Sunday, June 17, 2012

May Veggie Garden

Well I realize it is mid June but I wanted to share the progress of our May veggie garden.  Because our garden is next to the creek and has clay soil, we plant early spring vegetables in raised beds. These dry out early in the spring so we can plant early crops.  The main garden takes a while to dry out enough to plant if the weather has been wet in April but it holds moisture well during the summer.

 By early May most of our spring veggies planted in raised beds were well on their way.  We always have a variety of lettuce ready to eat by late April and Don usually has cucumbers and cherry tomatoes from our small greenhouse ready  too for some yummy spring salads. Broccoli, peas, onions and beets were up and growing well early in the month.

Lettuce - both heading and leaf ready to pick.

Young broccoli.

By late May the Broccoli was harvested and the peas were ready for picking.  We had also been enjoying frequent harvests of asparagus.
Broccoli ready for harvest.

Sugar snap peas.

By the end of the month, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers and corn were starting to take hold.  We generally grow too many of several varieties of tomatoes including both heirloom and hybrid.  All those young starts in the greenhouse have to go somewhere and it is usually in our garden.  As a result, we usually end up eating canned tomatoes from years past.  I think we've made it up to 2008 vintage tomatoes this year.  We also have bell, Italian and mildly hot peppers.  We usually dry and freeze peppers for winter and this is the year to replenish our supply.  The tomatoes and peppers were started in the green house and transplanted.  The sweet potatoes were a gift from a friend.  I planted our corn late in a wet patch of heavily mulched soil so it got off to a slow start.  Although I consider Don the main gardener, I always manage to have my experimental patch, mostly involving some labor saving theme.  This year is is no-hoe corn in a bed of goat-poop mulch.

Young tomatoes. 

Young pepper.

Corn planted in heavy mulch.

Overview of May garden.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Grow Hiedi Grow!

It has been a while since I have mentioned Heidi.  She is doing well and has stayed a very loving and loyal puppy.  I no longer have her in with the goats in their summer pasture because I have kids in with the adults and I don't feel she is trustworthy with them yet . She spends much of her time at night "at large" and hangs around the house protecting all in her domain, including her little piles of  "things" that she collects from around the yard.

She was spayed in May and has now healed from her surgery and for a week she was the most amazing house dog.  We kept her in the house for only a few days when we first got her at 6 weeks of age.  During her house stay at 6 months she quietly slept in her crate and never once had an indoor accident.  Because were so busy with baby goats during March and April I had neglected her leash training which I worked with intently during the first two months we had her.  I was amazed that when I put her on a leash again she walked calmly and never offered to pull.  The Pyrenees continue to amaze me...  especially how they GROW!   Here is Heidi in pictures over the last 6 months.

6 weeks.

About 4 1/2 months.

Almost 7 months and 70 pounds.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Goat Milking - Facilities

When we thought about getting milk goats one of the prime considerations was providing comfortable and convenient milking facilities.  Two great things about goats is that they fit in small spaces and are relatively clean.  I have yet to have a goat poop or pee on the milk stand.  I won't mention the very occasional pellet trail coming in or going out.  Anyway, because our goat barns are very close to the house, we decided to set up our milking room along one wall of our utility room, sort of sandwiched between our water heater and back door.  It met all the requirements of being only about 30 feet from one of our doe barns, it has hot and cold water, it is dry, it has a floor drain and most importantly for winter milking, it has HEAT.  Because it meets all my requirements, milking is more a pleasant experience than a chore (unless you've been building fences or weed eating all day) which is important for something that you do twice a day, everyday, for most of the year.

Because goats are such creatures of habit and they love food, it is fairly simple to train them to come to the milk stand.  After a week or two they learn their milking order and happily leave the barn and run up and jump up on the stand for their grain ration.

I built a simple wooden stand located over a floor drain that would accommodate my milking machine milk hoses. Because we have short goats, the pail needs to be under the stand with only the lines sticking up through the floor of the stand.  I made a keyhole-style head piece which I will probably modify this winter to accommodate the taller goats that I have acquired.

Because I do milk several goats, I decided to invest in a milking machine which makes milking 5 or 6 goats twice a  day go much faster, at least for me with hands that are getting older by the day. It also makes it much easier on Leslie who graciously farms sits for us when we go out of town. The machine is a simple vacuum pump with an air tank and a pulsating valve.

Air lines connect from the air tank to a milk bucket.  There are many styles of buckets but I use a small 6 quart stainless "belly pail" for my little goats.  It is light weight, stainless steel  and because it has short milk hoses it is easy to clean.

When hand milking, the upper part of the teat is closed off using the thumb and forefinger and the milk inside the teat is squeezed out.  A milking machine uses an on-off vacuum to draw milk from the teat.  The part that attached to the goat is referred to as the inflations or teat cup.  They consist of an outer shell made of hard plastic or stainless steel and an inner silicone liner. A constant vacuum is applied to the silicone liner and about once per second air at atmospheric pressure is introduced into the space between the hard outer shell and the soft liner. During the vacuum or milking phase, milk flows from the teat because the pressure in the udder is greater than the partial vacuum applied to the teat. During the rest, or atmospheric phase, air at atmospheric pressure enters the space between the outer shell and the inner liner causing the inner liner to collapse around the teat.  The pressure of the collapsed inflation helps massage the teat and prevents swelling and congestion.  The entire sequence is designed to mimic the action of a nursing kid.

The following video shows the action of the milking machine.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Blue cheese update

It has been 7 days since I inoculated my blue cheese experiment.  I have it in my wine chiller/cheese cave at 54 degrees in a sealed container.  Every other day or so I open it up and make sure there is not excessive moisture.  I opened it up today and here is what I saw:

 It is actually turning blue!!  Not pink or orange or black but BLUE!!!

You can read about the start of my blue cheese experiment at my previous blog Blue Cheese and Good Friends.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Blue cheese and good friends

I'm not a true cheese connoisseur nor am I very good at selecting fine wines.  I do however like to visit with old friends and when my visiting brother suggested that we spend a sweltering hot Memorial weekend Sunday visiting Roane Vineyards and the Chestnut Ridge Artist Colony  in Spencer I thought that was a fine way to have a half-day staycation.  I am a bit ashamed to admit that we have been residents of Roane County since before both of these fine establishments have been in operation and even more ashamed that one of these establishments is owned by friends and it took special prodding to get me off the farm to finally attend one of their many open houses.  And what a wonderful afternoon it turned out to be.  Paul and Anna-Neale of Roane Vineyards offered a selection of red and white wines for tasting. One of the accompaniments to the red wine was an acclaimed blue cheese made by the Magtag Dairy Farm in Iowa (yes, THAT Maytag).  I've been pondering making blue cheese for a while and the thought of growing mold in a refrigerator on purpose sounded like fun.  Generally one purchases the dried mold culture from a cheese-supply house which probably contains enough mold to inoculate 100 pounds of cheese.  I did find a procedure on Fankhouser's cheese page that uses a bit of blue cheese whizzed in a blender as the innoculum so Paul kindly gave me a little plastic cup of the famous Maytag blue cheese for my experiment.  As the afternoon wore on I carried my little wrapped cup of precious, but melting cheese around in my pocket.  While visiting the artist colony, my little cup sat in a hot truck in the sun where it promptly liquified (or maybe I should say continued aging).

The next day I started a 2-gallon batch of the "base" cheese to which I would add my well aged blue cheese.  The base is a basic chevre or farmer cheese that is lightly pressed so as not to remove all the air but yet will hold together because the bacterial culture needs air to grow.  After ripening and hanging for a total of two days the cheese was ready to be inoculated.  I blended the cheese with a bit of water as per the instructions and poked air holes in the cheese with my sterilized phillips head screwdriver (also per the instructions).  I placed the cheese into a somewhat airtight plastic container and placed it into my cheese cave (wine chiller).

One is supposed to leave it open in the cave so that it gets plenty of air circulation without drying out but I didn't want to contaminate any other cheeses that may go in there so I'll have to tend it daily to make sure that any excess moisture is removed.  In a few weeks the culture should start to grow throughout the cheese.  After 60 to 90 days the cheese will be ready to seal (I'll use a vacuum sealer instead of wax) and sample then it can age in a regular refrigerator for several months longer.  If I can remember that it is hiding in the back of my fridge, it should be ready to eat by the holidays.  If you never hear about this cheese again, someone please remind me to look in my fridge just in case it actually turns into something edible.