Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Rainy Day

I have to wait until my ricotta curd is done draining before I can go to bed, which is about 20 more minutes, so, I thought I'd jot down a few notes about my day.  I don't normally stay up past 10:30, but, for cheese making I will stay up late and have on many occasions. 

At this time I'm milking three does, and we're getting about 2 gallons per day of the most delicious milk, and that's with separating the older kids at night and turning them loose with their mom's after the morning milking.  Starting tomorrow Joon's kids along with Jersey's son Dublin are all getting weaned. You can imagine after two or three days when I have 5 or 6  gallons of milk, that I'm making dairy products, well, I surely am.  Tonight I made mozzarella, and the last two times I've been learning to make feta, then I rotate in cottage cheese.  I'm also making chevre, buttermilk, and yogurt regularly.   My feta is curing for several weeks in a salty brine, and I have been having fun learning to use chevre.  Soon I want to make my first chevre cheesecake.

We finally ordered the long awaited cream separator a couple days ago so we can make butter, ice cream, sour cream, whipped cream, triple cream, and whatever else we can think of to make with cream.  It's the Manual Milky Cream Separator from Hoegger goat supply.  I plan on doing a review of how it works and how I like it when it arrives.

Today it rained, then it misted, then it was simply overcast.  I had fun peaking in on the rabbits as they were kindling.  Serendipity had 8 kits this morning and Star (a new Champagne d' Argent doe) had 3kits.  I fostered two onto her from Serendipity's since that will even up the numbers a little more, with Star raising 5 rather than just three, and Serendipity raising 6.  The Champagnes are black at birth and the American Chinchilla's are silver, so I can tell the differnce in kits. We just separated the 8 week old kits into a large hutch, and now they're for sale.  I have someone coming tomorrow to pick up a doeling.  Our nest boxes are full, Zelpha kindled with 8 kits a couple weeks ago, and now we are rapidly trying to sell before the next batch needs to be put in the larger grow out hutch.  I've been making sure that all the rabbits have plenty of fresh greens twice a day, it doesn't take long to pick a big armful or dandelion, clover, and grass for them,  I also feed them rabbit pellets and grass hay.   I've also been picking huge armloads of salmonberry bush leaves to take to the goats, this is their favorite treat when they see me coming.

We've been cooking with rabbit meat regularly, mostly the same way I use chicken, this afternoon I made a rabbit salad, just like I make chicken salad.  I baked and cooled the rabbit meat, then deboned it, and diced the meat.  I used the bones to make a stock and added carrots, onions, and celery.  The rabbit salad is made with celery, onions, dill, parsley, and mayonnaise.  It's wonderfully simple and tasty to eat by itself or in a sandwich.

Out in the hen house the girls are laying and hatching out eggs.  Henrietta hatched out 3 hardy chicks that she's running around with, and another hen, a Black Alstrolorp has also hatched out 3 chicks.  Much to my amazement in the last two days I now have 3 more hens who have gone broody and want to be mother's.  I will let them, and this year we won't need to order any meat chickens.  In the Fall, we'll pick a dozen hens and one rooster that we'll keep, and then with the extras we'll fill our freezer.  I don't want to go through this winter with more than a dozen hens.  I learned my lesson last winter with 28,  I don't mind swelling in the Spring and Summer but come Fall I want to be down to the bare minimum to feed through the winter!

Normally, on dry or sunny days I'm outside working in the garden, and on these kind of rainy days I clean house, make yummy things in the kitchen, and enjoy creating things.  This afternoon I made a chocolate bundt cake to have after dinner for dessert, I also made a salad and boiled eggs for snacking on, and worked on the first stage of the soup we'll have tomorrow, by making the stock today.  I made lot's of dishes and washed lot's of dishes today. 

This evening I made mozzarella and now with the whey I'm making ricotta.  Lately on rainy days I've been studying cheese making through library books and on various web sites.  I've been looking at cheese cave ideas, and what I need to be able to age the cheeses properly.  I've been making my lists of what we need to do, and will be adding links to my favorite sites on the side bar soon.  We were going to buy a cheese press, but have now decided to make one and are we're reviewing various plans.   Once I can press and age cheeses, there will be lots of fun making the hard aged cheeses, along with the brie's and camembert's. 

With all the rain we've been having, I've been making sure the honeybees have sugar syrup to feed on, they ran out yesterday, so this morning I made them some more.  I peeked inside each hive and see I need to add a few more frames to fill the deep hive boxes.  I only have 7 frames, rather than the normal 9 or 10, that  I will have on. 

I also thought about my Grandpa throughout the day today.  My family had his funeral down in California this morning, and I couldn't make it due to all the animal commitments.  I have many good memories of him with our family when we were little.  I remember his wonderful garden as a child and him picking watermelon's and cantaloupes for us to eat. He used to play dominoes with me, and at times I'd watch him work on his old clocks in his clock shop.  He taught my Dad how to work on old clocks too.  Last week he passed away at 88 years old.  On my birthday this year he called to wish me a happy birthday and we chatted about his younger years when his family farmed and gardened.  He talked about his life and so many of the good memories, the call was a gift to me that I will cherish.  He is the last of my grandparents to go and the end of an era with both him and my Grandma now gone.  He will be missed by our whole family.

I've gone on much longer than I intended and now realize I haven't even talked about the garden yet.  I'll have to write about it another time.  In short, it's growing right along with the weeds.  The cold frame is full and waiting for the next nice day to plant out the warm season starts.  I think sun is in the forecast for this weekend.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Orchard and Honeybees in May

The bees arrived this year on May 1st, I went down to pick up the 2 packages I had ordered from Beez Neez Apiary the first thing in the morning, so I could install them by the early afternoon.  They arrived just as the cherry tree and plum trees started blooming, then over the next two weeks all of our fruit trees bloomed, the pear, apple, crab apple, asian pear, and quince.  The honeybees are the heartbeat of my vegetable garden and small orchard, we have about 30 adult fruit trees, 15 young fruit trees, and many small baby fruit trees.


My Spring walks about the orchard were filled with the delicious smell of fruit blossoms, it carried through the air for many glorious days.  The first couple weeks of May we had the most amazing weather, it was warm with temperatures more like the middle of summer, it was in the 70's and 80's with warm evenings.  My days were spent tending the animals, but the major focus was on amending the vegetable garden soil and planting seed.
Shiro plum tree in bloom, early May

 3lb package of bees

This is a picture right after I installed the 3lb. box of honeybees with a queen.  I waited until the next day to release the queen, and set them up initially with one deep hive box for 10 days, then when I checked them after 10 days it was time to install the second deep hive box.  Now that we're into the third week of May and it's cold and rainy, I'm making sure they have sugar syrup on at all times if it's not flying weather.  New hives without established food reserves can starve in the NW in late May and early June.  If you ever have any dead bees on the entrance you should suspect starvation and put sugar syrup on asap, or you could lose some or all of your new colony.  I know about this from first hand experience, so now I'm diligent about feeding them.  The other thing I made a commitment to do is to check the hives and frames once every week to ten days.  This is to catch them before they need more room, as well as to check for them making queen cells, which must be removed and more space given.  I also want to keep the frames clean, so I'm able to manipulate them.  I check for newly laid eggs to make sure the queen is still laying.  I look at the overall laying pattern and see the pollen reserves and honey reserves.  Being a successful beekeeper means you fuss over your bees faithfully, this will prevent swarms, and keep them alive so they can gather honey and pollen to feed and raise their young, that will in turn give you more workers who will gather more than enough honey for a bountiful harvest.

My first check of  the bees, they were doing a fantastic job on each frame, eggs, larvae, pollen and honey.  I didn't have to feed any sugar syrup the first couple of weeks because of the beautiful weather and abundance of blossoms. I could see them flying in with pollen sacs full and could tell there was a nectar flow going on just by watching the hives. 
During my first check I noticed they had formed some burr comb honey where they weren't suppose to, it was in a spot that I had to remove to be able to manipulate the frames properly.  I ran into the house and got a bowl to save it because they were capping  honey on the comb.  We have been enjoying a special early season honey treat made from dandelion, fruit, and maple blooms, the flavor is out of this world, and is one of the rich rewards of keeping honeybees.  Your own blossom and terroir in an edible form... honey!

Asian pear trees in bloom, early May

Snowdrop has Two Doelings

In a textbook delivery on Sunday, Snowdrop delivered two beautiful doelings.  I was able to be there with her through the whole thing and give her love and support.  It was warm and sunny outside and she had a fairly quick labor and delivery, which made it nice.  Snowdrop is a wonderful little mother, and her doelings are the most adorable tiny little girls.  That's Danny peeking in to greet them, he went to his new home yesterday.