Friday, May 11, 2012

Hawaiian Hawks

There are very few native birds left in Hawaii anymore (at least on this island) - mainly due to the introduction of more aggressive birds species, mongoose, dogs, and cats, as well as loss of habitat.  
Lucky for us though, the farm is home to a pair of Hawaiian hawks, an endangered species that only breeds on this island.  Their numbers are estimated at 2000-3000.   
This pair has nested in one of the mac nut trees every spring for several years; they raise one chick per year.  There are two color phases - you can see both in the photos.
But the most noticeable feature is the sounds they make - I think they sound like eagles on helium! 

 (gnawing on a turkey leg)

 (remains of Mrs. Turkey in the background)

The Newest Cheese

I've been having a lot of fun in the cheese making room lately - at 55 gallons per day, there's finally enough milk for experimentation.  Dick and I decided that I should attempt to create a mold-ripened goat cheese, maybe a camembert or a French-style goat cheese.  Mauna Kea Mist was my happy first experiment - a chevre pyramid bloomed with Penicillium and Geotricum molds, aged just 10 days.
I was shocked at how they turned out!  Pretty close to perfect - dense and creamy in the middle, a bit gooey under the rind, tangy and mushroomy and a bit spicy - I hope all my "experiments" turn out this good!

The curd was scooped into pyramid molds, then drained overnight.

 The pyramids were salted, then transferred to the aging fridge.

Less than a week later, the cheeses began to "bloom".

And after 10 days of aging, we broke into the first one.

Wish you could taste it!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Hunting Hawaii - Part II: Waipio Valley

Another unsuccessful hunt - this time for pigs - but a hunt that turned into a fantastic adventure nonetheless.  
(FYI: My plan was to hunt the Kohala Forest Preserve bordering Waipio Valley.  When I realized that the weather was not in our favor for pig hunting, we decided to hike around Waipio instead.  I did not hunt Waipio Valley.)

Our initial early-morning glimpse of the valley as we started down the infamous Waipio Valley road.  Four-wheel drive only...

 1,200 feet of water, cascading into the valley. 

Waipio was once home to the largest population of Hawaiians prior to Western contact.  Now just a couple hundred people live here, living off the land and for many, rarely coming out of the valley.  Why would they?  Water is channeled into fish ponds, taro patches, and watercress pools.  An amazing array of fruit grows unprompted - coconuts, mangoes, guava, papaya, breadfruit, coffee, and more.  And the wild pigs here are supposedly the plumpest of the island.  But I don't envy their mosquito problem!

That's a papaya tree on the right. 

 A hillside of impatiens.

The lower trail meanders along the far edge of the valley.

After finally making it to the black sand beach, we headed towards the cliff.  Waimanu Valley lies beyond.

Crossing the river with a loaded pack on my back and a shotgun in my hands was no easy feat.  Those pesky algae-covered rocks really complicate matters.

 At last we made it to the Muliwai Trail (or "Z trail", named for the zig-zag it cuts in the hillside - look closely at the very first photo).  The first mile takes you to the top - 1200 feet up.  The next 8 miles take you across the top and down into Waimanu Valley.  Today's was only a short excursion - someday I would love to make the trek.

 The view from about one-third of the way up the Z:

Looks are deceiving - more than two-thirds of a mile at 20% grade remains...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Every Day

You've probably been wondering what I actually do at the dairy here, besides sporadically taking photos of plants and birds.
This might explain why I've had so little time to post!

A Typical Day

4:30 AM: I wake up.

5:00 AM: Dick and I begin pasteurizing the milk - the milk pump is assembled and milk is pumped from the bulk tank (refrigerated) into the pasteurizer/cheese vat.  The pasteurizer capacity is 47 gallons.  When I arrived in February, many of the does were on maternity leave and not milking, so the milk supply was in a bit of a slump.  But after 25 does kidded/freshened in the past two months, milk production has come up to 55 gallons per day.  That's over a gallon per goat, average.  Only one problem now - it's almost too much milk.  For the last few weeks we've been holding over 10 gallons in the bulk tank, then making two consecutive batches of cheese twice a week.  9 batches in 7 days.  385 gallons per week.  400 pounds of cheese. 

 the bulk tank

The milk is then heated gradually to 145 degrees, held for 30 minutes, then cooled down to 90 degrees.  This process takes 3 hours.

  the pasteurizer and cheese vat

In the meantime the babies are fed the first of their three daily feedings.  The older babies have graduated to the bucket feeder, which makes quick work of feeding a dozen bawling hungry babies.  The younger ones are individually fed with a bottle.

6:00 AM: The morning milker arrives and begins with sanitizing the milking system, then cleans the loafing area and prepares to milk.  The milk stand has room for 10 goats, with 5 milker units.  Each group takes 10 or 15 minutes to milk.  I learned the milking routine the first week, but the only goats I milk are the few does that require hand-milking (newly freshened does are hand-milked for 4 days before joining the main group.  Their milk is used to feed the babies).  At the peak of kidding season I was hand-milking 6-8 does morning and evening.  All those years of cow milking definitely paid off!

8:00 AM: The milk has finally come down to 90 degrees; cultures and rennet are added, then the milk is left to set for 8 hours. 

At some point I eat breakfast and relax for a few minutes.  Then I'll help Nina, our herd manager, with whatever needs to be done - hoof trimming, vaccinating, general goat care, etc.  This usually keeps me occupied to about 10 or 11 AM.

Every morning the previous day's cheese is blended and packed.  Usually our dedicated cheese-packer will do it, but once or twice a week that task falls to me.  The cheese drains overnight in cheesecloth bags, but it needs to be blended with a bit of salt, then packed in either 5# bags for the restaurants (the bulk of our orders) or small tubs for retail and the farmer's market.  Nothing goes better with the morning's first cup of homegrown coffee than a spoonful of fresh creamy goat cheese. 

12:00 PM:  Time to feed the babies again.

12-4 PM:  Free time!  Lunch, a walk, reading and possibly a nap.  That's more than I usually can accomplish.

3:30 or 4 PM: The cheese is scooped.  After the curd is checked for the proper consistency, I proceed with scooping the soft curd into a colander lined with cheese cloth.  The bags are tied and hung from the frame over the draining table.  Each 40-some gallon batch of cheese yields 20-24 bags of cheese.

perfect curd

draining for the night

                                                              the next morning

Then I'll milk any goats on the hand-milk list.

4:00 PM: The evening milker arrives.

6:00 PM:  It's time to feed the babies again...

... and then cook dinner, relax a bit, and try to get to sleep early enough to wake up at 4:30 AM.

Most days follow this timeline, except Saturdays when I sell at the Waimea Farmers Market with Jimmy, and Sundays, on which the four of us enjoy a leisurely brunch together and make a different type of cheese (feta or possibly a goats' milk havarti - "Gavarti").