Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wyoming Sunrise

While working in the kitchen on our Thanksgiving feast, I glanced out the window to see what appeared to be the fiery lights of Hades spilling forth upon the horizon.

I scurried for my camera, threw on my chore coat, slipped on my shoes, and ran. Behind my hastening figure, my camera gripped in my right hand trailed as I leaped over cactus and drought shrunken sagebrush. For a brief moment I thought, 'What will the neighbors think?' as I imagined how bad I looked in my chore coat, my hair disheveled, and a good chunk of white leg showing below my shrink not to fit any more light blue pajama pants. I figured if they were shocked it was because they missed the time years ago when I locked myself out of the house and had to tip toe through the snow in my bare feet to find help while clad only in a nightgown. The neighborhoods should at least find it good morning entertainment watching the crazy lady dash up and down the fence line snapping pictures.

But if they were paying much attention to me, they were missing this incredible light show.

For the sun's rays rose forth as if with sword in hand and dispelled the devilish light.

It was a memorable Thanksgiving!!!! In fact we had two, one on Thursday at Kirk's brothers and another at our home on Friday so that our son-in-law and some dear friends could join us. ( This light show occurred on Friday.) I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Livestock Cake For Thanksgiving

The sun is setting and we're busy getting ready for our Thanksgiving feast. The house smells so goo...d.

Seven pies are cooling, the buttercup squash is cooked- ready to reheat, and the rolls just came out of the oven. Thanksgiving will be spent at Kirk's brothers tomorrow and Friday we will have another feast at our house for those who had to work on Thursday.

But we aren't the only ones that will eat well. Kirk went to town on Tuesday to pick up some cake for the livestock. You know... cake. Well maybe you don't.

It wasn't until I went to buy some last spring that I realized not everyone called the compressed grain, and hay made into a cylinder shape - cake. I'd gone into our local CO-OP feed store and was waited on by a new employee I found out later was from South Dakota. When I asked for a bag of cake, he gave me a blank stare. "A bag of 14 % protein will do.", I replied to his confused look that was rapidly gaining a panicked expression. I knew that look, the one that says, I'm talking to the local crazy lady. How do I get out of this. No you may not ask how I know?

Luckily an experienced employee stepped up behind him and pointed to a feed on the list on the computer and explained that the feed supplement for range cattle and sheep in the winter comes in 14 and 16 percent protein and the locals call it cake.

Cake sitting on top of corn, oats, barley, and a pelleted feed for the goats.

As I left and headed toward the dock with my receipt, "The locals call it cake." echoed in my head and I wondered, 'Then what does everyone else call it?' and 'What is the rectangular boxes on the back of most of the flat bed pickups in the county, if they aren't cake feeders?' I still don't know.

But since I'm old, I remember before the cake feeders were invented. We locals shoveled cake by hand out of the bed of the pickup. One day in particular sticks out in my mind. The wind chill must of been at least fifty below zero Fahrenheit. Small frostbite blisters were forming on my reddened cheeks where the frames of my metal glasses touched as I stood in the back of the pickup legs apart bracing against the wind while I dribbled cake over the tailgate. The black Angus cows and black baldies, trailed behind nibbling on the cake as my brother drove the pickup in a slow sweeping arch. (Now don't tell me black baldy is a local term too for a Hereford/ Black Angus cross?) With the change in direction the wind gusts were hitting me head on. As I raised my shovel to thrust it into the tall pile of cake, a blast of wind caught it's face like a sail in a squall. I went flying over the side of the pickup, not once but several times before it was my brother's turn to shovel. He thought it great entertainment watching me and of course being the older brother, stronger and larger, had no problem when it was his turn.

Ranchers today have it easy sitting comfortably inside their pickups, the heater blasting keeping them warm while the - cake feeder- does the work.

Though we don't have range cattle or sheep, we buy cake, or whatever it is properly called, every winter to feed on extra cold days and as a treat on holidays such as Thanksgiving.

Leta, our dairy goat, curling her lip in anticipation of the tasty morsel.

And here's Tinker Bell, who's definitely not light on her feet, excepting one from Kirk.
Our grand daughters on Thanksgiving will scurry for pile of rubber boots to find a pair their size or near to it when we mention it's chore time. Then they will put cake in a scooper and go around feeding it to the livestock. The goats will gain the lion's share as they are the least intimidating in size. Kirk and I will end up seeing that the Bess, the horse; Tinker Bell, and the calf, Pedro, receive their share. The scene is as dependable as the sun setting in the West. So is our middle grand daughter eating a piece of cake as she feeds another to the goats. I remember as a child eating doing chores and eating COB or corn, oats, and barley grain with the molasses coating that is a staple livestock feed in the USA.

The pigs and the chickens won't be getting cake. They'll get left overs of our feast and the bees .... I've a quart of sugar water mixed up for them.

The hives are taped up for the move back to our house.
What will the cat's get? Turkey of course. Bridgette, our old cat, will insist that it's served warm.
I'd best be off it's getting late and much is left to do but before I go I wish to tell you Thank You. That you read my blog, sharing my world with me, and support my efforts as I learn to express myself through the written language. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Christmas Village

(My favorite time to gaze at the village is at night when the warm glow of the lights radiate out from the houses.)

I couldn't help it, I just couldn't wait. A friend and I went to the Festival of Trees where individuals or groups donate a decorated wreath, small tree, or large tree. These donations are then auctioned off and the money goes toward charity. Walking in the wonderland listening to Burl Ives sing Christmas carols while we peered between the branches of the trees to gaze at the ornaments, filled me with a longing for Christmas. It was more than I could resist and I did succumb. Up came box after box from the basement as I put up my Christmas village. You who believe one holiday must past before embarking upon another, please forgive my weakness. I know Thanksgiving has not yet arrived so I kept up the pumpkins and fall leaves decorations. Alright, only because we're having company for Thanksgiving. But don't judge me too harshly, decorating for Christmas is one of my favorite things.

At Church a couple weeks ago, as my new role as children's chorister, I was checking to see what Christmas songs the children knew so I could make up plans for December. A gentleman asked incredulously if I knew all the Christmas carols. I don't, but don't be surprised if you hear me singing Silent Night under a starry night while I'm milking the goats even if it is hum... summer.

(Or, is it when the shadows accent the ripples in the white fabric like the clouds when they emphasize the drifts in the snow?)

Christmas is my favorite holiday and I remember when my grandma Jones use to sleep with me Christmas Eve. We'd wake up all night long checking the clock and whispering, wondering if we dare get up yet.

But I don't understand. A doll house has never held any great charm with me but this village has me transfixed. I spend hours arranging it, tweaking the figurines until it is just so and every year that means things are arranged differently. My husband then spends the rest of the holiday taking one figurine at a time and moving it to a new location. It may take me a few days before I discover. Without saying a word, I put it back. Then usually a few more days lapse for him to notice and move another figurine. Kirk started the game years ago and it has spill over to other areas like the screen saver on the computer. This past week he put up, one at a time, the worst pictures of me he could find and upon discovery I'd did the same favor for him. The advantage has been mine as I've a rich supply of funny faced photos of my sweetheart.

( Note the fall foliage in the evergreen boughs.)

The Christmas village goes up in this antique kitchen cupboard that sits in the living room. The top shelf is the ranch. On the second shelf is the school, Finney's forge, and the livery stable.

Not quite like the one Kirk's great grandpa had back east but a livery stable non the less.

(Kirk's grandpa is the little boy holding the horses by their halters and his great grandpa is the one with the carriage. )

We of course had to have a forge. The Finney's Forge shop my husband said wasn't enough. He couldn't figure out what the men inside were doing. He insists it isn't forging. I searched and searched, then a year ago, I discovered this pair. I say they're making horse shoes, my husband says a knife.

(Kirk posing in his black smith shop. The two hundred pound anvil does not usually rest on the two by fours. It was raised for photography purposes and later the boards were cropped off in the photo and lots of sparks added. The sparks were caught on film in another photograph of him forging and photo shopped into this one or maybe another almost just like it. I'd have to go look.)

Then what do you expect of someone who has aspired to the rank of mastersmith in the American Bladesmith Association.

On the bottom shelf is the church, clock tower and a grand home with one of my favorite figurines. A child in a tree trying to reach a cat stuck on a limb and another calling helpful instructions - or are they?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kinghorn Wax Beans

Kirk asked me why I wasn't raising Grandpa Kinghorn's wax beans and I felt a pang of guilt. What was my excuse? That years ago I'd tried them just once and the crop failed? I couldn't say that to Kirk as it sounded too pathetic. My garden soil may have been horrible back then but there was no reason for my not growing them now. I have trouble growing some crops such as cantaloupe where as my grand father grew lovely full sized ones on the other side of the mountain but sixty day beans - I can do that.

Flipping to the page in my genealogy notebook, I looked down at the excerpt from the Gurney's seed catalog advertising Grandpa's seeds.

(55 days) " A long-time favorite with home gardeners, King Horn's becoming popular with commercial growers, too. We'd guess they like the way the slender, 5-6 inch pods stay tender when they're processed. And the way the easy-to handle clusters make picking a cinch. And the way they taste. An all-around good bean. "

I've wondered several times as I've gazed at the advertisement why did the seed package say King Horn Wax instead of Kinghorn Wax as it was originally? Were they a hybrid? And as to why they no longer carry them it could have been demand or disagreement with the seeds growers over cost because most seed companies do not grow their own seeds.

But it hardly mattered since Gurney's weren't carrying them anymore. I knew better than to wait until spring to search and order Kinghorn Wax beans lest my resolve wane in the busy season of livestock babies and planting. I went to the internet and began my search. Page after page scrolled by and there was a long list of commercial test results for Grandpa's beans but no home garden seed companies carrying them. It wasn't completely surprising since the first bushel of Kinghorn Wax beans had been given to Birds Eye Division of General Foods. There after for many years they grew them exclusively for their canning and freezing. When the seeds were marketed to the home gardener I don't know and maybe it was never an angle that was very developed.

But I can't use a fifty pound bag of seeds like a farmer would use and so I tried new search words and finally found Crosman Seed Company and gave them a call.

They seemed a bit surprised at my inquiry in NOVEMBER. Then when I asked if the seeds had undergone any genetic changes since they were first produced, it became real quiet on the other end of the line. The women commented that the seed brand was very old. I felt a need to explain and told the women I was aware that they were old since my grandfather had been dead a long time and he was the original breeder. A real warmth entered her voice and she told me to wait a minute while she checked . To my relief Grandfather's seeds hadn't been modified into a hybrid. At the same time her words ,"They are old." hit me with added force and I wondered when these seeds had been developed? My grandfather quit working for Woodruff Seed Company in May of 1958 when they sold to Asgrow Seed Company. Sometime during the twenty-seven years he'd been in their employment he'd spent a period of seven years, sometimes on company time, developing the seed.

When I checked to see how old a strain of seed had to be, to be categorized as heirloom, it said at least fifty years. Grandpa's seeds more than qualified. Knowing that old seeds have a way of going by the way side for something new and different, not necessarily better. I was enveloped with a feeling of responsibility to ensure the survival of the work Grandpa had started.

The internet search stirred warm memories and in my mind I could see Grandpa bent over with his hoe working the rocky soil of their garden while Grandma and I picked strawberries. Maybe it was the rocks that held heat through the night that allowed Grandpa to grow such nice cantaloupe but the best thing to come out of the garden were the cucumbers and tomatoes. I still love a cucumber and tomatoe sandwich.

These memories and others that lent a warm blanket of the past helped me to recognized just how integrated my memories of my grandparents are with gardening, whether it was working in it or eating the harvest from it.

I believe because a garden has been such a integral part of our life with our own family, our children have longed for one of their own. And now our grand daughters love gardens. It's a legacy that we pass on and with it I'm now determined will be Grandpa's Kinghorn Wax beans.

It will be interesting to see how they do next summer and how the seed saving goes.

Be sure and check out
for she is giving away a quilt in honor of her dear friend Alice's passing. Sorry I don't know how to do the thing where you can just click on it to go there. I need my daughter to teach me that trick. She'll be home for Thanksgiving. It's tough being computer illiterate.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cheesecake Ice Cream

Cream cheese went on sale again at my buying price - ninety-nine cents. I couldn't resist. Six more packages were added to the five already in my refrigerator. I didn't feel an ounce of guilt since the holidays are coming up and I've scads of recipes that call for cream cheese and many more I want to try like cheesecake ice cream.

When I told my daughter what I'd done, she at first thought I'd lost it but did as I recommended and checked the expiration date on the packages in the store near her. She found they also said January and February like ours, plenty of time in which to use up eleven packages of cream cheese. Especially when we'll be using it in mash potatoes for it gives them such creamy texture to pour turkey gravy over, and Kirk will insist I frost the pumpkin cake in the freezer with cream cheese frosting. Not to mention the lemon cheesecake I'll probably make sometime during the holidays and the raspberry breakfast coffee cake that has a cream cheese filling. My husband would not think Thanksgiving was complete if we didn't have his favorite cream cheese dip served on crackers. On second thought, maybe I didn't buy enough. I'd better keep my eye out for another sale.

But what I wanted to share with you was my experience creating cheese cake ice cream. I'd found a recipe for it about a year ago and tucked it into my cookbook cupboard. Or had I? I couldn't find it so off to the internet I went. I must of looked through ten different recipes and they called for condensed milk along with regular milk or half and half. That wasn't quite what I had in mind but I picked out the out two recipes that appealed to me the most. Then re-glanced at the others to determine the similarities and differences between the recipes. With a general gist of how to make cheesecake ice cream, I then pulled out my old Betty Crocker cookbook and glanced through the page featuring the French Vanilla Ice Cream. It looked like I could take bits and pieces of the two cheese cake recipes and the Betty Crocker one and combine them. I was determined to not use condensed milk and drop the amount of sugar the cheesecake recipes called for by substituting goat milk and cream to add richness.

It worked out perfectly and my husband gave it raving reviews for texture and taste. Besides I was able to use some overly browned molasses cookies I had in the freezer so it was a win win dessert. But enough talk, I had better give you my recipe.

I put 1 cup of goat milk in a sauc
e pan and brought it to a simmer. Meanwhile in a mixing bowl I put three egg yolks with a half a cup of sugar and beat them together.
When the milk was hot, I poured a small stream into the bowl of eggs and sugar while beating it with a mixer. The trick is to pour slowly enough that you don't cook your eggs too quickly which results in little yellow clumps. If that happens strain them out and continue.

* 1 cup goat milk
*3 egg yolks
* 1/2 cup sugar

I put this mixture back into the saucepan on a low temperature and slowly heated it until it coated the back of a spoon. Then I removed it from the stove and poured it into a mixing bowl to which I added two cups of chilled cream. This stops the cooking action. I didn't add the cream to my sauce pan because a small amount had stuck to the bottom of the pan and I didn't want it to make clumps in my ice cream. Also, I don't like using a mixer in my good sauce pans. This first part of cream cheese ice cream went into the refrigerator to chill overnight.

The next day with a hand mixer, I combined two eight ounce packages of cream cheese, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Then added the chilled mixture from the day before and whipping them together thoroughly.

*2 - 8 ounce packages of cream cheese
* 1/2 cup of sugar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
*1/4 cup lemon juice
* a pinch of salt

The liquid ice cream I placed in my ice cream freezer can and after the dasher and lid were in place, I packed the salt and ice around it. My old ice cream maker requires that I stay close at hand despite the fact I can barely handle the noise of it. But once in a while, the ice will wedge against the can and stop it from turning requiring me to hurriedly unplug it and shake the whole thing to relocate the ice clumps. I really should look into a smaller, new ice cream maker. I then put the ice cream in a container in the freezer. It harden a bit further and was ready to scoup out in creamy curls when my husband came home from work.

To use up those overly browned molasses cookies I put them in the blender until they were crumbs. And after I'd fed my husband supper, I layered the ice cream, molasses cookie crumbs, and raspberries in a ice cream dish and watched his face for his reaction. He told me to quit staring at him.

The rest of the crumbs I'm going to make a crust for lemon cheese cake. I could have used overly browned sugar or oatmeal cookies, even chocolate cake but I had a bag of molasses cookies in the freezer my family wouldn't eat as they prefers theirs soft and chewy.

For those of you without goats, substitute milk and heavy cream from the store. I don't see why it wouldn't work. Next time, I'm going to make a thickened mixture of either raspberries or strawberries like you would if you were making pie filling and swirl it into the ice cream right before I place it in the freezer.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Is Your Goat In Heat?

Leta was in heat yesterday but my schedule did not permit the introduction of a tall, half dark stranger. How did I know she was in heat? I noticed a gel like discharge. This isn't apparent every minute of the day but is a frequent sign throughout the heat cycle. Since Leta wasn't showing any other indication of being in heat, I hoped she could hold her legs together, or what ever, until the next day when I expected her behavior to change due to elevated estrogen levels. That's when the goats act kind of crazy like I'm feeling the last few days as the hot flashes have been rolling in almost on top of one another. I wonder if I'm the Alpha female and the girls are cycling around me. No... erase that thought. Goats have a twenty-one day cycle and I'm well, I'd say when ever the wind blows but it blows about every day so let just say with many pauses (menopause) knocking at my door - I never know what's up next.

If your wondering what crazy behavior estrogen causes in a goat, read a little further. I'll do my best to explain and feel free to ask questions or share a funny story of your doe when she came into heat.

Here in Wyoming, my Saanens first cycle in October or November and I've never bred later than February before so I thought I'd better look up the average dairy goat heat season. They said August to January - so we're pretty close. Since it is the sun light that shines through the pupil that stimulates the Hypothalamus, that talks to the Pituitary, that signals the hormone release - when your does come into heat varies with where you live and to a degree your weather. The northern breeds such as the Saanens and the Alpines have shorter breeding seasons than the Nubians and I believe the LaManches. If there are any LaMancha breeders reading this please let me know on that one as I didn't find an answer when I searched.

When I looked up the Nigerian goats heat season I croaked, twelve months of the year. The same as it is for Pygmy goats. The article said that breeders often try for three kiddings in a two year period of time. That's a different mind set than dairy. Our main focus is milk production. Cross out two to three months to give the doe a break before kidding, then the milk the kids consume before they're weaned, and that's lots of milk we've missed out on.

And that's not mentioning the energy spent keeping Mr. Buck and Mrs. Doe from conjugating every month. Well not every month because one of those times she's sure to be in the motherly way and hormonally not interested for at least five months. I was feeling sorry for you Nigerian goat breeders but then I saw the heat cycle for a mouse on the list, every four to six days. Then I switched my feeling sorry to Mr. Mouse. Think of the mood swings he must have to put up with.

I want you to know it took great restraint not to research further about Mr. and Mrs. Mouse as I was intrigued since my husband fed for several days the unwanted mouse visitor in the kitchen. He first tried cheese in the trap and when the mouse ran off with it he laughed and said, "I wonder what the mouse would like to dine on next?" It was peanut butter that he lost his life over. Poor mouse he chose the wrong house.

Oh Sorry, we were talking about goats. The first thing you have to do if you want to know if your goat is in heat, is to lean back against the fence, watch the clouds go by, and gaze at your goats. In other words, you have to know what is normal behavior for your goat to know what is crazy. They are an individual. One that hasn't taken any classes on how to act during a heat cycle. So I'll give you some common signs and your goat will choose which ones she feels like using.

Leta especially looks a bit panicked, her eyes wide open. This is often displayed by a doe during her first few heat cycles as she is thoroughly bewildered at what's happening to her. All goats I've known bleat more frequently and food is hardly their main concern. In fact they may refuse to eat their grain when you milk them and not want to get on the milking stand. They're milk production will go way down during these couple days and that nice goat that walked beside you while you held her collar may act like a run away freight train especially if she smells a buck anywhere in the vicinity. Mine about dislocated my shoulder today. They are normally so well behaved.

Younger goats in particular will often ride each other and act in a similar manner as a buck.

If you have a couple goats that won't leave each other alone but yet act irritated with each other like Leta and Pudge are in this picture, then they might be in heat. Since goats in the same close proximity eventually cycle close together like a mother and daughter or a dorm of girls. So if one of your does is in heat look closely at the others.

Here's Leta smelling the high estrogen levels emitting from Pudge much like a buck does but they are too old and sensible to go around riding each other. Poor young Chicory wouldn't dare. Not with these old matrons.

This is tall, half dark and handsome, he whispering sweet nothings to Leta. It's probably the same line he uses on all the girls. The tongue flickering and lip curling exhibited by this Boar goat is normal and sometimes young does will do the same thing when in heat.

Leta has been flagging with her tail all morning as if she is trying to catch someones attention and hitch a ride. Luckily she's not one of those goats that leaps tall fences and flies off to the neighbors for a one night stand with their buck. Instead she spent the day with her tail waving in short rapidly bursts especially when another goat walks by or I ran my hand down her rump. She wags enthusiastically when this buck is near.

Leta is keeping her tail up as an invitation and she is remaining close to him, not quickly moving off to get away. If the doe slaps her tail down when the buck comes sniffing she's telling him no, in no uncertain terms, no matter how much he sweet talks her. She will exhibit the same behavior with another doe.

A young buck is dumb and at first he won't get the hint when a doe says no since they are all testosterone and no brains or finesse. But after a few ladies slap their tail in his face and forcefully tell him to take a hike with a hard head butt or two or three depending how bright he is, then he'll learn when to advance and when to retreat.

So in summary the signs are:
1. Gel like discharge.
2. It is the season for heat cycles.
3. Hangs around other goats and has a irritating cranky behavior.
4. Panicked look in their eyes.
5. Ma... more frequently (or are vary vocal and the tone changes)
6. Test the air by curling up their top lip to smell for a buck.
7. Mount other does.
8. Lack of interest in feed and being milked.
9. Flags or wags tail in short rapid burst and frequently, especially when another goat is nearby.
10. Dramatic drop in milk production for a few days.
11. Keeps her tail up when a doe or buck comes sniffing.
12. Allows the buck to mount her.

Number twelve isn't always so with a yearling doe during her first few cycles. I always hand breed. That is hold the does collar while the buck says how de doo or hello depending on where he hails from and breeds her. This keeps the rough housing at a minimum, the does that might be in his pen away, and those same does from distracting the buck and your doe.

I've experience where the buck and doe given time together develop an intense dislike. Hormones may rage but they aren't mating. Hand breeding eliminates this not common but not unusual problem since they don't get to know one another and the buck invariably mounts after a quick hello as I've brought the girls over while they are in standing heat. Also I am steadying my doe so the buck does not slide off before the task is done.

Sounds easy? It is if your doe is older but those young eighty pound does that are cycling for the first time or your one year olds like Chicory, our new goat, don't show as intense heat signs as your older does. I'm watching Chicory but I'm not positive when she is in heat yet as she has been more vocal but no other signs have emerged that I've noticed. The first time in the season that a goat cycles is sometimes lighter on signs and not as noticeable as later cycles where they seem to act more desperate to meet Sir Handsome Buck.

For now, Chicory and I will be taking some walks by the bucks in our area so I can observe her behavior and make sure when she is cycling. That is why some breeders who don't keep a buck have a wether in with the young does. He is harmless but will usually act like a buck telling you when your young does are ready to be bred.

Is it clear as mud, which is what my husbands says, or have you gotten the heat cycle picture?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fall Chores

What a full weekend! We had three loads of hay to haul from South Dakota (two and a half hours one way) and an elk to cut up. On our way back home from hauling hay, we picked up our four year old, three year old, and ten month old, grand daughters so they could spend Saturday night and Sunday with us. I'd forgotten what it was like to get three little ones fed, dressed for church, and livestock chores done all before nine o'clock in the morning. But what a delight they are. I'm stilling giggling thinking about our three year old when she came running into the bedroom and exclaimed, "Poofy butts are in the yard, Grandma!" You can imagine how this old brain went into hyper drive trying to figure out that one. Luckily it clicked quickly and I realized she was talking about the Pronghorn Antelope with the white hair that sticks up on their behinds causing a poofy butt.

It thrilled me to no end when our ten month old grand daughter was sitting on her mother's lap during Sunday School while I directed music for the children twelve and under and she threw a fit when she couldn't see me. She too has become Grandma's girl. Her parents relaxed from their break had driven the hour from home to join us. Hence, a few hours later with tears streaming down the kids cheeks they said goodbye to us and I vowed once more to hurry and get my fall chores done so they could spend a few days with us, not just over night.

We have been running a month behind all fall and we are not the only ones since our hay had just been baled the day before we picked it up. I hope this week to get the last of my garden produced froze, canned etc. The holidays are upon me and I haven't even started buy or making presents for Christmas.

Yet, it isn't Christmas that fills my thoughts but what kind of ice cream am I'm going to make this afternoon and how can I do butter different in the blender to gain a higher yield, and does pasteurized and unpasteurized cream make a difference on the amount of butter you gain? With this restless brain you can be sure in a few days I'll have lots to tell you. In fact four blogs are in the works.

Today, a fifth was started as a gal brought to my attention that many don't know the symptoms of a doe coming into heat. Our does are scheduled to cycle this Thursday and I hope to capture some pictures to help those of you that are beginners to recognize the symptoms. I spent an hour with this gal at her pens trying to help her recognize the symptoms of pregnancy. She had just kept the bucks in all the time not having any idea when her does were coming into heat.

But right this moment my decrepit back and legs are really aching from stacking hay and I think I'll lay down for half an hour. So my words of wisdom for today are, if you are told by a three year old that poofy butts are in the yard, it is probably Pronghorn Antelope.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Butter Churn Versus The Blender

You got me to thinking, Linda. Could I do the whole butter making process in the blender and get the same results as my more tedious method. The one where I made whip cream in the blender, then put the whip cream into the butter churn cranking to make butter.

The results were surprising. Over the course of a week, I did six quarts of cream one at a time in the blender. As before, I had a few batches that went to whip cream and wouldn't process any further until I added some milk. It was definitely easier to make butter in the blender and I began to wonder if I'd wasted my money buying the butter churn. Yet, it seemed like I'd gotten more butter when I put the whip cream into the butter churn.

It turns out I was right. Tonight, I made another batch of butter using my butter churn in the way I'd explained in the butter blog and yesterday I had made a batch in the blender. I compared the two. Two quarts of cream done in the blender made far less butter than one and a third quarts of cream done in the butter churn. Why, I have no idea but yes, the butter churn for me was worth the money.

Getting the most butter from my cream as possible wouldn't be such a big deal if I'd only wanted some butter for bread. But, I was so excited about the results of my butter cookies that I started separating milk every couple days and making butter. I'll admit it. I've become fixated on making goat butter and in the next few days I going to make lemon pound cake with it. I'm sure it will be heavenly.

But for now, I'm going to go put my pajamas on. It has been a long day. We woke up at five o'clock and the thermometer said it was fifty-six degrees Fahrenheit. Far too hot for the cow elk hanging in the garage so Kirk and I started to cut her up as fast as we could go before we had to be at the corrals at seven to do livestock chores and meet a friend. The rest of the elk just had to wait for we needed to follow Tim who was showing us the way to a ranchers place in South Dakota. We both were picking up a load of small round hay bales.

On the way back the heavily loaded trailer picked up a nail in one of the tires. We found it when we stopped to checked the tightness of the straps holding the hay on. The load always moves some and this can loosen the tension on your straps. If you don't make the adjustments your hay may come falling off the trailer as you are going down the interstate at seventy-five miles an hour. Pretty scary for the car following you as a thousand pound hay bale comes flying at them. Not to mention the pain of finding someone with a tractor to put the bales back on. It would make a difficult day a whole lot worse, so we stopped to check the straps several times during our trip. Kirk changed the tire and we went into Sturgis, SD, the place of the famous motorcycle rally. We had the tire fixed, ate lunch, and picked up some livestock feed which is cheaper there than here.

We got home at five and we had left at eight this morning. A long day, especially since the trip home is rough with a heavily loaded trailer that invariably does this jerky movement with the pickup like a boat out on small choppy waves. Kirk's and my backs are not pretty on an MRI and they felt even worse tonight. It isn't fun getting older.

I almost forgot to mention that I made vinegar cheese out of the milk I'd separated. Not sure yet what I'll make with it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sleeping On The Job

My husband gave me explicit instructions to go to the store today and buy lots of mouse traps. He swears he awoke last night and a mouse was on his arm. I must of given a, 'Yeh, sure!', look because he emphasized his point stating that he'd found a mouse turd in the bed this morning. It was probably the same mouse we'd seen twice in the kitchen and it obviously feels it has the run of the house.

(Sleeping on the job.)

Which I'm wondering why it's so comfortable scampering about when we have two cats for mouse control? Okay, let me restate that. Why should it feel so bold when we have Reginald, the great white and gray hunter who kills mice, rabbits (even full grown ones) and an occasional vole or bird? Anyone who knows our other cat, Bridgette, knows she's purely ornamental and Reginald is on his own. She is the queen, no not literally since she's never had kittens but figuratively, for she's the one who complains if her water dish isn't full, not half full but full, or her self feeding cat dish runs low on the assortment of cat foods I mix together for her dining pleasure.

So we know not to look to Bridgette to rescue us despite the fact that her mother was the best mouser we've ever had at the corrals and picked fights with dogs, big ones. Her father was a tramp, covered in battle scars and whipped every cat in the neighborhood, sending most of them to the vet at least once. Her parents may of been fighters but she's a wimp who hisses every time she goes down a dark hallway to see if anything responds to her threatening challenge. Not because she's itching for a fight but because she wants heads up so she can turn tail and run for cover.

Note the tufts of fur between her feet. She has fur with guard hairs on top and it spins well somewhat like the fur from an angora rabbit but not quite so flighty. I suspect that she is half Norwegian Forest Cat as she had the body type of a Manx when she was younger and the breed is suspected of being half Manx and half Mane Coon. The cats once guarded the Viking's grain bins. Bridgette is fourteen years old and we raised her on goat's milk with an eye dropper.

When I'd told our daughter we had a mouse and the cats weren't doing anything about it, she offered her husband telling me he was good at getting rid of mice. I remembered the story she'd told me a couple weeks ago. She'd been sitting on the couch relaxing after putting the kids to bed and suddenly screamed, "Toby come quick, it's an emergency." He came running up from the basement and when he arrived she'd told him that she'd seen a mouse in the kitchen. He took off and came back with a pellet gun and a small flashlight. The mouse who'd been moseying around the kitchen ran for cover. Toby pulled the dishwasher out from the wall exposing the mouse, positioned the flashlight along the gun like he was a member of the S.W.A.T. team, took aim at the cowering creature, and shot. The mouse staggered onto the kitchen floor and fell over dead. Our daughter hasn't quit laughing about it.

I thanked her for the offer of the use of her husband, one shot Toby - the deadliest member of the anti-mouse terrorist S.W.A T. team, but I was afraid it had been just a lucky shot, don't tell him I said that, and didn't feel comfortable letting him loose in my newly remodeled kitchen. So I'll just have to go shopping for mouse traps while I wonder where I've gone wrong.

Is it the fact that I've taught the cats they must not touch the newborn chicks that are in the cages in the basement each spring? Or has it to do with the fact I have brought home newborn piglets and placed them in a box in the kitchen to bottle feed? Maybe the cats just think any creature in the house must not be touched and belongs until I remove it. Then how do I tell the cats that the mouse does not belong in the house? I've verbally instructed them to, "Get the mouse." That always worked with our cat, Buttercup, but she's long dead and my Doctor Doolittle skills are obviously rusty. So I call upon you, oh wise and great new blog friends, - tell me - where have I gone wrong?