I woke up in the middle of the night. There is enough of a moon to cast light outside and snow is falling softly in a silent world. Cletus is cuddled up in the shelter with the sheep while Bruno keeps watch from inside the ‘jump’ barrel.
Emma is tucked in her shelter as the snow builds up around it like a fluffy, white blanket. I breathe out and my breath softly drifts away like smoke in the eerie light. It doesn’t feel cold, even on the wooden deck in my bare feet. It feels safe, as if the
world is wrapping its arms around me, keeping me from harm. I think about that and decide there IS someone wrapping His arms around me and I am indeed, in good hands. I breathe in the silence and throw my head back. There are no stars in the sky, just the
solid, wooly clouds lit up from the reflection of the orb behind them. I raise my hands in gratitude for this life which contains so much beauty to counter the darkness, which will soon be overcome.
Morning finally comes and there is over six inches of new snow. It’s been a cold winter and we don’t have enough hay to feed the animals. I am not sure where we will get more but am praying about that. Yesterday was a pretty good day and
I got a lot done. My cheddar cheese is ready to come out of the press and spend a couple days on a draining mat until it develops a little rind on it. Then I can wax it and put it in my little cheese cave, which is nothing more than a small wine refrigerator.
We have 2 lambs in the freezer now. This is the first we have tasted of the little hair sheep, which are strictly a meat animal and it is WONDERFUL! Neither of us can put our finger on it, but the lamb is much more flavorful without being
the least bit strong or gamey. It was a good decision to buy these sheep. They should keep us fed for some time to come, barring the purchase of new rams from time to time. At the price of lamb, we could never afford to buy it commercially.
I grabbed a package of loin chops and seasoned them up with rosemary, garlic, kosher salt and olive oil and seared them in a hot pan. These lambs never saw an ounce of grain, they just foraged on whatever they saw in the pastures and there
was just the right amount of fat and the meat is very tender. We finally have enough lamb to experiment with some new recipes as well, so I am pretty excited about that.
The boss is bringing home beef for us, so we need to buy a third freezer to fit all the chicken, lamb, beef and other things that enable us to eat well for over 3 months at a time without shopping. Having all the basic ingredients erases any limits I have to
fixing any kind of treat for us or for company. It takes up a bit of room, but in the long run it saves us money and we have all fresh, homegrown products, buying only staples and a few other things which slowly get taken off the grocery list as I learn to
replace them. I wish the women of a hundred years ago who lived here on the ranch could coach me on just how to do that, as the wagon only went to Winnemucca for supplies once a year, and they fed a ranch full of cowhands and hay crews.
EmmaLou has been a good girl since our milk-room debacle. She gives me a steady 3 gallons a day and about a half gallon or more of that is heavy cream.
I renewed my mother cultures (although I think I need to buy some new buttermilk culture as this one is very weak). This is something that is easily done so that your cultures are sustainable. I use a lot of cultured buttermilk so to begin
with, I buy a little live culture buttermilk from the store, because it is the easiest way to get started. Right now I only keep buttermilk, clabber and yogurt cultures on hand, but I will likely start making mother cultures with different cheese cultures
soon, with so much milk on hand and no calves to feed yet. Just sterilize some jars with lids. Pour plain milk in them and put them in a pot with water up to the level of your milk. Be sure to leave room for the addition of the culture afterwards. (ALWAYS
put something underneath your jars in the pot so they don't break from direct heat. I just use one of the canners.)
Simmer them for about 30 minutes or so. This pasteurizes and sterilizes the milk completely so there is no competing bacteria of any kind when you introduce your culture. Once the jars cool down where I can handle them, I put about 1-2 TBL
of culture per cup of milk in, mix it with a clean utensil, put your lid on and let it sit out overnight. I write on the jars with a marking pen so I know what is what, then put them in the extra fridge until they are needed. Each month they are renewed, to
keep them going indefinitely. So if you use buttermilk for baking and don't want to buy it or use the lemon juice trick which is ok in a pinch, but not like the real thing, you can make a culture and culture your own out of whole milk, should you so desire.
I have been clabbering milk for the dogs and chickens as we have lots more than I can possibly use. They love the clabber and its a high protein food for them.
Clabber can be used as a mesophilic culture to make cheese, sour cream, cream cheese and other products. Mine is made naturally by setting out fresh milk for a couple days until it naturally clabbers. It can take anywhere from 1-6 days. That is the interesting
thing about raw milk. If you set pasteurized milk out like that it would rot, stink and run you out of the house. Raw milk becomes other products because it has beneficial bacteria that is working in it. Clabber is a lot like yogurt, but much milder and the
further the generation from the original, the better and milder it gets. I love the stuff. It's one of the best probiotics.
I also separated off a gallon and a half of heavy cream to culture for making butter. My churn has a 3 gallon jar, so a gallon and a half is just about right for me to do in a batch.
I made cheddar cheese, which is a very time consuming project. Most of the time is spent just waiting, so I separated the meat and bones from the chicken stock I was making while it sat and did it’s thing.
Cheesemaking would be a lot more fun with someone to talk to. Most of it is waiting. Pour your 3 gallons of milk in a roaster with a thermometer.
Inoculate your cheese with the culture and wait 40 min. Warm it up and add some rennet and wait another 40 minutes and so on and so forth for the day until its time to press, then you have to press and turn, press and turn, yadayadayada, then leave it overnight.
There are very small variations in the process to change a cheese from cheddar to jack to other hard cheeses, which I find pretty interesting. My greatest success has been with jack and pepper jack cheeses. My cheddars so far have been a little chalky, although
the flavor was good. I'm still working on perfecting hard cheese making. Mozzarella and ricotta are more my style as I am not a patient person and those can be made in an afternoon and used right away. If only, if only, there was some nice person who wanted
to come live with us and help me! I think of how productive I could be and how much more fun...but then I am used to doing things alone all my life, so I shouldn't complain. Doing things alone is better than not doing them at all.
Randy has decided that Cinnamon Rolls are a staple now so I will be making cream cheese this week as well.
I felt he had his cinnamon roll quota this month, as I made them 5 times, I decided I could risk a failure if I had to, from a little change in the recipe. With my new grain mill, I decided to use 100% whole grain hard white wheat in the
rolls. Often that makes bread rather heavy and also interferes with rising due to a lower gluten content, but I think the sourdough must add something, because these babies rose beautifully and were soft and fluffy. Randyman gave them a two thumbs up and they
are much better tasting and softer than the ones I made with bread flour from the store. That made ME happy. I tried freezing some cinnamon rolls after the first rise and shaping but they didn't rise again for me, so this time I baked them and put unfrosted
rolls in the freezer. We'll see how they thaw out and whether or not its worth doing. Otherwise we will just be forced to eat them all!
This morning I canned 8 jars of chicken stock from the carcasses left over from our meaty chickens. Since I only use a couple of cups at a time I quit putting it in quart jars and started processing it in pints. It made it a LOT easier. I
used the new waterbath canner to sterilize the jars and lids since my pressure canner was full of stock. Once I got it emptied into the jars, I quickly washed it and put the jars in to process. Stock is one of those things that has to be pressure canned, but
it only has to jiggle for 20 minutes so it isn’t really that big of a deal. I used the re-usable tattler lids and it looks like every one of them sealed. It is true you have to BARELY tighten the rings, just until you feel it catch the thread. I have already
saved money on these, using them as much as I do.
A batch of apples got old and soft so into the vinegar pot with them. I need more apple cider vinegar anyway and it’s another non labor intensive process. Lastly, if I have the energy, I will make another target="_blank" style="text-decoration:none; color:rgb(204,51,0)">Butterbrickle
Carmel Pecan Cheesecake. This is another recipe I got off of AR and it's AMAZING! It's even better with homemade ingredients. I have plenty of creamcheese and I have a huge bowl of carmel that didn’t set up the way I wanted, but would be perfect in this
dish, so I will have it on hand when Randy’s sis comes up in a couple of weeks. That will make THEM happy, and that is what family is all about.
Icy roads made delivery of one of my medications late which caused me a lot of problems. It happens and I am glad no one was hurt on the road driving, but it made for a very painful January. Today they called and told me this one was going to be late as well
because it did not get into our local town in time. I was so happy to see our UPS guy, who is the worlds BEST
UPS guy, show up in front of the house late yesterday. It was a 2 hour drive on icy snowy roads, but he came and I got my shot.
I gave him hot cinnamon rolls to show my appreciation. I love people like that. It just makes me happy inside and gives me hope when there are people who are just nice because they are nice!
Randyman is supposed to bring home a board and a c-clamp so I can grind up the kidney fat from the steers and lard the butcher donated to me so I can render it all down to make more soap. He likes our soap so he promised he would try to keep me in lard and
tallow. It's so good to have things to do. Boredom is a word never used in ranchlife.