Saturday, July 28, 2012



Here are the beautiful eggs we have collected over the last several days. Aren't they fun?

We still can't keep our goat milk fresh for more than 24-36 hours. It is so frustrating. Gah!

I am trying more new things with the goats, but it is a slow process. After much research and talking with goat owners (local and across the interweb - who knew there were goat forums?!) it seems that alfalfa causes an increase in the enzyme that is in goat milk that makes the milk "goaty". With most goats it is fine, but with some it causes so much that it changes the flavor of the milk. I found one other owner that had the same problem with her milk that I am having with mine. It was fine at milking, but had a short shelf life. Luckily she also had another goat she was milking that did not have that problem. I am pulling Bella off of alfalfa hay and only giving her timothy hay and her grain. Maybe we will get better milk by the end of next week. *fingers crossed!

On a positive note, since I need that "goaty" flavor to make chevre I've been saving the milk that starts to turn and now have enough to make my first batch of cheese. I feel so down-homey.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Trouble in Paradise

We were bound to have troubles along the journey of suburban farming.

We can't keep our milk fresh and sweet for more than 24 hours. Goat milk should stay good for at least a week. We have noticed that after 36 hours it is getting a distinct goaty flavor. It's like drinking chevre cheese. Great flavor for cheese, not great for milk.

We are trying some new milk collection/storage strategies. From what I have found out, it is the enzymes in the milk (which multiply at room temperature) that give the milk that goaty/sour flavor. The goal is to cool the milk as fast as possible to keep the enzymes from multiplying.

So far we have tried putting the milk into the refrigerator, but that doesn't cool it fast enough. We have also tried putting it into the freezer for an hour and then into the refrigerator, but that still seems to allow too much enzyme activity.

There is also the remote possibility that Bella's milk is just that way and that we would find a different goat's milk to be better. Unfortunately, we aren't going to wait the 5 months it will take for Penny to have a baby just to see if we can keep her milk longer.

We are trying new ideas to make having goats work for us.

Our two experiments right now are: #1 to put the jar of milk into a cold water bath immediately upon bringing it in.

And #2, to freeze the milk to completely stop the enzyme activity.

We collected milk on Saturday that we put into the freezer and froze solid. Then put that milk into the refrigerator to defrost. It did not get completely liquid until today. And the flavor is good this afternoon. But in reality it has had very little time in it's liquid state. I will be more encouraged if it is still good in two days.

The milk we collected on Sunday evening was put into an ice water bath for an hour then into the fridge. It also tastes good this afternoon, but not super sweet. I don't have great hopes for it. I will test it again in the morning.

*fingers crossed!

Friday, July 20, 2012


Our CSA this week:

Across the top are a few extra things I purchased from the farm store. Raw honey (so much better flavor than store bought and healthier too), Fava Beans (those will go into falafel again this week! Follow link for the recipe that I use, though with fresh fava beans I find I have to add a bit of flour to make everything stick together better for frying. - I will do a post soon on making tzatziki sauce) and ginger (so yummy in our fresh juice).

Our share this week consisted of (top left): baby broccoli (we like this better than the regular broccoli heads, we find it more tender. We eat it lightly steamed or raw), Walla Walla sweet onion (will go into the falafel), snap peas (we snap the end and eat them raw as a snack), carrots, cherries (makes a good afternoon snack), yellow summer squash (you can barely see it peeking out on the left, we often saute it in a bit of butter adding seasoned bread crumbs toward the end of cooking), kale (into the juicer!), lettuce (huge head of lettuce will make several salads), and raspberries (if I can keep them around until Saturday they will be the filling for crepes).

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Tree

We have had a huge beautiful fir tree. It stood just on the edge of our lot and gave our backyard loads of shade. It was probably 70-80 feet tall.

We needed to take it down. Aside from its beauty, it also offered loads of stress each and every time we got any kind of a wind storm. It would bend dangerously toward our house. It also dropped lots of pine cones on our yard and sap on our neighbor's boat. So, for the safety of our home (and neighborly relations) we went ahead with the plan to have it taken down.

Our neighbor knew a guy who knew a guy who is a lumberjack. We chatted with him because we had some concerns about dropping it across our backyard because of our septic system and our desire to not break any part of the septic tank or field. But the guy was AMAZING! I've never watched anything like it. First he cut all of the branches and dropped them down. Some he had to lower with ropes. He was so good he could lower them to the spot he wanted them and even lay them down the direction he wanted them pointing. Here he has just started with the smaller lower branches.

Then, he topped it. We asked how far up he figured he was and his guess was 60 feet. I'm so glad it wasn't me!

Here it is with no branches just after topping it. Yes, that is his chainsaw swinging as he started on his way back down cutting sections as he went. We had a muggy, slightly overcast morning. Sorry for the bland, light gray background.

Then he dropped pieces that were about 6-8 feet. This was what I was most impressed by. He would cut through the tree and then push the piece off and as it started to fall he would move it just slightly and he could get it to drop in the exact place he wanted it. The pictures so doesn't do it justice. Those pieces were so heavy they needed two men to roll them after they hit the ground. Here is just after one started to fall. They landed with a huge thud.

Here it is all down and ready for loads of work clearing. The guy cut all the sections into firewood length for us. Now, all we have to do is split it. We will not have to buy firewood until 2030!

My husband counted the rings and figured that the tree was about 120 years old. Here you can see on the other side of the fence where our neighbor has tried to cover his boat with a tarp. We get some pretty vicious wind storms through here and he has had a tough time keeping the tree from messing up his boat.

We (of course) kept all the animals penned up for the morning. After the tree was down we let the chickens and goats check it all out. Finley had a blast jumping from stump to stump. A few stumps were big enough to give her a challenge.

The side benefit of taking down the tree is that our yard will get quite a bit more sunlight. Including our garden which wasn't getting any afternoon sun. Hopefully things will grow better (and faster) now.

Monday, July 16, 2012


What's new on the farm?


We have eggs! 

The chickens turned 20 weeks old on Thursday. That is the magic age that they start laying. Or, more specifically, when they could start laying. We got our first egg on Friday and then another two on Saturday. Those golf balls did their job too. both chickens laid their eggs in the nesting box instead of us having to wonder around the yard looking for eggs.

Here is a picture of our very first egg. You can't really tell from the picture but it is a green egg. It's more olive green and still pretty small. The eggs will get bigger as the chickens get a bit older.

Here is a picture of the two eggs we got on Saturday. Once a chicken starts laying her eggs will always be the same color. So here is another green egg from the same chicken that gave us an egg on Friday and a brown egg from a different chicken. These chickens should lay 6 eggs a week, roughly one a day. But they lay every 26-28 hours or so. So, they lay later each day until they skip a day. With our 6 chickens that should be 3 dozen eggs a week. Or so I've read. Hopefully it will work out that way.

Please ignore my dirty hands, it's tree sap. More about that to come in a different post.

Also, Finley is old enough now that she can share the milk. We are taping Bella during the day to milk in the evenings. Then leaving her open so Finley can have milk in the evenings and at night (and since I'm not an early riser, in the mornings too). Basically she is taped from 9am until 6pm.

We have doubled our milk collection to about 4 cups a day. So far that is keeping up with what the family is using. Though, we don't really have extra for cooking or making cheese (or ice cream - I hear that goat milk ice cream is awesome). When we wean Finley in 3 weeks or so, we should get around 8 cups of milk a day, maybe more. I'm really looking forward to making my own chevre cheese.

Here is poor Bella on the first day I taped her. I have since picked up plain white bandage tape, but for a day she was sporting Spiderman and Star Wars bandaids. It was nice of my son to share his beloved bandaids.

Surprisingly Bella doesn't seem to mind the taping (or the tape removal).

I have made some changes to the way I process the milk. Not so much process it as handle it. We love the taste, but were finding that it wasn't as good a taste 36 hours after milking. Not that it went bad, it just ended up with a more of a goaty flavor (if you've had goat milk from the store you know the flavor). After talking with a few other goat people they said to put it in the freezer for an hour or so to chill it really fast. Now the milk is sweeter and stays that way. We don't know for how long because it's gone too soon. My kids have taking to asking specifically for goat milk instead of cow milk. The people I've talked with say it should stay sweet for a week if you chill it fast enough. I have been told that if I want that tangy chevre taste with my cheese I will need to let the milk age past the sweet stage or I won't get that unique chevre taste. I can't wait to try!

It is nice that our little farm is more than just work and is starting to produce now too. I feel like we have entered a new phase. That we are past the start-up phase and now just have to focus on keeping things running.

Friday, July 13, 2012


This is our CSA share from yesterday. If you missed last week, CSA info can be found here

This week we got (clockwise from top left) parsley, a Walla Walla sweet onion (another reason to live in Washington! The best onions), raspberries, snap peas (very good raw - just snap the top end off), bok choy (will go either in the juicer or in a stir fry), Rainier cherries, lettuce (already used part of it on hamburgers last night), kohl rabi, green garlic, and kale (definitely into the juicer!).

The CSA that we go to also has a small farm store that CSA members get a discount at. They carry extra produce, honey, bread, etc. I bought some fava beans (bottom left in the mesh bag) and garlic (We LOVE this type of garlic it's Red Chesnok and the flavor is awesome).

I bought the fava beans to make falafel. They take some extra processing, but oh, so worth it! The parsley will go into the falafel along with cilantro from my own garden.

Eat Fresh!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Helper

Finley helping my husband weed around the grapevines.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


A few years ago we started with a CSA. Basically a CSA is a farm or group of farms that sell shares in the beginning of the season and you pick up produce weekly. We bought a small share from a local CSA, Terrys Berries. Cost varies between farms. Ours averages out to about $19/week. 

I have tried several CSAs in the area and I have come back to this one. I like that they are strictly organic and they grow almost everything on site.

The first year I had a lot of waste. I had no idea what some of the veggies were nor did I have any clue how to use them. They sat in the refrigerator and slowly went bad before I could figure out what to do with them. Now, I am learning, slowly. There is a lot of experimenting around here during CSA season! My goal is to use everything. And, so far we are doing pretty good.

I had wanted to start blogging when we started the Summer season. We are already a few weeks into the it, so I'm a bit behind, but here is this weeks CSA small share:

Starting at the top left: chard (will be used in my juicer), chives, bok choy (will be in stir fry tonight), kohlrabi (purple ball - great peeled and sliced and dipped in ranch), garlic sprouts (you can barely see them they are between the kohlrabi and the lettuce - I will use them like garlic, the greens are usable too), lettuce

In the mesh bags (I finally got my own reusable bags and I really like them): Rainier cherries (best cherries ever - my kids will eat the entire 1/2 pound that we got before the sun sets today. If I'm lucky I will get a few too) and snap peas.

Finally, a monster amount of spinach. That will go into everything from juice and smoothies to salads.

The early part of the share is heavy on the greens. And, since it is just starting to warm up here in the Pacific NW, we are still in the "greens season".  In the last several weeks we have had asparagus, some apples, strawberries, plus lots of greens.

I've learned that if I put in some time to wash and prep everything then we have a greater chance of using it before it spoils. I have a tub that I put water with a little vinegar in. Everything gets dipped in the vinegar bath, rinsed, and then into containers (gladware/tupperware type) in the fridge. It's easy to pull out and use for snacks and meals. Since I'm not naturally organized this has been a challenge. I'm learning that too.

Also on the farm, MILK!!

We are finally able to milk Bella and keep it to use. We are not getting much each day, about 1-2 Cups. But, that's pretty good since we have not started to wean Finley yet and so we are just getting what is left over after she eats.

We have found that the taste is excellent. Lighter and sweeter than the raw cow milk that we are currently drinking. Also, the color is whiter due to the way the cream reflects the light. The kids even prefer the goat milk over the cow milk.

Here is our 10 oz. that we got last night.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ready For Eggs

Our chickens are starting to get to the age where we will be keeping our eyes open for eggs. Though they will hit their 20 week mark in a few weeks, I figured I would go ahead and get their nesting boxes ready now (just in case). 

For awhile they were all trying to sleep in the nesting boxes (more specifically, they were all trying to sleep in one nesting box, together), so I put up a couple of boards up to block them out.

We are using the deep litter method for the bedding and I have yet to need to clean it out since they moved into it the first part of March. When I do I can simply pop out the two boards that go across the back and scoop everything out into our compost bin.

Here is the back of our chicken coop with the door open. You can see the nesting boxes on the left side wall. The top opens for easy access to gather eggs. A huge thank-you to my dear hubby and his dad for building this awesome chicken coop. We used the plans from here with a few alterations. They also have windows that I can put in for cold weather and take out for hot weather. And, as with all our "farm" buildings, I painted it to match our house. All in all, I really like this coop.

Here is a view of the nesting boxes. First I needed to caulk the edges of the bottoms of the boxes, then I took off the boards, put hay in and added a golf ball. I've heard that adding either a plastic egg or a golf ball will give the chickens the idea of what needs to happen there. We will see, I've noticed a marked lack of brains in our hens.

Hopefully real eggs will join the golf balls soon! At $6/doz. the local farm eggs are making me glad we got our own little flock this year.