Saturday, February 21, 2015

Corny and beany thoughts

I'm planning on planting more corn this year, going to go for an organic seed corn and an organic fertilizer, in keeping with my effort to get the pastures certified organic.   Organic dry fertilizer is pretty darned expensive; $1000 to $1200 a ton; and organic seed corn, heck, regular seed corn is expensive.  Regular is $200+ per 50lb bag, and organic is more.  I don't have a price because they haven't figured it out, but I don't have to imagine far.

Working with the JD 7000 planter last year
Last year one of the seeders was broken, so we used it as a 3 row planter, and the others really needed some work.  Seed belts and various wear parts and covers for the bins...  and everything needed grease and elbow work.

So I've ordered new seed meters and tubes for this planter, which should give me fewer skips and doubles, and generally a more consistent stand.  The other thing that this does is is give me the ability to better plant other types of seeds -- beans or peas, anyone? -- which adds a little more to the choice of forage that I can plant.

The new parts
Beans or peas are an interesting idea because they are a high-protein option for building a ration.  I don't get very good weather for dry beans, but I do get great pea weather.  I'm thinking that this years test plots will probably be beans and peas.

Beans have doen very well in field trials at the WSU Mt. Vernon research center, and I'll use that as the basis for deciding what beans to try in my own experiements.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Their barn burned down: Fundraiser

The thoughtful food farm had their barn burn down last week; with a loss of equipment and animals and shelter space.

I follow Jeffs blog because I think more than most he's a careful, deliberate farmer who watches his pennies and makes prudent choices.  I was sorry to see his barn go.   You'll see his blog on my "blogs I follow" list.  

I've donated $250 towards his reconstruction, and I'd like to ask my readers to contribute to putting this small farm back on its feet.  This isn't charity, and they still have hard work to do to get back there, but every bit that you can contribute, even a dollar, will help.   

If you've enjoyed, or been outraged, or entertained by my blog over the years, a few dollars paid forward would be much appreciated by me.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Too much milk...cream separator

I've been quietly milking my own family milk cow for a couple of years; I don't talk about it much, but it's a daily part of the routine here.  Before the end of 2015 I'll be milking four cows; two jerseys, a jersey-holstein cross and a holstein.

Milk and cream separator operating from bruce king on Vimeo.

It's been interesting having to figure out how to deal with between 2 and 5 gallons of milk a day; and this little gadjet has helped a lot.  It's a cream separator that allows you to process the fresh milk into skim and cream immediately.

Why?  Well, what I end up valuing the most from the milk is the butter, and butter comes from cream.   So I want to have the cream, which I store until i have a gallon or so, and then make butter from that.   I was refrigerating the fresh milk overnight, letting the cream rise to the top and then skimming it, but 5 gallons of milk is a lot of refrigerator space.  This way I reduce 2.5 gallons of fresh milk into 4 cups of cream, which means that I can put 4-5 days work of cream in a gallon container in the refrigerator.

The skim milk goes to either dairy calves (I'm raising 10 heifers right now) or to piglets, both of which really like it.

To get the seperator to work for me I needed the milk to be about 99 degrees, and I need to start the milk flow before it has come completely up to speed.  that allows a little milk to come out the cream spout and lubricates the spout for the thicker cream that follows.   If the milk is too cold the cream doesn't flow out the spout.

This thing works too well.  the cream that comes out is solid when refrigerated.  The consistency of a heavy cake frosting.  So for butter making purposes after seperation I'll mix an equal amount of skim milk back into the cream.

So for a 2.5 gallon batch of milk I'll get a heaping 2 cups of extremely-heavy-cream, which I'll then cut with 2 cups of skim.  A gallon of cream this mix will produce 2-3lbs of butter, and the rest is buttermilk.

Mostly what I've been making is unsalted raw milk sweet cream butter, which is a very nice thing to have in the kitchen.  It's lovely stuff.