow 3 (or more) completely different recipes, well I guess you learn as you go!

On a sad note: Our little goat boy, Bart, died kind of unexpectedly on Sunday morning. He was never very healthy to start with, and just never seemed to grow from when we got him in mid-June. We sent him back to June's place, and she nursed him back to health as best she could, but even a month with her intensive care didn't make him that bouncy baby buckling that we thought he would be. We are not sure what happened, only that we miss him.

Rest in peace Little Bart.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Big chicks, big fawn and LITTLE baby ducks

 One of our 3 female ducks disappeared about a month ago. The 5 male ducks are unrelenting in their "abuse" of the poor girls. At first we thought she got tired of the boys and moved on, or maybe she was killed by something, but then she would reappear every so often, coming out for food or water.

Missing for this long, we figured she must be sitting on eggs, but could not find the nest anywhere (good mom!). Just yesterday morning we looked up how long for a duck to hatch eggs—28 days. Right on schedule, she showed up yesterday afternoon with 8 little brown puff balls.

I captured them all a few minutes ago inside the fence where the chicks were. Mom is not happy, but I think they will be safer in there. We have 2 tom cats who have been patrolling the area lately, and those darn male ducks are a little too happy to have their girl return...

Where the chicks were: Chicks are now all big girls, except for the one big boy. We bought a 10-bay nest box at a garage sale this weekend just in time for the young hens to start laying eggs. We started last week to carry them from the fenced area back to the main coop at night. Hoping that they figure it out soon, because it isn't easy escorting 10 of them all the way out front every night. I feel better knowing that the mean roosters aren't in the coop to beat up on my little girls. So far the Buff Roo is a very well mannered young man.

And that little fawn has been hanging around with his mama for the past few weeks. Only recently without his mama. He (or she) is all grown up now too.

Birth—this is the good part about life on the farm.

But I do not know what we are going to do with all those ducks!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Visitors from NJ and FL—and an animal update

Brian and Eve from NJ, and Josh and Lisa with big boy Colin from FL, all came up to stay for a week on the lake. We had a welcome dinner at The Lakehouse on Friday—a perfect evening for dining on the deck while the sun was setting over the lake.

If the weather cooperates, we are headed this afternoon to FlyFest, an outdoor concert in a cornfield in Fly Creek. Thunderstorms are predicted, we are hoping to avoid them...

A lot has been happening here at Lester's Flat. I was going to write a post called the Sex Change Operation, but I was afraid it would put you all in a tizzy.

We found 2 female ducks on Craig's List (2 grey girls in first duck photo) that we bought in order to even out the hormones in our little bevy of ducks. We had 5 males and 3 females, and the poor females have been getting beat up by the bad boys. (4 of the 5 drakes in the brown duck photo)

So we bring home the new girls only to have them beat up and run off by the bad boys. For the first night, the girls hid in the weeds somewhere that we couldn't find them. The next 2 nights, the girls found their way into the duck house, and as far as we know everything was fine. But then bad boys got a little too frisky and chased the new girls away. For now they seem to have settled into the chicken coop. The 2 girls stay on the front of our property, the 8 others stay back here by the house.

And, the same weekend we got the new girls, one of the other females disappeared into the weeds. She has reappeared a few times, so is obviously still alive. I think she is sitting on eggs somewhere.

Now we need 2 separate duck houses and who knows what will happen when the new babies come along.  So much for settling the sexes.

We had almost the same problem with the chickens. Bought what we thought were 4 hens and 1 rooster, ended up with 5 roosters. We lost one to some unknown critter, gave another to a friend who wanted a rooster for her hens, gave another to our Greek friend who wanted a rooster for some stew, and just about 2 weeks ago gave the same Greek friend the last 2 because they were also beating up the girls relentlessly. We found out that 1 of the 10 baby chicks is a rooster, so he is going to have to grow up and take care of all the girls. Right now we are at 18 hens and the handsome, and so far well behaved Buff Orp boy.

We also traded our Tony (baby boy goat) for Bart (more colorful baby boy goat) only to return Bart until his Mama made him healthy again. Bart has returned, but now some of our other goats have come down with the need for Pepto. :)

For now, the girls rule the goat house!

The Husband is saying new pigs by Labor Day, and is threatening to add a dairy cow or 2. Or maybe sheep... Farmer Husband is never satisfied!