Our New Milk Disposal Method

… David needs a break from cheesemaking

SOoooooo …..

A two-week-old bottle calf has come to the ranch to drink spare milk

Dairies sometimes cross their milk cows with beef breeds, such as Angus. The bull calves are typically sold to be raised as beef steers. We haven’t raised beef on this ranch (though we both raised bucket calves for beef steers when we were growing up). Anyway, young calves can consume a lot of milk, so for now, all Lucy’s spare milk goes to him. We just hope Lucy doesn’t adopt him … then we’ll have a problem. The plan is to milk Lucy as always, and give the calf what we don’t need.

We haven’t named this little guy yet … Brownie and Chocolate are obvious go-to names for him, but we already have a Chocolate. Brownie just doesn’t sound right for a beef steer.

Also, a side benefit for us with today’s trip to get the calf was that we drove right by the ranch of some friends we haven’t seen in a long time. We stopped in just as they were coming home from errands and chatted up a storm over some farm-brewed iced tea. It was great to see Nelia and Warren!

Meet One of the Crews from the California Conservation Corps (CCC)

We worked closely with this crew for the last three days.

Below, you should see an entire Facebook post about this. However, if you can’t see it, click this link (Facebook) or search “Berry Creek Water Users” in Facebook).


David has Aced Cheddar

He’s done consistently well with feta, mozzarella, cream cheese, and chèvre for some time now.

But cheddar has been a challenge … not so much the initial stage of cheddaring curds, but pressing, preservation and storage for aging.

A fresh, solid block of aged cheddar newly liberated from its storage rind

In the above picture, you can see I’ve shaved off a nice, thin rind to reveal a solid beautiful chunk of aged cheddar cheese.

We finally perfected pressing by making a wider, wooden disk for the press (so we could press all the cheese much more firmly). Check.

Then he had to get the moisture content right before wrapping (drier rather than wetter). Check.

Then he had to get the best method for wrapping (cheesecloth with a layer of butter and then freezer paper). Check.

Then he had to master humidity and temperature in a standard home refrigerator for multi-month storage (aging). Check.

He had some pretty nasty muck a few times, but those days are now a humorous part of the story! The chickens disposed of the muck with no problem, so we got it back in eggs.

Well done, David!

Rain is to Goats as Pavlov’s Bell is to His Dog

We have a phenomenon in our stable that I call “goat heads”. The goats that expect to be fed with hay in the morning stand on their pen walls with their front feet and bleat incessantly. It’s noisy. It’s funny. All I see at first on approach to the stable are bunches of noisy goat heads in the air.

I haven’t taken a video of that — it’s dark in there in the morning — but you’ll have to take my word for it. It’s a cacophony of funny.

Our goats typically expect hay if they are mothers giving milk. David feeds them a little hay morning and night, so they expect it. After they quit giving milk, David weans them off the hay and eventually, goat head mornings go away. A normal, non-goat-head morning at the stable is a bunch of goats sleeping peacefully in their pens, usually with their heads laying on one another in their family groups on the ground.

There is one other time when our goats get hay … that is when it rains. Goats don’t like to go out in the rain (at least ours don’t). So we usually put some hay out in the communal part of the arena and they run over there after we let them out of their pens in the morning when it’s raining. We get really good alfalfa hay — it’s like crack for goats (at $18 / bale). (Our goat crack dealer is an alfalfa farmer near Butte City … his product is in high demand, especially first cutting, so we are on him like flies on stink when it’s hay season so we get the good stuff).

Anyway, funny thing about rain is that it makes a lot of noise on a metal roof.

So guess what has developed pretty quickly?

Rain-induced goat heads!

On mornings when rain is loudly hitting the tin roof, when we approach the stable … all the goats (not just the old does and their kids that got hay when they were milking) are standing on their fences bleating like crazies. They have quickly come to know they are going to get hay because … it is raining!

So, just like a bell triggered Pavlov’s dog’s salivation, rain on the roof triggers goat-head frenzy here at the ranch.

It was not raining this morning, so no frenzy, just a bunch of sleeping goats — UNLIKE yesterday morning!

Chocolate being a “Goat Head”

Goat Guardian Training

This morning, I worked with Ayi and the goats … just a peaceful four hours on the hill watching over them all.

She does like being with the goats. Our spending time with her and them like this allows her instincts to come forward.

I animated this one for fun

We Only Had to Wait Four Days for Mother Nature’s Answer

In our post four days ago, I wrote this

Now we wait for Mother Nature to decide if she’s going to beat it all up with extreme heat, cold, drought, pestilence or fire, or offer some semblance of continuity for us to grow our own food.

Last night she answered with a hard, killing freeze. She wiped out the following crops for 2022 here at the ranch:

  • Kiwi
  • Table grapes
  • Wine grapes
  • Pomegranates
  • Persimmons
  • Walnuts
  • Blueberries

Some of the less-coveted, lower-value, cold-hardy crops did okay: lettuce, radishes, beets, and turnips.

People often wonder why we aim to over-produce each year.

This kind of loss is why. It will be at least another year before we get a chance at any of these things.

We do have some previous years’ walnuts and blueberries frozen, some raisins, wine and dried persimmons. But reserves don’t last forever, either.

Unfortunately, we got giddy and carried away with our pomegranate juice bounty last year and before we knew it, there was no more and what we thought we had frozen didn’t exist when we defrosted the freezers last month. Perhaps we can find someone else’s bounty that we can glean in the fall.

We had 28 degrees for nearly 8 hours. After two months of extreme warm and dry, it was devastating for so many things that just yesterday were verdant and loaded with baby fruit.

Here are some photos of the damage.

Doesn’t Life Regularly Filled with Joy Require Good Food?

and good food requires many things, including continuity

I’ve recently been entertaining these two thoughts more than others:

  1. Sure is a lot of work to be directly responsible for one’s food (whether acquired through agriculture or hunting and gathering)
  2. People in disasters (fires, floods, quakes, war) lose access to continuity of life – everything is disrupted, including one of joy’s key things:  good, healthy food enjoyed safely in the relaxed company of family or friends.

Here on the ranch, we’ve been busily creating the 2022 food garden.

  • Soil has been amended with animal and alfalfa compost for nutrition (especially nitrogen), better soil texture and water-holding capacity. Note: Most of today’s fertilizer nitrogen comes from a fossil fuel-intensive process called the Haber-Bosch process.
  • Soil has been carefully tilled and moved into rows
  • Rice straw compost has been laid down to block weeds and preserve soil moisture
  • Cold-tolerant crops have been planted
  • Highly efficient, gravity flow drip tape has been laid out for watering
2022 Garden-in-progress

Now we wait for Mother Nature to decide if she’s going to beat it all up with extreme heat, cold, drought, pestilence or fire, or offer some semblance of continuity for us to grow our own food.

For those who do not grow their own food, people somewhere else are doing this for them. Others are transporting it. Still others are moving the waste.

All that is not trivial, and stable continuity is required for all this to happen.

Stable continuity requires a functional economic system of exchange (which requires a functional civic life or community), a lot of fossil fuel (or human/animal labor), chemicals, plastics (in recent times), water, moderate climate, etc.  Increasingly around the world, disruptions are impacting the continuity many of us have taken for granted.  People can’t reliably get good food without stability and continuity in life all around us.

Think about the joy of feasting – gathering with friends and family and enjoying hearty, healthy meals together. 

These really are peak moments …

… moments in time and in our lives when everything has more or less come together. 

… moments made possible by so many other things working, and by things being done reliably well by so many other people, living and ancestral.

Nine people around a long table set with a feast.
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