"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Monday, October 16, 2017

Brewing Notes (Cider and Wine)

Mainly just notes for myself so I don't forget when I did what. Today I racked the rhubarb wine into a clean carboy. It's been about a month in the first one, and a week in a fermentation bucket before that. I tasted it as a transferred it and it's AWFUL. But that doesn't mean anything. The plum wine was gross at this stage too, and it turned it pretty good. This is only my second attempt at fruit wine. Last year's plum wine was the first. Having never even tasted rhubarb wine before, let alone made it, I have nothing to compare it to. I just had so much rhubarb I had to do something with it. If it turns out horrible it's no big loss - my plant puts out rhubarb enough for as muchexperimentation as I feel like doing. 

Also racked the cider into a second carboy.  The cider tastes pretty good already. It's very dry, though. I think when I bottle it in a couple weeks I will add a bit of sugar for a little sweetness and fizz. I like my cider frizzante. 

Brewing is fun. It feels like magic. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Beautiful Buck

Fall is the season for making decisions about goat breeding. 
Most goats are seasonal breeders, meaning they only go into heat during certain times of the year. In our climate, the does begin to go into heat as soon as the days grow shorter and the nights become crisp, usually in September. Every doe is different - one of mine, Polly, is an early breeder and goes into heat in late July or early August. If we have a buck on the place, she will get pregnant early and give birth in the depths of winter, which is not good for the survival chances of her babies. 

For that and other reasons, I have not kept a buck in the farm for several years now. It's convienant to have your own buck, for sure. Finding a suitable buck is one of the more time comsuming and annoying tasks of the year. First you have to find a buck you like, of the correct breed, conformation, and vigor. Then you have to talk about testing for communicable diseases and coordinate worming schedules; negotiate a price for multiple does; and decide whether you will transport the does to the buck or the buck to the does, and who will take on that onerous task. Some buck owners want you to pay for feed or to provide specific hay; some charge boarding fees for your does. 

On the other hand, keeping a buck has its drawbacks. They are stinky, in season, and some of them are aggressive. They are generally speaking much harder on fences than does are, and more prone to escape and go marauding around the countryside damaging the neighbor's fruit trees. When breeding season comes around they must be kept separate from the does until such time as you want them bred, and that isn't easy. A healthy young buck will go to amazing lengths to breed an in-heat doe, including jumping a six foot fence. If you are still milking during breeding season, a buck's hormones will taint the milk and give it a rancid, billy-goat odor. 

On balance, I've decided that it's better to rent a buck than it is to keep one year round. For now, anyway. This year it was relatively easy to find a good buck. A friend of the family has a lovely, proven, black and white Nubian that he was willing to lend us for the three weeks it takes to complete a full breeding cycle. He isn't registered, but I don't care because neither are my does. Homero went and got him today. He transported him - crazily - in the backseat of our regular car, which means we will all have to sit on clean towels or smell like a billy goat for the next couple of weeks.  
But I'm happy - the does seem very happy, very welcoming. 

Here's a link to a post from a few years ago about the more historical and spiritual aspects of goat breeding:

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Piggy Piggy (More Pork)

 Paloma and the Pig 

Two new pigs have arrived on the farm. We weren't looking for pigs; we still have plenty of pork left in the freezer from the last pigs. Those pigs were so vicious and unpleasant that I was looking forward to not having any pigs again for
some time to come. 

However. I belong to a local farmer's Facebook group, and that means I just HAVE to see all the animals for sale at any given time. I can't even help it - it just appears on my feed. In the "old days" three years ago, I had to at least go to Craigslist and seek out animals to buy. Boy, that was like, the Jurassic era. 

So, a neighbor farmer friend of ours, from whom we have bought pigs before (but not last year's evil pigs) was advertising well-grown piglets for $125 each. A friend of his had to leave town quickly unexpectedly for a new job and asked our friend to sell off his herd of nine piglets. From the photos he posted, I could see that they were considerably older than  the usual weaners which sell for the same price. After consulting with Homero, I asked our friend to keep two for us. 

When he delivered them, I was surprised and gratified to see how big they are. They were almost the size of barbecue hogs which sell for $250 or so. I asked what breed they were and I got "Berkshire cross." That's good enough for me. 

These pigs are quite shy, and scared of people. I don't mind; I've found that if the pigs aren't scared of me, then I am likely to be scared of them. They spent the first few days in the big barn, but we have since transferred them to the sacrifice area. There, they can be comfortable in the field shelter, and have plenty of space for exercising. If they root up the ground, they will be doing me a favor, since that earth is compacted and gravelly. 

If all goes well, the pigs ought to be harvest sized by Christmas. In the meantime, we have to eat up the pork we still have in the freezer. To that end, I made a delicious pork roast yesterday. I just liberally salted and peppered it, put it in a casserole with a few cloves of garlic, and then poured over two cups of home pressed apple cider that was a week old and fairly well converted into tepache. I covered the casserole with tinfoil and crimped it well, and baked it at 300 for several hours. Absolutely delicious with smashed Prato salad.