Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kids Mud Obstacle Course

So,.....although we can take credit for all of the building of this obstacle course, we can not take credit for blogging it first.  A very good friend of ours (Christy Marshall) blogged our son's party last year and she did a FANTASTIC job. Her cover photo, and blog address is at the bottom of this post. You gotta check it out, because all of her pictures are closeups of the obstacles prior to the race. She focuses more on the "fun" aspect of the race, while I will explain more of "the build", and hopefully show everyone how easy and cheap you can create the birthday party adventure of your childs' life. This course cost us only $60.00 to build (and about 40 man hours).  It was large enough that it took our kids over three minutes to run it at a dead sprint when everything was dry.  
Throw in a LOT of mud and about 30 more bodies, and it makes for quite a fun race. 

First thing's first, I needed to make a track.  The easiest thing to do was to let the grass grow well over the length that I would normally cut it. Then I just mowed a loop-De-Loop track which weaved in and about itself. The fact that we live on 3 acres was definatly a plus, although we only allowed the track to be on the south acre and a half.  Over the course of the next two weeks, and one more mowing, the track became very VERY clear.   
Besides obstacles, the only other thing we needed was direction arrows.  (I used an old can of orange marking paint.)

For the obstacles:
-Hay bales - $60.00 for 20 bales
-Pallets - free from local lumber yard
-tunnel - free from kids play things (ready to toss)
-rope - free (old clothes lines we were replacing)
-4x6's - free cribbing from lumber yard
-stumps - free, from a dead tree on our property
-tires - free from tire repair shop

Rat Run
The rat run was an easy build. each hump took two pallets, 1 hay bale, and a little bit of rope. I began by taking two apllets and standing them up next to each other. On the top, rope was used to lash the two pallets together loosely. Then the pallets were spread out at the bottoms, over a hay bale, until the pallet touched the bale. This made for a very stable platform.  Three of these humps were placed together to make the rat run.  

Log climber
The log climber took a little bit more muscle to complete. It started with a tiller and shovel. I boxed out the area I wanted to make the pit in, and began running a tiller back and forth to loosen up the soil. After a few passes, the easy part was over. A shovel was then used to mound up the dirt on both the front and the back of the pit. Actually, the mounds create another element to the obstacle. Then I took a few longer logs and spanned the pit to complete it.
Some kids climbed over the log, and some were much more adventurous and crawled underneath them (They got a little bit more muddy than the others!!)

Rope Crawl
The rope crawl was easy. Like the log climber, I used the tiller to prep an area for the mud pit. The only difference is the depth of the pit (The climber was much deeper).
A few short stakes were cut from the dead tree and used to suspend the old clothesline above the mud. 

Most of the kids didn't want to crawl, so they elected to try to hop through it. The best part was that the mud made this very difficult and it caused a few faceplants directly into the mud. (I had silent giggles every time this happened.)

Tire hop.
The tire hop was the easiest of all. Almost any tire repair shop will gladly give you as many old tires as you want. They have to pay for disposal, so why the heck would they not want to get rid of them for FREE!!!!. If they try to charge you......go to the next one.
As far as set-up.........Ummmm.......I don't think i'm gonna explain this one. Just look at the picture and replicate it.

Balance beam
The balance beam was completed with a shallow mud flat which was tilled first. Then a few stumps were buried partially into the flat at the right distance apart to allow for the 4x6 cribbing to lay on top of them. 
4x6's were used flat to add stability to the obstacle.

Hay Mountain
Another one which needs no explanation. 

Corn tunnel
The corn tunnel consisted of two hay bales on either side of a shallow mud flat, with 1 pallet spanned across them. A bundle of corn stalks were placed across the top to sort of conceal the tunnel and allow for a little bit of variation among the tunnels.

Pallet tunnel
Just like the corn tunnel, only without the corn. (Duh!!!)

Rabbit hole
The rabbit hole was made just like the corn and pallet tunnels, only it included a childs tunnel which was about to be thrown away. This constricted the tunnel significantly for the larger kids and it too was filled with mud. So for anyone who was "TRYING" to stay somewhat anymore.

Mud Pit
This Mud pit was made just the same as the log climber, but instead of logs, we just added more water to help "soup things up" a bit. 

After all of the racing was done,  most of the kids went back to their favorite obstacles for a second, third or even endless chance to have morefun. Miranda and her friend decided to chill in the mud pit while soaking up a little sun. THAT'S MY GIRL!!!!!!

NOW......since you have a better idea of how to build this friggin' AWESOME course.  Go check out Christy's blog too for a close up of each of the obstacles (including a few which are not on here.)
Thanks for checkin' us out.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Homemade Goat Cheese

Homemade goat cheese is the BEST!!!!.  This method is about as simple as it gets in the cheese making tutorials. All you need is......
-goat milk (about a gallon)
-rennet (or vinegar, although vinegar can sometimes leave a weird after taste)
- half a lemon
-salt and other fun things to add in if desired. (read on)

First we bring the milk u to between 90 and 100 degrees F and attempt to hold it there.

While the milk is heating up, this would be a good time to play on your smart phone and update your FB status.  Wait,....No....I meant it would be a good time to add a few drops of rennet into about a half of a cup of water. 

Along with the rennet, add a teaspoon of lemon juice into the water too!

When the milk reaches 90-100 degrees F, slowly pour the water mixture into the pot while stirring slowly. Continue stirring for a few minutes and then turn off the burner and cover the pot. 
Leave the pot alone for an hour or two. 
When you uncover later, the whole top layer of milk should be curd. 

Use a knife and slowly cut through the curd deeply to create 1 inch squares. 

After you are done cutting the curd, use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the curds from the pot while straining the whey. 

Or you can go for the less labor intensive method (like my wife typically chooses) and just pour the whole thing into a cheese cloth lined strainer while is settled nicely above a large pot to catch the whey. 

In our house, the whey is saved for making morning smoothies (Yum and YUM!!!!)

Once the curds are all in the cheese cloth, tie up the ends and hang it above the bowl to drain the excess whey. This can take a while, so walk away for a while and fight the urge to open it before it is ready. Ours took about 2 hours, but I can easily take many more. 

This is the "read on" part where we add goodies to make the cheese even BETTER. Add about 1 tablespoon of sea salt (or kosher salt) to each gallon of milk used.
-also, we like to add other flavoring to mix in to the crumbly soft cheese as well. Flavorings such as chopped green onions, honey, basil, nuts, etc.  

We find it easier to crumble the cheese up, sprinkle the salt and other flavorings in, mix well, and press it down into the containers. After refrigeration, the cheese is still soft, but can be chunked out of the container without it crumbling to pieces. 
thanks for visiting Our Little Backyard Farm.