Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Crazy Mixed-Up Day

It started off sanely enough.  No plans outside of the ordinary daily tasks.  Kinda felt a bit of freedom as a result.  Did I say it started off sanely?  Shows how crazy it's been-Tony slept in and I got up to let the chickens out.  I noticed that Sugar was out of the goat pen with Spice.  Spice gets out all the time, but it was odd to see Sugar out too.  Then I saw the rest of the goats were out and the gate was open.  That explains the noises that sounded similar to Goober Gus getting out of bed and stomping around in his room.  The hay bales are outside our bedroom, so we could hear them stealing food.  I grabbed Annie and Molly by the collar and Peaches tagged along and went back voluntarily.  Sugar and Spice did too.  That just left Cream and she eventually jumped in on her own.

Last night was the first time we took all the baby goats out-they're old enough to be weaned now, so they're in their own pen full time.  At milking time I got 158 ounces total from Annie and Molly.  That's a gallon and bit over a pint.  I left 2 quarts out for a new batch of yogurt that I'd decided I'd culture for 4 hours instead of 8 and see how that came out.  Some time during all this I decided I could bake crackers-oh, but we're trying to do all those things with sourdough and it should ferment overnight.  I figured I'd go ahead and start it and bake them after several hours instead of overnight.

Then I remembered that a friend of ours has a neighbor with overloaded peach trees and neither the friend nor the neighbor do any food preserving, so the trees were made available to us for picking.  Goober Gus and I got about 5 pounds the other day and I told the owner we'd be back when more ripened.  All 3 of us went today and returned with roughly 80 pounds, and you can hardly tell we took any!  Both days we picked up the bug eaten ones to bring to the chickens, so they're getting a treat too.  This is one branch and there are several trees, all loaded like this.

Sorry about the sideways shot...
On the way home we stopped at a farm stand to get more cherry tomatoes.  I bought half a pound the other day and GG ate them all before I could tell him to save some for dad.  We also got giant green bell peppers for .75¢ and this farmer doesn't use chemical herbicides or pesticides.  Organic peppers sell for $6 EACH at the grocery store.  These are so flavorful that you can smell them a yard away.  We also bought some very spicy salsa to snack on for lunch.  So spicy that I had to add tomatoes, green chilies and onions to thin it out some.  We made 2 trays of nachos and polished off another bag of our new favorite tortilla chips.

It was during lunch that I decided we could make lasagna for dinner, so I took out a package of ground pork sausage and tomato sauce from the freezer.  We've got 2 gallons of whey to make ricotta, so it was all set.  I also decided I better learn the process of lacto fermentation and be ready to start preserving these peaches.  Tony spent close to an hour placing them in apple boxes that this same friend had brought us when we thought we'd found a place to move to.  The inserts to separate fruit were still there, so they came in very handy.  We have 3 and a half boxes of peaches!

OK, so now I have cracker dough souring, 80+ pounds of peaches picked, plans for a fairly involved dinner and I'm looking thru my GNOWFGLINS courses for the one on lacto-fermented fruit.  Tony needed to go to the shop and work on a couple of cellos.  GG asked if he could go with because his bike tires are both flat and the air compressor is at the shop.  I reminded Tony that today was the last day of a pretty good sale at OfficeMax and asked if it was worth it for me to drive to Cottonwood to take advantage of it.  He suggested I drop them off at the shop, go to Cottonwood and pick them up on the way back.  I hate dislike it when he makes a logical suggestion that doesn't line up with what I was thinking. 

Alright, so instead of working on peaches and spending some time planning out the upcoming week-GG wants to study volcanoes-I drove to Cottonwood.  Did I mention that driving makes me drowsy?  Yeah, so when we got home a nap was definitely needed.  GG watched Prince of Egypt and we dozed.  Until I remembered I wanted to put the yogurt in the fridge at 130 and it was now after 4.  So much for a nap.

I went out to check all the animals and poor patches had his head stuck in the fence.  Reason enough to dehorn any horned animal, IMO.  We tried cauterizing the horn buds when all the babies were a few days old, but the boys' horns grew anyway.  Now they're banded, but haven't fallen off yet.  It was at this point that I remembered that I needed to check the mamas and see if they needed to be milked again.  We (I) normally only milk once a day, but with this being the first day of weaning, I figured they'd need a second go around.  Got all the feed and supplies ready and came out to find that Spice had jumped out and eaten the milking time treats, so had to start a new batch soaking.  "When am I going to be able to start dinner?"  I thought to myself.  GG and Tony were playing "bollyball" (that'd be volleyball for anyone over the age of 10) and it was a nice late afternoon outside.

The girls gave nearly another 3 quarts of milk, though we only got to keep about half that.  Molly promptly stepped into the bucket today and then kicked it about 15 feet behind her.  I retrieved the bucket and milked her anyway, giving it to the chickens, who probably suggested she kick the bucket in the first place.  I'm not sure what the chickens do to repay the goats for this, though.

OK, on to dinner.  Tony started cooking the sausage-I asked why he was slicing it instead of just crumbling it and he said it was venison.  What?  We don't have any venison.  He told me to look at the wrapper in the trash.  Sure enough, the inside packaging says venison.  I looked more closely at the butcher paper on the outside and the word I couldn't make out this morning was now obviously antelope.  I vaguely recall neighbors giving us this when they gave us some pork sausage to try.  OK, so the lasagna is going to be made with cubed antelope sausage.  I also decided to try a recipe I had seen for lasagna "cupcakes".  In the original recipe won-ton wraps are used to line muffin tins and hold all the filling.  I had 6 lasagna noodles left from the last time we made it and didn't want to buy another box, so we tried this method.  Oh, but first I have to tell you about the ricotta.  For something that's supposed to be easy, I've had more failure than success.

The method is simply bringing the whey to roughly 180° and then pouring it through a butter muslin lined colander.  The one success I can recall, I brought the whey to nearly boiling, so that was my aim tonight.  Didn't work.  No ricotta.  Zero, zilch, nada.  {Hmm, that rhymed, maybe I should write children's silly stories?}  OK, I'm not going to the store for ricotta when I've managed to find a suitable alternative for everything else.  We decided to use chevre and just added Italian seasoning, garlic and salt. 

Cutting the partially cooked noodles into the right size circles seemed easy enough until we realized the size that fits the top is too big for the bottom, so Tony used scissors and custom cut them.  I topped with tomato sauce, antelope sausage, chevre, more sauce, another noodle and mozzarella.  Did I mention it's about 7PM already?  Or that the sweet elderly man that brings yard and garden trimmings for the goats and books or toys for Goober Gus stopped by just before we started cutting noodles.  As the oven is warming up and we're about done filling muffin cups with lasagna goodness, I start smelling something close to burning.  We just put a new (freecycle find) oven in yesterday, but it was clean inside.  Oh no!!  I put the cracker dough in there to keep flies off it!  Fortunately it was in a large Pyrex bowl, so no breakage, and I don't think the heat was a problem for the fermenting process, but it actually could be now that I think about it.  So we get these things into the oven finally and I start washing dishes so the kitchen won't be a total disaster tomorrow.  Tony and GG clean off the table and empty the dishwasher-oh wait, they did that while we waited for the whey to boil.  I finish the bulk of the dishes and check the lasagna.  Why aren't they cooked more than that already?  In my rush to stop the burning smell, I turned the oven off.  Goodness!  Will the craziness never end today? 

Here's the steps to filling the tins:

I turned it back on and we waited about 10 minutes.  Tony read a chapter from Charlotte's Web to Gus.  We started it last night and it's our aim to read a few chapters each evening.  Dinner was a hit, despite the many obstacles.  The flavor was outstanding!  Tony ate 6, I had 5 and GG had 4!  I thought he'd be too full to eat because he ate all the partially cooked noodle pieces.  Fooled me!

By now it's nearly 830 and we are at least half an hour behind in our evening routine.  We went out to lock up the chickens and check the goats, then got teeth brushed, read one more book, took fish oil and put him to bed!  That was at 9, it's now 10 and all I've done since then is write this very long description of a crazy weird day!  If you've read this far, pat yourself on the back and grab a gold star, you deserve it!!