Monday, November 29, 2010

Getting the cream out of goats milk without a cream separator

I love cream and use it regularly in my cooking.  Getting  cream from the goats milk isn't as easy as it is from cow's milk.    You can us a cream separator but they are expensive; upwards of $400.   Much more than I want to spend although I have considered it at times.   Reading further about them though made it seem as if the clean up is probably more trouble than it's worth.

This is what I do.   If you are a purist about your milk you may not want to do this but for me it works.   As I said in an earlier post, I pasteurize my milk for yogurt.  Drinking milk is used raw.   So when I want goats cream I try to combine chores yogurt making and cream separating and pasteurize that milk.   I then let it sit for about 4 or 5 days.   The jar in the picture had been sitting in the fridge for 5 days.  You can see clearly the place where the cream and the milk has separated.  

I then skim it off the top with a spoon that's been bent to fit inside the mouth of my jar.  Of course you can save the milk and skim it 5 days later without pasteurizing it first but most people think by then the milk has acquired a "bucky" flavor not suitable for things like whipped cream.   It will still work in savory recipes though.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

New steps for the front porch

Finally got a picture today of the new landing steps I finished earlier this week.  Nice to strike one thing off the to-do list.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Gratitude List

I'm grateful for all the people in my life.
I'm grateful to have a warm home with a full freezer and cupboards.
I'm grateful I'm able to live the life I have chosen in a country that supports my freedoms and rights.
I'm grateful for the occasional adversity because it makes me stronger and also allows me to see how blessed my life really is and has been.
I'm grateful I no longer feel the need for the trappings that were so alluring when I was younger.
I'm grateful that as I've gotten older I've learned to listen to and trust myself and my decisions.
I am grateful I've had a better life than my parents had and my children can have a better life than I've had.
I'm grateful for this holiday that gives me the opportunity to slow down  from my busy life of homesteading long enough to reflect on how much I truly have to be thankful for each and every day of the year.

I wish all of you the very happiest of Thanksgiving's and thank you for each and all of your visits here.  They keep me coming back.


Poll results for 11/25/10

I am:

Homesteading in the country 5   (55%)
Homesteading in an urban area 1   (11%)
Not homesteading yet but planning on it 3   (33%)
Not planning on homesteading but like to read about others doing it 0   (0%)

Votes:  9


Monday, November 22, 2010

Electric Fencing

  This was from day one of electric fence shopping.  I had started at Southern States as I needed hay and theirs is the best for small quantities.  The sales man, after listening to me tell him what I was trying to accomplish thought a solar unit would fit the bill with 3 8' ground rods and lots of various insulators.  He thought the poly twine rather than wire would be a good choice.  I bought it all.
Next I went to Tractor Supply because I needed to get sweet feed for the goats and pig food and I usually get it there. A sales guy came over as I was looking over their electric fence supplies and as we talked he suggested I get the thin poly tape because it would be more visible.  I, being totally befuddled by all of it at that point, agreed and bought 2 rolls of tape.   I then bought 20 black poly step in posts to use as line posts between t posts.  And I bought a tester,  more insulators, splicing and coupling pieces, parts to make a gate and a spool of wire.

I read the literature that came with th fence charger that night and then got online and talked to more knowledgeable pig people than myself about the charger I had chosen.  I was concerned there would be too much juice for the pigs and not enough for the goats and since I wanted to be able to use the same charger for both I wanted to make sure I had made a good choice.  Mostly the consensus was that solar wasn't reliable enough for what I wanted.  I would lose a lot of charge with tape and poly twine and it may not be strong enough. Evidently solar loses juice fast and would really be better for a simple short fence

The next day I had to go to Richmond so I stopped at Tractor Supply again bought a plug in 6 joule 100 mile model.... for my little 3 acres...Yikes!  

It really sounds like a lot and maybe it is but the more I learn about electric fences the more I think I will like this charger and that it's the right model for what I want.  I learned you can make many small area's of fencing plus do an entire perimeter and also run just one wire or two low wires like at nose level for the pigs or high like at nose level for a goat in hard fenced pens and do it all with one charger if you get the right one and plan it out.   And it's pretty portable compared to woven wire with it's many deeply driven wooden posts. 

I also stopped at Southern States again while in Richmond to get some white step in posts.  I had  looked through the Premier 1 fencing catalog and decided to get some for area's close to the house because I liked the aesthetics's of the white posts with the white tape and white poly twine.   Premier catalog is great with all the pictures in it for helping with design and to see how all the various parts should come together.

This is the charger I'm keeping.  I am going to build it a little box to hang it in made from exterior grade plywood.  I'll then hang the box in the greenhouse which will be right in the area where the fence will start. 

So, since I wanted the charger in the greenhouse I decided I needed  to get the bracing up and the ends on it first.  It was dusk by this time so the pictures aren't great but I got 2  - 2 x 4's screwed together and placed above the door in the front and the back running the whole length of it to brace the top to handle a good snow load in the winter.  It made it very tight and solid.   There is very little shake in it. 

Tomorrow I'll get the rest of the framing on it and then I can cover the ends, make doors and hang my charger.


Art Day - Just for fun

Colored pencil drawing

A few years ago I took Malia to a fiber class at a local farm for homeschooled kids.  They had goats and sheep and taught the kids about animal care as well as how to process wool, card, etc.    While I was waiting for her I took pictures and visited the animals through the fences.    I loved the guy below.  This little class was so enjoyed by both of us we decided to get our first goats. Over the past few years I've occasionally pulled out those pictures and done drawings from them just for fun and relaxation. Thought I'ld  share this one.  I would love to have one of these guys just as a subject to draw.  I find their horns so fascinating.



Friday, November 19, 2010

Got milk?

When we got our first goat, a Nigerian dwarf doe with her 4 day old doeling, I wasn't thinking too much about what to actually do with the milk.  I had dreams of making cheeses and yogurts and having fresh drinking milk of course but I hadn't given too much thought to how to treat the fresh milk right from the animal.  How to strain it, should I pasteurize it, what special equipment did I need, how to cool it etc. I was more concerned with how to get the milk out of her at that point.   She fought me about being milked, she didn't seem to have much and what she had didn't taste good.  In reality, I didn't know what I was doing.  It was a steep learning curve.  I had never had any kind of livestock before and I was learning about fences, hay, grain, shelters, predators, parasites and the list went on.

None the less I loved having a goat.   I did want more milk than the mere cup or two I was getting though so within a month with a little help from some kind person on the Internet dairy goat group I was on I found a French Alpine in milk for sale locally.   I went from a pittance to over a gallon a day.  At that point I got earnest about milk.

So here is what I wish someone had shared with me that first year of milking.  This is all my opinion only.  I'm sure every dairy goat owner has their own list as well as their own opinions but here is mine.

How to take care of fresh goats milk

Don't expect to be able to drink your milk right away when your goat first kids.  It doesn't taste good for a few weeks.  Initially it's the colostrum and then slowly it becomes something more palatable to humans.  We try ours about 3 weeks in and if it's still not great we give it another week. 

How you treat your milk will  be a big factor in taste and how safe your milk is to drink after that first few weeks.  Cleaning off your doe correctly prior to milking is a good start for both your sake.  I use baby wipes both before and after milking. I also use Fight Bac after to help seal up the teat.  

I milk into a stainless steel container.  I pay attention to the first few squirts from each teat, checking for off color or anything else unusual in it.   I used my Kitchen Aid mixer bowl at first but finally broke down and got a real milking bucket with a lid.  The lid is nice for when your done milking but still need to do one or two things before you take the milk in.  That said, the sooner you get your milk in the house the better.   
Next you'll need to strain your milk. Straining your milk will get out any hairs or anything else that may have inadvertently gotten into it outside.  You can buy items from Hoeggers specifically for this or you can use things you may already have on hand.  I store my milk in 1/2 gallon ball jars I get from Ace Hardware (they'll order them for you if they don't have them on hand) so I like to strain right into them.  

I use a wide mouth stainless steel funnel for canning with a small stainless steel strainer with the handle removed inside it to strain my milk right into the ball jars.  I use a coffee filter inside the strainer but some people use clean hankies or pieces of sheet cut up dedicated for this purpose only.  I like the convenience  of coffee filters and they are pretty inexpensive.  When done I use the white plastic lids made by ball to cap the jars.  Because I don't usually pasteurize my milk I date it.  I put a small piece of clear duct tape on my lids to write on with a sharpie.  

To pasteurize or not to pasteurize ....that is the question.

Raw milk is a controversial topic to be sure and there are very strict laws about it.  Because there are  those laws we know there is a reason to be careful about it.  Being careful about our milk is a good thing.  Being paranoid, in my opinion is not.   The one thing I was actually concerned with when I bought my first goat in terms of the milk was if it was safe to drink without it being pasteurized first.  I had a few weeks before she came home, while I was waiting for her to freshen, to mull this over and do a bit of research on the subject. 

Depending on which side of the fence you sat, raw milk was either a gift from the gods or something that would, or at least could,  make you very very sick.   I read as much as I could about the dangers of raw milk and hygiene seem to be a huge factor in whether or not it was safe to drink it raw.  If your clean about your self, about your goats udders, about the utensils you use (hence the reason for so much stainless steel),  about cooling your milk down rapidly after straining etc. then you are probably going to be fine.  The other big factor was whether or not your goats are healthy.  If you bought healthy goats from a reputable breeder, you are probably going to be fine.  My Alpines have been purchased from reputable herds that sell their goat cheese.  Was that a guarantee their milk couldn't make me sick?  No, but the odds are pretty darn good.  I didn't feel as confident about my Nigerian goat but soon after getting her I had her tested for TB which is a free test in Virginia for goats.  She too was clean.  

A bit of common sense went a long way here too.   People drank milk for eons without pasteurization and the majority of them were fine. And of the ones that did get sick poor hygiene was most likely a factor in the majority of those cases.  Sick or diseased animals was on the short list. And even there,  if your buying healthy animals from like minded people that are drinking their own milk raw, the odds are pretty minuscule of you getting sick if your being clean about your milk practices.  And if there is a question about your animals health have them tested.    This was my process for me  in making this decision.   I would say to anyone else pondering this question, do your research and look at all the factors in your situation and in your animals and within yourself.  If your going to be uncomfortable drinking it raw don't do it.  It's too much work to not enjoy the fruits of your labor to the fullest.

So when do I pasteurize?  I do for yogurt making because of the long incubation time at elevated temperatures although I am reading that it is not necessary here either.  Still, I'm not ready to give it a try yet.   I also pasteurize in the summer if I start having problems with my soft goat cheeses.    It rarely happens  now that I have a reliable recipe that works for me consistently.  On the few occasions it has I have problems pasteurizing has helped.  

The other difference pasteurizing makes is your milk will last longer for drinking.   This is why I date my milk.  Although goats milk lasts quite some time in the fridge it does begin to acquire a taste most people describe as "bucky" after just a few days in the fridge.  I just use that older milk for making cheeses and in recipes saving  the freshest for drinking.  Dating it helps me rotate it more efficiently in the fridge in those times milk quantity gets ahead of my time to do something with it.  

So here, milk gets cooled right after straining.   The faster you cool it the longer it will last in the fridge both for drinking and for cheese making.   Initially I would put the container in the freezer for 1/2 to 3/4 of an hour to cool it down but I learned putting the jar into a container of very cold or icy water brings the temperature down faster.   I will give it a stir 1/2 way through to get the warm milk in the center of the jar out to the sides and in contact with the glass to help it cool faster if convenient.   I've also not had time to do that and just put the whole thing in the fridge when done straining.    

Happy milking.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Clicker Training a Goat

I love clicker training.  I use it to train all my dogs and puppies.  It's an amazing tool, but I have to admit I've never considered using it to train my goats.   At least not until I saw this video.  

Hang in there with this video until 2 min.  If you've ever trained a dog you'll appreciate this.

I've had such amazing success with dogs using a  clicker that I don't have to be sold on it's value as a training tool.  It's what they use at places like Sea World to train the marine animals and was introduced to dog trainers by a  former Sea World trainer, Karen Pryor.   She has a number of books out on the subject and I've seen her speak at an Association of Pet Dog Trainers conference.   Most dog trainers are using clicker or some variation of positive reinforcement training  methods these days and I've heard it said a good dog trainer should be able to train another species other than dogs using clicker if their worth their salt.   But it just never entered my mind to try training the goats.

I can see this being a great tool to teach proper milk stand behavior or to teach a young goat to walk on  lead.   With puppies, they get it so quickly.  I would imagine it would be the same with a kid.  They're like little sponges.  I've wanted to do some packing with my goats and this could be a wonderful tool for that as well.  

I can't wait to try it.   So what did you think?


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Favorite things - Diffuser

With goats I find I am constantly heating milk.   I heat it to pasteurize for yogurt only but most cheeses require milk to be heated as well.   I have very large stainless steel pots with heavy bottoms for larger batches of cheese but for smaller amounts I love my smaller Pyrex pot but the glass bottom requires me to use very low heat or stir constantly so as not to scorch the milk.   I found a diffuser a couple of years ago that makes heating milk and many other things that easily stick to the bottom of a pan so much easier.   I find I use it for all kinds of things now 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Boy Goats

Meet Dill - the visiting beau for the girls

If you've been reading awhile you'll remember that Dill came last year too.   We nicknamed him Elvis last year because of the patch of curly hair he has just above his eyes.  It's not really visible in this picture though.  This will be Dill's last visit here.  I made the difficult decision to purchase our own buck and after much shopping around and reviewing pedigree's etc. I mailed off my deposit on a buck to be born next spring.   He'll be a purebred French Alpine and now that I've made the leap I'll be anxious to meet him next spring.  The dam is due 3/12  and should she not produce a buck we've chosen another doe in hopes she will have a buck.   It's possible of course neither will have a buck but not likely.   I chose to get a buck from Munchin Hill in West Virgina.   It's where Passion came from too.   

Getting a buck with only a couple of does is not what most people choose to do but for me I think it's the right decision.   Both my does are French Alpines and finding a buck to breed them to in the fall has been difficult.  The first year I had both Nigerian Dwarf goats and Tina, my alpine.   I ended up breeding Tina to a Nigerian which produces kids elegible to be registered as miniature alpines with the The Miniature Goat Association.  But little goats are hard for me to milk so I didn't keep the kids.  Then last year I found Dill and his owner was happy to let him come visit for a month.    He didn't get Passion pregnant but Tina gave us 2 kids in May.  This year he's managed to get both girls pregnant I think.  Time will tell.  I'll watch to see if they cycle into heat again later this month.   Since he's not a purebred but an American Alpine the kids won't  be registered as French which was ok.  At this point I was just grateful to have the girls bred.  

 Full sized does of any breed only come into heat in the fall and if not bred then they will be dry the next year unless you decide to milk them through till the following year. Not all does are able to do this though and even if they can it commits you to milking twice every day rain or shine, hot or cold, sick or well, busy or not. We've dried our girls off in the winter and it's a nice break.

I don't want to have to go through this each year..... the search for a buck.   Even with my veterinarian's help we've not been able to locate a French buck for the girls to breed.    I did find one person on Craigslist but she wasn't willing to test her recently purchased buck for the diseases commonly tested for before purchasing a new goat or breeding goats.   My girls have been tested and are healthy and I'm not willing to chance their health by breeding them to a goat that is untested from a farm I know nothing about.  

So next year will be our first year with a resident buck.   Hmmmm.   I think I need to make a list of all the reasons I am doing this.   Not tonight though. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How to get kids to eat turnips

Tell them no, they can not pick them.   They are planted for the goats and the pigs.

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