Headed home from work today and as I did my evening chores had a wet surprise in the barn tonight. February has been a record snowfall and now that were in March all of that snow is starting to melt. As you can see in the pictures, the water has nowhere to go, especially since we still have quite a bit of snow outside.
Oliver, the barn cat is staying in the hay loft.
The chickens toggled between wading in the water or trying to fight for high ground.
The goats were playing hop scotch from dry spot to dry spot and. . .
And the sheep just cried.
And then there is Jemima, the duck. Happiest little thing having her own pond right inside the barn.
The temperatures have been pretty cold and we have Ben quickly going through our bales of hay. Everyone enjoying some bales of alfalfa to cheer them up on a frigid evening.
As you can see Sadie is enjoying a snowy Saturday. The pigs are a couple of weeks away from delivery to the butcher. This is one of our friendly girls.
On the farm, we generally raise our pigs anywhere from 250 to 300 lbs. before butchering. Some may wonder how do you know how big they are. I will admit that our butcher is in such high demand that we generally schedule our butchering date at least 6 months in advance.
Outside of observation, however, we do occasionally do some weight checks on the group of pigs. It is quite a site to see us trying to get the pigs to stay still long enough to measure them but if you can, you can get two measurements and figure out their approximate weight.
The formula is girth x girth x length all divided by 400.
Tonight we measure one of the middle of the group females and collected the following measurements:
48 x 48 x 42 = 96,768
We figured that the pig is approximately 242 lbs. with one month to go.
The farm has been full of general routine and new adventures over the past month.
This batch of pigs have been a little different than our previous batch. They are the Berkshire/ Duroc mix with a Hereford. The larger size and white face is showing up predominantly in this current batch of pigs from the Hereford line. The pigs are not scheduled to the butcher until late February but they are already pretty large. I am curious on the final weight when they head to Taylor Meats.
The other updates around the pigs is the upgrade of a hog feeder and the shelter. It has been a game changer to no longer manually carry two 5 gallon pails of feed every day. Plus, the goats will try to trip you up as you are walking with two pails to get some food so it is almost like a obstacle course. . . or you have to sneak in the back yard before the goats hear or see you. Let’s just say some days they win and some days you win.
One of the biggest differences between my flock of chickens and Jemima is how they handle the snow. Jemima is enjoying her own little barn spa and when it snows she’s one of the first ones out of the barn to go exploring. Whereas the chickens all stand at the door way and refuse to walk on the snow and get their feet cold.
It was Christmas for the Goats this last month. I arrived home from work one day with four large spools to upgrade my goat playground from my cousins. Above is the finished product. This summer I plan on painting it.
We took a long weekend here in December to visit both of our parents in Arizona. On the trip it was fun to see the landscape, enjoy the warm weather, and even enjoy a little surprise at the grocery store with these mini milk containers.
We are also welcoming some new additions to the farm. We are settling in a couple of sheep. Vanilla Bean is checking this out and I am curious to see who will be the alpha around the barn. One of the sheep is as bossy as Vanilla Bean.
It is always an exciting time when another batch of baby pigs arrive on the farm. We have had such demand for orders, a seventh pig snuck into the batch.
This year we decided to go with a little sturdier shelter for the babies. We generally have them stay in the garden while they are small. This helps turn over the ground and it allows us the keep an eye on them from the house. In previous years we have taken hay bales and put a tarp over the top for a shelter since they are not in it for a super long time. This year we ran into a vendor at the Minnesota State Fair that had these plastic shelters. We purchased one that was uncut and it has been great.
Now that the county fair is over we have been weaning the babies off and have been enjoying fresh goat milk around the house. Below is my milking set up in the barn. My barn isn’t super large so I use a surplus stall to be able to keep in whoever is milking and keep out everyone else.
Vanilla Bean knows the routine and is normally waiting at the door to let her in. We generally collect anywhere 5-6 cups of milk a day. I use a liquid measuring cup for milking and pour in excess into a large canning jar. Vanilla Bean gets impatient and will sometime kick. In the early days we lost a lot of milk. Once we have milked her we strain the milk through a coffee filter and will pasteurize it over the stove. Instead of milking jars the large canning jars with a flip lid works great otherwise the plastic screw on lids.
For fun we have been making lots of ice cream. I received a ice cream maker so the fun is in experimenting with different recipes. So far I have successfully made chocolate chocolate chip, lemon, and strawberry. I am still trying to perfect my vanilla.
I found on amazon these great ice cream containers.
My next mission is either caramel or some mint.
My recent new learning has been around getting more educated around goat milk. Vanilla Bean has been nursing the baby goats and I have had it easy around milking duties for the morning and evening chores.
Lately I have started weaning the babies off and have had to focus on my own learning around milking a goat. So this process started a while back when my neighbor, who also owns goats, taught my 10-year-old daughter how to milk her goats. So now my daughter taught me how to milk a goat, which I might add I learned fairly quickly.
So that’s the first problem, but the second question you have to ask yourself is now what do you do with the milk. This answer to that question aligned with my birthday present. I was excited to receive a ice cream maker for my birthday. I was super excited to get started. We rushed out to the barn, milked Vanilla Bean, and headed back to the house to get started.
The very first recipe we tried was a honey vanilla recipe that called for egg yolks, milk, honey and vanilla. It did not call for heating up the liquid nor did the recipe actually call for sugar. So I got the batch started and midway through tasted it and it really was missing the sweetness, so then I added the sugar midway through. This process generated, in my opinion, pretty good flavoring but I did not like the consistency as a result of putting the ingredients in in the middle of the process. I also wondered if putting the fluid in the machine without heating it up had any impact.
So we were eager to milk vanilla Bean the next day to get more milk to try a different recipe. This time we heated everything up and the new recipe did not call for egg yolks but it called for starch. Looking online everybody talked about egg yolks in their ice cream and how it makes it creamy so at the last minute I decided to add several egg yolks. Our feelings on that ice cream is it was creamy and more of the consistency we like, however, you could taste the starch pretty strong.
So the adventure continues to find the perfect mixture to create an amazing vanilla ice cream.
The past few months have been quite a journey with the goats. I feel like I was a part of a condensed college course on everything you need to know about kidding in 2 months. Ironically the birthing was the easiest part of the process.
Vanilla Bean wasn’t first doe that delivered. She delivered 5 days late from her due date but it was a smooth birth and Sadie was able to be there to provide support. We had twins- boy and girl.
Aspen was also several days late but had a great delivery and Eli was able to be there.
The last picture shows how big Rosie, the last kid born to Aspen. She was approximately pound and a half. They have been an amazing addition to the farm.