Sunday Homestead Update – First Taste of Aged Cheese

Chickens

The chicks are all doing well and growing so fast.  Adorable!

Sheep

I got Fergus’ fleece skirted and in the mill to be made into yarn by Mtn Man.  Looking forward to this yarn!

Maggie surprised us.  She is one of the younger ewes, the only one that hadn’t come into heat and been bred this year.  We figured it was late enough in breeding season that she would not be mature in time and not get bred this year.  We were wrong.  She got bred and is due June 10.  We have quite the spread of due dates this year, which will make for a long birthing season.  Our first one is due the first week of April, with another two in April (3 total), and then two due in May, and one in June.  I am happy for all the pregnancies, but it is going to be quite spread out.

Maggie

Cheese

Our first ever aged cheese came out of the cheese cave this week!

Speaking of the cheese cave, I forgot to update you about that.  We got a 2-stage outlet thermostat and plugged the cheese cave refrigerator into it.  We couldn’t get the fridge to hold a temperature higher than 46 before, which is a little low for a cheese cave.  It was also only holding about a 75% humidity.  Now that it is plugged into the thermostat it is holding temp around 52-55 degrees, and the temp being higher helped the humidity come up and it is sitting around 85%.  So we are happy about that little gadget.  The fridge plugs into the thermostat, and then there is a cord that hangs down into the refrigerator.

Now, back to our cheeses.  The two colby rounds that we made came out this week.  They aged for 6 weeks.  The first one we made some mistakes during the making of the cheese and thus decided to make a second the next day and compare the difference.  Surprisingly, the differences were very minimal except that the first one had a much stronger flavor, and it also had some mold, whereas the second didn’t have any mold.

I think the first aged faster, thus the flavor difference.  I think it might have had to do with a mistake we made during waxing (and the mold would be explained by that mistake too).  While holding it over the double boiler to wax it we didn’t realize that the steam was hitting one side of the cheese, thus moisturizing that side thoroughly.  We waxed it anyway and I think that is what caused the mold and potentially made it age faster – because it was wetter.

Both cheeses had a softer inner texture than we expected.  The outer texture was solid and seemed right.  Not sure what would cause that.

Overall, we are very happy with the results and are very much looking forward to seeing how the cheddar we made turns out too.  But that still has several more weeks to age.

 

Shearing Time 2020 – Fergus

We haven’t quite started shearing season yet, but since we had to kill Fergus early, and we sheared him before we butchered him to save his fleece, we are ready to share about that fleece already.

He was only at 8 months of growth, instead of his usual 12 months, so the fleece was shorter, and weighed less than last year because of that.  Nonetheless, it was a beautiful fleece with good length for spinning to yarn in the mill.  The shearing went really smoothly, because he was already deceased at the time, so there were not many second cuts and I had very little skirting work ahead of me.

His fleece was a lot cleaner this year, since he was jacketed the full growth of it.  That also helped my skirting job be so much easier this year than last.  The colors seemed to contrast each other more this year too – the dark grey seemed a lot darker and the silver a lot lighter.  I think this has to do with being jacketed as well, his fleece at skirting last year was dirtier and thus the silver didn’t look as light until after washing.

Fergus was a Merino x BFL with a tiny bit of CVM.  His fleece has a mix of dark, medium, and light shades of grey.  It is a very soft, medium to long fleece with very organized crimp.  It is also light on grease, which makes it easier to get clean.

Generally, long wool fleece grow a lot faster and are thus longer, but are usually a rougher texture and not suitable for clothing items that are directly on your skin because of the itch factor.  Short wool fleece are generally finer and softer, making them not have the itch factor.  But they grow slower and so the staple length is shorter and can make it a lot harder to spin them into yarn.  And they can be very heavy with grease, making them take more effort to clean.  So we have been cross-breeding our sheep long wool to short wool to try to get a nice length but still have the fine softness as well.  Fergus was a perfect example of what we are trying for.  His fleece turned out just how we were hoping when we bred his mom, Fiona, who is a Merino with a little bit of CVM (short wool breeds) with a BFL (longwool breed) ram.

This year, Fergus’ raw skirted fleece weighed 3.9 lbs.

Being that this will be our last ever Fergus fleece, Mtn Man and I are feeling some pressure about making the yarn just perfect.  I LOVE using Fergus’ yarn, and never sell it because I want to use it myself.  I will share with you once we have decided and have finished his yarn.

Another beautiful fleece, sadly the last from Fergus.

Chick Growth Pictures: Hatch – 1 week

Many years ago, for the kids science, we took pictures of them holding the same chick each week as the chicks grew to see the growth that chicks do from birth to 6 weeks of age.  I posted the pics on my blog.  The kids were younger and my photography skills were not so great, but the posts have always been very popular on my blog.  Now Young Man loves photography and has agreed to help me do it again, but with even better photos.  I will update the posts each week with the next photos.

24 hours old

1 week old

 

24 hours old

1 week old

 

24 hours old

1 week old

Sunday Homestead Update – Cheep, Cheep, Cheep

It has been an uneventful week as far as the homestead goes because we have been busy dealing with illnesses and other non-homesteading related life.  But we do have adorable chicken news…

Chickens

The chicks in the incubator started hatching a day early – on Monday.  Hatching continued into Tuesday and Wednesday.  We had 10 hatch out of the 18 eggs that were still alive on lock down.  There was a high rate of late death, I think it had to do with the incubator malfunctioning.  I am glad we got the 10 we got and that they are all alive still 5 days later.

We had lined up our hatch with the arrival of our order of 20 chicks from the hatchery.  Unfortunately, the hatchery made a mistake and somehow printed a shipping label, but never sent our chicks.  Very frustrating.  I really only wanted to do one brooding this year because we have so much else going on.  So we decided to just take a refund instead of having them ship out chicks a different week.  I guess these ten little chicks, plus whatever we can brood under hens will be it for this year, unless we find another opportunity for an incubation later this year.  For now, we are just going to raise these ten chicks.

Chick Growth Pictures: 24 Hours Old

Many years ago, for the kids science, we took pictures of them holding the same chick each week as the chicks grew to see the growth that chicks do from birth to 6 weeks of age.  I posted the pics on my blog.  The kids were younger and my photography skills were not so great, but the posts have always been very popular on my blog.  Now Young Man loves photography and has agreed to help me do it again, but with even better photos.  We hatched out this week, so here we go!  I will update the posts each week with the next photos.

These chicks are right around 24 hours old:

We are taking the photos from farther away because we want to be able to really see the size difference well as we go along.  But I couldn’t resist some close ups too, because, well, chicks are so darn cute!