We’ve been in the triple digits most of this week. Despite the hot, dry conditions, the firefighters managed to get our massive wildfire 95% contained by Thursday. In the end, they ended up losing 20 homes and a lot of outbuildings (one of the kids kept referring to them as “outhouses”), but it could have been SO much worse than that. We are very grateful for the work of the firefighters and the blessings of God on their labors. We are still praying for the elusive 100% containment, but there is now an even more massive fire in another county that is requiring whatever resources can be spared. We pray for their success and safety there as well.
We have gotten to the point in the dairy year when the phrase “no use crying over spilled milk” was likely coined. The initial excitement and enthusiasm over fresh milk has waned a bit and, now that we’ve filled all the available freezer space and eaten custard about a dozen times, we must wage battle with the steady flow (1.25 gallons daily, give or take) a bit more creatively. I swore I would not make cheese this year as it is too involved for a baby year, but I think that’s where we’re going to have to go unless we just start feeding milk to the chickens. I made a simple cheese this week (heat, vinegar, strain, hang) which was fine, except that it set up much firmer than I expected so I couldn’t add the salt at the end so it’s a little bland. I also made my first batch of butter ever, which I oversalted and which might possibly still contain an unacceptable amount of buttermilk. I think that the house was really too warm for butter-making, as it got stiff, started to separate and clump but then went soft again. I really need to read a good book to understand both the vocabulary and the science behind all this. It appears that owning goats is going to mean making cheese and butter and I currently feel like I’m shooting in the dark. I don’t mind failing sometimes, it seems to hand-in-hand with all this, but I don’t even know enough to figure out what I’m supposed to learn from my mistakes. Thus, it is time to find a good book….
I have been pouring our excess whey on the blueberry bushes and they have started to grow again, even in this ridiculous heat! I figured the acidity would be a good match and they are also conveniently located on the front porch so I can do it myself without having to grab someone to watch Joseph. They got the cheesy whey, the bland stuff that came off the “Au Revoir” and half of the gallon I had left after I made the vinegar-precipitated cheese and had unsuccessfully tried to make ricotta from the whey. It was still really milky, but I couldn’t get the last of it out (despite more heat and more vinegar), so I gave up, diluted half of it to give to my much-more-lively blueberries and tried to come up with something we could drink out of the rest of it. We started making whey “lemonade” from yogurt whey last year. Adding a little sweetener makes it taste very similar to lemonade, even if the smell took a little getting used to, and it’s grown on everyone. This whey was not very tangy, but was great once I added a little vanilla. The kids thought “Milky Whey” had a nice ring to it.
I vastly underestimated how much space this many birds would need at this point in their lives. They can still walk around a bit, but they sure don’t have much space. Elijah is still working on getting the grazing pen set up as a brooder and I am hoping that will work well and protect them as they need to be at this point. We are still so short on man-hours around here. I am trying to do as much as I can in the kitchen—barely keeping up with the parallel floods of fruit and milk that we have been blessed with, while trying to hack away at the last year’s build-up of mess and disorder—but I am hugely limited by a baby that doesn’t nap well and my persistent flimsiness. Sometimes we will talk over things we’d like to grow, raise, or try out but we always have to reality-check. I listened to a homesteading/farming podcast recently in which the interviewee advised a couple of times “do less, but do it better”. There’s something to be said for that from multiple angles, not the least of which is the emotional wear and tear of seeing one’s work not being all that it could be. It is hard sometimes determining the appropriate balance of being anxiously engaged in a good cause and not running faster than one has strength. Anyhow, I am hoping that the chicks survive ok until we can get them a truly adequate shelter and that future generations of meat birds will recognize the sacrifices and deprivations of their pioneer fore-chickens. And on the positive side, we are pleased with their speedy growth rate and hope it portends well for their use as a dual-purpose bird.
A couple more things:
It looks like we should be able to grow sugarcane here! I’ll have to look into what the processing is like, but that might be one approach to coming up with a homegrown sweetener. Plants are ridiculously expensive, but, apparently, if you get a relatively fresh piece of sugarcane, you can sprout it. Maybe we could try it out as a potted plant?
Carob trees are quick-growing and fire-resistant. Perhaps we could plant some along with the citrus on the South side of the house and get shade a little quicker. Citrus are notoriously slow growers.
I need unbreakable clothespins…
This video was pretty nifty. At his rate all our haying work minus the cutting and baling should only take us about 20 minutes! Oh, if only.
UPDATE: Now that I am finally getting around to finishing and posting this, they have gotten the fire 100% contained!