Meet the Crew!

When we first moved out into the country, I was more excited about the idea of NOT being a part of an HOA than building up a homestead. Before moving out here, we already had a decent hydroponics set up and I was perfectly content with just improving our produce.

We began buying local farm fresh eggs from other homesteaders. If you have never tried a fresh egg versus a grocery store egg, you simply have no idea what you’re missing out on. And if you are anything like me, eggs are life. Fresh eggs turned into fresh eggs AND raw dairy products. Fresh eggs and raw dairy products turned into fresh eggs, raw dairy products, AND homemade goat’s milk soap. You get the idea. When we would go to the market to purchase these weekly needs, we would stop by the local Tractor Supply.

Well, one day they had chicks and ducklings. I HAD to have ducklings. my husband wanted chicks. You had to buy a minimum of two ducklings and/or a minimum of six chicks. We went home, talked about it, then built a brooder for future babies.

Fast forward a couple of years and we went from two ducks and six chickens, to processing meat birds on a consistent basis, ten ducks, several free range (REAL free range) laying hens, a few roosters, four geese, eight goats, and two miniature donkeys. Each animal has a purpose (other than being loved). Here are just a few of our lovely farm members:

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The geese and their new goslings.

This is Brownie. She is around four years old. We had originally bought her daughter when she was two hours old with the understanding that her daughter would be coming home with us at 6 months old. About a month later, the farm contacted us saying the mother would be for sale and we could go pick them both up that day. We really liked the idea of keeping them together so we picked both of them up that weekend.

This is Merida, Brownie’s daughter. Although she is calming down quite a bit now, she has the complete opposite personality to Brownie’s. Brownie is very reserved, but seeks the attention of those she knows. Merida is very curious about everyone and everything. That may change as she ages, but everyone loves it right now.

Donkeys are sentry animals. Their purpose on the farm is to protect everyone else. Their presence is enough of a deterrent to dogs, coyotes, and bobcats. We haven’t had missing birds since we got them.

And they FREAK out over mice… every mouse the donkeys have seen has been squished.

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Some of our birds. This is their favorite hangout place.

Jerky McJerkface Jaime. Jaime and I have a love and hate relationship. This is our oldest accidental rooster. We got him and his sister from a 4H group. He was just done with physical rehab. He actually would have died if nature was allowed to take its course, but the kids were bonded so they tried everything they could and he made it. We were told they were both hens. So, we named on Cersei and this one Jaime because of the limp he had (Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones lost his hand and “Jaime” is unisex, so it was perfect). Jaime turned out to be a boy. One day he started crowing. Jaime has these humongous spurs. Around once every three months he bats his wings at me and charges. I just kind of kick him back and he backs up. One day he got me and I responded like I always do. I was irate so I swore a bit and kicked him back. Our normal. Until I started to walk. It’s comical now thinking back on it. I was by myself and when I took a step I wobbled and I said aloud, to myself “That’s not right” and I fell. I looked at my leg and there was a giant pool of blood. I went into the barn and took a minute to mentally prepare myself for what I was about to witness, immediately thinking of all of my first aid equipment I was going to need (it was really starting to hurt at this point). I pulled back my pant leg and it was such an embarrassment. I had the tiniest hole in my knee. He stabbed me! Long story short, it never got infected and I couldn’t alternate steps on the stairs for a month. He is the best rooster for our girls though. I have seen him chase off snakes and squirrels for them and he respects all the other roosters and our male goose. I’m sure part of it is because no one wants to mess with him, but he really is a good jerk rooster.

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Meet some of the goats!

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This is Lyris. She was one of our first goats and is a Nigerian Dwarf. She loves to nibble on everything, but is very sweet and loves everyone.

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This is Sally, our first goat who is also a Nigerian Dwarf. She is very calm and loves nothing more than to be close to the people she loves.

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I love my Lulu. She is a mini Lamancha (Lamancha mixed with Nigerian Dwarf). She rubs against me and gives me kisses. She is also my best dairy goat. She has a grace with everything. She kids quickly, has never had health issues, has no issues letting people handle her kids. She is great and we love her dearly.

This is Darth Vader, Lulu’s son. We are keeping him for breeding purposes so we don’t have to have some of our girls travel for breeding. He’s very sweet and loves to cuddle.

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This is Pixie-Rey, Lulu’s daughter. Our daughter named her Rey (from Star Wars), but I felt like she looked very spritely so she got the name Pixie-Rey. She is dainty, quiet, and loves to be held. She will also be staying with us so we can have alternating milking pairs.

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This is Buttercup and she doesn’t sit still for pictures well. She is a mini Nubian (Nubian mixed with Nigerian Dwarf). She is one of our dairy goats, though Lulu has her beat in milk production. Buttercup is more reserved until you’re alone with her on the milk stand. Then she really kind of opens up to whoever is handling her. She loves to have her head scratched.

This is Leia, Buttercup’s daughter. We’re keeping her for future milking. This girl is very attached to me. She cannot stand the others getting love from me and will make every effort to get my attention any chance she gets.

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This handsome boy is Snoopy. He is another one who is very attached to people and he will follow my husband like a dog. I love his coloring and he will be used for breeding as well.

Some of our ducks. Ducks eggs are actually great for baking.

A teacher at my kids’ school hatched eggs and needed to find a new home for her chicks. We took them home.

We love our farm life and I especially love coming home to “work” with the animals. It may be a lot of work, but it is very therapeutic as well.

 

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Kefir Yogurt

Kefir. What is it?

Milk kefir, whether it is being consumed as a drink or made into yogurt or cheeses, is a sour tasting fermented milk. It is an acquired taste if you’ve not been raised on it, but its benefits are either worth the adjustment in palate or effort put into making a product that is truly satisfying (if said adjustment cannot be made).

Personally, I can drink it straight. My family has a more difficult time with this so I began experimenting and came up with something that has a Greek yogurt consistency and it. is. DELICIOUS. I’m not going to lie. It’s better than when I was making just regular homemade yogurt.

The benefits are amazing. Store bought yogurt is not as nutritional as claimed. If you’re buying flavored yogurt, expect a high sugar content. The easy solution, it would seem, is to purchase plain. That brings me to the probiotic argument.

Don’t get me wrong. Probiotics are great. Magnificent–when they’re actually present. See, it’s quite difficult to buy yogurt with a true guarantee that probiotics and live cultures are actually in the yogurt. At some point in the yogurt making process, this claim is true. However, to legally be sold, dairy products must go through pasteurization. This process uses heat to eliminate “bad” bacteria; problem is, this also eliminates the “good” bacteria and may actually kill off the live cultures and probiotics. But don’t worry. It’s yummy.

Making your own types of yogurt can make you feel pretty accomplished, but being able to flavor and use it the way YOU want to, is the best part. Once you see how easy this is, you won’t want to go back.

This entire post is about making yogurt with milk kefir (which has more probiotics than yogurt, probiotics that actually STAY in the gut, and nutritional yeasts). So, the process is different and–I apologize ahead of time because I took pictures–looks quite gross. But also cool!

It all starts with milk (the less pasteurization, the better) and kefir grains.

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Kefir grains are gelatinous in nature. AND THEY’RE ALIVE! These grains ferment the milk by feeding off the lactose. Kefir grains love different kinds of sugar, so the dairy strains eat lactose (sugar). This fermentation process CAN (everyone is different, so not always) make digestion of this yogurt easier for those who suffer from lactose intolerance. My husband is lactose intolerant and he can eat this stuff. Want to know another disgustingly cool fact? They multiply. It’s like they’re having babies.

The process of making the milk kefir and the yogurt is time-consuming, but really easy. The ratio I use is 1 tablespoon of grains to 1 cup of milk (I use raw milk from our goats).

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The first thing you do is add the grains and cover it with the milk (you may adjust this to your personal tastes; more grains can make the taste stronger). In this photo I used around 8 cups of milk and around 8 tablespoons of grains. I put cheesecloth over the top (it needs to breathe) and used the lid ring of a mason jar lid to secure the cheesecloth. Let it sit anywhere from 12 hours to 48 hours. 12 hours can make a nice milk you can use for some recipes that call for buttermilk (I use it for buttermilk breads). 24 hours makes it a little thicker and stronger. I do 48 hour batches to make the yogurt. Do note that kefir ferments at a much faster rate in a warm environment.

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The weather here has been really crazy right now so once I see the curds and grain separate from the whey, like the picture above, I begin working with it even if we have not hit that 48 hour mark.

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After it sits for 48 hours, or if you see the separation of curds and whey occur it’s time to remove the grain. The spoon and strainer I use are made of plastic. Metal can be harmful to the grains. I measure the amount of grains and I need and add it to a new jar and cover with milk again to start the process over. Any leftover grain can be covered with milk to sit in the fridge, or frozen with milk in large amounts to go dormant for later use. Or you can share with a friend!

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The milk kefir should now have no grains left in it. You can either leave as is, do a second fermentation with flavoring, or make a yogurt. Since the topic is yogurt, I’ll show you how I get that consistency. I pour the milk kefir into a greek yogurt strainer I purchased. There is a process where you can use paper coffee filters or muslin in jars or bowls, but I was having difficulty with space so I caved and made this purchase. It’s AMAZING. It sits in the fridge while the whey separates again, but the curds left behind are creamy and the consistency of Greek yogurt.

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I let the yogurt sit in the fridge during the entire duration it takes for the new batch of milk to ferment with the kefir grains.

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The result is that thick creamy consistency and amazing flavor. I use it as a substitute for sour cream quite a bit. I also use it as a plain yogurt substitute in smoothies. If I really just want to eat it as a yogurt I flavor it with honey (you can use sugar), and fruit. Using jams and jellies can work, too. It also makes a great dill and horseradish sauce. Yum! 🙂