Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Cows Are Here

The two cows from the Twin Oaks area arrived safe and sound. At first I thought they might be crazy and half wild but they really weren't too bad. Their owner backed her trailer into our driveway. Between the big garage, which I had enough sense to close the door, my trailer parked to one side, and the fence it created an alleyway of sorts. Once the trailer door was opened the cows hopped out and we pushed them into the back yard. They wandered around, checking out my cow in her pen, and the bull in his pen (who was VERY excited). They soon settled into munching on the grass.
I left them alone for about an hour and then went to let the bull out. He was being very proper and when I first opened his gate he pretended he was more interested in the grass than the two newcomers.
Of course that only lasted a minute or two and then he went and started sniffing and licking the new girls. They mooed a little, wondering where they were and what was going on, but today they are all settled and everybody seems happy.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My Kitchen Lately

Since it's "milking season" on my micro-farm these days one side of the kitchen sink is always full of the milking gear.

When it's not in the sink being sterilized...'s on the windowsill drying out.
The stuff includes the "Udderly EZ" milker components, including two one-quart collection bottles, a couple of funnels to pour the collected milk into cleaned formerly cow milk gallon containers, the Clorox to put a few drops in the sink to sterilize everything, the waterless hand sanitizer I use to wash the teat area of the sheep, and the stainless steel bucket I thought I'd use originally before I got the Udderly EZ milker. The hand milking wasn't working for me so I got the milker and now I use the bucket to carry all the stuff in. The bucket is actually too small for everything so I'm going to use another bucket.

I've decided to stop milking Baby because she is really too thin. On the body condition score I'd have to put her at a "1". The four other ewes are between 3 and 4 so I'm not worried about them at all. In fact, Jamie and Francine are getting close to being too fat. It's too bad Baby is putting everything she's got into making milk. Besides Jamie, she was the best milker. So for two days I only collected one cup per side, just to ease the pressure. I had been getting about three cups per side. The urge to milk her out was very strong and I had to force myself to stop, even as the precious white fluid continued to pour into the collection bottle.

That's how my sister and I talk about the sheep milk: it's liquid gold. Here's one reason why. Check out the prices on the sheep's milk cheeses!

I think I'm collecting more than she can use at the moment. She was off last week allegedly to work on a paper for school but when I started bringing the milk over she was transported to another mode: sheep cheese making mode.

But this week she's falling behind because she's letting other things get in the way. Things like her real job.

It doesn't matter though. Sheep milk freezes exceptionally well and I think besides Jamie the other three ewes are slowing down in their milk production. I just need to make sure I have enough empty milk cartons to put the milk in. I'm getting about a gallon a day at this point (it was almost 1 1/2 gallons with Baby).

Good thing I have a teenaged son who drinks about a gallon of milk a day! (You know, so I can save the containers!)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Couple Of Notes

I just wanted to share a couple of quick notes for the day.

First of all, I suspected the spider from yesterday was an orb weaver, but it was not any sort I'd ever seen before. The ones I've seen before have yellow bodies and what I always thought of as an African lady's head in black on the bulbous body part.

While trying to find out what kind of spider it was I came upon a website (note the irony!) of the UC Riverside Entomology Department. I clicked on one person's name and his e-mail came up so I sent him the last two pictures (the top and bottom views) and asked if he could id the spider. He promptly answered my e-mail on Monday and said, "Orbweaver, probably the genus Neoscona. Lots of species to choose from."

So there you have it. Short and sweet. And even though orbweavers are harmless to humans I still don't ever want to see it again!

Next up: I'm expecting a couple of cows any minute now. A few weeks ago I was contacted by some people that live about an hour or so away up in the mountains. They told me they had a Dexter cow and I think a half Dexter and did I know anyone with a bull? Well, YEAH! I offered my bull and now we are waiting for them to bring their cows. I don't know how calm their cows are yet so this will be a whole new experience for me.

I had been hoping I'd be able to take the bull up to them, since they have 20 acres and I have less than one. But they have rattlesnakes and no pens, so the cows are on their way here. I'll be sure to share some pictures later.

And that's all for today!

Monday, July 28, 2008


I have had a phobia about spiders for as long as I can remember. Maybe my mind is protecting me by blocking out some traumatic event involving a spider or spiders, but I don't recall any such incidents. All I can tell you for sure is that they really, really, REALLY creep me out!

I thought I was getting better about them as I got older, but Saturday night gave me a real set back.

I started the feeding and milking a bit later than usual and consequently was finishing my chores in the dark. My son came out with a flashlight to check on me (probably on orders from his dad!).

I was almost finished at that point and was just getting ready to top off the lamb's water. Right about then my son kind of yelled out.

"What?" I asked, not paying too much attention.

He shone the light on something dangling not two feet from me. "Look at that!" he exclaimed. "It's a giant spider!"

Then I saw it and gave quite the shriek myself. "AACCKKK!"

At that point I decided the lambs could wait until the morning for their fresh water. I hurriedly backed out and around the spider, which was busy making a giant human catcher from the branches of the tree to the ground.

I could only thank my lucky stars (and my husband) that my son came out with the flashlight. I surely would have turned and walked right into the thing. It makes me shiver just to think of it. If no one had come out to check on me they would have found me the next morning curled up in a corner of the yard in a catatonic state.

When my son and I returned to the house and were describing the ginormous arachnid to my husband he laughed and called us sissies. He suggested I bring my camera out to document the creature.

Turns out even he was in awe of the eight legged creature.

Notice anything?
Come a little closer...

When we shone the light on it, it stopped it's mad web spinning and sat in the center. Probably waiting for one of us poor suckers to become ensnared so it could then suck the life out of us.
"Step into my parlor..."

And finally, a bottom and top view. I did not get that close to it, these are enlargements made from the photos I took.

One thing is for sure: from now on I will get the evening feeding chores done before it gets dark!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cheese Is Being Made

Two gallons of frozen sheep's milk was delivered to my cheese making sister yesterday. She's on vacation this week allegedly working on a school paper. She called today to let me know she had already started on the cheese, a Parmesan (spell check said to capitalize that) or something like that. I let her know I already had another gallon frozen and would soon have two more gallons to deliver. She'll probably make yogurt out of that (YUM!). What a difference having five milking ewes makes over just one from last year. And these aren't even real dairy sheep. Or diary sheep, as my sister kept calling them.

So far my plan has been working. That is, the plan where I let the lambs be with their moms during the night, and separate them during the day. I'm able to feed all the animals and milk Baby, the only one who is totally segregated, while my granddaughter is taking her short morning nap. Good thing I've gotten the animals used to being fed later in the morning (usually any time between 9 am and 11 am).

It's really not as bad as it may sound. I know they aren't near lambing or calving, but studies have shown that when the animals are pregnant and they are fed later in the morning, they tend to have their babies during the daylight hours. That makes it much easier for at least this one amateur farm girl, although I have been known to throw a blanket about my naked self and run out back to check the very pregnant girls during the wee hours of the morning. (Let's not all shudder at once.)

And so, without much else new to report at this time, I share with you the latest photos of the baby. She is here with her favorite baby, an unfortunately hideous doll that actually plays some sweet lullabies when you press on her chest. Her face glows red and as the lullaby ends the glow slowly fades.

I guess there's somebody for everybody.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's Sheep Milking Season

I think I have my dilemma figured out.

During the day I separate the ewes from the lambs.

Then in the evening when I feed I pull each ewe out. She gets her grain and I milk her of the day's milk. When they've all been milked I let the ewes and lambs all back together for the night.

This helps with the loud and constant baaing and hopefully my neighbors don't hate me too much. The lambs start getting used to being apart from their moms. In fact, during the day they make a little noise at first but then settle down. It's only when they see someone walking around that they start up again.

The only ewe I have totally weaned is Baby. She has gotten very thin, to me alarmingly thin. I put her in the stall at night to keep her apart from her lambs. They do make a little noise when everybody else is with their moms but they settle down fairly quickly. I'm able to give her a little extra hay without the others taking it over and hopefully she will start putting some weight back on.

I tried my new system yesterday and it seems like it's going to work. With the 2 cups of milk I got from the other day at the end of yesterday I had a little over one gallon of milk collected. Sheep milk cheese and sheep milk yogurt is coming soon!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Together Again

I am happy to report that my daughter and her boyfriend are back together. It seems they had a "long talk" and everything seems to be A-OK again. I am glad that they were able to work out whatever the problem was.

I was afraid that it wasn't going to happen. It seems these days people are too quick to give up on relationships. If there had not been a baby involved I wouldn't have had a problem with it. But when there is another life to think of I think a concerted effort should be made by both parties involved.

I sincerely hope they never break up again. It totally broke my heart and affected not just them but our families also. My mom and dad were never divorced, and my husbands' parents weren't divorced either. Even though it's not uncommon nowadays it's still not something I ever want to have to experience with myself or through my children (even though they aren't technically married...yet).

But just to set the record straight, I don't believe couples should stay together "no matter what". If there is abuse, mental or physical, or infidelity, or one person is doing something illegal then I am all for splitting up. Otherwise in my opinion they should at least make a real effort to work it all out before calling it quits.


Now on to the normal frivolities of this blog.

We recently watched the Cupcake Challenge on the Food Network. That got me in the mood to make cupcakes. Of course by the next morning I totally forgot all about it, but when Carli came over and we went shopping together I suddenly remembered. We bought cake mix and pre-made frosting.

When we got home I couldn't find my muffin pans so we ended up using my mini angel food cake pan. That is one of those things I got on a whim from Williams-Sonoma several years ago (I couldn't find it on their web site but I know I got it from them). I think I've used it about twice.

So here is the result:

I forgot to spray the inside of the pan so they didn't come out very cleanly. That's why they are on their side. Better luck next time.

And guess what I found after everything was said and done? My muffin pans!

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Did It

I bit the bullet and "officially" put the lambs up for sale. I made little flyers and posted them in the three nearby feed stores. I figured most of them are ready to go to their new homes or make the acquaintance of their butcher, as the case may be.

While the troublemaker baby was taking her overdue afternoon nap I decided to give the milkstand a try. (My son was on the computer so I didn't leave her totally alone.) The hardest part was getting the sheep to step up onto it. In fact, I never did get Ewenice to cooperate so I ended up tying her to the fence to milk her. I think once they figure out that they get grain for hopping up onto the platform then it will be a lot easier.

As it was I only got about 2 cups from all five ewes. But again, all things considered, it wasn't too bad. After all, #1: it was hot; #2: it was the middle of the afternoon; #3: they still have their lambs on them; and #4: this was the first time milking for all but Jamie. The milk is now in the freezer, hopefully with more coming soon.

As the babies are weaned I expect production to go up. We're expecting to go out of town this weekend or the next, so if none of the lambs have been sold by then my plan is to properly separate them. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it all works out.

And now for the baby news. Just a few short weeks ago she was still rolling around to get from place to place. Then she was crawling and virtually unstoppable. Almost as soon as she was crawling she was pulling herself up and trying to walk.

She can't be kept in her playpen too long because she gets bored fairly quickly. When that happens the easiest thing to do is let her roam and hope she tires herself out. (BTW, pay no attention to the dog hair near the baseboards. I'm conducting an experiment on dust bunny population growth. I think the experiment is officially out of control.)

I recently left a comment on another blog about how I wished babies could stay little, and at the same time I'm looking forward to the next milestone.

Can anyone explain to me why grandbabies are so much more fun and tolerable than your own kids were?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Green Tea Ice Cream

A dessert frequently offered in Asian restaurants is green tea ice cream. When I was first introduced to it I thought, "How gross." Yet, after I tasted it I thought, "Not bad!" It is surprisingly refreshing, and just one or two little scoops finishes a meal just perfectly.

I really like to make my own ice cream, because then I know exactly what goes into it, and I can adjust the ingredients to my liking. Case in point: this green tea ice cream. There was a recipe in a magazine we subscribe to that included four egg yolks, four teaspoons of green tea powder (aka matcha), and one cup of sugar.

I thought I'd make some for when my relatives were here last month, but my SIL said although she likes ice cream she doesn't really care for the very custardy kind, meaning with lots of egg yolks. So I thought I'd play around with the recipe a bit.

I cut the amount of sugar to 1/2 cup and did not add eggs. (Ice cream doesn't have to have eggs in it.) Otherwise I followed the recipe as given. While I found it to be too herbal tasting my two nieces had second helpings. I tweaked the recipe a little more and I think I got it just right. The following is the result.

The ingredients are: 3 cups half and half or 1 1/2 cups whipping cream; 1 1/2 cups whole milk; pinch of salt; 1 egg yolk; 1/2 cup sugar; 3 teaspoons green tea powder; 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Heat all but 1/2 cup of the milk and cream over a low heat. Add the salt. I know it sounds wierd to add salt to a sweet dish, but the pinch of salt actually enhances the flavors. Do not allow the milk mixture to boil.
Meanwhile beat the egg yolk, sugar, and reserved milk until it's creamy and the sugar is dissolved.

We are lucky to have a really great Asian market in town. You can find all things Asian-related there. One day I'll bring my camera and show you!

The milk mixture is probably warm enough now, so turn the heat off.

Now add the green tea powder to the egg and sugar mix.

Blend that in.

Now temper the green tea mixture by adding a small amount of the warm milk and blending together. Add about one cup a little at a time until it's blended. Then while stirring constantly slowly add the green tea mixture back to the warm milk. This will ensure the egg does not curdle. Add the vanilla extract and stir it in.

Let it all cool sufficiently to put in your ice cream maker and then follow the manufacturer's directions.


3 C half and half OR
1 1/2 C whipping cream
1 1/2 C whole milk
pinch of salt
1/2 C sugar
1 egg yolk
3 t green tea powder (matcha)
1 t vanilla extract

Warm all but 1/2 cup milk and cream in a pot over slow heat. Stir in the salt. While the mixture warms blend together the sugar, egg yolk, and reserved milk. Add the green tea powder and blend well. Turn the heat off the milk mixture and temper the egg mixture by slowly adding about one cup of the warm milk to the egg mix, mixing constantly. Then add the egg mixture slowly into the rest of the warm milk, again mixing constantly. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Allow the mixture to cool and then freeze according to your ice cream manufacturer's directions.

Monday, July 14, 2008


I'm having a bit of a dilemma with myself. In the past I've weaned the lambs when they were about two months old, especially Baby's baby. Last year she seemed to give everything she had to her lamb and this year is the same. Only a month and a half after lambing Baby is really thin, with her back bone and hip bones having become very prominent.
Jamie seems to be following suit, although I don't remember her getting that bad last year. And Jamie's babies are the youngest, being only one month old now. The other ewes don't seem so bad, maybe because they are younger and this is their first year lambing?
My dilemma isn't really that the ewes are losing condition. That can easily be fixed by giving them the special "fattening" grain available. I can go ahead and wean the lambs and start feeding the formula to the ewes while I milk them. Then I would know they each got what they needed and not more or less than if I just threw it in the feeder and the bossiest ewe gets the fattest.

My dilemma at this point is how to milk all the ewes when I'm watching my granddaughter. It takes some time to milk even just one and I don't feel comfortable leaving her alone that long. I felt really guilty just leaving her sleeping in her playpen while I went and hurriedly fed this morning.

While writing all this down I had one idea that may work for a while. My son, who's last day of summer school was last Friday, could watch her while I attempt the milking. I'd probably have to roust him out of his cave since he usually doesn't wake up before noon on days off. It'll be good for him. He is currently looking for a job to fill the rest of the summer. So if he gets hired any time soon I may be out of luck.

I guess I could just bite the bullet and dive in head first. Like the Nike commercials say, "Just DO it!"

Maybe next week...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Flora Looks Great

I was just out feeding this morning and thinking how great Flora, our pony looks. She was bought as a replacement for Carli's first pony, Madera, when he died.

Here's a picture of her when we first got her. Carli was about six years old here and we think they are the same age.

Here is Flora from this morning, very shiny and sassy, as usual.
I used to ride her every once in a while with my sister, who boards her horses at Roberta's stable. I think people thought I was strange or mean for riding her. After all, the pony is a pony, not a horse. She is about 11 1/2 hands high (about 46" or just under 4') and the average horse is probably about 15 1/2 hands (62" or just over 5') and while I may be short I'm on the heavy side.

But just because she is a pony doesn't mean she's weak. I call her a "packer" because she has absolutely no problem toting me around. And for an approximately 19 year old equine she is in great shape. When the relatives were here the younger girls wanted to ride her. I had to say no because I haven't been riding her and she is way too feisty for beginners.

I wish I could ride her more but it just hasn't been working out that way.

Maybe by the time the baby is 6 she'll be a little more mellow.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Too Hot

After bemoaning my lack of condition yesterday I got the bright idea to take a walk. Now that Carli is back at the house that means all the baby stuff is here too, including the stroller. I dug it out from beneath about five bags of other miscellaneous stuff and set it up. I put the baby in it and away we went.

My plan was to walk 10 minutes out, turn around and walk back, giving me a 20 minute walk. At about the half way point I thought the baby was being awfully good and quiet so I took a peek at her.
No wonder she was being so good. She was asleep!

It was much better than the last time I tried to take her for a walk.

We finally got back home and I debated the wisdom of walking around in the late afternoon. Turns out the actual temperature was 109!! The tv news is predicting a high of 111 today. Hmm. I think I'll stay in today.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

The statistics said it probably wouldn't last, and unfortunately it hasn't.

My daughter and her boyfriend have split, this time apparently for good, and she moved back in with us last night. It's really very tragic considering there's the baby to consider. But life marches on and we do the best with what we are given.

Otherwise we had a fairly quiet long weekend.

Wil got his driver's license Thursday. You may remember this post from April. Well, the time finally arrived and after summer school we went to the DMV and he was uneventfully handed his license. Now he drives himself to school and can even do a few errands for me.

Our July 4th was spent indoors. With no friends or family around we decided to save our money and we relaxed in front of the tv. Boring? Maybe. But considering past years we probably saved enough money to put five gallons of gas in one of the cars! Anyway, sometimes I like boring.

The other thing I did was finish the sheep milking stand I started last year. I got the plans from Fias Co Farms here. And yes, I did contribute some money at the time I downloaded the plans, just to be a good sport. Their website really is loaded with great information for anyone interested in milking, making cheese, goat herding, etc.

I'll be weaning the lambs soon so we'll be able to tell if it was worth it. Last year I simply got Jamie in the stall and milked her on the ground. This looks like it might be easier.

And speaking of the lambs, they have all lost their tails now. I even made my first pre-sale. Neighbor Dean's 11 year old daughter, who has her daddy wrapped around her pinkie, talked him into letting her buy the one she named Gracie. She used money she got from recycling and doing odd jobs around the house. (Gracie is on the far left below.)

I got my first mosaic commission and got that started. It's a piece very similar to the one at the end of this post. I may even get it done this weekend and ship it off next week. Yay!

My poor neglected garden is really suffering. Especially the tomatoes. I think they are near the end of their productivity. Some of the other stuff is still doing well, like the basil and the grapes, but the weather is so hot it's really taking a toll.
Here is a nice plum tomato.

My husband and I played a bit of badminton with the new set we got for when all the relatives were here. Of course we didn't put it up then because it was so hot. So now it's up and it's even hotter! (Heat wave this week--it's supposed to be 107 on Wednesday.)

The bad news is I realized, once again, how horribly out of shape I am. At the end of 15 minutes of playing I was dripping sweat and could barely breathe. I think I'll blame it on the weather. Never mind that he was still cool as a cucumber. The good news is that we had a tie.

And now I am going to try and stay cool!

Monday, July 7, 2008

An Award

Robbyn of The Back Forty was given this award, the Arte Y Pico. It is given to blogs which demonstrate creativity, design, interesting material, and contributing to the blogging community. If you are familiar with The Back Forty then you know the amount of research and information Robbyn passes on through her blog.

The Arte Y Pico is supposed to be passed on to five more bloggers. Robbyn has inexplicitely decided to pass it on to me. I don't think I'm deserving of this award but read here why Robynn seems to think so. She makes me sound positively brilliant!

I hope no one gets upset that I'm not "passing it on". I'm just not ready for this kind of responsibility.

But thanks for the humongous compliment!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July to everyone.

Earlier this week my son wanted to go and get some more shirts. All his shirts were getting too small, or rather he was growing out of them! Carli had come over with the baby and after picking Wil up from summer school we all went to the mall.

We picked up some shirts and a new pair of shorts for Wil, then got new socks and white t-shirts for my husband since he also needed some. As we were meandering towards the exit I turned to Carli and asked if she wanted to get the baby's ears pierced. My treat.

She had been planning on doing it eventually but didn't know exactly when and well, since I was offering we might as well do it now. We went to the same place where she got her ears pierced when she was about 12 years old.

I know some people don't believe in getting babys' ears pierced but I've always thought it was really cute.
The piercing was free with the purchase of earrings so after we picked out a pair we signed the paperwork and paid up. Carli sat in the chair with the baby on her lap. The technician swabbed the earlobes with alcohol and carefully marked the spot. After getting the thumbs up on the spot she got ready to do the deed.
Carli held the baby's arms down with one of hers and with her other arm held her head. I was sorry I didn't bring my camera to document the event. It kind of made me think of some third world country ritual.

Right about at that point another grandma and her daughter walked by. The daughter was holding a baby about our baby's age. As they walked by the both looked very sympathetic and said "Awww!"
Carli clamped down and the first side went in. The baby started crying and before you know it the second side was in. As soon as Carli stood up and turned the baby towards her shoulder she stopped crying. We think she was more mad at being held immobile than she was crying from the pain of the piercing.

So far so good!

Maybe now when people see her in the grocery cart stuffing her hand in her mouth they won't say, "He's eating his fist!" (That actually happened.)


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Corn: Beginning To End

March 21, 2008

April 24, 2008

May 12, 2008

May 23, 2008

June 1, 2008

June 13, 2008

June 29, 2008: Just prior to harvesting a few ears.

Harvesting a few ears.

Freshly shucked corn. Just a little bad spot on the top.

The reason for the bad spot on the top.

That's okay. Cut the tops off and they're good as new.

A little butter and maybe some pepper...

The end.