Swinging for the fences

The one part of our farming adventure at Innisfree on the Stillwater that has dogged us since the beginning is the fact that we have continued to lease our 100 acres of tillage ground, mostly for the sake of the … Continue reading

The one part of our farming adventure at Innisfree on the Stillwater that has dogged us since the beginning is the fact that we have continued to lease our 100 acres of tillage ground, mostly for the sake of the cash rent. Of course, that lease meant a compromise in the form the use of herbicides and pesticides on that ground every year, but the money was hard to turn down.

Taking back over that ground has always been a part of our plan, and with the upcoming end of the current lease, it has been a regular topic of conversation for us.

This year, as the result of the advent of glyphosate-resistant weeds, the ante got upped with the application of 2,4-D to the entire 100 acres, which fact proved to be a bridge too far for my wife and me. As a result, we’ve decided not to renew the lease and to start working that ground ourselves.

This is a significant step for us, mostly in that it involves a loss of about a third of the farm’s cash income over at least the next couple of years as we transition to new endeavors. Irrespective of the cost, we plan to follow through on this because it is the right thing to do.

Sure, maybe we’re radical and idealistic, but we actually want to leave our little part of planet earth better than we found it for future generations. And so, we will take that ground back over and farm it the way we believe is right.

For us, that means planting about 40 acres of it in grass hay and about another 30 acres of it in fast-growing hardwood trees we plan to sustainably lumber for a variety of farm uses, especially for fence posts for our animal operations. The remainder will function as both a prairie area and for small food plots.

This transition is going to be risky and stressful, but neither of us have any doubt it is the right thing to do. We firmly believe Innisfree represents the future of agriculture, and that fact alone makes what we have decided worth it.

Here’s to hoping and to swinging for the fences.

DLH

[UPDATE: Edited for content]

Fromage

I started making my own cheese about six months ago, and today, I waxed my first hard cheese to age. It is a farmhouse cheddar based on the recipe from the New England Cheese Supply Company.  This wheel will be ready about the middle of August if all goes well. What I’ve discovered so far … Continue reading Fromage

2015-06-13 11.13.45I started making my own cheese about six months ago, and today, I waxed my first hard cheese to age. It is a farmhouse cheddar based on the recipe from the New England Cheese Supply Company.  This wheel will be ready about the middle of August if all goes well.

What I’ve discovered so far is both how easy cheese making is and how tasty the results can be. I start with raw milk I get from our herd share. Most of the time, I make a simple queso blanco (recipe below), but now I am branching out into hard, aged cheeses, mostly because they last longer and spread the cheese making out some.

Innisfree Queso Blanco (adapted from a variety of sources)

  • Start with at least two gallons of whole milk.
    • If you’re using store bought milk and want a heavier cheese, add cream to achieve the desired consistency.
    • The more cream in the milk, the denser and wetter the cheese will be. I use the wholest milk for ricotta-like curds and the skimmedest milk for making a hardened grating cheese all based on this recipe.
  • Heat the milk to 185F.
    • Some people add salt at around 175F. I don’t and haven’t noticed a difference.
  • Add 1 cup of apple cider vinegar for roughly every two gallons.
    • I actually use three cups for four gallons of whole raw milk.
    • You can also use lemon juice or citric acid. The internet is full of ratios, but don’t be afraid to experiment.
  • Remove from the heat and let stand for 10-15 minutes to allow enough time for full curd separation.
  • Pour off the whey. Be careful, it is really hot!
  • Strain the curds through a cheese cloth in a colander until they stop dripping.
    • If you want wetter curds, let them drain less.
    • If you want dryer curds, squeeze the  cheese cloth lightly to remove excess moisture.
  • Pour the curds into a bowl and add around 1 tablespoon of salt per two gallons of milk.
    • I salt to taste, which can involve as many as four tablespoons for four gallons. My rule of thumb is just saltier than you think it should taste. It will mellow.
  • If you want to press your cheese, I recommend a small cheese form. I press it five pounds per side, flipping it once, then ten pounds per side, flipping it once.
  • Wet curds will last about a week in the fridge. Dry curds will last about ten days in the fridge. The pressed wheel lasts about a month in the fridge.
  • If you want a really, really dry, sharp cheese that is good for grating onto salads and things, used the skimmedest milk to make the cheese, press the curds into a wheel, let it continue to drain in the fridge for a few days, then continue to dry it by dusting the surface with salt and placing it in a bag until the cheese is the consistency of Parmesan.

Chick season

 

 

One of the side effects of free-ranged chickens is hens going broody and hatching chicks “in the wild”. This is a picture of our first hatching this year (sorry for the quality – I took this through the screen door), and the coolest thing is that these are second generation Innisfree-hatched birds – the hen was hatched from a nest here on the farm.

It’s very interesting to watch them grow – to our eyes, they grow slower than chicks we raise in the coop/controlled ranging. They are also are a lot smarter, but that stands to reason, considering that they are outside 24/7 and need to be aware of their surroundings all the time.

I know of 2 more hens that are setting nests right now – one is a White Rock (purchased), and the other is an Innisfree-hatched hen.

This morning’s surprise (for both me and the dog) was discovering another White Rock hen with 6 chicks in tow, standing outside the hen house. She may start taking the chicks in the hen house at night – that happened with one group last year.

Are there more hens setting? Most likely – when you have lots of tall grass and brush piles for cover, you will have nests!2015-05-25 13.56.32