Friday, March 28, 2008

Almost done!

The garage colors are a near match for the colors we painted the barn and will be painting the house and other out-buildings.
Somehow, Stew keeps getting in the pictures. Monday the roof will go on, Wednesday the concrete floor will be poured, and somewhere in there the roll-up doors, gutters & downspouts get installed. Then we get to take over and build a wall between the parking bays and the shop area. We'll also be finishing the shop interior, eventually.
Milking log:
3/21 - Stella & Doug weren't separated due to work schedules, 1.5 qts anyway.
3/22 - 3 qts after 4 hours separation.
3/23 - 3 qts, 4 hours separated, and I let Doug have a drink after Stella slowed up, so she'd let down again (double-dipping, I call it).
3/24 - 3.5 qts, 5 hours off, double-dipped.
3/25 - 2 qts, 4 hours off, no double-dipping. We had company over to watch the milking procedure, and Stella did fine. I stopped after 2 qts so as not to push my luck.
3/26 - 3 qts, 3 hours off, double-dipped.
3/27 - 3.5 qts, 5 hours off, double-dipped.
3/28 - 3 qts, 5 hours off, double-dipped.
Stella is getting pretty consistent with giving 3 quarts if I let Doug back on her for a minute after the first couple quarts. I still think she could easily give another quart, but not without me having to finagle it out of her.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Garage progress!

Posts set

48 hours later, siding girts and 2 trusses up!

View from the 0ld apple tree.

Lovely site built trusses.
One of the reasons we picked Blue Ribbon Steel Buildings over all the other companies.

Mercia softens warm laundry for us.

Spring has sprung sort of. I am out planting conservation trees today, in between snow, wind, sprinkles and sleet. March is certainly "in like a lion". Let's hope she's out like a lamb!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

It doesn't get butter than this!

This morning we decided to make some fresh home-grown butter. Last night we skimmed the top cream (the very thickest cream at the very top, almost like liquid ice cream) from about 5 days worth of milkings, which gave us about a pint to work with. There is still plenty of less-solid cream left to make the drinking-milk tasty.A friend pointed us to this site, describing how to make butter with a Kitchenaid, so that's what we did.
There are all kind of yummy things to do with the partially butterfied cream, like top fruit or baked goods, mix into oatmeal, etc. or make it into crème fraîche. Another great taste is cultured butter, which involves letting the cream "age" just enough to acquire a tangy flavor, then churning it. We made some in a dairy class we took last year and will make some at home another time.
It didn't take long for it to start setting up.
A little more "churning" and the fat molecules are clumping together enough to separate from the liquid buttermilk. This kind of buttermilk isn't thickened and cultured like the store-bought kind. It actually tastes more like skim milk. People culture it to get yet another nifty product from their wonderful cows, and we'll do the same eventually and use it in baking.
But if you leave the milk in the butter, it makes the butter spoil faster. So the butter is rinsed and kneaded with cold water until it runs clear.
Then it's turned onto a wooden board and worked to get out as much water as possible. Since we wanted this butter for toast and not baking, we worked in a pinch of salt at this step.
Then into a glass jar and into the fridge. Start to finish was less than 30 minutes, and a pint of cream netted us 6 ounces of butter, or 1.5 sticks.

In other news - the garage construction starts tomorrow. The materials (and a honey bucket) were all delivered Friday, and the site prep is finished. Look for pictures of that, and some critter pics, Tuesday or Wednesday!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Cat meets cat: garage time at Seven Trees

Job site inspector strikes again!Wow! Who would have thought a tiny building needs this much destruction! It's a big shock to have a giant dirty empty space, but the builders will start Monday and soon it will be our garage, with lots of nice trees & shrubs planted around it.
We did manage to squeeze in a brewing session. This is an English pale ale getting started. Next week we'll brew another batch of milk stout.
Mark says bye for now! Stay tuned for lots of photo-updates this busy busy spring....


Milking log:

3/19 - 1.5 quarts in a few minutes. We decided to go out to dinner, so I just milked enough to keep Stella in the routine.

3/20 - 2.5 quarts after being separated 5 hours. I left some for Doug since my hands got tired. I think Stella could easily give close to a gallon in the evening milking.

And Stella's in heat. We'll get a few months to count cycle days before Bob comes back, which will help us eatimate when she gets pregnant again.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spring fever

Here's the kittles, wishing they had earned such a wonderful breakfast before chores.
Stella & Doug, in a mother and son sprint down paddock 2.
And a couple of video clips of mom & baby.

Milking log:

Stella has been giving about 2 quarts after being apart from Doug 3-5 hours. I notice she lets down again for him maybe 10 minutes after I'm done. A more experienced friend says I may be too slow to get everything. I didn't realize that the window of time a cow lets her milk down could be as short as 10 minutes, so my next efforts will be to speed up milking a bit.
Today, 3/18, I tried milking a bit faster, and got 3 quarts! I think I could have gotten more if I tried a little longer, but I wanted to end on a positive note.
Stella is getting better about the whole routine, though she still doesn't like being herded/pulled into her stall. She also knows when I ask "want apple?" that it means a treat is coming.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spring is springing!

We're jumping right into mad season at Seven Trees. As if having our first calf and learning how to milk wasn't enough, it's also the start of garden season. Here's some teeny tiny lettuce sprouts, just up in the greenhouse. We chose red and green oak leaf, as they are consistently good producers here. And the new trial is Olga romaine.
Fedco Seeds says this about it: "Elegant lime-green Olga won our hearts in our 2006 lettuce trials. Big upright 8" oval heads with big hearts, big flavor, and slightly fringed leaves. So sweet, crisp and buttery that breeder Frank Morton thinks she must have some butterhead in her background. Stood considerable heat before developing slight tipburn and bitterness in August." Now that we're a big-time dairy, we need the most high tech equipment....or not! We use a 2 gallon stainless steel pail with lid, a canning funnel, and one of those gold-plated permanent coffee filters. So far the milk has been extremely tasty, and you can't quite make out the cream line from last night's milking, but it's over an inch in a quart jar.And look what the stork is bringing us now! A garage....not this color of course. Our's will be tan with dark brown roof & trim, to match the colors we'll be painting the house this summer. Construction should start next week.

My informal milking log:
I haven't yet milked Stella all the way out. We're still both learning, and also sharing with Douglas, but each day is better than the last. My first milking was 3/12 and I got a quart after much wrestling and fit-throwing. On 3/13, we separated Doug from Stella for 5 hours and I got 2 quarts. I could have gotten closer to a gallon, but I had a cut on one hand, a smashed finger on the other, and it was really uncomfortable to keep milking. Stella eventually seemed bored with the process as well, so I figured I would end it on a positive note. On 3/14, scheduling issues prevented us from separating mom & baby, so I had a harder time getting her to let down for me. It was Doug's first time being tied by Stella's head as I milked too, and he settled down really well. I tried a few tricks, like bumping her udders with my hand, brushing her, more warm washcloth massages, but still no milk. I ended up letting Doug nurse a minute to get her started. He has already learned not to bug me while I milk, and laid down for a nap. I settled for a quart of milk, and it has a nice creamline. As Stella gets better at the whole milking procedure, I plan to milk her all the way out, at least a few times a week, so I can gauge her potential production. I think she could easily give 2 gallons a day if we didn't calf-share, and a gallon with calf-sharing.
3/12: 1 quart
3/13: 2 quarts
3/14: 1 quart

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Lessons in milking

Here are the future layers of Seven Trees, finally living it up in the spare coop. This weekend they'll get to go outside for the first time. They're getting adult feathers in and seem to be thriving. The gal in front is a Buff Orpington, and the one doing the penguin impression is a Barred Rock.Here's me, going for milking attempt #2. I milked in the stall and thought Stella was done, but when I looked again she had let down more milk. I tied her to the fence and ran inside for the bucket to see what more I could get. Cows have the uncanny ability to withhold milk when they want to. And the cream is usually the last bit out of the udder, which they try to save for the calf.
A little clip of me trying for the last few drops. She had more, but was saving it for Douglas, and I was getting tired of trying. Practice makes perfect, and we had some good lessons tonight in standing still for milking. Stella is still not sure about the whole process and needs to learn to stand still, not lash me with her tail, eat her hay & grain, and let down her milk!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Prancing Doug

Chicken meeting.

Ever get that feeling there was some kind of meeting you missed?
No idea what the meeting was about,
but we now hide the car keys... just in case.
I guess they might have been discussing this bugger, who gets an inordinant amount of our attention it seems. He is awful cute though...

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Stella & Douglas are doing fine

Here's some of Stella's milk from this morning. In person, it's really dark & yellowy because it's mostly colostrum, which is a special kind of nutrient-dense milk mammals produce right after birth. It has all kinds of immune-boosting stuff, as well as proteins, carbohydrates and anitbodies that newborns need to get started right. We'll freeze this to have on hand for emergencies, and in a few days Stella will start producing normal milk that we can drink. Douglas doesn't drink much right now, so Stella has plenty to share. As he gets older we'll have to separate them for a few hours to make sure we get the milk we need. After morning milking, mom & baby will be together til bedtime.
He sure looks better all cleaned up with his fluffy curly coat. He's still a bit wobbly, but knows where the food is and likes his cheeks scratched.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

It's a boy!

His name is Douglas (Fir) of Seven Trees, since we're going with a tree theme here.About 7:00pm, I heard Stella holler and knew something was up. I grabbed cell phone, camera, towels, iodine, a lantern and a bucket of hot water & headed out.

Stella was in labor for less than an hour, but it was stil quite an effort for her.

It took a bit for Douglas to get up & nurse. And Stella was kind of nervous about letting him. But they seem to be sorting out the routine, and when we last checked on them, they were resting.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Stella update!

No calf yet, but soon, maybe tomorrow. Tonight I was able to get milk from all four quarters, which means the baby is really on its way!

Stay tuned....

Oh those cute felons!

Also known as Felions in some circles....
Magnus and Mercia are 100% people cats. Despite leaving the door a jar a few times to see if they'd venture out on nice days, they have declined, wanting no part of that scary outdoors.
They'll peak, but no way they are going out THERE.
See what I mean about "people" cats? Magnus even sits like a person beside me on the recliner!
Wherever you go, whatever you're doing, Magnus is there to help.
Here he is folding laundry. Now isn't that helpful? In all actuality, I fold, he absorbs the residual heat from the dryer. He's right there though, just in case a cat might be called for in this process.

And of course after a hard day helping humans... any half grown cat needs a nap. Here's Mercia in her bed next to the wood stove catching some well deserved shut-eye.


As far as the barnyard critters go...

Baby chicks move to the outdoor house tomorrow. They've had plenty of people time in the backroom, and they are almost escaping size from their current digs. Look for some photos of moving day soon.

Stella update: Her bag and teats are yet larger... all 4 quarters now swelling a bit in preparation for milk production. She shows no other sign of labor, but my prediction is this Sunday March 7th, 2008... stay tuned!!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Barred Plymouth Rocks

Take a look at these Barred Rock hens! Hopefully our chickies will grow up just as lovely.

Barred Rocks are the original variety in the Plymouth Rock breed, with the other colors (pencilled, buff, white, black, Columbian, partridge, blue) coming later. Developed in America in the middle of the 19th century and was first exhibited as a breed in 1869. Several individuals claimed its invention, using crosses of Dominique, Java, Cochin, and perhaps Malay and Dorking. The Breed became popular very rapidly, and in fact, until World War II, no breed was ever kept and bred as extensively as the Barred Plymouth Rock. Its popularity came from its qualities as an outstanding farm chicken: hardiness, docility, broodiness, and excellent production of both eggs and meat. Most of the other varieties were developed from crosses containing some of the same ancestral background as the barred variety. Early in its development, the name Plymouth Rock implied a barred bird, but as more varieties were developed, it became the designation for the breed. The Barred Plymouth Rock was one of the foundation breeds for the broiler industry in the 1920's, and the White Rock continues to be used as the female side of the commercial broiler cross.
Barred Rocks are considered a dual purpose bird, reliable winter layers of large brown eggs, and attaining good size for the table - Cock-9-1/2 pounds; hen-7-1/2 pounds; cockerel-8 pounds; pullet-6 pounds. They are docile; normally will show broodiness; possess a long, broad back; a moderately deep, full breast and a single comb of moderate size. Some strains are good layers while others are bred principally for meat. They usually make good mothers. Their feathers are fairly loosely held but not so long as to easily tangle. Generally, Plymouth Rocks are not extremely aggressive, and tame quite easily. Some males and hens are big and active enough to be quite a problem if they become aggressive. Breeders should be aware of the standard weights and not select small or narrow birds for the breeding pen.
Here's one of our Barred Rock chicklets, snuggling on my shoulder. Of the 3 breeds we are raising now, the Rocks are the calmest and most curious. They quickly settle down to being held and seem to enjoy the attention.

More info about Barred Rocks can be found on the OSU Breeds of Livestock site.

Stella update - She's still completely preggers, as wide as she is tall. We've noticed a few changes in shape and carriage that mean calving day is close, but nothing too exciting yet.