Friday, June 28, 2013

Cold Fermented Thai Peanut Butter Noodles

For the last couple of days the weather here has been a bit hot. And the last thing I felt like eating after a long day of gardening followed by the evening milking routine, was a hot meal. So, I decided to make up a batch of Cold Thai Peanut Noodles with some added probiotic and nutritionally rich ingredients. This meal really hit the spot and left me a lot of great leftovers to eat the next day which ended up being equally warm, but at least not as humid.

Here is what you will need to make this great summer dish:
  • 1 pound/16 oz of brown rice noodles (cooked)
  • 2 Tablespoon grape seed oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 2 cloves fermented garlic
  • 3 Tablespoons fermented peanut butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Braggs Liquid Aminos
  • 4 tsp SUCANAT
  • 2 Tablespoons “Live” Vinegar (like Braggs) or Kumbucha
  • 2 teaspoons hot pepper oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste
  • ¾ cup chopped peanuts (any kind, salted or not, raw or roasted)
  • Thai Basil for garnish

First, cook the noodles, rinse in cool water, and then toss in the grape seed oil.

Next, put the rest of the ingredients (minus the peanuts and basil) in the food processor and blend thoroughly.

Toss the sauce over the noodles, stir, and then top with peanuts and basil.  I also love to serve the dish with the hot chili oil on the side for those who like their noodles extra spicy, like me.

This recipe is best to make a bit ahead of time as the flavors will soak more into the noodles the longer they sit. It is also a great dish to pull out as a leftover or bring to a family gathering since it makes a rather good sized batch.  And for the family gatherings that sometimes have the food sitting out for a long period of time, the good bacteria in this dish will make it "safe" to eat even if you bring home leftovers.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Calving Day

Saturday our new calf was finally born, and a week late just as I had thought he would be. (Yes “he”, we had a bull calf again.) As the due date kept approaching, I just had this sneaking suspicion that my heifer (Which my oldest son will be quick to tell you is the proper name for a female animal of the bovine species who has yet to calf. Only are they called a cow when they have given birth.), the daughter of my previous cow, would follow the same time clock on gestation as her mother who was always 1 week late. And today was exactly a week after she was due, so my premonition was right on.

And, because when I got started with all this hobby farming stuff I had no idea what I was doing being an animal mid-wife, I thought I would journal the day for you in case you may be looking forward to welcoming a calf onto your hobby farm. But, if you are not in that position, and would still like to know more about the process feel free to read on and learn about a “typical” birthing process for a cow.

Well, the preparation for the calf comes way before the due date and so that is where I am going to start. Here is what I do ahead of time:

  • I make sure to fill with milk house with a good sized grocery bag of clean towels so the calf can be put on them as the mom really isn't too concerned about plopping the calf down onto dirty hay or in mud, both of which would cause an infection.
  • On top of that I keep a shallow cup with iodine in the milk house so I can dip the torn end of the calf's umbilical cord – also as to keep the calf from getting an infection.
  • Another thing that is prepped or bought: two calf milk bottles with the snap on nipples (the screw on ones never work).
  • Also, a cleaned calf hut with dry hay in it and a fence that is well maintained (that I wrote about in a previous post called Where I Have Been)
  • A good bucket for mom to drink out of, and two 5 gallons pails prepped with some energy boosters for mom who is always thirsty and tired after giving birth. These 5 gallon pails are shown here below: In the first pail (which I label #1) has 3 ¾ cups of molasses mixed with ½ cup Epsom salts. In the second pail, again labeled, just has 3 ¾ cups of molasses. You will see in the pictures I will show later that I give these to our cow right after she gives birth, the molasses helps her regain energy fast and the Epsom salts keep her stools soft for the first day so she will not strain and hurt herself.

  • In addition to all of those supplies I also keep 4 to 5 bottles of calcium gluconate on hand with 6 needles and a delivery tube for putting the solution sub-Q (that is under the cow's skin layer so she can absorb it slowly) These supplies are used to in older cows as a precautionary measure in helping them fight milk fever. The reason I didn't need these extra supplies this time though was because Jerseys do not get milk fever with their first calves, only subsequent ones. Whew! One year off from that regimen. If you have an older Jersey make sure you read up all you can about milk fever and how to detect it because it is a very scary sight to go out into the barn and see you cow flat out on the floor, unable to even lift her head. That happened to us once and even after a few rounds of sub-Q calcium. For that cow we learned she needed 5 separate treatments after each milking.

Now onto the delivery day. As you can imagine, a cow does not have the ability to verbally tell you they are in labor, but oh how I wish they did. Then, it would be as simple as waiting for the call and then heading down to the barn for the event. Instead, the night watches start as the milk bags start bulging and the cow starts to show signs of discomfort nearer her due date. Now, that is a general rule of thumb, but each cow does have their own tell-tale signs such as my previous cow who would always start coughing a week before she would give birth. Below is a picture of my heifer who is giving the most tell-tale sign and something we found her doing on frequent basis yesterday morning before she eventually calved: she sticks her tail out like she is going to go to the bathroom, but nothing comes out and then she almost drops down to the ground and stretches her head out like she is pushing. For her, this was her reaction to a contraction and I could tell they were getting closer together so it would be any time.

This is when the waiting game intensifies and my checking becomes more of an obsession. I have to admit thought, I did go in and make myself lunch just as she was starting her more intense labor, knowing I needed energy too for what was ahead. And, when I got back from my lunch break I found her on her side with a single hoof sticking out the back. 

So, I waited and prayed silently that the other hoof would present itself too in a short manner of time – this is how you want the calf to come out, front hoofs first, then head, and finally the rest of the body. And again we had a perfect delivery (that is 3 for 3 with cows for our farm) although I did help with pulling the calf when she had a hard time with getting the head out and seemed like she was going to stop pushing. (By the way, if you ever do need to assist make sure you pull the calf down towards the feet of the mama cow then she will not tear in the process and also only pull when she is pushing unless she has given up pushing because it is really hard to pull them out on your own without tying something to the hoofs and getting additional leverage.)

After all was said and done, my new cow was a bit bewildered about what had just happened. She just looked at the calf with a quizzical glance and then looked away at me. That was when I wiped the calf up a bit and left briefly to go fill the first molasses container. She actually drank the majority of the first one still lying down, and then by the time she was presented the second bucket she was up on her feet drinking which was quickly followed by her licking off the calf – instinct had kicked in.

As a rule of thumb, I usually try to hand milk the cow while the calf is stumbling around mom trying to figure out how they are supposed to get milk out of the teats. This way I can train the calf on the bottle while it is still with mom and it is then more likely to get the association that the bottle is where the milk comes from. This step is especially crucial if you have a calf in very cold weather because they need that milk to generate heat and the longer they go stumbling around not finding it on mom, the more issues you will have with a cold and tired calf. A good rule of thumb is that you want the calf to drink 1 gallon of colostrum within the first 24 hours after birth to maintain good health for the calf. And, although I got an eighth of a gallon in the calf right away from the bottle, this calf was really tired by the time all was said and done for the night and he was moved into his new home. So, to ensure he would do well through the night, I ended up using a giant feeding tube syringe to get another eighth of a gallon in him before we went to bed. Fortunately by the next morning he had regained his energy and was able to suck down an entire half gallon bottle before we headed off to church.

As for mom, she is still adjusting to the separation (calves take the move so much easier) and I am very glad that I bought the Kow Kant Kick device since she may be rather good through most of the milking, but when she starts to feel relieved from the pressure on her bags, she then starts to try lifting her foot up to kick off the milking machine. Easing a cow into a milking regimen is also something you want to make sure to do. As I said above, I only milked out a half a gallon the first night and I make sure to do that my hand so I don't milk out any more. The following morning, I hooked her up to the milking machine for the first time and only let it run a minute, and then I shut it off – mostly just to relieve her pressure. That evening I then let it run about a half milking – 3 minutes. It was then a day and a half after delivery, this morning, that I milked her until the tubes stopped running milk. Each day her supply will increase for a while, but today we got almost 5 gallons running two full milkings – yes I see cheese in my future very soon.

Well, that about sums up calving day here. I hope this post was informative whether you will need to use the information or not. The miracle of life is one of the greatest things to witness on the farm and we feel so blessed that everything went so well as we welcomed this new little calf into the world and onto our farm.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Matthew 8 & Contentment

I have to make a confession and to some of you it may sound rather strange since the lifestyle I live here on a hobby farm is the life you have always dream about. You see, unlike most people I don't like feeling settled when it comes to my home environment. Maybe it's the Bohemian blood in me that makes me this way, but a life on a hobby farm was not even on my bucket list when visions of an ideal life made their way through my head. For me home is just as much of an attitude as a place as where I wake up from each morning. And, in keeping with this vagabond attitude towards life, I have realized I also have a hard time attaching to things, even if they have sentimental value. Truly, I am not sure why God designed me this way (fortunately my husband is the same way too, except for the sentimental part). And while knowing these things about myself and my husband, I am not sure why He felt the need to put our family on a hobby farm where we are daily tied down to animals and necessary chores. Although, someday I am expecting to get an aha moment when God finally does choose to reveal that part of the story He is working out in our lives, but until then I feel like I am in this constant fight to find contentment while doing the same things over and over again each day in the same place.

Don't get me wrong though about how thankful I am for the lifestyle God has given our family here in the country and all of the wonderful lessons we have learned during these short 4 years that we have been here. I am very grateful for all of those things especially since these lessons have taken place during the most formative years of our children's lives. We have learned to eat and cook in much more healthy ways and realized how much repair work our bodies needed from good nutritious food. We have learned to accept death as a part of the cycle of life and not just a tragedy that our previous isolation from it in the city deceived us into believing. (On the farm death is seen all of the time as there are animal babies who do not make it, other animals killed by predators, predators that need to be killed by us, and of course animals that are butchered so we can eat meat.) We have also learned the value of good food as we have worked tirelessly to grow it in our own gardens and made it from our own healthy animals. And of course there are the day in and day out chores that are anything but glamorous. From loading hay into the barn on scorching hot days nights to milking in negative Fahrenheit degree weather, these are the lessons that truly makes one hearty.

After finishing Matthew 8 last week, and thinking about my heart's desire to not be in such a settled lifestyle for much longer, I was struck by these two men in the chapter who were willing to follow Jesus and yet how Jesus responded to their desires. It almost made me think that the Spirit was working in them to take on a calling that was contrary to their nature also, but were they willing to pay the price?

Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, 'Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.' And Jesus said to him, 'Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.' Then another of His disciples said to Him, 'Lord, let me first go and bury my father.' But Jesus said to him, 'Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.'” Matthew 8: 18-22

Jesus had to know, were each of these men willing to pay the price to leave behind all they had so they could come and follow Him, wherever He went. Or, did just the thought of taking off and being one of His disciples sound like such a grand adventure that they could not take the chance of missing out on the opportunity before them. As I was thinking about this I realized that maybe this adventurous spirit in me makes me think the same way when it comes to looking around at what is going on around here and then dreaming about how I can start out on my next adventure with Jesus.

There is a lot of wisdom in the adage which say, “Bloom where you are planted.” But so often those of us who do not like growing our roots too deep find it difficult to dig down and get settled while in the back of our minds we are really just hoping for the next transplant. For now we are still on our farm and have no plans to move any time soon. And while I am here, I am venturing out to learn new things each day as my schedule affords me to do so – things as a wife, mother, hobby farmer, cook, teacher, lecturer, blogger, etc. Also, I am making sure my kids do not miss the opportunities they have before them either as I know God has planned out each unique circumstance and encounter to prepare them for their future callings. But all that said, there is a peaceful and patient voice that whispers to my longings and comforts my vagabond spirit when those times come where I feel I can't be held down another day. That voice ultimately reminds me this world is not my home and it speaks to me be about a forever home which beckons longings from the core of my existence where my heart will find satisfaction beyond where my mind could even dream possible. Heaven is that place where all real contentment will finally be found and where none of us will have the desire to yearn for anything else than what we have. We will finally find contentment in each moment within the moments that will exist without end.

Maybe for you there are other things in your life that steal away your contentment and it has nothing to do with where you live and the adventures you feel you are missing out on, but rather another longing in your heart. Know this truth though when that discontentment strikes you: If God is holding you back from any desire, He has a purpose built into that waiting time for you. Rest assured that feeling like you want to leave your places of discontentment behind is not wrong as long as you are willing to look past the minor discomforts of your current life and are willing to see the greater lessons God planned for you in them AND see Him as the one you need to grow closer to while experiencing them. One day I promise we will all look back on these times and realize just how necessary they were in making us long for the perfection of heaven while at the same time allowing us to let go of the ties we had to this earth and all of the temptations we had placed before us to love it more than to love the Lord.

So, here is to today, tomorrow, and the countless tomorrows yet to come. Days filled with unknowns, but also dictated by the God who reigns on high and who knows us and loves us too much to allow anything to come into our lives that would harm any of us from living with Him forever in heaven. Will you approach each day with faith? If so, then I will be glad to join you on the journey that Jesus promises will lead us through Him into heaven on faith alone.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Gingerbread, Date, and Cranberry Sugar Plums

To finish off a meal it is nice to have a little something sweet to cleanse the palette, but most of the time I don't have room for a large dessert nor do I want to add many more calories to my already finished meal.  One way I have found I can satisfy my "sweet" craving without going overboard is by making sugar plums and keeping them in the refrigerator for those times when I just need a little something extra to finish off my meal.

Here is a recipe I created with some leftover gingerbread biscotti that I think ranks up there with my posts of two other favorite sugar plum recipes:  Chocolate  Peanut Butter Sugar Plums & regular Sugar Plums:

  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 8 Tablespoons of flax, whole by measure and then milled
  • 4 pieces Ginger & Cranberry Gingerbread Biscotti, broken into pieces
  • 3 cup dates pieces (I buy mine coated in oat flour)
  • 1 cup sweetened cranberries
  • 2 cups finely chopped coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted

Place all of the dry ingredients in a 12-cup food processor and blend until fully incorporated.

Start up the food processor again and slowly pour in the coconut oil and process until well mixed.

Transfer the mixture to a container that is easy to work from.

Take a Tablespoon (or so) of the mixture at a time, form a ball, and then place them onto a sheet.

Refrigerate the sugar plums until hardened and then store in the refrigerator for as long as they last.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Homemade Brie Cheese

Well, I finally ventured into the realm of mold-ripened cheeses and what I found out is that they are much easier to make then I had at first imagined.  The reason I started with Brie is a personal reason though...I absolutely love it, crust and all.  Now I know there are many of you, like my husband, who will cut the mold off the outside and eat only the soft middle and there must be a lot of you because when I was at Trader Joes the other day I saw they are now selling a rindless version of Brie.  But all of that aside, I tend to think the mold is what makes the cheese.  And, if you go a step further and wrap the Brie in a sheet of puff pastry and bake it, then the mold's flavor is heightened further in adding to the complexity of this wonderful cheese.  Well, that's enough of my ranting about this cheese, here is how you go about making 2 large rounds.

To start off, heat 4 gallons of whole milk to 88 degrees Fahrenheit.

Next, sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of mesophilic culture plus 1/4 teaspoon of Penicillim candidum mold powder on top of the milk and allow to rehydrate for 5 minutes.

After the 5 minutes, stir up and down with 20 large strokes.

Next mix 1/2 teaspoon of liquid rennet with 1/2 cup cool water, pour the mixture into the cultured milk and again stir up and down with 20 more strokes.

Now, cover the pot and allow to sit for 1 hour and 30 minutes (as you can see, I put a post-it note on to remind me when I needed to tend to it next).

While the milk is setting, take this time to sterilize the draining and mould set up for the cheeses.  I have found that this set up works best for me.  A draining platform set into the bottom of a plastic wash tub with a draining mat on top, an open ended Brie mould on top of that, and a pot lid to top it all off.

The basket is for scooping out the curd without too much whey.

The milk should be well set by this time, so cut the curd...

...then allow it to sit for 5 minutes to firm up.

Now, remove as much of the whey off the top as you can without disturbing the curds.  

Then carefully ladle the curds equally into the 2 mould set ups until you fill to the top (you will not be able to fit all of the curds in at this point, but be patient).  Cover the moulds and the cheese pot and wait for the cheese to drain.  

Return about 30 minutes later, very carefully drain the excess whey out of the bottom of the tubs (just lift the platform and all on top out, dump out the whey and then return the mould as it was), and then fill the moulds with more cheese curds.  You may need to repeat this step one more time, but just repeat what you did above until all of the curds are equally distributed between the two moulds.

Now, let the cheeses stand for 2 hours (that is from the point the last of the curds were added).

Then, carefully flip the cheeses as the pictures show how below, making sure to drain the tubs once again.  

Carefully lift from the bottom of the platform and remove from the tub

Tip upside down onto the lid and carefully balance on other lid and tub

Slide the cheese back onto the mat in the drained tub...repeat with other cheese

Let the cheeses sit for another 2 hours, and then flip and drain once again.

Now, allow the cheeses to drain overnight.  In the morning flip and drain again.  Leave covered for 2 more hours and then flip and drain one last time.

Finally, transfer the cheese to a tub with a lid making sure to sanitize the platforms and mats and put them into the covered tub before adding in the cheeses.

Sprinkle each side of each cheese with 1 tsp of salt and then store the covered tub at 55 degrees for 10 days, flipping the cheese one a day and wiping out the tub each day with a paper towel to remove all excess moisture and drained liquid.

After 10 days the mold on the outside should cover the entire cheese with a nice white thick layer.

Finally, wrap the cheeses with mold ripening paper (non-shiny side on the inside) and store away at the same temperature for 3 to 4 weeks for it to be fully ripened and ready to eat.

Note:  If you do not have an area that is 55 degrees, do not fret.  The ripening container can be kept in a refrigerator also, the mold will just take longer to develop on the outside and work at ripening the cheese on the inside.  A method that worked well for me was to move the ripening container in and out of the refrigerator each day, half the day in the refrigerator and half a day in a cool (65 degree Fahrenheit) room.

Where I Have Been

Our little cowgirl

I thought I would do a little catch up blogging this afternoon since the thunder just started and has chased me inside for a while. And, since some of you have asked where I have been lately, I thought I would take this time to journal about what has been going on here on the farm and what the weeks ahead hold.

First, the reason I have not been blogging many cheese recipes as of late is because I sold my cow.  

All three bovines together

Now don't panic, I haven't jumped ship and given up milking and cheese making.  I actually had been planning on selling my older cow for a while because her daughter, Siri, is due to calf today (although she may be a week late like her mama always was since she is not looking quite there yet)This decision to sell our cow Lena was one I had been thinking and praying about a lot earlier this spring because we just didn't have the grass in our pasture to feed two cows along with our steer.  


So, when the opportunity came up to sell Lena to a wonderful family who fell head over heels in love with her, I had to let her go.  I do have a post I will be putting up late today on the batch of Brie cheese I made with the last of the milk we had from Lena so all cheese making as you can see has not halted around here (there is another washed rind cheese I am babysitting too that I am not quite ready to post on, but more about that later), but until Siri starts producing you will need to hang on for more cheese recipes.

That then leads me into the next thing which has been keeping me busy, preparing for a new calf and a new cow to milk.  

Just getting ready for a calf from a seasoned mama cow is enough work (or adding in a bought one on years we don't have a bull calf to raise for meat), but training a new heifer to come into the barn and stand in the stanchion with the noise of the milking machine going is a feat in itself.  
Lena in the milking stanchion

Also, since my heifer in the past has proven to be a kicker (she has even tried kicking me at her side when I had to administer her a shot once) I have purchased a Kow Kant Kick device to have on hand just in case she gets any ideas about kicking the milking machine off once that element is introduced to her stanchion regimen.  
Kow Kant Kick device

Added to all those things, the barn once again needed its spring cleaning done and a new space needed to be set up for the calf since the electric fence in the pasture is not enough to hold the calf in with mama.  (It may sound cruel to separate mom and baby, but baby calves are notorious for running off through fences and causing their moms and owners lots of grief, thus giving the calf a bottle twice a day with its moms milk and providing it with a nice safe spot to be works best all around.)

Oh, and speaking of baby animals, we also have new chicks that arrived a few weeks ago.  

The caring for the chicks is the easy part though.  What makes adding new chicks to the farm each spring tough is the day of the year my kids dread the most:  coop cleaning day.  Yes, all the wood shavings and everything else that is mixed into the shavings needs to be scooped out of the coop and put into the gardens and compost pile so the coop is ready for another year and for the new chicks on their way.  

Fortunately this year the chicks are much easier to care for than most years since we decided with chickens still in the freezer from last year, and some older layers that need to be thinned out in the fall as stew chickens, we only ordered 35 new layers for replacements instead of the 150+ we usually order and raise.

Added to all of that, the growing season here in Minnesota started really late this year and so I have been up to my ankles and wrists in mud.  

Each year I grow 4 large organic (my label not official by any means) heirloom seed gardens each year to supply our family and animals with food for our long winters.  Needless to say, the gardens have taken a lot of tending and today finally marked the point where I feel like I am more on top of the weeds than they are on top of my plants.  Our gardens in a very short period of time have gone from looking like this...

still snow

indoor seedlings

garden plans looking like this.

front herb and vegetable garden

Another view of the same garden (three more elsewhere on the property)

And, you would think all of that would be enough to keep me busy, but if you saw a tweet I made on Twitter yesterday, I am also working diligently on a recipe I have been creating for the Bob's Red Mill Spar for the Spurtle III contest.  

I hope to have the recipe finished in the next few weeks and then make a video with my recipe to submit to the contest page.  So, keep your eyes out for that too.  I am pleased my family has loved the recipe as much as they have because we are up to our ears in Bob's steel cut oats (which is not a bad thing mind you).  With each tweak and modification I make to the recipe, more oats need to be made and therefore there is then more for us to eat! (I have to admit though, the chickens have had to help too.)

Well, that's about all from here on the Ployhar family farm.  If you are still interested in my upcoming healthy cooking or cheese making classes, there are still openings.  Also, feel free to stop by the Dennison, MN farmer's market on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 8pm where I will be selling fresh produce, eggs, and healthy baked goods each week.