Aging Homemade Cheese…

If you make home made colby or cheddar cheese, how do you store it for aging? Many people put it in a cheese box, simply an old fridge that they kick on once and a while to keep it 45 to 50 degrees. I used to wax the cheese we made and store it in the milk fridge for aging and it worked great except I don’t care for sharp cheese. Now, I wrap and freeze extra cheese to keep it mild. We had a customer ask if cheese still aged in the freezer. I haven’t noticed any aging or ripening action in frozen cheese, but thought I would ask all of you…

“Does cheese continue to age once frozen?”

Looking forward to your responses!!!

Back Yard Homesteading


City dwellers and country folks alike are realizing the benefits of back yard homesteading. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go out and buy a horse, cows, goats and fill acres with fences and animals. Back yard homesteading could be as simple as a few chickens and a nice garden for summer time vegetables. Homesteading is simply making the best use out of the land you have to use. If you have a small city plot, plant a garden in addition to flowers for an edible landscape design. If city ordinances allow, add a few chickens for a fresh supply of eggs. Despite a common misconception, you do not need a rooster to have fresh eggs. You only need a rooster if you want fertile eggs!

Chickens are an easy addition to the back yard homestead because they require very little maintenance. A clean source of water is a must and a constant supply of a healthy chicken crumble from your local feed store will have you enjoying fresh eggs in no time. A great benefit to chickens is the built in composting option. They LOVE table scraps, vegetable peels and cuttings and pretty much any food stuffs you’d normally throw away. In return they will give you fertilizer for your grass or garden. We coop our chickens at night and let them run free in the yard during the day. This does require fencing around any gardens, as I said, they do love fresh vegetables and you’ll find a patch full of half eaten cucumbers and the lettuce will be gone if you don’t lock them out. I clean out the chicken coop every month or so. I compost the straw bedding for the garden soil. We use five gallon buckets in a wooden rack that we built for nesting boxes. This keeps the skunks and racoons from stealing the eggs. The buckets are at a twenty degree tilt to keep the eggs from rolling out onto the ground.

Please comment with any questions and as always… Happy Homesteading!!!

Gardening With Straw Bales

Something to keep in mind when considering gardening with straw bales, make sure you purchase straw and not hay bales… hay will get too hot in the composting process and will kill your plants.

You can plant either seeds or plants in straw bales. I sowed seeds and transplanted from four inch pots last year, but before you begin, you must begin the composting process. I arranged the dry bales (much easier to move when dry!) in the configuration that worked for our back yard. You can either lay them down on the side (strings on the top and bottom) or strings on the sides with the cut straw facing top and bottom. If strings are on the sides, like in the photos, they tend to be a bit wobbly so secure them to each other or stake them into the ground with rebar. I neglected to do this and had a few bales fall over. Once the bales are arranged properly for your space, soak them thoroughly and sprinkle each bale with one cup of either ammonium sulfate or ammonium nitrate (though the latter is difficult to find since it’s been used for terrorism). Soak the bales again and let rest for one day. On day two, sprinkle one quarter cup of the fertilizer on each bale and soak thoroughly again. Repeat for eight more days. On day eleven, stop using the fertilizer and just soak the bales well for another ten days. On day twenty one from setup, you’re ready to test and see if the bales have cooked enough.

Now that the cooking process is complete, push your hand down into the bales and see if
Is it HOT inside the bale? Warm is ok, hot means it’s still cooking and you should wait a few days before planting. Just continue to water each day and test again.

Does it give enough (meaning is the straw still tight or has it composted enough) for you to get your hand inside the bale?

If the bale is no longer hot and if there is give for your hand… then you’re ready to plant!

What I do for seeds is work a couple of coffee cans of soil into the top of the bales and then poke the seeds into the soil based on planting depth. Once the seeds are in place you can lightly sprinkle soil on top of them and water carefully until they sprout. You can cover it with mulch if the spring temps are super high, but typically, as long as I keep it watered a few times a day to keep the seeds moist, they will sprout within a week. If you water too hard (high water pressure) your seeds will sprout from the ground around the bale, so be careful to soak the bales slowly as not to wash away your seeds.

Now for the transplants, I use a pointed shovel and stick it into the bale and then pry it back creating a gap in the bale, I pour in soil from the coffee can and water so the soil is moist or even muddy. I remove the shovel once there is enough soil to keep the gap open. I then make a hold for the plant and add a bit of soil on top to make sure the roots are well covered. Again, mulch is optional depending on the weather. Water the bales twice daily if there isn’t rain and add compost tea if they look faded at all. I have used miracle grow with great results but some look for an organic option and composting teas are wonderful and nutrient rich.

Happy Gardening!

Dealing with Mastitis

In addition to being a full time computer geek for a private college and being the technology side of Homesteader’s Supply, I have a small family farm which supplies me and my family with food for the year. Last year, I got my full dose (and more) of dealing with Mastitis in my two Jersey cows. I still don’t know what strain it was… I have a pretty good idea as to the cause and there are a few contributing factors… All I do know is that once it was there… I pretty much had to dry them up and treat them with both herbal and antibiotic remedies to get rid of it… and I’m thankful that this year has been mastits free!!!

“Mastitis is persistent and potentially fatal mammary gland infection, leading to high somatic cell counts and loss of milk production. Mastitis is recognized by a reddening and swelling of the infected quarter of the udder and the presence of whitish clots or pus in the milk. Treatment is possible with long-acting antibiotics but milk from such cows is not marketable until drug residues have left the cow’s system.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dairy_cattle

My girls, Cookie Cow and Mustang Sally both ended up with Mastitis last year. Cookie first and after a battle with a bad case of upper respiratory infection, Sally contracted it. Neither of my girls had the redness or too much pain. The flaking in the milk (whitish clots) is what caught my eye. Apparently this is the increased Somatic cell count – because testing with the California Mastitis Test kit revealed the presence of Mastitis. I used the CMT kit and the cards to check on the progress of healing the mastitis. It was NOT an easy task believe me. I lost most of Sally’s lactation to this nasty infection. The best remedy was a product called ‘Mastoblast’ – it’s herbal and doesn’t require giving your girl an injection. It cleared the mastitis up the best, but the mastitis came right back if you stopped using the product after the recommended 10 days. I also injected 30 cc of Penicillin G with Procaine once daily beneath the skin – not into the muscle. I did this to these poor girls for 5 days the first time – then after it reoccurred, I extended the injections to 7 days the second time… after BOTH series of shots the mastitis returned. I also bought the teat infusion products – Masticlear, Today, etc… I tried just treating the infected quarter for the recommended duration and then treated ALL four quarters for the recommended duration. Again the mastitis returned a few days after treatment. Feeling like a failure in beating this – I let the cows dry up and infused yet another teat product into the udder… this one was called Tomorrow and was a long acting antibiotic – not to be milked out. I treated both cows and allowed them to completely dry up.

This year we did experience some flaking after a particulary muddy monsoon season and what worked best was VITAMINS!!! Specifically, vitamin E (1,000 I.U. daily), vitamin C (6,000 mg daily) and a few capsuls of red raspberry leaves. If they had any flaking, this combo with some good ol’ molasses drizzled over their evening meal did the trick. All flaking was gone by the next day! By no means am I suggesting that antibotics don’t work and that testing isn’t needed. Last year could have been a very different strain than this years tiny flaking. I wouldn’t hesitate to use the Tomorrow dry cow treatment again because it did cure last year’s nasty infection. I also wouldn’t be without the CMT kit. I do encourage all dairy cow owners to be clean, clean clean when milking their cows. A few squirts of antibacterial soap on a clean wet cloth for washing, then a clean damp cloth for ‘rinsing’ and yet another for drying. It’s a bit more work than simply wiping off the teats, but this years lack of infections proves to me that clean is best.

Happy milking!!!!

Phase 1 of Straw Bale Gardening….

After much research, I am about to embark on gardening IN straw bales. One important step I’ve come to learn is that it’s best NOT to take shortcuts. Several people shared failure tales… simply soaking their bales with water for a few days before planting offered little nutrients to their plants and thus… little if nothing to harvest… they didn’t take the time to create a growing environment within the bale by adding the Ammonium Nitrate or compost teas to the bales for 10 days before planting.

To be perfectly honest, I won’t be adding Ammonium Nitrate either… I can’t find the stuff! So, instead of using the 30-0-0 power of Ammonium Nitrate… I’ll be using the 21-0-0 power of Ammonium Sulfate. I’m hoping it will produce the same result, which is to begin to ‘cook’ or ‘compost’ the bale. This allows the bale to ‘cook’ – or increase the temperature of the bale as it begins the process of decomposing. We definitely don’t want this process to begin once our plants are rooting in the bale. Temperatures during this process can hit 165 degrees and will damage, if not kill, your young little starters. I’ll be taking pictures this weekend as I lay out the garden of bales, sprinkle on the 1st cup of fertilizer and then soak with water. From what I’ve read, the first day we will sprinkle 1 cup of Ammonium Sulfate onto each bale… the next 9 days call for 1/4 cup each day before soaking. I also plan on taking beginning temperatures and keeping a log for the entire 10 days to see what kind of temperatures we obtain using the Sulfate as opposed to the Nitrate.

Stay tuned for more updates on the new garden!

Raw Milk… it’s not all the same!

I read a very amazing article today on raw milk. I’m copying it here and will link to the site at the end of the article. Paraphrasing just won’t do it justice! I am happy however, after reading the article… to announce – I HAVE JERSEY COWS!!!
“Conventional wisdom states that drinking milk causes an increase in phlegm. Scientists have generally dismissed the notion, though, since experiments do not seem to bear it out. In one study, researchers noted that even people who were inoculated with the common cold virus did not show any increase in symptoms when they drank milk.

But a new report suggests that those earlier studies suffered from a critical flaw: not all milk is the same.

Certain breeds of cows produce milk containing a protein called beta-CM-7. This protein can stimulate mucus glands in both your digestive- and respiratory tracts.

Milk containing the beta-CM-7 protein could therefore very well stimulate phlegm — particularly in people who suffer from chronic lung conditions.

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

“First of all, please understand that I do not recommend drinking pasteurized milk of any kind – ever. Because once milk has been pasteurized it’s more or less “dead,” and offers little in terms of real nutritional value to anyone, whether you show signs of intolerance to the milk or not.
Valuable enzymes are destroyed, vitamins (such as A, C, B6 and B12) are diminished, fragile milk proteins are radically transformed from health nurturing to unnatural amino acid configurations that can actually worsen your health. Finally the eradication of beneficial bacteria through the pasteurization process actually ends up promoting pathogens.
The healthy alternative to pasteurized milk is raw milk, which is an outstanding source of nutrients including beneficial bacteria such as lactobacillus acidophilus, vitamins and enzymes, and it is, in my estimation, one of the finest sources of calcium available.
Raw milk is generally not associated with the health problems linked to pasteurized milk, and even people who have been allergic to pasteurized milk for many years can typically tolerate and even thrive on raw milk.
However, some people may still experience problems, such as upper respiratory congestion, when drinking raw milk, and the difference between the breeds of cows the milk comes from appears to hold the answer.”

Different Cows = Different Milk

This is an issue you may never have heard of unless you’re familiar with the bovine industry, or have done a fair amount of research on milk. But there are actually distinct differences in the milk produced by various breeds of dairy cows.
So-called A1 cows are “newer” breeds that experienced a mutation of a particular amino acid some 5,000 years ago, whereas A2 cows are the older breeds that do not have this mutation.
As Thomas Cowan, MD, a founding board member of the Weston A. Price Foundation explains in his article Devil in the Milk, milk consists of three parts:

  • Butterfat,
  • Whey and
  • Milk solids

The milk solids consist of a variety of proteins, lactose and other sugars. One of these proteins is called beta-casein, and this is the protein of interest when comparing A1 and A2 milk.
All proteins are long chains of amino acids. Beta casein is a chain of 229 amino acids. A2 cows produce this protein with a proline at number 67, whereas A1 cows have a mutated proline amino acid, which converts it to histidine.
The proline in A2 milk has a strong bond to another small protein called BCM 7, which helps keep it from being released.
Histidine (the mutated protein), on the other hand, only weakly holds on to BCM 7, so it is liberated in the GI tract of animals and humans who drink A1 cow milk. Now, BCM7 is a powerful opiate that can have a very detrimental impact on your body.
As discussed in the article above, it is likely the cause of increased phlegm production in your digestive- and respiratory tract, which can worsen upper respiratory problems.
This confirms previous findings, discussed in Keith Woodford’s book Devil in the Milk: Illness, Health and the Politics of A1 and A2 Milk.
In it he writes that BCM 7 selectively binds to the epithelial cells in mucus membranes and stimulates mucus secretion.
But that’s not all. BCM7 has also been implicated in other far more serious health problems, such as:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Neurological impairment, including autism and schizophrenia
  • Impaired immune function
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Heart disease

For those of you who want to investigate this at greater depth, betacasein.net offers a comprehensive list of published scientific studies of the differences between A1 and A2 milk and their health ramifications.
You can also pick up a copy of Keith Woodford’s informative book, Devil in the Milk: Illness, Health and the Politics of A1 and A2 Milk.

The US Raises Mainly the “Wrong” Cows…

A1 cows include the black and white breeds like Holsteins and Friesians. Unfortunately, Holsteins are one of the most popular breeds in North America.
The older breeds, such as Jersey’s, Guernsey, Asian and African are primarily A2’s. Goats and sheep also produce the healthier A2 type milk.

“Our issue in America is that we have the wrong cows,” Dr. Cowan writes.
“When you take A1 cow milk away, and stimulate our own endorphins instead of the toxic opiate of BCM 7, some amazing health benefits ensue.
One saving grace, as expressed in The Devil in the Milk, is that the absorption of BCM 7 is much less in people with a healthy GI tract… BCM 7 is also not found in goat’s or sheep’s milk, so these types of milk might be better tolerated.
… We now have one more thing to put on our activism to-do list. Dr. Woodford explains that it is fairly straightforward to switch a herd to become an all A2 herd. No genetic engineering is needed, no fancy tests, just one simple test of the beta-casein and it can be done.
Hopefully, when this becomes widespread we will end up with a truly safe and healthy milk supply.”

Naturally, getting America’s dairy farmers to start switching breeds would require a massive campaign, but in the meantime, just being aware of this inherent difference between A1 and A2 milk can prove to be invaluable for many, especially if you have tried switching to raw milk and still experience problems with it.
You may simply be drinking milk from an A1 breed… Switching to milk from an A2 breed could make a significant difference.
This is also an important point for dairy farmers everywhere to at least consider, as A1 cattle may still not be producing the healthiest milk for human consumption, even when grass-fed.

How to Find Truly Healthy Milk

Depending on where you live, A2 milk may not be that hard to find. In fact, herds in much of Asia, Africa, and parts of Southern Europe still produce primarily A2 milk.
If you live in the United States, New Zealand, Australia or other areas of Europe, however, you’ll need to look a bit harder since the majority of cattle in these areas are A1 breeds.
As you know, I advocate getting your raw milk from a local dairy farmer that raises cattle organically, letting his livestock graze on fresh grasses. So to ensure the milk you’re getting is A2 milk — the type that has not been associated with illness and instead appears to have numerous health benefits – you’d just have to ask what kind of breed he raises. (Remember, A2 breeds include Jersey, Guernsey, Asian and African cows.)
Buying retail (in those states where raw milk sale is legal) would require just a little more work, since you’d have to get the contact information of the milk supplier and then call or write them to find out what breeds are used.
Fortunately, grass-fed, raw milk almost always comes from small dairy farms that do not co-mingle their milk with milk from other farms, so this makes ensuring you’re buying A2 milk quite a bit easier.
You can start you search for raw milk retailers in the US by going to the RealMilk web site.
http://www.organicpastures.com/ also has a store locator for California.
(You can use the following hyperlinks to find out the legal status of raw milk in the U.S. state or country where you live.)
Yet another option is raw goat- and sheep’s milk, as neither of them contains the harmful BCM-7.”

Article with photo can be seen here : http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/04/27/does-drinking-milk-cause-upperrespiratory-congestion.aspx