Recipe :: Homemade Yogurt

Thank you, Emily, for your super duper, easy peasy recipe for making homemade yogurt. Even with raw milk this worked perfectly on my first try, which really is saying something….

My first homemade yogurt!
My first homemade yogurt!

Ingredients:
1 quart whole milk {raw will work}
1 Tbsp. yogurt {I used Seven Springs Organic, Plain}

Instructions:

  1. Heat milk over low to medium heat to 18o degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Turn off the heat and let the temperature drop to 110 degrees.
  3. Pour warm milk into quart-size mason jar or other suitable container.
  4. Stir in yogurt and put on the lid.
  5. Place the jar of milk and a second jar full of hot water {I boiled water while the milk cooled} in a cooler. I also stuffed an old towel in the cooler for extra insulation.
  6. Wait 24 hours and enjoy!

Of course the result is plain yogurt, so if you prefer something sweet, you can sweeten it with honey or maple syrup. Add vanilla for a little extra something.

Enjoy! {OvO}

Product Review :: Darn Tough Socks

Halfway through the snowiest winter I’ve ever lived through in the lower 48, a good friend of mine in Pennsylvania turned me on to Darn Tough socks. We were talking about socks for ourselves, and for our kids, and how hard it is to find durable, warm, wool socks that don’t cost an arm and a leg. She suggested I give Darn Tough socks a try.

“Oh,” she said, “and they have a lifetime guarantee!”

“A what?!? On socks??!? Do they come in kid sizes???” I asked.

When she told me they did indeed come in kid sizes, I decided to give them a try. Our local outfitter {Eastern Mountain Sports} does a Buy 3 Get 1 Free deal on all of their socks, so I got some Hike/Trek socks for the kids and myself. I was impressed by the quality right away. The colors are vibrant and funky, and the cushioning is thick and comfy.

1455_Glacier_270x267The kids socks only come in the thicker, hiking-style sock, which worked really well for us inside snow boots, and around the chilly house. And because wool is anti-microbial and breathable, we could wear the socks for a few days at a time without washing. Darn Tough socks keep me toasty warm and very, very rarely are they too warm, even at night under a down blanket with my toaster oven bedmate.

One of my kiddos is picky about their socks and has complained that the arch area is a little tight. The hikers are made with built-in arch support, and are woven tighter in that area, which might take a little getting used to at first. But I can all but guarantee you won’t notice within a few minutes of wearing them. At least no one here can.

1620-darn-tough-womens-merino-wool-portland-light-cushion-no-show-socks-lime-21793I wear the thinner, Lifestyle style socks during the warmer months instead of cotton gym-style socks. They are breathable and anti-microbial, so my feet are comfortable and don’t stink, even after a full, hot day on the farm.

Knowing that the Hike/Trek style socks are 67% Merino Wool {29% Nylon, 4% Lycra(r)}, and the Lifestyle style socks are 62% Merino Wool {36% Nylon, 2% Lycra(r)}, and accepting the fact that wool shrinks, I decided to order a size bigger than I would normally wear. My socks did shrink considerably, so if you are able to be diligent about your laundry and will never, ever let them into the hot wash or dryer, you could go ahead and get your normal size. But, if you’re like me and you have a house full of people with dirty laundry and questionable laundry skills, you might want to go up a size.

Darn Tough ATCI got Farmer Tripp his first two pairs for his birthday this year. His hikers have the Appalachian Trail AT logo on them, and 5% of the sales of this style goes to help support the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s outdoor education programs and maintenance of America’s first national scenic trail. How cool is that??

And did I mention they are made in Vermont?

Bottom line: We love Darn Tough socks and would recommend them to anyone looking for warm, funky, made in the USA, wooly socks. {OvO}

 

Our first baby!

We noticed as the girls were being shorn that Rose’s udder was more full than Flower’s. And, since our veterinarian recommended checking for lambs every 4 hours {especially overnight} when the udder is “full,” I wondered: What does a “full” udder look like, exactly? It struck me, again, how much information is available for all sorts of things, like, “You should shear the sheep before lambing to make it easier for the lamb to find the udder,” but not for the most basic, practical things, like, “When the ewe’s udder looks like a basketball it’s full of milk and she’ll delivery her lamb within 48 hours.”

So I got up the first night and walked down to the barn at 12:30am. It was cold and I had a very hard time getting back to sleep. I didn’t think she looked like a ewe in labor {you know, at least not like any of the other zero ewes I’ve ever seen in labor}. I decided to look for a more reliable sign than relative udder fullness.

So I did the only thing I could think of: I Googled it. That’s right, I pulled up the trusty old Goog and typed, “ewe udder prior to lambing.” Among the Images results was a link to this page. And of course it answered my question immediately. It’s a collage of photos of the writer’s ewe, every day or so, from the time her udder looked “full” to the day or two before she lambed. The ewe’s udder looked like Rose’s udder in the first photograph. And there are 9 photographs.

So I had a pretty wide range from “check her every 4 hours, especially overnight,” to “it could be two weeks before that baby is born.”

Did I mention I’m totally new at this?

I decided not to wake up the second night. I had a late meeting and didn’t get to put the sheep in the barn until 10:30pm and figured I’d check on them first thing the next morning. Instead, I found this:

Surprise!
Surprise!

I guess you could say I was caught a tad bit off-guard. I can see the nursery paddock from the house and had zero clue that Rose was in labor. I saw no suspicious behavior. Heck, the dogs didn’t even notice! The great news is that Rose delivered her baby without complications, right out there in the field, and not at 3am or at below freezing temperatures. Just the way sheep have been doing it forever.

Of course I woke the kids and they helped me put together the lambing jug, feed Flower, and then I grabbed the baby lamb and brought her to the barn as Rose followed. We went to bed at 12:30am, once they were all toasty warm and safe for the night.

Phew!

Rose and baby, Dot
Rose and baby, Dot

Shear Madness!

OK, so it went really, really well, but I was SO nervous beforehand! I am new in town, and don’t have any experience with shearing sheep, so I had a tough time figuring out how to get the girls shorn, before lambing, and when it’s not 14 degrees (or colder) outside. You know, in that teensy window during the winter to spring transition. Oh, and you can’t shear wet sheep. And they really shouldn’t get wet for a few days following being shorn. What’s so hard about that?

Luckily, when the veterinarian came out last week to check on the girls I asked him for a referral. I called Drew Mackey over the weekend, and to my surprise, the guy that shears 70+ animals per day, was able to come out on Monday, the third of three sunny days. Turns out I got him just at the beginning of his busy season. Drew sheared the girls in no time flat, even with all of us crowded around asking questions. He showed us his tools and explained what he was doing every step of the way.

Even with no power in our 1/4 sided barn, we managed. We keep our generator in the barn, and used it to power the lights and the clippers. We used our 2 sheep/goat panels (cut down into 6, 5/6-foot lengths), hooked together with zip ties, and created a chute and shearing area. I was pretty proud of our ingenuity and we didn’t lose a sheep! Overall, it was a great day to be a farmer!

IMG_4544 Flower's 2015 fleece IMG_4545 IMG_4543IMG_4553 IMG_4556 IMG_4560

Seed Starting

We’ve been planning and scheming and getting ready to start seeds. Two weeks ago I thought I bought a seedling heat mat but when we got home I could not. find it. anywhere. Farmer Tripp set up the trays and the mini greenhouses in the workshop while I was at the National Ladies Homestead Gathering Annual Board Meeting in Georgia, but we still haven’t started a single seed! I searched the garden shed, the car, and finally the Google for the 4-tray heating mat I found at Fifth Season Gardening in Charlottesville, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I checked with my dad twice to make sure we didn’t leave it at his house, before finally giving up. I called Fifth Season and asked them to send me another one. These starts better be good!

Seed-Starting Setup
Seed-Starting Setup

Four trays with vented covers plus a 48″ shop light with 2 Kitchen & Bath (5000K) and 2 Sunshine (3000K) bulbs. Once the heating mat arrives we’ll be growing all kinds of veggies in the workshop! Can’t wait!

In the Garden :: January

Raspberries Before
Raspberries Before

Our raspberry patch was one of the many reasons we knew this place the THE place. But we’ve never had berries before, so before doing any pruning, Tripp and I started with a Google search… Here’s where we started:

  1. Remove last year’s canes,
  2. Narrow the row,
  3. Cut out the weaklings,
  4. Attach the canes to a trellis.

Then, in the garden, just like I often do, we watched this:

Our biggest question, after narrowing, and cutting, was what to do with the tops of the canes. The Fine Gardening article mentions cutting out the canes with gray, dry bark – but there were none like that in our patch. Nearly every cane had a dry bunch of leaves and dead berries – but all the pictures I’ve seen show NO fruity tops, so we were unsure. We went ahead and whacked them off – I just hope we made the right call!

Raspberries After
Raspberries After

Next, we need to build a trellis to support the canes. A good friend in Doylestown has a sweet little berry patch and I’ve always admired their trellis, so when we moved here I asked for some photos.
IMG_1504

IMG_1510

Germination Test 2015

After putting together the garden plan, and our 2015 seed order, I looked through our seed box and found nearly every seed we wanted already on-hand! Some of the seeds were a few years old, so I decided to do a germination test. Plus, it was a great chance for the kids to see some seeds sprouting indoors!

We placed 10 seeds of most varieties (we didn’t have quite enough for 10 of all varieties) in a wet paper towel, and placed those paper towels into two Ziploc bags. I put the bags on the mantel above the wood stove and checked them occasionally to make sure there was condensation in the bags. We checked them all after 3 days, and again after a week.

Germination Test Kentucky Wonder Bean
Kentucky Wonder Bean – 100% germination!

About a third of the seeds sprouted in 3 days, and most were sprouted within a week.

Germination Test Garden Journal 2015
Germination Test Results (Thanks C & O!)

In the end, we ordered Sungold Cherry Tomatoes from Johnny’s Seeds and Scarlet Nantes Carrots, Old Virginia Tomato and Tennessee Red Cob Corn from Southern Exposure. Now we just can’t wait to get started!

Puppy Update :: 6 Months!

The puppies are 6 months old! They are just about as tall as our Golden Retriever and definitely bigger than our 30-pound hound mix, much to his dismay. They play with both older dogs, and seem to be much more gentle with the Golden {she’s going to be 13 in April and can be a little grouchy}. She doesn’t chase them around, but they jump around her, nipping at her while she “barks” at them. I’ve tried to catch it on video but haven’t gotten it yet. The hound {he’s 12 this spring} seems to like being with them, but he still enjoys his solo “hunting trips” and lounging around in the warm house. They play a similar game with him, but more aggressively, and sometimes I’m not sure if the old guy really likes it, or is just a good sport.

They have learned to “back up” so I can open the door and “wait” when I open the door so they don’t go rushing in ahead of me, knocking me down. They sit for a treat. They do not come reliably when called {especially if they’re after something}, or stay for that matter, but they definitely know “leave it” which I use for just about anything I want them to leave alone. Chicken scrap bowl, on the ground outside the pen? They’ll just sit and look at it. Toys, indoor cats, shoes – they’re generally really good about leaving what we ask them to leave. But the outside cats? Not so much. Plus, Kep is a counter surfer and Finn likes to run upstairs when {he thinks} no one’s looking and eat the cat food. The kids say both dogs have a bad habit, but they’re not bad dogs. I totally agree, I just wish I could get them to quit!

Mountain Wave McCaulay "Kep" :: 6 Months
Mountain Wave McCaulay “Kep” :: 6 Months

We got our sheep last month and the pups were CRAZY for a few hours, barking and carrying on, but gradually they got used to having the girls around and now they walk down with me every morning and even to check on them. We haven’t let them in the paddock yet and don’t intend to until they’ve started some training at around 10 months. I’m still looking for somewhere local to get them started if you know of anyone…

My biggest question right now is – what next? I used to bring them in at dinner-time and keep them in their kennels for the night, but I have been letting them back out at night for the past few weeks, to get them used to being outside at night. Not overnight, but just till I go to bed. Generally, they bark and bark and bark off an on until about 10:30 when they relax and usually sleep on the front porch {which is off the living room, where I usually hang out in the evening}. We lost our only remaining original hen last week {the one that hatched the eggs!}, and another one today, and both times the pups were inside. SO – when do I leave them out for good? I fed them on the porch today, so I wouldn’t be tempted to kennel them for too long, but they don’t have a dog house yet, so they’ve been doing their regular snooze/play/chase thing all day without a solid nap. They seem tired. I left them in the fenced front yard when we headed to town for an hour today. {They often chase me or Tripp down the driveway when we leave, so I figured leaving them in the yard would help get them used to “staying” without the risk}. The pups and our hound mix were in the yard when we got back and seemed totally fine {and thrilled to see us}.

IMG_4193
Mountain Wave Findlay “Finn” :: 6 Months

I am really looking forward to working these dogs this summer. We still talk about whether or not one {or both?} will ever be an “inside dog.” They are just so nice and loving and sweet – it’s hard to imagine them living outside 100% of the time! We spend a lot of time outside, so we get to be with them often but it’s just not the same. When they are inside separately, they will often lie down in whatever room I’m in and just hang out – it’s so dang sweet! When they are inside together they rarely sit still… Findlay seems to be a little more high strung and paces. But, I used to think Kep was the more active one, so who knows what personality will ultimately stick!

Either way, we are all so in love with these dogs. I’ve always thought I’d have a Golden forever and ever, but these boys are so darn smart, and they barely shed… I may be rethinking my earlier promise…especially once we start breeding… {OvO}

We have sheep!!!

I remember the day (weekend?) I finally realized just what it was I wanted to do on our farm. I’d been through all sorts of ideas: CSA, dairy, broilers… Nothing really fit with what I was looking for, until I was chatting with a fellow Ladies Homestead Gathering member about knitting and livestock when I finally realized what I want to do on our farm is SHEEP! I’m an avid knitter and I love caring for animals, so of course I should raise sheep!

So almost immediately after finding the farm, I started looking for sheep. Tripp and I decided that two pregnant ewes would be the place to start. I had my heart set on a pair of Romedale/CVM ladies, and once we learned that the largest breeder on the east coast purchased our Scotch Collies’ brother we knew we’d found our source. After a few months of emails back and forth with Marie at Marushka Farms about caring for sheep, and then exactly which animals would fit us best, we picked up our girls this weekend! I cannot fully express how excited we are to have our first two sheep on the farm!

New hay Feb 2015
Rose and Flower