Jack, Lions and Bears!

Jack Frost took a swipe at the garden this morning. Fatal for things like squash, cucumbers, melons. Damaging to peppers, tomatoes, basil, dahlias.

Our neighbor texted us yesterday and said a mountain lion was spotted heading our way … here’s the image her cam captured:

Mountain Lion about 5:00 a.m.

Same neighbor is being frequented by bears … a mom and cubs and this big guy:

Big Black Bear

We can deal with the frost. We sure hope the lions and bears stay away! Neighbor is less than 0.5 mile from us.

We have started to patrol the pasture with a dog and the goats again — hopefully to discourage the lion.

We are diligently picking and removing fallen fruit to make things less appealing to the bears — we hope.

Sharing Abundant Apples

what a difference a year has made …

Yellow Delicious (Photo by Linda Tompkins McLaughlin)

Last year at this time, the apple trees were barren, surrounded by fire in the hills and thick smoke everywhere. We were chasing dwindling, muddy creek pools to keep them watered, and having water hauled in at $600 per week. We just couldn’t let a mature orchard perish. (We also had lots of peaches, pears, plums, even some cherries, and persimmons yet to come).

This year, we have what feels like an endless supply of apples. We love eating them and sharing them. Yesterday, friends Linda and Bob came out to pick some. So fun to be able to share such wonderful fruit! Goats and cow are also loving the surplus. We are also enjoying gallons of cider. We can usually keep several boxes of apples in cold storage for a few months to keep eating our apple-a-day after they’ve all fallen off the trees.

Apple trees do tend to cycle, with a heavy-fruiting year followed by very little fruit the next. This is a spectacular apple year and we are very happy about it.

Boxes of Apples (Photo by Linda Tompkins McLaughlin)
Destiny: Pie Filling (Photo by Linda Tompkins McLaughlin)

Churn Da Butter, Ja?

I’m pretty sure this is the best butter I’ve ever tasted …

It took about 4 minutes to churn 4 quarts of cream into 3 lbs of rich, bright yellow butter.

We used a Dazey Churn No. 8 with tulip-shaped jar. This model of churn was made in the early 1900s. The cranks are relatively common, but the tulip-shaped jar is a little more rare these days. We think the jar’s shape, along with the paddle design, make this an incredibly easy, quick churn. David’s mom gave us the crank and I found a jar on ebay.

Lucy provides a nice, rich cream that turns bright yellow as butter. It’s stunningly brilliant and tasty!

A video follows, the the process was this

  • Create a quart of kefir from fresh milk
  • Add kefir to fresh cream and let it ferment at room temperature for 24 hours.
    • this creates a culture to produce cultured butter/buttermilk
  • Churn the cream into butter
    • buttermilk is the byproduct (David uses a lot of buttermilk for cooking)
  • Rinse the butter and salt to taste (if desired)
  • Cool the butter in ice water
  • Press into storage containers and use right away or freeze until needed.
Churning cream to butter in four minutes

A Year Post-Fire and the Ranch is Humming

A year ago last week, things looked bleak.

But this year, last week, it was a different story.

My sister, her son and his fiance came to visit. We had beautiful weather and clear, smoke-free days.

We drilled a secondary/emergency well, made more cheese and cider, split firewood, played games, laughed, painted an old bed, enjoyed the pool, laughed more with Holly and Brenda, played with Belle and the goats, and ate well!

  • a group of people in front of an old barn
  • picture of the back side of a well drilling rig
  • a wood splitter and stack of wood
  • Canteloupe and watermelon in the field
  • a field of goats grazing
  • Four people cutting up apples
  • two people picking up apples
  • Foreground swimming pool, mid-ground goats, background forest and pasture
  • A cow and a calf
  • two people lounging by a swimming pool
  • two women petting goats
  • Two people with an Anatolian Shepherd Dog
  • Two people by Anatolian Shepherd Dog
  • Two goats, mother and doeling
  • a woman next to an Anatolian Shepherd Dog
Belle and a Chicken (video by Dalane)

David Adds Mozzarella to His Fromager Resume

Now that Lucy is a milk-producing cow, we have gallons of rich milk accumulating in refrigerators everywhere.

Over the last two days, David made mozzarella cheese from four gallons of the milk. The yield was 7 mozzarella balls. His first attempt was a success! He will adjust his process a little, but it already tastes great.

We ate one last night on our caprese salad.

Caprese Salad -all ingredients grown or made here except the balsamic glaze

We do work hard to grow most of what we eat. However, a good balsamic vinegar takes 12-15 years in oak barrels. There are some things we just can’t or won’t produce here: wheat flour and pasta, rice, coffee, sugar (we have honey), beer, tequila and other spirits (we have plenty of fermented adult beverages), salt, pepper and other spices. We will eventually try vinegar, and we are good at delayed gratification … however, we choose not to wait 25 years for balsamic vinegar and glad we don’t have to!

We are looking forward to a new, commercial refrigerator to get a handle on our proliferation of inefficient, inappropriate refrigerating devices!