Saturday, July 25, 2015

Cheese and chicks

I am making another wheel of cheddar today, and taking some more detailed photos of the process, just in case you all want to try it some time! But at 4:45 pm, I am still not ready to press it, so I thought instead I would do a post in memory of the little leghorn chick we lost yesterday.

I found her on the floor in the enclosed space where we keep them during the day. At first I thought she was just resting, but when she did not join the others in eating, I realized something was wrong. Some critter had torn up her back end. I stopped at the vet's on the way into work just to get their opinion as to whether she might live. Stacy the vet tech said she had a good chance if it was just external injuries and gave me some antiseptic to clean her up.

So little chick became Office Chicken yesterday. MJ named her Nellie Blye. But Nellie Blye must have had some internal injuries as well. She hung on for most of the day, but struggled and then died in my hands about 6 pm.

I wish I knew what happened so that I could protect her 3 little friends, but there is just no way to know. These pics of them are from today. The 2 darker ones (and Nellie) are Brown Leghorns. The yellow chick is the one that our hens hatched, and then rejected. He or she is half Buff Orpington (from the roo) and half Easter Egger (because we know she hatched from a blue egg). She has fully recovered from her rough start, and the 3 little leghorns accepted her right away. Her brother (or sister) is still being raised by the 2 mamas.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cheese, cheese and more cheese!

Since we began milking the goats last year, I have been making chevre pretty regularly. I mastered that process pretty quickly, so I decided to get more creative and try some cheddar this year. Also, this year we have at least twice the milk. We are milking both Lucille and Rosie. Lucille is a great milker. Rosie is less cooperative but seems to have more milk.

Chevre is very easy to make. I warm it up in a cooler filled with hot tap water, add starter and rennet and let it sit overnight. Then ladle the curd into cheesecloth and hang to drain for another 6 or 7 hours.

Cheddar requires more time (most of a morning and afternoon) more work (heating, cutting, and salting the curd) and a cheese press. The Husband bought me a beautiful cherry wood press from Homesteader's Supply for my birthday in May.

Starting with the first cheddar on May 31, I have made 1 wheel of cheddar per week for a total of 8. It is supposed to be better if aged for at least 60 days—the taste is sharper, and we both like sharp cheddar. But that means I won't know until the end of July whether or not my cheddar is eddarble. (hehe)

If it were up to me alone, I would have sneaked a taste right away, but the man insists on patience, which is something he normally has in short supply. (hehehe)

Conveniently, Brian and Eve are scheduled to come up next Friday, so we can test our first cheddar on them! At least they all look edible.

First small photo is the curd after cutting it in the pot. Whey is the liquid you can see that has already drained from the curd. Second: fresh wheel of cheese from this morning. Third: cheese press (maple version).

Once I find out if my cheddar is any good, I will try some different cheese recipes. For now I will just keep my fingers crossed that I haven't been wasting my time AND all that goat's milk!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Return of the wanderer!

My little escapee returned this morning. Even though I had looked there earlier, The Husband found her inside the fence she had escaped from last night. Safe and sound, but she certainly has not learned her lesson. You can see in the photo they are making their way to the top of the log inside the fence, looking for another chance to be free.

Little yellow chickie has no trouble keeping up with her 3 cellmates. Her injured foot and wing seem to have healed. She is a few days younger (maybe a week) than the others, and has some catching up to do in size, but otherwise seems to be healthy.

The Cayuga ducks were getting to know their new friends inside the fence for a few hours this morning, and then we set them all free. Not sure if they have been enjoying their freedom yet, but their environment even inside the fence is a huge improvement to their previous home. The baby ducks are full size now. The darker one looks almost like her daddy, but with more interesting "penciling" on her feathers. The lighter one looks just like her momma.

If they are indeed 3 females and 1 male, we can expect some truly interesting looking babies from this bunch. Or maybe we will just eat their eggs and enjoy the 4 of them as they are...

Saturday, July 11, 2015

New ducks and new chicken saga, or should I say dilemma

We took a nice hour-long drive on a nice day today to pick up 2 new ducks. Again they were supposed to be Cayugas, a pretty iridescent black and beetle green variety native to NY state, and again they are some sort of mix, but at least these look like half Cayugas, unlike the first bunch we bought.

It was a nice drive on the way there, but on the way back not so much. The poor ducks were being housed in a barn with no access to the outside, and plenty of poo inside. We had to leave the windows open with the air on just to be able to breathe on the way home.

The 2 pretty ducks were thankful for the bath in the bucket, and are now cleaned up and good to go.

It will take a few days to mingle with the 2 babies we raised here, our last remaining ducks from the other purchases. The babies are probably both females, and these older Cayugas are definitely a male and female. These 2 will need a couple of days to learn where they live before being allowed to roam with the babies.

The teenage Black Australorp chickens so far are getting along very well with the adults out front. Tonight I wanted to introduce them to a night in the coop with the others, but was distracted by a runaway chick from the bunch that are still being raised in the garage.

There are 3 that we got as replacements for the too-many roosters last year, plus our one little yellow chickie that was hatched but then rejected by the 2 mamas. I have been putting the 4 of them in a little fence outside on sunny days and bringing them in the garage at night. But tonight, 1 of the Leghorns jumped ship when I tried to put them back in the garage. She is still out there roaming free at 10:30 pm. I left her companions chirping in their crate just inside the garage with the door open, but am going to give up soon if she doesn't come back inside.

Big Mommy can only sit outside with the mosquitoes for so long waiting for the wandering child to come home...

Please come home, little wanderer!