Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Time

It's THAT time of year!!!!!
It's almost Christmas! My kids are excited and are wishing for a white Christmas. It can happen here in Georgia and it did back in 2010. It won't this year though.
Aside from the baking and movie watching that is happening over here, we are still milking cows and making cheese.
In fact, I think I have the Camembert cheese down quite well. I also have several hard cheeses in the cave aging for at least 3 months.

Usually it is Zeb who hangs out with me the entire time I do cow chores, but Fletcher decided to visit with me instead.
He is barefoot and in unmatched pajamas. His hair is a mess too, but that doesn't stop him from having fun.

Today after milking we had lots of baking to do for Devin's birthday tomorrow. I am taking full advantage of this weekend and plan to squeeze in a movie later this evening.

I took this picture to illustrate how much cows love being together in a herd. These ladies are done being milked but will stand outside the gate until the last cow is done, then they head out to pasture together. In the meantime they pass time by licking each other on the faces and butting heads. True cow fellowship.

It affords me the chance to snap a cow selfie. I prefer the *cow face* over the *duck face* personally.

I hope everyone has a fabulous Christmas and is able to enjoy the time with family. I have simple plans here for us. Warm home, good food, family movies.
It is nice to be able to stay home and enjoy down time after the last couple of very hectic weeks.

See you after the holidays!!!!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Clampett Phenomena

Today my barn stalls are complete, in fact the entire barn is finished.

Devin found a nearby sawmill and purchased some rough cut lumber. Do I love my new barn? Yes!!

I have 2 stalls, one on each side. They are closed in with wood and each have a gate. The gate is wide enough to allow a tractor to come in a scoop out muck.
Eventually we will own a tractor, eventually.

There is also electrical outlets so that I can plug in heat lamps or anything else I might need.

There is still plenty of room to walk around and behind the ladies when they are being milked too.

The wind was fairly gusty and cold last night so I kept one stall open. Lucy was quick to find shelter and get away from the northerly winter wind.

Now what to do with the old, temporary milking area?

Well, Devin tore it down. It was a useful area for 3 years now, but it was meant as a temporary area and needed to go.

A big fire followed. We actually had several old animal shelters that were looking rough and worn that also needed to go. One large fire later, the yard looks good again.

This is how we combat the *Clampett Phenomena. This is important because I know some of you have dreams and images of  living on a beautifully landscaped farm one day. Just know that farms are real life and can get messy. They can get cluttered. You will have animals that make messes and sometimes the messes stay put for a while until you have time to pick them up. Unless you have lots and lots of wealth, you will some times look out and think the Clampetts moved in. You will find trash in the yard and broken animal feeders and oops! a feed sack blew off and is tangled in the tree line. You will walk outside and find chicken poo on your driveway because that is what free range chickens do.
Fear not! You will find a nice day and the motivation to get it all cleaned up, I promise. In the meantime, try and lose that picturesque image of the beautiful gentleman's farm. The real working farm is just as beautiful if you look at it with a positive mind, and I promise it is much more fulfilling!
End of lecture.

Later we decided to get busy and get the Christmas tree up and decorated.

The last couple of years we have placed the tree in our basement. The basement is in process of being finished, but it has been a slow process at times. Who wants to go into debt finishing a space such as this? Not us!
We work on things as we have disposable income, which isn't as often as years past. Devin finished windowsills in time for the tree to go up!
We hope that by early spring we can get flooring and then it will be finished!!!! In the meantime, it is a comfy and spacious area for holiday festivities!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Hand Made Holiday Recap

3 weeks until Christmas!

Usually I am whipping up hand made gifts, and this year is no exception. I admit that I have slimmed my hand made gift giving list down a bit though from previous years. The cows and the cheese making has really swallowed up my time. Yes, cheese will be a gift for some on my list.

I wanted to go back through older posts, ones where I shared hand made gift ideas.

I hope some of you might find a gift or two to make.

Now......time to get busy!

The Sharpie Plate. Popular on Pinterest, make sure you buy the right kind of Sharpie.

The Washer Necklace. If you have girls, you need to check this one out.

The Book Mark. This is really a great and pretty gift for the avid book reader!

Hot Chocolate Mix. This is still a favorite in this family!

Kid's Can Craft Too! This is always a popular gift your kids can make for friends and cousins!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Barn for Me

This week begins the holiday season and for this large family mama that can mean only one thing:
This house MUST get cleaned!!!

Okay, I know that is not the most important thing I could be doing with my time, but I seriously just need the open spaces cleaned. I don't mind if junk is crammed into closet and drawers. Cleaning out nooks and crannies can be a goal for the New Year.

I started this week with turkey processing. Monday we processed what we had, which was 9 very large turkeys. They processed easily and our home made Whiz Bang plucker  did a fine job plucking feathers. The lightest bird dressed at 14 pounds, several dressed at 15-16, and 2 birds at 23 pounds!

I admit that they were fun to raise, until they started dropping dead at 13 weeks of age. I am still puzzled as to why this happened. After the financial loss of losing big turkeys, I understand why there are very few farmers raising pastured turkeys.

I also must admit that I really enjoyed these birds. It was more difficult to see these guys go versus meat chickens. Turkeys have much more personality, especially the gobblers, and I enjoyed watching them go about their day.

Now, I have to indulge to ya'll the really exciting part of my week.
I have a barn!

Last month I was able to purchase a metal carport with two sides enclosed. After it was installed, Devin turned it into my new milking barn.
First, he moved my milk pump and milking equipment to one of the enclosed sides. Those posts holding the stanchion are in solid concrete. Cows have a tendency to scratch their heads on posts and they can really move posts around if they are not solid.

My stanchion is actually a two cow set up, so technically I can milk two cows at once if I upgrade my milk pump and get another surge milker. Devin set up electricity into the barn so everything could be connected easily. Penny was the first to test the new set up out!

Of course, dairy cows are creatures of habit and it took some coaxing to get the ladies away from the old milking set up. This old set up has served me well for the last 2+ years, but it was always meant as a temporary area (more on that later).  The cows stood for quite some time in the old area waiting to be milked. We will tear this set up down and burn it next chance we get.

The other enclosed side is not finished yet. Devin will be building me two 10 foot stalls on this side. Each stall has a large gate and will be a nice area to lock up animals when needed. We positioned the barn so that the walls block the north wind in the winter.

Devin put me an outlet over the stalls so I can plug in any equipment if needed or even a heat lamp. Sometimes it is necessary to house a young calf and heat lamps keep them warm.

No more working on animals in the dark either! I have lights!

At milking time, the cow comes through this gate to milk and out the other gate when finished. No more cows running over each other to get in and out!

This is a perfect barn for my location in Georgia. The weather is most often hot and humid and this open barn allows for air circulation that is needed in my climate.

Another perk is that metal carports are relatively inexpensive. We did not have to spend tens of thousands to get a nice barn set up and that is a bonus for any family on a budget. When you start farming well meaning  people will try and tell you that you must get a big, expensive barn set up. Do NOT believe them.

Let's get back to my temporary milking area set up. Temporary set ups are really nice when you start a farming life, especially for fencing and buildings. Having a temp set up or fence allows you to use that area and really decide if it works for your needs. The temp area I had for milking was nice, but the ground was lower than I like and therefore it stayed wet, very wet, after a rain. I also had 2 years to decide how I preferred to milk cows and where I wanted equipment to be set up. All of the *kinks* were straightened out before I had my barn set up.

This is also true of fencing. If you can use temporary electric fencing first, you will be able to decide if a particular area works for your needs before investing thousands into wire and wood fencing.

I will post pictures once Devin is done with my stalls. Today he is working and tomorrow we will be stuffing ourselves sick with food.

Today I clean!!!!!

Happy Thanksgiving Ya'll!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

All Bull

The cold has arrived and boy is it ever chilly, especially for a Southern girl who prefers the heat.

We busily made sure all the animals had plenty of hay and fresh water before the cold snap hit and each morning we are bundled up doing farm chores.

Part of dairy farming is making sure the ladies are bred each year, and this task can be difficult when you do not have a bull.

Bulls can be dangerous and dairy bulls are notorious for being especially mean. Since I have children who like to roam, I have never been comfortable keeping a dairy bull around.

Thank goodness for great neighbors with bulls to spare.

This isn't a dairy bull, but rather an Angus bull. He is young and still docile. In fact, as one would expect from a beef cow, he is rather scared of people and runs away when we approach his fence.

He is shorter than my Jersey girls and tends to sire small calves. He will be the daddy to my next round of calves born here next year.

My neighbor told me I could keep him as long as I wish, so I will keep him at least a few months. He is in the far paddock to himself. I expect at least two of my girls to go into heat this week or next.

I find him rather handsome.

This spring there is a class offered at Mississippi State in artificial insemination of cows. It is a 3 day course and I am seriously considering taking the course. If I keep raising dairy cows I will need to either get a bull or learn how to AI. The bull would be easier and likely cheaper, but AI is a skill I have always wanted to learn.

Finally, my turkey raising adventure is about to end. Monday we will process the very few birds we have left. One actually dies last night. I am totally baffled as to what is causing the birds to suddenly die. I had to turn down several customers, but this was a year of learning curves...I just haven't maneuvered the curves well yet.

Whoever said farming was easy never farmed.
Happy Hump Day Ya'll!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Super-Sonic Speed

This past weekend was a marathon weekend for farming.

Penny had her calf, a bull calf. He is a small calf but very healthy and playful.

I was worried at first because they spent so much time laying down, but I think the little guy just needed a good rest.

He eventually stood up, nursed and started walking around with Penny. He's an active calf now.

He's also eating quite well. Here we are feeding him while Willow photo bombs. We haven't named him yet, but since he is a bull he has one fate. We will think of a food name for him.

Next we sheared sheep. This was a late shearing and I am a bit concerned about the cold air that has moved in today.

Devin and I took turns helping hold the sheep down. It always amazes me how strong the booger can be at shearing time. If you do not follow me on FB, please do! I posted a video of the sheep and the new calf.

All of the sheep had a nice layer of fat to help keep them warm, except Flicka the House Lamb. She's still quite small. We actually put her in with the calf this morning so they could both stay warm and dry under a heat lamp. It has really gotten cold today and tomorrow will be even colder!

We also got good, seasoned hardwood firewood this weekend and will likely be starting the stove fires this evening. If you are in the path of this artic blast, please stay warm!!!!!

It is difficult to believe that the holidays will soon be here. I usually have a list of gifts to make and crafts to craft, but my recent health issues have taken a toll on my energy levels. Tomorrow I am going to see my doctor and hopefully figure out why I am not healed from the miscarriage yet. I am hopeful that she will help me heal and I can get back to my normal super  sonic speed!

In the meantime......

Happy Hump Day!!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Super Fly Birthdays

Monday we celebrated 2 birthdays in the house! To this day it amazes me that I have two kids that share a birthday.

Journee turned 19 and Rose turned 9.
Usually we have family parties at the house but this year I decided to do something different.

This year we had a party at the local trampoline park called Super Fly.

I must say that everyone had a very good time and it was worth every penny to have a party there.

It was a solid hour of jumping, swinging, and running. There was even an area for playing dodge ball. the kids had a great time throwing balls at each other and dodging the balls too

 The boys jumped and jumped and are asking when we will take them back. They also slept very well that night!

Rose and Willow also brought a friend and they enjoyed hanging out and jumping.
Super Fly had a nice party room set up for us and we brought pizza, a cooler with drinks, and 2 cookie cakes that Willow made for her sisters.

Of course the girls were showered with fabulous and thoughtful birthday presents.

The girls always ask for their own box of goldfish crackers and jerky. Grandma always accommodates with those gifts. Rose is always extra exuberant when she gets the crackers!

Happy birthday Rose! I hope you always remain energetic and witty.

Happy birthday Journee. I hope you never lose your sense of compassion and service.

We will be going back to Super Fly soon. They actually have a family night on Mondays when the entire family can jump for one low price. Devin and I are also thinking it would be a great date night as well as a great place to gather with friends.

On the farm front, it has been busy and hectic and a bit overwhelming. I will update ya'll soon, but for now it's all about the Super Fly birthdays!

Happy Hump day Ya'll!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Cheddar King

When opportunity knocks on my door, I invite it in and offer it some Southern hospitality.

Such an opportunity knocked last month when Nature's Harmony Farm decided to offer a 2 day cheese making class. This is a class I have been wanting to take for a very long, long time.

Nature's Harmony just doesn't make mediocre cheese  and they have a cheddar, Georgia Gold, that has won awards and praises world wide. Yes, please let me learn a smidgen from the Cheddar King.

My mom and her dogs kept me company by driving me to Elberton, GA for this class. It is not a long drive from here but I was very happy to have the company.

Nature's Harmony Farm and its owner, Tim Young, are tucked away along several back roads. In fact I wasn't entirely sure we had found the correct farm because the farm sign didn't say "Nature's Harmony." Nonetheless, I found the cheese shop, farm and class, and despite the sign we were all welcome.

One of the things I really love about this cheese operation, versus the many others that exist, is that the owner milks his own cows and makes the cheese using more hands on methods. There were no huge tanks of milk being shipped in, but rather a smaller herd of Jerseys were milked twice a day and each cow has a name.

The cheese making room was not fancy and there were no automatic stirring arms for the milk and cheese. Young stirs the milk and curds by hand and this lends a more artisan approach to his cheeses.

The class size consisted of small number of homesteaders and cheese makers/hippies like myself. This not only allowed Young more one on one time with each of us (we all had special cheese questions and issues) but everyone was able to visit and get to know one another. There were folks who came from as far away as California!

The first day of class we crafted Camembert and Blue Cheese. I especially needed help with the blue cheese and Young was very happy to help me address my cheese making challenges. I feel very confident that I can make a good blue cheese now.

The second day we made cloth bound cheddar, a specialty of Nature's Harmony. Using methods that we could use in a home setting we crafted a very fine wheel of cheese.
Today I am actually making a wheel of my own and I plan to age it on wood for 10 months, just like cheddar royalty.

Young also showed us his cave and walked us through the steps of rind washing, brining and aging.
He was a very gracious instructor to allow us so much information, and he truly does enjoy teaching and interacting with folks.

Did I mention he let us help milk his cows? Yes! It was great for someone like myself, who would like to one day milk more cows, to see how it is done on a more commercial scale. Plus, who doesn't like being around these beautiful beasts? His cows were very well cared for and were very healthy. His management practices are clearly top notch, and they are a grass based dairy too.

If you ever get a chance to visit Nature's Harmony Farm, I suggest you do! His cheeses are fantastic and his methods of hand crafting artisan cheeses exceptional.

Of course he also sells his goods online as well in several stores throughout the Atlanta area.

You can also follow them on Facebook. This is the best way to keep up with classes. In fact, they are offering up a holiday class where the students craft and take home 3 Camembert cheeses. I promise that will be a great class!

Finally, I will part with a few more pictures of my class and all of the wonderful classmates!

 Happy cheese making ya'll!!!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...