Tuesday, April 28, 2009

New cow: Tilly the Jersey

Last Wednesday I bought another milk cow. We really like the milk that we get from Josey (our Guernsey). It’s so versatile: milk and cream from which to make yogurt, cheese, and butter. You can’t skim the cream off the top of goat’s milk as easily. Also, cows were created to eat grass; goats do better with brush. On top of that, I’ve never met a goat who would respect a single electric fence wire as a boundary they are not to cross. Josey and Chucky will not touch an electric fence wire if they can help it, whether the charger is on or not.

Anyway, we discussed getting another cow, and we liked the idea of a Jersey. I did a search online for Jersey heifers for sale in Kentucky. I found a listing for someone selling some only 40 miles away. I thought about it some more and then called the number from the listing. I ended up going over the next morning at milking time to see the cows they had for sale. I came home with one.

TillyHer name is Shantilly, or Tilly for short. She’s a blond Jersey about 4.5 years old. She’s currently milking and was with the bull about six weeks ago. Hopefully, she’s pregnant. We’ll find out.

She’s doing well and getting adjusted to life in her new home. She’s not as used to attention as Josey, and she’s not been broken to lead. I’ll work on that and teach her what an electric fence is. She is very gentle and behaves very well while being milked. Her teats are a bit smaller than Josey’s which takes some getting used to, but she milks easily enough.

Hopefully, she’ll provide us with a nice little Jersey heifer next year. If all goes well, Josey, who visited a friend’s Jersey bull a few weeks ago, will deliver a nice Juernsey heifer about the same time. If so, we’ll have more milk than we know what to do with early next year.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A hole full of water

I want to move Josey and Chucky Joe (the cows) out on grass on an area away from the barn. It’s easy enough to make paddocks for them with electric fence. Neither one of them wants to mess with an electric fence wire. There is one difficulty with moving them any distance from the barn: water. They both appreciate being able to drink during the day and night. Near the barn I have a hand pump on a shallow well from which I carry buckets of water to them. There is no readily available and easily accessible water near the area I want to pasture them. I do not desire to carry 20 gallons of water in five-gallon buckets 1,200 feet from the pump every day. So, what to do?

One idea I had was to try driving a well point somewhere in the vicinity. So, yesterday afternoon I drove the backhoe I’ve borrowed for working on the root cellar on the new house down near the pasturing area in order to dig down a ways before trying to drive the well point. I dug down about seven feet but had to stop at that depth. I hit solid rock. I didn’t fill the hole back in because there was water running into it about three feet down. Of course, we just received rain the last couple of days and it’s spring, so the ground is kind of wet.

This morning I checked on the hole. There was six feet of water in it. It would be nice if I could count on four or five feet of water in it during the course of the year, but I would be surprised if that would be the case. During the summer when the rains are less frequent, I expect the water level to drop significantly, leaving an empty, dry hole.

This evening I scooped out most of the water with the backhoe to see if the hole will fill up again tonight. There was water running back into it before I left. But, the ground is still wet, so I don’t know if any of this will really tell me anything. I expect I’ll be filling it back in soon.

I would like to solve the problem about how to easily water my animals in that location. I’ll keep pondering. For this summer, I’ll probably end up hauling water in a 325 gallon tote. Hopefully, I can harvest water off of the barn roof rather than use chlorinated water from the tap.

A springtime walk (video)

Late this afternoon, the clouds moved out for a while and the sun shone. So, before doing my evening chores, I took a walk (accompanied by two younguns) and shot some video.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Making sour cream and cream cheese

My mom is going to make a couple of cheesecakes for the coming weekend. We didn’t really want to use commercially processed cream cheese or sour cream. There’s so much nonsense put in those things that, although they may taste good, they can’t be very good for you. I prefer to not ingest such things as stabilizers E410 and E407. So, I searched online how to make our own.

Making sour cream was the first thing, and it turned out to be very easy. We regularly make yogurt from our fresh cow’s milk. I put several tablespoons of live culture yogurt in a jar, add warm whole milk (still warm from the cow), shake it all together, and put in our homemade yogurt maker for several hours. (The yogurt maker consists of an ice chest with a light fixture attached to the inside of the lid which is wired to a water heater thermostat.) It’s good stuff.

Sour cream is made in very much the same way. I take a quart of cream that I previously skimmed from off the top of cooled milk, add four tablespoons of yogurt, and set it in the yogurt maker overnight. In the morning, I put it in the fridge to cool. It makes a very good sour cream. Being cultured, it’s also good for you. By the way, we don’t pasteurize our milk – our cow is healthy and pasteurization kills good things like enzymes that are important and good for us.

Cream cheese takes a little more time, but it’s also easy. I start with one gallon of fresh warm milk that’s just been strained. I add 1/8 teaspoon of Mesophilic-M starter (ordered from Leeners) and one drop of vegetable rennet. Stir this all together and set the milk on top of the refrigerator overnight.

curd in cloth to drain off wheycream cheese still in the wheyAround 10:30 in the morning, I pour the now thickened and good-smelling milk into a cloth in a colander. We collect the whey as it’s good to use in baking and other things (the live cultures draining wheyit contains are good for you). I tie up the curd which is in the cloth and hang it in a jar or pitcher so that the whey can continue to drain off. After about 9 hours, the cream cheese is ready. One gallon of milk makes a pound of cream cheese.

We’ll see later this week how the cheesecake turns out. I expect it will be excellent!

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