Making Butter

Recently I have had several people ask me how to make butter. So, today when I made butter, I chronicled the process with pictures. Hopefully, I will be able to also give detailed instructions about the process.

The following picture shows the cream in the churn. Personally, I do not like my cream to sit out and sour before I make butter, as I like sweet butter. I allow the cream to sit out long enough to take the chill off of it, and this causes the butter to come quicker than churning extremely cold cream. I have an electric butter churn that Mike bought for me at an antique store. However, one can also use a mixer or even put the cream in a jar and shake it. The butter seperates from the milk by agitation.

The next picture shows the butter beginning to seperate. It splashes a lot at this stage, so if you are using a mixer, you would want to cover it with a towel. The churn I have is a three gallon churn and I have filled it half full with cream to churn butter, however any more than half is too much. The cream will actually whip up to twice it's original size before turning into butter.

I use the following as a simple set up to seperate the butter from the milk after it has been churned. The strainer has a close weave, and I put it in the stainless steel bowl so that I can save the milk for cooking, to make cottage cheese, or to feed to the chickens. (Culture can be added to this milk to make cultured buttermilk, as well.)

This next picture is a great example of the butter seperated and sitting on top of the milk. This is what it will look like when the butter is ready.

After straining off the milk, you are left with the butter.

And here is the left-over milk with bits of butter that slipped through the strainer.

It is very important to rinse your butter very well to get out all the milk. If the milk is left in the butter, it will cause it to sour quickly.

After rinsing thoroughly, you salt the butter to taste. I then roll the butter into balls that are approximately 1/4 pound each.
The biggest problems I have encountered in making butter would be not rinsing enough or trying to make the butter when it was too hot in the house. When it is hot, the butter tends to be too soft to handle. When this happens, I place the butter in the strainer in the refrigerator long enough for it to start setting up, but take it out before it gets completely hard, so that I can shape it into balls. When I make the balls, I slightly squeeze to get out as much of the liquid as possible.



Hunter is what I consider a rescue dog. I did not get him from a shelter or through a rescue organization. I actually was searching for a registered male to breed to my sweet girl, Hope, when I came across an advertisement for him. After talking to the breeder, Mike and I made a very long trip to Southwest Virginia to purchase him. When we got there, I could not believe my eyes! There were literally hundreds of Dachshunds.........wire haired, smooth, long hair, miniatures and standards. The place turned my stomache. It was not that it was dirty or that the dogs were not cared for properly. In fact, I recently looked up the web site to the kennel and found that they are inspected frequently by AKC. It was the sheer enormity of the operation that made me sick. The fact that all of these adult breeding dogs could never be loved and handled. They could never know what it is like to have a family that loves them and gives them personal attention. I wanted to turn and run, but I couldn't because there looking at me with an expression I had never seen before, was a nine month old miniature Dachshund that had been passed over. I knew at his age, he probably would never find a home, and I wondered about his fate. He was handsome...........perfect in conformation and a very popular red color. Having owned only rescue dogs, before Dachshunds became my passion, I knew that he would come with a host of issues. I also knew that by purchasing him, I was saving only one and the breeders would take the money I gave them and continue their operation. There was no way I could walk away from him.

Hunter had never even been outside and he was nine months old. Everything was new to him and he was scared. Mostly he needed and longed for human touch and affection but would cower when I went to touch him. It was heartbreaking. I named him Hunter, with the desire that someday he would live up to his name, and run the fields of our farm hunting and enjoying being a dog.

Hunter will ever be "normal". Take the simple act of walking through the door to go outside. Most days, it is a real ordeal. He loves to be outside, but something about going through the door intimidates him. Many times I have to pick him up and place him through the doorway. It's funny but he doesn't have any trouble coming back inside through the doorway. He also will run to his crate when he feels scared. He does not like to be separated from Hope.
On the positive side, he doesn't tremble constantly anymore and he LOVES to run in the fields and hunt! When he is in the fields, he forgets that he was once confined for nine months without access to the outdoors and he runs so fast that his feet hardly touch the ground! Hunter does not like to feel hot pavement, cold or wet on his feet, so when he runs, a lot of times he will run on three legs! It doesn't slow him down to run on three legs! He still runs unbelievably fast!
Hunter is always gentle and loving with the pups. He will "mother" them, just like Hope. In fact, at times you will see her resting and Hunter taking care of the pups.
Not everyone is able to deal with the issues that come with a rescue dog, but those who are able and take in a rescue dog have my respect and admiration. For those who choose to purchase pups, my desire is that they learn to choose a responsible breeder. A responsible breeder is someone who has the dog's best interest at heart, loves the pups, handles them and gives them the kind of start they deserve before placing them in the best homes possible while promoting the best qualities of the breed.
(Note: Picture of Hunter relaxing in peace with Hope and puppy looking on.)


Goodbye to Dudley

Cute little Dudley went to his new home today. I always hate to see the babies go, as I enjoy them so much! Dudley is just a classic and I am going to miss him. He is the first bull calf to stay within the area, though. So, at least I will be able to see him from time to time.

It's hard to believe that the spring babies have all gone and now it is almost time for the fall babies to be born. Dixie and Butter will have standard Jersey calves born in the next couple of months. I believe Butter will have hers in a couple of weeks by the way she looks. Maya is bred for a mid-October calf and her baby will be half miniature Jersey. It will be interesting to see how big (or small) her baby is! Keeping fingers crossed for heifer calves this time around!

(Note: Picture of Dudley at three months old. Dam is Mayfield. Sire is Breyer.)

Obsessive ~ Homestead Style

Cooking from scratch is an obsession for me. I am not sure when I began to have the mind set that things must be from scratch. It just seems that I have always been that way. Perhaps I am genetically predispositioned to be obsessive about food, considering I come from a long line of women who knew what they were doing in the kitchen!

Growing and producing our own food is not only a more healthy way of living, but has also provided me with the quality ingredients that I would not be able to find if we did not have it all right here on the farm. For instance, I never bought real butter from the grocery store as we consumed the cheapest margarine spread that I could find on sale. Now because of the dairy cows we own, I make my own butter. The milk also provides me the means to have real whipped cream on a whim, or cottage cheese as much as I please! I also love experimenting with making hard cheese, sour cream, yogurt and icecream.

I would say that cooking from scratch is probably one of the most basic homestead skills. My obsession with getting back to the basics is even deeper than just producing food from scratch. I tend to have a deep desire to know and understsand how to live life as it was lived in simpler times. I guess that is why living in Alaska and experiencing first hand life without running water or automatic heat was such an adventure for me. I wanted to truly understand not only HOW individuals lived life with fewer frills, but I also wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.
Whether it's learning to make soap, sewing a quilt, braiding a rug, preserving food or a host of other homestead skills, I have the need to know and conquer. The intensity of this need is as undaunted as the spirit of one who successfully climbs Mt. Everest. Where this desire originated, I have not a clue.
I must admit, there are times now that I am no longer in my twenties, that I wish it would subside just long enough for me to grab a frozen dinner and pop it in the microwave and take a break from all the work! Ah, but then instead of enjoying the luxury of not standing over the stove for hours, I would be fixating on how I could make my own pre-packaged frozen dinners from scratch!
(Note: Picture of rolls and cinnamon buns made from my own cultured buttermilk, butter, blueberry jam and deviled eggs from my free range hens.)


You never know what you will find on the Internet!

I was searching the internet when I came across the following link to an article I wrote for Countryside Magazine. I had no idea it was posted on the internet. For those who have not read it before, I hope you find it entertaining. After reading it again, I definitely feel it is not my best piece of writing, but I think you will see the passion there for the Miniature Jersey!



Origin of Food

The origin of real food is a mystery to most. I am always amazed to hear statements from individuals who don't have a clue regarding home grown vegetables, free range eggs, and farm raised meat.
Take eggs for instance. When I had an abundance of eggs and tried to give them away, I was told that one individual didn't like eggs from chickens, she liked to get her eggs from the store.
On the flip side, there was the time I posted signs that said "Free Range Eggs" and had a flurry of customers stopping by the farm to pick up their "free" eggs!
At the produce stand, we have had to give detailed instructions about preparing the most simple of vegetables. It seems that if the vegetables do not come in a can, people don't know what to do with them. Making products from milk such as butter and cheese has become a lost art.
The more intimately involved I have become in producing real food, the more I have realized that there is a need to educate the general public as to it's origin. People are so far removed from the farm, these days, that educating them about the origin of their food has become as much a part of my day as actually growing and selling the eggs, meat, and vegetables.
Farmers a century ago would have never dreamed that society would become so far removed from the source of their food. I wonder where all the farmers will be a century from now?


Family Reunions

Summer is the time for family reunions. With my husband's family, this pretty much means a family reunion every weekend from July through the end of August! I have never seen anyone attend so many reunions as the Cupp family! Today we went to Briery Branch, Virginia to attend the Cupp reunion. This was the 74th Cupp reunion held at Briery Branch Church of the Brethren. There are a few people there that we know (immediate family members) and many people that we only see once a year when we go to the reunion. The high point of the day is always the trip to the reunion in my father-in-law's 1931 model A. We always take the back roads and chug along at a slow pace observing the scenery along the way. It's fun to watch people's reaction to the old car. Almost everyone waves without exception and they smile involuntarily. Children, teens, adults and elderly...............it makes no difference. Seeing the car just brings a neighborly wave from those we meet, as if we were transported back to a time when everyone had time to stop and speak to each other.
(Note: Pictures of Mike and I taken with the Model A. We had the food strapped on the back of the car.)


Animal Games

Our animals play games. They play games with their own kind, but they even reach outside their comfort zone and play games with species other than their own. For instance, the rooster pictured above loves to play games with our Corgi, Sadie. The goal of the game is to be the one to finish off the dog food that is in the bowl. It goes like this on most days:

Rooster wakes up at the crack of dawn and begins crowing. Even though Sadie has an elaborate dog house, she usually sleeps right by the gate of her dog yard where she can keep close watch on her domain. I go out early morning and let Sadie out of her pen, and then I proceed to the chicken house to let the hens and rooster outside for the day. Rooster is one of three and the other two roosters don't really like him around. Rooster always leaves the chicken yard quickly and begins to scope out Sadie's house. If Sadie is not around her house, he will nonchalantly make his way to the designated spot, stopping to eat a bug or two along the way or scratch through a cow pie. These antics I am sure are designed to throw off the unsuspecting observor. Once he makes it to Sadie's house, he hops up on her porch (yes, Sadie has a porch) and begins to eat her food. At this point, I can't help myself, and the fun begins. I say, "Sadie, Rooster is eating you breakfast!" Sadie runs growling and barking and Rooster begins running and flapping his wings! They will go around the dog yard several times before Rooster makes his way through the gate and out into the field where she continues to chase him for a while just for good measure.

However, the game does not end there. On occasion I put Sadie in her pen and shut the gate. Rooster is smart and knows that Sadie can no longer reach him. So, Rooster will make his way nonchalantly to Sadie's place once again. This time, he begins to walk slowly around the perimeter of her fence, strutting and flapping and looking proud as only a rooster can do! Sadie remains by her gate and just watches him. Sometimes he will tease and torment her for hours. She does not bark at him, but watches him closely. When I release Sadie from her pen, she comes running out with all four feet practically off the ground, barking and growling and Rooster heads for the lower field!

There is not a day that goes by that Rooster and Sadie don't play games together.


More of the same

The last few days have been very routine. I milk in the morning and milk in the evening and between milkings I process vegetables from the garden. I have been putting up more tomatoes and peaches and a few lima beans as well. I have been so exhausted by the time I sit down late evening that I have not even posted on my blog for the last couple of days.
Dudley finally has stopped bawling all the time for his momma, but it has taken longer than most of the calves I have weaned. He would not drink the milk I gave him and he ate very little grain. He is just mostly eating hay as there is not any grass for grazing because of the lack of rain we have been having. He was not happy being locked up in the barn, so I had to move Butter and Dixie to the pasture with the other cows (so that Dudley would not nurse on them) and put him in with the two young heifers. He at least seems to like this arrangement better than being by himself in the barn.


Weaning Dudley Part 2 (Sub-titled: Mayfield's Revenge)

As you know, yesterday I started weaning Dudley. For the last 36 hours, Dudley has bawled. Dudley refuses to eat any food in front of me, so I leave his hay, grain and bucket of milk for him to eat alone. This afternoon, I went in to check on him and as soon as I opened the door, he stopped bawling. He looked at me and started chewing his cud. (Cattle chew their cud in front of humans when they feel comfortable.) I stood there and watched him chew his cud for a few minutes and then I went out. I could hear him begin to knock his buckets around the stall, definitely very upset with me for not letting him out to get some milk from his momma!

Momma was not in a good mood either. This morning when we milked her, she would not let down. A cow is very capable of holding their milk for their baby. Although it was obvious that she still had a lot of milk, she would not let it down. For two months since she calved, Mayfield has been coming into the stanchion, eating her grain, letting us milk her and then politely leaving the milking area before doing her business. Since yesterday morning, when I took Dudley off of her, she has been showing her disapproval by holding up her milk, and right before leaving the milking area, pooping all over the place. I have been coming in from milking with splattered pooh up the back of my legs, all over my clothes and even in my hair! I have no doubt that she plans this out and waits for me to relax my guard and lean way up underneath of her to reach her back left quarter before she lets go with a sloppy plop!

(Note: Picture of hummingbird taken late evening.)


Weaning Dudley

Mayfield did not have any milk this morning because Dudley, her two month old calf, is taking it all! Dudley is going to a new home in about three weeks and it's time for him to learn to live apart from Momma. So, I separated mother and son and they are neither one very happy about it. Dudley can't figure out why his milk is coming served in a bucket instead of from his mother's teats!


Where did my kitchen go?

I have lost my kitchen. My kitchen is neat, clean and orderly, but I can't find it. I also can't remember when I lost it! Neither can I remember WHERE I lost it! Perhaps somewhere under the mountains of peaches that have found their way into my home. (Mike didn't want us to run out!) Or it could be beneath the corn, tomatoes and other produce that set on my counter waiting to be used. Maybe under the egg cartons and glass jars that I collect for storing my free range eggs and fresh Jersey milk? Or perhaps I can find it when I begin to put away the clean dishes in the drainer and dish washer? Did I lose it yesterday when I made four pounds of butter from the cream I had been collecting? The stainless bowls sitting on the counter with milk waiting to be turned to cottage cheese might hold a clue!

I have a feeling that when the weather turns cooler and the garden begins to fade that I MIGHT be able to find it again...............................but then again, maybe not. I think I remember misplacing my immaculate kitchen last fall when I began making cheese during the cooler weather! Perhaps, I will never find it again!

(Note: Smokey was the male puppy in the litter born to Hunter and Hope in May 2008. His new family was kind enough to share this cute photo with me.)


Making Peach Ice Cream

My recipe for making homemade peach ice cream:

Start a week in advance by visiting orchards to see their peaches and ask about prices.

Two days in advance, decide on an orchard and call them to haggle about their prices.

One day in advance, spend half a day going to the orchard to purchase peaches. (Buy 12 bushels)

12 hours in advance, milk Jersey family cows, strain milk, pour into glass jars, clean milker and refrigerate milk.

30 minutes in advance, go through bushel of peaches and pick out the ripest ones.

Peel and slice peaches.

Take peelings down to chickens to eat.

Next, pour cream off top of milk that has been placed in refrigerator. Take small amount of milk and heat. Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar to warm milk and mix until disolved.

Gather ice cream maker parts that are scattered from last time you made ice cream. Find some parts in the closet in a box, other parts in the kitchen dish drainer, and find the bucket outside from the last time you dumped the ice and salt on the cracks in the drive way.

Pour warm sugar milk and cream in stainless tube of ice cream maker. Add peaches that have been slight mashed. Add a few more just for good measure. Shake a bit of salt in the mix. Pour a tad of real Madagascar Vanilla in as well. Add more milk to fill line on stainless tube. Insert paddle and add lid. Put entire contraption into bucket and put motor on top. Plug ice cream maker into electrical outlet.

Remove ice bin from freezer and place ice in machine about 1/3 of the way up the bucket. Add a cup of salt. Add more ice. Realize you are out of salt and run to the barn to get stock salt to finish the job. Finish layering ice and salt. Allow ice cream maker to run for 20 minutes or so until ice cream becomes thick and motor stops. Motor stops and it has only been five minutes. Shake ice cream freezer vigorously to dislodge ice. Ice cream freezer begins running again and continues without any more delays.

When motor stops, unplug machine, remove tube from bucket, take lid off of tube, remove paddle, and dump ice cream into containers. Place containers in freezer. Lick all ice cream off paddle. Scrape all ice cream out of tube and eat that too. Wash all washable pieces of machine and leave in dish drainer. Set bucket outside door so that you can dump the salt and ice on the cracks in the side walk..............

Now it's time to milk again. After that, there are more peaches to peel.........

(It's almost 10 pm. I think I will have a bowl of that icecream now!)


Why didn't I take my camera?

Today was full of photo opportunities and I didn't have my camera with me! I could just kick myself for leaving it at home. We went to Dayton (about 30 miles from home) to pick up twelve bushels of peaches. (Some for us, some to sell and some for other family members.) Dayton is home to a large community of old order Mennonites. It was unreal the difference between that area and home. They have had rain and a great growing season. We went down a country road and the corn was so high on both sides that it was like being in a jungle. The Mennonite farms are always neat and picture perfect. We stopped by the produce auction in Dayton as well. The produce was gorgeous and the little Mennonite children were adorable. I didn't mean to stare, but I couldn't keep my eyes off of them. The girls were in their little dresses and bonnets with bare feet. The boys had on their straw hats and they also had bare feet.

This afternoon the vet came out and I had him do a reproductive exam on the two heifers that I got a couple of months ago. I also had them Bangs vaccinated, and TB and Brucellosis tested. I had all of the cows TB and Brucellosis tested as well. It was a hot day to be handling the cows, but I sure am glad to have it done. They all did pretty well. Nelly is very strong and she gave me a little trouble, but after I got her into the stanchion, she was very content.


No Rain

I wonder if anyone thinks about the weather more than a farmer?

When we go to church on Sunday, after the service, all the farmer's stand around and talk.

"You dry at your place?" one asks.

"Burnt up" is the reply.

"Have you had any rain this week?"

"No" or "Not enough to measure" is the answer.

The conversation then proceeds to how there is not hay to cut and no grass to mow

The conversations continue during the week at the grocery store, gas station, produce stand, wherever one farmer meets another.

The dry weather saps our strength and our spirits.

My cows, although well fed, are restless. They are craving the green grass. They want to be able to graze, but there is nothing for them to graze on. When I feed them, they are irritable and push at each other.
The chickens hide out all day away from the sun. They gather around my feet when I go out, hoping for a hand out, so that they don't have to range around and search for food.
The dogs run across the black top on three legs, holding one in the air in a curious "hop and run" dance, to keep their little paws off the pavement.
The corn has shrivled up. The garden just won't produce.

But there is always something to refresh our spirits if we just look for it. Most of the time, for me, it is my animals.

I had brought my cows in to lock them up so that they could be vet checked today, but the vet had an emergency and was not able to make it to our house. So, I sat and watched the girls eating their hay with which I had enticed them. These are my new girls and only one of them was friendly when I got them. I sat on top of the gate, and as the cows finished eating, one by one, they came up and smelled me. (It's a cow thing.) I was able to rub them all and scratch their ears. And Butter Cupp, whom I could not even touch a few weeks ago gave me a cow kiss! Now for those of you who don't know what a cow kiss is, I will explain. Cow's in a herd will groom each other by using their tongues to lick the sides, ears, face, etc. of another cow. You see mother's doing this to their babies, as well as cattle in a herd grooming each other. When the cows begin accepting a human as one of them, they will often lick you. That is a "cow kiss"! So, Butter gave me the sweetest kiss and I was able to touch her sides and feel her baby moving inside of her. Dixie allowed me to do the same with her. I love to feel those babies moving around and I love cow kisses!

(Note: Picture of dry yard. It has been weeks since we have mowed grass.)


Mini Vacation

When you have cows to milk, and eggs to gather, and chickens to feed, and dogs to tend to, it's hard to get away for a vacation.

Since we are in a drought and did not have enough produce to keep the stand open on Saturday, Mike and I decided to take the day off and go have some fun. We did a lot of driving on some back country roads and saw some beautiful old houses established in the 1700's. We also stopped at three different orchards. We bought some yellow plums..............a first for me. These plums are the best plums I have ever eaten! Delicious! We went to several different antique stores and had dinner out. We had such a lovely time that we decided to do it again Sunday! This time we headed to Bedford, went out to eat, and went to several antique stores in the area. A year and a half, or maybe two years ago while in the Bedford area we stopped in a wonderful store where, not only were we able to find some great treasures, but we also met the friendliest and kindest people in the owner's. When we are in the area, we like to drop in to Taylor's and see what new items they have and just spend time visiting with them. The butter dish pictured is one I found at their place today. I was thrilled to find it, as I have been wanting one like it for quite a while. Ithink it is perfect for displaying my fresh butter balls!

(Note: Picture of butter dish purchased at Taylor's and latest updated picture of Male Corgi.)


Edy won't let me sleep!

Edy, my brindle, bovine, beauty evidently is also the world's smartest cow! We were not able to open the produce stand today. Due to the drought we just did not have the produce available to sell. So, Mike and I decided to rest and relax today. I did not set my alarm to wake me, as I thought it would not hurt the cows if I was a few minutes late milking them. I am usually clanging things in the kitchen around 6:30 am, and Edy patiently waits with a knowing look on her face while she listens to the sounds I am making that signify milking time is near. Evidently when I was not up and making noise in the kitchen at the appropriate time this morning, she decided to take matters upon herself. Normally, we sleep in our bedroom upstairs that has a window facing the barn area. There have been occasions when I was late and Edy would stand outside the window and bawl for me. However, because of the heat, we have been sleeping downstairs in a bedroom towards the front of the house. There is no way I could have heard her bawling for me to milk her from the back of the house. Being the smart cow that she is, she came around to the front of the house, climbed up the bank, stood just feet away from the front door and bawled for me to get up. The sound of her bawling was much more efficient than any alarm clock. When I got up and began my morning routine of getting the milker ready, She calmly made her away around to the back of the house and waited for me to arrive.

(Note: Picture of milking shed that Mike made for me out of a box trailer. I love it and evidently, the cows do too!)