Monday, May 24, 2010

Centrifugal Force

When I was little there was a ride at Six Flags that absolutely enthralled me. From the outside it looked like a very large rain barrel, people size. I, and about 30 other tourists, would walk in and dutifully place our backs against the wall lining the perimeter of the thing. Shortly the attendant would flip the switch and it would begin to spin very fast, and then the floor would drop. Everyone appeared to be suspended in the air with their butts plastered to the wall, feet all in a perfect circular line with the floor about eighteen inches below. I guess the first question is why (if she really loved me) would my mom allow a six year old to do this? The second question is why did Six Flags allow a six year old to do this? That ride hasn't been there in a long time.

What does this have to do with Gooneybush Farm? Well, it's the cream separator. The kids bought this for me for Christmas. It was quite a generous gift, and it's very similar to the ride that I have described. There is a machine on the bottom, several well engineered parts in the middle and a bowl on top. We pour the milk in the top and this amazing piece of engineering spins the fat globules in the milk until they separate outward and downward. The cream flows out of the upper spout and the "fat free" milk through the lower one. I don't mind telling you that I have put my mouth directly over that spout. I washed it afterward...the spout I mean.

Only about 1/10th of the contents that go in come out as cream. That's God's economy, and milk is idea for baby food. [breastfeeding moms that I have worked with at the hospital will recognize this little anecdote.] A human infant's brain will grow three inches in the first six months of life. It won't grow another three inches until they reach their teens. That, my friends, is why milk has so much fat. Our brains are made mostly of fat, and they require a lot of it early in life.

We aren't really supposed to take the fat out..we just get away with it. You eat too much of the stuff and you will look like a very tall baby, thighs and all. However, God likes us to enjoy his goodies and he gave someone the brains to come up with a machine to do the job. Why else would he make the fat rise to the top of the milk? Why would he send berries at the same time of year that the goats and cows are starting freshly to make milk? To dip the berries in the cream of course! If you don't believe me watch this.

So why the separator? Goat's milk is naturally homogenized. It will rise a little over a long period of time, but you won't get much. This cream separator is a centrifuge of sorts. It can spin all of those little fat globules out to where I can catch 'em. Here is the final product. The cream comes out liquid enough, but after a few hours in the refrigerator it is the consistency of marshmallow fluff. One teaspoon in a cup of tea with honey is pure rapture. I can't wait to make ice cream and all of the other goodies with it this summer. If you see an adult size baby on the street, that's me.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Gooneybush Spring 2010

Everyone has been so patient. However, this weekend I heard two complaints about my absence from the blogosphere. Here I am -let's resume.

Oh my. Where do I start after such a long absence?

(this is spring in a nutshell)....You might want to use the bathroom and get something to drink before you start.

Gus and BoPeep (our Great Pyrenees livestock guardians) gave us six puppies. It was not to be - two were dead at birth and two died in the first twenty four hours. The two remaining were a male and a female. *Note* You will not find a cuter thing on this earth than a Great Pyrenees puppy, it is like having a polar bear cub in your back yard. Incidentally the little boy is still for sale. Our little girl went to her new home as part of a goat dairy starter pack. The McPherson family members are the proud owners of one milking goat named Tuesday, one yearling goat named Opus....and the puppy, who is to be named Bonnie. What a good feeling it was to know that they are all going to their new home together, proud ambassadors of the Gooneybush Farm. Here Bonnie is pictured with her new mom. Notice the "going home bow" in her hair. We wish you very happy milking, McPherson family, may these wonderful girls bring you long years of productivity and love.

Mabelle, the perfect bovine, gave us an amazing bull calf this past March. This is the cow family saying hello on the morning of his birth. We weren't exactly sure of when she had been "serviced" or when to expect her offspring. I was looking out the window as I did the dishes and saw something beside her on the hill. I, of course, accused the girls of leaving their toys in the pasture. Chloe looked and said "We didn't leave anything out there. Whatever it is she is licking it!"

Mabelle comes to the milking stall when she is called, and this is a wonder to me. This being my first cow milking experience, I have been thrilled with how easily she has assumed all of her new duties. Here's the bottom line...she could trample me in a heartbeat, but she doesn't seem to know that. I am the bringer of good things to eat, and she loves me. This is her milking stall of which I am particularly proud. I built it myself because carpentry is my true calling. Some women quilt when they retire. I am going to build wooden things like bookcases, cabinets, garden sheds and the like. I will probably need a younger person to steady my hand with the power tools but I will be happy and satisfied. I digress. Still, building things is like giving birth...the sense of empowerment afterward is fantastic.

Now I am waiting to amass a lump of cash to buy a milking machine for Mabelle and myself. I have seven goats to milk who have only two teats each. Mabelle has four teets, which from below, looks like a pink Gatling gun. It is not natural to milk a cow because we only have two hands. So, I need a machine. I know, I'm a wimp.

You might want to shield your eyes from the cuteness... it's blinding. Here is one of our newest additions. He is adorable, and I can't stop kissing his little face, but shoot fire, I needed my Guernsey mamas to give me girls...they gave me five boys! Here are Taffetta Stumphollo, her three sons and Chloe in the barn for an afternoon nap. The Saanen mamas gave us five does and three bucklings. The yard is full again wtih bouncing baby goats, which are a pure pleasure to behold.

We have a garden. It is flourishing under my benign neglect. It is better that I touch the plants as little as possible as I appear to sweat something like Roundup. For the last month I have been killing seedlings with little more than a look. I had the magic in April, but in May I am lethal. What gives? So far we have corn, potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, onions, cantaloupe, watermelon, squash varieties and okra growing wildly. I installed the drip irrigation system and I am practically giddy about it. I really think that it is the reason for the growth so far. I know what a "long row to hoe" is now. Here is a shot of the tilling that took place to prepare for the building of the raised beds. I laid over 300 bricks in one week to create five raised beds of approximately 30 feet in length. I know the guys at Home Depot are glad that I'm done...I just about wore them out loading bricks into the back of my truck. Now the garden looks like this, all nice and green. The garden plot that I chose had been the area where the wonders of the horses' stalls had been deposited over the last decade. I just took that yummy stuff and shoveled it into the places where I wanted the beds. The lie of the beds is also stopping some of the water flow into the barn. We needed that.

We have made application for a license to sell raw milk for pets. It is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption in Georgia, and it is absolutely amazing how many folks pay top dollar to buy it for their pets! Anyway, we are eager to make this next step toward fulfilling our farm goals. Now all we need are customers.

And we have a new road. Earlier this year our neighbors, whose road we have used since moving here in 2006, notified us that they were no longer going to allow public use of the road due to wear and the cost of upkeep. So we are now the proud owners of a new road called "Gooneybush Way," which is unofficial of course. The road stretches the entire length of the property and means that we must open and shut two gates when coming and going. I actually enjoy the routine a great deal - when it's not raining. This is yet one more reason to keep feeding the younger children - they make great gate attendants.

After several years of debate we finally gave in and purchased a tractor. Our pasture helper, Carroll Puckett, sold us his. Mr. Puckett is a local treasure. He told us recently that he was born in a log cabin in Oconee County. His home has been preserved in the Heritage Park of Oconee County. You can see his name, and the names of his siblings, which were carved in the wood of their house by their father when they were born. His family came to Jackson county in 1944 by wagon and a team of mules. Mr. Puckett is genuine. After we had finished our deal, and counted the cash money twice, he turned to me and said "Now, I end every deal with a handshake. Don't mean much anymore, but I'm kindy 'ol fashion." I have never enjoyed a handshake more...and it meant a great deal.

We purchased the bush hog yesterday. Now we are anxious and ready to cut the pasture. The Gooneybush men are enjoying their new toy immensely. There is something in a male that does not mature after age four when the passion for trucks comes. Thank Heaven they get over the dinosaur phase.

We finally sent the fall '08 beef calves to freezer camp. They yielded 454 1lb bricks of ground beef! We sold 200# in very short order and are left with enough for the family and the grown young'uns for the whole year, a profitable and pleasurable outcome indeed. We paid $20 each for the calves from a local dairy (they don't need boys there) and they ate nothing but the grass f0r 18 months and never required any vet care. This was practically O capitol investment. In addition, the larger one "serviced" Mabelle and left a lovely son in his wake. *Sigh* If everything could be so golden.

I took three classes this semester and so far I have two A's and a B. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I started this new venture (typical) but it was hairy, to say the least. I have the next two months off of school which is very much needed.

In recent news, I was hospitalized with a ruptured ovarian cyst, and then suffered a second one a couple of weeks later. Don't try this at home. It was right up there with the most painful experiences of my life (broken leg of '07, childbirth, kidney stones and scratched cornea.) Thank goodness for great ER physicians and controlled substances. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Better now, thank you for the prayers.

George's dad visited with us in May. His presence gave us a convenient excuse to overeat and stay up late. His memory is tremendously sharp, and we all enjoyed stepping into the past with him through his stories. We enjoyed two wonderful Sundays with the whole family together. Here's to next years visit Papa.

Now that they are getting ready to depart for the summer, (I'm late as usual) I should introduce you to Daniel and Katy Countiss. This is them, or, these are they (?). They have been living with us since the first of March. Here is their house-bus on the outside, and on the inside. Daniel is responsible for any improvement in the farm that has been made. He has fenced, hung gates, laid flooring (we don't have a stitch of carpeting in the house anymore YEAH!!!), built in the barn, designed rain drainage off of the barn roof, repaired the house roof, built the deck and on and on. Most significantly he has built Nic's tiny house.

Daniels's adorable bride Katy is a craftswoman extraordinaire and all around smart girl. She makes the most beautiful clay creations and has been generous enough to share a few pieces with us. I now have a favorite cereal bowl and two handless mugs. The girls are cherishing their handmade necklaces and will wear them until I make them take them off. You should see Katy's clay buttons. I have enjoyed her as my barn companion this spring. She keeps me company, endures my passionate farm plans and makes the work seem light.

The Countiss couple is off to adventures across this beautiful country with their final destination being Alaska for the summer. I type this in green as it is the color of my envy when I think about the adventures that they are about to have. I'm not sure they will ever understand how much their skills have improved the quality of our lives here, how much we cherish their friendship and admire who they are and the way that they live their lives. Daniel and Katy we love you....have a beautiful summer - but, get back to the Gooneybush Farm as soon as you can.

Nic's cabin is complete with only small details left. A huge thank you to Daniel and Todd Burquist for bringing it to reality. Nic's cabin has electricity now. The family of birds has finally vacated their nest built which they built on top of the junket box for the living room light. We are dusting and staining this week. When Daniel and Katy return the kitchen will be completed, the trim installed and the yard that the dogs can leave my house =).

Chloe completed her first year at the Athens Master's Academy of Fine Arts. Her year culminated in an afternoon of drama presentations about ancient history. Next year she is on the the Renaissance. Hanna-Jo completed her second year in the Georgia Children's Chorus. They gave three spring performances and sang some great songs this season like "Grandma's Featherbed," "Country Road," and many others.

Joseph and Joni celebrated their first wedding anniversary May 2nd. We have enjoyed ruminating on last year's wedding and how wonderful it was. How fast can a year go?! The happy couple spent their anniversary weekend celebrating in Charleston. They were, unfortunately, rear-ended by a fellow traveler, and their adorable care was totaled. *A pause and moment of silence for the loss of little black Echo* But now there is room for little red Echo (she is a sporty little stick shift.) Here's to many more anniversaries.

Ethan is nearing another certification exam and working. Nic and Jon are busy at Martha Shannon's Veterinary clinic and in school. These three are planning a cruise to Cozumel in August. I may have to book passage just to keep an eye on things.

George is enduring the sweeping changes at the post office and helping me keep it all together. He has only a couple of classes to go in order to finish his masters degree in pastoral theology.

O.K., enough already. More soon.