Archive for the ‘Cheesemaking’ Category

Winter News

June 23, 2018

It has been 2 months since I last emailed, so I assume we should have some more news to share.  🙂   We have been doing more upgrades on the manor where our eldest two boys sleep.  Firstly we used our new platform arrangement on the tractor to put the flue up for the replacement wood heater that we installed.  Those flues go really high!

ManorWoodfire copy

Then we put in some second hand floating flooring which I had found on Gumtree. It looks quite nice and should be tougher than the yellow tongue flooring we put in earlier. Also, since it has underlay underneath which should help to insulate the building as well.


We still have to do the area under the beds, but apparently we took too much power out of the manor’s batteries using the power saw so we will have to wait a bit before finishing the job. Everyone came up to admire the progress though. 🙂


I also did some more experimenting with cheese making while Twinkles was giving us 5L a day. (She is down to 3L a day now, so the cheesemaking has come to a halt again.) The red waxed one is a parmesan, but the other two were made using a fairly basic recipe from my favourite house cow book. I even made my own culture from Kim’s favourite cheese, and I think the flavour was better as a result.

Home made cheeses

After that Kim and I took off for two weeks away in sunny Perth. The timing was organised so that we could attend my nephew’s wedding. It was a lovely wedding held in a beautiful garden in Swan Valley, and the weather was perfect too.


We had a lot of precious family time while we were there, especially with my parents and both of my sisters. My uncle also had his 80th birthday celebration while we were there and so we got to catch up with a lot of my extended family as well, with some folk coming from as far away as New Zealand.

Trevor Banyard's 80th Birthday

Kim tried to reconnect with his father’s side of the family as well, but he had no success. It looks like it might take a bit more chasing around to find any other Howe’s. However he did catch up with one school friend (when did they get so grey haired???) …

Kim with Robert Keller

… and got to go out and take some photos with another good friend who shares his passion for bird photography.

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)

We were blessed to find the time to have a quick peek at the progress our good friends have made on their straw bale house. They are doing a truly amazing job!


And we shared a meal and good conversation with some other good friends. Sadly we didn’t get to travel down to Albany this time, but the focus of the visit was my immediate family and we got a lot of lovely time with them.


When we got back home Kim took the bus down to Hobart to look at an automatic car for Lydia. Lydia only drives automatics and unfortunately the one that we have keeps having minor problems which mean she cannot take her driving test in it, so we decided a second one might be a good idea. After looking at the car Kim decided that it needed more work done than he really wanted to do so he said he would not buy it. However it turned out that the guy selling it was pretty desperate to get the sale and the long and the short of it was that he talked Kim into buying it at a good enough price that it was worth doing the work on it. They got the paperwork done and Kim filled the car up ready to drive home, then he jumped in and turned the key and the car went “click” and just would not go! A few hours later the RACT gave up trying to get it going too, and they hired Kim a car to drive home in and organised to tow the new car up the following week. We really got our money’s worth on the ultimate roadside assistance this year! On the way home in the hire car Kim stopped by and took a night shot of Richmond Bridge.


Since then Kim has replaced the starter motor and the car is now going again. It is a 2007 V6 3L Citroen C5, which makes it our most up to date car yet. The other required parts, a steering tie rod end and timing belt kit, arrived this week so now the work can be done. Kim is not looking forward to doing the timing belt as it requires special tools and is rather complicated, so he plans to do it with the help of his Citroen mechanic friend who now conveniently lives just over the mountain and has a nice new cement floored shed with a hoist! We are looking forward to having this car on the road as it has lots of safety equipment, plenty of power and headlights that turn with the steering. The headlights are really brilliant for driving through the twisty mountain pass in the dark, which Lydia has to do twice a day at this time of year.


The last car we bought was also a Citroen. We very much like the hydraulic suspension. We were buying it as a spare parts car for Kim’s Xantia as it was so cheap ($350), but in the end we decided it was too good for that so we fitted it with a new set of suspension spheres and it is now a daily driver for us. I really like it!


The major activity for this last week was turning Twinkle’s last calf, now a 14 month old bull, into beef in the freezer. It is always an ‘all hands on deck’ job despite our local dairy farmer doing the slaughtering, dressing and butchering. He is trying to get us more involved in the process these days so that he can go home earlier. As a result we ended up cutting a lot of the steaks ourselves and did all the mincing with our own machine as well. Then there are the fatty offcuts to trim dog food from, the bones to select for dogs, soup bones or burying, the fat to turn into tallow and everything to clean up after the work is done. It generally takes us a few days before everything is sorted. We filled our freezer as well as Paul’s after putting everything into meal sized portions. It is delicious to have some cuts of meat, like eye fillet, that we would never normally buy for ourselves. We got about $2,500 worth of meat at supermarket prices this time so it makes rearing the calf, which is really just a byproduct of having a milking cow, feel worth the effort. If we had more pasture and didn’t have to buy so much hay it would be even more profitable.


We have given up on doing more to micro hydro for now until the warmer weather arrives.  Kim has heaps of mechanical work to do which is taking priority, and it is often just too cold to work outside for more than a few hours each day at this time of year.  The heated workshop that Kim has planned will definitely come in handy when we get it done!  Maybe next year?

Well, that is all the news I can think of at the moment.  Wishing you all the best.


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.
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?


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.  🙂
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.
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.

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.
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

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.