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Fighting tomato blight with pennies
Building a bee waterer
How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?
How to help chicks during hatching
Calories per acre for various foods
A year ago this week:
Outdoor living room
The Call of the Farm
Work glove lotion fix
Best garden trowel?
Walden Effect Facebook page
My first try with
mozzarella tasted and looked a little funny since I used balsamic
vinegar to acidify the milk. (That was the only acid I had in the
house.) But after a trip to the store to pick up a bottle of lemon
juice, my second attempt came together quite easily. Total time: 30
minutes active, 2 hours total in the kitchen, 3 days wait on the milk.
First of all, Leigh warns not to try to make mozzarella until goat's milk is at least three days old.
So I started a careful milk-aging system in the fridge --- new jars
went in the right side, wrapped around the back, and we drank out of the
jar in the front left. The great part about aging the milk before turning it into cheese is that I was able to skim off enough cream to whip as berry topping. Yum!
When you gently tilt your
pot of proto-mozzarella and the clearish whey slides away from the
solid curd, you're ready to move on to the next stage. Use a knife to
cut the curd into squares, then put the pot back on the stove over
Now strain the curds from the whey by passing the contents of your pot through a stainless-steel sieve.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt
to the curds, then put them in the microwave (in a microwavable dish)
for between 30 seconds and one minute. The mozzarella should melt enough
to be stretched and easily formed into a ball.
Hardy Fig is limping along this year due to a harsh Winter.
It's time for us to cross another goat-keeping hurtle --- breeding our does. I was hoping to do this the lazy way, letting our buckling
mate with our (unrelated) doeling this summer for a fall birth. But
Lamb Chop didn't mature fast enough to do the deed before my
self-imposed deadline, and any matings now would result in kids being
born too late in the season to be safe.
So we've got a bit of
breathing room to figure out a better way to get our does knocked up.
For an early April birth, we'd need to breed our does in early November.
Which seems like a lot of time to make up our minds...but probably
I'd be curious to hear
from more experienced goatkeepers among you. Is there an option I'm
missing? And, given our goals and infrastructure, which breeding
technique would you choose? I suspect November will be here before we
know it, and it would be great if I had our breeding plans all lined up
before those fall heats.
Anna has been teaching me how
to milk Abigail.
Sometimes I get so deeply focused on tomato blight or persimmon grafting
that I forget to show you the big-picture garden. So I snuck out
between rain showers Friday to snap some shots of this and that.
was weeding month, when I did my best to uproot interlopers between
young vegetable seedlings and then mulched the growing plants left
behind. The task is ongoing, but by the beginning of July I'm officially
ahead of the weeds and can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
I also took a bit of time this week to start working on our strawberry beds. Midsummer strawberry tasks include renovating keeper beds,
ripping out old beds, and clipping blooms off any newly bought plants.
These last have been sitting in cold storage since winter, so they think
it's spring when they arrive at our farm. But June blooms in 2015 will mean fewer strawberries in 2016, so I pinch off flowers as they form.
Speaking of nitrogen, I'm keeping an eye on the two new nitrogen-fixing cover crops
we're trying out this year --- alfalfa (above) and soybeans (to the
left). I'm not sure if alfalfa puts out enough growth to really count as
a cover crop, although the goats adore the leaves. The soybeans are
more intriguing from a garden perspective, since they appear to be
thriving in very poor soil. That's a cover-crop niche I'd been looking
to fill --- what to plant before your earth has been improved enough to
keep buckwheat and oats happy. But it's early days yet, so I'm not ready
to pass judgment on either cover crop right now.
On a less utilitarian
note, borage doesn't look like it's going to make the cut as an
Anna-friendly flower. To survive on our farm, flowers have to be able to
thrive with absolutely no care, and our borage seems to be failing. I
could look up the disease and take steps to fix it...but with happy
nasturtiums and zinnias, I see no point in babying a flower.
Scarlet runner beans,
of course, continue to prove themselves to be Anna-friendly flowers.
This area in front of the trailer is entirely subsoil, dug out of a bank
nearby and mounded up into a little bed that partially hides our
skirting. But despite poor soil, the beans are already growing so fast
that I've pulled Mark off other projects to start building them a
And that's a quick tour of bits of the garden that caught my eye before it started to rain. Happy Fourth of July!
Abigail found a weak spot on
stanchion neck brace and
nearly worked one of the side panels free.
our garden, it's always a case of good news/bad news. Good news: we
started eating our first tomatoes (Jasper) this week and there is
technically still no blight in the patch. Bad news: septoria leaf spot has reared its ugly head and required me to snip off half the plants' leaves anyway.
Back to the point, you
can see our tomatoes in the background of the photo above. The plants
look a little naked now with their bottom leaves all gone, but I'm
hoping the serious pruning will slow down fungal spread despite a rainy
Our goats have already broken
their first mineral feeder trays.
Both the basswood and the
sourwood are blooming right now, so the hives are hopping. Which means
it's time to look inside and make sure there's enough space for the bees
to sock away all that honey.
You may recall that our mother hive has been weakened twice this year. First, I took a swarm-prevention split, then the hive swarmed anyway.
And yet, despite losing all of those workers (and me not finding a
second feeder to boost their stores with sugar water), there's quite a
bit of capped honey in the hive. The top box (a Warre box above a hive converter,
which was the original box in this hive) seems to be about half full of
honey and half full of capped brood. The next box down (a Langstroth
super) is similarly full. And the final box (another Langstroth super)
is full of drawn comb with some honey already stored therein.
I took the hive all the
way apart for two reasons. First, I was hoping to be able to take off
the Warre box and call the conversion a success. Unfortunately, there's
still brood in the Warre box, so I'll have to wait on finishing our
Meanwhile, the daughter
hive (from an early June split) is much less populous, but seems to be
doing quite well nonetheless. The top box is very heavy with honey and
brood, while the bottom box is fully drawn but appears mostly empty.
It's much harder to delve into a Warre hive in search of queen signs,
but the presence of brood four weeks after the split suggests that there
is a queen present and hard at work doing what she does best ---
expanding the hive.
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