Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Farm Fusion Advanced - Semester 1 Workshop

During this workshop, the students in the Advanced Farm Fusion class learned to "Develop a Vision", analyzing expenses, and to coming up with creative ways to maximizing the income from your commodities.  We then zeroed in on our dairy goats as an example.  The children discussed all possible avenues for making the most of dairy goats.  They thought well beyond milk and cheese, bringing up rental for weed control, selling extra bucks for meat, stud fees for breeding bucks, and soaps/lotions.

The class learned the mechanics of dairy goat lactation, comparing and contrasting two different milking schedules.  In one schedule, the kids are removed from the does and bottle fed exclusively.  The does are milked twice per day, at 12 hour intervals.  This yields the most milk, but the farmer must be able to make the huge time commitment.  In the other schedule, the kids are kept with the does 12 hours of the day, and they are separated into a different area at night.  This definitely yields less milk, but gives more flexibility and a "back up plan" for if things come up during milking time. 

We spent time practicing the technique of hand milking, using latex gloves as udders and teats.  When you milk, you must prevent the milk from flowing back up the teat and into the udder... which is the path of least resistance.  So, instead of just "squeezing", the kids learned how to squeeze the top fingers together first, thus preventing the milk from flowing back upward.  After practicing, the class spent time milking Greta, or senior doe. We then decided that, although I have not been milking June at all, we would have her jump up on the stand.  June kidded this spring, and her big "baby" is still nursing... off of both adult does.  (Goats will nurse up until they are adults if you, and their dams, let them!)  Because I have been so hands off with June, I was unaware that she was suffering from mastitis.  The kids and I realized this when we attempted to milk her.  I had explained to the class that you never begin milking into the pail.  First, you milk a little into a "strip cup", which allows you to inspect it for any abnormalities.  In June's case, it was very evident there was an issue.  The students were amazed at the difference in thickness.

It is opportunities like this that are the reasoning behind my small class sizes and structure.  It is also the reason that I set such strong boundaries for students on responsibility, behavior, and respect.  They know that we are able to do the things that we do in my classes because of their excellent behavior.  So, with June up on the stand, I asked the class if they would rather stick to the plan and head back to class or watch as I treat June for mastitis.  Of course, they wanted to watch.  So, we held off on our "weight vs volume" lesson in order to have a little impromptu lesson on bacterial vs viral infections.  Having to change plans and deal with unexpected situations is about as "ag. ed." as you can get.

Next, the kids learned the difference between essential oils and extracts.  This was to prepare them for making soaps on the last day of the workshop.  We talked about the properties of some common essential oils and the care that should be taken with them.   Then, I talked about combining different fragrances to come up with great (and not so great) scents.  The kids dipped toothpicks into different oils, dropping them into baggies.  They tested the scents, some of which were wonderful!  We will be using some of these oils during our soap making project.

On our third day of class, the students learned the difference between recipes that use volume measurements (cups, FL. OZ.,  teaspoons, tablespoons) and soap recipes that use weight measurements (NET WT. OZ., grams).  The "ounces" issue can get very confusing!  We talked through some conversions until everyone understood.  Then, we worked on using a kitchen scale to measure weight of an ingredient without also factoring in the weight of the container.  Each of them zeroed the scale and understood why it is so important!  In order to put our newfound knowledge to the test, the class was given a recipe.... for brownies!  They had to double the recipe, as well as convert the cups and tablespoons to FL. OZ..  Finally, I let them get to work.  Not only did they have to follow the directions and measure out the ingredients, they had to measure and record the weight of each ingredient in NET WT. OZ..  This really helped them to drive the concept home!

While the brownies baked, we talked through a few last important topics.  They learned about saponification, or the process that produces soap from fats and lye.  We will be doing a "cold press" recipe, so we will be using NaOH lye in our process.  The kids learned how important it is for the acids in the fats/oils to neutralize the lye, which is a base.  They also learned that different types of acids in the fats (lauric, linoleic, oleic, palmitic, ricinoleic, stearic, and myristic) create different characteristics in the soap.  Some make the soap more creamy, some more cleansing, others make a harder bar of soap.  Thankfully, there are soap calculators out there to help make life easier! 

Before our last day of class, the kids took the soap recipe that we will be using and looked up information on each of the fats.  We went over the important safety precautions that will need to be taken, such as wearing goggles, gloves, and following directions EXACTLY.  This little class is ready and excited for such a major undertaking next week!  (More to come......)