Becky is a diligent milk maid who takes prodigious care of her good friend Penny.
Penny, in turn, gives Becky five gallons of unbelievably sweet and creamy milk every day.
Today I had two and a half gallons to work with so I made two quarts of yogurt, a quart of cultured buttermilk, and a gallon's worth of ricotta. I always skim the top of the bucket into a quart jar to get the most cream possible in one jar. That makes it easier to pour off cream for butter.
Ricotta is made by adding a teaspoon of citric acid, dissolved in a quarter cup of water, to the milk and bring it to 185 degrees until the curds separate from the whey. Do not allow to boil.
I absolutely knew it was safe to look away for a second to scrub some pots and pans because I'd have to be a complete idiot to allow the cheese to boil, right?
I allowed to boil.
But it tastes fantastic in spite of my forgetfulness.
I've lost my bottle of rennet so I have to wait for the New England Cheesemaking order to come before I can start making hard cheeses.
My three daughters were all on our Rec. team which went to a huge girls' tournament way out of our league- if you care about semantics, that is.
The teams we played yesterday were "elite travel" teams.
If we had had a chance to practice together (all 12 of us, which meant we only had one sub!) before the games, we would have been very competitive.
We played almost as well as the other teams, and we had a good time doing it. I could tell that our tough farm girls' attitudes were helping them against the dainty city girls.
Oh, and did I mention that although they were all 16 and 17 year olds, we ranged from 11-16.
Not too shabby, Charlotte County!
Here's the hotel room where we recovered between games.
Soccer's fun, but hair is important, too!
Penny's a generous cow, giving us five gallons of creamy milk each day.
Five gallons a day was working out all right when we were feeding her calf two of them, but now that he's gone to his new home we're scrambling to use up the milk.
If any is left over a day after its milking, we feed it to the pigs.
Besides puddings and hot cocoa galore, we're making soft cheeses now, and hard cheeses by next week, I hope.
The bottom photo is the first cheese from last night. It's Fromage Blanc, which is just like cream cheese.
Since the milk happened to be exactly 86 degrees when Becky brought it from the barn, all I had to do was stir a packet of direct set starter into a gallon of milk, and stick it into the oven to incubate overnight. In the morning, I strained it through one of Danny's T-shirts.
Note to self: buy butter muslin from the cheese store.
The photo on top is called "Ricotta from Heaven" in my cheese making book. It's made by almost boiling the whey from the first batch of cheese, then straining the curds through the cloth (or shirt. whatever.) again.
This one is almost unbelievably yummy, with a luxurious texture.
Tonight, Becky and I plan to pressure can two gallons of milk in pint jars, to have in case of emergencies. If that works well, we'll try to put up many gallons for the few months that Penny's not fresh.
I hope to get a good store preserved into hard cheese to cut down on our grocery bill next year.
Thankfully, the pigs are always standing by in case of a spectacular cheese fail, so there's not much pressure for me as I learn Cheddar making.
The weatherman said he was scared that a small band of snow showers could hit a localized area.
We are that area.
It poured beautiful snow all day long.
If the temperature had been below freezing, I'm sure that the snow would be well over a foot deep.
However, it stayed warm all day, until nightfall, when the temperature went to freezing, and the glorious snow started to stick in earnest.
I was out in the field with the horses and dogs for less than an hour and got an accumulation of about an inch on my head.
We have about 6" most places. Some deeper, some less.
Katie took the camera outside to get some farm pics.
JoJo obliged her for a portrait of a silly pony.
Laura's hens are laying now. Here is a photo by Laura of today's egg collection.
The calf and Tom are best friends.
Tom sleeps curled up on him at night in his hay stall on our front porch, but I can't photograph the adorableness of that because if I move or turn on a light, they jump up and run toward me.
I do have a nice collection of flash lit gray and tan blurs snuffling my lens.
I like Tom Kitten. He climbs trees and eats rodents. He also sleeps cutely on his own pillow next to Becky's head at night. Better yet, he sometimes clumsily falls into the crack between her bed and her wall. His meow for help is surprisingly quiet and feminine for such a hulking, manly kitten.
The calf wants up on the trampoline.
He's friends with Lily, who doesn't snap at him while he plays roughly with her.
At one week of age, he's running really fast laps around the house.
His owner came to visit him today, bringing calf starter feed, as he's started to nibble at hay and grass.
They'll take him home next weekend.
Tom Kitten is almost 6 months old now. Look at what a big boy he is, hunting up rats and mice for his family.
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
― G.K. Chesterton
I'd been lamenting my monotonous life lately.
Mostly because it's February, I'm sure, but cleaning, cooking, schooling, and farming had me weary of the sameness of everything.
Then I read this quote by one of my favorite authors and have, for the moment at least, a new outlook on life.
Here is Katie at math today.
I decided to picture lessons through the warm, cheerful candles in rebellion to the bitter gray and dismal gloom seeping in from outside.
I snapped this Sunday night.
Becky and I were watching Superbowl commercials at the computer.
She'd just come up from milking and feeding.
My little agriculture major in her pink Carhartts is the reason I felt teary about Dodge Truck's Farmer ad.
The calf is drinking up healthy colostrum by the half gallon, and feeling fine.
Laura's new hens started laying luxurious dark brown eggs yesterday.
The bitter cold is over for now, and the days, at least, are warming back up.
Now I can believe that spring will come.
Off to order seeds...
Here's the calf's playpen.
He's on the front porch in a wind-proof corner, with a tarp around three sides and the top. The hay keeps him warm, as do the T-shirt and Becky's windbreaker coat.
Snowflake was in a big hurry to make friends with him.
He downed his second bottle tonight.
After tomorrow morning, if he's still thriving, I'll have no worries about him.
Those first 24 hours, whether dam-raised or bottle-fed, are the toughest.
Becky successfully pulled the calf away from Penny and got him on the bottle.
Penny's acting ok with the whole thing. I know she still misses him for now.
He seems to wander back toward his birthplace when we let him on the yard for a potty break, but I don't believe that he has any particular longing for his real mom.
Penny gave about three gallons this evening. Becky brought a gallon and a half up here, and Penny had spilled about the same amount.
Momma would get a little anxious about her son during milking, but Becky would tell her soothingly, "It's ok, Penny." and she would settle right down.
We're not storing any colostrum because we don't have any upcoming babies on the farm. What he doesn't drink, we'll feed to the pigs.
He's taking the bottle like a champ now.
He's been sold to our friends for a beef steer and will leave next week (or the week after.) Becky will have an abundance of milk after he leaves!
Penny was due in January.
I've spent many hours over the last two weeks down at the barn overnight, in case the calf showed up. The reasons behind my expectations were the show of mucous that she started having in late January and her unbearably tight udder (unbearable for me, but apparently fine for her.)
Becky, who owns the cow and calf, wanted to whisk him away from Penny immediately, before she could lick him, but she was too fast for us! Dan and I didn't have the heart to take him from her after the licking, but Becky did, so he never nursed from Mom, just from the bottle.
We'd been keeping Penny in her stall at night for warmth and easy finding, and letting her graze in the west field all day.
When we got home from church today and she wasn't out in the field, I grabbed the towels from her barn and ran to the woods.
Here is what we found...
I like the second picture of Becky's midwifery because of the trust and friendship that you can see exists between them.
I'd estimate 15 minutes between the first and last pictures.
When I had found her, the tips of his hooves were visible, so a total of about a half hour from my first glimpse of hooves.
He weighed 60 pounds. If she'd had a littler heifer, I think the time would have been much shorter.
In the last photo, Becky isn't pulling, just waiting to receive him.