Begin Again

  
Today was a busy one, and thankfully the weather was gorgeous and made everything easier.  We got deliveries of compost for the garden, and feed for the animals, within a few minutes of each other.  

  
Getting feed a pallet at a time has proven to be so much more cost-effective and convenient for us, I wish we’d gotten to it sooner!  It feels great to have 3 months of feed stocked away safely. 

  
Even the bee hives were awake and cleaning today.  Now if only the hens would start laying again… 

40 Pound Thanksgiving

Megan has a crazy idea to try breeding our Narragansett turkey tom to a Broad Breasted White hen.  In order to get a hen, for the second year in a row, we’ve raised BBW chicks.  Last year we had the extraordinary luck to raise 5 toms, but this year we got luckier and had two hens and one tom.  This year’s tom was a monster even early on in his life!

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Butchered he weighed in at just over 40lbs!! We put him in a dry-brine in the fridge for 48 hours, and then roasted him outside in an elaborate vertical roaster John basically invented by looking at old roasting methods (thank you, google!).

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It was a total of 14 hours of cooking, starting in the oven overnight at a very low 175, then transfering to the outside roaster at 6am (in the dark!) to cook until about 2pm.  But the turkey!!  This was our first dry brine attempt and we are now total converts.  We sent so much turkey home with our guests, put more in the freezer, and made soup with the bones.

Thank you, Mr. Turkey, we’re so grateful for your short stay with us.

Cheesemaking

This year, Megan decided to get serious about turning our goat milk into cheese!  We’ve been experimenting all year, and we’ve had success with 4 different types of cheese so far, which has been so much fun.

The easiest type of cheese to make is Chevre.  Start with a gallon of milk, warm it up, add culture (we get ours from New England Cheese Supply), let sit for 8 hours then strain.

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Add a teaspoon of salt and there you go!

Feta and Mozzerella are alittle more involved, although they probably take about an hour to pull together – Feta still has a lot of sitting and then curing to do, since we press ours before putting in brine to age, but they’re pretty easy to do.

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Above left – mozzerella curds resting after being cut, and on the right, the finished product

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The most exciting cheese we tried this year was cheddar.  We eat a LOT of cheddar in this house!  Unfortunately we probably won’t be able to make it all from goat’s milk, because the process to make cheddar takes about 6 focused hours, which is a lot to devote for 2lb of cheese!  But, after a few months of aging, this wheel of cheddar really tasted just like our favorite aged goats cheese from the store — pretty great to be able to make that at home!

We tried several recipies but in the end really found that we liked the guidance in Gianaclis Caldwell’s book Mastering Basic Cheesemaking.

Four Years!!!

Four years ago today, we saw the farm for the first time… so much has changed since then!2015-10-10 23.00.07

We’ve ripped out the fencing, replaced it with a garden fence, and put in raspberries.  This year we tried squash in the lawn on the hill, but failed due to slug density.  Next year!

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Oh, the garden — it’s so hard to believe it was such a dead zone when we first saw it!  We’ve worked so hard on the garden, we’ve laid cardboard over the whole space and covered it all with 5 15-cubic-yard loads of mushroom compost from the neighbors down the road.

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Had to include this shot even though i’ts hard to tell from the photo how much got done in the barn this year.  All the stall doors are different because all the former 12×12 stalls are now 12×6 stalls with a removable front and removable dividers — so much more appropriately sized to the goats and sheep.  And in the photo at right you can see the new swing-arm gate that closes off the last stall on the right, making it so the goats have limited access to the barn aisle while still having plenty of shelter in bad weather. What you can’t see in this photo is the brand new tack room John built: it’s amazing!! Safe stairs to the loft!  A work counter!  A fridge for milk and eggs!  It’s my favorite project from 2015, by a long shot.  I’m still excited every time I walk in the barn and see how much cleaner and better organized it is.

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The major change to this view this year was the cutting down of the 4 20-ish year old fir trees that were on the hill behind the house.  You can barely see the branches of one in the lower left corner of the top photo, but in the 4 years since then they’d grown quite a lot!  They made the house darker, and crowded the “lawn”… things are much better with them gone.. plus we have firewood for the next 3 years pretty much sown up at this point.

The other upgrade visible in this shot are all the fruit trees that were added to the barnyard: 9 plum, pear, and apple trees went in and almost all of them survived this brutal summer!  Really looking forward to watching them grow and provide the chickens with shade and snacks in the years to come.

We are so honored to call this place home, and pretty proud of all the hard work we’ve put into it so far.  Time to get to work on the task list for our 5th year!

Turkey Eggs Are Available Now!

It took our ladies a while to get going this year, but we’ve finally got two dozen in the incubator and are ready to start collecting the daily eggs for eating, which means, we’ve got turkey eggs for sale!

Turkey eggs to eat!? Yes! Turkey eggs are typically about 50% larger than chicken eggs, and contain twice as many calories and grams of fat, and four times the cholesterol. They are said to be better for baked goods (adjust for size in recipies, though!). We find turkey eggs to be the best for hard-boiled recipies – the yolks are much larger and creamier than chicken eggs, and they make AMAZING deviled eggs.

We will add a turkey egg to a dozen chicken eggs (so, 11 chicken eggs and one turkey egg) for free at your request, so you can try them out. For $4 we will bring you a half-dozen turkey eggs, and for $8 we’ll bring you a full dozen: bring deviled turkey eggs to a potluck this summer!

Farm Logo!

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We’ve been working toward this for a long time, and we finally have a logo!  We’re so thrilled with it.  The words are written in Talina’s beautiful script, and the chicken art was drawn by Megan’s sister Ana.  We ordered the stamp to mark the tops of our egg cartons with, so things are a little more official:  couldn’t be more thrilled with how these turned out.

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Barn Project – Finished!

We were very lucky to find the farm with a barn already on it, but, when we moved in the barn definitely had some issues.  For one thing, they built it in a damp, low spot, and over the years the drainage was failing and the barn floor flooded in significant rainfall.  Because of the wet ground, the support posts were no longer in their original place, and there were areas of the barn that tipped a bit more than they ought to. The stalls were horse-sized, huge, and had small doors we couldn’t get the tractor through, requiring us to clean stalls by hand. And the tack room floor was rotten, the stairs were an outright deathtrap, and because it had no real walls, everything in the tack room was a dusty mess!

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So, with Archer’s assistance, John spent the winter rebuilding the inside of the barn.  Support posts got straightened (or added), beams were leveled.  New stall doors were installed.  And most exciting of all, the tack room got a significant overhaul!

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New safe stairs – you could climb these blindfolded!  And, a separate light for upstairs loft lighting to make it safer at night.  There are now three lights in the tack room, too, making it nice and bright for working in.

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The metal bins hold nearly a ton of feed bags, and are on rolling casters to allow them to go out of the way under the worktop counter.  The counter ensures us clean workspace, and some shelving above and to the right keeps things organized (and dust-free).

We are so grateful to John for all the hard work, and so lucky to have the skills in the family to do this project right!

Sam’s Broken Leg

Back in mid-January, our ram Sams somehow managed to break his right foreleg – probably cavorting around with the goats on the hills.

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When we first put him in solitary, he wouldn’t put any weight on the leg at all.  We called the vet — $800 to amputate, $1300 to set and cast.  We love Sams, but he’s only worth about $300 on the market and since we got him from our neighbors at Distracted Acres down the hill from us, finding a well-bred replacement wouldn’t be that difficult.

Our next step was to call our mentors at Distracted Acres and ask them for their guidance.  Heath dropped by the next day to take a look, and recommended we try setting it ourselves with split PVC pipe and vetwrap.  Since the worst of the pain seemed to be gone, and we knew we wouldn’t be spending more, it was worth a try!  As a breeder, his hind legs were still intact, so all we needed him to be able to do was get around comfortably, not necessarily have full use of the broken leg.  And if it didn’t work, as long as we kept him fed and comfortable, we still had the option to harvest him after giving him time.

The local Ace Hardware folks helped us by cutting some short lengths of PVC pipe, 1.5″ and 2″ diameter, in half the long way.  We packed the pipe with cotton batting, and attached it to Sams leg with vetwrap tight enough to hold the swelling and keep it in place.  At first he didn’t put any weight on it, and he certainly didn’t enjoy being confined to his stall for 6 weeks, but when he’d put in his time, we were thrilled to see him able to put full weight on the leg!

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Photo above is Sams out for a brief sunny visit to the lawn, still limping but with just vetwrap, no PVC for support.

After about 8 weeks, Sams shows no limits with the leg.  We’re so glad we didn’t give up on him too early, and that we managed to get the same results with $10 worth of supplies as we might have for $1300 at the vet!

More Firewood, More Sun

When we moved in there were a few 20-something year old firs on the north side of the house, up the hill.  Because this is the north side of the house we never do much in that strip.. it’s a weird layout, due to the dictated shape of the manufactured home.  But this winter we finally got sick of the branches reaching into what little ‘lawn’ we have by the house, and darkening our already-dim north windows.  So, Thaddeus took the trees down this weekend!

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Bye, bye trees!

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Hello, firewood!

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Look at that much more open view!  The kitchen window is so much brighter, it’s really stunning.

Fruit Trees!

We got a great deal on some young potted fruit trees from a local nursery going out of business last year, and they wintered in their pots – it’s time for them to find new homes!  One of our challenges is that our chicken yard gets a LOT of sun in the summer, and their only shade structure is set in such a way as so offer very little actual shade when the sun it at it’s hottest. We wanted to find a way to take advantage of the open space in the yard (and the otherwise unusable steep hills that surround it), and also offer the birds some better shade… so we’re trying fruit trees!

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