Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pumpkin Patch Update

Last night we had the first of what I hope will be many more monsoon rains. It had not rained at the land since that last post I wrote about rain (April 10!). That's the downside of living in the desert. It's time for me to hook up the rain harvesting barrels and make sure everything is functioning right. There is just nothing like natural rainwater for the plants. This morning when we showed up everything looked so much healthier. No wilting leaves at all. Rain also will mean a lot more weeds to pull and feed to the animals.

The pumpkin vines were so excited about the rain that they celebrated by blooming all at once. You can see that the vines have really taken over in their spot. Every few days I have to pick them up off the path and put them back into their designated area. The geese help by trimming them if they get too close to their resort.
I'm crossing my fingers that some of those giant pumpkin seeds I snuck in there will actually grow. I didn't mark where I put them so it's all a mystery. I had put some warty gourds in there as well.

Maybe by next month Farmer G will get sucked into the vines and not be able to escape when it's picture time...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Update from the Gardens

There's magic growing in the pumpkin patch.

And GIGANTIC cucumbers in the Gigantic Garden.
Gigantic dill too!

This garlic was picked a little early, but it sure smells tasty
and looks great hanging in the kitchen to dry.

A Day at the Spa

Big Momma doesn't mind having her beard braided...

...or an occasional mani-pedi.

And Mojo is getting used to being brushed after a refreshing shower.

Isn't he sexy?

Friday, June 10, 2011


Since the guys make their haloumi cheese, I've been wanting to brave the cheesemaking process myself. So far, they've only made haloumi, failed mozerella, and yogurt (which has never appeared before me--how mysterious!). I went ahead and ordered a small cheesemaking kit from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company so I could try to make a French cheese called Chevre. Now, I'd never tried that cheese before, so I had no idea what it was or what to expect, but Koulis' wife, Camilla, said it was yummy and that she sometimes buys it at her local famer's market.

My kit came in the mail in a small box which I promptly opened so I could store away the rennet and packets of cheese cultures. (Rennet goes in the fridge and packets go in the freezer.) I read the little booklet which was thankfully written in layman's terms. It sounded pretty easy!

Feeling courageous, I got started with the morning's gallon of milk. For me, the smaller batched recipe is great since this is for home use, not the restaurants.

I gathered my ingredients and items:

1 gallon of goat's milk
the Chevre culture packet

A stainless steel pot
a thermometer
my kit provided butter muslin
my kit provided cheese strainers
a tub to drain the cheese in

This is about a two day project depending on how you like your cheese.

Day One:

I heated the milk to 140 degrees for 30 minutes to pasturize it. I drink our goats' milk raw and like it just fine, but since this is a curdling process, it's just safer to pasturize since the cheese will be sitting out to set up.

After the alloted pasturization time, I cooled the milk to 86 degrees F by placing the whole pot in a sink with ice and cold water.

At 86 degrees F I added the Chevre culture packet and put a lid on the pot--for 12-20 hours or until the cheese becomes firm.

Day Two:

I lined my cheese strainers with the butter muslin and ladled globs of the curdled milk into each strainer.

Then I let them drain...

...for 6-12 hours.

Once strained, the cheese is ready to use as is. I added salt because it was a little plain for my taste. I also added Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil seasoning to one batch and fresh dill from the Gigantic Garden to another batch.
It all came out delicious and spreadable on bagles, which is how the kids and I have been eating it. Hubs also put some on a pizza last night and said it was better than mozerella. The kids and I were away camping at the ranch, so we can't vouch for him, but the picture of the pizza looked tasty.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ten Things to be Happy About...

Appreciating all different shapes and sizes...

The first handful of green beans.

A really crusty old camper that has running water and comfy beds.

More figs!

Leaving the old home where you were all alone in the world and cryning most of the time for someone to play with.

Arriving in a new home with lots more room.

Freakin' big sunflowers.

A straw three times the norm.

After leaving home where you were all sad and lonely, you find that you now live with two lovely dominatrixes...

New toys in your playground.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Some Days Suck

This morning my in-laws left to go back to Greece early. I didn't want them to go. Unlike most wives, I really do love my mother-in-law and father-in-law. Maybe it's the language barrier, but we've always gotten along real well. Or maybe it's because they're so small and cute and they love me and my kids so much. Maybe they're just neat and it's good to have family around. They left early for health reasons which is scary enough in and of itself.

But I kept on going.

I went to the ranch to get the morning chores done and stopped on the dirt road by the gigantic garden to see that yes, indeed, my neighbor was right. It wasn't birds that ate all the radishes...or all the beets. It really was a big jackrabbit.

I admit "Jack" was cute. But I was kind of ticked at him for eating all my hard work.

Still, I kept going. There are plenty of things growing out there.

I fed and watered everyone and everything. I didn't worry when Ms. Cow was a brat and ignored me when it was her turn to milk. I just took Pepper first since she's always so anxious to give me her milkies. She's better behaved anyhow. Of course, Ms. Cow paid me back on her turn by managing to whack the bucket enough to make milk splash all over my left sleeve. And here I thought she'd learned some manners.

But all in all, even with a little spill, I still got a whole gallon of milk. It wasn't enough to cry about.

It was about time to leave, so I went to get the eggs. I slid open the pallet door and collected. Tsica, Queen/Tyrant of Goats wanted to see what I was up to (because clearly I was not paying attention to her which is unacceptable), so she squeezed her head in by mine, got spooked, pulled back and bumped me with her horns. Ouch. Still, nothing to get too upset over. It was an accident after all. Seven eggs in my shirt, I started to back out and saw that one of the Rhode Island Reds was acting odd. So I picked her up and started to worry. She was having a seizure.

Who knew chickens have seizures? I've had dogs that do, but a chicken? Great. So I carried this seizing chicken with me in one arm and managed to set the eggs down in a safe spot while I waited for the poor bird to come out of it. Only she didn't. She DIED right there in my arms.

At this point I'm thinking maybe the universe is off-kilter and out to get me.

Ugh. So. I dug a hole in the rock hard dirt by our little pet graveyard and buried the beautiful red hen that never even got old enough to lay an egg. Maybe it was a scorpion. Maybe she ate something odd. Maybe she had a heart attack and just died. I don't know.

I admit, I was starting to get a little emotional. It's never a happy moment when your animals die, even the ones that don't have names.

I finished up and pulled out of the ranch, stopping to close up the gate.

As I did so, I heard the most pitiful bahs coming from the neighbor's yard. I went over to check on Jorge, her last little buck to find him all alone in his pen, crying. He had no other goats to play with anymore, just their black dog and she wasn't really in the mood to play with the goat. I talked to him a little and he stopped crying, perked up, and stood on his hind legs against the fence, wanting to follow me anywhere and be my friend. I could relate to the little guy at that point. No one wants to end up all alone and unwanted.

But I kept going.

There are a lot of things that need to get done on Thursdays. Costco, a lot of cover art assignments, line editing and book uploading. Not to mention I was late getting home and my kids were likely being WII junkies in my absence.

On the drive home I stopped a little short for a yellow light and all those eggs slid down from the seat and most of them broke. I'm CERTAIN the universe has it in for me today.

But I won't let the universe win.

On the bright side, I'm having scrambled eggs for lunch from the eggs that did survive. I have 17 other chickens and that Red wasn't a layer. I smell like milk which isn't really a bad smell when it's all fresh and warm and frothy. My in-laws are going back where they feel safe and secure and where they can speak the same language as the doctors.

Who knows? Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but all we can do is hold on for the ride and make the best of what we're given.