duck, duck, goose

We had a little free time this weekend. We were planning to go on the Peterson Butte hike; this mountain is in full view from our house, it’s open for a climb one day a year, and we have never actually made it. But heavy rain was forecast, and hiking in pouring rain didn’t sound that appealing. So, instead, we started shopping for turkey chicks; and we (well, I) happen to notice there were little goslings in at Wilco. And I’ve always kind of wanted a goose. And I’ve been reading about geese lately, since becoming such a fan of duck confit. And also, Jay is a very tolerant husband when it comes to adventures in farming.

Sooooo the short story is we now have two little geese setup in a brooder in the greenhouse! They are actually literally under the grow lights, since the box with lights is setup under the table with the grow lights. We did also pick up a batch of turkeys, which are in a separate box… but they are boring.

goslings
Baby geese look just like very large, homely ducklings.

These goslings were “assorted”, so we don’t know what varieties they will turn out to be, and I haven’t been succesful in guessing. This is kind of a problem for me. However, there aren’t that many kinds of geese offered commercially, so hopefully it will become clear as they grow up. And if the confit thing turns out to be relevant, it won’t be a long-term problem.

Geese are our first new (animal) species on the farm in almost a decade; the last one (hard to believe) was the dog in October of 2005. The last new proper farm animal was bees earlier in 2005. When we first got the farm, we (well, I) was so curious about new things and new animals… we got ducklings and goats the same week in 2002, which was a little much, and instituted a one-new-species-per-month limit. But there’s so much to do with these many kinds of animals, trying to keep yet more species happy has always seemed too much. We’ll see how the geese go, how different they are or if they are just like extra large ducks.

Dairy Goats

We love Oberhasli Dairy goats. Oberhaslis are a wonderful breed – quiet, friendly, not too large, very nice ears, and the color combination is very attractive; and the milk from our goats is delicious.

When the goats are in milk, we produce more than we can use; it’s quite difficult to keep up with the girls! Unfortunately, health regulations are so strict that we do not sell goat milk or goat milk products.

Milking

Our milking proceedure:
1. wash hands carefully with soap
2. fill a container with warm water with a little dish detergent
3. collect a clean stainless steel saucepan with lid and two clean washcloths/rags/hand towels per goat to be milked
4.put goat on stanchion with the appropriate amount of sweet feed.
5.thoroughly wet one towel, wash udder, wiping belly and inside of legs
6. dry hands and udder with other towel
7. milk a few squirts onto the stanchion (or cat dish), examine for lumps from mastitis
8. uncover saucepan, milk the goat, cover saucepan and set aside.
9. squirt teat dip thoroughly onto teats (unless there are kids waiting)
10. return goat to pasture
11. bring milk to house
12. filter milk into clean quart glass jars
13. label jars and put into bottom (coldest part) of fridge

Our goats milk has no goaty flavor when it’s fresh, and early in the season it can last for weeks with the same delicious flavor. Later in the year it does sometimes get goaty. I believe that low minerals in the goat’s diet is the cause.

Cream and Butter Goats milk is naturally homogenized, so we get little cream – after a couple of days, I can scoop off a few spoonfuls from each jar. We have a cream separator, but it’s not worth it to use unless there’s a lot of milk to separate. Butter made from goat’s milk is white and bland; although cultured with a little chevre starter, it’s delicious.

Cheesemaking

Making cheese is one of the more challenging crafts I’ve attempted. Sometimes it comes out great, other times, well, the chickens always are happy with anything.

I make a lot of yogurt with goats milk; it’s not as thick as commercial yogurt, but I use it on oatmeal and it’s the perfect consistency.

The most reliable cheeses have been:
• Cherve
• Mozzarella
• Feta
• Whole-milk ricotta (ricotta from whey has a taste or texture that I don’t like)

Slightly aged soft cheese has often been good. More aged cheese (approaching a month) always either dries out or get moldy. Sometimes when they dry out, they are still acceptable as a grating cheese. These may be issues of aging cheese in a refrigerator…

I get starter cultures and cheese supplies from Hoeggers

Best place to learn to make cheese is: Fankhauser Cheese Page

Project No-mow

We have four grass-hungry sheep, some empty spaces between gardens and house where the grass grows raggedly, and one guy who hates weedwhacking. Permaculture has a principle “the problem is the solution”… so, this weekend we rigged up chicken wire with t-posts and rebar, and closed off half the yard, and the sheep attacked the grass like ravenous wild beasts. Assuming that 3′ of dainty mesh keeps them in that area and out of the garden, we’d like to protect the small trees in the rest of the yard, and let the sheep really take over mowing duty.

(The sheep have no business being quite that hungry, by the way. They are fat enough that they jiggle when they run; real sheep people tell us the girls need to be on a strict diet).

Busy, busy – life as a dairymaid

Spring is still a couple of weeks away, but it seems like I’m already way, way behind. Behind on seed starting, tree planting, digging, you name it, I’m behind. I blame it on the goats – milking two goats and coping with the milk takes time – half an hour twice a day, plus making cheese (even with other things done in the elapsed time, it’s at least an hour per gallon of milk/pound of cheese), then the laundry and dishwasher to keep the milking materials clean; it’s a 10 to 15 hour a week part-time job. We are getting 4-6 pounds, twice a day; so about 9 gallons a week. We do enjoy the fresh milk; we used to go through about a gallon a week. Having lots of yogurt is nice; it’s thinner than store bought yogurt, as expected (they do all sorts of tricky things to make yogurt thicker, gelatin and modified food starch and all that). It makes great lassi, though. You can drain it to make a type of cheese, but it’s easier to just make cheese in the first place.

I make a lot of chevre. It’s very easy; just add culture and rennet, let it sit for 24 hours, then drain. It’s rather dull by itself, we try adding it to quiche and pasta sauce, but it remains plain. It really needs to be made into cheesecake :-). To get over the plainness, I’ve been experimenting adding garlic, herbs and things to it; Jay’s a big fan of the garlic. The other type of cheese I can make reliably (well, usually – todays isn’t looking good – if you forget to add the lipase before the rennet, just give it up…) is feta. I have been experimenting with a cheddar recipe; I’m not happy with the way my cheese press works, so I’ve not been even trying to get something I can age for 6 months! But every so often, my not-pressed-enough, lightly aged cheese is really delicious. I’m rather taken aback when I cut into one of the many rounds in the fridge and find a tangy, creamy, delicious cheese that works on a sandwich.

I used to make mozzarella a lot, but I haven’t done it lately. I’d need to find time to make lasagna to use it up…

Last year I tried making butter from cream from our goat’s milk. Goat butter is pure white. It also has very little flavor. It was like crisco, and there didn’t seem much point in it for all the work. But the chevre often has a buttery flavor, so I added some chevre culture so some cream (just spooned off the top of the 6 quarts that went into the unlucky batch of feta), left it for a few hours, and the resulting butter actually has a buttery flavor! It’s still stark white, but we can learn to live with that.

How we got started with Bees

We picked up our hive components at Glory Bee, in Eugene. Dad assembled and painted base, hives and top, and made a little table for the hives to sit on.

We ordered too late to get local bees, though, so we had to mail order a package. The bees arrived in the mail (our postman is quite understanding), in the small box you see. 3 pounds of bees is tens of thousands of individuals.

beforehiving

It was quite exciting to get the bees into the hive. You dump the bees in, and carefully hang the queen in her little box inside the hive

     installbees        installqueen

 
From time to time during the summer, I inspect the hive to make sure the queen was there and doing her job of producing baby bees.

inspectframe

In September, we harvest the honey. The bees don’t like this very much; there’s a lot of angry buzzing for a few weeks, and don’t get too close to the hive. They eventually get over it.

It’s a difficult, very, very messy job to extract honey with the mechanical extractor; it has to be done inside since the anyplace outside we’d encounter the resentful rightful owners. The only place we have is the kitchen, which at least is incentive to get the extraction done quickly.

Sheep-to-lamb

First: don’t read this if you’re squeamish.

This is a garden blog site, but one thing we grow in our gardens is sheep, which we eat. Now that the garden is resting, and there’s not enough grass left in the pastures for all the sheep, it’s butchering time. We have it done; cutting up meat is quite a skill. But when the mobile butcher normally takes away the “guts” for discard, we try to use as much of them as we can; it honors the sheep to allow him to provide more value to us. At least, this is how we think. To a ex-vegetarian who’s never been much interested in “variety meats” it’s a real challenge; I have enough trouble with roasts, never mind hearts. So there’s a lot of parts that still don’t get used (tongue?), but we do our best.

First, sausage casings are really made of well-cleaned intenstines. It’s laborious but not difficult to clean them. I have a new sausage stuffer, so we made some sausages (defrosted some ground rooster), and fried them up. Amazing to make your own sausages – lamb casings make small sausages, the diameter of a thumb – and the sausages look good and are delicious!

Then, haggis, though I chickened out from using the actual stomach of the sheep. The stomach is impressive to see but not appealing to use for food. Proper haggis contains the liver, heart, and lung, along with oatmeal, onion and spices, and steamed. Traditionally it’s cooked inside the stomach, but I used a foil-covered bowl. It’s not bad, but not that great, either; a fluffy, spicy, dark colored meatloaf with a liver favor. But I don’t like meatloaf that much – Jay does, and he liked the haggis a lot.

Last year we sauteed liver and onions, and used heart and liver in shepherd’s pie, both of which were fine. We still have a liver and a heart left, and four kidneys. Steak and kidney pie?

Another thing that comes from sheep butchering is the skins. We salt and dry them, then send them off to the Amish to be tanned, and get back sheepskins with long, wavy fleece, very soft.

I wish sheep were made entirely from steaks and chops, but they aren’t, and eating meat means taking responsibility; for us “variety meats” are free food that would otherwise be thrown away (commercially they mainly go into pet food), it’s highly nutritious, and most traditional cultures have highly esteemed these parts.

Our deep thanks to Baa-52 and his half brother.