Archive for the ‘Cheesemaking’ Category

Waiting for Spring

November 4, 2014
How are you out there?  We are waiting for Spring to settle in over here.  We have had some warm days over the last couple of months, but we’ve had plenty of wet, cold and windy ones too.  Just Sunday morning I was admiring the fresh snow on the mountain range in the distance and lighting the fire again at church.  We do love the scenery over here though, with the vivid green of the lush grass, the darker green of the trees, the blue skies and the white snow.  The dairy heifers in the paddock across the road add to the beauty too, and they found Kim very intriguing when he was taking this picture this morning.
  FromOurFrontGate
I hope we can grow grass like that on our own property one day, and I think my cow hopes that we can even more ardently than I do!
Cathy with Twinkles

Did I mention she is the best cow ever!!!!!!!!

So, what have we been up to?  Firstly I dug up our remaining fruit trees and put them in pots.  Until we can do a better job of keeping the possums and wallabies away from them in our prospective orchard area I decided it was best to keep them in the pigeon cage – which is fully fenced and inside the electric fence to boot.  I also prepped a couple of our chook house runs as gardens for this year, shifting compost into them and moving the chooks into different areas, setting up sprinklers and planting out some peas, lettuce, broccoli, kale and beetroot.  I’ve got some tomatoes and corn in the greenhouse waiting to go out, but we’ve had some serious frosts lately so it’s just as well I haven’t planted them into the garden yet, though we’ll have to risk it sometime soon.
Our chooks have been separated into one cage for the old girls and another for the young ones.  The plan was to breed from the old girls this year, but our Araucana rooster turned nasty and began to attack some of the hens – so he had to go without delay.  I had already had one hen go broody and we had given her a couple of eggs which hatched two young Araucana chicks this last weekend, so for once we are hoping for roosters!  Her other chicks are purebred French Marans, the eggs coming from a friend in town.  We can only hope they are resistant to Avian TB, but we wanted to get a few more of that breed so thought it was worth a try.
  Hen (Pea) with Yellow Chick
Yellow Chick

French Maran chick

Our poor long suffering turkeys have been struggling this year as the currawongs (a bird similar to a crow) have been stealing all their eggs as soon as they lay them.  To prevent this we ran some anti-bird netting between our two runs of chook house / garden cages today.  I hope that will mean the turkeys can safely lay and also that any hens with young chicks can be protected in there as well.
Netted Area
I have not been making so much cheese lately as I am spending more time outside, but when I was still going strong I made myself a cheese press which works well.  It is much better than balancing buckets of water on top of the cheese mold.  🙂  However we did recently make a large batch of hams from our last pig which are yummy.  Also on the subject of food we now have a freezer full of beef again.  I do love beef and there is nothing quite like a juicy piece of eye fillet steak for delicious dining!!!  It also means we now have one less mouth to buy hay for!
Press with mIni cheeses

My home made cheese press

Kim has continued to really enjoy his photography.  He just upgraded his camera again, and is currently selling the old one on eBay.  Now he is involved with a local club who have monthly meetings and he is going on his first excursion with them to take photos this week.  They are going to our local wildlife park after hours.  They also do an annual display in the local hall and every year produce a calendar with a selection of their photos of the Mole Creek area.  Kim has begun to go to a chiropractor who has helped him to recover from a back problem he was experiencing, and has improved his posture also.  His weight continues to drop on the sugar free diet and he was pleased to tell us all that he had lost 10% of his original weight just the other day.  No doubt many of you saw the recent blood moon.  Kim took some photos of course and it was interesting to watch, though I thought it looked more of a rusty brown than red.
Blood Moon
Kim spent quite a while putting a new roof on the tractor and draining the gearbox oil (well over 100L of it which I am told is not supposed to be a milky colour as it was in the photo – that was apparently caused by water getting into it over the years) and replacing it with the 50L it was supposed to have.
Transmission oil draining from tractor

Is that really supposed to be oil draining from the tractor?

Tractor

Shiny new roof on the tractor

 It is wonderful to have the tractor back again, there is so much that is easier to do with the tractor than without!  We manually dug a couple of fencepost holes while the tractor was out of service and I am here to tell you that doing it with the tractor is preferable.  We were also pleased to pick up a cheap but good Massey Ferguson mouldboard plough for the tractor in nearby Beulah.  Using the tractor for that is more fun than digging with a mattock too.  🙂
Plough
We have been busy down at the church with things other than the usual Sunday service, Bible studies and craft group.  We have burnt off a wood stack in the back paddock, had stumps removed out the front and set up a garden bed out the front of the hall.  Our wonderful overseeing pastor, with his own church up the Tamar Valley, has become seriously unwell with Lupus.  It is especially sad for us as it means we will no longer have his regular visits since he has to cut back drastically to try to manage his disease.  However he continues to organise speakers to come and take our services, though we have had to resort to watching some online sermons a few times lately while things settle down.  Still, we keep the doors open and enjoy the fellowship that we have.
IMG_5897
Caleb continues to study his Japanese course online with Macquarie University.  He struggles, even with his reduced workload, some days with his rotten health.  His Japanese is pretty good though!  Sam is going to see if the chiropractor can help him too with troubling neck pain and the debilitating nausea that he has had for over 10 years now.  We have tried so many other things that we figure it is worth a go.  Lydia finally talked her doctor into removing the side of her most recent ingrown toenail and killing the nail bed.  For some reason they were reluctant to do it, but having a recurring infected toe for months again motivated her to push the issue.  It was painful when it was done, but is healed now and hopefully will mean it will stay trouble free from here on.  Josiah once again has 2 new mice, this time called Cocoa and Trixie.  Along with his schoolwork he has been doing a little photography, and of course enjoys taking pictures of his mice.  He has been playing Minecraft online with a friend and they chat on Skype at the same time.  He actually got to meet this new friend in person recently on a homeschool hike and they got on well.  His friend now also has his own pet mouse, so they have even more in common!  We bought an online course in Swift programming for the iPods/iPads etc which Josiah has started as part of his homeschooling.  Kim, Lydia and myself have also been doing the lessons from the course and it is fun to get back into programming, although I haven’t gotten terribly far through the course yet.
SONY DSC

Copyright 2014 Josiah!

The appointed day for our private power pole to be disconnected finally arrived… and passed by with no sign of Aurora coming.  We don’t mind if they delay a while.  Our power plan is to add to the small off-grid solar system we have with a micro hydro system which should bring in power 24/7 summer and winter.  It should be good but will entail a fair bit of work and money organising a decent water pickup set up and laying out 500m of large pipe through our bushland down to the micro hydro turbine which will be housed in a shed near to the house – but not too close as they get quite noisy.  In the meantime we bought a nice secondhand Honda 6.5kVA generator, so even if the power goes off tomorrow we will be able to manage by using the generator for peak times when the solar system is not enough.  Kim also intends to mount a car alternator on our old non-working generator to be used to charge the batteries if they need it when there is not enough sunlight to do the job for us.
Generator
And finally we decided we needed a place for people sit outside in the fresh air when the weather is nice, so I gathered together some bits and pieces and we have a nice little outdoor spot now.  🙂  Frivolous but nice.
Outdoor Setting
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Wet and cold? Stay inside and make cheese!

August 19, 2014
It seems ages since I last wrote to appraise you all of the happenings at Milkenunny.  The days have been short and damp over here, with plenty of cool weather but it hasn’t felt as extreme a winter for rain or cold as we have had in the past.  Of course my view may well be affected by missing 3+ weeks of frost when we visited WA.  🙂  There has been some snow on the mountains, and Kim got this picture of a wombat in the snow when he went up to Cradle Mountain.  There was no seeing the mountain that day though.
WombatInSnow
We are now a “pig free” property, having dispatched our last two big pigs during the cooler weather.  It is kind of sad in a way as they were friendly old things, but it is pleasing too when we think about the easy access we now have to all the paddocks for tree removal, fence repairs or grazing cattle.  We are currently awaiting a call from our local farmer/butcher so that we can reduce the cattle numbers too, and get a little variety from pork.  We may get pigs again if we fence more area and need it cleared of bracken, but will not be replacing them in the immediate future.
Twinkles, our house cow, has continued to produce plenty of milk for us and the cool wet weather has been quite conducive to experimenting with making cheese.  So far I have made about 8 varieties to try out.  I made the 30 minute mozzarella for pizza one night which worked well and a soft cheese that is nice on crackers, also a fetta which was okay but no-one is that keen on fetta here.  I also have made Halloumi a few times which Kim and I quite enjoy frying up to have for lunch.  Halloumi is quite a different cheese, and is pleasant because it can be eaten immediately after making it.
Halloumi
I am also awaiting taste testing on the current cheeses in the cheese fridge, with fingers crossed that there are some that will be popular with the family.  The one on the top shelf is a parmesan.  I will be waxing that in another week but we have to wait a good 9 months before we can try it out.  The red waxed one is an Edam and the other one is Marangaroo cheese which is a home recipe from my Healthy House Cow book.  Since the photo was taken I have added a Caephilly too which is developing a lovely looking rind.  The Edam cheese ripens in 2-6 months, depending on how strong you want it, while the Marangaroo and Caephilly can be eaten after 3 weeks, so most of these are fairly quick cheeses.
Cheeses
I do not think I have a very good technique at cheesemaking yet, but hopefully I’ll improve with experience and get more consistent.  I have discovered a bunch of useful recipes and videos on a website called Little Green Cheese that are done by another Aussie, and am hoping that watching someone else prepare cheese will improve my own abilities. As I write I have another 15 litres of milk sitting in the fridge waiting for me to decide what to make with it.  Umm, perhaps Wensleydale or I could try a cheddar again????  I still separate the cream a couple of times a week so we can make ice cream and butter.  The skimmed milk gets turned into yoghurt which is mostly consumed by the chooks, who also get their grain soaked in whey these days.  I try not to waste anything!
As always Kim is kept busy with mechanics that need attending to.  The newer cars were supposed to require less work but it hasn’t turned out that way so far.  The latest is the Caravelle’s heater under the back seat which sprang a leak, quite dramatically in the middle of a trip causing hissing and steam to fill the whole van, and so Kim had to hunt high and low for a replacement which is now on it’s way from the US.  The tractor is out of service with a water leak into the gearbox oil which will need draining, the seal patched up and then refilling with 50L of very thick oil.  We are also going to replace the roof on the tractor’s canopy at the same time so that the seal is under cover again.  Of course to get the metal to replace the roof requires the van, which as I said is waiting it’s parts to arrive so we can’t do any of it yet.  Meanwhile the Peugeot has decided we don’t really need heaters in the middle of a Tasmanian winter, which is rather mean of it, but the ancient old beetle continues to chug along happily.
Kim is enjoying having a newer camera that he bought while we were in WA.  Lydia has been looking after a lady’s wallabies lately and Kim has been going along, both to supervise Lydia’s driving practice and to take pictures of the Green Rosella’s that come for the food as well.  He always did love taking photos of birds!
Green Rosella (Platycercus caledonicus)
Kim has also begun pulling out all our old slides and photographing them so we can have them all available digitally now.  He has done over 2000 so far!  It is fun to see old pictures as they bring back lots of memories.  Many of them are nature shots from when Kim used to submit photos to Landscope the CALM magazine, but there are some family ones too.  My, how we have changed.
OldFamily
We bought a new mac mini to replace the more power hungry computer we used to use in the lounge room.  We are expecting the power pole to be disconnected in October so we have to cut down on our power usage as much as possible, as our solar system is not very big.  Kim has been researching micro hydro again and we are planning to put a small system in place as time and funds permit.
We had one interesting day last month when we decided to find out why the slow combustion stove had started smoking so much.  It turned out there was a problem with the flue and so Kim was up on the roof pulling the flue apart to see what was wrong when he accidentally dropped a piece.  It rolled down the roof and quietly tipped off – right on top of our solar hot water system, smashing one of the tubes in the process.  Hot water was bubbling everywhere – so now we had to fix the stove and the HWS!  Thankfully we had a replacement tube for the HWS on hand and were able to fix it without too many problems, at least once the water had all emptied out, and when the flue was reassembled our stove started working much better again.  So it all worked out well in the end, but we had a few hairy moments along the way.  🙂
My parents have been away for an exciting trip to Germany recently.  They stayed with my eldest sister who is enjoying Germany while her husband is working there for a couple of years.  From all accounts Mum and Dad had a fantastic time and we are expecting to be inundated with photos and movies as they get them all up on a blog that Dad is preparing for that purpose.  If anyone is interested to see their pictures just let me know and I’ll send you the blog address.
Anyway, I think that is enough news for the time being.  Take care all.

Odds and Ends

October 19, 2013

We finally had a warm and sunny day today!  So far it has been a cool and damp start to Spring so it was a lovely change to have some warmth.  No doubt we will be complaining soon that it is too hot, such fickle folk we are.  However today was nice and even Sam and Caleb got outside in the sunshine for a little while despite their bad health.

CalebAndSam

Since it was such a lovely day I laid out where the chook house / fenced garden extension is going to go.  Then Kim and I worked out where the post holes need to be.  This week a bunch of timber was delivered, almost $600 worth, that should make the 12m chook house extension, a smoke house that Lydia has planned and also cover the back of my greenhouse.

Timber2013

In the process of building we can try out our new post hole digger on the tractor which should be interesting.  Of course we have to get the tractor into the paddock first, which entails going through the boggy pig paddock on the way.  I am hoping that the ground will dry out a little before we have to take the tractor in, but there are showers forecast for next week again.  We are not terribly experienced tractor people and I really don’t want to get it bogged.  We have too many uses for it at the moment to have it out of action. Kim only just got it running again after having to install a set of adaptors to change it’s glow plugs to a new sort of plug that are readily available and much cheaper. We missed it while it was out of action!  It is amazing how many uses you can put a tractor to.  We have a carry-all for it now which is being very useful.

CarryAll

My first attempt at camembert was interesting.  It didn’t age very evenly and ended up too soft on the edges and not matured enough and too firm in the centre.  My research makes me think that I didn’t keep it cool enough when I aged it, so hopefully my next attempt will be better.  Having said that we are still eating it.  It is VERY strongly flavoured.  I actually quite like the harder centre which I find reminiscent of parmesan but I find the soft stuff way too strongly mushroomy flavoured, but Kim really likes both parts.  It was an interesting first try anyway and was fun to watch the penicillin mould grow.

CamembertSliced

Josiah and I were busy over the school holidays turning a bunch of pallets, and other assorted building materials that were lying around, into a mini hut.  It still needs more external wall lining put on, but we are almost finished and are quite pleased with the result.  I’m not sure what purpose it will be put to in the end, but any undercover area is worth having around here.  Josiah wants to paint the inside green and use it for making movies with a green screen background!

Pallets

HutUnderway

Hut

Speaking of Josiah, he is now the happy owner of another two mice.  Mice only live a couple of years so his original three had reduced down to one, and that one is looking rather old and frail these days.  It seemed like a good idea to get a couple more young ones before the old girl passed on.  It can be difficult to find mice for sale when you want them.  We only know of one pet shop that sells them, and they only have them occasionally.  However a lady in Launceston breeds them and advertises sometimes on Gumtree online and she was selling some when we were having to go to town anyway, so it worked out well.  Josiah absolutely adores his mice, plays with them every day and looks after them well.

Mice

Well, that is about all I have to say right now.  Oh, I should also report that our apple and pear trees have all been ringbarked by some rotten critter who obviously managed to get through the electric fence!  The fruit trees live on the other side of our creek which had swollen hugely down at the crossing so we couldn’t get across until recently, and then we found the poor things dying.  We will have to put in more protection for the other trees there (cherries and plum) soon, and then will have to put up a better fence around the whole lot before replacing the apples.  The big fence will a good sized job I fear, so I’m not sure when we can get onto that.  I guess we should have known that a simple electric fence would not be enough to keep out the multitudes of wallabies and possums here.  Sigh!  Never mind, we can chalk it up to experience.