Last month, a local county agricultural council sponsored their annual farm fest, where a number of local farms are open on a weekend day for free tours / open house. It just so happens that one of the farms open for tours was only ~3 miles away so we decided to stop by.
Although only a few miles away, the farm isn’t directly visible from the road, so we had no idea that they raise… yaks!
Here is a picture of one of their yaks:
An adult female yak.
We learned that yaks are a triple threat – they are raised for milk, meat and fiber. The farm was selling yak sliders and yak yarn and fiber products during the open house.
According to the farmer, yaks are smaller than typical beef and dairy cows – the adult females are typically only 500 to 600 pounds. Adult male yaks (domesticated) can weigh in at 900 – 1,200 pounds. For reference, typical beef cattle bulls can reach closer to 2,000-3,000 pounds (but are often slaughtered younger so are usually seen at lower than full weight).
Here is a close-up shot so you can see their shaggy fur coat. Their fiber is used to make yarn and then into whatever product from there. The farm was selling knit yak products such as winter hats.
An imperial yak (I think).
Yaks come in a variety of color patterns. A black yak is called an imperial yak. A yak that is white and black is called a royal yak. There are also somewhat rare golden yaks that are all light brownish in color.
Earlier this year in the spring I took a hike up our mountain to clean up any trash or debris that had blown onto our property over the winter.
I collected a handful of empty soda bottles (probably originally left by hunters on neighboring properties), some plastic bags, and 2 deflated balloons.
I also found a few other things in the woods:
There was a deer skeleton just onto our property. It may have died naturally over the cold winter, or it may have been shot and injured by a hunter and the hunter couldn’t track it. It appears to be the skeleton of a young buck – the antlers only have a few points.
Here are a few more details about the geothermal thermal system and the installation process.
A geothermal heating and cooling system is essentially a heat pump system that uses the relatively constant temperature underground to move heat from one place to another. The systems are also sometimes called ground source heat pumps. In the winter, the system pulls heat from the ground and moves it into the house. In the summer, such a system can move heat from the house to the ground. Because our house does not have air ducts and instead relies on baseboard hot water radiators, our system is currently set up only for heating, though the ground loops and the heat pump can be used for cooling in the future if we make a few changes inside the house.
Our system is a closed loop system – meaning water (plus a type of antifreeze) is circulated in a loop of piping from the house to wells underground and then back up to the house to start the loop over.
The loop piping in the backyard before installation.
Our installers used a specialized German drilling rig that can fit in tighter spaces compared to some truck based drilling rigs. It was able to move right into place in the backyard for drilling.
Every year for the holidays, I make several varieties of cookies to share at my workplace. The most common are chocolate chip cookies.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
The “secret” recipe I use is actually basically on the back of the bag of chocolate chips with a couple of small modifications.
Beat 1 cup (2 standard sticks) of butter, 1 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated white sugar until creamy. I prefer to use unsalted, uncultured pasture butter, but other butter works well.
Beat in 2 large eggs, one at a time, until well blended. I prefer to use farm fresh eggs from free range hens for the extra bright orange egg yolks.
Add in 2 Tablespoons water and 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract and then blend well. This is a difference from the “traditional” recipe – the traditional only uses 1 teaspoon of vanilla.
In a separate bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt. For the flour, I sometimes use 1 cup of whole wheat white flour and 1 1/2 cups of normal flour to add a little more chewiness to the structure of the cookies.
Gradually stir the flour mixture into the butter/sugar mixture.
Stir in one normal bag (12 oz) of chocolate chips. For a little more sugary taste, use milk chocolate chips. For a more traditional, use semi-sweet chips. For other options, try mint chocolate chips or other flavors.
Once the dough is prepared, try to not to eat all of it raw! If you succeed in not eating all of the dough raw, roll the dough into teaspoon size balls and place on a baking sheet about 2 to 3 inches apart. The greater amount of whole wheat flour that you use allows you to space the cookies closer together as the whole wheat flour helps the cookies stay more compact while baking while cookies made with white flour tend to expand a bit more while baking.
Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 8 or 9 minutes. Note that the traditional recipe calls for 12 to 15 minutes but that makes the cookies too crisp for my liking. Also, at around minute 6 and again when removing them from the oven, I smash down the cookies with a spatula to keep them thin and prevent the middle from fully cooking.
After a few more minutes on the baking sheet, remove the cookies to cool on wire racks. Usually the cookies are still droopy and some may fall between the wire racks – this is as intended. Once fully cooled (or even before), the cookies will be deliciously soft and ready to eat.
Continue reading for the peppermint candy cane cookie recipe.
Horses have a lot of paraphernalia. To store it all, a horse owner usually has at least 1 tack box. As we have a horse, we were in need of a tack box to store at least some of our horse’s tack at the stable.
I decided to try and see if I could make a tack box instead of buying it. It turned out to be very easy with 3 easy steps (and a 4th optional step if desired).
Step 1: Search all of your property (especially outbuildings and old barns) for an old tack box or trunk and select the one you want to use.
I started by checking the piles of items in hayloft to see if there were any old trunks or crates that could serve as the starting point for a tack box. It turned out that there was a dusty, old, broken trunk in the hayloft. The base was mostly intact but the hinges were broken and had ripped off the box. I found the missing lid nearby.
Here is the old, broken box from the hayloft.
I brought it down from the hayloft and dusted it off. There were some faded and stained portions on the exterior, but other than the broken hinges, it was overall in pretty good shape.
Now that you have your basic tack box located, it’s time to move to Step 2.
With a good portion of our pasture surrounded by woods, we sometimes get a chance to see young birds learning to fly – they take off from the trees on the edge of the pasture and flap / glide into the field. The pastures are relatively safe as the fences block most ground predators.
This year, a juvenile red-tailed hawk came to our pastures to practice flights. However, on one attempt, the hawk’s foot got stuck in the fence and the hawk was stuck hanging on the fence, unable to get free.
By the time we noticed and began to approach, the hawk was able to free itself, but was still either in shock or needed to rest. It sat on the ground near the fence for a couple of hours before flying away. We checked on it periodically to make sure it wasn’t permanently injured and didn’t need any human intervention.
Juvenile red tailed hawk on the ground.
Here is a video of the hawk on the ground, turning its head to watch us closely as we approach.
We saw the hawk around the area for the next few days afterwards, but it always flew away before we could get anywhere close it.
We heard about a dog that was having some trouble at the same shelter in New Jersey from where we adopted Shaffron. He was overly stressed at the shelter and had to be placed in a foster home. However, his first foster home was moving and they couldn’t take him to the new location so he had to go back into the shelter. At the shelter, he was so stressed in the shelter that he drooled so much that he dehydrated himself within hours.
We decided to foster him until he can find a permanent home. His shelter petfinder page is here. The shelter is calling him Pretty Boy but we are calling him Billy (because that’s way better).
Some volunteers drove him the almost 4 hours up to our house. We took him for a walk around the pastures and while he was a bit shy at first, he really liked the quiet open spaces.
Billy looks out over the pastures.
Here is Billy walking through a puddle.
Billy walking through the water.
Click through to see more photos and videos of how Billy gets along with the farm animals. Continue reading →
You may recall the old stone pillar along the road that used to be at the end of the driveway of our property many years ago. However, of the 2 pillars from the old sketch, only 1 stone pillar is still standing. The other pillar was missing, presumed destroyed.
Sketch of our house from the 1950s or 60s.
But.. we think we found the other pillar! Click through for the details.