Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cheese, maple syrup, butter and piglets!

Lots to catch up on, quite a bit has happened since I last posted!
Ok lets start with my 1st attempt at making homemade mozzarella cheese.
I used 2 gallons whole milk (that I always get from the local farm store)

I used 1 whole tablet of junket. You dissolve in water and add to milk after it is heated from anywhere to 88-90 degrees F

Here is what it looked like after the 2 gallons went in.

Here is where we made the curds.

This is our end product. It did not go as well as I had hoped. We wanted to make it with natural products not citric acid (not that a junket rennet tablet is natural??) Not sure on that one. I could not find how to make curds without citric acid. We were watching you tube videos and asking friends and looking up blogs and forums and so on and basically this is patch work quilt of things we patched together. Not a successful first try. :( I am not going to give the full recipe till I can master it myself.

Left over whey from mozz cheese. We let it sit out overnight covered. Then boiled it and let it cool till I could put my hand in the water and took out the curds and put in a cheese towel and it said to let it drip overnight again. I wanted to use it for dinner that night to make ravioli so I squeezed it to death in my cheese towel and it did just fine.

Here is what it ended up as and it was wonderful! I loved making ricotta cheese it was so easy!
Now to the Maple Syrup.

The PVC taps did not end up working so we ordered a 4 pack of metal spiels and since the PVC was larger then the spiel Mr. Smith actually flipped the spiels for those 2 backwards and it is working! We just put the elbow of the PVC tube to the back end of the spiel and it is doing beautiful! The one with the Gatorade jug is the spiel in the right way and we didn't order the buckets with the spiels so we had to improvise. We did not have enough money to order those as well and when you are working on little money, you just make the best of what you have! :)

Things got interesting at the end. Here is the 21 gallons of sap we collected.....ok maybe they are empty now...but they were all full! LOL

Here is where we started. Outside. Bad idea that day it started to get so windy and then drop in temp so fast and add snow on top of that! The wind ended up blowing the flame out so we moved it into our shed.

We forgot to defrost! HA HA  HA HA I took longer because of this....but I honestly did not think of it till we were about ready to boil! So I ended up using my crock pot to heat up a lot of the milk jugs to get it liquid again.

Here is 1/2 way through.

Here is adding the last liquid we had before the last HUGE ice chunk.

Here is what it looked like when we finally got it inside to finish it up.

We do not have a vent so we covered it and it actually heated up much faster and boiled down pretty quick.

At the end!

Well we ended up boiling it down too far! LOL Oh well! Its like a caramel sauce here.

Here we made maple cream! You just let the syrup cool for like an hour and then stir for 1/2 and hour and this is what you get! Sooooo good! A little too sweet for me....but the kids LOVE it! Cannot believe that something that has NOTHING added to it can be soooo sweet! Its insane!
Started boiling down frozen sap at 12:30pm on February 17, 2013. There is 21 gallons total of sap that we need to boil down. Tapped trees on January 25th. Had a week of bitter cold weather, so we got nothing and we ran into problems with the PVC taps and switched to the metal spiels. 5 quarts frozen and 2 quarts non went into the pot at 12:30 we have been slowly adding the sap that is defrosted in as we get it as long as the pot stays at a boil. Otherwise no point to trying to boil it down! It is snowing a lot and quite windy. At 2:00pm we had to move it into our shed because it kept being blown out by the wind. The wind is going at 20-30mph right now….makes me want to rethink boiling down today…..but don’t have a choice! I can see why they made sugar houses now! LOL We are using propane for this season since we won’t be getting a huge amount of sap since we only have 4 taps. We plan to over the summer make an evaporator and build something outside for it…but after today we may have to rethink that! We are also planning on tapping every maple, birch or walnut tree on our property next season and we have an old fridge that was given to us that was for a keg. We have never used it and hopefully if it still works we can put a food grade drum in there to add our daily sap from all the trees and then just boil down every Sunday when Mr. Smith is home and we can baby sit it together and watch all the kiddos! LOL We also plan to use buckets…not sure on the the size yet but at least 2 gallons so I can limit my time to 2 times a day to checking on the sap. Need to think of how I am going to transport the sap as I go from tree to tree. Maybe I can find an old 4 wheeler! Ooo that would be nice J There is a lot going on our little farm right now. We started incubating eggs again and have 27 in the incubator right now. Crossing my fingers most are fertilized and going to hatch! We put a camera up in our farrowing pen to keep an eye on our pregnant gilt so we can see when she is nesting and giving birth so we ca run up there and help her out! Its already saving me a lot of leg work from running up and down the hill all the time…..freaking out that she is giving birth and I am not there to make sure everything goes ok. Heat lamps and LOTS and LOTS of straw are in there. Just waiting on her…not a huge fan of the waiting game!
January 29th 2 inches in a 2 liter soda bottle
January 30th filled 2 liter soda bottle….which is 2 quarts or a ½ gallon
After weirdly cold weather and trouble with spiels
February 10th 2 liter soda bottle
February 12th up to 8 gallons and 1 qt in the freezer
February 13th 12 gallons 2 qts
February 14th 15 gallons
February 15th 19 gallons
February 16th 20 gallons 2 qts
February 17th 21 gallons and BOIL DOWN
10:30pm we stopped the process (10 hours into the boil down)
7am 2/18/13 we started it again
8:00pm we added the last of the frozen sap (a huge chunk of ice that just would NOT defrost!)
8:30pm propane ran out so we will start again in the morning when we switch tanks. 14 hours that day plus the 10 the previous day is 23 hours so far and not done!
9am we put the sap back on….we got a little side tracked Petunia our pregnant sow gave birth early this morning!
1:30 we brought the sap inside it could fit into a big pot in here….we do not have ventilation in our house and it worries me a little with the droplets that were forming on the ceiling in the shed we moved into. Tasted it already and it is sweet! Have my candy thermometer already in to get to our temp of 220 degrees.
4pm we hit 220 degrees F and we are now putting into quart jars, 6 hours that day...for a total of 30 hours for the boil down.
We got 1 quart and 1 pint of syrup….I think we boiled it down too far it was like caramel. So it is going to be an awesome candy or syrup for ice cream. Out of the pint I already made maple butter and oh my goodness it is beyond good! It is less in calories and fat then sugar and its ALL NATURAL! Plus it has so many vitamins and nutrients its crazy! I cannot believe something sooooo good comes from the inside of a tree! It has been too cold to get anything from out maple trees, which I guess is somewhat of a blessing because we had enough on our plate with the boil down and the birthing of the piglets.
Now to Butter!

Here is a quart of heavy cream from the local farm store.

It made close to 1lb of butter plus 1/3 of a quart of buttermilk!
Thinking of adding a little of maple cream to a small amount of butter! YUM YUM Maple butter!

Here is our pregnant sow about 1 week before birth.

Here is what I saw when I got to the barn. Mr.Smith was already up there with Mr. Heyer.

Close up!!! They are soooo cute! Do not like to be snuggled though! I tried! HA HA HA

In labor after giving birth to the 1st 2.

Mr. Heyer catching #3.

Here they are running around under the heat lamp! Oh it was so neat!

Here they are nursing and Mr. Smith trying to get the runt (we named him Pita) to drink. He was not interested. Mr. Smith ended up taking him inside and nursing him from the bottle. He perked up and is a great addition to the bunch! So feisty! There are 5 total and it seems all are boys!
Petunia our pregnant sow was nesting all day on 2/18/2013 she was breathing heavy, not eating, restless and at 5am she had her first piglet. We had gotten a camera to put into the farrowing pen and watched her 24/7 till we knew she was close. We had a motion detector on that beeped when she would move so it kept us up for 2 nights and when we knew she was close Mr. Smith stayed up all night to watch her and he got to deliver the 1st 2 piglets with Mr. Heyer and before I could get out there! Mr. Heyer walked away to stretch his legs for a moment and there was another that came out and I got to catch it and clean it off. It was one of the most glorious feelings you can have. Almost as glorious as when you have your own child! :D There was 9 altogether 4 were so healthy that we knew they were fine and there was a runt that at first we thought wasn’t going to make it. He wasn’t energetic or trying to eat so Mr. Smith took him inside warmed him up and bottle fed him. He perked up and is definitely acting like his brothers now. We did have 4 still borns that look like they never fully developed and were only 1-2 months along. So it’s a mixed emotion kind of day. Lost some, but there are now 5 healthy baby pigs on the farm! Piggy is also starting to show again and is due April 4th…we think….its hard to tell sometimes. She went into heat around there but we did not see Hammy the boar service her. We will see.

Something I am realizing more and more as I get further and further into this homesteading is take baby steps. Don’t try to do everything all at once the old fashioned way. Like the maple syrup. I really wanted to do it over a wood fire to be cheaper and to more self sufficient, but after we got into the process with the propane I realized that I needed to get the hang of just boiling it down the easier way before I made things more difficult on myself. It was my first time boiling down so while I am learning how to do that, why make it harder on myself and possibly set myself up to fail? That would discourage me and make me want to walk away from doing it the rest of the season!

Something else I have heard is that we are living a “crunchy” or new age hippie lifestyle. While that may be true because we are coming one more with life and the earth and I like to respect all living things like trees, plants, animals and bugs…it is more because I value what God has made for us and I see the beauty of his work. He has made those pesky ants and those gosh darn annoying wasps and he did it for a reason. So, I do not mess with them and let them go on their way unless they will harm my family. We also home school, try to eat all locally organic foods we cannot grow ourselves, cloth diaper, and try to use products that are naturally made or that I can learn to make myself with things that are grown on our property. I like to be in tune with nature and the more simple things in life and enjoy the beauty God has given us everywhere! So, if that makes us crunchy or a hippie then so be it…..I like to call it homesteading or living in God’s beauty…or better yet….being a Smith! LOL

When we first started this journey is was because we needed to save money and we wanted to continue to have more children (which is where God was first telling us to go, add to out family) Then after we learned to grow a garden, we were told to get chickens, then later on pigs and then to breed all of them….to be self sufficient and to save money….as we kept going along we fell more and more in love with this journey and know it’s the path God has for us. We will continue to do this journey for as long as He tells us to. Who knows what is in the future for us. I am hoping more land and cows and more animals and Mr. Smith staying home full time with us….but I guess we shall see where this takes us J

Ok I think that is it. Sorry if there is a little bit of repetitiveness in this post I was trying to write down things as they happened so I would remember...brain is a little slow right now! 20 weeks into pregnancy with Smith baby #6 and the ultrasound shows it to be another girl! I know as I keep getting further along that I will forget things more and more, so please bear with me! :D Well We are approaching planting season and this weekend we are going to start with the planting the seeds in the seed starter stuff we have to get a jump start on the we go on season 2013!!! SO excited!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Maple sap & baby chicks

We have been collecting sap from our sugar maple tree for almost 2 weeks now. The first week was a horrible cold spell so we got nothing. This past week on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday temperatures were above freezing (Wednesday actually made it up to 60 degrees!) So we got quite a bit in 3 days. We filled a 2 liter soda bottle, a gallon milk jug, and a 2 quart gatorade bottle. (We are up cycling as well!) Then Friday it just made it to 32 degrees and nothing was flowing. Mr. Smith and I are talking about tapping the other side and possibly another maple at the very front of our yard. It has poison ivy crawling up (that we have been trying to get rid of for quite a while) so just need to make sure we get a clear spot. I put all 3 bottles in the freezer to save for when we get more sap. I would like to do 1 big batch for an all day event. I will mark a day on my calender when I can baby sit the sap outside. So, I can say we have successfully tapped a maple tree, we shall see if we are just as successful in making syrup. :)

We were also given 46 baby chicks last night. White Leghorn, straight they are a mix of males and females. They are about 6 days old now. There is a nearby school that does hatching for a science project and couldn't find anyone to take the last bunch. Of course we said YES! That would just get us closer to making money on our little homestead!

Petunia, our pregnant sow, is looking quite plump and is laying down we are in the last couple of weeks in her pregnancy. We will be checking on her a little more frequently and try to make her as comfortable as possible so she doesn't stress out and have them early. Excited to have so many babies on the farm again so far. Cannot wait till mid February and there will be more!

Speaking of pregnancy I am about 1/2 way through mine with Smith kid #6 and the baby has eaten my brain! I totally forgot that when you make your own mozzarella cheese you need rennet! So, I have not gotten to make our own mozzarella cheese as of now, but Mr. Smith will be picking up some today and I hope to make our own cheese either today or tomorrow. My energy goes fast through out the day, so it may end up being tomorrow.

I will update again soon, hopefully after we boil down sap so we can have more pictures!