2012 Baby Season

Posted Mar 10, 12:19 pm by

There is so much going on during baby season that it is really hard to remember to take pictures but I thought it would be a great idea to at least let people know that there are in fact a new crop of calves, goats and soon lambs here on the farm.
The weather has been fairly good and we have had some excitement.
The beef cows blessed us with two sets of twins so far this year. The one is a fifteen year old Angus cross cow that our second oldest had taken for 4-H years ago. Both of the twins are alive and doing very well and what makes them a little bit more rare for us is that they are the result of an artificial insemination breeding Gary had done last spring. We bred several cows when we discovered our herd sire was incapable of breeding and that went very well. All but two calved and Foggy had twins so it we are very glad we had semen in the tank to start our breeding season with last year.
We have just began having calves from our Welsh Black sire and they look very promising. The other set of twins was from him but one was born dead. We always believe in being thankful for what we get though and one live calf is definitely better than none. It is very sad though to help a cow deliver a still born calf. The forecast for the next two weeks is warming up so that will help with getting the rest of the calves on the ground safely since apparently Cherie and I miscounted and have both the cows and the goats having their babies at the same time.
Our goats have started slow but are starting to pick up speed. So far it appears that we have finally got our nutrition figured out because they are by far the bounciest babies we have had for a long time. We waiting patiently to hear of the birth of our new buck from Alex Cripps in New Brunswick also. He is to breed our Flying Bird daughters this fall and I can hardly wait to see the milk production here soar. We did breed a couple of Flying Bird daughters to kid in July as well as this spring so patience will have to be learned around here.
As soon as we get a chance pictures will be posted.

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Let's Make Sourdough Bread!

Posted Oct 7, 01:16 pm by

By Cherie Chikousky

There is nothing in this world that smells better than bread baking, other than horses, but that is apparently a less universal opinion. Very few people, no matter how shy they normally would be, can walk into a house filled with the aroma of homemade bread and refrain from asking for just one piece. With the windows open in the summer the smell can cause anyone working in the yard to suddenly need to step in for a minute, just for a glass of water, and “Oh, is the bread just out? A quick slice would be great.”

My first step in bread baking was kefir bread, a very good stepping stone. Moving on to yeast bread was a bit more difficult. Mine still refuses to rise like moms. When we finally had a reliable and consistent source for organic flour we rejuvenated our starter we had ordered from Carl’s. We haven’t attempted to “catch” a starter. It is said to be a trial and error method of beginning sourdough, sometimes you get lucky and have beautiful bread, other times it goes in the compost pail and you try again. The method described in The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook by Jean Hewitt is as follows:

Combine one-half cup of the flour (rye) and one-half cup of the lukewarm water in a large glass, or ceramic, bowl and let stand, uncovered, at room temperature for 50 to 60 hours. The dough should bubble and increase in volume. Stir if necessary and add more water if evaporation seems excessive. At the end of the time, the starter should be bubbly, good and smelly and increased in volume. Taken from the recipe “Whole Wheat Sour Dough Onion Bread” on page 250.

I have tried a few different sourdough recipes since we started, and the best so far is this:

Sour Dough Bread

1.5 cups starter
2 cups water
2 tbsp raw sugar or 1 tbsp honey
6.5 cups unbleached white flour, or 3 cups unbleached white flour and 3.5 cups whole-wheat flour, approximately
.25 cups melted butter, cooled

1. In a large bowl beat until smooth the 1.5 cups of starter, water, sugar, and two and one-half cups whole wheat flour.
2. Let stand in a warm place 12-18 hours; overnight.
3. Stir batter down. Mix in the melted butter and remaining whole-wheat flour and knead in enough of the remaining unbleached flour to make moderately stiff dough.
4. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
5. Grease well two loaf pans and your hands. Punch down the dough, divide in half and shape into loaves. Cover, if your dough is extra sticky use buttered plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about one and one-half hours.

6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a dish of water in the oven and leave in while the bread bakes
7. Bake 40-50 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cover with aluminum foil if bread starts to over brown. Cool on a rack. Store in fridge/freezer to avoid sour bread.
Yield: 2 loaves

Feed starter equal parts rye flour and water, allow to stand 12 hours before refrigerating (if necessary), or feed every 24 hours. Remove from fridge 12 hours before using.

It has become very important to our family during our journey through the maze of what and how we should eat that we attempt to consume only certified organic cereals and grains. The main reasons include avoiding exposure to herbicides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers, and our concerns regarding additives to commercial flour. The two big additives we are concerned about are bromide, which blocks your iodine receptors, hindering your thyroids ability to function properly, and L-cysteine, an amino acid derived from human hair, pig bristles, or duck and chicken feathers, using a process involving soaking the chosen medium in hydrochloric acid. L-cysteine is a dough conditioner, and when used in things like bagels or pizza dough, it is listed on packaging and so easy to avoid. The problem is that from our research we believe this to be added to all commercial flour. It follows, then, that any product containing flour would also contain all government approved additives, and we do not feel comfortable that our bodies be forced to potentially consume what we believe to be harmful ingredients.

This has brought us to buying all our flours and other cereal products in bulk from a certified organic source, and reselling smaller amounts to local families who are trying to change their diets and do not have the need or availability to buy bulk. I have seen the blessings our family has received through godly people who believed in helping a young family who needed a hand, and we try whenever possible to follow that example in small ways to teach and give opportunity to others. We have a strong belief in the way we eat, and have seen it change people’s, including our own family’s, health for the better. If we can make buying organic a little less overwhelming for people starting through that same maze, we are happy to do it.

As anyone who has ever had problem with a yeast imbalance knows bread made using single-celled yeast isn’t good for your body. Our bodies are much keener on the traditional method of sourdough. The fact that a portion of the flour is soaked overnight is very important. Grains contain a high level of something called phytic acid in the outer portion of the grain, the healthiest part. Phytic acid is bound to phosphorus. In your intestines phytic acid binds with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc, blocking absorption. These minerals are obviously very important to our overall health. Grains also contain enzyme inhibitors, which slow down digestion and stress your pancreas, irritating tannins, complex sugars which our bodies cannot break down and gluten. Through soaking, sprouting, and fermenting, we begin the breakdown our digestive system cannot incur on these foods prior to consumption, allowing our bodies to be saved the stress of attempting to process the portions of the grains we are not equipped to and the ability to absorb the important vitamins and minerals we need.

As I finish this blog my kitchen is filled with the smell wafting from the oven of three loaves of bread and a dozen buns baking. I’ll be honest here. All I’m thinking is “mmmmm.”

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Kefir Bread

Posted Sep 22, 06:08 pm by

Bread Baked

My journey into Sourdough making has been a slow one. I received my culture package in the mail from Carl’s a while ago, but have been wanting to wait till I have a secure, dependable supply of organic flours to start my own. I know that single cell yeast breads are not the best for my family, so when a friend shared her kefir bread recipe, I jumped right to it. The hardest part of this recipe, has been keeping up with my family’s demand!

We make kefir daily, out of our own cows and goats milk. I prefer the cow’s milk kefir for saving whey to ferment with, and for mixing with the flour in this recipe. I prefer the goat kefir for drinking, though. It is so smooth and flavourful.

Kefir Bread Collage
Kefir Bread
3 cups flour
3 cups kefir
Mix these together well, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm area. After twelve to twenty-four hours the dough should be liquidy and bubbly.
Bread Rising
At this point beat the dough well and add:
1.5 tsp baking soda
1.5 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp melted coconut oil or butter
3 cups of flour
Beat this together well and knead in enough flour by hand to make a soft dough. When it will hold the shape of a loaf, divide the dough into two piles. Shape the loaves and place them into two well-greased loaf pans. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and place in a warm place to rise. When the bread rises to the top of the pans, pop it into a preheated 350F oven for about 30 minutes. The crust will be quite brown, and if you knock on the bottom, the loaves will sound hollow.

We have adapted this recipe over time, and are very happy with this variation on the original recipe.

Whole Grain Spelt Variation
5 cups spelt flour
3 cups kefir
Mix well together, it may be hard to stir, you may want to knead. Let sit overnight. The next day add
1.5 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp raw sugar or 1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp melted coconut oil or butter
Mix/knead well and place in two well-greased loaf pans. Grease with butter or good lard, coconut oil does not work. Cover loosely and place in a warm place to rise. It usually rises well to the top of the pans, but in the cold weather it will sometimes only increase by about a half. Bake at 350F until done, loaves will sound hollow. We have began using an aluminum free baking soda and have since decreased the baking soda to 1 tsp, or it is too much and we can taste it, which is quite interesting.

Comment [60]

Raw Milk Hard Cheese

Posted Nov 13, 04:11 pm by

Previously published Sept 6, 2010 Grainews.

Imagine being able to serve your guests a cheese platter made from cheese you made yourself in your own kitchen.

That is exactly what we do on our farm and it is time to get started because for really tasty Christmas cheese it needs to be aging by the end of September.

The lack of your own farm fresh milk doesn’t have to stop you because with the addition of Calcium chloride store bought milk can be used. The desired concentration of CaCl2 is usually specified as 0.02%. This would mean adding 3.6g CaCl2 to 5 gal of pasteurized milk. You should completely dissolve the CaCl2 in about 1/4 cup water before adding it to the milk. Add it slowly with thorough stirring. It can be purchased in a liquid form that is more user friendly than the crystals. This procedure will firm up the curd and allow pasteurized milk to make a tasty homemade treat.

To make cheese you will need a large stainless steel pot, a large colander, a seamless stainless steel spoon, a long bladed knife, a thermometer, a mold, cheesecloth (butter muslin), cultures, rennet, Celtic sea salt and milk. I purchase most of my supplies from Glengarry Cheesemaking 1-888-816-0903. My favorite website for learning beginner techniques is Fankhauser .

The first cheese I made was Cottage Cheese from cow’s milk. It is a far superior product than what can be purchased at the store and I was blessed to be able to learn from a lady with years of experience.

Cottage Cheese

Batch size: 1 gallon
Expected Yield: 4 cups
Milk Source: Skimmed cow milk (if you don’t use a cream separator just skim the cream off with a ladle), or skim pasteurized with calcium chloride added.
Production time: not sure

Warm the milk to 72F. Add 2 ounces homemade yogurt to the warmed milk and let it ripen on the counter with the lid on till it is thick. It will resemble yogurt. (Once you have a batch you can freeze some ice cube trays of this before it is cooked and use those instead of the buttermilk or yogurt). The curd is then cut into one-quarter inch curds and the temperature slowly raised to 112F. This should take about twenty minutes. Cover the pot and let rest for 30 minutes. Pour the curds and whey through a colander then let the curds drain till they are firm enough to stir. Salt the curd and let it drain till desired dryness. This cottage cheese can be used for eating fresh or cooking.

Recipe for Chikousky Cheese

Batch size: 2 gallons
Expected Yield: 2 pounds
Milk Source: Whole milk, raw or pasteurized (goat or cow)
Production time: approx 3.5 hours till pressing starts

Warm the milk to 86F in a large stainless steel pot. Add one-quarter cup mesophillic culture (cultured commercial buttermilk can be used). Let the milk ripen with the lid on maintaining the 86F temperature for 45 minutes. In the mean time prepare your rennet by diluting one-quarter teaspoon in one-quarter cup of cool water. At the end of the 45 minutes stir in the rennet mixture with an up and down motion allowing the cream to be stirred back into the milk and the rennet to be thoroughly mixed. Place the lid back on your pot and maintain the temp at 86F by placing the pot into a sinkful of 86F water. The milk should set for 45-60 minutes.
Test the curd for a clean break by running a sharp knife through it. If it leaves a clean line it is set. Proceed to cut the curd with a long handled knife into one-quarter inch square curds, while still in the pot.
Let the curd rest, still maintaining 86F temp, for another 10 minutes. This allows the whey to start to be released from the curd.
Slowly raise the temp (should take about 20 minutes) to 100F, stirring often to keep the curds from matting.
Hold the temperature at 100F for a half hour, stirring frequently to avoid matting.
Strain off the whey till you can see the curds.
Maintaining the 100F temperature let rest another 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
The curds will have shrank significantly by the end of the second 30 minutes and be ready to strain.
Working quickly so the curds don’t chill finish straining the curd through the colander. Salt them with 2 tbsp Celtic sea salt. Then pour the curd into the awaiting cheesecloth lined mold. Wrap securely and press. We do not have a cheese press, we use my sons weightlifting plates balanced in a corner of my kitchen counter. Flip the cheese between weight changes.

15 pounds for 10 minutes.
30 pounds for 10 minutes.
40 pounds for 2 hours
50 pounds for 24 hours.
At this point the cheese is removed from the mold, placed on a clean plate and covered with a clean dish-cloth. I then place it in my fridge (cheese should age at 50F so this is a bit cold) and hide it from my family for three months. During the three months it must be flipped daily so it dries on all sides. If it develops mold we dampen a cloth with vinegar and rub it off.

Since we started making cheeses the hardest part has been to keep them hidden till they are old enough to eat. This hobby has made it very possible to keep our oversupply of milk in the summer (which is highest in vitamins and minerals from pasture) through the winter. A little taste of summer everyday.

Comment [1]

Spring Is Here!!

Posted Jun 10, 01:11 am by

When spring finally comes to Narcisse it is always more than welcome after a long hard prairie winter. Along with all the new babies comes the flush of vitamin rich milk their dams are producing. I am sure this is the season spoke of in Proverbs 27:27 “And thou shalt have goats’ milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens”. When we are overflowing with fabulous healthy milk for all. But all that bounty means that there is much more than what can be used fresh so we have to preserve it for when the fields aren’t green any longer.

Traditionally milk was preserved for later consumption by fermenting it. Our family makes kefir, yogurt and several cheeses out of the bounty. Along with pounds and pounds of butter. Which is very important to make in the spring and summer when the grass is full of vitamin A. Ideally a family would freeze enough of this butter and age enough of this cheese to keep them supplied in dairy while the cows rested for the winter. But that isn’t the way our modern world cycles its milk supply anymore. For these reasons and many, many more our family has found that the benefits of having our own milking animals, although a huge commitment of time and resources, is well worth it. An excellent resource to learn more about the benefits of fresh milk is Weston A Price.

When we first started making our own dairy foods I thought it couldn’t be done without a lot of special and expensive supplies. I was wrong. Usually, all I needed was right here in my own kitchen. By far the easiest and healthiest product to make is kefir. So let’s start with that.

The first thing to do is find someone with genuine kefir grains (picture below) to share with you. I found ours through Dom’s kefir making site. I have shared with people all over North America for the price of shipping so if I have extras feel free to contact us about getting some.

To make kefir you need:

Comment [5]

Why Grow Grass Finished Beef?

Posted Mar 21, 09:54 pm by

Can grass finished beef be tough, dry, tasteless etc? Yes. Does it have to be? No. This picture shows that with the right genetics anything is possible.

Beef

As with most of our farming decisions we spent time talking with our elders. When I thought about how my grandfather finished a steer though, we realized that people hadn’t always fed like we do today. He used to put the steer in a box stall, and feed him a 4 litre pail of grain ration a day for six weeks prior to butcher. Our 4-H children were being advised to feed up to twenty pounds of grain a day on a finishing ration. So we decided to head back to the past.

It quickly became apparent that not all of our genetic lines were going to be able to grow and finish without grain. The bull we had at the time needed grain to maintain his weight unless he was fed second cut alfalfa and his heifers were the same. So the first thing we had to do was cull all of those cows/heifers. With BSE underway shipping them wasn’t economically feasible so we butchered the bull. It was an easy decision, as he had turned mean and my husband was the only one currently able to water him, he would charge anyone else. We then purchased a new Black Angus bull (pedigree below) that had been raised without grain (potatoes and forage had been his diet) and stopped retaining any heifers born from daughters of the problem bull. Then we started slowly butchering off the hard keepers.

Lost Lake Iceberg 3438

Car Iceberg 056 IMP056K Reg# 1038043

Car Lady Tracker 620

Ferdinand

Benlock Rito 53F

051 Angus Cow (born 2000)

Angus Cow Molly (Born 1986)

Butchering all those animals taught us that you could stop feeding grain and keep your steaks too.

Beef Photo

The secret is to butcher them in the fall when they still have their pasture fat. We have been butchering, for our personal use, animals 2-6 years old. We have been very pleased with the results. My husband and I are finding that it tastes a lot like the farm beef we remember eating when we were growing up.

Grass management has proven to be a healthier way of life for the cattle. Not only are we saving on feed bills we are also saving on vet bills. We are finding that the cattle are healthier without the grain supplementation than they were before. I have also started reading a lot of research on why eating this grass-finished beef is healthier for people. Scientists are telling us that the ratios of omega 3 to omega 6 fats from this beef are a healthier balance for us than in grain finished. They also contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which research is showing has promise in areas including the suppression of cancerous tumors and the ability to moderate body weight, body composition, glucose metabolism and the immune system. There is some research showing that for full health benefits grass finished beef animals should be butchered when mature.

We chose the replacement heifers that calved this year from our best cows. The ones that calf every year, without assistance, milk heavy and do not need supplemental grain to remain in acceptable shape. We expect them to lose some weight but not get skinny. We only feed loose cobalt salt and a high quality mineral.

If lower feed costs, less health problems and less chores (don’t have to haul those grain pails) isn’t enough to convince people they need to give our heifers a chance then the fact that consumers are willing to pay more for this kind of beef should also be considered.

Our family is sold on this management system. We want to continue raising beef cattle and with low prices and high feed costs this is the only way we can see our herd making it into the future. We would be very pleased to have our breeding stock find homes on other farms where they can help others make a living and stay on the farm.

Comment [4]

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