26 March 2016

My first cheese making attempt

So, I ordered two cheese making kits, plus another book on the subject, and have been itching to give it a try.  Yesterday, I decided to go ahead and scratch that itch.  I intend to practice on store bought milk for a while, at least until I can get a good milking goat, that will hold still for a full milking.  Don't get me wrong, Chocolate is making a bunch of milk right now, and I am penning Cocoa up at night so she doesn't nurse her mother dry.  This morning I managed to get about nine ounces before Chocolate decided she had enough of the rain, feeder full of Goat Chow or not.  The gal I bought Jack the rabbit from has Nigerian Dwarf goats who give up to a quart a day ... I want one.  Meanwhile, she wants to upgrade to La Mancha goats.
making my first batch of cheese
I was following the recipe and instructions for mozzarella, but I made a couple of newbie mistakes, and what I have is a soft, spreadable cheese that is tasty on a Ritz cracker.
my first homemade cheese
I had stirred too much after adding the rennet, then I didn't drain off enough of the whey before heating and trying to stretch the curds.  I'll try again soon for mozzarella, and also probably try some small batch recipes for goat cheese.  As long as the results are edible, I'll not complain about the learning curve.

21 March 2016

Chicken update

We've been doing a lot of stuff; I just haven't felt like typing it up this past week.  But, I did resolve to post at least once a week, and it has been since last Monday.

My March hatch was very good - out of 41 eggs that developed, 36 hatched.  Four did not even pip, and one quit, apparently too weak to get out of the shell.  I have twelve Meaties and 24 Feyd chicks, not all of which are full Wyandotte since Penny the black sex-link hen contributed some.  This is now my best development and hatch rate.

This morning, I started caponizing the January hatch, which is Azar x the Pretties.  The best cockerel has a single comb, plus white tips on his feathers, and there is no stand-out good rose comb cockerel in the bunch.  They are certainly quick and agile, though!  Out of four prepped for caponizing, we had two escapes, one known slip, and one that may be a capon.

I think my last hatch of the spring in the incubator will be Tiny x the Flashy Girls again ... not only is Bigfoot still growing out nicely, but his sisters look good as well.  After I gather up the eggs, I'll switch Azar and Tiny and put those eggs under broodies over the summer.

14 March 2016

Whole lot of busy

Today is one of those days I realize just how many different things I have going on here.  I've been working with Chocolate on the milking idea, and as long as she has Goat Chow in the feeder, she could not care less.  The instant she's done inhaling her Chow though, she tries to get away.  Hubby has been holding her for my to milk, except this morning he is up in Jacksonville because his brother just got back from a rotation to Korea.  I tried to get Lynn out here to hold her, but business is picking up fast at the commercial nursery she owns/runs so no dice there.  As a result, I only got about two ounces this morning, whereas I got over six ounces yesterday morning, and the difference is someone holding her.  A milking stand is en route here from Pennsylvania, but FedEx tracking says it won't be here until Wednesday.

Also in transit are: a meat grinder, patty mold, and bell hog scraper to get the hair off the pigs' skins after slaughter; hoof trimmers, hoof knife, goat halter, and a lamb/kid bottle in case I need that for my next goat; and two cheese making kits plus another cheese making book so next year when I have three in milk, I will be able to make cheese from the excess.  One Nigerian Dwarf doe can give up to a quart a day even with kids on her, depending on how good a milking bloodline she's from.  That is enough for hubby and me, but Cocoa will grow up, as will the registered doeling I am on the hunt for, so for a couple years I will be having three kidding and milking, so cheese making has been on my to-learn list for a couple years.

The guineas are finally acting like proper guineas: they are flying or hopping out of the enclosure and moving off in a gaggle to hunt for bugs.  May they find every tick nest not just on our property, but the neighboring properties as well!  I find it amusing they just started doing this the day after Craig, Marty, and me were discussing how to cook guinea.

On the chicken front, more hens are getting into the spring mood and starting to camp out on eggs or golf balls ... including one of the Big Butt Girls, the black phase BLR Wyandottes I got from Luanne.  Luanne has now had a grand total of two Wyandotte hens go broody on her over the years (one last year, just to prove her wrong when she told me they don't go broody) so having one out of only three in the back of the tractor all fluffed up and growling was a surprise.  Kids and critters will make a liar out of you every time.  Having another Silkie go broody wasn't much of a surprise, but having it be one of the black dragons still tending Silkie chicks was.  Let the daily battle over marked versus unmarked eggs begin.

Hammy and Pork Chop continue to grow and eat like pigs should.  I have decided not to keep either one, and instead go hunting for a pair or trio of full blooded Pot Belly pigs for my pork project.  Hammy will go first, as he is the smaller one and not putting on fat to the extent Pork Chop is.  Pork Chop has the fat jowls and wrinkles around the shoulders that Potbellies are known for, so I am curious to see just how big and fat he'll get.  I even had to buy the second bag of pig food for those two last week, making my total investment still less than $35 for pigs plus feed.

I was going to including planting notes and greenhouse update, but wow this has gotten quite long with only part of the critter update.  Oh, no pics this morning, as I set my camera down somewhere and don't recall where.

12 March 2016

BeeCee died

BeeCee, the big black Silkie cockerel, died Thursday afternoon.  I noticed he looked off that morning, and upon inspection he had saliva all down his neck and chest.  I separated him, and the thought flitted through my mind I ought to simply slaughter him and salvage the carcass.  I ignored that thought.

He basically sat around in the shade in an isolation cage the rest of the morning, and hubby said he saw BeeCee take a drink in the afternoon, but when mid-afternoon feeding time came around, BeeCee was dead on his side and rigor had not fully set in yet.  It's a shame, because BeeCee was my biggest Silkie cockerel.

He had been in with the five splash Silkie pullets, with intent to hatch eggs next month.  Instead, I pulled out eight eggs from the refrigerator, and put them under the four setting splash Silkie pullets while letting the fifth out to join Dude's group.  There was a ninth egg under a Silkie, so I marked all nine for incubation.  This way I can pull out unmarked eggs for possible setting under another if they take to the new Silkiebator house right away.

Here's hoping for a 100% hatch rate on those eggs.

11 March 2016

Goats are fun

Seriously, I should have had these creatures from the get-go.  They are even more entertaining than chickens, which takes some doing since chickens are much better comedy than anything on the idiot box in years.

Brownie is very affectionate, in addition to being cute and funny.  I've discovered a minor problem, in that he thinks he should be my lap goat.  Uh, no ... no goats on the lap, or in the house (outside of a medical emergency).  He does smell like a male, so all the rubbing against me causes me to smell like a billy goat (ok, the technical term is buck, but in spoken conversation people seem to hear "butt" instead of buck).

The major problem with Brownie is he really likes broccoli plants.  I sat on the corner of one of the garden boxes the other morning, and he walked up, grabbed a mouthful of broccoli leaf, then just like in a cartoon you could see the thought bubble over his head with an exclamation point ... and there was just no keeping him out after that.  Hubby and I both tried.

I've been working with Chocolate to get her used to milking.  As long as she has some Goat Chow, she'll hold still for it ... but she inhales that stuff like it's air.  Then she starts moving around, and has the uncanny talent for putting her back hoof into the (regular mouth) canning jar I've been using to hold the milk.  This is the same regular mouth pint jar I have trouble filling with hot chicken stock even when using the funnel.  It is a bit frustrating, because in addition to the mess it makes, she can put her hoof in perfectly, without clicking the rim, and all the way to the bottom of the jar.  I am in the process of purchasing a milking stand (which will also work for trimming hooves), so hopefully that plus familiarity will help.

09 March 2016

Meet Brownie

And here he is ... I figure if I don't post a pic or three, I'll get a phone call tonight asking about him.
new Nigerian Dwarf goat, Brownie

my buck (billy) Brownie

Brownie's color is called chamoisee
I asked how to pronounce the color: it's French (of course) so that would be "sham-wah-zay," I am told.  Either way, he really is cute.  He's actually smaller than Chocolate, and it's likely Cocoa will be bigger than both the older goats.  His voice is quieter, and also higher-pitched, than Chocolate's, but a bit shriller than Cocoa's baby voice.

He enjoys being petted, and loves being brushed ... and Chocolate is VERY jealous.  She does not want him too close to me.  She does not want to share the chow bucket.  She certainly doesn't want him being brushed ... that little scrub brush is for HER!  Oh, yeah, I do use one of those kitchen/bathroom style scrub brushes for the goats, since Nigerian Dwarves are so small.

One last note about Chocolate: she is still in milk.  I've read through Deborah Neimann's Raising Goats Naturally this past week, and on the drive home today it clicked in my head that the doe needs to be relaxed to be milked, not stressed or nervous.  I tested a teat when Chocolate was busy putting her pudgy self between Brownie and me, and yes she is still in milk.  Now, the "fun" begins: training her to stand for milking.  I think I'll try taking advantage of her natural propensity for gluttony first.

08 March 2016

Chocolate and Coca the goats

Here are some goat pictures, because I know for certain Tammy wants more, more, and more ... and while I haven't talked to my sister since buying the goats, she sure did emphasize the rabbit pictures around New Year's time frame, so I figure she wants goat pics as well.

Just to state for the record, Chocolate and Coca pose about as often or as well as the chickens, which means not if they can actually help it.
Chocolate on an old lawn chair

Chocolate up on the downed tree

little Coca

Coca the doeling

Coca up on our back deck

Chocolate and Cocoa

My first two goats, Chocolate and Cocoa
Today I drive to Gainesville for another VA appointment, then tomorrow I drive the opposite direction to St. Augustine to buy my third goat.  He is a three year old ADGA-registered Nigerian Dwarf who is people friendly, loves animal crackers as a treat ... and his name is Brownie.  "Capretta Farms Brownie Moon" is his full registered name, but Brownie fits just so well with Chocolate and Cocoa.

07 March 2016

Bigfoot and a baked Silkie

I caught Bigfoot just a short bit ago, then held him until hubby reached a break point on the Silkiebator tractor he's working on to take a few pictures.

Bigfoot, the one grow-out cockerel from the October hatch

Bigfoot isn't sure if he liked his throat stroked
He certainly has lovely hackle feathers!

Bigfoot staring down the camera
(I am holding him by his hocks)

Bigfoot's wingspan - he still has a lot of growing to do!
Bigfoot still has big feet and long legs to grow into ... and a nice wide wingspan.  He flapped a bit while I was posing him, and left his one wing spread out, so all I did was extend the other.  I am still quite pleased with how he's growing out - especially considering he's from my first F1 hatch.  He seems to be setting the standard pretty high.

Quick note on the January hatch - the best cockerel has a single comb, so I will not be growing any intact cockerels from that hatch.  That gives me more caponizing practice.

Finally, we ate our first Silkie cockerel recently.  I had a couple of oranges from my friend Lynn's trees, and an idea to make a nice exotic spiced baked chicken using orange juice, ground cinnamon, ground clove, and just a touch of cayenne.  Exotic-looking chicken, exotic spices for it.  I am so doing a Silkie for Halloween, with green food coloring in the rice and acorn squash.

orange spice baked Silkie
The Silkie cockerel was quite small, which is why he ended up on our table.  The amusing part is, when he had his feathers he looked about the same size as BeeCee.  It was when I picked them both up the size difference was apparent.   Plucked, cleaned, and without giblets the Silkie only weighed one pound, ten ounces.

We also ate one of the guineas, cut up and done teriyaki with fresh mushrooms, carrots, and garlic.  Not bad, a touch richer in flavor than even the Silkie, but the guinea only weighed one pound, fourteen ounces under all those feathers.

I had also slaughtered a cockerel from Bigfoot's batch, and he weighed two pounds, 15 ounces (just shy of 3 lbs!) which is quite a decent size for the age ... especially considering that slip from last year only weighed about four pounds even.  He was the smallest slip, and I should have just slaughtered him instead of trying to grow him out more.  Ah well.

03 March 2016


I could just cry from the frustration this morning.  My back has been out for over a week now, and this morning all I did was sneeze to send the lower back into spasm again.  This is putting a serious crimp in my style, and hubby has been covering down on the morning feeding for me.  I feel a little guilty because this has come *right* after an expansion (goats plus a couple feeder pigs) which means more chores than before.

About the only upside is I have plenty of knitting time right now.  Hubby says I need to plan on doing next-to-nothing for the next week or two until my back heals up enough to function  at my level of "normal."