Thursday, November 11, 2010

Soap Class

The other night I had the joy of teaching my first ever Goats Milk Soap Class. Back in July I had contacted our local Community Education program at the High School and offered to host a class. I wasn't sure just what the response would be in our little community so I set my hopes low and would have been happy with 4 students. It turned out that there was quite a bit of interest in this new found passion of mine and we had 9 ladies sign up for the class (one had to cancel at the last moment when her daughter got critically ill~ we missed you Deb). And what a great group of ladies it was! Several of them were coworkers of mine and all of them came with such excitement to learn how to make soap. We spent as much time laughing and enjoying each others fellowship as we did learning!
Several successful, beautiful batches of soap were made with only a couple of minor fights over scents:) In response to the word getting out about soap classes I have also had several other people contact me to set up private classes at The Farm and soap sales have been busy with the holidays coming up.
I could not have had such a good first night if it were not for Alexis' help. Over the past few months she has been learning the art of soap making and graced us all with her sweet, helpful self. Thanks Lex!
And to top it all off I received such a sweet Thank You note from the Community Ed director that nearly brought tears to my eyes. " Good Morning Terri, First let me tell you that you did an awesome job preparing and teaching the soap class. I do not think I have had any other instructor who came so well prepared and organized, and explained things so well. I would love to have you teach another class this spring. That would be Great! Again, thank you so much for doing such a wonderful job. Have a great day. Cindi" So it looks like I will be teaching another class in the spring. Looking forward to it!

My Little Bit of Goat Wisdom

Monday, September 13, 2010

As a fellow blogger I am sure you all know how fun it is to get comments. It always makes me smile for the entire day to receive comments from the regular readers who feel more like friends but to find out there are all those lurkers out there, too, tickles me pink. Recently Mali asked me a question about the goats and since I am never quite sure if my email reply goes through or not I thought I would post the answer here, too, in case anybody else is interested:

"Hi there! I'm a long-time lurker, rare commenter, but I've got some goat questions for you. We're thinking of getting some goats - primarily for clearing land. Do you have any luck getting yours to eat brush and weeds? How much barn space do you recommend? Do you have trouble with them escaping? Thanks!!!! "
My response with the little bit of wisdom I have learned while trying my hand at raising goats the last four years:

Yes, goats love brush and weeds. Goats like to eat up rather than eating off of the ground. They do eat grass and pasture but they prefer brush and especially leaves, etc., that they have to climb or reach for. It would be good to do a web search about plants that are poisonous for goats and check out your area to be cleared before you put them in there just to make sure.

The best goat fencing advice that I have heard is that if the fence will hold water it should hold goats! I never quite understood that until we got goats, but it's almost true! Goats do like to escape for some reason, and they are a herd animal, so where one goes they all go. Ideally a nice, high woven fence will hold them in. We did have ours in a fence that had a calf panel and 2 strands of barbless wire stretched across one side that they stayed in pretty good. If need be they could sneak through even that so ideally a 4 foot minimum fence and/or electric fence would be best. We have tried staking the goats out but they don't do well with ropes~ they are certainly little Houdini's.

Another thought to keep in mind is that goats are easy prey out in the wild. We have alot of coyotes and wolves in our area so our goats are kept pretty close to the barn unless we are out with them. In the future (when our goat pastures are complete) we will probably look at getting a full time guard dog to protect them.

Goats don't need alot of barn space. They do not like to be wet so they do need something to protect them from the elements, it doesn't have to be anything fancy. They handle winters fairly well but do need a shed that offers some protection. Goats are very susceptible to pneumonia and once you notice the signs of them being sick they are usually deathly sick. If allowed they are content to stay inside of a shed rather than venturing out into the open unless they can only eat outside.

As much as the belief is that goats will eat anything it just isn't true. They are actually a bit picky and unless their pasture is rotated they can easily get very sick with parasite infestations. Be sure to watch their body condition close to make sure they are getting enough of the right things to eat if they are only clearing brush and weeds. Plus make sure there a good loose mineral supplement available, one that includes Selenium especially during their pregnancy.
We love our goats! For most people there is no in between~ either you like goats or you don't. We mainly keep our goats for the pleasure of having them and also milk them to raise calves, make goats milk soap and some cheese, and the enjoyment and sales of the kids. Good luck on your goat adventure! Terri

Going to the Fair

Fair time is always exciting around here! Our family goes a little overboard on Fair entries but the excitement of seeing all those ribbons is worth the effort put into making all the projects. Besides goats milk cheese we also brought our goats milk soap to the Fair this summer and received several first places! Yay!

Goodbye to the Kids (Goat Kids that Is)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It's inevitable. It's farm life. The day finally came that we had to say goodbye to some of our goat kids from this spring. I know it's the reason we are raising them, because after all, the farm doesn't run for free. But it wasn't just the kids who were sad to see them go. Why, oh why, do I fall in love with them all? Good old Craigslist proved faithful once again as shortly after we listed them we received a couple of emails of interested parties. A nice gentleman and his family came out and were so tickled by the farm and the "cute" Nubians. Not only did they buy all three that we had for sale, but were interested in some of the others as well and would have even bought a pig or two if we had any left to sell. It's good to know that there definitely is a market for small time goat farmers. We said goodbye to our sweet little doeling Pixie. I could have been just as happy if she had not sold, but being she was bought as somebodies birthday present made me happy as well. Our little whether Elvis also went home with them. And lucky little Wild Fire has 5 new girlfriends to meet this fall. Our spotted little Asha, the last of the kids, will be staying on the farm. That still leaves me with 6 Nubian does to breed this fall, with only 1 being a first timer. And with this handsome guy as my herd sire I am hoping for lots of spotted babies next spring. Some of them will even have papers. Yippee!
That leaves me with 2 does to milk for the rest of summer. The other young does will be dried off. I have started feeding them heavy (flushing) in anticipation of breeding season coming up in a couple of short months. Our dream of raising a good quality line of registered, spotted, Nubian goats has really happened.

Galloping Goats

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In theory it makes sense to stake out the goats so that they can eat all of the grass and weeds in the areas that are not fenced off. And, being their home is currently under construction and they do not have any access to pasture since I cut them off from going out with the steers and horses after they escaped for the umpteenth time, it is the next logical thing to do rather than pay for hay all summer again.
But any of you goat ladies out there know what the reality of it really is. It means chasing these little normally tame and cuddly critters over 40 some acres several times a day. Rather than calmly staying tied up and eating their full they plot and scheme until they have masterminded a way for every single one of them, or at least all but one of them so the appointed one can stand there and cry until somebody finally comes out to see what in the world could be wrong now and why is there only one cotton-pickin' goat tied up, to get loose and run around and eat where they are not supposed to eat. Like the grapes. Or the oat field.
If the name wasn't already taken I would change our farm name to Galloping Goats Farm , or better yet, Galloping Mom farm, or Get that Goat Farm. But dreaming of all those spots to come (not to mention the milk and the soaps and the cheeses) makes it worth every single time I have to chase them. And the way we're going again this reconstruction year those spotted babies are going to come sooner rather than later. Oh for the love of goats.

New Recipes

Thursday, June 17, 2010
At It Again

I have been pondering soap again and perusing the world wide web for some ideas and ways to make a better product. Ever since making my first batch of goats milk soap last fall I am definitely hooked on not using any other kind of soap. My hands are thanking me, too. As much as I liked the lard based soap I really wanted to experiment with some different oils and different scents to make a better bar of soap. My first batch is so far mostly a success and in 3 weeks when it has cured will really determine if this recipe is a keeper or not.
Lemon Poppy seed was one "flavor" I was excited to try. The poppy seeds are great exfoliants.
Being my mind has been on soap for a few months I have been noticing soap everywhere I go, and seeing some bars with flowers mixed in I knew I wanted to try some. I simply added some potpourri to a plain mold and the results are beautiful!

The honey oatmeal was also a success last time, so I made another oatmeal bar but this time with some hot apple pie scent and cinnamon. The colors are pretty, but so far the scent isn't too strong. Another great exfoliate for these farm girl hands. Cole stayed up and helped me cut the big blocks and arrange them to dry. I love standing back and looking at my creations:)) Beautiful if I do say so myself! The hopes are to have a stock for our home and maybe try some local farmers markets later this summer and try to sell some. We'll see how it all goes, for now I am having fun indulging in my little science experiments.

And the Winner is.....

This Fall I entered three kinds of goats milk cheese in our local county Fair~ Mozzarella, Mild Cheddar, and my Garlic Pepper with Parsley Hard Cheese. Was I ever surprised when I saw that my Garlic Pepper with Parsley won a Grand Champion, along with rave reviews from the judges! I am still smiling from ear to ear and will have to place my ribbon right next to all of Rob's cheese trophies!

Making Cheese, Day #1

Monday, March 1, 2010

Making Cheese
Something I have wanted to try since we started milking goats over 3 years ago was to make cheese. I finally decided as I went down to milk this morning that today was the day. I have only been keeping the milk to freeze and stockpile so far to build up a good supply for when we start feeding calves. This morning at milking time I brought down warm soapy water to wash the goats' udders and took great care to keep everything clean for human consumption. Of course about half way through somebody decided to step in their milk pail so we were only able to get a half gallon to work with (the recipe calls for 1 gallon of fresh milk). A friend told me last year about these little Junket Rennet tablets that are sold in the ice-cream topping aisle at Walmart. They are labeled for making ice-cream and custard, but there are also cheese recipes inside. Now being I am married to a world famous cheese maker and all I do have a few in's if I run into problems~ I know the guy to talk to about cheese. We started by gathering our supplies, steamed the pot, and read through all the directions. The kids simply could not wait to get started:)) I did not refrigerate the milk after milking as the recipe says that the fresher the milk the better. First we strained the milk. I found these pickle jars at a garage sale a couple of years ago that hold 60+ ounces and are marked on the side in 20 ounce increments. We usually keep a chart in the barn to record each does milking in ounces, then pour all the milk into gallon jars. They come in really handy to measure milk for feeding calves as well.Once the milk was strained we checked the temperature. It needed to be at 68 degrees before inoculation. Perfect! Rob said I have to do things perfectly or the cheese won't turn out. Can't just dump and guess and be close enough like I usually do. Next we put the live culture yogurt into a stainless steel pan. Added the milk. And Grace mixed it all up. Now it sits on the stove top overnight and tomorrow the experiment continues and hopefully will result in cheese.And being I had such a milk mess in the kitchen already we strained the other gallons of milk in the fridge to put in the freezer. If all goes well I am on my way tomorrow to pick up the first of our calves for the season. The plan is to raise 2 at a time on goats milk hopefully avoiding milk replacer all together this year. But then that means I am committed to a minimum of 12 weeks of feeding in order to raise 4 calves. Uggh! We'll see if I cave or not and just buy the supplemental milk replacer before then. I was so excited to see all the cream that rose to the tops of the jars after sitting in the refrigerator for a few days. It made me start to get excited about the possibilities of skimming some of that off when the calves don't need it so bad and making my own butter. Then there are the different soap recipes I am excited to explore as well this summer. As much as I am looking forward to getting the calves I am already feeling a bit stingy to share so much of our precious milk with them now that I know a little more what I could be doing with it. But I'm sure when I see their cute little faces tomorrow I won't mind sharing one little bit!

Making Cheese, Day #2

Wednesday, March 2, 2010

An exciting day around here! Cheese Making Day #2! Something that I have only been talking and dreaming about for 3 years was finally here! And, I am pleased to announce, it was so much easier than I ever thought it would be and the results, so far, have been yummy.
The milk and yogurt mixture that had been sitting on the stove all night was ready for the next step, adding the rennet. The milk and yogurt mixture had separated a bit so I mixed it all up.

The next step is to warm the milk to 86 degrees. I found that it warms up rather quickly and we had to find a way to cool it down quickly so as not to kill off the live yogurt cultures or risk ruining the rennet when it was added. I put it on top of a cold pack from the freezer and put some ice in a zip lock bag and put it in the pot until the correct temperature was reached. Once we got the temperature right I added the 1/4 rennet tablet that was dissolved in water into the cheese mix, then covered it and set it back on the stove undisturbed to coagulate (get thick) for about and hour and a half.

I am pretty much directionally challenged so I repeatedly referred back to the tiny print of the Junket tablet direction pamphlet. I am sure once this becomes second nature I will be able to tell by look and feel just how to make cheese, but for now I had a world famous cheese maker to impress when he got home.
Once a clean break is achieved (when cut with a knife it breaks away clean, like jello) it is time to cut the curd. Start by cutting at one edge and working your way across parallel repeatedly. Turn the pot and cut again until the final result is curds that are about 1/2" cubes. After cutting the curd it is time to cook and mix over a low heat. I watched the temperature closely and cooked the cheese at 102 degrees in order to get a harder cheese.
The cheese needs to cook for 15 minutes with gentle mixing by hand so the curds don't get too hot on the bottom. You don't want to break up the curds too much.
Once it reached the stage of "soft scrambled eggs" it was time to remove it from the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes.
We set out our strainer and bowls to catch the whey. Then we poured the whey off. I was surprised at how much whey is left over. I set the pot of whey back on the stove to try ricotta cheese today.
After most of the whey was dripped off it was time to add some salt and mix a little bit more.
Back to the directions.
At this point we wanted to test our new creation to see if there was enough salt. Even at this point it was so good! Trent kept begging for more!
I boiled an old cloth sugar sack and packed the cheese into our mold. A washed baked bean can with both ends cut out was the perfect size.
To press the cheese this cute little jar that was decorating the top of my fridge came in handy.
It fit perfectly inside the can, and with a rubber band around the whole contraption it gave it just the right squeeze. We put the mold back into the strainer, with the dish underneath, and set it out on the cupboard for another 12-24 hours. We couldn't help but pick at the cheese all evening, tho, as it was so good already. This afternoon will be the official unveiling, then it is time to rewrap it and let it age in the refrigerator. I can't wait to try the Ricotta, the Mozzarella, the soft cheeses, and then there are all the possibilities of all the wonderful flavorings to add to the cheeses. Rather than thinning out our herd of lovely goat ladies I think we just may be keeping a couple more than planned now that we have discovered just how easy it is to make cheese.

Milking Again

Friday, May 14, 2010

Yippee! We were able to start milking goats again this week! All of the sore mouth is officially cleared from both mommas and babies~ whew! Trent has been my faithful assistant/ goat wrestler and is becoming very good at milking goats. We have 5 does in milk right now, 3 of them first timers. Rather than being crazy like they were at the beginning of the milking season earlier this spring they actually were very pleasant and quiet to work with after their few weeks off. We have found that it works best for us to only milk in the morning. The moms are separated from their kids overnight, then we milk and return them to their babies for the day. Our milk production is not very high but I prefer to let the mommas raise their babies~ it makes everybody happy. The does usually even get a Sunday sabbath, and another bonus is that if I can't milk for some reason (work, vacation, etc.) I just leave them together at night and the babies take care of my morning milking. We have converted the old cow milking stanchions in the "nice" part of the barn into goat stanchions for the time-being. There are 2 chains which make cross ties to hold each doe along with hanging feeders for their grain. That is, unless some child needed my clips or feeders for some reason and forgot where they might have put them, which is the current situation. The does quickly learn how to come in and out to their spots for milking.
We measure our milk in ounces rather than pounds. Because we use our milk mostly for feeding calves at this point it is easier to record in ounces so we can feed it back. Our 2 older does had mastitis and udder damage when we purchased them, but the price was right and they are purebred Nubians therefor keepers. Dixie only has half of her udder functioning at this time and gives on average 25 ounces a day. Santana had only half of her udder functioning until this year when miraculously the bad side came back, not complete, but a very nice amount. She has averaged about 40 ounces per milking. We have 2 really nice first timers with amazing udders that will be staying in our herd. Susan is from a purebred Nubian line crossed with a Saanan. She has only been milked this week but gave about 30 ounces a day. Lucille is Dixie's daughter and also has an amazing first timer udder, she has been giving 40 ounces average as well. Posie will be one of our cull does later this summer as she has only averaged 10 ounces with a very teeny tiny udder. On average we have been getting about a gallon of milk a day. Now that the calves are weaned I am going to be stocking up my freezer for making soap then I have hopes of using milk for cooking and making cheese. It is nice to have these girls back to work earning their keep. I found I really have missed my mornings with them. One thing I am more than ready for, tho, is that goat barn to be built. Milking time is always exciting when the other goats are out and swarm the milking stalls! A nice secure barn and milking parlor~ just imagine~ goat proof and all.