Thursday, November 24, 2005

Tools in the kitchen

Yes, we are in the process of a major remodel so there are always tools everywhere--including the kitchen. But that's not exactly what I'm blogging about tonight.

Roger has always told me that having the right tools is a big part of doing a job. I've been trying to make butter, and we're getting butter, but it's been a big job. We ordered some stuff to make cheese and got something called butter muslin. I guess it's "real" cheesecloth. I keep reading that the stuff you get at the supermarket isn't the same and now I believe it! I've been rinsing and draining my butter in supermarket cheesecloth. Then the job of kneading the whey out of the butter takes at least an hour. But Wednesday morning I used the butter muslin and was able to actually squeeze a lot of whey out of the butter without the butter squeezing out of the cloth. This meant it was much quicker when it came time to knead the whey out. Hurray for small victories!

And Roger has already mentioned we got a new range. I just wanted to say Praise God we have it!!! It used to take 30 minutes to boil 8 cups of water to make our oatmeal for breakfast. Then we had to leave the stove on high while cooking the oatmeal to get it to cook. With the new range, I was able to boil a huge pot of water (enough to make spaghetti noodles for all of us) in under 10 minutes. And I actually got it to a full, rolling boil! I haven't seen that since we left our old house in Grapevine. Yeah, the oatmeal boiled over and left a huge mess on my brand new stove, but it cleaned. Cooking will be so much better now! When a package said to bake something for 15 minutes it would take 45. Baked potatoes--even small ones--took 2 hours. How do you plan for this? I never knew how long it would take to do something and it seemed to keep getting worse. Roger pointed out it would be impossible to pull together the whole Thanksgiving meal with that unreliable range, so we went shopping. The new one is so great! It works! That's all it took to please me, but in addition it has a lighted oven with a window, plus a clock and timer. Really, it's nothing fancy, but I just love it!

It's so great to have tools that work! And the turkey was delicious and done in excellent time!

Melissa

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Ready for turkeys.

The last few days have all been a blur. Last Friday night Melissa and I had a charming night out with the girls – we went to Home Depot and Wal-Mart. The decision was made that we would not roll the dice on the range working this Thanksgiving and we were going to get a new range. We looked at gas and we looked at electric and we ended up with a Maytag electric range. I ran the wire Sunday and it was delivered yesterday. This morning the water for the oatmeal boiled quickly, the pies cooked in the amount of time they were supposed to cook this afternoon and dinner was made in the time it should have taken this evening. These are new events in this house.

The duct work for the heating and air conditioning system was finished on Sunday and on Tuesday the installers showed up. This afternoon they left and we have central heat and air now. There is one duct that I need to run and with my brother-in-law on the way tomorrow and staying for a bit more than one day, perhaps, maybe we will run the duct work to the lone, cold bathroom. I may also use him to fix some fences. It is also just a likely that he will bug out and head off camping with first light on Friday.

On Tuesday, while the Home Depot guys were here to deliver the range, another truck pulled up and our ice maker finally made it here. We ordered this thing a month ago. Its installation was completed this afternoon and I had a big glass of water full of ice with my dinner. We are pretty much done with roughing it, now. Yeah, I am still getting up at 5 to milk a cow and it is kind of cold, but I now can come into a warm house with biscuits cooking reliably in the oven and iced tea ready to wash them down.

The boys also finished taping and bedding the drywall in their room today and we are ready now to texture the room. If I can find the brush I may make them start tomorrow. The sooner I can get them out of the dining room the sooner I get going on the remodel of the kitchen and dining room.

From the ranch where blessings fall into place all at once, Happy Thanksgiving.

Roger

Monday, November 21, 2005

Making Cheese

I made cheese today! This is actually something I've been dreading doing. I just had no desire to do it. It sounded like a lot of work and I already do enough work. I was not excited about taking on yet another job.

But last night we had a dinner at church and so no one was here to drink milk. We went to pour the milk into gallon jars and discovered ALL our jars were full. So we dumped milk into a pot and we were set. Of course, then I had a gallon of milk sitting in a pot and little excuse to not make cheese. I opted to go with the mozzarella which was supposed to take 30 minutes. It seemed easy enough. But at one stage of the cooking, the recipe said if the curds weren't firm enough (and I was sure they weren't since it looked like thin pudding) to let it sit a few more minutes. No problem, I started washing dishes. Then the phone rang. I wasn't on the phone long, but it was too long.

I think it would have been okay, but on top of that, my thermometer kept telling me the cheese was 120 degrees when really it was higher. I was supposed to work it until it was 135 degrees. So I kept going alternating heating and kneading. Finally it was really burning my hands. This didn't seem right at all. Sure enough, when I messed with the thermometer a bit, it jumped up to 170! I plunged it into ice water, but it was too late.

Fortunately, my kids still liked it and ate nearly all of it right away. It was like the cheese on the top of your pizza AFTER you've cooked it and then let it sit out and get cold--rather rubbery.

But I learned how to do it. I know what I did wrong. And I made this mistake on EXTRA milk. No one had to suffer through a lack of milk or a lack of cheese due to my mistake. I'll try again soon--after Thanksgiving.

I'm still not looking forward to making cheddar. I'm putting that off until I have a laundry room -- with shelves -- so I'll have somewhere to put everything. At least, that's my current excuse.

Melissa

Sunday, November 20, 2005

How much is that puppy in the truck?

Chickens and dogs are a poor mix and we are getting a full dose of it. This week Stephen found four dead chickens and Scout eating on one of them. Jimmy, while not right there at the time, was also undoubtedly a culprit. I tried to get them to the shelter here in Coleman, but I forgot that there is a difference between a city of 5,000 like Coleman and a city of 15,000 like Warrensburg. Here the animal shelter is a series of outdoor cages for strays that are caught by the Police. There the shelter is a full animal control shelter that has pens and operates as a place to take strays as well as an adoption center. So, dropping them off at the Coleman shelter just was not much of an option.

Our next option was to kill them. Really, that is the first option for most people. We decided against this. I decided against this as no one else was going to have to do it and I was not willing to do it.

Melissa and I had read one time about a guy that soaked the chicken his dog had killed in gasoline and then tied up the dog with water and the chicken as the only things in reach. As the dog got hungry it would take a bite of the chicken and then get sick and so on for about a week. Well, it worked for a day. The gasoline dissipated and the dogs ate the chickens the second day. Now we have successfully trained our dogs to eat chickens. This is a bad development.

Now the plan is to keep the animals penned up until this Friday and then head to the Brownwood Wal-Mart. Black Friday should be a good time to give a couple of dogs away. The final option is to kill them. See the second paragraph.

Roger

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Milk Tragedies and Lessons

Cold morning today, but a learning experience for Faith and me. We were the first ones up, which is par for the course as we are usually the ones that milk Isabella. It was cold here, about 27 or 28 degrees when the sun came up. Isabella was making a bunch of racket as we got out there as we were later than normal. This was by design as I did not want to try to get going in the dark as cold as it was because I’d had trouble with the lantern the night before. When we got out there and the water trough was empty. No sweat, we fill it up with the hose. Oh, wait, that would be on a normal day. On a cold morning like this the hose is full of ice from the water that remained from the night before. The hose was uncooperative and after 10 minutes of working on it we gave up and began to milk with out water for the cow.

This was the first cold morning for Faith and me and Isabella and I don’t think any of us had ever seen steam coming off fresh milk in a bucket. With it being as cold as it was Faith and I were working as fast as we could. Before too long we had more than a gallon and a half and we were flying with the work. It was at this moment that Isabella stepped in the bucket, tumping it over on the ground. The worst part was not the lost milk (although that was bad enough) but the fact we had to keep on milking her out and put another gallon in the bucket. A gallon we could not use that would have been a nice, rich cream harvest for Melissa. This morning we learned that the trough needs to get filled to the top at night as it is not a sure thing the hose will work come the morning. I think that if the water had not been a problem Isabella would have lasted longer before she started moving around. As it was, by the time we gave up on the water she was leaking milk and ready to get empty.

The cream we have, and we are getting about a quart of cream with every milking, was another spilled milk tragedy for us. Faith (why is she always involved?) was mixing a gallon of cream to make butter milk by rolling the jar across the floor to her sister Claire. They rolled it back and forth and from what he have been told the butter comes around the end of a Veggie Tales. Melissa and I were talking in the kitchen and we heard an odd sound and when we went into the living room, there was the cream all over the floor. This afternoon we learned that the jar needs to be taped on the jar before the rolling begins. We also realized how very blessed we are by the absence of carpet in the living room.

I am almost a week into a beard now and it is in the very scratchy, very ugly stage. I am trying to avoid mirrors (more than usual) so as to not get discouraged.

I found two web pages where they teach you how to build your own honey separator for less than $50. This is a mere $450 savings on a tool I will really need if the bees are to provide us with honey.

I must go to bed now.

Roger

Friday, November 11, 2005

SEND HELP

I am being held hostage by Isabella. She is keeping us in milk, but she is also making me milk her every time or, at least, be a part of the milking crew. Sleep is a valuable commodity and she is stripping it away, bit by bit and I think she has a plan for me as well. Every time she licks me now she is trying to get a bit of my hand in her mouth. I have read that cows do not bite. If your hand is in her mouth, she bites. Maybe since she has no top teeth it is not an official bite. Perhaps Webster requires opposing teeth to call it a bite. Fine, it is a pinch, but it has the potential to result in having your finger pinched off.

I am also concerned that she may be trying to get together with the chickens and team up on the rest of us. Caught her over by the tractor earlier today. She likes their food and they are the only animals, aside from me, that she will allow near her without trying to get them. Its just suspicious, that’s all I am saying.

When I milked her tonight she was sort of testy and after 45 minutes of working her I had a bit more than a gallon and a half. It was at this moment she stepped in the bucket. I had dodged three previous attempts this evening by her, but this time she got me. I tried to keep milking her just to get her empty, but she would not let me. I expect to get a bunch of milk tomorrow morning.

I started working on a business plan this morning for the spa treatment, the working title for now is Isabella Dermabrasion. I figure we get cows and have people lay down on a Lazy Boy or dentist chair, cover their eyes and have the cows lick them while we play some John Tesh in the spa provided headphones. I am thinking maybe we put a perfume of some sort on their upper lip to hide the cow smell. Just a thought, let me know what you think.

I read today that Barbara Streisand is calling for W’s impeachment on her blog. Since I am as important to her career as she is to political discourse in the United States, I am calling for Babs to star in the remake of Coalminer’s Daughter.

Roger

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Mmmmm, that milk is good!

I have been absent for a few days as the new schedule here at the ranch gets worked out. Late night posts are pretty much a thing of the past as 5:00 a.m. is the new wake-up time for me. The last couple of mornings Faith has gotten up with me and milked Isabella. In the evenings it has been a hodge-podge of folks as Claire and Faith worked with me last night and Stephen milked tonight. Melissa milked two nights ago, but Isabella head-butted her and that was a scary moment for all of us. Like an idiot I told Melissa to go give Bella a hug and like a bigger idiot she listened to me. I am always amazed anyone ever takes advice from me. Bella picked Melissa up by her ribs and sorta tossed her a foot or two into the air. Thank God Bella has been de-horned. I think Bella might have been afraid she was gonna get eviscerated.

Isabella’s biggest problem was the delivery of her placenta. There was a little piece of flesh hanging out her backside when we got her and Melissa noted that there was some more pinkish tissue showing up as she approached Bella for a smooch. This morning Faith noted that there was a bunch of flesh coming out of Bella and, sure enough, there was a hunk of flesh about like a polska kielbasa hanging out of her. After we got back from church she was resting by the fence and when I called to her she stood and I saw mass of tissue fall to the ground. I went and checked and, sure enough, there was a placenta on the ground. I know what a placenta looks like from my mid-husband work.

Anyway, now that she has passed her placenta she is way more active and alive. She chased the dog away from the stanchion. Not that Jimmy is much of anything. She is also mooing louder. It is funny, as I walk away from the pen she will call out to me and now that she is louder I can hear her all the way to the house. She is still trying to figure out her place in the herd and launched Grace this afternoon – after she passed her placenta. I am kind of hungry as I write this and keep on linking the words placenta and salsa in my mind. Placenta Salsa sounds about as good to me as the “Peach Salsa” I saw on the shelf the other day. If you have any good recipes for this, let me know.

She let a lot of milk loose this afternoon for Stephen and me. Stephen is still a bit skittish around Bella – he was there when she tossed Melissa – but he did well today. There were two problems for him though. The first was that we were both grabbing at the bucket when Bella moved and on one occasion we almost dumped it out together. The other problem for him is a cut thumb. He will get past both of these issues.

Have you aver been licked by a cat? If you have you know that there tongues are a little bit rough. A cow’s tongue is a hundred times bigger and a hundred time rougher. This afternoon Isabella decided that my arms and hands needed to be licked. I think that if I could train her to lick people on command I could open a spa and sell the world on the wonderful benefits of being exfoliated by a Jersey cow.

I hope Melissa gets a picture or two of her up soon so you can see how pretty she is.

Hey Charly – when did that loser Avezzano go to Oakland?

Roger

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Isabella

We got a cow! It's better than Christmas around here! This morning while eating our oatmeal the trailer showed up with some buddies of Roger's. They brought us our cow! Praise God! What an answer to prayer!

Isabella is a full-blooded Jersey cow. She's 2 yrs old and just gave birth to her first calf a few days ago. I think this morning was the first time I ever even touched a cow and that was to milk her. Poor thing was dripping with milk and we were so slow. Of course, she wasn't very co-operative either. She kept moving and laying down. She was mad. She was away from the other cows. She didn't know us. She probably was missing her baby. We were milking her by hand and didn't know what we were doing. She just wanted to get away from us.

So I took the kids to Brownwood and we bought a cow halter. We have to break her to lead. She had to be tied up for a while just to learn to be here. It felt kind of mean, but we had to do something, right? Then we went out to milk her again. She relaxed some and we finally got her to eat her grain and drink her water. After that she was pretty calm for us. I don't think she ever laid down this evening. But the poor thing was very patient. It took us two hours to milk her! We'll get faster though as we get more used to this. And she'll get more co-operative as she gets used to us.

She is so pretty! I'll try to get a picture of her soon and post it. She's got those big Jersey cow eyes with the long lashes. Roger says we just think she's pretty because she is ours, just like with our kids. But I think he's nuts. Our kids really ARE beautiful and so is our cow. Anyone can see that.

And now we have REAL milk in our refrigerator! And cream! I have been craving cream ever since we had to give up the raw milk we were getting from the co-op we were part of in Grapevine. There's something about pasteurized, homogenized milk that just doesn't satisfy my cravings for cream.

I can't believe after 13 years of wanting a cow, I finally have one! Thank you, God!

Melissa