Thursday, February 19, 2015

Catching Up

Hey there! I've been away for a while and thought I'd catch you guys up on what's going on with the farm. 

We moved! While our farm in Missouri was absolutely beautiful, it was far away from our family and friends. It was certainly an adventure but we realized where we needed to be. So we bought a new place just outside of our hometown, packed up the animals and headed West! We haven't put our old place on the market yet but we'll eventually get around to it. We're slackers. 

We had to rush like crazy to get all the fencing put in for the dogs, goats, and chickens. We had a two day window to do so and we were pooped at the end of it all. 

They were pretty pleased with their new digs. The chickens immediately went to work eating, and the goats destroying everything they could. They're helpful like that.

We lost about half of our flock in Missouri to foxes and coyotes. So right away we got to work replenishing. We found a nearby breeder and picked up pretty much my 'what dreams are made of' wishlist of chickens: two Welsummers, one French Black Copper Marans, one French Blue Copper Marans, one Lavender Orpington, one black Ameracauna, and this fabulous little girl, a Chocolate Orpington bantam whom we lovingly named Truffle. She does the best 'Truffle Shuffle' in all the land. She may be small but she ain't skerd of nuthin'!

The cats took over the house.

I decided I wanted an incubator. I planned on just getting a small inexpensive one to hatch out a few chicks here and there. Turns out, all the small inexpensive ones are pretty much crap. Ultimately I splurged on the Brinsea Mini Advance because during my research I never found a negative review of it. Twelve days to go until hatch day. The anticipation is KILLING ME. In it are three speckled olive eggs from my girls Esme, three green eggs from Nutmeg, and one pretty blue egg from Hazel, one of our Easter Eggers. This picture doesn't do the color of the eggs justice, they're really a sight to behold. The father is a Black Copper Marans. The offspring should lay some totally gorgeous eggs.

Here's one of Esmes eggs sans bloom. See? Told ya they were pretty!

We got chicks! I ordered various breeds from a hatchery back in November and had been counting down the days until their arrival. This is by far my friendliest batch of chicks. 

Marmalade would roost on me all day long if I let her. 

Cherry and I started a six gallon batch of mead. I haven't made wine in eons, and I don't really know why. It's so much fun to make, and especially drink!

Up until a week ago this has been a very mild winter. Most days hovered around 40 degrees F. So naturally I got the gardening bug, ordered seeds, and excitedly began planning it.

I started my seeds on time, and was just sure Spring was around the corner. I can deal with winter if it's like this!

Then it happened. Snow. Negative temperatures. And the forecast for the next ten days isn't looking so great. It's as if winter decided to cram four months of winter into a two week period. Bitch.

But hey, I guess as long as I'm pulling these beauties out of the nesting box everyday, I'll be a happy girl. Spring will shove winter out of the limelight soon enough.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Let's Make Chèvre!

I've had dairy goats for a little over a year now. In that time not only have I discovered the most amazing, mischievous little companions, but also that um, goat milk is like the best thing ever. And goat cheese? Fahgetaboutit. Chèvre is smooth, creamy and has just enough bite to let you know you're eating something kinda fancy. But if you're reading my blog, you probably currently have chicken poop on your shoes so that oughta balance that fancy right out. 

1 Gallon Goat Milk
1 Packet Chèvre Starter Culture
Cheese Salt (Optional)
Herbs and Spices (Optional)

Large Pot
Wooden Spoon
Cheese Thermometer

Pour goat milk into the large pot and warm over medium heat to 86 degrees F. If it's fresh, you may actually have to let it cool down. I don't have any goats in milk at the moment so I use frozen and it takes a while to melt and heat up. Sprinkle the chèvre starter culture over the warm milk and let rehydrate for two minutes. Do not stir.

Cover the pot full of warm milk and let sit undisturbed at room temperature for 12-18 hours. Ladle curds into your cheesecloth lined colander and allow to drain for 4-8 hours. You can nix the colander all together and hang the cheesecloth to drain but I find using the handles of a colander to suspend over a deep bowl easiest to work with. If you don't have a thousand animals in the house like we do, you could just let it drain sitting in your kitchen sink.

Ba-bam! Congratulations, you just made a super fancy sounding cheese. Now tell everyone you know and impress the heck out of them. 

To shape into balls or logs, chill the cheese for a couple of hours first - shaping will be much easier. Pictured clockwise from upper left is plain salted, rosemary garlic, cinnamon pecan, and lastly (and my absolute favorite) tomato basil. Get creative with flavor combinations,
almost everything pairs well with Chèvre.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Watering Can Garden Art

I'm with you, I'm ready for spring. This cold, snow, and ice business is for the birds. Not my birds though, they hate it too. We accumulated 6-8 inches of snow Sunday night and my chickens refuse to leave their coop. I can't say I blame them, I wouldn't want my bare tootsies in the snow either! Here in Southern Illinois we've been teased with warm weather a few times, then we're quickly reminded that it is in fact still winter. Boo. So I'm getting some pretty serious cabin fever and I'm longing to get my hands in my garden. We've moved to a whole new farm since my last post back in August, so I have lots of planning, constructing, and decorating to get done. I like a cute garden, can you blame me?

I was perusing the back alleys of Pinterest when I found a picture of a watering can turned garden art. Too cute! The post didn't come with detailed instructions (really neither does mine), but I figured it out. And I know you can, too!

I didn't have a metal watering can lying around so I did have to purchase one from our local feed store. No biggy. But I did have wire and a necklace I've never once worn hanging out in the house. I took the necklace apart and got to work. Working with the wire, I fed it through the holes of the watering can into the water reservoir and attached a bead at each end, making sure to twist the wire tight to secure the bead. Then I pulled the wire back through the watering spout until I met resistance. I then attached a bead onto the free strand of wire about every inch. You can make each bead closer or further apart, depending on your supply. I twisted the wire underneath each added bead to secure it in place. To finish a strand I would simply wrap the wire around the end bead and twist to close like you would a bread tie.

Voila! See? Super simple stuff and it makes for a delightful, whimsical piece of garden art!