Posts Tagged ‘micro dairy’

Today we finished our notebook calendar to Scott.  We wrote in a page a day for the time we’re gone, with a couple of guest writers (alright, alright, all Excursioneers).  Tidbits about how much we’ll miss him, where we suspect we’ll be along the trail on a given day, how many days ’til we see him again.  Some love notes.  Some chit chat.  You know, stuff like that.

We posted up the Farm Chore list in a few places for all of the wonderful folks who will be running the place so that we can be away.  We walked through everything with them all this past week, including how to properly use the new milk machine.  Yes, I said it: The new milk machine!

A lovely friend had a crusty, dirty, worn out little machine that she knew little about other than it being a supposed milk machine.  She offered it to us with the warning that it may be worthless and broken.  I did a bit of Googling and YouTubing, and was able to figure out the model of Hoegger Milking System, and how to take the entire thing apart for maintenance and repair.  I spent a few solid hours cleaning it up, hoping that it’d be fruitful in the end.  I got online and ordered $150 in parts that I knew it needed, gambling it would be a good investment.  And then we waited.

It felt like forever.

putting it all back together

Then the package arrived!  We went to work on it again, and got a final thumbs up from our friend who looked it over a bit with me, whose Dad is a machinist – and flipped the switch.  It fired right up and pulsated like a champ at the perfect pressure!  The girls didn’t even flinch when we tried it out on them that evening.  They really have settled into being the loveliest homestead milkers.

Not only was this roughed up little machine a milker, but was the perfect one for us.  It was a model designed for one to two goats (the company sells sheep adapters), but powerful enough to run a small dairy.  And it’s made right here in the U.S.A.  We never would have purchased one new – being content with hand milking (in fact, we can do it as fast as the milk machine if it’s doing one at a time), and knowing good ones like this one were much more than we wanted to pay for the convenience.  But what a gift (and a lot of elbow grease!  I felt like a rockstar fixing it.).  This will be perfect for Scott.  I knew it’d just be way dreamy for him.  But I was afraid it’d be a dud so left it a surprise.  He’s used it a couple of times now, gearing up for being the primary milker here on the farm for most of the time we’re gone – and has said what a breeze it’ll be now compared to the especially harder task morning and evening he was anticipating (and never did complain of!).  This should shave off an hour time off of his day.  And keeps it all the more easy for friends who will cover for him while he’s traveling to/with us, and as we may need a helper now and then in the future.

clickity clack! there she goes!

So here we are, wrapping things up, knowing the farm has been very tidied up for our leave.  All laundry is washed.  Rooms are clean.  RV is packed.  Just like that: It’s time.  Off we go!

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Curry Cashew Ice Cream

Whisk together:
3 goose egg yolks (or 8 chicken egg yolks)
3/4 cup sugar (or sweetener of choice; maple would be amazing)
2 1/2 cups sheep milk, warmed to hot.  Slowly add to egg mixture while stirring constantly.  Return to stovetop.
Add additional:
2 1/2 cups sheep milk
1/2 cup chopped cashews
1/2 cup shredded coconut
juice from one lemon
2 T olive oil
2 T curry spices
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
Simmer gently for 30 seconds.  Chill.  Churn.  Enjoy.
This ice cream recipe was inspired by a new favorite dinner, recipe here:

Chicken Shawarma

  • 3# chicken breasts, thinly sliced
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 t. salt
  • 2 t. cumin
  • 2 t. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 t. turmeric
  • 1/2 t. curry powder or paste
  • 1/4 t. cinnamon
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • black pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients and marinate chicken with this paste in zippy bag for up to a day.  Grill when ready.


  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, cut into 1/2″ wedges
  • 2 bell peppers, any color, cut into 1/2″ wedges
  • cubed eggplant (whenI have it on hand)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups rice
  • 3 cups chicken broth (or water)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ t cinnamon powder
  • pinch of black pepper
  • pinch of cardamon powder
  • 14oz can chickpeas, drained (opt)
  • ¼ cup raisins (opt)

Add onion, garlic & bell peppers (and eggplant) to pan.  Saute for 2 minutes.
Add rice and stir to coat with oil and become a bit translucent.  Brown lightly.
Add remaining ingredients.
Bring to simmer, then place a lid on (or cover with foil) and transfer to oven.
Bake for 35 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for a further 10 minutes. (I often cook this on the stove instead, uncovered, about 35 minutes; then cover ’til ready to serve)

Serve with sliced cukes & wedged tomatoes, your grilled chicken & yogurt sauce:

Yogurt Sauce 

  • 2 cups greek yogurt
  • juice of one lemon
  • 4 T. garlic, minced
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • chopped parsley

Mix together.  Serve in dollops.

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morning milking from two ewes

morning milking from two ewes

I’ve tried a few different recipes now on making feta, and this one by Fiasco Farm is my favorite at the moment, with lots of great pictures to boot!  As always, I just couldn’t follow the recipe 100%, but this time only made minor changes:

  1. I use MM100 from New England Cheesemaking company as my mesophilic culture.
  2. Instead of 1 teaspoon, I use 1/4 teaspoon of rennet.  You can generally use 2-5 times less rennet with sheep milk than goat or cow.
  3. For the brine, I use a whey base instead of water, and himalayan salt instead of non-iodized commercially marketed “cheese salt”, to stay in tune with our “use what is best” philosophy for our foods.  Our blocks are turning a soft rose color in their brine, and will continue to until they are eaten.  We won’t dip in for at least four weeks.  Gah!  Waiting is the pits!

cheese curds in whey; heading into a feta

Feta is traditionally made with sheep milk.  Sheep milk makes 2.5 times more cheese per fluid gallon of milk than that of goat or cow.  We’ve made feta twice now, and both times have ended up with 3#’s of cheese per gallon and a half of milk.  In farmstead language, that’s a value of $60 for my 1.5 gallon of milks worth of cheese.  That’s amazing!

I heart homesteading, self-sufficiency, and living off the land!

winter storage of himalayan-brining feta's

winter storage of himalayan-brining feta’s

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Why Sheep?



Over a decade ago, we bought the first two dairy Jersey cows that made it to our old farm from a commercial dairy, excellent candidates for homestead milkers.  Later a few more joined the herd in a cooperative dairy, owned and managed by several dozen families, operated by my folks.  We were primarily a pseudo (unpaid) marketer, a financial investor, and consumers.  We did assist on some veterinary services provided by our favorite vet (Jack), as well as milked Quince (jersey family cow) after the cow dairy ceased.  Cow milk was the best.

Over the years that followed, several events changed the course of my folks’ dairy.  When an opportunity presented itself, they bought a herd of dairy goats from a creamery in Battle Ground that was going out of business (thanks to the widening and imminent domain takings for highway 502).

The cows phased out, and goats reined triumphant.  Their darling floppy ears and two-teated udders were so attractive.  The fact that they consumed a fraction of what a cow does, produces milk that is more digestible to infants (and adults, if we’re being honest), and do not create the mud pit in the winter that cows do, it sounded like a dream.

In the springtime, I excitedly assisted births.  Growing up, I always wanted to be a midwife.  But liability kept me focusing on other great adventures revolving around birthing and beyond.  The experience I gained helping Mama goats birth was invaluable.

But they ruled the land.  Before I knew what happened, they lived my life – eating my food (garden), and leisured at my home (backyard, decks, etc).  They were loud.  They attracted flies.  Armies of them.  In every nook of our home.  We couldn’t breathe.  The boys smelled putrid.  Goats were everywhere.  They were taking over.

Despite setting some boundaries and putting up fences, there was still fresh goat manure surprises daily.  I don’t miss that.  I also don’t miss not being able to plant beautiful and edible landscaping in and around my house and yards unafraid.  Or to garden and grow our own food again – now with the only risk being an act of nature, or my own error.

In 2012, my oldest youngest (ha!) sister started a small flock of 3 dairy sheep, expanding in numbers over time, hoping to provide milk to my folks’ creamery as her own agriculture entrepreneur development and investment into the future.  It was fun having them around.  They felt so much more… green.  I see rolling pastures of vibrant grass.  I hear a New Zealand accent.  Ha!  They were fluffy.  The ram was definitely naughty, and the girls were particularly skiddish… AND their teats were shorter (than goats/cows, tho’ similar to Nigerian Dwarfs’).  But they smelled fabulous, like lanolin.  They were great to watch.  Their milk was incredibly thick and scrumptious, not “goaty” or gamey at all.  They almost met my cow milk fix.  They far exceeded it in creaminess.

When we moved onto our new farm last Spring, we talked about getting a cow, but struggled with the commitment to the time, management, and land abuse a cow could incur.  We didn’t want goats.  So it was obvious what to do.  We missed good milk.

Our main purpose to reincorporate sheep now was to have fresh milk again in the best homestead kind of way possible for our family. As much as we’d want a Jersey cow, the sheep made sense (vs. goats as well) for a LOT more reasons:

  1. sheep milk has smaller fat molecules making it more digestible for humans/babies, as well as those who may have dairy sensitivities (similar to goat milk in this area).
  2. sheep are MUCH lighter on the land, and since these pastures are being built, they will assist instead of take from that. And they work for us – clearing areas of brambles/etc, as wanted. They eat less, and are easy to provide vet, breeding and butchering services for.  They utilize hillsides, and forests, too – where cows need more pasture. (similar to goats)
  3. sheep milk is higher in butterfat than goats or cows, so… yeah! Creamier, more cheese, more good brain-building fats, sweeter…
  4. sheep offer a more productive turnover of byproduct in the sense that we can keep ram lambs for fall meat, wool for filler or spinning, and – obviously – milk for all sorts of awesome.

There is also something very warm about being a “shepherd” vs. a “herdsman” or “rancher”.  With so many references and correlations to the Bible to shepherding, it constantly reminds me how much I need to keep responsible stewardship a priority with not only our animals, land, and resources, but our wee family.

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; – Acts 20:28-29

For He is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice… – Ps. 95:7

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. – Lk. 12:32

Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes. – Is. 40:11

So that’s what we’re thinking!  Sheep aren’t new to us, as they are actually very similar to goats in care – but are much more docile and smell & taste (milk and meat) excellent in comparison to goats IMO!  Goats aren’t really my cuppa at all.  I feel bad.  Maybe it was just the experience.  But I’m not sure I’m game for going down that road again.  Especially because there are sheep in the world.

from Mad Millie

from Mad Millie

Sheep milk produces the highest yield of cheese, almost 2.5 times that of a cow or goat. That means if I’d get a cup of cheese from a quart of cow/goat milk, I’d get two and a half cups with sheep milk!

Making more cheese on the farm today with sweet, nutty sheep milk!

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where are my babies?

Where are my babies?

Today we took Marley’s two babies off of her.  They are now residing in their own pen nearby, calling back and forth to a Mama who has found a new hill to pasture on, full of blackberry goodness.  After the initial panic, they all seem to have settled nicely into their new places.

Willow, however, is antsy to have her babes

Willow, however, is antsy to have her babes

We pulled babes after 72 hours of nursing off Mama for life-enhancing colostrum.  Now that they have a strong foundation, we have more flexibility.  There are several “universal” milk replacers out there, but I don’t buy ’em.  Literally and figuratively.  I’m sure that some scientist rigged them to work fine, but I’m not looking for fine.  I’m looking for superb.  Our mission is to raise these sheep with all of our homestead philosophies instead of cutting corners.  And so we’re feeding them their Mama’s milk.*  You can also find lamb-specific milk replacers at your local feed store, or try this homemade lamb milk replacer recipe here.  I cannot vouch for it.


teaching babes

Since these sweet little ladies are 4 days old already (time flies!), we’re starting them out with 6 ounces (3/4 cup) each, 4 times a day.  They will not eat this much at first, but we’ll offer it and let them figure out on their own that they will not be eating on demand, but rather be scheduled throughout the day and into the evening.

They took nicely to their Pritchard nipples immediately.  

They took nicely to their Pritchard nipples immediately.

My words on the Pritchard nipples: start small.  When you purchase them ($4/each at our local feed store, cheaper online), you’ll need to snip the tip oh so slightly.  As they grow, you’ll snip them further down, allowing a larger milk flow.  But for now, keep it pretty teeny weeny.

I literally had to go to a grocer today to buy carbonated water so I’d have the bottles of my choice (colored glass instead of typical clear plastic soda bottles used by most).  We had the “job” of drinking up a few so we’d be prepared for our lambs afternoon meal.

Here’s our feeding schedule for our lambs, based on Paula Simmons book Raising Sheep the Modern Way:

Day 3-4, 3-5oz, six times a day, gradually changing to a lamb replacer, if you’re going to use one
Day 5-14, 4-6oz, four times a day, and start with leafy alfalfa
Day 15-21, 6-8oz, four times a day, along with hay
Day 22-35, Slowly change to 16 ounces (one pint), given three times a day

We’ve found that all lamb milk replacers have different feeding schedules (as far as ounces per day at which ages, etc), so refer to your package on that if you’re using one.

After the lambs are about a month old, we’ll wean them from milk, and start raising them on greens, or “Creep Feed”: a mix of alfalfa leaves or soaked alfalfa pellets, priobiotics, minerals.  It is important for the kids to start eating grain, even if pasture is the end desire.  “The grain promotes rumen development because of the high production of butyric acids which assist in the vital development of the digestive tract. The butryic acid is oxidized in tissue for energy production.”  I’m still a little uneasy about this, but will go ahead with it as I don’t have a more solid alternative, and am comfortable with using our heirloom, organic grains.

We are considering keeping the boys for Autumn meat.  Girls, however, will be sent along to new farms.  That said, we already have committed to keeping the sweet black one that Marley produced for us.  That way we’ll have one white, one brown, and one black.  That means hand milking 3 sheep next spring.  That means our double stanchion is less effective.  That also means that I broke my word: Only two milking ewes.

I hope Willow has the ugliest lambs ever.

But I know she won’t.


*We may reserve it for our use and feed wee boy babes goat milk with a bit of lamb replacer added.

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our dairy

our dairy

Our sheep are for our homestead (click here for “Why Sheep?“), not for commercial purposes.  So we’re keeping close tabs on the “cost” to have them in our grocery budget, all-inclusive.  While investing in the best for them, we are also hoping to keep our expenses reasonable.  Obviously, the up front costs are going to add up a bit, but we want a TRUE and honest picture of how much our family’s dairy (& some meat and fiber) will cost.  Yes, the experience and health benefits are priceless, but we want to make sure that we have an “account”ability structure set up that keeps us using our heads, not just putting out.

It’s so easy to lose track of costs when you raise animals.  And to not conscientiously make decisions on your output in the thick of the season.  We are hoping that our limited production will assist in us putting an even better effort toward maintaining supreme husbandry and management practices.

I’m hoping to use this post as a central location for all of our dairying research.  I will update it with links in bold to additional information on individual subjects as we go!

Here’s what our Livestock Medicine Cabinet looks like, complete with start up cost, etc…

Remember, this is our go-to cabinet.  We also have tinctures and herbs at arms reach for many other livestock purposes, but we wanted to single out these items for easy accessibility, as well as emergency needs, if/as they arise.  Some may never be used, or rarely.  Some items, as for us humans, are both medicinal and nutritional, the last two items on the list seeping into their daily maintenance, and not only used “as needed.”  Which leads me into sharing what we have on-hand for the day to day (depending on age/stage of lactation/etc):

Roughage (be it legume or grass hay or alfalfa)
Grain Mix – organic heirloom farro, oats, barley, non-GMO corn, black oil sunflower seeds
Kelp, Himalayan Sea Salt, Minerals




pre-roof upcycled feeder

And a few supplies I have picked up for them:

halters & leads
Pritchard nipples & bottles
hoof trimmers

Yeesh.  When I write it all out, it seems like a lot.  Especially when I’m going to put the 3 new lines of fencing on the “sheep” column of the register that will be used for them exclusively ($600 for 492 feet of electric netting – my fave).  Again, many of these expenses will not be recurring or often.  Some will be shared to other livestock.

Our stanchion is being build with pallets, which we get free with our deliveries of feed.  We’d looked into buying one, but none were exactly what we were looking for – and none were free.  So we’ve customized a double stanchion to work for these sweet ladies out of scrap supplies we had on hand.  I’ll post pictures shortly.

Now, to work on a calendar so we can stay on task.  For clutching/shearing, trimming hooves, worming, moving pastures, adjusting feed, breeding/lambing (info on feeding lambs here), etc.  Coming soon.

I may sound like I know what I’m talking about, but I don’t.  My younger sister Emilee bought a flock of sheep neighboring the old farm for couple years, but I knew very little of their management, and they weren’t big producers as she was building the flock at the time and was learning by trial and error.  Obviously, they are similar to goats, which I spent more time learning and working with (my folks ran a commercial diary operation that we were heavily involved in for many years).  Here are the reasons why we chose sheep instead of another dairy animal.  I’m leaning on a bit of my sisters knowledge to help us out, and a few of my favorite books:

Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette de Bairacli Levy
Natural Sheep Care by Pat Coleby
Raising Sheep the Modern Way by Paula Simmons
The Backyard Sheep by Sue Weaver
Natural Remedies for Sheep Health by Mark Gilbert (ebook here)

one of my faves

one of my faves

I’m also leaning heavily on the knowledge of experienced homestead dairy sheep owners via an online group – and have found our shearer to be an abundance of knowledge and help as well!

Another super awesome homeschool opportunity.  Adyn is heading up this project, and is proving to be quite the shepherd!


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Sheep Crutching

The sheep have been crutched. We’re ready for lambing! They also got a nice hoof trim, and have started on a hand-mixed ration of organic heirloom grains to help their lambs grow during these final weeks of pregnancy.

Check here to watch how a sheep is “crutched” (method of shearing), cleaning up the under areas for easy access for the babes for nursing, and us for assistance during delivery, if necessary, and clean for milking.

Come May, the rest of their wool will come off with a full shearing!

We LOVED the gal that came out and did the shearing for us. Fabulous work (no nicks, gentle with the girls, etc) for a ridiculously low price. We tipped her nicely and sent her away with home-canned goods.

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