Using Goat Milk

On our small hobby farm we have two milking goats, Nora and Fauna. When we first started our small herd we did not realize how much milk one little goat can produce. Nora is our best milker and in the summer she will produce roughly a gallon of milk a day. If we are milking both goats that is 2 gallons a day which turns out to be about 12-14 gallons of raw milk a week. What in the world do I do with all that milk?

A few ways to use goat milk:

  1. Drink It- If I were a good homesteader I would drink the goat milk but to be honest I don’t like the taste. When I milk hot, sweaty goats I smell hot sweaty goats. Cooling the milk fast helps to mellow the goaty flavor but when I drink the goat milk I taste hot, sweaty goat. No, Thank You!
  2. Bake- Although I do not like to drink the goat milk I bake with it or use it to make creamy soups. The goaty flavor that I taste when I drink the milk does not transfer into other foods when I use it to bake with.
  3. Make Cheese- Making cheese is a great way to use large quantities of milk. There are many different types of goat milk cheeses that are absolutely delicious. My favorite is a spreadable cheese that is delicious on crackers.
  4. Make Soap- I can make a large amount of soap with only a little goat’s milk so making soap does not use up great quantities of goat milk but it is one of the nicest benefits to keeping goats.
  5. Freeze it For Later- There are some days in the summer where it is too hot to make cheese or I’m too tired at the end of the day so I freeze the milk for a later day. The milk will stay good in my freezer for about a year which gives me time to process it or sell it to other soap makers.
  6. Feed it to the Pigs- This may sound wasteful but it really isn’t. The goat milk helps my pigs put on weight faster and saves me a little on the cost of feed. I make sure I raise pigs at the same time I am milking goats because occasionally a goat will put her foot in the bucket and I don’t want to waste the milk. Also the pigs love whey which is a byproduct of making cheese.
Fiona adding dandelions to Nora’s collar

Milk Sharing

Milk sharing is when you separate the goat kids from their mother, usually overnight, and milk once a day while the kids nurse the other portion of the day. Last year Penelope was a newborn and it was the first time I tried milk sharing. I loved having the option to only milk once a day. Usually we wean kids off in the early summer and sell them in June but last year we shared milk with Fauna’s kid and sold her in the fall. I was worried we would get a lower price for her because we were selling her out of season but the price we received for her was competitive with previous years.

This year we are milking more regularly with Nora. She had two bucklings and we are getting ready to sell them so they will need to be fully weaned before they can go to new homes. She is being milked twice a day now and we have a nice amount of milk coming in without it being overwhelming.

Our other nanny had triplets, two does and one buck. We are milk sharing with her because my aunt is planning to buy her doe kids in the fall. Her kids are three weeks younger than Nora’s so we have just begun milk sharing with her. Soon we will wean off her little buckling and continue milk sharing with the two does. Milk sharing will help her kids grow bigger through the summer than they would on just a grass diet and it will bring our influx of milk down to a manageable amount.

Milk, Milk, and More Milk!

I have been milking goats, making cheese, baking, and freezing milk for the last few weeks and will continue to do so for the rest of the summer!

Enjoy a Little Spreadable Cheese

1/2 gallon goat milk warmed to room temperature

1/2 cup lemon juice

Salt

Warm the goat milk to room temperature and add lemon juice. Stir until curd forms and whey starts to turn yellowish. Strain through cheesecloth or butter muslin. Transfer the cheese to a bowl and add salt to taste. If the cheese seems too dry add a bit of goat’s milk until it is the desired consistency. I like to add fresh chopped chives and sweet basil to my cheese spread. Keep refrigerated.

Into the Gardens

The gardens are finally growing nicely and even though our growing season is just getting started we have been busy. This year we have two small vegetable gardens, one pumpkin/squash patch, an herb garden, and a new wildflower patch. The goal for this year is to do better with the gardens. Last year we let the gardens slide a bit but this year we have really been working to keep up with them.

Vegetable Gardens

This year we rotated the majority of our vegetables from our large garden to two smaller, newer gardens. Instead of planting widely spaced rows for the rototiller to go down we planted shorter narrower rows. My goal is to keep the weeds down without having to entirely break the soil up. I was also going to mulch the garden but I’ve been able to keep up with the weeds by just hoeing the rows on a more regular basis. I have found it is easier to manage when the rows are shorter and the gardens are smaller.

The biggest drawback to closer rows is that it is harder for the kids to help in the garden without stepping on plants. The simplest solution I found to this problem was to give the kids the pumpkin patch as their garden. The two small vegetable gardens are mine and the pumpkin patch is theirs. This has been working out great because it is hard to damage a pumpkin plant, they are easily identifiable from the weeds, and there is plenty of room for the kids to work without trampling delicate plants.

Lucian also has a small “garden” of tomatoes that he has been taking care of. We grew our own starter plants this year and ended up with more tomatoes than I had room for. We planted our tomatoes then put some in at my mother-in-law’s and we still had half a dozen plants left over. Lucian wanted to plant them around the outside of his sand pit so he took all the extra plants into his care. I helped him put cages around them so when his cousins visit his tomatoes aren’t squished but other than that he’s been farming his own garden.

We are working to get fences up around the gardens so we can start letting the chickens out again now that our spring fox has moved on. I have three reasons for needing fencing around my small gardens.

Our new Welsh Harlequin ducks.
  1. To keep the goats out! I do not have a deer problem I have a goat problem. Goats love broccoli!
  2. To keep the chickens out. Free range chickens are nice to keep the bugs and ticks down but they will also decimate my garden if they are allowed to get into it.
  3. To keep the ducks in. Ducks will eat the slugs and potato bugs that chickens won’t. If I put the ducks in the garden for an hour or two at a time they will keep the bugs down without destroying the plants.

Herb Garden

Row of Calendula

I have been adding all kinds of plants to my herb garden this year. The new plants that I have finished putting in are calendula, lemon balm, thyme, lavender, oregano, rosemary, and basil. I am also going to move the comfrey out of my herb garden because it gets too big and falls over onto the other plants and crushes them. The bees and butterflies enjoy this plant which is good but it is right next to my deck and I’d rather Penelope not try to grab a buzzing bumble bee through the deck rails. I’m going to put it behind the garage where it will still feed the bees but won’t destroy my other plants.

The biggest challenge of my herb garden is keeping the grass out. I could mulch it which would help but I like to let the chamomile and borage reseed themselves. That way I don’t have to replant it every year I only have to weed around the new plants as they pop up in early spring.

Wildflower Patch

Fiona wanted flowers and so we planted flowers. Trenton tilled one swipe with the rototiller to break ground in the yard in front of our screen porch and Fiona and I spread a few packets of wildflower seeds. We also planted a little of everything else I had lying around. It became a patch of fresh earth to dump all the old flower seeds in. I am very surprised by how well they are growing. I have no idea what all the plants are but there are a lot of them. I weeded out the grass for the first time yesterday and got a look at all the different types. I believe it will be a beautiful flower patch in another month as long as I can keep most of the grass out of it.

First Garden Harvest

Pickled Radishes

The first plants ready to harvest in the garden are always the radishes. Since I always seem to plant more radishes than I can use fresh I decided to pickle a few to see what happens. Last year I planted white icicle radishes and experimented with pickling them. The results were not bad but they were a little weird. This year I planted regular red radishes and tried a different recipe. We’ll see how they taste but they already look much prettier than last year’s experiment.

Spring Updates

Spring is a time of change on the farm and I thought it would be good to write a little update.

Kids (The Human Kind)

Lucian finished school this last week which is nice. As the weather has gotten nicer homeschooling has gotten a little harder. We all wanted to be outside working. Although we did work on school work out on the deck a bit I found it was harder for him to concentrate because he was busy thinking about everything else he would rather be doing. Homeschooling was a fun experience and while I have a few fun enrichment activities for the next few weeks we are ready for summer break.

Fiona is my horse girl and while it makes me happy that she loves the horses, the girl has no fear. I’m afraid I’ll turn my back one day to find my 3 year old riding Jack around the pasture giggling hysterically. My darling Penelope is 15 months old already and the vast majority of my time is spent chasing her around. Since she has started walking her and Fiona have become partners in crime and if you know my eldest daughter you know that’s a scary thought.

Goats

Nora and her kids have been acting funny lately so while the vet was here to check horses I had her check on the goats too. It started with her kids frothing at the mouth and screaming like they were in pain for a few minutes. These episodes would dissipate but then a few days later they would start again. I thought it was only effecting the kids until I saw Nora foaming at the mouth a few days before the vet came out. She was not screaming in pain but she was foaming, coughing, and snorting like she was choking. We did a little research and landed on frothy bloat which the vet confirmed while she was here. She recommended we give them a goat probiotic to help line their gut and help dissipate the bloat. Frothy bloat is caused by many different things but she said it usually happens when they ingest too much clover. This started after we began feeding out new round bales so I’m guessing it was something in the different hay. The only oddity is that the other goats didn’t have a problem too since they were eating the same hay.

The kids (the goat kind) are doing well now. I had a little difficulty with Fauna’s triplets a few weeks ago. I didn’t catch that the little brown one was not getting enough to eat and was starving. I have everyone out on grass now and have been separating the kids so the little one has her own mommy time. She is doing much better and playing and running with her siblings. One of Nora’s kids is limping a little but I’m guessing he twisted something and will be perfectly fit in a few days. I made a video of them playing around in the pasture.

I have been milking every morning and have been making cheese every other day. Right now my favorite cheese is a fresh cheese that uses lemon juice to curdle the milk. It is awesome on crackers.

Chickens

I put the pullets from our Easter hatch-out in with the adult chickens this week. There was a little incident the first day where one chick tried to crawl under the fence and somehow got it’s wing stuck. We were able to wiggle her out without injuring her or cutting the fence. I am still waiting to see if our setting hen will successfully hatch out chicks or if I am going to have to toss out nasty eggs. I think she had one break under her recently because she smells pretty bad. It has been about three weeks so chicks should start hatching any day now. I’m going to give her one more week before I toss the eggs out.

Horses

The horses have been getting a workout this year. My sister Sam and her kids have been coming out at least once a week to work with horses. They are groomed, hooves cleaned, lunged, and ridden on a regular basis now which is great.

Last weekend the kids rotated working with the horses and shoveling out the lean-to. The horses did great! Melody has vastly improved and is getting desensitized from kids. She was ridden around the pasture by a handful of future horsemen and women and she was very attentive to her young riders. I rode double with the younger ones on Jack alongside Melody. My sister, Sam, has been riding out on Melody with me and Jack into the big hay field next to our property. She definitely needs the practice and it’s good for Sam too. Jack however, is getting tired of little rides and is ready to go farther out. I’m hoping by next week we can go for a while because he is getting bored and he was never very patient.

The horses had their once a year vet check last week. Melody has a little arthritis in her front left leg but it will be easily managed with exercise and a little Bute. Jack on the other hand has developed a heart murmur. He is 24 years old now and over the last two years he has started to get a little touchy with his health. The vet assured me that she has known horses to live perfectly well for years with a slight heart murmur but we are now watching him closely. We are still able to ride him but if he starts to tire easily or is lethargic he will become a pasture pony. I’m hoping we have a few more years to get out and about before that happens because I have had him for 23 years and don’t particularly want a new riding horse.

Ready to Ride

Spring has sprung which means it is time to start riding my horses again. Last year at this time Penelope was 2 months old so I didn’t really ride. I have a good support system but it was hard to go anywhere when my newborn infant refused to drink from a bottle. My horse is also not trustworthy enough to take a passenger with until he has been ridden all summer long.

Before I saddle up in the spring I work on groundwork:

brown and black leather horse saddle on white and gray animal

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

  1. Stop/Go Signals
  2. Leading
  3. Grooming/Foot Work
  4.  Lunge Line Work

Jack is 24 years old now but he still needs a short review of the basics before we get started. If I were a good horsewoman I would ride all winter but I don’t like to be cold. This means feisty springtime horses for me.

Last fall we brought home a new horse, Melody, and I didn’t have a chance to ride her before it became cold. We worked on ground work with her before the weather turned but I didn’t get out for any rides.

This year is turning out to be a good horse year. So far I have been working with horses at least twice a week and each horse has had two little rides on them. While both rides were difficult because of recalcitrant horses I still had fun.

Horse lessons with my niece have also resumed for which I am grateful. She is 9 1/2 now and has grown more confident with groundwork but more skittish with getting on the horse. I have been having her work with Melody most of the time because Melody is half her horse. Our lessons always start with groundwork and I have a general outline of what we work on for the first few lessons.

  • Lesson 1: Grooming, foot work, gate safety, and leading. During this lesson I get the horse from the pasture while she learns how to open and close the gates safely. Then she learns how to groom her horse and pick-up and clean hooves. Lastly I have her lead the horse while I walk alongside her to give pointers. While they are walking around they work on stop/go commands, turning, and maintaining correct position next to the horse.
  • Lesson 2: Haltering, grooming, footwork, gate safety, and leading. This lesson is basically the same as lesson 1 with the exception of learning how to properly catch your horse. Melody is a little hard to catch and sometimes likes to run away so it is good practice for my niece.
  • Lesson 3: Haltering, grooming, footwork, gate safety, leading, lunging, and saddling.  We repeat the basic horse care skills from lesson 1 at each lesson. Lesson 3 adds lunging which is a simple way of both establishing dominance and exercising the horse. We also went over saddling Melody to fit her to the saddle we would be using on her.
  • Lesson 4: Haltering, grooming, footwork, gate safety, leading, lunging, saddling, bridling and riding. Most lessons are a review of previously taught skills with the addition of one or two others. During this lesson my niece completed most of the skills from lesson 1 on her own. After lunging Melody we saddled her and I took her for a ride in the hay field next to our property. When we got back my niece worked on mounting. She was nervous about this part but she did it. I led Melody while my niece “rode” her . As she gained confidence I let her ride while I walked next to her offering advice. Aurora Melody

The next lessons will include more riding skills as she grows in confidence and builds muscle. It is also her job to help clean the barn where the horses have been housed all winter. I’m hoping with a little work she will gain muscle tone which will help her when getting on and off the horse.

After my ride on Jack I let each of my kids, nieces, and nephews take a little turn on him. Jack is a temperamental Appaloosa who thinks he is still a stallion but he is GREAT with kids while Melody is skittish and has a proclivity to bolt. At our last horse lesson my nephew was a bit put out because he wanted to ride Melody but I wouldn’t let him. While he likes the horses and will occasionally brush them or take a little ride on Jack he hasn’t shown an interest in being involved with the lessons. He would rather play on the trampoline or on the hammocks which is perfectly fine but if he wants to go for an actual ride he needs to do the work. Riding is the fun part but there is a lot of work involved with horses before you get to that.

We’ll see what next week brings but I am looking forward to each lesson!

Tricky Kids

On our small hobby farm we only keep as many animals as we can take care of. That being said some of the animals are easier keepers than others. For example, we have two goats that we breed so we have milk and we sell the kids later in the summer when they are old enough to be weaned.

Goat kids are about the size of rabbits with long legs when they are first born. Over the years we have had kids die but with the exception of the kid that died last year it is always within the first two days of life. During these first two days they are very sensitive and require close monitoring.

Like newborn human babies it is important to:

  1. Keep goat kids warm.
  2. Make sure they latch on properly and are drinking milk.
  3. Be sure they pee and poop, at least the first time.

Nora is our oldest goat at 8 years old. Out of our two does she is the better mother. She cares for her kids so well that I never really have to worry about them at all. She keeps them warm, makes sure all of them are eating, checks on them if they are yelling, and enjoys her time with them.

Fauna is two years younger and a pain in my butt as far as kidding season goes. Some years are better than others but every year there is one kid that she just doesn’t care for as much. I usually have to bring one into the house for a few hours to warm it up and bottle feed it. She is the goat that needs constant monitoring for the first few days until she gets accustomed to her kids.

kimg0852This year she had triplets again! There is one black and white doe, a creamy buck, and a red doe. While they were all born healthy there were a few touchy days to keep them that way. She has larger teats that hang down pretty far so the babies were unable to find them for a first feeding. After about an hour or so they were still not having any luck and were screaming for milk so I bottle fed each of them a few ounces. New babies will rapidly weaken if they don’t get milk every few hours.

Two hours after that I checked on them again. They were still having trouble and making noise which was upsetting Nora, the other goat. She is our better mother and she wanted to check on Fauna’s babies to be sure they were okay. Fauna stood nicely while I maneuvered her babies to help them latch on. This worked while I was on my knees and elbows angling her teats in place but not if I moved. So I milked a little more into a bottle and fed all three babies again. The next time I checked on them two of the kids had it all figured out but the little red one had not. She was also by herself away from the heat lamp so I fed her again and moved her under the warmth.kimg0855

The next day she was weaker and more lethargic so Trenton and I took turns going out every hour or so to bottle feed her a few ounces and try to convince her to nurse from her mother. Unfortunately, the other two were hungry little buggers and Fauna was getting annoyed with her kids and didn’t want to stand still anymore. Thankfully, the little red one has regained her strength and has figured out how to nurse from Fauna so I don’t have to bottle feed anymore.

Soon Nora’s kids will be big enough that we can start milk sharing a bit to have a little fresh goat milk in the house. Fresh goat cheese on crackers sounds delicious right now!

kimg0860On a side note goat kids are little escape artists. Fauna’s kids are moving around enough now that they have figured out how to get out of their pen to say hello to Jack, our horse.

 

Almost Easter Kids

One of the reasons I love spring is because it is time for new babies on the farm. New fluffy chicks, noisy little piglets, and bouncy kids (the goat kind).

Nora is our Oberhasli/Alpine cross that we have had for 6 years but last year we did not breed her because we were about to have a new baby of our own and I decided I only wanted to milk one goat at a time with a newborn in the barn with me. It worked well for us and I wish I had only been milking one goat when Fiona and Lucian were newborns but I grew up on a dairy farm and cows are bred back every year. On a homestead I have more flexibility.  For example, while we were milking Fauna last year one of her kids mysteriously died at 4 weeks. This left her with too much milk for one kid so we experimented with milk sharing. It worked out so well we decided to sell her remaining kid in the fall rather than in the summer like we usually do.

This year we bred both goats and Nora is pretty consistent about kidding around Easter. This year was no different, she had her kids the Monday after Easter. Lucian and I noticed her acting funny in the pasture Monday afternoon so we watched her for a while to be sure she was in labor. She was standing in one spot without nibbling the grass, laying down, getting back up, pawing the ground and looking completely uncomfortable. If it is nice outside I will usually let them have their babies outside but Easter Sunday we had a bit of a spring blizzard so it was wet, cold, and windy. It took a bit of coaxing but we were able to get her into the barn.

kimg0811We made sure she had food and water then left her to settle in. I went out to do chores a little while later and she had one baby almost dry and standing in the stall with her. Trenton brought the kids out so they could see the new baby and we got  the heat lamp hooked up. Fiona was so excited to finally see a baby goat. 

In the 6 years I have had goats I have never had them kid only one baby so after the kids (the human ones) were in bed I checked on her again and sure enough there was another baby snuggled up with the first one. I made sure they both drank milk before going to bed and thought about the fun little surprise Fiona and Lucian would have in the morning.

“There are two of them!” Fiona yelled when she checked on them while we did chores. They are both boys and Lucian named them Collin and Jake. Penelope had her first experience with kids and baby giggles have filled the barn every morning and evening when we do chores. kimg0798

Easter Chicks

Happy Easter! To me the coming of Easter also signals the coming of spring. This spring has been a little off to say the least. Normal seasonal events have changed and evolved but we are adjusting. The kids still enjoyed coloring eggs and hunting for their Easter baskets exactly like they have in previous years. Rather than having a large family celebration and egg hunt we will be having a small egg hunt in our own yard this year.

kimg0768I usually hatch chicks with the 4th grade but this year due to our home-boundness (I may have made up that word) we are hatching chicks at home. It has been fun to share the incubation process with my children, and nieces and nephews. They have followed along with daily growth, listened to various chick stories, and made scientific hypothesis as to how many chicks would hatch.

We placed 37 eggs in the incubator on our first Science Saturday. Our second Saturday was held via Google Hangouts and we read a chick book and worked on a few pages from a Chick Hatching booklet I found online. For our third Science Saturday which was day 14 of chick development we candled the eggs to see if they were developing. We took 5 eggs out of the incubator that were not fertilized. The kids really enjoyed seeing the veins through the shells and the chick developing. Day 18 was not on a Saturday but it was the day the eggs needed to be taken out of the egg turner so we held that science lesson via Google Hangouts.

I was a little worried that the eggs might not hatch at all because my incubator is getting a little old and the temperature was fluctuating more than normal. The last two years I have had to turn it up so the interior temperature would remain at 99.5. It was acting the same way except for one day it got really hot inside. I noticed the thermometer was reading about 102 which is almost hot enough to cause chick death. It took awhile for it to level out again and I was worried we would not have any eggs hatch. I re-candled them on day 18 to see if they had developed any since I candled them before. I took 2 out that looked as if they stopped developing but I was hopeful because it looked like more development had taken place. My darling husband said it was because I had “hard boiled” them.kimg0767

On Friday which was day 20 of chick development we had a sleepover with a few of my nieces and nephews so they could watch the chicks hatch. One chick hatched before they we here and I was thrilled that I hadn’t cooked them. Everyone was super excited to watch the “miracle of life” as my sister said. Everyone was able to watch a chick hatch and to transfer a fluffy chick from the incubator into the brooder box.

Before they left Saturday afternoon 10 chicks had hatched. This morning we have 21 healthy chicks and one more that is struggling to hatch. Percentage wise this may be our best hatch-out yet. 21 chicks out of 30 viable eggs gives me a 70% success rate which I think is pretty good.

kimg0765We are helping the last one to hatch by peeling back it’s shell a bit at a time hoping it will pop out soon. Every once in a while we help a late hatcher come out of it’s shell but many times the chick is malformed or will die the next day. I hope it will be healthy so we can add it to the box with it’s siblings.

The kids had fun with this project and I was glad we were able to enjoy it as a family. Although I didn’t actually plan for the chicks to hatch on Easter it is nice to hear Easter chicks peeping in the house.

I hope everyone has a Happy Easter!

Into Spring

Spring is one of my favorite seasons. It is starting to get warm, the sun is shining more, and the grass is starting to grow again. I see spring as a promise of better things to come. A sunnier outlook if you will. Spring is also a busy time of year. There are additional repairs to be done, new babies being born, seeds to be planted, new animals joining the farm, and yard work to do.

kimg0749Repairs:

  1. The chicken coop needs to be fixed so the chickens will stop escaping. There are a few holes in the fence so the chickens free range. Last year in early spring we had a fox take about a dozen chickens before I was able to scare it off. This year I want the coop fixed so we don’t have hungry fox issues. I plan to let the chickens free range later in the summer for short periods of time but for now they are safer inside.
  2. We are going to change the design of our duck coop to try a pair of ducks. I know I said I didn’t want ducks again but I want to try only having two with a better set-up. The ducks were good at getting rid of potato bugs in the garden and their eggs were nice too.

kimg0714New Babies:

  1. It is almost kidding time! Our goats, Nora and Fauna, are looking pretty wide and are almost ready to have their babies. Having goat kids on the farm is fun and exciting but it also adds a few extra chores to the day. During a kid’s first day of life it is crucial to be sure they are warm and nursing properly. So we are monitoring the does for labor signs and getting ready for new kids. The pens are cleaned out, heat lamps are ready, and Franky has been moved out of the barn. Fiona has been checking for baby goats every morning and can’t wait for when they arrive. She will be soooooo excited!
  2. Chicks will be hatching soon! Due to the school closures I was unable to start our incubator at school with the 4th grade like I usually do but I was able to start it at home with my own children and their cousins. We have been holding Science Saturdays when we do chick related activities and discuss how they are developing. Our last Science Saturday was via Google Hangout but we’re making it work.

Planting Seeds:

  1. We decided to plant our own starter plants this year. We’ve planted our own starters in the past but most of the time we purchase our broccoli, tomatoes, and peppers from local greenhouses. The trend right now is panic buying so we thought we would prepare for that and just plant our own. It will save us money and hopefully they do well.
  2. We are also trying to grow an Avocado tree from a few pits we have saved. This was part of a Science Saturday project so I’m hoping between the 8 cousins we will be able to start one tree.

New Animals:kimg0751

  1. We picked up our spring piglets from my dad’s farm last week and they are settling in nicely. They are still little so they are inside the barn in the farrowing pen Trenton made when we had a bred sow. They will stay inside until we are able to put a load of sand into the pig pen behind the barn. The pen is still a bit mucky from last year’s pigs and it needs to be cleaned out and filled in before we put the new pigs outside. Our niece decided they should be named Despereaux and Wilbur.
  2. Ducklings have been ordered and will be here by May 15th. I am looking forward to having ducks again with our new coop idea for them. I think having fewer ducks in a different area will be better than what we had before.

Yard Work:

  1. Dog poop, enough said. Cleaning the yard from the winter mess is a process.

There are also a few new challenges that were unexpected but we are rolling with them. Predicting to stay at home for the next month wasn’t in my plans but now that it is we’re getting a little inventive as far as work, school, and farm life goes. For example, I will be making video’s for the Kindergarten class I am still teaching as a long-term sub. I will be making calendar time videos three days a week as well as sharing my family’s Science Saturday projects. I made my first video for them last night and even though I had to do it twice and lock everyone else in the basement I think it went well.

I will also be making short “Story Time on the Farm” videos for Northwind Book and Fiber which is the local bookstore I work at. Today I made a clip of me reading in the pasture with Nora and Fauna and next week I think I will make one with the new pigs.

 

 

Cooking Sap

I am glad we live on a small hobby farm in the country because although I have to stay home I am still able to go outside and enjoy spring. Trenton is considered an essential employee and is still able to go to work which is a great relief for our family. I am currently working from home gathering resources for my Kindergarten class while I am still long-term subbing for the regular kindergarten teacher who is out on maternity leave. I have also been planning lessons for Lucian who is now kimg0674being home schooled. I am also supporting my sisters as they work to home school their children as well. A small upside to this is that it is finally getting nice enough that we can be out with Penelope for longer stretches.

It’s sugar season! The kids love hiking through the woods to check taps. Especially since their dad will sometimes literally throw them across the creek into the snow bank on the other side. Even Penelope goes in her sled or stroller to check taps.

The sap has really been flowing since it has warmed up a little more and we have cooked down our fist batch for syrup.

Cooking Process

  1. Start Outsidekimg0697

We start cooking our sap on a homemade outdoor sap boiler. It is basically a small wood stove with a stainless steel tub fitted over the top. The tub can hold about 25 gallons of sap but for our first batch we only had 15 ready to cook. It is best to cook your sap within a week of collecting it and needs to be kept cool while it waits. We keep the fire going in the fire box for most of the day until the sap has cooked down enough to bring in the house.

2. Finish Insidekimg0698

Once the sap has cooked enough outside to fit into my stock pot we bring it inside to finish. During this last stage of cooking the sap needs to be watched closely to be sure it does not cook down too much. If the syrup is cooked too long it will crystalize and turn into sugar. It still tastes good but we want syrup. The sap must be kept at a continuous rolling boil without boiling over until it is the right consistency.

3. Checking the Syrupkimg0699

This year we invested in a hydrometer which is a tool that measures the density of a liquid. In previous years we have always boiled the syrup until we felt it “thicken” when stirred. Using a hydrometer takes the guesswork out of cooking sap down. This year all our batches of syrup are consistent rather than runny or crystalized.

Pulling Taps

We could have made more syrup but after three batches we decided to be done for the year. Making syrup is not particularly hard but it is a time consuming process that we like to do but we are also glad to be done.

For our sugar season we boiled 60 gallons of syrup for a grand total of about 1 and a half gallons of finished syrup. Hopefully it will last us until next spring but it depends on how much syrup the kids need on their pancakes!

 

Getting Ready to Tap the Maples

It is finally starting to warm up a little. The sun is shinning, the days are mostly warm, and the nights are cold. The warm days and cold nights mean the sap in the maple trees will start to run. It is time to tap the maple trees and collect the sap to make syrup.

There are however, a few items that need to be prepped.

  1. Milk jugs need to be washed and collected.

A few years ago we decided to use milk jugs instead of buckets to collect sap. We cut a small X into the side of the jug and push the tap into it. We drink a lot of milk so we reuse our jugs and turn them into inexpensive sap collectors. Using the enclosed jug also works well to keep various bugs and moths

 

kimg0673out of the sap.

2. Five gallon buckets with lids need to be collected and washed.

Once the gallon milk jugs are full we dump them into clean 5 gallon buckets that Trenton has brought home from work. These buckets originally were filled with barbecue sauce so they need to be washed very well and aired out a bit so the sap doesn’t take on a bit of BBQ flavor. The buckets also need to have lids to keep us from spilling sap out of the buckets when we carry them.

3. Sap boiler needs to be cleaned out.

For some unknown reason my children, my nieces, and my nephews decided to fill the wood box of the sap boiler with various bricks, rocks, garbage, sticks, and twine. Why? No idea, but the result is that it needs to be cleaned out before we can start a fire to heat the sap.

4. The sap tub needs to be washed.

The metal tub that sits over the fire box of the sap boiler needs to be washed out before we can use it. It has been upside down all winter and has acquired a fair amount of dust. Moving the tub is a two person job because of how big and heavy it is. Which means washing it is also a two person job.

The weather is perfect for starting to collect sap from the maple trees. I’m hoping that my next post will be about the successful maple syrup harvest.

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