Winter has arrived!

Brrr…baby it’s cold outside with temp’s in the teens and sub-zero if you factor in the howling wind!

Here in southeastern Michigan, we’ve been enjoying a somewhat extended fall with only an occassional dip in daytime temps. That was last week; more recently we’ve had some snow flurries on & off, freezing rain, high winds, certainly hinting of more winter-like weather on the way, or shall I say, here to stay? I guess you could say that this recent cold snap ~ pre-curser to winter: let’s not push it since winter doesn’t officially arrive for a couple of weeks ~ took me by surprise these past few days! 

Last weekend we worked with a purpose to catch-up on winterizing-type chores like draining the house water spigots, put away the last of garden hoses, swap out water troughs for smaller buckets, added wood shavings to the dogs’ house, move the remaining ‘tender’ plants from the un-heated greenhouse to the house…and so on. Wouldn’t ya know our barn yard hydrant decides to ‘act’ up and seemingly requires some repair/replacement parts and of course we’ll wait until the sub-zero temp arrives before we can finish that little job!!!! I don’t think I would survive as a pioneer woman. I like my modern conveniences like running water and electricity!!! Oh well.

Since the temps have plunged and worried about freezing, I decided to make several batches of applesauce from the apples I had stored in the garage. I simply washed and quartered the apples – peels and all –  into a large dutch oven with about a cup of water, sugar to taste and a couple of crushed cinnamon sticks. Bring to a slow simmer and cook ’til soft. I allowed the cooked apples to cool and put it all through the food mill. YUM. The apple peels & pulp was a nice treat for the chickens. I probably put about 3/4 of it in the freezer for later…

The latest project we’ve embarked upon – is the systematic dismantling of our kids’ (the two-legged variety) play fort and re-construction/re-purposing the usable lumber into a kids’ (the four-legged variety) play fort. If you know anything about goats…it’s that they love to climb. The previous owner/breeder of my Pygora, Brutus, had a sweet two-story goat house that seemed both entertaining and practical. My friend who owns one of our wethers, Jet, also constructed a ramp and shelf-type ledge in the barn for Jet to keep watch over his sheepy stall-mates. We ‘borrowed’ a little from both of these ideas to come up with our own design for a two-story goat house of our own…with a platform or deck instead of stairs leading to the second level ‘dog-house’…er, goat house, that is. There’s always a need for a little bit more housing to shelter another critter!

Here’s what’s left of ‘his’ and ‘her’ fort which was connected by a tower  and swinging bridges (first to go and no longer visible) between them. It was the stage for many family summer get-together water-balloon fights and wonderful memories! In truth, I’m glad to be taking them down. Visitors to my shop allow their kids to ‘wander’ the farm…and they soon discover the play fort. OMG, what if someone fell off and hurt themselves… ?

I’ll post some pics of the goat fort as soon as we finish – we seem to have many detours along the way, in spite of our plan and best intentions. HA HA

Talk about planning…like, Scherehazade, our Alpine doe, having been bred November 1, to kid in April. Hmmmm, apparently she came back into heat today????? So, drop everything, Katie skip school (at least 1st hour), load Scherehazade into the back of the Explorer (hubby has the truck) and off down the road we go. Just hope she doesn’t pee in the back of the truck! Thank goodness our friend’s buck is only 30-minutes away! We’re on a Nelly ‘watch’ next week TOO. This breeding stuff, predicting their heat cycle, is not an exact science, ya know! But, Rox, she’s ALWAYS wagging her tail…she’s sooooo happy to see me!!! lol

Earlier this week I also made – first time – fromage blanc, which is French in origin and means “white cheese”.  The word fromage is derived from the Greek word ‘formos’ which is a type of wicker basket used by the Greeks to drain whey from the cheese solids. Fromage blanc is easy to make – very similar to chevre (which is French for goat), but made with cow’s milk. It’s a soft cheese made with a mesophilic (low temp) starter/culture, similar to cream cheese and may be mixed with herbs or used plain as a substitute for cream cheese or ricotta in a recipe. Also similar to chevre, the cultured milk is allowed to ripen for about 12 hours and then drained anywhere from 6 – 12 hours depending on the desired consistency. 

I’m fortunate to live just down the road from Crooked Creek Dairy, a family operated Grade A Dairy. I thought it would be nice to make a fresh cheese to bring to our spinning guild’s monthly meeting/XMas Party. We had delicious soup, lamb stew (most of us own fiber animals), sloppy jo, all sorts of sweets and confections…and my home-made cheese. I made both a sweet (mixed with apricot preserves and blanched almond slices) and savory cheese with the fromage blanc. YUM! The savory (a blend of herbs, fresh green onion and garlic) was voted as everyone’s favorite. While I prefer to use my own fresh goat’s milk, it’s nice to know (during my goats’ winter down-time) that I have a local dairy right down the road and by purchasing their farm-fresh milk I’m supporting local farm lifestyle and Ag business while pursuing my cheesemaking adventures! Got Milk?

Happy weekend!

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4 thoughts on “Winter has arrived!

  1. I’ve been wondering how the cow’s milk cheese turned out. Sounds like a delightful success!. I must try this asap.

    My lovely chalkware cow you blessed me with has a sweet sprig of boxwood for the Christmas season. I’ll have to post about her soon.

    Have a blessed Christmas with lots of lovely memories.

    • Teem,
      The fromage blanc cow’s milk ‘soft cheese’ turned out very well…just like my chevre. I was worried a bit about ripening temp, since my winter-tyme house temp is usually set around 65 degrees F. (Dennis usually always wears double socks and sweatshirts this time of year!) During the summer months when I’m making my goat’s milk cheeses, room temp isn’t a concern… Before I actually made the cheese, I ‘trialed’ a pot of water with a heating pad at different settings, etc to determine my process. It worked fine!

      I’m glad your chalkware cow gives you joy! I knew when I found her that she had to live with YOU – and join your real dairy farm! Have a blessed Christmas! Jen

  2. Jen,

    Can you tell me more about making cheese? I’m starting to get interested in the process – like I have time for another project! 🙂 Did you use raw or pasteurized milk? Can you use either? What other ingredients did you use? I saw a recipe for this cheese and all it called for was milk and vinegar. It sounds so easy.

    Thanks,
    Kim

    ps…hope your Christmas was wonderful!

    • Hi Kim,
      If you enjoy living a farm-fresh, do-it-yourself lifestyle, cooking, a little experimentation, and EATING, you MUST try cheese making at home!!! My daughter who is 15-years old TODAY (happy bday Katie) told me the other day there’s nothing better than a slice of fresh baked bread with our chevre cheese and a slice of a tomatoe still warm from the garden! Now that’s something! Making soft cheese at home is very simple and an excellent choice for beginners…almost instant gratification. You need little, if any, specialized equipment. I’ll add a page on my blog under ‘dairy goats’ with some basic cheese making how to’s! Happy New Year! Jen

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