Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Real Life

It has been a crazy day. Crazy.
In case any of ya'll look at this here blog and think we have our act together and that I have everything under control all of the darn time, I am going to bust that myth.

We live a real life over here.

If you look past the house lamb wearing a diaper, the shoes on the floor, the table piled with books, and the other various items strewn all over the floor and table, you will notice two brood boxes.
We getting all of our milking buckets ready when I got a call from the post office this morning to come get my baby chicks, only I hadn't ordered any chicks.
Apparently the hatchery was confused and sent me my chicks that I had received 4 weeks ago. Yes, I have 105 meat chicks  now in addition to the 100 I have outside on pasture. It was a huge hatchery mix up.
I am happy that my girls were able to construct brood boxes last minute for me.

While we were milking Rose hurt her knee jumping on the trampoline. It was nothing serious, but we wrapped it and gave her ibuprofen under the advisement of her doctor, also known as her daddy.

Today she will be taking life easy and not putting weight on her knee much.
*Please note that my living room has toys, books and the other boot on the floor.

I had high hopes of finishing up a sewing project this week, but just look at my sewing room!
Yes, it is also my laundry room, but I am usually able to keep it halfway cleaned up. This morning I can hardly find my machines, and that kitty cat there managed to once again unthread my serger. (Grrr)

Today would be a great day to start some spring cleaning except, you know, I am overwhelmed with farm animals and an upcoming prom for my two oldest.

Life is messy, and when you have a large family and a farm it can get messy often.

Today I will focus on the most important aspects: 1. Feeding and caring for kids and animals 2. Feeding myself  3. Reminding myself that this is a real life and some days are just crazy 

Seriously, this kid isn't bothered by a mess or disorganization. Why should I?

Happy Thursday Ya'll!!! Hope you are blessed to have a real life too!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sweet Grass Dairy Part 2

Well, it is cold yet again this morning. Frost, cold wind, and no sign of a warm up for several days. I think this is what we Southerners call Dogwood Winter. The dogwood trees are showing buds, hence the name.
The pastured chickens slept with a brood light the last two nights and my yard has extension cords strung across the grass as proof that spring is not quite ready to stay just yet.

In the meantime, I wanted to share the rest of my short vacation to Sweet Grass Dairy, specifically on the town of Thomasville, GA.

When we decided to take the artisan cheese class I spent several hours online looking for a nice place to stay. We don't have a ton of cash to spend on accommodations, but we could splurge a little.

We decided to stay at the Paxton House Inn. Not only was it close to the downtown area, it was absolutely beautiful! It is a historical landmark as well.
It was built in 1884 as a winter cottage for Colonel J. W. Paxton of Wheeling, West Virginia and his family. The owner was very nice and the food was delicious. It is also up for sale, so if you think you might want to get into the B&B business in a warm part of the US, go for it! The owner is ready for retirement, and this place would be well worth the investment.

The downtown area of Thomasville is made up of old buildings renovated to accommodate shops and restaurants. Sadly, we did not get any window shopping or browsing in, as the shops close rather early and the entire town shuts down on Sunday, typical of the deep South.

We did find the Sweet Grass Dairy Shop though and it was packed!

We sat at the bar and ordered a platter that consisted of several cheeses, meats and fruits. The cheese shop also offers a wide selection of beer and wine. I also bought myself a ball cap with the dairy logo on it, which Devin might soon regret getting me. It seems that cap has been my great excuse to not fix my hair ever again.

There are several plantations to visit in Thomasville, but again we got out of cheese class to late to take a tour. We did, however, visit another huge landmark in the downtown area.

The Big Oak.
This tree was planted in the 1600's. It is also 27 1/2 feet circumference. It is so stinkin' huge!

The limbs span way, way out and are supported by steel rods now. This live oak is also covered in  resurrection fern. This fern appears dead until it rains, when it then greens up and looks alive again.

The locals were very nice and would stop and offer to snap photos for us. In fact the people were as you would expect in any good Georgia town, super nice!

I will say that the restaurants were all a little pricey. They were also very loud! I assume it is the nature of old buildings with poor acoustics, but every place we ate was loud with people chattering. It was difficult to hear a conversation and by the end of each evening my head was pounding. The food was always fantastic! was just not relaxing and very pricey.
The down town area is growing and new places to eat and shop are moving in all of the time In fact, Sweet Grass Dairy recently opened a restaurant Blue Coop. We didn't get a chance to eat there but heard fabulous reviews of the food.

It was a nice drive to Thomasville and, with the exception of Atlanta traffic, and easy drive home.
We would love to visit again sometime, although that is difficult to plan with a farm to care for too.

Speaking of farm and cheese, I crafted a 4 pound wheel of cheese just a few days ago and placed it in my basement for aging. Devin is drawing up ideas to build me a cheese cave down all of his spare time.
We are building a chicken plucker this year, instead of borrowing one. Those parts just arrived so that is next on our "to do" list.

This weekend is also the homeschool prom in Huntsville, AL. My two oldest attended last year and we will go again this year. We have close friends who help organize the event and we are looking forward to visiting them!

Off to finish farm chores now!
Happy Monday!!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sweet Grass Dairy Farm: Part 1

I am a woman who can do many things. I have many talents. When we bought dairy cows, I was up and running soon after making butter, yogurt and ice cream. I even started soft cheese making and have been quite successful.
Artisan cheese, however, has eluded me. I have tried several times but it just hasn't been quite what I wanted.

This past weekend was an anniversary vacation. After 20 years of marital bliss, we celebrated like any other normal couple would celebrate and drove 5 hours south to Thomasville, GA to attend an artisan cheese making class. Romantic, right?

This is why Devin and I are so perfectly matched. Simple trips to learn new skills is quite fun for us, and of course the opportunity to do no farm chores and to sleep in are extra bonuses.

Today I want to focus on the actual cheese class and later this week I will give my penny's worth about Thomasville. I will say that we enjoyed this trip very much!

Sweet Grass Dairy is quite popular in town and it actually is just the *cheese* portion of the dairy. It is a small family enterprise where the dad owns the cows and milk. He then provides the milk to one son, who makes cheese and the other who makes yogurt. These cows are all on grass, which is quite possible in South Georgia. The weather is quite mild through winter and quite hot and humid through the summer.

The class we attended had a total of 11 students and everyone was very nice. There was a variety of folks from three different states too! Some were there to enhance their culinary training, some were interested in being more self sufficient and other were simply lovers of fine cheeses. I didn't find anyone who attended because they looked sexy in a hairnet, can you believe that?

The owner of the company, Jeremy, was the person who taught the class. He was very nice and knowledgeable, and I liked having him there to bounce thoughts and ideas off. We personally are planning to build a small cheese cave in our basement, so we utilized this opportunity to construct ideas and let Jeremy share his expertise.

                          *****Devin basking in a cave of aging Asher Blue wheels*****

One of the many great advantages of this class was the unlimited access to all areas of the facility. We were able to tour the entire place and ask any and all questions. We also helped make the cheese by adding rennet, cutting curds and filling the molds.

                      *** Cave of recently made Thomasville Tomme cheese wheels***

                                  ***Wheels of Thomasville Tomme aging***

After we molded our cheese wheels, the owner places them in a cave to ripen. After about 10 weeks, he will ship our 5 pound tomme cheese wheels to our homes. This means Devin and I will be getting 10 pounds of cheese by summer!!

This is an aging room for the Greenhill Cheese, similar to a brie. Notice the earlier wheels are still cream colored but as they age they are covered in a white mold. This cheese was delicious! All of the cheese wheels are hand turned daily.

The last portion of the class consisted of a cheese and wine tasting session. Sweet Grass is very generous with the samples too. We sampled over a dozen cheeses and were able to compare flavors and textures. We were full from all of the samples!

Raw milk artisan cheeses are part chemistry and part art. I think the art part of it is what I have had the most difficulty mastering. There are many, many variations within the same cheese that the cheese maker can adjust and create. Seeing the process in action and learning variations have given me the confidence to try again.
Visiting an actual cave and learning the feels and smells of a cave have helped us a ton in planning what to expect from our own home cheese cave.

This class was well worth the cost! I mean just in the cheese sampling alone it was worth the price! Sweet Grass Dairy and owner Jeremy are generous and friendly. We had a fabulous day in this class, and I understand why it sells out so quickly!

If you are planning a trip South through Georgia or to Florida, I highly suggest you stop through Thomasville. Sweet Grass Dairy is only one fine spot in this town, but it is well worth your time if you are interested in artisan cheeses. Later this week I will share a post about other aspects of this vacation.

Thank you Jeremy and Sweet Grass Dairy, another gem in the great state of Georgia!
PS. I will take you up on the offer to call if I run into any issues making my next tome at home!

Happy Tuesday Ya'll!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Getting It *ALL* Done

There are some days and weeks when everything falls into place perfectly and all my chores and projects get wrapped wait!! That never happens.

This week was a prime example of how these little chores and projects here and there can suddenly pile up and smack you in the face.

The animal chores have piled up nicely, along with the serious need to spring clean the house. Animals have taken priority, however, and the house will have to wait. In the meantime, I wanted to post an update but have found myself super busy. In fact I have been too busy and exhausted to even take photos.
This is why I am so happy to have kids who like to play with my camera:-) Today's pictures were taken by Indiana and Willow.

I need to add that Indiana celebrated her 14th birthday on the 7th and Quinn celebrates her 16th birthday today! Yes, a busy week here.

First, we picked up more bottle bull calves this weekend. We drove to get 2, but the dairy handed us 4.
I was apprehensive about the youngest of the 4, but we made sure to keep the little guys separated and they are all doing well.

This little guy is beautiful with his white patches!  I think the kids are calling him "Spot."

This guy is the oldest of the 4 and is almost 2 weeks old. Gosh I love those little Jersey baby faces!

In order to have room for the new calves, we moved the older bottle calves out to a far paddock with the horse. These guys are weaned and tagged and doing great. Athena is not like you would expect a horse to be around cattle. She is a nice companion.

This is the Brown Swiss-Jersey cross calf. We had to burn some of the horn buds too, ones that were too large for paste several weeks ago. The burner is quick and effective.

Speaking of Athena, she is a happy horse to see some green grass growing. Indiana and Willow have been really good about keeping her groomed. Indiana has been riding her nearly every day!

The weather has been nice enough to move the meat chicks outside, however we moved the back into the garage this evening. We have two days of rain and cold air moving through. By Friday it should be warm enough to get them back outside.

The ducklings enjoyed the warm day, especially when the girls let them go for a short swim!

Last, but not least, the house lamb Flicka is still doing fantastic! She is in the house more than she should, but it has been a great week to get her outside and acclimated to the outside world.

The kids have her completely spoiled, but I can't blame them. She is a sweet creature.

Devin and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary as well this past week, and we decided a short trip was in order! We will be visiting a grass based dairy in Georgia and attending an artisan cheese making class! We are looking forward to the class, and I will be sure to post updates. If you are not following me on Instagram, please do! You can find me @barefootfarm
Also, please look for me on Facebook! My Barefoot Farm
I post updates through those outlets and will likely use them often during my trip and class.
Enjoy the weather and make the most of your time outside! Spring is almost here!!!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Bummer

I will start by saying Mother Nature can be a real bitch sometimes. Pardon the curse word, but that is how I am feeling today.

We had 70 degree weather on Sunday. Monday it did not get out of the 30's. Last night we had to pile up lots of hay for the cows to stay warm, cows who have shed their winter coats.

The pasture meat chicks piled on top of each other so badly and frantically that three got smashed to death. I spent some time lowering their brood lights and piling warm, dry hay under them to keep them warmer. It worked too, because they were all happy and healthy this morning.
Usually I have them outside by this age (with a brood light), but this winter weather has caused them to spend one more week in the garage in brooders.

The piglets seem to handle the cold fine. We bought 2 more over the weekend, bringing our total up to 4. I gave them lots of hay to bed down inside their shelter. They were happy and healthy this morning when I brought to them a breakfast of warm, raw milk.

The real dilemma in all of these events is that Lila lambed early Friday morning. We have been keeping a close eye on her, but she decided to lamb in the wee hours of the morning. We found her when we went out to milk the cows. She had triplets, however two were dead, still covered in membrane. The surviving lamb was attempting to get up, but Lila was far off on the other side of the area, not interested at all in her lamb. We scooped the lamb up and brought her inside to dry her off and get her started on some colostrum. I realize that the real stuff from Lila would be best, but we wanted to make sure we got warm fluids down the baby. It was a cold, windy morning.

The lamb did well and we brought her back out to see if we could get her nursing. After a couple of days and numerous failed attempts, we now have a bummer lamb in the house with us.
She is cute, sweet and the girls named her Flicka.

She did fantastic for 2 days, and then she suddenly fell ill. She was lethargic, had a temp, and wouldn't eat. We called the vet and gave her a shot of antibiotic ourselves. By evening, she had severe labored breathing. I knew that she would likely die over night.

To my surprise, she was still alive by morning and still breathing quite rapidly. We decided that since we are all now attached to the little thing, that a vet visit was warranted. We took her in and the vet gave her fluids, an antibiotic, a fever reducer, and he tube fed her milk. We brought her home with more meds, but by afternoon she was more herself and would take her bottle once again.

I am very pleased to say that she woke up several times last night to eat and this morning she is a healthy, playful lamb.

The vet has no idea what infection she was suffering from, but the treatment was the same. Her lungs were clear, she had no scours, she had no joint inflammation. She simply did not get a good start in life by nursing and being with her mama.

It was quite stressful for me, having to deal with such a sweet critter who was sick. Lambs are quite fragile and we are not totally out of the woods with her yet, but it is looking positive.

Now, all I need is for the warm weather to show up and stay. A spring without tornados would be nice too.

So here is Flicka, the bummer lamb. Here's hoping the temp outside rises today. I hope you are warm where ever you are this morning, and that Mother Nature is being kind.

Happy Tuesday Ya'll!

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