Sunday, August 23, 2015

sheep milk & butter

I heard a bold and also quite debatable statement recently and at the farmer's market of all places. And it challenged me.  Now those of us who have livestock even the the dairy type, are naturally going to think their animals are the best on the earth. Of course we all do, we believe in what we are raising and doing. We are passionate about that and so it just comes out as we sing the praises of our herds and flocks. But what I heard wasn't just praise, it felt like a very misunderstood concept.
Now I'm not going to say anything about who this person was or what all was said but the gist of it was, goat milk is higher in fat than most milks including sheep and so the products made with goats milk would also then be higher in fat. And it was said to me. 
Now everyone who knows me well, knows I have both sheep and goats. And that I milk them both daily. Now I most definitely don't know everything but I do have some book knowledge about the 2 and their differences and maybe even more importantly, I also have it hands on. I do make a variety of cheeses and drink both milks on a daily basis. And at all different times. For instance, straight from the udder, a few days in the fridge and 2 weeks in the fridge and all times in between. Milk changes. As we all know, milk will not taste the same a couple of months later in the fridge as it did the day we put it in the there. Lots of variables in milk and many factors and the milk changes. Feed, where in lactation the girl in milk is at - beginning, middle or near the end. So many things to consider when talking about milk. And that's not even getting into the taste or the solids. 
About the butterfat, I do know it varies between the breeds of goats and my breed of goats are on the lower end of the butterfat list. But without a fancy chemistry test I also know first hand that a larger quantity of milk a lactating animal produces, the lower the fat in that milk. And most often the smaller the quantity, the higher the fat. In general, sheep produce less milk than a goat and definitely a cow. Lambs grow at a high rate of speed, if y'all follow our farm on Facebook during lambing season, y'all also watch first hand how rapidly the lambs grow in such a short amount of time. That my friends, is butterfat. Most sheep generally lactate a smaller quantity of milk and so the the nutrition is naturally in concentrate form to keep up with the lambs. Many lambs are ready for weaning at just about a month of age. If they go on nursing past this point, you will find lambs to continue growing rapidly. By the time our lambs are 3-4 months of age, if they're still drinking their mother's milk, the lambs are nearly full grown. That kind of growth takes an incredible amount of nutrition and fat. Our goats in no way can keep up with that level of growth. Which does not mean I don't love my goats and think they're the best goats in the world..because of course I do! But I also know that sheep milk speaks for itself and someone can make as many claims as they'd like but the facts look me in the face each and every day and that simply can't be argued with. 
All milk rocks but sheep milk, it hits the over the fence, home run.

This morn I whipped up a batch of sheep milk butter for a pan of friend apples. Here's my butter tutorial and this time I'm starting from the finish line to the beginning so scroll on down to the bottom and work your way up. Cheers to fresh milk folks!

The end.
When the butter begins to melt, that's my favorite part!

Adding the butter to my skillet of apples.

From less than a half gallon of sheep milk, I got almost a 1/2 cup of butter and a full cup of buttermilk and I still left a little cream in my milk. If I wasn't planning to be using the butter right away, I would rinse the butter in ice cold water as I squeezed out as much liquid as I could from the butter with my spatula. I would do so several times. It chills the butter quickly and removing as much liquid from the butter will preserve it longer in the refrigerator. But if I plan to use the butter immediately, I skip that step. The buttermilk and remaining butter will be going into tonight's cornbread supper and the milk goes back into the fridge - still tasty, it just lost a little fat.

Getting creamy.

I set a strainer on top of a pyrex measuring cup and pour the entire mixer's contents into a strainer. The butter milk runs through the strainer into the pyrex as I take a small spatula and squeeze out the excess milk out of the butter which really creams it up.

Once I see plainly the butter and milk separation which almost resembles cottage cheese, we're ready for the next step.

You can see here the milk is now thick and taking form, we're almost done.

As it mixes and blends, you will see the milk changing. The butter is beginning to separate.

Once you scoop as much cream off the top of the milk as you can, begin mixing it on a regular blend setting.

I prefer using older milk that has been sitting in the refrigerator for awhile, which allows the cream to collect at the top of the container. And it needs to not be homogenized so there is a cream layer at the top, this is why fresh milk is important. If you don't have access to fresh milk you can also just easily use regular pasteurized heavy cream from the store. But regular pasteurized/homogenized milk from the store will not do because the cream has already been removed. The milk I used here was 10 days old, perfect for me. Ladling the cream off the top and into a mini processor. A blender works beautifully too, I just don't have own one. So a mini processor it is.

Monday, August 3, 2015


So this will be a post like none I've ever posted before. Rarely do I blog of my children - who are now nearly 21, 18 and 14. The 2 oldest I consider grown, even though most of the time they still live at home here on the farm. I am one of those mothers that is guilty of hoovering. I mother 24/7, I don't believe I even know how to turn it off. I don't care how old they get, I will always be involved in their lives. I have always talked deeply and honestly with my kiddos. It has always been of high importance in our home. And so this time, I will not post about the farm and its critters and not even really about my kiddos. Not only will this post be photo less but it will also be super personal because even though I will speak of them, it is in whole and transparently about me.

I grew up pretty conservative Mennonite. Homemade dresses without a lot of fancy embellishments because simple and plain was heavily stressed. For all the rest was considered worldly and the church we were in at the time taught heavily about being separated from the world, in every way. From the very beginning of my life, I remember sitting countless hours on old wooden church pews between my siblings. I am almost certain that every time the church doors were open, our family was there. I'm a middle child, born smack between 3 brothers and 1 sister. My sister and I were the closest in age, I was the younger. She did all the things girly older sisters tend to, sew, cook and from my perspective she was mom's shadow. Mercy how I hated all those inside things. And being the spirited little sassy woman that I was, I made it known as much as I could get by with. So most of the time, my chores were the outside ones. Tending to the garden which always seemed like a thousand acre field to me as a youngster. And caring for the chickens, the cows when we had them, pigs, horses, dogs and cats. At times we had turkeys, at times we had rabbits. I believe most of the livestock animals my dad raised while I was growing up was raised for food - in one way or the other. Until I was about 13 and my dad got my sister and I a couple of horses. To have livestock animals I knew I could get attached to that would not end up on the dinner table at any given moment is a time in my childhood that stands out vividly and beautifully in my mind. I adored my dad for that.

I was told often I was rebellious and outspoken and without a doubt for the environment I was growing up in, I definitely was! But there were also many things I did not speak up about..things that seemed intrusive, repetitive, suppressed and sometimes in my young mind, wrong. Times were different then too. Anything said or thought that wasn't exactly the perspective of everyone else wasn't exactly allowed. And it was punishable. And I think I had a million thoughts that all seemed to be different. Now this is not at all a slam against the way my family parented, they did what they knew how. For this was too, how they grew up. This was our normal and that was ok. But me, I was just different.

By age 17, I was engaged. To a boy that was not accepted in our church, or my family. And at 18, I married that boy. A year later we had a baby boy of our own. And from that day on, I wanted to raise my children differently. Before the internet, before I ever heard of support groups. I set out to do some of the opposite of my upbringing. I am proud of my Mennonite heritage, so incredibly honored to have the parents I did, blessed in more ways than I can even begin to write down. All of it has made me who I am. But still I longed for a different style of life for my own family and that young boy I married became my anchor for change.

Throughout my kid's childhood, I found out that fulfilling those desires of change wasn't going to be as easy as I thought it would be. But anything worth doing rarely is. We attended quite a few different churches and denominations through the years that our children were growing up in. I desired for them to be cultured and not just religious. I wanted for them to be able to freely make choices of what they wanted to wear, of how they wanted to cut their hair and if the girls wanted to wear blue eye shadow or blue jeans they would freely be able to choose that. I wanted them to be able to dance, to listen to whatever music they liked, to sing loudly and even off key, I wanted them to be friends with whomever they chose, to be real, to be free to change and most of all, to sincerely be whoever they are. To just be themselves. Individuals. By teaching them that, I felt I was also teaching them to respect others as individuals too. Regardless of any and all differences.

Now looking back, if I have not succeeded at anything else in my life. I have at least succeeded at that.

Our oldest daughter who has always, always been a strong willed free spirit is openly in a gay relationship. This brilliant, beautiful 18 year old girl with the world at her finger tips has a girlfriend. This will likely feel like a bomb going off for many who know us. So shocking to family members and to some friends in our lives too. And by some of these, our daughter has been and will be set apart and judged. An instant sad, disappointment this beautiful soul now is to some people that she has known and loved dearly her entire life. But this part of the post will not be about all of that. Or about morality or immorality and however to whomever that conclusion has been made. This is merely about me. A mother. A daughter, a sister and an aunt, a cousin, a niece and a friend. All the people that I am and the one thing that has so heavily been laid on my heart through this journey mothering our children is how people treat each other. Strong intentions are rapidly handed out. Negative feelings affecting all involved - the giver, the receiver and all the bystanders. Which tends to spread like a wildfire. Under the microscope we put each other and the gossip, slander and hatred is fueled. Divided we fall and at an unmeasurable cost. To a mother, I see our oldest daughter and I think wow, she is amazing. The strength and courage she possesses is astounding, her faith and her immediate family ground her, she works so hard and is fiercely competitive in her duties. She loves without blinders, she cares and is kind when others do not and are not. I see a flamboyant, vibrant woman being exactly who she is

I suppose it looks like my journey in this part of life may be just beginning but certainly this is one thing that young, independent and sassy little girl was being prepared for all those years ago. So the beginning or the end it is not. Now rising above the muck isn't always done gracefully especially when a child is involved. There have admittingly been many frustrated, angry, terrified and unbelievably quiet moments on this journey for me and I'm sure there will be more to come. But more often then not, I am reminded what an incredible gift life is and how grateful I am for every mile on the journey of it. It truly does make us who we are and never are we through being molded into an amazing, individual piece of artwork. Freely and lovingly I was created and freely and lovingly I will live.

PS. This little blog covers a lot of territory and is read by thousands. Life is too short for anything other than compassion so if you feel led to post a comment please do so compassionately - icky comments will be swiftly and kindly deleted.