Monday, October 31, 2011

A Twenty-Four Hour Kefir Experiment: Part II

And the results are...

I think it worked!
After adding the grains my friend gave me to a pint of milk, I let the jar sit, covered, on the counter for 24 hours.  When time was up, I strained the milk and was left with these grains...which I can then add to more milk to make more kefir.  The only problem is that I'm not sure how many of these grains I need to add because apparently, they multiply.  So I stuck them in the fridge and will hopefully do some research tonight.

As for the taste...much milder than I thought it would be, and the kids seemed to like it.  I actually think I could grow accustomed to drinking it straight, and will see if Byron thinks it will work for his morning smoothies.

By the way, we Americans pronounce "kefir" as in Keefer Sutherland.  But my dad, who was raised in Egypt, apparently grew up drinking the stuff and pronounces it "keh - fear" with a short "e" in the first syllable.  The second, not first, syllable is accented.  Try saying it.  Sounds exotic, doesn't it?  I don't know about you, but it makes me feel bilingual.  Ooh, la la.

But in the end, I'll probably pronounce it "keefur" as in Sutherland.

Click here for Part I!

A Twenty-Four Hour Kefir Experiment: Part I

There's a science experiment going on in my kitchen.  Are you ready to watch it with me??

My friend, Katey, brought me a cool surprise at church yesterday - kefir grains!  Yes, I get excited about things like that because it's one more thing I can learn to make on my own, and it's another healthy food we can try out.  Kefir is a Middle Eastern drink that is similar to yogurt but loaded with probiotics - almost twice that of yogurt.  Probiotics are essential to digestive health, especially if you've been on antibiotics, which kill the bad bacteria that make you sick as well and the good bacteria that support your digestive tract.

I did make kefir once a few years ago, and I admit it's an acquired taste.  Katy said she's been using it in smoothies, and I've heard of others doing the same and will try that approach with my kids. 
You can see some of the clumpy kefir grains on the spoon.  Some were bigger, but I flaked on getting a snapshot of them before mixing them with the milk.

And apparently that's all you do - mix the grains with a pint of milk and let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours.  The milk has to be strained and the grains saved for the next batch...
I'm not sure of all the ins and outs of making kefir yet, but I'm excited to see if I can keep this going!  I'm going to check the results around 2:00 this afternoon, so be sure to check back! (Done!  Click here to read Part II.)  And if you have any kefir-making advice, do tell!

Click here to read about our first frost!

And be sure to check out the other blogs by clicking Homestead Revival's Barn Hop button below!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

First Frost

Last night we had our first frost here in the Southeast.  Before it melted and before I was fully awake, I snapped a few photos:
See the tiny bit of orange at the small chicken house?  That's Byron letting the Barred Rocks (and their man) out this morning.

We novices were concerned as to how the cows would fare during the sudden chill, but they seemed as content as usual today.
Knowing of the cold to come, we hoped to find the guineas alive this morning, since they still refuse to roost under shelter and have taken to nesting in this tree:
Happily, they were alive and well.
 We also had to dig into our stockpile and fire up the woodstove!

Since we don't want to deplete our wood before, um, Thanksgiving, we're glad it's supposed to warm up again this week.
With the cold weather upon us, however, we also have been collecting leaves to spread between the rows in the garden:
Our friend, Don, was kind enough to load up our truck with a few loads of leaves from his place last weekend.

And here they wait for me to spread...though the kids have been enjoying jumping in them!

Final harvest: I pulled up the last few basil plants and am drying them out in the barn.  I plan to save the seeds to start (hopefully successful) new plantings in the spring.
We are also planning on building a hoop house like this one for the chickens, and to serve as a greenhouse in the spring.  We'll also build a pole-structure shelter for the cows within the next month.  Then we'll retire indoors and start attacking the many renovations awaiting us inside!

How are you getting ready for winter?

Monday, October 17, 2011

You Might Be a Guinea If...

A few weeks ago we found a good deal on three guineas, and as they've been growing, it even appears that we managed to pick out one male and two females...just what we wanted.  However, these fowl, which originate from Africa, have proven quirky, to say the least.  So from our novice experience as guinea owners, we've found that you might be a guinea if...

1. You're so ugly that you're cute.
2. The size of your head is directly proportional to your I.Q. (Seriously. I think they might be the dumbest creatures on God's green earth.)
3. You successfully ingest the stink bug the neighbor brings over, then proceed to fertilize the front porch with it.
4.  You knock on the front and back doors with your beak.
5. You insist on roosting on the garden fence and must be caught and physically placed into the hen house every single night.
6. You chase my mom to her car.
7. You eventually get tired of being caught every single night and take matters into your own hands by roosting on the chimney.
8. You decorate said chimney to make it look like it's been TP'd.
9. You randomly make either cute chirping noises or loud death squawks.
10. You eat the Barred Rocks' food because they think you're their baby.

Do you have any experience raising guinea fowl?  Do yours act as bizarre as ours do?

I'm linking up to the Barn Hop!  Click below to read some fabulous blogs!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Chickens and The Golden Rule

Our chickens have had a few eventful weeks.  It began a couple Saturdays ago, when Byron called me on his way home from a Big Box Farm Supply Store.

Byron: I saw some guinea fowl for sale in the parking lot!
Me: Did you buy them???
Byron: No, they wanted too much for them.  Do you want to go try to talk them down?
Me: Not really. You're better at that than I am.
Byron: Well, I'm almost home.  If you feel like it after you run your errands, it might be worth a try.

Being that I couldn't resist the thought of having guineas on hand for squash bug season next year, I stopped by and easily haggled down to a more reasonable price (I don't enjoy haggling but enjoy paying full price even less).  When we arrived home, we put the three new guineas in with the Rhode Island Reds, who are about the same age (four months).  How did they like their new friends?  Not so much.

Pecking ensued.  Chasing the newcomers became a favorite pastime.  And then - after all these months - a hawk swooped down on the flock, sending the guinea trio flying over the electric fence and into the unknown.

We search.  We prayed.  And at dusk, the guineas reappeared by the electric fence, too upset and confused to know what to do.

The next day, we enacted Plan B.  Our older chickens - the five Barred Rocks and the Partridge Rock rooster - had their own little portable house.  We decided since the Rhode Island Reds were almost as big as the older chickens, we'd give their little house to the guineas and try to combine the two flocks of chickens.

Let's just say what goes around, comes around.

The older hens and their pretty boy rooster quickly took over the flock, which included pecking and not allowing the Rhode Island Reds to eat.  I put out an additional feeder, thinking the older chickens would keep to one feeder, and the Rhode Island Reds, to another.  And then the Barred Rocks employed the divide and conquer technique, successfully taking over both feeders.  Oh, the woes of farming!

So now we're back to Plan A.  The old Barred Rocks and their man are back in the small house and happily free-range around the yard, catching bugs and pooping on our front porch.  The guineas are back in with the Rhode Island Reds.  I don't think either are very happy with the arrangement, but the guineas easily fly over the electric fence and free-range around the yard, catching bugs and pooping on our front porch.  Oh, the joys of farming. 

So...have any of you chicken owners had a better time of combining flocks?

(By the way, we have a new computer!  But it's not set up yet...though I promise it's first on my to-do list today after baking, homeschooling, publishing this post, and preparing for tutoring tomorrow.  I love you all for bearing with me!)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What Do a Cow and a Tick Have in Common?

It's not a trick question.  Rather, it was my revelation of the week.  For those of you who don't know, I've been hounded by allergic reactions to beef for over a year now.  The onset was a mystery, and no matter how much research I did or how many people I asked, I have not been able to solve this rather inconvenient conundrum.

Until a few days ago.

A conversation with some friends led me to again do a Google search on beef allergies.  I had been thinking that for some odd reason, my usually healthy self had trouble producing the enzyme that digests red meat.  And then I read this article on a website called Allergic Living.  I encourage you to take a look, especially if you live in the South and have been bitten by a tick.  Here's the summary:

A Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills at the University of Virginia had a number of patients who were going into anaphylactic shock (which can be deadly) after eating red meat.  He had basically no explanation for the phenomenon, until he was bitten by a tick back in 2007.  Three months later, he woke up covered in hives after eating red meat for dinner.  Not so much fun, but a theory was born.

Sure enough, after asking patients who had developed the allergy if they had been bitten by a tick shortly before eating red meat, he discovered that they indeed had.  Every one.  Apparently, something in the tick - perhaps the saliva or another organism - reacts with a sugar in the meat, causing the production of an antibody, which then causes the allergic reaction.  Fascinating, but I have several questions that remain.

First, why me?  My husband has been bitten by ticks but has not (yet) developed a reaction.  My sister-in-law, who also had a reaction to red meat after being bitten by a tick, is A negative like me; we are wondering if there is a correlation.  Secondly, is there any supplement that I could take to counter this reaction?  And finally, how long does it take for the antibodies to work out of one's system?

A nurse friend of mine suggested keeping an epi pen and Benadryl on hand, which is wise.  As the last reaction I had involved cramps that rivalled labor pangs, I have no desire to experience that again and am wary that one of my children could develop a reaction.  I'd be curious to know if any of you have had a similar experience, or know anyone who has.