Cheese Adventures

The Aged Cheese Journey …

What do you do when you have a lovely Jersey Milk Cow who gives you 3 gallons of creamy milk every time she is milked?  When we were younger and had 4 growing children I was lucky to have extra milk to make ice cream. As the years passed we added Nubian Milk goats to the farm so I could make soft cheeses (which in this house is a staple) like Feta and Paneer.  Now that we have we have grandchildren (not yet teenagers) I am finally getting to experiment with making Aged Cheese.

The process is pretty straight forward as long as you are precise in following a recipe. The hardest part for me is having the patience to age the cheese. My favorite beginner cheese making book is “A Cheese Maker’s Journey” by Mary Jane Toth.

The difficult part for me has been accumulating the equipment including a Cheese Press and weights. As you can see in the pictures I am using the grain weights from my antique grain scale. I have since found and ordered a nice 10 lb weight from www. Sausage Maker.com but until it arrives these old iron weights are working just fine.

Any advice from you more experienced cheese makers is much appreciated.

Now the adventure begins as we move up from Cheddar to Stilton….I will keep you advised on the journey. 

  • Jersey Cow
  • Cheddar pre waxed
  • Cheese WAX
  • Cheese Press

Mindful Living on the Farm

I bought John Seymour’s “Self Sufficient Life and how to live it”. I have been wanting it for years and finally bought it for our Farm Library. I have only gotten to page 23 and already have learned much. Seymour states “There should be no need for a garbage man on the self-sufficient farm.” I have for years fed or composted everything I could but this simple statement made me evaluate what else I could recycle to benefit my farm (without becoming a Hoarder of Junk). We only make “dump runs” once every eight weeks but I think fully 20% of that load would easily be burnable in my stove in the garage or compostable as well. I have lamented that I never have enough ash for the garden….yet I have been happily paying to let the county burn it. Do you ever have those “Duh” moments? Living simply really means Living Mindfully. Sometimes I just go into auto pilot until something triggers the ‘change your perspective’ button.

Dreaming of Farming?

How much land do you need? How many and what kind of animals? Start where you are and take small steps toward your goals…you will get there. The important thing is to start.

For years we talked of farming, being self-sufficient and someday; then one day we realized that was what we had been doing all along. You don’t need a large homestead to farm – hundreds of acres and just as many animals. All you need is to make the most of what you do have. If you are a good steward of what you have it will grow and before you know it you will be asking yourself if you want to take on more or be content with what you are busy doing now.

Fig- Stuffed Boneless Leg of Lamb

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 pounds boneless leg of American lamb
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 cup mixed herbs combined (parsley, mint, thyme)
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  • 7 Orchard Valley Choice Mission Figs
  • 3 tablespoons pistachios

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Start by making the marinade.

In a food processor you’ll add the garlic, lemon juice, herbs, olive oil, seasoning and a dash of nutmeg (optional).

Remove the marinade and leave about two tablespoons of it in your food processor, to which you will add the filing ingredients. 

Add the feta cheese, pistachios and the figs. 

Process the filling in the food processor until it’s chunky.

Take your boneless leg of lamb and place it on a piece of parchment paper.

Spread the marinade all over the outer part of the lamb, and then flip the lamb to the other side. 

Spread the filling evenly all over the other side (the inside). 

Use the parchment paper as a guide and roll the lamb like a cylinder, tucking it well as you roll using the parchment paper.

Use kitchen twines cut into 6 inch ropes to tie the lamb very well about half an inch apart.

Place the lamb in the oven and right away drop the temperature to 350 degrees F.

Roast the lamb uncovered for about 50-60 minutes. Use a meat thermometer and make sure the internal temperature is 145 degrees F for medium rare, then let the lamb rest for at least 3 minutes before slicing.

Serve the lamb with an extra side of rice, some dried figs and a sprinkle of pistachios.

Shepherd’s Pie

INGREDIENTS

FILLING

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground American lamb
  • 1- 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn

TOPPING

  • 3-4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, warmed
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (more or less, to taste)

DIRECTIONS

Heat the olive oil in a large cast iron pan over medium low heat. Add the onions and saute until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more.

Add the carrots to the onions and cook for another 5 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a plate or just push off to one side of the pan.

In the same pan, add the ground lamb, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Season with the salt and pepper, then mix the lamb with the vegetables and cook, stirring and continuing to break up the chunks of meat frequently, until the lamb is browned, about 10 minutes.

To the lamb and vegetable mixture, add the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, rosemary, thyme, red pepper flakes, and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Sprinkle with the flour, then stir in to the meat mixture until evenly dispersed, cooking for 1-2 minutes.

Add the beef broth and cook for 3-5 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed. Then stir in the frozen peas and corn. Remove from heat and let cool while working on the mashed potatoes. Either leave in the cast iron pan, if it is oven safe, or transfer to a square baking dish.

Place the potatoes in a large pot with enough salted water to cover them by about an inch. Bring to a boil and cook for 12-15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender enough to be easily pierced with a fork. Drain well.

Add the warmed cream, butter, and salt to the potatoes and mash using a potato masher or ricer, then use to top the shepherd’s pie filling in either the cast iron pan or a square baking dish, spreading to the edges and leaving craggy swirls on top instead of smoothing out.

Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees F until hot all the way through and the mashed potatoes on top have nicely browned spots in a few places. You may want to place a pan under it in case any filling drips out. Let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.

March Madness

March is the month when January planning and February preparing begins to pay off. The lambs and kids have begun to arrive by now as have the piglets. The seeds I ordered, after pouring over the seed catalogs, have also arrived and will soon all be nestled in the soil germinating. The chickens have begun to lay, so now the routine of checking on and turning eggs in the incubator has been added to the day.

     The renewing of life as spring fast approaches is a delightful time and a hectic time. The first fleeces are off the sheep. I always try to shear before the ewes lamb for two reasons. First, it makes it easier to watch over their progress toward lambing and secondly, it makes for a premium, clean fleece to work with. Now the dilemma is over which fleeces to sell raw, which to make into batts or roving and which go into my private treasury.

     March is also the month for marketing to be kicked into high gear. The annual farm letter goes out to alert our loyal customers that they need to place their orders for meat animals for this year. Web and print advertising go full scale as we are weekly adding Breeding Stock available for sale and soon the spring’s first crops of fleece and seedlings as well. It is wonderful to have the explosion of production and now is the time to share this with our customers.

      Amidst all this activity there is the list of preparations for spring planting as well as fence repairs on all the paddocks. I swear there are gremlins riding the deer who delight in breaking wires and pushing posts over in the spring thaw.

     This is the time of year when I often allow the excitement of renewal to turn into worry over all that needs to get done and finding the time to do it. This is when the planning and preparing of January and February becomes the ever growing “to do” list of spring. Having a Check List on the fridge helps me track my progress, keeping me feeling like I am gaining on the tasks at hand.

     I often remind myself that Christ said, “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Keeping my focus on the tasks of today leads to enjoying the delights of spring from the first returning robin to the first tomato sprouts. This is the way to relish a farmer’s life in the midst of all the activity that spring brings.

Welcome to Solace Farm

I am blessed to be a farmer and a shepherdess who shares my life with three generations here in the Pacific Northwest.  My days are filled with caring for my family, land and animals. Over the years I have been mentored by many knowledgeable and creative individuals and feel it is only right that I share the wisdom and skills that my life has grown around. 

My goal is to pass along my experiences in the hopes of brightening your day, encouraging your creativity, and possibly saving the lost arts of living a self-sufficient life in harmony with our world. 

I will cover many topics including Farming, Cooking, Gardening and the Fiber Arts to name a just a few. 

The products of our farm will be listed in our Farm Store and I hope to eventually to be able to put together some tutorials. 

Thank you for stopping by and spending a moment or two with me.

Selenium and Lamb Growth

Increased Selenium Dosage Boosts Growth and Immunity in Lambs

In a new study published in the Journal of Animal Science, Oregon State University (OSU) researchers show that maximum selenium levels permitted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may be too low for sheep to reach optimum growth and health.

Selenium is essential for cellular function in animals and aids development. Large selenium doses can be toxic, but too-low levels can impair growth and compromise the immune system.

“When sheep don’t grow to their potential or have weak immune systems, it can be a sign of insufficient selenium,” said Gerd Bobe, co-author of the study and an OSU professor. “Our research shows higher levels of selenium can result in healthier animals that grow bigger and that can improve returns at the marketplace for farmers and ranchers.”

A challenge is that the range between selenium deficiency and selenium toxicity can be narrow; current FDA regulations limit the amount of dietary selenium supplementation for animals grazing on selenium-scare soils to 0.7 mg per sheep per day or 3 mg per beef cattle per day.

In OSU’s experiments, pregnant ewes were given selenium doses up to five-times higher than the FDA’s allowed level – an amount of supplementation researchers determined to be not harmful to sheep. The element is carried into the bodies of offspring, helping young animals during development.

At the highest selenium doses, ewes gave birth to lambs that grew to be 4.3-pounds heavier than average after 60 days. Furthermore, survival was 15-percent higher in lambs receiving the highest amount of organic selenium supplementation. As farmers look to sell sheep at five to six months old, weight and health metrics are keys to profitability.

A new generation of OSU research is attempting to determine how much selenium and in what form is best for optimal growth and health of sheep and cattle.

Make A Drop Spindle

If you would like to learn how to spin, but buying a wheel just isn’t in your budget. Then here’s an easy and economical way to make you own drop spindle.

Go to a craft shop that sells wooden products and buy a wooden car wheel about 2-3 inches in diameter, this will be the whorl part of the spindle. The wheel has already been drilled with a hole in the exact center which will keep the spindle from wobbling when it spins.

Next you need to find a dowel rod that will fit snugly in the center hole of the wheel. This will be the shaft of your spindle. The dowel rods are 3 feet long when you purchase them. I cut my shaft at 9 or 12 inches, so 3 or 4 spindles can be made with one dowel rod.

After you have the dowel rod cut, push it into the center hole of your whorl (wheel) allowing about 1 to 1 1/2 inch to stick out the bottom. This is know as a low-whorl or bottom-whorl spindle.

Now, drill a small hole in the center of the shaft, in the end at the top. I use a 5/64″ drill bit. Purchase a 1/4″ cup hook and screw it into the top of the shaft. This acts as a “catch” for your yarn so that it doesn’t slip off the end while you are spinning. I usually sharpen the bottom end of the shaft to a dull point with a pencil sharpener so I can spin the spindle on a table top or in a small bowl like a top, if I want it supported.

You are now ready to add your “leader” yarn, to start your fiber on the spindle. You can use some home spun or store bought yarn around 12 to 14 inches in length. Tie this tightly to the shaft right above the whorl.

Next take the leader yarn over the side of the whorl, looped over the bottom inch that is sticking out, (this helps stabilize the yarn and balances the spin of the whorl) then back up over the side of the whorl and loop it onto the hook. Leave a couple of inches of yarn to start your fiber on.

Now you have an inexpensive tool to start learning to spin. Once you have mastered spinning on the spindle, learning to spin on the wheel will become much easier.

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