Honey, Where’s The Mop?

When you’re a writer, if you’re ever at a loss for words to write, go outside and do some farm work.  That’s my opinion at least.  Without fail, I see something gross, do something hilarious, see something beautiful, or hear something chirping.  The other day, farm work fell into the “see something gross” category.

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First, as you’ll recall, The Animal Whisperer knocked down this old shed.

Then, I got writer’s block.

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So, I went outside to start cleaning up the destruction zone.

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And came upon this (and one other) mouse skin filled up with its composted remains.

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Being the city girl that I /am/was/might-always-be/ I had (in my opinion) a clearly rational thought upon coming upon the mouse nest.  “Ohhhh.  That’s where those two lived.  They’re dead. Musta eaten some mouse poison.  No more mice here.  Nope, nothing to be concerned about.”

Another portion of the nest, composed primarily of mop strings and shredded newspaper, caused me to imagine a wish-I-were-a-fly-on-the-wall discussion between the people who previously lived here about where the mop went:

He steps out to the side porch to grab the mop and sees…to his surprise…only the handle!  He says to her, incredulously,  “HONEY!  What did you do to the mop!!!”  She responds, jumping to the defensive, “What are you talking about?  I did nothing to the mop!”  After agreeing to each other’s innocence, they begin suspecting the kids, who have also commandeered the scissors. 

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Only seven years later does the truth come to light.

After moving a second rotten floorboard, I found another nest.  Interestingly, whereas the other nest would blow away in a light breeze, this one held together as if glued.  Being curious, but still naively believing the only two mice who could have lived here were dead, I pulled it apart with a stick, actually in awe of the rodents’ capabilities in nest building and gaining an improved visual for when I tell my 7-year-old his hair looks like a rat’s nest.

I’m sure you guessed it, but I didn’t.  It was only after I shrieked upon uncovering a nest of LIVE mice that I realized…DUH.  The fact that two mice are petrified does not indicate the termination of the species.

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Sheesh.

–  The Goat Cheese Lady

Posted in Farm Life | Tagged , | 4 Comments

What to do After You Move.

We moved into our new digs three weeks ago.  It is due to that fact that I can now speak as an expert on a few things to do after you move.  OK, maybe not exactly an expert, but I’ll share some of my experiences on what to do (or not to do) after you move in.

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1.  Change the blade on your razor.  I am not a huge fan of shaving my legs, but due to some unsightly hair experiences of late, I have vowed to become better at it.  Typically, the super galactic razor blade probably made by scientists at NASA that is advertised to give you a smoother shave thus less risk for cuts and nicks gets changed (under my ownership) approximately once every two years or so.  With my new commitment to not being able to braid my leg hair, I decided it was time to change it.  New house, new start, new razorblade.  Why not?  Unfortunately, when used to an old blade, you tend to get a little careless. The old blade is dull, and along with not really cutting off much of your leg hair, it has minimal risk of cutting off much of your skin.  Not so with a new blade, I was reminded.  I am now healing from no less than six shaving cuts.  Per Leg.

2.  Clean out the shower drains.  The previous homeowners left the house pretty darn clean, but as do many of us, they didn’t think to clean out the shower drains.  Neither did I, until our shower started draining slower, slower and slower.  If you’ve never been tasked with this cleaning job, let me paint you a picture, but first it will require some practice on your part:

Step 1:  Wash your hands.

Step 2:  Reach one hand into your mouth and at least half way down your esophagus.

Step 3:  Grasp the inside of your esophagus and pull it up and out through your mouth.

This will elicit the most hideous gag reflex, perhaps, of your life.  Now you’re ready to clean the shower drain.

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Step 1:  Glove up.

Step 2:  Grab tweezers (preferably an old pair…not the ones you use to pluck your eyebrows) or needle nose pliers (hopefully you don’t use these to pluck your nose hairs, either).

Step 3:  Poke them into the drain and pinch them onto the drape of hairs you see there.

Step 4:  Pull.  Note: These few hairs are not the main problem.  They are just the catchment system for what hangs unseen, below.

Step 5:  Repeat and keep repeating, grasping other strands of hair and pulling.  Eventually the big wad will come to the opening in the drain.  This is where it really gets gross.

Step 6:  Pull and reposition and pull and reposition until you successfully extract the slimy, possibly (but hopefully not) stinky, wad of the previous owner’s hair.  If you have forgotten the trash can, run grab it.  You’ll need to throw the hair wad in there, after you use it to throw up.

3.  Lose the dogs.  Mind you, we did not do this on purpose.  They got out of the goat pen, where they have taken up residence to protect the goats from wildlife, and disappeared.

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After searching for hours, Craigslisting, Facebooking and Tweeting “lost dogs” with their pictures and posting fliers on 25 rural electrical poles, they made it safely home, on their own.  One after 24 hours, the other after 48.  (No, they aren’t chipped.  Yes, they will get chipped.  Turkeys.)

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4.  Knock down some stuff.  Mostly, the view impeding stuff.  If it’s in the way and you don’t like it, take ‘er down baby.  As for me, I need my Pikes Peak view.

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And, although from my kitchen window, I only see the top two inches of the south side, it grounds me.  And the offending shed was blocking my view.

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Thanks for removing it,  honey.

We’re getting ready for the spring down here in Penrose…kidding season is just around the corner…hang on for cute pictures!

–  The Goat Cheese Lady

Posted in Dogs, Farm Life, goats, Kidding | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Colorado Agritourism!

Agri-what?

My parents went to Italy a few years ago and came back gifting bottles of exquisite olive oil lotion from an Agritourism farm they visited.  At the time, no one in my neck of the woods had heard of the word.  Mom described it to me as a farm where you and your small group of tourist friends actively participate in making the meal from the crops that come from that farm, then partake in the meal together, AND, the farm owners make (and sell) the lotion out of their farm’s own olive oil.

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Now…Agritourism has come to Colorado!  Well, let me restate that.  Many of us have been giving on farm classes, providing opportunities for farm stays and making artisan products from our farm’s produce for years, but the word Agritourism recently came en vogue and Colorado is doing extreme advertising world-wide to attract agritourists to our state!

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And, I’m honored to be a part of it.  Last week, I shipped an order of 50 bars of lavender and lavender oatmeal goat milk soap to Denver to be included in media bags to be sent to New York City.  In two weeks, I’ll ship another 80, this time, lavender and lemongrass.

Let’s go farmers!  On our rural and urban farms, we can all contribute to the growth of and benefit from Colorado’s Agritourism industry!!

–  The Goat Cheese Lady

 

Posted in classes, Farm Life, For Sale, goats, Soap and Lotion | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Can Middle Schoolers Make Cheese?

I had the distinct honor of being a guest presenter in the 8th grade Chemistry classes at Horizon Middle School last October.  The teachers, Mr. Lohr and Mr. Yerger, were in the midst of a 2 week “food science” unit and had thus far taught the kids the science of making bread and chocolate.  I was invited to teach cheese making.  Although I’ve taught over 1000 people to make various types of cheese, approximately 7 of them have been middle school aged – until now.  The marathon day of teaching 8th grade cheese making included somewhere in the vicinity of 250 students.  Yikes.  That’s a lot of middle school aged people with a lot of energy.  I have a new respect for teachers.

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Here are three things I took away from the experience:

  1. I have never been a school teacher.  The only time I had been in a classroom was when I was a student.  As the student, I heard the teacher’s presentation one time that day.  That was it.  It never dawned on me that the teacher had to make the same presentation 4 times that day, repeating herself every hour.  My day of teaching brought a new meaning to the words “deja vu”.
  2. When you’re the teacher, 60 minutes goes really fast.
  3. Teaching food science is a really great way to get kids interested in chemistry.

I showed the kids a quick power point with pictures of our farm: the chickens, the goats, the bees, the garden, the milking process and the cheese making process and explained that, due to the lateness of the season, the goats were producing very little milk.  In leiu of farm fresh raw goat milk we used pasteurized grocery store cow’s milk, and in typical Chemistry class fashion, we used Bunsen burners, beakers and well used miniature pots.

In groups of 4, the kids heated the milk to 180 degrees, added vinegar, watched the precipitate (in this case, the chemical term for curds) form from the solution (ie the milk and vinegar), drained the whey and added seasoning.  And (drumroll please)…they liked it!

Equally as amazing, they sent me thank you letters hand written on college rule paper (not typed or texted or Facebooked or tweeted) and mailed through the good ol’ United States Postal System.  Further proof that the youth of today still know some of the “old fashioned” ways. One of the writers even showed quite a talent for using puns:

Dear Lindsey,

Thank you for showing us how to make cheese.  Personally, I thought it was a ‘cheesy’ choice at first, but I enjoyed it.  I enjoyed watching the slideshow about your background, it was ‘udderly’ entertaining.  When you showed us how to get just the curds, I thought ‘no whey!’  You decided to ‘goat’ around and help us, rather than standing there.  You gave us the ability to experiment with the ‘raw’ lab.  You were ‘curd-ious’ and kind.  Thank you for coming, you are now one of the ‘flock.’ 

Sincerely, J.S.

And here is a compilation of a few other notes…

This has been one of my favorite labs his school year, so far…I’ll definitely be making some cheese at home!…It’s interesting how you add the milk and the vinegar together and it separates…I loved the way that you presented and were engaged with the students…all the other labs aren’t as cool as this one!…I’ll be going home tonight to show my family I can make cheese!

And to wrap up the experience, I’ll close with a joke, “curd-esy” of one of the students:

Q:  What do you call cheese that isn’t yours?

A:  Nacho Cheese.

–  The Goat Cheese Lady

P.S.  This post, in it’s edited version, ran in the IndyBlog on November 9, 2014.

 

 

Posted in Bread Making, Cheese Making, classes, Farm Life, good people to know | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where Did The Goat Cheese Lady Go?

She went to Penrose, Colorado, a small, unincorporated town 45 minutes south of Colorado Springs, to a five acre piece of irrigated land with her husband, two boys, six goats and two dogs.

She is me.  I am her.  I am The Goat Cheese Lady, beginning Chapter 2 of the life I am fortunate to be living with the family and animals I am grateful to have.

This new beginning is leading us down a road that we are confident will be the best for ourselves, our marriage, our family, our business, our finances, our stress level and our smiles.  We are now the 100% complete, hands down, debt-free owners of our 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 1080 square foot house, and barn complete with five acres of currently-used-as-a-hayfield land irrigated with snow melt runoff from Pikes Peak.

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But the question begs to be asked:

If you were ever in our last house and enjoyed the breathtaking view, you might just enter our new house and secretly wonder…WHY on EARTH did they give up the spacious, window-laden, deck-skirted house they had to move HERE?

I hear you, and I might ask myself the same question if it weren’t for one simple fact:

1.  Our mortgage payment was $2300.00 per month at our 1 1/2 acre farm and 3400 square foot house in Colorado Springs.  (aka: the old house).  You read that right: $2300.00.  (Which, as a side note…we paid on time every month we lived there…to answer the question my son’s friend asked….”did anyone ask you to move?”….No.  We made a  grown-up decision to live WITHIN our means, which meant choosing to move.)

One of our goals in life is to be DEBT-FREE.

By selling our house and using the equity to BUY this house and land…without a loan…with cash…all-money-down…we are now free of personal debt.  And we plan to stay that way.

Some other reasons we chose to move…We didn’t have enough space to increase our herd size to 15, which is what we want to start a cheese creamery.  There wasn’t room for horses at the old place.  We wanted more land.

We have lots of plans for our new farm, I’ll share them with you in the near future.  We also plan on having classes again, and I’ll let you know more about that too.

Keep your eye out for future posts on: How We Moved Our Farm, Cooking With My New Pressure Cooker, Moving In, Fixing Up, Downsizing To A Small Kitchen, Converting The Hayfield To A Food Forest, Starting Up New Chickens, Starting New Ducks (a first time experience for me!), Kidding Season (coming soon!), and Introducing Our New Goats!

It’s good to be back, and I’ll look forward to seeing you or hearing from you soon!

–  The Goat Cheese Lady

 

Posted in chickens, classes, Dogs, Farm Life, goats | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

SOLD.

Chapter 1 of my life as The Goat Cheese Lady has closed…with a happy, incredible ending.  Chapter 2 is now set to begin.

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Here are the details:

As you know, we announced we were moving in August, but we officially put our house and farm on the market – for sale by owner – in October.  On a Saturday in early October, the day we had made plans to attend the Lewis Palmer High School football game to support the most incredible football coach this side of the Mississippi – my cousin Dave Jones – The Animal Whisperer announced that he was not going to go….”I have a HOUSE to sell!”  Four hours later, within a three mile radius of our house, there were five, strategically placed sunshine yellow corrugated plastic signs shouting “For Sale, farm, 1.6 acres, greenhouse, orchard, barn, 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom” with white vinyl stick on letters accented with red marker, super thick black sharpie and copious amounts of duct tape.  Even our cars got adorned with the marketing, and still have duct tape adhesive on the windows to prove it.

Although after approximately 1.5 hours and no sale, I admittedly lost faith in the whole For Sale By Owner approach, The Animal Whisperer maintained confidence and strength, not giving in to my plea to list the house with a realtor.  Every day, we cleaned out and Craigslisted and  Goodwilled and recycled and gifted the majority of our belongings, both inside and out.  We received calls and had first showings and second showings and lookie-loos and tire kickers, but he was right.

Two weeks after putting the signs out, the house was under contract with a spectacular couple who, for some miraculous reason, decided to return for a second showing despite the fact that a gigantic rat jumped out of the greenhouse compost pile on their first showing.  Seriously.  A rat.

On Monday, our Zippy Shell pulled away with our remaining belongings and, yesterday, we sold it to them. Everything:  The house, the farm, the original 1960’s rose patterned basement carpet, the orchard, the fruit tree share program, the garden and the greenhouse – minus the rat.  At a future time, I’ll let you know how the rat met its demise, but suffice it to say, it is no longer in residence in the greenhouse.

Here are the answers to some Frequently Asked Questions:

Are you selling the goats?  No.  We did sell one doe and two bucks.  We still have five does.

What will happen to the goats?  They will continue to live with the new owners until we move to our new farm have a space ready for them.

Will you still teach classes?  I’m not sure yet.  I hope so.  I think so.  But I can’t be sure until we move and get a feel for the new set up.

What will happen to the fruit trees?  The new owners are taking over the fruit tree share program!  The people who bought trees through the share program will get fruit from their trees as planned when they eventually bear fruit!

What will happen to the dogs?  Montana, our livestock guardian dog, will stay with the goats.  Flash, our Australian Shepard, will stay at a loving foster home until we move.

What will happen to the chickens?  We donated them to our friend Monycka.  She teaches the neighborhood kids how to process chickens and lets them take the food home to feed their families.  She’s awesome.

What will happen to the rabbits?  The meat rabbits went to Monycka’s too.  The two pet rabbits are in loving foster homes until we can move them to our new farm.

What about all the work you did there?  Aren’t you sad to leave it?  No.  We are thrilled actually.  Yes, we did do a lot of work there.  Yes, we did become The Goat Cheese Lady and The Animal Whisperer there.  Yes, our kids spent 5 1/2 years of their young lives there.  But, we are ready to move on to a bigger farm and less debt.  We created amazing things there, and we will create amazing things again.  The land is better for us living there and we are better for living there.  Although, when you sell a house, you can’t decide what the future owner will do with the land, or if they’ll even care about it, we are thankful the farm’s new owners love what we love.  They will continue, in their own way, what we started.

Are you sad to leave Pleasant Valley?  No.  We have made friends and our kids have made friends in our neighborhood (Pleasant Valley – for me, the name conjures up visions of a Stepfordy wife type of situation or conveys the real truth – that it actually is a Pleasant place in a quiet Valley against the Garden of the Gods) and they will always be our friends, no matter where we go.

Are your kids changing schools?  Yes.  They’ll go to school in the town where we move.

WHERE ARE YOU MOVING?  Shhh!  Not telling yet!  That’s announcement’s coming soon to a website near you.

Finally,  THANK YOU EVERYONE!!!  You have supported us faithfully through this first chapter of our lives as Mrs. and Mr. Goat Cheese Lady and for that, we are grateful.  We look forward to you being part of our lives as we continue the next chapter.  We’ll let you know what’s next!!

–  The Soon-To-Be-Chapter-2 Goat Cheese Lady

 

 

 

Posted in chickens, classes, Dogs, Farm Life, For Sale, gardening, goats | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Cold Weather Goats

When the temperatures dip into the single and negative digits, the goats get chilly.  Although they, and our chickens and rabbits, are tolerant of the cold (a few years ago, when it was -14, they all came through just fine), it is important to take extra precautions to keep them as warm as possible.  According to my husband, who is the animal husbandry expert in our family, it is important to do the following when the days get extra cold:

1.  Give all the animals extra food.  This gives them energy to keep their bodies warmer.

2.  Give them extra, dry bedding every day.  He adds a couple of bags of leaves we’ve collected from the neighbors to the goat pen inside of the barn each day…they eat half of them (they love dried leaves!) and cuddle up on the rest.

3.  Make sure they have water that is not frozen.  Use a water heater/de-icer in your animal’s water.  It’s a plug in contraption that you put in the water tank/bowl that keeps the water temperature just above freezing.  There are also pet food bowls that plug in and serve the same purpose.  Don’t use metal bowls…remember when you were little and you licked the ice on a cold metal pole?  Yep…same thing can happen to your animals.

4.  Check on them multiple times throughout the day.  You want to make sure someone didn’t get their head stuck in the feeder (which happens to goats from time to time, but can be more dangerous on a cold day), or that one of the chickens didn’t get stranded outside the fence and can’t find her way in to roost with her warm bodied buddies.

5.  Make sure they have shelter where they are protected from the wind and snow.  At our house, they sleep in the barn.  When they get up their guts to brave the cold and go to the main outside feeder, they tenderfootedly tiptoe as quickly as possible, grab a few bites and head back in.

6.  Let the goats all sleep together.  Usually, we separate the young goats and the male goats from the females, but on cold days and nights, we let them all bunk together.  More body heat means more warmth.

7.  Our rabbits have pens outside, protected from the wind and weather, but my husband moves them inside the barn to keep warmer.  If they’ve never lived in the same cage with other rabbits, I DON’T RECOMMEND letting them live together (as we do with the goats) to stay warm.  Rabbits can attack and seriously injure or kill rabbits they don’t normally pen with.

8.  Keep a heat lamp on for the chickens?  This is a question we often are asked.  Many people choose to because they are concerned the chickens will get too cold.  We don’t heat the chicken coop and our chickens are fine.

9.  Keep the dogs inside.  Usually, our dogs live outside.  The main job of our Anatolian Shepard/St. Bernard mix is to protect the animals, so he spends his time around and in the goat pen. Our one year old Australian Shepard puppy was born outside and has lived her whole life outside, but in frigid temperatures, we bring them both in, and typically, they put up no arguments.

So there you have it in a 9 step nutshell.  Please take the same precautions with your animals so you can be sure they make it safely through the winter cold spells.

–  The Goat Cheese Lady

P.S.  The edited version of this post first appeared on the IndyBlog on November 15, 2014.

P.P.S.  Also check out the article Bill Radford wrote in The Gazette on December 2, 2014 about Animals in the Cold!

Posted in Articles, chickens, Dogs, Farm Life, goats | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment