Spring Brings New Life on the Farm

The signs of Spring on the farm just have a way of reminding me of new life.  New life can mean so many things.  Hope.  A Promise of the Future. Growth.  And Life Itself.

It is a reminder that there are cycles to life.  A season for all things.  I am not sure what season of life this post will find you, but stay encouraged.  Just as Spring bursts through with new life after the dormancy and darkness of Winter; so too, much of our personal growth and newness of life come after our greatest challenges, hurdles, and tough times.  For it is in the struggle that we realize our source of strength and will to overcome.

So wherever you are at today, be encouraged.  Spring and the new life that it represents are right around the corner.

Here are a few reminders from the farm!  Hope you enjoy.

10 Years of Provision

Today marks the 10 year anniversary of when our life entered the surreal.  On March 6, 2006, Gary was the target of a sting operation by Federal and State governmental agencies.  There was no basis for these attacks except for the utterly evil intentions and personal agenda of a few.  There was no criminal activity, no harm to the innocent, and no violations of any codes or laws.  After hundreds of hours of discovery, investigation, and trials, the truth surfaced.  Personal ambitions and desires of a few individuals were able to manipulate and use governmental agencies to bring our family under attack and persecution.  I know that this may sound harsh, but it is the very harshness of what we faced that threw us into the surreal.  Our trials became the basis for books to be written and the founding of the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund.  But at the end of the day when the agencies figured out that there were no basis for the charges being slated against us, we were the ones left with the fallout and ripple effects that we can still see the effects of 10 years later.

Intended For Good

I share this because there is a truly a greater story to tell.  You see – God never left us! Not for a moment.

We faced great adversity in those first days and months.  It would eventually bring about the loss of our home, the need to leave our community and church, lifelong health struggles for my husband, and scars and wounds that at times still feel as raw as when they were first inflicted.  However, we have never been homeless, we have never gone without food, we have NEVER, EVER been abandoned by our God.  Over the last 10 years, we have seen Him use circumstances, believers, and non-believers to provide for our every need.  At times of emotional struggles and fear, He brought peace through His Word and the moving of the Holy Spirit.

Yes, there were times when we doubted that our needs would be met.  There were days when the effects of illness and fears almost left us defeated.  There are scars that do honestly shape our decisions and affect the decisions of our children as they grow into adulthood.  There are days as a mom when the game of “What if?” could become all consuming. But beyond the legacy of still standing and surviving 10 years after such horrific times, I have the legacy of a godly and faithful mother.

For 8 years or more, my mother waged a physical battle against cancer.  I can not believe that she did not hate that disease and can only guess that at times it became an emotional and even spiritual battle as well.  However, I can not remember a time that she ever in the midst of that battle ever cursed her God.  This very thing is what has many times propelled me to chase after God more than anything else.

We have seen miracles at the hand of God that will not allow us to ever believe that He has abandoned us.  He has not always granted every wish or desire, but our needs have always been met.  His hand in taking what others intended for our harm has been used by Him to bring about good.  If nothing else ever comes of our trials, the reality that He has never abandoned us is sufficient.  It is a reassurance that carries us into the future.

I can not honestly say that I can openly praise Him and rejoice over the horrific events of March 6, 2006, and the months after.  My heart really wishes that those days were never written into the record of our lives.  But in looking back over the last 10 years, I can see His provisions.  The evidence of how He is using those events to shape our faith and develop areas in each of our lives through the refining fire is there.  For without the heat of the fire, it is impossible to remove the impurities.

Life is not easy, but we do not have to face it alone.  We have a great and mighty God that will take what others intend for harm and take it to accomplish His great plan in each of our lives.  May my children some day be able to propel themselves into the future in not remembering a day that I cursed my God.  For the evil that we may endure is never brought by the power of His hand.  It is, however, His hand that faithfully delivers us.

A New Shelter for the Ladies – Phase 1

As many of you are aware, our big project around the Double O Farms right now is the construction of a shelter for the cows.  The construction of this shelter will provide escape for the animals from the elements this winter.  Because it will be enclosed, the body heat from the cows will help to keep them warm as well as dry.

CowShelter Phase 1

The shelter is located just to the back of the milking facility.  This will enable us to keep the cows closer to the barn when the winter weather is extremely bad as well as closer to their water supply.  They enjoy climbing the hills in the pastures when we have rich green grasses in the Spring and Summer.  However, in the winter months when the hills are covered in snow and ice, it can become treacherous for them to find natural shelter in the tress and wooded areas of the farm.

This first phase of construction involved moving dirt so that the structure was built on a relatively flat area.  We needed to take into consideration drainage as well as the ability to be able to get into the shelter to keep it clean and sanitary when in use.  Following the leveling process, forms were constructed for the concrete work.  These concreted areas will be eventually be covered in hay or straw as bedding for the cows.  The concrete is key in being able to properly clean the floors for sanitary reasons.

We wish to thank those cowshare owners that are contributing to make this happen.  Winters are always hard on farm animals and the family that cares for them.  It is that much harder when we struggle to provide safety and warmth to them during exceptionally harsh weather. This shelter will help us to do both!

The Basics of Cheesemaking

After the New Year, it is sometimes a challenge to keep your spirits up on the farm.  The days are short, but filled with lots of work.  The temperatures are still cold and you find yourself dreaming of warm Springtime days and the sprouting of plants in the garden and greenhouse.  There are some transitional things we do during these months that sometimes get crowded out during the busier times.  When we have a little extra milk on hand, everyone loves the special blessing of homemade cheese.  We have come to learn to make some basic types of cheese with the dream of having a dedicated place to age a greater variety of cheeses in the coming years.  Some of our family’s favorites are mozzarella, ricotta, cottage cheese, and farmhouse cheddar.  Our special love however is a fresh Manchego.

Manchego cheese originated in Spain and gained its name from the fact that Manchego sheep’s milk was used to make this cheese.  It can be eaten as a “fresco” or fresh cheese with little aging or can be aged for 3 to 12 months.  The flavor of the cheese changes as the cheese ages.  Our family enjoys ours fresco as we are both lacking a facility to properly age cheese and are also anxious to enjoy it.

Cheesemaking Basics

The process of making cheese is very similar from one variety to another.  The differences in the flavors are largely attributable to the aging process, the type of milk used, and also any cultures or herbs added to the cheese.

Step by Step Cheesemaking

  1. The first step is to warm the milk.  It is generally brought to a temperature of around 86 degrees.  Warming the milk creates the environment that allows the milk to transform into cheese as we continue through the next steps.  The milk we are using is raw milk from our farm.  We prefer non-pasturized milk as it still contains all the rich microbes that not only make it wonderful for cheese making, but a live food.  The recipe we are making calls for 2 gallons of milk to be used.
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  2. After the milk is slowly brought to the desired temperature, we gradually add in the cultures that will be used for the variety being made as well as the rennet.  This is usually done in a staged process with the cultures being added first and then about 30 minutes later adding in the rennet.  The rennet will help the milk to begin changing into curds with the whey separated off.  Yes, you heard me right curds and whey.  Did you realize that Little Miss Moffit was actually eating cheese rather than some sort of porridge?
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  3. After the milk has set from the acting of the rennet, the curds will be cut and then gradually heated to about 104 degrees.  This heating is done so slowly that the goal is for the temperature to rise only 2 degrees every 5 minutes.  The slow heating allows for the proper amount of moisture to be maintained in the curds.  Throughout this time the curds are stirred every few minutes to prevent them from matting together.  After the desired temperature has been reached, the curds will be drained through cheesecloth.
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  4. The next step is to put the curds into a cheesepress.  The cheesepress will have varying amounts of pressure applied for different lengths of time to help the curds form into a block.  The length of time in the press as well as the amount of pressure applied will determine how dry the cheese will be.
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  5. A lot of cheeses will have different types of salt or herbs added to the curds before being put in the cheesepress.  There are times that our family will add herbs to the curds before pressing them.  However, the salting of manchego cheese is done by soaking the block of cheese in a salt water brine for 6 hours after it has come out of the press.  This part of the process must be done in a container or vessel that is not corrosive due to the strength of the brine.
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The result…

The final result of this process is a wonderful round of cheese as well as the whey that is a byproduct of making cheese.  This particular round of Manchego was left in its plain form.  Our family does enjoy adding different herbs to it for different flavors, such as garlic, horseradish, dill, and onion.  Manchego is a great all purpose cheese.  It melts well so can be used on grilled sandwiches and in recipes.  Its soft moist texture lends itself well for snacking.

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The whey is a wonderful protein rich liquid.  It can be added into smoothies for the additional protein.  We have also found it to be a wonderful replacement for milk or buttermilk in baking.  The texture and flavor of the baked good is out of this world.  An additional use of whey is in making cultured vegetables.  The culturing of vegetables adds probiotic content that helps to skyrocket their nutritional value.

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Much of what we have learned about cheesemaking has been learned through cookbooks and videos by Ricki Carroll.  Ricki is the owner of the New England Cheesemaking Company.  We find that they have great retail and wholesale pricing on cheese salt, rennet, and all types of cultures.  I encourage you to explore the world of cheesemaking.  It is important to remember that there is a lot of science behind cheesemaking, but it is also an art.  Artisan cheesemakers understand the science so that they can then use their own variations to come up with some of the most delicious varieties of cheese.

Don’t be afraid to give it a try!

Christmas Calves on the Farm

Big Debut

 

We are thrilled to announce the long awaited arrival of Noel and Gideon.  Noel is the daughter of Annabelle.  Gideon is the strapping young lad of Janie Lynn.  Both of these calves were born in the early morning hours on the pastures of the Double O Farms.  Noel is a second generation calf on the farm as we have raised her mother since she was born here.

Interesting Cow Facts:

  • Both Noel and Gideon are Jersey calves although their markings are distinct just as we are each unique in our features.  Noel has beautiful white markings that may or may not remain as she gets older.  In some instances, these markings will remain and at other times they disappear or fade over time.
  • Baby calves are born with a coating on their hooves that is worn off in the first few days.  The purpose of this coating is largely to protect their mothers from injury while kicking before they are born.
  • Cows have a very similar gestational cycle as human beings.  The mothers are pregnant on average of 277-283 days, but this does vary with each pregnancy.
  • The mothers can be milked through their pregnancy.  However, it is important to their health that they are allowed to go dry during the last trimester.  As a cow proceeds through her pregnancy, nutrients consumed are first given to the baby she is carrying, then to any milk that is being produced, and then to her own body.  As the calf is rapidly growing during that last trimester, it is important that any remaining nutrients go to the mother’s body.  It is for this reason that we allow our cows to “rest” for three months before calving.
  • Once born, the calves will receive colostrum from their mothers for about 3-5 days until their milk fully comes in and then will consume milk for another couple of months before weaning.  As they begin to wean, additional nutrients are obtained from grasses that they eat on the farm’s pastures.

The arrival of these little ones is truly a blessed event as we provide milk for our family and others in our community.  We are excited to report that both babies and mommas are doing well and are quite thankful that the weather has been mild in the last few days allowing them to really get off to a good start. Join us in welcoming both Noel and Gideon to the farm!

A Sassy Start to Spring

We got teased a bit last week by significantly warmer temperatures to only have them drop down once again. The resignation set in that Spring is just not here yet, but we know it is right around the corner.

Spring seems to bring hope. Most significantly, I am reminded of the hope of our Salvation as we look forward to Easter and the celebration of our Risen Savior. As farmers, we are excited and rejuvenated by green pastures and freshly tilled soil for our gardens. As people, we find similar hope in all signs of new life.

We were blessed this week with the arrival of Sassy!
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She is the daughter of Marie. Both mom and baby are doing wonderfully. Because the temperatures dropped this week while the ground was still soft with thick mud, we made the decision to move Sassy into the barn where she could cuddle in the barn under warm fresh hay and be heated by heat lamps as needed during the brisk temperatures of the night. She continues to receive colostrum from her mama, which will be followed by her mother’s milk until she is old enough to be weaned and join the other “teenage” calves in the pasture.  Sassy has earned her name through her opinionated personality and the spring in her step.

We feel so blessed to have this first sign of Spring to be able to share with you. We would love to hear back from you about how the beginnings of Spring are showing where you are.

Got Milk? – Retake from the Double O Farms

I am not sure that real milk has the power to take down a sniper or burglar.  However, it does wonderful things for your body with its nutrient dense composition.  For more info on the health benefits of real milk, visit the Real Milk website.

For more information on our fight to save our farm and ability to continue serving families wholesome food, please visit our homepage and consider your role in being a part of holding onto America’s heritage.

Disclaimer: The source of all donations made to the farm will be maintained until the land is purchased.  If the purchase of the farm can not be made for whatever reason, all funds in this trust account will be returned to the donors. May God bless you!

 

Random 5 on Friday – June 7

It seems like we are right in the middle of transitioning from our more formal school year to summer. There hasn’t been a real clean break this year and many things are overlapping with each other. Feeling excitement building as we see some things about to take off on the horizon.

Here are our Random 5 thoughts related to the excitement:

  1. Our first batch of soap for the summer has just finished curing and is ready for use.  We have a limited quantity, but it will be growing in availability as well as the different varieties we will be offering.  This first batch is always a big hit.  We call it Mosquito Run.  Scented with essential oils, it acts as a natural bug repellent without all of the chemicals and toxins of most commercial bug repellent products.  Just shower and go!
  2. IMAG0243We have found a wonderful fit between our oldest daughter and an opportunity for her to volunteer at our local library.  She has thoroughly enjoyed the work and the people.  Her dad and I love this stepping stone in her preparations for her first job away from the farm and also the responsibility of getting her driver’s license.
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  3. Yesterday was a glimpse of excitement into our upcoming school year.  I had the opportunity to go with friends to a local curriculum consignment sale and hit the jackpot.  A little over $300 of curriculum of things we specifically needed for core subjects for next year for half the price.  Some of the items actually look brand new.  What a blessing!
  4. We had the opportunity to review an art curriculum recently that the whole family tried out.  Our youngest has really taken to it.  He has decided to start putting a lot of time into his paintings and then sell them as part of our #5 Random thought that comes next.
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  5. Our exciting #5 for this week is that we are getting ready to launch a huge campaign to raise the rest of the funds needed to purchase the land that is currently being leased for our farm to operate on.  A small part of the property can be seen in the picture.  Our ability to purchase this land will allow us to continue our family business, help to preserve a piece of what America really stands for in our long agriculture history, and be a victory in the fight for our rights to feed our families the way we feel is best.  If you would like to help us with this effort, please visit our homepage at www.doubleofarmsky.com.

One of the original structures on the farm.  The history can be seen in its construction and repairs.

Blessings to each of you.  May we all be faithful not to greatness, riches, and astounding accomplishments, but simply to what each of us is called to one day at a time.

For some additional thoughts on how another family’s joy in gardening is being shared, check out Miranda’s Random 5 for Friday at The Pebble Pond.

What’s In Your Food – Is it Possible to Even Know

Baby-Milk-MoustacheDuring this past fall, a bill was defeated in California that would require GMO labelling on foods. This would help consumers to really know the nutritional and engineered components in their food supply. Unfortunately, this bill was defeated as a result of pressure from the Monsanto and large agribusinesses. My question is this, “If they are so confident in the inability of these modifications to cause harm to the human body, why are they so afraid to label their products for what they are?”

The other element that most consumers are not aware of is the non-labelling of certain additives to foods. If a chemical is below an acceptable percentage of the overall net weight of a food or is considered to be an industry standard, it is not required to be disclosed on the product label. For example, this holds true for the food grade antifreeze that is put into almost every commercial grade ice cream.

Aspartame is already a listed ingredient on the labels of yogurt, some milks, eggnog, whipping cream, and other dairy products. The Dairy Industry is now petitioning the FDA to remove the requirement for them to have to actually put this information on the product labels. I find this to be absolutely incredible as Aspartame as already been identified as a potentially dangerous excitotoxin on the neurological system of humans. For those that want more information on the dangers of Aspartame and other excitotoxins, I encourage you to check out Russell Blalock’s book Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kill.

For more information on this move by the Dairy Industry to further adulterate milk and other dairy products, I encourage you to read Natural News’ article, U.S. dairy industry petitions FDA to approve aspartame as hidden, unlabeled  additive in milk, yogurt, eggnog and cream.

For more information about local sources of Real Milk visit www.realmilk.com.

 

 

 

 

New Calf on the Farm

I don’t have any pictures quite yet, but wanted to send out the news that Betty had a very big bouncing bull calf this evening. Both she and the baby are doing well. We will try to have some pictures posted tomorrow, but wanted to give everyone a heads up on helping us come up with a good name.

Our current bull is Bunyon. We also have Paris and Turner who were both born this past fall. This is a picture of Paris when he was just a baby.

Welcome, Paris, to the Double O Farms!!
Welcome, Paris, to the Double O Farms!!

Please leave your name suggestions in the comments and we will have our official birth announcement published in a upcoming blog post soon!