Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Wolf Dog

Okay, so sadly I cannot get cool zombie dog contacts to make Zoey wear for Halloween... but I can get her ready for Halloween thanks to digital photo software!


Raising Ducks

I am on to my second round of trying to raise some ducks.  Ducks lay eggs that are wonderful for baking, and they make very amusing pets to have around the farm.  Here are the chicks that arrived around late July of this year:


The mother is the only duck I had left from the last batch.  My biggest problem is with predators... foxes, hawks, owls are all very abundant around here.  I generally let my poultry free range.  Not only do they get more natural food and exercise that way, but if a predator does come for them, they can run and hide, and they aren't, well.... sitting ducks!

Since I think much of the predation is happening at night, I bought this handy little device called Nite-Guard.  It's simply a solar powered, blinking red light.  It confuses predators into thinking there's another predator there, and they steer clear.  So far it seems to be working pretty well.  I'm hoping they all make it through the winter with no problem.

Here is a more recent photo.... the other nice thing about ducks is that they are full grown in only 2 months! (vs. having to wait over 6 months to get your first eggs from chickens).


Cuddling critters

Now that it's getting a bit brisk out, I'm sure I will have a lot more photos to post of Zoey (the dog) and Precious (the cat) cuddling together on the bed.  It sometimes seems like that makes up half the photos in my camera!


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Making Homemade Yogurt

The Easiest Way to Make Homemade Yogurt


First things first – why would you even want to make homemade yogurt, when it's so easy to buy in the store?

Easy answer, that; homemade yogurt does not carry all the starches, fillers, dyes and artificial flavors of commercial yogurts. You can easily make it from a homestead supply or purchased milk either from a grocery store or (better yet) a local farm. When you know the products you start with, you know the product you're eating and serving. And perhaps one of the best reasons is that homemade yogurt is cheaper, even if you do have to buy your milk.
Unlike some other homemade dairy products where you might lose some of the product to bi-products like whey or skimmed milk (unless you reuse them, which is totally possible, too!), yogurt is almost 100% yield to the milk you use. So if you use half a gallon of milk, you're going to come out with close to half a gallon of yogurt. Your cost is only your yogurt starter and your milk, so add those up and then compare by the ounce the cost of that chemical-filled store stuff. Easy answer!

Making Yogurt at Home
If more people knew how easy homemade yogurt was to make, more would do it. You can go the easy route and just buy a yogurt maker, such as this nice, inexpensive model from Amazon. Among the different methods and equipment possibilities, the easiest is the crockpot method. You can use a crockpot/slow cooker you already have, but purchasing a cheap two quart crockpot to dedicate to your yogurt making will quickly pay off. Two quarts is a good size for most homes to make a sizable amount without having it go bad too quickly.
Once you have your crockpot, you'll need a starter. You can either buy a yogurt starter (you can find powdered starters online through Amazon or www.cheesemaking.com, among others) or you can actually just buy a live-culture yogurt from the local grocery (check the label, but most are active live cultures anyway). Choose a plain flavor with as few additives as possible, or vanilla in a pinch (which won't really flavor your yogurt too much). Of course if you want a 100% organic yogurt, you need to start with an organic yogurt as your starter. (FYI – you can freeze the unused starter yogurt, so what you don't use in your batch will not go to waste – freezing in ice cube trays makes future use simple).
Now for the process:
·         Pour 2 quarts of milk (whole or skim, but whole will be thicker) into the slow cooker.
·         Heat until the milk reaches 185° (high or low doesn't matter – it's the temp, not the time)
·         Turn off the crockpot and let milk cool for several hours until it reaches 115°
·         Add powdered starter for 2 quarts milk as per package instructions, or add ¼ cup active live-culture plain yogurt
·         Stir or whisk well to combine
·         Place a couple of kitchen towels over the top of the post to help retain heat. If your kitchen is chilly, you can wrap the crock part of the cooker in a large bath towel, etc. as well.
·         Keep in a warm, draft-free place for 6 to 12 hours (the longer it sits, the thicker it will be, but the more tart, too). Inside your oven (obviously off) is a good location.
·         After sitting, place in the refrigerator to cool thoroughly, and enjoy.
Some Additional Tips & Tricks:
·         Do not expect your yogurt to be as thick as "store" yogurt. There are a lot of added solids, fillers, starches, pectins, and other additives that make store yogurt the way it is.
·         Homemade yogurt will have a thick mass of yogurt (basically curd) and will kind of "float" on a small amount of yellowy-clear whey. For a thicker yogurt, drain off the whey. It is easier to drain it after refrigerating so the curd firms, but before you do any stirring which reincorporates the whey.
·         You can also strain and hang the yogurt in linen or cheesecloth for a thicker yogurt, but you will lose some volume. However, you can strain it to as thick as you like and even make a Greek yogurt or yogurt cheese.
·         Drained whey can be used for other recipes (try it in bread or in place of buttermilk!) or fed to chickens or other livestock, and delivers to them a good source of probiotics and protein.
·         You can easily flavor your yogurt with a tablespoon of jam or jelly, fruit, sugar, syrup, honey, vanilla…anything you like!
·         If you save some of your homemade yogurt you can use it as the starter for your next batch, but eventually you will see the cultures weaken (after 2 to 3 batches) and the yogurt will not be as thick. Still, it does work and makes your yogurt even more pure and economical.


Sports Tracker App for recording rides

So I have a new favorite way to track my rides and horse workouts.  It's an app for your smartphone called Sports-Tracker, and it uses your GPS to record a map of your route, your speed, your time, and numerous other functions.  Yesterday I took Teddy out for a ride, and here's the "dashboard" of info:


I think what I like most is just the sense of accomplishment I get from looking back at what I've done!

Nose Bags / Feed Bags for horses

Feeding field boarded horses can be a challenge. I was always frustrated with most of the barns where I field boarded, because the horses would just get a set amount divided among buckets along the fence line. This meant the most dominant horse would get most of the feed, and the horse at the bottom of the pecking order hardly got any. Any you could forget about feeding any supplements!

I have been using nose bags (mesh feed bags) to feed for a while now, and I must say feed time is so much easier! The dominant horses frequently don’t even try to pester the others, since they know they can’t get any food. I first used canvas feed bags, but they can be difficult to clean, and seemed to hold mud and dirt before too long. I recently switched to the mesh feed bags, which are much easier to clean, and the horse can dunk their head in the water trough and all the water just spills freely out… no worries about a horse drowning themselves.

The only issue I have had was with one greedy horse who learned that she could nip at the corner of the bag while another horse was eating and managed to chew a hole in it. I fixed that issue by hot gluing a strip of upholstery tacks around the bottom edge, facing out.

Also, although the website below does not recommend feeding dampened feed, wet beet pulp, or powdered supplements with the mesh bags, I have no issue. I have one horse who bolts his food and has suffered from choke due to this problem. I soak his feed before feeding. Any horse that gets powdered supplements just gets some wetted feed added to the regular ration, and the powder sticks to that. These feed bags are really easy to clean… just swish upside down in a bucket of water, pull straight out, and hang to dry. Much easier than the canvas bags!

The points below were taken from http://www.bignosebags.com/


Why use a nose bag?


• Nose bags are useful at home to eliminate the waste generated by sloppy eaters.


• Nose bags pack down small and are useful for providing grain and weed-free pelleted feeds on the trail.


• Nose bags are useful at shows, particularly when using tie stalls.


• Nose bags are a convenient way to provide pelleted (not powdered) additives such as vitamins and hoof supplements.


• Nose bags eliminate hostile grain-pan takeovers by dominant horses, ensuring that even the lowest horse in the pecking order gets his share of feed.


• Nose bags are a useful tool when training a horse to lower his head for haltering or bridling and to accept handling of the head and ears.
(This is especially true… all of my nosebag-fed horses don’t mind me folding and squishing their ears to put the poll strap behind their head. One was a bit touchy at first and would jerk away when I tried to get his second ear under the strap… I would just hold onto the bag so he was left with no food if he pulled away. That cured him very quickly!)

Horsie Halloween Costumes

Now that it's October, it's time to think about what your horse will be for Halloween.  


This is now an annual tradition for Knot Just Rope, (Photo above) who says on the Facebook page that they have been painting their horse as a skeleton for three years in a row now.  I understand from others who have painted animals that they use tempura paint, as it's non-toxic and can be easily washed off.  

There are lots of animal costume ideas on Pinterest.  Here is one that I think is just fabulous:
Giraffe Horse: From http://www.okokonia.com/best-horse-costume-ever/

Here are a couple of good ones from http://www.sleezybarbhorsewear.com/customercostumes.htm 

Firehorse


Little Bo Peep