farm fresh [cheese curds]

Oh my, how I’ve MISSED you!!!!

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Over the weekend, I shared a gallon of goat milk with the kids to make one of Katie’s favorites: farmstead [herbed] cheese curds. They’re great for snacking, tossing onto a fresh green salad, etc.

Two days earlier, I cultured one quart of buttermilk [with goat’s milk, naturally] following the purchased ‘starter’ directions. I use the buttermilk as a starter for most of my soft cheeses.

I used one of my fav cheesemaking recipes from ‘Goats Produce Too’ by Mary Jane Toth. I modified her cheddar recipe by simply halving the recipe and omitting the pressing/aging. 

The most difficult part of the recipe is deciding which herbs/seasoning to add????

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This batch was ‘seasoned’ with fresh dill and one clove of garlic! YUM!!

pillow talk [baa]

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Hand felted white on black.

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Wool on wool.

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Wool on wool with button flowers; stuffed with herbs.

Have a great weekend!

[a method – or – sheer madness…?]

Over the years, I have devised a simple ‘method’ for the tedious task of garbling my farm-raised lavender. GARBLING is the term used for picking the flowers and leaves from the stems of plants, in order to store them properly for later use.

First, pick the lavender after the morning dew has burned off – hopefully NOT in +90 degree F extreme heat/weather!

Pick lavender when the buds begin to swell and perhaps with one or two visible flowers. Remember, when you pick the ‘flowers’, it’s similar to dead-heading: you’ll encourage new blooms and perhaps another smaller lavender crop in fall.

Next, I have been using found and recycled old door/window screens, ensuring good air-circulation, to air-dry my lavender. But, you may also hang-dry small bundles of lavender secured with rubber bands. Don’t make the bundles too large – or the lavender may mold! Use rubber bands to secure because ‘dried’ herbs shrink and you’ll be picking it up off the floor! Dry in a shaded area, out of direct sunlight and somewhere with good air circulation – run a small fan if necessary to bolster air-flow.

Once the lavender is DRIED ( for long-term storage/use ), I assemble, rather stack, three frames of ‘hardware cloth’ over an old bed sheet or storage container.

Neatly arranged lavender makes ‘garbling’ more manageable!

To begin, grab a handful of lavender, stems and buds all aligned in same direction. Gently rub, knead bundle over wire mesh, keeping stems perpendicular to screen. The buds should fall through the screens while the stems remain. Errant stems will be ‘caught’ by one of the screens to be discarded… at least, in theory!

…and the final product, lavender buds.

Stems may be discarded or bundled and used for fragrant fire-starters ( also known as faggots ).

How do YOU ‘garble’ your herbs???

(Rejuvenate} the herb garden.

Remember when I talked about ‘trimming’ my sage and Greek oregano?

This was taken about mid-March…

 

Here’s all the trimmings… pretty drastic??

 

And today, you see…

 

Need I SAY more??

 

 

A picture is worth a  thousand words!

Rejuvenate the herb garden! It’s a GOOD thing!

Insight into an early-American herb garden.

It is hard to imagine anything more pleasing to the senses than an herb garden on a sultry summer day. A soft breeze catches the evocative scent of lavender as you brush along-side. The tang of citrus laced with mint reveals lemon balm. A sprawling mat of thyme rests alongside a neat and orderly arrangement of sage, feverfew and chives. The heady scent of basil, king of the herb garden, attracts the lazy buzzing of bees. The herb garden is a feast for the eyes and offers respite for the mind and soul!

As idyllic as it may sound, an 18th-century colonist would almost certainly never have sought out the earthly delights of an herb garden to while away a lazy summer afternoon! The cultivation of special plants was essential for housekeeping: flavoring the food, dyeing, scenting and dosing – including remedies to treat tummy-aches, female complaints AND treating the sick hog or an ailing horse!

The segregation of herbs to special beds in specially-designed, artistic layouts is relatively a modern garden conception.  It was far more likely that herbs were incorporated into the family vegetable plot in an nformal, cottage-style garden located just outside the kitchen. Some thought would have been given to those plants which would thrive year after year (perennials) and those which would require resowing every year (annuals); big-rooted plants would have been kept away from more delicate plants with shallow roots.

It was far more prudent for the colonial gardener to have arranged things so she could put her hand on whatever she needed instantly — something to staunch bleeding, freshen a drink, flavor a stew or lend a neighbor in time of need. No colonial household would be without an herbal — a reference so important it was often kept, along with a bible, within quick and easy reach. Three herbalists 17th and 18th-century gardeners relied upon were Gerard, Parkinson and Culpeper. The 18th-century gardener would have been familiar with mint, lemon balm, lavender, thyme, yarrow, lovage, lamb’s ears, garlic chives, sage, rosemary and santolina (or lavender cotton).

My flea market find: Brook’s Family Herbal, c.1852

Mint (mentha), perennial

Then: Gerard describes mint as “a marvelous wholesome for the stomacke…it stayeth the hicket [hiccup]…is good against watery eyes and a sure remedy for children’s sore heads.” Parkinson touts mint boiled with “mackerell and other fish” and its use, when dried, “among pease that are boyled for pottage.” Culpeper tells us mint would dry up excess milk in nurses and, taken in wine, would help women in childbearing.
Now: Mint has various culinary uses – flavor sauces, jelly, syrup, teas and drinks. It repels mice and insects. As a health and beauty aid, it’s used in skin care products and for oily hair.

Another flea market find: The Life and Adventures of Mrs. Anna Kremer, c.1871

Lemon Balm (melissa), perennial

Then: Lemon balm, according to Gerard, is good against “the bitings of venomous beasts.” The juice “glueth together” green wounds. Parkinson advises lemon balm steeped in ale against “suddaine qualmes or passions of the heart” while Culpeper notes it will break boils and expel the afterbirth.
Now: Kitchen uses include teas, wines, liqueurs, vinegars, and in fruit salads and fish dishes. Lemon balm may be added to potpourri and furniture polish.

 Lavender (lavendula), perennial

Then: Gerard found the distilled water of lavender “virtuous,” whether it be “smelt unto or the temples and forehead bathed therewith.” Parkinson noted lavender’s use in perfuming linen, apparel, gloves and leather, while Culpeper found this herb useful for falling sickness or giddiness of the brain.
Now: Lavender is baked into cakes, cookies and muffins; used to make jellies, teas and vinegars. In the home, it is added to potpourri and bouquets and used as an insect repellent.

Thyme (thymus), perennial

Then: According to Gerard, there was almost nothing thyme could not cure: “It bringeth downe the desired sickness, provoketh urine and applied in bathes it procureth sweat; being boyled in wine it helpeth the ague, stayeth the hicket, breaketh the stones in the bladder; it helpeth lethargie, frensie and madness and stayeth the vomiting of bloud…is good against the wambling and gripings of the bellie, ruptures, convulsions and inflammation of the liver.” Culpeper noted that thyme was good for worms, warts, and dull sight.

Now: Thyme is known as the “blending herb” for its ability to pull flavors together. Cooks use it in salads, stews, soups, sauces, meats, eggs, vegetables and cheeses. In the home, it is a disinfectant and insect repellent. As a health and beauty aid, it may be used for skin care, dandruff and hangovers; remedy for soar throat.

 Yarrow (achillea), perennial

Then: Yarrow’s leaves, according to Gerard, close up wounds and staunch bleeding. The whole plant — especially the flower heads — served as a natural dye. Culpeper tells us that a decoction of yarrow, used to bathe the head, “stayeth the shedding of hair.”
Now: In the home and garden, yarrow attracts beneficial insects and speeds composting, old-time medicinal and dye plant.

Lovage (levisticum), perennial

Then: Gerard found that distilled water of lovage “cleareth the sight and putteth away all spots…freckles…and redness of the face if they be washed therewith.”
Now: Lovage, an old pot herb, is used in salads and salad dressings, soups, stocks, stews, cheeses, sauces and to roast meats. Its celery-like leaves (and scent) may be added to bouquets. Medicinally, it is a diuretic and useful in treating cramps, urinary tract infections and wounds.

Lamb’s Ears (stachys byzantina), perennial

Then: Lamb’s ears, though little has been written about it, was used to dress or bandage wounds–the wooly leaves used in place of lint. The textured leaves could also be used as a washcloth.
Now: Silvery lamb’s ears are used in dried arrangements and nosegays.

Garlic Chives (allium), perennial

Then: Garlic was considered a preservative against pestilential air. Gerard noted it aids women who sit over it in a bath, cures ringworm and scabbed heads. Culpeper found garlic chives good for the falling sickness but bad for those “oppressed with melancholy.” He noted that cumin seeds or green beans chewed after eating garlic removed the disagreeable smell from the breath.
Now: Garlic’s use is well known in the kitchen. In the garden, it serves a ‘natural’ spray against insects and plant disease. It is thought useful in treating colds, flu and for reducing blood pressure and cholesterol.

Sage (salvia), perennial

Then: Gerard found sage “singular good for the head and braine; it quickeneth the senses, strengtheneth the sinewes…and cleanseth the blood.” Pakinson touted its use “for teeming women, to helpe them the better forward in their childbearing.” Culpeper tells us sage was useful against snakebite and would turn hair black.
Now: Sage is useful in digesting rich foods. It may be added to vegetables, meats, eggs, breads and vinegars. In homekeeping, it is an antiseptic cleaning solution.

Santolina(santolina), perennial

Then: According to Gerard, lavender cotton “drunke in wine was good against the poysons of all serpents and venomous beasts.” Parkinson placed it into “baths, ointments or other things used for cold causes.” And Culpepper found it resisted “poison and putrefaction” and was “good against worms … scabs and itch.”
Now: Santolina is used most often as an ornamental in knot gardens and as an edging plant. In the home, it may be used in floral arrangements or potpourri and has been found to repel moths.

Rosemary (rosmarinus)

Then: Gerard tells us that the distilled water of rosemary, drunk morning and evening, “taketh away the stench of the mouth and the breath.” Parkinson notes its “civill uses…at weddings, funerals, etc., to bestow among friends.” And, according to Culpeper, “to burn the herb in houses and chambers correcteth the air in them.”
Now: Rosemary flavors meats, vegetables, eggs, cheeses and marinades. It may be added to potpourri or used to make an antiseptic cleaning solution. Medicinally, it is used in skin care, as a hair rinse, for sore throat, muscle and joint pain, wounds and bruises.

Perhaps you’ll add a few herbs to your garden?

Resource: Historic Camden County.com

A week in review…

Time flies when you’re having fun…or not?

SPRING is undoubtedly the busiest time of year on the farm…shearing, lambing, kidding, gardening, planting and so on! So much has happened since my last post and I do apologize for not ‘sharing’ sooner. That’s probably one of the benefits of facebook; little snippets of news communicated/shared relatively simply with a few key-strokes!

To all my faithful followers, a brief recap. We began the week with our monthly 4-H goat project meeting – in the barn – with my two dairy goats who were now overdue (beyond the norm average 150-days gestation).  We talked about the development of an udder, loosening of pelvic ligaments and BEHAVIORAL  signs of early stages of the birthing process such as act of withdrawal, seeking seclusion from the rest of the herd, uneasiness, kicking, pawing the ground, lying down and getting up frequently, frequent attempts at urination, refusal of grain, vocalizing, and so on.

Since my 4-H goat project kids are all new first-year goat owners, we also talked about visible signs of second stage labor including vaginal discharge, uterine contractions, appearance of the water sac and finally the evidence of a foot exiting the birth canal. All thought, oh, how exciting! But, in reality, the responsibility as goat caretaker and overseer to the blessed kidding (or lambing) event can be a bit daunting!

Finally, the long-awaited and imminent kidding arrived! Early Sunday evening (long after my 4-H families had departed), Coriander went into labor and delivered two bouncing baby bucklings (ie boys). Buckling No.1, for the most part, was delivered normally…albeit, a bit of straining by Corey to get the head/shoulders through the birth canal. Don’t get over-anxious to assist… proper dilation of the cervix needs to occur. otherwise tearing/damage may occur. The ability to recognize kidding difficulty is as important as proper technique in relieving dystocia (or, difficult birth). It is wise to prepare yourself with some kidding knowledge either through research/reading or by visiting a friend who may also be lambing/kidding, IF you find yourself in a position to lend a hand with the birth!  Occasionally, in some situations, a gentle downward ‘tug’ on the legs with the next strong contraction is helpful. Another valuable resource for newbies and kidding/lambing info can be found at: http://www.infovets.com//books/smrm/C/C460.htm

As for Buckling No.2, it soon became evident – it helps to know your goat anatomy –  that he was NOT in the proper presentation (but normal position and posture). Terms to know: presentation, position and posture.  He was coming backward (breech), back legs first, dewclaw visible and hock (recognize the difference between the bend of the knee or the bend of the hock).

Diagram courtesy kinne.net

To make a long story short, all ended well with our two dairy goats’ kidding season. Finally, Cassiopeia, a first freshener, gained confidence through Corey’s kidding ordeal and decided she was up to the challenge! She delivered a single large healthy buckling on Tuesday morning, day 154. Moms (does) and kids are all doing well and thriving! Phew! I’m glad all ended well and I’m back into the routine of milking my girls twice a day. Our bucklings (or wethers) will be looking for new homes once they’re weaned!

With the help of Katie, my nurse assistant, Big D ‘the holder’ or gorilla (he has yet to contruct a kidding box for me…hint hint) and myself ‘the meanie’ (the one holding the disbudding iron), we disbudded the bucklings on Saturday, an unpleasant but necessary task. FYI – All goats typically have horns (both male and female; some goats are naturally/genetically poled/hornless) and most dairymen disbud (or have their vets perform the disbudding for them) their goats within several days – weeks old. Find more how-to disbudding info here.

Besides animal husbandry, I’ve also been busy working in the vegetable garden. More cleaning & trimming woody plant and pruning shrubs & roses. I also planted more leaf  lettuce, radish, spinach, beets, carrots, swiss chard and parsley – all can withstand ‘cooler’ weather.

Weeding between pavers – ugh!

Temporarily cat-proofing the planting bed!

The sweet peas are several inches tall and the strawberries have blossoms!

Potatoes and kholrabi have yet to be planted. Tender annual herbs (such as basil and cilantro), zucchini & green beans will be planted from seed in a few weeks.

My French tarragon (not Russian tarragon which is an annual.

Cut cut cut… to maintain a fine tender & tasty chive!

Tomatoes and green peppers (tropicals) will be the last to go into the garden, typically after Memorial weekend for minimal chance of damage by late frost.

More cat-proofing planting bed until seeds germinate!

Sage, HEAVILY pruned a couple weeks ago shows re-growth.

Did I mention my Shetland sheep have been shorn and their wool skirted and already processed into roving and batts? Now we begin the waiting game, looking for clues and signs that parturition (birth/lambing) will occur soon. Unlike the goats that are hand-bred, we house the ram with the ewes for several months for breeding to occur. We don’t always ‘observe’ the actual breeding (but, there are breeding harnesses that the ram can wear that ‘marks’ the ewe when she’s been mounted). According to my calendar, my ewes could lamb any time now…!

Naked sheepies!

I ended the week with speaking to a group of gardeners about the wonderful benefits of herb gardening, then rushing home to help a friend with skirting her wool fleece and how to ‘process’ it at home.

…and finally, we mucked-out one of the lamb sheds, right down to the dirt floor, limed it heavily and prepared it with fresh clean straw!

That about covers the week’s highlights…and then we start all over again with the never-ending list of chores! There’s no excuse for boredom!!! Hope you have a great week!

Dream Pillows

Dream Pillows: Aromatherapy Part II ~ continued.

Dream pillows have been made for hundreds of years, dating back to the days when herbs were believed to have magical powers. Fragrance unlocks pleasant memories that play out in our dreams in a most delightful way. Dream pillows ~ or comfort pillows ~ are used for inducing sleep and vivid dreams. They were often used in the sickroom to ease the nightmares that may come with medicine and the smells of illness. Tucked into your regular pillowcase, the subtle scents that emanate from a small dream pillow will aid in better sleep and more lucid dreams, perhaps summoning long-hidden memories.

Scents do evoke memories, especially florals, perhaps of childhood days when there wasn’t a care in the world. Since everyone’s sense of smell is different, you really must experiment with different plant materials to find your preferences. Most everyone likes lavender, and makes a nice relaxing base scent for a sleep bag. Other herbs may cause more action packed dreams!  For the frequent traveler, herbal dream blends are meant to give quiet rest, a familiar scent and peacefulness to inspire confidence and ensure the fullest enjoyment of the trip. Make one for yourself prior to a vacation or business trip!

The healing energies of aromatic herbs and flowers are designed to:

  • Reduce stress
  • Nurture your creative spirit
  • Inspire romantic thoughts
  • Increase mental clarity and awareness

Here’s a listing of commonly used pillow herbs:

chamomile – relaxation, pleasant dreams
balsam fir needles – relaxing, soothing
dill – comes from Norse word “dilla” meaning ‘to lull’, helps one to fall asleep
hops- relaxation, pleasant dreams , strong scent
sage – “helps dreams come true”
thyme – to bring dreams of fairies
orange peel – protected and safe feelings
sweet woodruff – protection from nightmares and bad thoughts of others.
lavender- eases headaches, promotes psychic cleansing
marjoram – healthy thoughts
mints – adds vividness and alert feelings to dreams.
rose – loving thoughts, can be exotic or even erotic
rosemary – keeps away bad dreams.
red clover – prosperity
lemon grass – prophetic dreams
mugwort – for remembering dreams, vivid dreams
damiana – sensual dreams, aphrodisiac
patchouli – sensual, erotic, aphrodisiac, haunting
leather scraps – wild west dreams, action and excitement

Some herbs to avoid: chamomile for people prone to allergies, other sages, tansy, and artemisias may cause nightmares.

Dream pillows are easy to make with little effort. A simple muslin bag works well as a sleep or dream bag to tuck inside your pillowcase. You can make prettier pillows (or sachets) with floral fabric, lace and ribbons, vintage buttons, hand-stamped messages, and so on… to set on the bed as both decoration and mood setting.

The following recipes will help to get you started. The muslin bags should be filled about 1/2 way with herb mixture so that they will flatten in your pillowcase.

Restful Sleep
1/2 part hops
1 part marjoram
1/2 part linden
12 part orange granules
1 part lavender
1 part chamomile

Relaxing Sleep
1/2 part catnip
1 part lavender
1 part mugwort

Lovely Dreams
1 part mugwort
1/2 part roses
1/2 part chamomile
1/2 part lavender
1/4 part peppermint

Explore your own fav custom herbal ‘recipe’ blend… and ♥ sweet ♥ dreams!