Cold Weather Flies

The way I see it, there are two distinct fly seasons.  The long, drawn out, hot and often muggy summer fly season where there are zillions of flies that seem to spawn from nowhere and the short but disgusting cold-weather fly season.

Let it  be known that my favorite fly season – if I had to choose between gross and grosser – is the summer fly season.  The sheer fact that there are at least 7 million flies on any given sauna-like afternoon that fill up fly tape within 2 minutes, land on the goats causing them to stomp and nearly step into the milk pail during milking, and irritate the living daylights out of any human being still pales in comparison to the cold-weather fly season.

It is my least favorite of the two fly seasons.  And, it has been happening on a daily basis in by kitchen for the past two weeks.

Let me paint a few pictures for you…in case you’ve never experienced a cold weather fly:

You’re standing at the kitchen sink, gazing out the window as you wash a few dishes.  You are marveling at the deep blue color of the sky and watching the cloud shaped like a lizard change into a guitar then into a wedding cake when a large, lethargic black blob enters your peripheral vision and slams into your cheek.  It maintains contact with your flesh for longer than you care to think about, and the fact that it even collided with your unmoving face is absurd.  Don’t flies have upwards of 1000 eyes?  It should have seen you as an obstruction from at least the dining room table.  From the point of contact, it ricochets off and begins a slow descent to the ground, its wings not able to recover quickly enough to get it to safety.  If you are quick, you can get the dish soap off your hands, grab a dish towel and swat it with ease.  But, if you delay, or if it regains consciousness mid-flight, it zig-zags and lands on the glass spice jars and poses for a picture.  It is temporarily saved because you can’t kill it without risking your Italian seasoning being peppered with shards of glass.

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The worst though, is when you are walking toward the door, in a hurry to get to a meeting.  Your inertia is forward moving and at the time you happen to take your usual breath in through your nose, a cold weather fly comes in from left field.  It is so slow and weak that it can’t fight the pull of the vacuum it suddenly feels drawing it directly toward your right nostril.  A millisecond before you inhale the poop eating insect deep into your nasal cavity, your brain processes the reality of the situation and its impending disaster.  You stop your breath and wave frantically at the base of your nose.  That one got away, but at least you didn’t have to go to the ear nose and throat doctor to have it removed from the depths of your sinuses.

And finally, the one that happened today.  I went to the bathroom sink to wash my hands and lo and behold, encountered a gigantic fly sitting by the drain.  Really.  It was sitting there, still, so still that I could see that its eyes were a rust colored red and its nose greenish.  I had not ever realized that flies have noses.  That fly didn’t even flinch when I came at it with a wad of toilet paper.  No movement whatsoever.  It had already crossed over to the other side.  To fly heaven.  Or, wherever flies go upon death.  And it was still standing up.  It hadn’t even taken the time to fully die and roll over the way you find dead flies on the window sill.

I hope you can now thoroughly understand why I strongly prefer summer fly season.  It is always important to look at the glass half full, right?

Until next time,

-  The Goat Cheese Lady

P.S.  This is the unedited version of the post that ran in the IndyBlog on Saturday, October 11, 2014.  You can read it here.

 

 

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Goat Milk Creamery: Blue Heron Farm

In attempting to make the decision on whether or not we will open our own creamery,  I have been interviewing the owners of various creameries.  I will highlight them as I go…in the hopes it will help others who are also on our path and as thanks to the creamery owners who took their valuable time to talk to me.

Christian and Lisa Seger own Blue Heron Farm in Field Store, Texas.  He and his wife started their goat dairy in 2007, and if you take a look at their website, you’ll see how much they love their goats.  They make and sell chevre, feta and cajeta.  I spoke with Christian a few weeks ago and he was very kind to answer all of my questions.

According to Christian, he is in charge of the animals, the grass, the fences and the milking.  He milks 28 Nubian goats and raises them on 10.5 acres because their belief is that Nubians produce the best milk and therefore the best cheese. While he dries most of them off for the winter, he milks at least 4-5 through the winter, thus never having a dry period. The goats graze on pasture grasses (during grass season) consisting mostly of common Bermuda grass, which Christian confesses is low in protein and low quality, so he throws some higher protein legume seeds out every so often.  When the pasture is dormant, the goats eat a hay mix containing a Sorghum Sudan hybrid.  During milking, he feeds them a no-corn, no-soy, GMO free oat based feed mix he buys in 50 pound bags for $13.50 from West Feeds in Texas.  The hay is $70 per roll.

Lisa is in charge of making the cheese, marketing the cheese and maintaining their internet presence.  Per gallon of milk, she can make 1.32 pounds of chevre, but, he advised, the weight per gallon can be more or less depending on how much whey you drain…wetter cheese whey’s more.  (You should be laughing now…a wetter cheese whey’s more…I know, it took you a minute.)   She specializes in chevre, feta and cajeta.  The feta and chevre are sold by the 1/2 pound for $10.00 ($20.00 per pound). 

As far as employees for their business, they have none.  They have had the help of woofers over the years, but have determined it is more cost effective and efficient to do the work themselves.  The two of them do everything.  They haven’t had a day off in seven years.

When I asked him if he would change anything about their business, he responded that the main thing he would change would be the age of the goats they started with.  Initially, they bought all 3-year-old goats, with the thought that they would get the highest milk production.  That was true, until they all turned 8.  Milking all 8-year-old goats was challenging because their milk supply dropped significantly (and unexpectedly) due to their age.  He suggests starting with a bell curve of goat ages: heavy on the 4-5 year olds, light on the young and light on the old.  The one other thing he would change is to make their cheeses and cajeta available seasonally so they could have a break from milking and cheese making in the winter, but he and Lisa have established their business without the dry period, so they haven’t wanted to make the change.  

You can find them and their cheese here.

And, you can see them on Tedx Houston here!  They do an exceptional presentation on their journey from “being regular eaters to ethical omnivores.”

-  The Goat Cheese Lady

P.S.  Thanks to our student, Marcia Bennett for telling me about Blue Heron Farm.

 

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Proposition 105

To Label or Not to Label.  That is the question.

What are we voting on labeling, you ask?

Whether or not foods containing GMO’s (genetically modified organisms)  should be labeled in Colorado.

What do you think?  Will you vote Yes or No?  Please share your opinion on our Facebook page, here.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!!!

-  The Goat Cheese Lady

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The Freeze – uncut

If it hasn’t happened yet in your neck of the woods, The Freeze is looming.  It’s the bane of the end of summer, or the benefit of the end of summer, I go back and forth depending on the year.  But in my most recent gardening years, I have come to firmly believe it is the benefit of the end of summer.  It is when, after a no rest marathon beginning with starting seeds inside in February, planting seedlings and cold weather seeds in March and April, finally setting out leggy tomatoes and peppers in May (because in the depths of winter and your craving for spring, you started the seeds too early), harvesting and weeding and mulching and canning in June, July, August and September, you can finally anticipate a rest with The first Freeze.

tomato harvest 2014

When my garden was smaller, my husband and I religiously covered everything if the weatherman predicted even the slightest possibility of The Freeze.  We couldn’t stand the thought of losing our hard-earned crops in one mid-September freeze only to be followed with 3 weeks of warm weather and sunshine.  However, I learned something by dragging out all those towels and sheets and old curtains:  It Wasn’t Worth It.

In my experience, three more weeks of sunshine and warm weather at the end of September and beginning of October – before we finally gave into nature and let The Freeze kill off the garden – produced approximately 1.7 more ripe tomatoes and not much else.  It was more work than it was worth.

Over time, as our garden morphed into the oversized produce department that it is today, I wisened up.  Or gave in.  I prefer to think I became one with nature, accepted and began to understand the benefits of living seasonally and allowed The Freeze to happen while leaving my prolific Cherokee Purple and Sun Gold tomato plants unprotected.

Contrary to my previously distraught emotional state upon viewing the garden out the window the morning after The Freeze, I now relish the rest that will follow.  No more tending to the garden means no more fresh produce…except for the kale that will keep producing until November…but it means a break.

A break AFTER the canning is finished.  At this point, you should be semi-convinced that The Freeze should actually be celebrated.  That is good.  You are transitioning into appreciating the cycles of nature.  However, the day before The Freeze, assuming you know it is coming, you scramble around in the garden picking every last vegetable, ripe and unripe.  Although your plants will perish, and although you are now beginning to look forward to The Freeze, you will not dare let all of your marathon gardening be consumed by Mother Nature.  Let her have the plants…not the fruits.

After you finish the back-breaking work of the final harvest (and give thanks for the hands that spend all day every day picking the produce you buy in the grocery store) you have every basket and bowl you own overrun with vegetables.  You have to tip toe around errant summer squash and tomatillos that have rolled out of their assigned containers that take up most of the floor space in your kitchen.  Over the next few days, you let some of the unripe vegetables ripen, you savor some of the fresh and ready-to-be-eaten, but the rest must be dealt with…and quick…unless you want a household full of fruit flies happy to help with the breakdown of your summer’s bounty.

Can it, dry it, freeze it, cook it, enjoy it.  In January, when you pull out a jar of homemade tomato sauce, you will be thankful you worked to put everything up in the few days after The Freeze.

Here are a couple of tips:

1.  If you’re not ready to use your tomatoes now, wash them and freeze them whole.  When you are ready to use them, thaw them: the skins will come right off and the pulp will separate easily from the seeds.

2.  Grate all of your zucchini and freeze it in 1-3 cup portions (depending on how much your favorite recipe calls for).  Over the winter, thaw it batch by batch to make zucchini bread, soup, fritters, or pancakes.

3.  Leave all of your green tomatoes out on the counter in a basket.  Over the next few weeks, most of them will ripen.

-  The Goat Cheese Lady

P.S.  The edited version of this post ran first on the IndyBlog here on October 5, 2014.

 

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Hello Fall! – uncut

I look out at the leaves changing color on the trees, and give thanks that fall is here and winter is coming.  It’s the beginning of the farm’s down time.  I used to resist the first freeze of the fall, hating to see the tender summer annuals so vibrant the day before dead as a doornail the next morning.  I used to dread fall and winter, looking upon them as seasons of darkness, as 7 months of tolerating life before finally seeing the first leaf buds again.

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As the busyness of summer gardening, milking, cheese making, canning, and classes slows down, we can slow down with it.  It’s part of living seasonally.  It’s part of bringing all of your energy in, preparing to curl up for winter and rest so that in the spring, you are rejuvenated and ready to burst forth and flower again.

Now, I yearn for the fall and winter.  They are the seasons when we can relax a bit.  We can watch YouTube and learn more about forest gardening, greenhouse growing, soil building, and cheese making.

It gives us time to ponder why every last one of the 25 cucumber seedlings I planted in May kicked the bucket before even reaching ankle height, be thankful the tomatoes and beets were so prolific and notice that completely shaving the caterpillar eaten leaves off of the kohlrabi plants DID serve the purpose of eliminating caterpillar habitat, but it also stunted their growth to kohlrabi peanuts.  We think back to the spring kidding season, when we had the most births ever (12), and also the most deaths (6).  We saw a bobcat down in the ravine for the first time in 4 years.  We saw no bears for the first time in 5.  We put 40 chickens in the freezer and contemplated eating rattlesnake for supper.

It’s the time of year when twice a day milking dwindles to once a day milking and once a day milking slows to no milking.  The goats are bred (recall Mr. Stinky?), the days are shorter and their energy goes to keeping themselves warm and fed for the winter.  Our goats are all around 6 years old, slightly past peak milking age and although not ready to head for the geriatric ward yet, their bodies realize they have no more babies to feed over the winter and their biological clock slows down sooner than when they were 3 and 4 year olds.

All in all, no milking means our carpal tunnel stricken hands can get a rest.  They can leave the repetitive, index to pinky finger-drumming milking motion in our memories and join in the debate of whether or not to buy a mechanical milker next season. And so can we.  We’ve actually had two enforced “sleep in” days in the past few weeks.  Almost unheard of at our house.

The slow season is also when I get caught up on all of the books I want to read.  I’ll read books about whatever suites my fancy.  Cookbooks, cheese making books, historical fiction books, whatever I want.  I get to curl up in my big leather chair with a cup of coffee and a good book and read.  I learn all kinds of things over the fall and winter.  Two years ago, I read the whole American Bicentennial Series by John Jakes, a much more interesting way to learn history than the textbooks in high school.  Last year, it was Clan of the Cave Bear and Anne of Green Gables.  This winter, who knows, maybe I’ll write my own book!

Last year at this time, and again this year, we realized, although we love where we live, we want a smaller house and more land.  There is no time to think such thoughts in Spring and Summer, but fall and winter provide a clean slate on which to write all the ideas for the future.  Some will take hold, some won’t.

But, come kidding season next spring, we’ll be in a smaller house and we’ll have more land.  Perhaps we’ll open a creamery.  Perhaps not.  But whatever we do and decide over winter, we’ll be ready to go, full steam ahead, when the first goat kid arrives and the first spring garden seed gets planted.

-  The Goat Cheese Lady

P.S.  This, in its edited version, first ran on the IndyBlog Sunday, September 28, 2014.  You can read it here.

 

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She Puked In The Car.

Flash, that is.

And because I know she gets carsick, and because she’s a crazy, hyper 10 month old Australian Shepard, I put her in her kennel.  In back of the car with the seats folded down next to the strewn out piles of Goodwill stuff waiting to adorn someone else’s house.

I talked to her in calming, soothing voices the entire way to the vet but didn’t even mention that she was going there to get her rabies shot.  I thought that might really make her nervous.

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But, true to form, the simple fact that she was riding in the car made her sufficiently nervous to upchuck her entire breakfast, a sprig of grass and a rock.  Yep.  A rock.  Those farm dogs…you just never know what they’re going to eat.  It was sweet of her to deposit it right in the corner of her kennel 17 minutes into the ride and 3 minutes before we arrived at our destination.

Three  minutes till we got there.  She almost made it.

I whined at her, taking after a 7-year-old boy who lives under my roof and shall remain nameless…”Flash, seriously?  You couldn’t make it all the way?”

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But, just like any young’un, after she was through, she was happy as a clam.  Nearly yanked my arm off trying to get to all the new dog friends who needed immediate sniffing.

And, after the rabies shot, she made it all the way home without incident.

I guess that’s what happens when there’s nothing left in your stomach.

-  The Goat Cheese Lady

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Do You Want To Come Sniff Paint Fumes With Me?

Because that’s exactly what I’ll be doing today.  Not necessarily on purpose, but as a by product of painting our newly dry walled basement bathroom.  It’s not that it’s absolutely necessary, I mean the previous owner’s choice in wallpaper border half covered by dry wall compound is attractive [not], but I think a potential buyer might be more inclined to the less dramatic.

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That’s where the paint fumes come in.  Unless I can find my old gas mask.

Which I’ll be looking for.

OK, it’s really an old paint mask but I like to call it a gas mask because it looks like I’m going in to detonate a bomb or something.  Which means it should really be called an old bomb mask.

I don’t anticipate any bombs, but I do anticipate lots of white paint on the walls in a bathroom with no windows and lots of paint fumes.

And did I mention we looked at a house for sale yesterday that must be inhabited by smokers who attempted to cover up the smoke with air freshener, which, when combined inside closed doors creates a toxic kind of killer non-air that definitely requires a gas mask?  Or a bomb mask.  Or a paint mask.  Except we had no warning.  The listing agent did not put on the showing remarks:  please tell your clients to wear gas masks upon entry.

They should be required to do that.  Warn people to bring gas masks.  Or a hazmat team.

I almost died.

Literally.

And today, I’m going to subject myself to a similar situation again.  But this time I’ll come armed.

I’ll let you know how today’s fumes turn out.

-  The Goat Cheese Lady

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