Weeds- Friends or Foe(s)

click here for an extrodinarily educational video

For years I saw myself as a vegetable gardener. My precious vegetables were the apple (or tomato) of my eye. Weeds were the enemy. They competed with the plants for the precious minerals that make the plants healthy enough to provide nutritious food for us. Education alert! Weeds are natural, they are heirlooms, they are aggressive, they come back year after year, over and over because they are awesome survivors. They know how to survive in your yard with very little water or attention. They will soon take over the world! Oh well, let’s not get carried away. But, our shy little passive vegetable plants could take a lesson. They can and we will talk about that later when I do a post about seed saving.

I have spent hours pulling the weeds to keep them from my garden beds. Over time,  I realized that weeds are so efficient at mining the minerals from the soil, that I allowed them to grow in the walkways, so that I could harvest them before they went to seed. I would put them in my compost piles to add the minerals back into the soil. I am so smart!

I also watched my goats and chickens. They instinctively know which plants seem to have more of the minerals. So, I thought that maybe I should try eating them; and I have. I took clippings of some of the animal’s favorite weeds and ate them fresh or steamed. Steve watched in horror and refused to participate. But I did not die.

Now that I have moved into a community that thinks more like I do (poor Steve), I have met a couple of ladies that actually harvest weeds (on purpose) to feed their families. I have an acre and a quarter of Bermuda grass and weeds. So I have invited these ladies over to tell me about the weeds that they see growing on my property. That way, I too can proudly prepare weed dishes to feed my family.

Of course as always, I will share from my ABUNDANCE with my new friends. Stay tuned as I graciously allow my friends to harvest and take home baskets of weeds to share with their families.

 

 

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Let’s talk about Goat Milk

1/2 gallon makes this cheese plus this whey

1/2 gallon makes this cheese plus this whey

When I first started exploring the idea of a dairy source for my backyard homestead, I looked into goats. Please remember, I only had a small space. I had close neighbors, and it was not legal where I lived.

Though I was purchasing a gallon of raw cow milk per week from a local cow owner, I saw the work that goes into owning a bovine. Even if I had the place for a cow, I am a small person and cows can playfully  toss that head around and knock you down. (Ask me how I know.) My husband was not interested in helping me with a cow anyway. But there is another sad fact about cow owning that makes it difficult.  A cow’s poop is wet like a horse’s poop. Wet poop attracts flies. I visited many farms that had cows. Several of them went to great extremes to keep the fly population down. They broke up the poop to allow it to dry, and they even allowed chickens to pick through the piles to eat any fly larvae. One retired lady that I knew actually went out and shoveled it up several times per day. None of this changed the fact that while sitting and visiting in farm kitchens all over the county, we were swatting flies while we made bread or cheese together. I knew that I could not talk my husband into that.

I also learned that chickens have wet poop. So horses, chickens and cows all attract lots of flies. So chickens had to be kept away from the kitchen, off the porch and cleaned up often to keep the neighbors from complaining.

Now for goats and rabbits. They have dry poop and if kept on litter like straw or wood chips. There are very little flies. So as long as I kept the litter dry or raked up, there was nothing that any of my neighbors could complain about. Except maybe noise.

So while visiting the local famers I noticed that the miniature Nigerian goats, almost never made a peep. The other breeds were chatty or just plain noisy. In their defense, they seemed more friendly and were seeking attention. The Nigerian is happy to be left alone. Now, I know that there are exceptions to every rule and each goat owner will defend their favorite breed, but my research was unbiased. Because I did not own a goat yet and had no particular favorite.

I also did taste tests all over the county and found that my favorite tasting goat milk  came from the Nigerian. It is probably  because of its higher fat content. I have also  tasted milk from some of the larger Nubians that comes in at a very close second. I also found that when a Nigerian buck is used with some of the other  large dairy goat breeds to create a medium sized doe, her milk is also very tasty, but like their larger mommies, they can be chatty.

I now have my quiet Nigerian doe Bambi who gives me 5-6 cups of milk per day. Her pure white, sweet milk makes wonderful chevre, yogurt and ice cream. But we especially love to drink it. It tastes much better than any milk at the store, and it is sweeter than raw cow milk.

Here is a video of Bambi

Now that I have moved to a property in county island, I have two incredibly noisy Nubian girls. Bella and Elsa. They are waiting to become old enough to breed and they will then give milk.

Here is a video of Bella and Elsa

I am hearing from some very particular Nubian owners that there are ways to manipulate the taste of the milk. This can be done with herbs and other natural food sources. I am beginning to study this so that I can be ready to supply my young ladies with this type of food. Originally, they were obtained with the idea of cheese making, but who knows? Maybe we will be drinking their milk as well.

Stay tuned as Bella and Elsa grow up and start dating.

 

Posted in cheese making, Goats, Raw Milk, Real Food | 2 Comments

I Feed People, its what I do.

When you own gardens and goats, there is also something in the refrigerator. Since moving, I have not had much in the way of freshly picked herbs or produce. But I have plenty of Bambi’s sweet creamy Nigerian goat milk.

You can follow this link to see our fun cheeses. Some day, I will figure out how to play it right here on the blog, but until then you have to be re-directed to my You Tube Channel.

Please click here

So I make cheese or ice cream every other day. I make different versions of Chevre. Number 1 because it is the quickest, and number two I can make it in small batches. I only get 5-6 cups per day from my little girl and most other cheese call for a gallon or two.

When people stop by, I ask them if they want to try a taste of goat milk cheese or goat milk ice cream. So far I have not had any refusals. I am getting pretty good at using different starters to get different flavors. I also have a very dear friend who is my  cheese making mentor.

On Saturday night, we celebrated my Son In Law’s birthday, by making dinner. I invited a few other guests too. Why not? I was already gonna cook, I just made a bigger batch. So I had some cheese in the fridge and my cheese mentor came to dinner and brought a couple of her delicious cheeses. We had a cheese fest.

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D is for Dirt

Lots of dirt

Lots of dirt

Whaaaat? Of all the things that I could have chosen. Desserts, Ducks, or Dogs. Why dirt?

Because I wanted to. Sorry. No, really. There is so much of it here. But actually I love dirt, soil, or mud.  I love the smell of it. I love kneeling down in it. I love the feel of it in my hands. Dirt is one of the ingredients in my magical compost.  I have experimented with several garden mediums and the winner is…yep, you guessed it; dirt!

When we first moved here. The  whole acre and a quarter was dirt. When the wind blew, it blew the dirt. Even inside the house is very dusty. But that is changing my friends. A little bit (ok thousands of gallons) of water is going to change all of that in time for the “G” post. Green, Grass, and Goats eating Green Grass.

I love dirt. All it needs is some composted material and some seeds and then you have another G word- Garden!

Hooray for dirt, and hooray for gardens.

Enough silliness. Time for bed. “G” ood night.

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My Man Cody

Cody on his blue towel

Cody on his blue towel

It has been my intention to turn this rescue dog of mine into a gentleman. The transformation is indeed taking place.

Cody is being taught to sit and wait for me to enter or exit a door first and then turn around to him and then invite him in or out.

He is a very smart boy. He spends a lot of time alone with me and truly understands me when I talk to him. The other day a friend came to visit. Cody and I went out to greet her. When I walked in the door, I forgot my commands and turned around and invited her in. Cody thought that I was inviting him in and brushed past her. But once inside, he looked and her and went back out and sat down to wait for her to enter. My friend said “Wow! What a gentleman he is!”

Yesterday, he was  tripping me up in the kitchen, while I cooked. So I pulled out an old towel and told him to sit on it. He did not want to at first. But soon realized that from his towel, he could see me in the kitchen-down the hall and in the dining room. It has been less than 24 hours and he has adopted that towel as his place.  He even laid there last night when we ate dinner. Good boy!

This morning, I took him out to the pasture and allowed him to  bring his “keep-away toy”. I will not play keep away with him. He will learn to fetch it for me. Finally after he tired of me not chasing him, he came and sat down. I asked him for the toy, and he gave it to me. I tossed it so that he could run and chase it. He brought it back to me about 5 times and then reverted back to keep-away. So we went into the house.

What is the secret? I am not a trainer. But I think that having only one dog is the secret. It also helps that I am on break from school and spend several hours per day with him. He has bonded with me and not another dog or person. He loves Steve, but does not listen to him the way that he listens to me. He pays very close attention to me and tries to figure out what I want from him. Of course, he loves it when I praise him with both hands. He also likes to sit on my feet and then allow me to bend down and give him a chest rub.

Give  us a year. My Man Cody, will be a gentleman indeed.

 

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Having Fun with Cheese Making

Goat milk is whiter than cow milk

Goat milk is whiter than cow milk

I had the book, I really did. It is the cheese making book that most of my friends have. I did not really read it yet. I was waiting. I loaned it to a friend and forgot who it was that I loaned it to. Apparently she forgot from whom she borrowed it. If you are reading this, I still love you just please bring back my book. Put it on my door step if you are too embarrassed; I do not care and I will never know the difference.

Ok, onward. Cheese making amazes me! You have a lovely little goat. You feed her well. You have her bred, you rejoice in the birth (of her son). You get to play with one of the funnest little creatures on earth. Once he is weaned, you get all of his momma’s milk to yourself. All that joy and all that milk!

Bambi and Little Festus

Bambi and Little Festus

 

Now, you milk your little goat  twice per day. Bambi is a Nigerian Dwarf. This is her second freshening. She is giving me 6 cups of milk per day. That is a lot for such a little girl. There is no way in the world that Steve and I will ever drink that much milk. But we will eat it.

So today I made chevre. Well, it is kind of like chevre. The process is the same, except I used buttermilk culture powder instead ( I ran out of the chevre culture). The result was a happy accident! It was smoother, creamier and tangier than chevre. We both liked it better. We had it tonight for dessert with an ice cold fig.

What is so amazing about cheese making?

Please refer to the picture at the top of the post.

I took 2 quarts of beautiful- white- sweet- raw goat milk and ended up with 15 oz of this luscious- creamy-whiter than white- yummiest spreadable cheese EVER CREATED ( ok, enough Donna) and still had 5 cups of whey left over.  Whey in itself is a very valuable commodity, but I will save that post for later. I need something for the “W” post after all.

Posted in cheese making, figs, Goats, Raw Milk, Real Food, The New Farm, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

C is for Chickens

 

Click here to see the roosters

You knew that was coming!

But this is a different kind of chicken post.

The week before we moved to this property, I ordered some “Heritage” Rhode Island Red chicks. Why do I say it that way. Because most RIRs anymore are not the good old huge meaty dual purpose birds that they used to be. They do not lay as many eggs as the new and improved models, but they get huge! They are a deep, almost chocolate red color. They are better foragers and they grow big  enough to eat. They also have a tendency to go broody. That means way less eggs over all, but it does mean that this flock will reproduce. Farming is hard work, so I love passive projects. I figure that if I can get a small flock of ladies that will give me enough eggs for my needs and over time, produce more birds to lay more eggs (or fill my freezer) then that is good enough for me.

But I kinda backed my self into a bit of a corner. I bought a dog run to put the chicks in when they were big enough to go outside. They were big enough, but too small for the dog run. So, when a friend offered to give me 10 roosters to  butcher; I thought “I will put them in the dog kennel and dispatch 2 every day. Soon the kennel will be empty and I can put my little girls in it.

Well, we have had some sad interruptions around here, putting us way  behind schedule. There are still 6 lovely roosters in the dog kennel at night. I allow them to      roam the property and forage during the day and I fill their dish with organic chicken food at night to encourage them to come to  bed at night.  They actually prefer to roost on top of the coop, but I want them closed inside protected from Wile-y coyote at night. All that means that the pullets are  still in the rabbit cages on the porch. I have to clean the pull out tray 3 times a day to keep the flies down and I give them ice water bottles to keep cool. That is not as passive a project as I would like.  But we will get through this.

I will send these 6 roos to camp Maytag when Steve goes back to work this coming week and then the girls can go out and live in their new “coop” under the tree. Once my gardens are up, they will have a place to run free and wild.

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