Lady Bountiful (Part 1)

Lady Bountiful

Lady Bountiful

Several years ago, I was treated to a wonderful birthday present. I got to spend the night at the REDSTONE CASTLE in Carbondale Colorado.

The bed and breakfast had originally been home to the owner of the mine. It sat on a hill over looking the little town where the miners lived. Of coarse he was wealthy and had spent lots of money on the décor of the place to impress his wife Alma who was from Europe.

I fell in love with the place and hope to return someday. I would love to go at Christmas time and ride in the horse drawn sleigh. Let me tell you why.

As we went on the tour of the estate and heard the many stories of the wealthy people and dignitaries that have been entertained there, only one story impressed me. The story about the lady of the manor. Her bedroom and sitting rooms were designed so that she could look out the window in order to observe anyone that came to visit.

As she watched the visitors arrive, she paid attention to how the lady was dressed. If she was dressed down, the lady of the home would dress down so that her guest would not feel out of place. Basically, she would dress according to how her guest was dressed. I like her!

Though her husband was wealthy, she knew that the people of the mining town were not. She would often hitch up her horses and travel to the little town and bring gifts from her garden, and her kitchen. The women and children of the town grew to love her- not just because of her gifts, but because of the way that she spoke to them as sisters and people of worth. She also brought gifts for the children at Christmas time. The towns people referred to her as “Lady Bountiful”

It was my pleasure to be able to spend the night in the room that was hers. I looked out the windows and fantasized about what it may have been like. I know that the differences between social states may have made it difficult to do what she did. Her husband must have loved her to allow her to be so benevolent. But I grew to really like her.

As I lay in that bed-in the room where she slept, I felt like I connected with who she was. Bored snobby lady of the Manor? I choose to think not. I choose to think that she had a loving heart. By the time that I woke up the next morning, I felt like I was a better for having slept in her room and hearing her story.

Fantasy, romance- was it even a true story? I sure hope so!

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I am even sharing a pig.

Pixie is a Kune Kune

Pixie is a Kune Kune

One of the things that I wanted to do when we got moved was get a pig. Not just any pig! No sirree! I researched Kune Kunes and found that they would fit perfectly into my plans.

I have friends who keep pigs. They breed them and sell the babies, but that momma pig gets too big for my comfort. Transporting a 300 plus lb pig every year to get bred would truly be a “big fat pain”. Not to mention the fact that those big pigs eat a lot all year round.

Kune Kune ladies get to be about 150#. They are perfectly happy grazing on pasture, garden scraps and whey. They do not need grain. They bond with their humans, and are very tame. They can be bred once a year and have 6-10 babies in each litter.

A friend of mine, Ms. C, had a Kune Kune sow that had a litter of piglets. Ms. C ended up keeping one of the babies and raising her as a pet to adulthood.

Knowing my interest in the breed, she contacted me after I got moved. She had to find a new home for Ms Pixie and  would I like to purchase her for a really good price. Kune Kunes can start at 1,000, but I could have this special pet for only 600.

Needless to say my answer was yes- but. I did not yet have the fencing required to house this funny girl. So I mentioned this to a group of girl friends. My suggestion was that the one in our group (who had the facilities) could keep the pig and the other 3 of us could split the cost of the pig. I have a couple of connections that own boy pigs. Once we get our new pig bred and she has babies, we can split the litters in 4 directions.

My hope is that by the time Ms Pixie weans her babies, I can have one or two (depending on the size of the litter).  I definitely want one female for breeding and if there are more; then I could have one male to raise on my pasture for the freezer.

After each person in our group is satisfied with the outcome, we can come together again and decide whether we want to continue or just move on with our own pigs.

This is the kind of thing that you can do when you build a network of very awesome friends who want to share life’s abundance together.

My thanks to Ms C for  allowing us to purchase Ms Pixie at such a great price, and Ms. S for keeping the pig at your place.

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Seed Saving

The best way to save a seed is to plant it.

The best way to save a seed is to plant it.

 

The last few years, there has been a lot of talk about seed saving. What I am hearing most is that large chemical companies are buying up the seed companies, and getting rid of heirlooms. If this is true, we will have to purchase new seeds every year. Not a really big deal for a small producer like me. But what about farmers who plants thousands of seeds?

So let’s first explain the difference between and heirloom and a hybrid.

Heirloom-I would compare this to a purebred dog. A poodle bred to a poodle; with give you poodle puppies. Save some puppys from those litters to breed and you get (yep, you guessed it) poodles. This could continue for generations, so long as you find new strains of purebred (heirloom) poodles to breed to. An heirloom plant will produce seeds that will produce the some exact type of plant. So a seed that comes from an heirloom Brandywine tomato, will produce a plant that will produce heirloom Brandywine tomatoes.

Hybrid-I would compare this to a poodle dog that breeds with a cocker spaniel. The puppies will be the most adorable cock-a-poos that you ever saw. But save cock-a-poos and breed them together and you will get some that may look like poodles, or cocker spaniels or cock a poos. Some will be bigger, some may be smaller. Someone who did not know what their lineage was may not be able to identify the breed of pouch.

Some seed companies will intentionally breed two different heirloom plants to provide us with a “better” product. But, if you are like me and want to save the seeds; you have no way of knowing what your seed will produce. Your plant will probably look like one parent or the other, but not like the “improved breed”

But that is not the reason that I am a seed saver.

I live in a harsh climate. It is not always easy to keep plants happy here. It can be done if you know what to do. One of the things that I do; to ensure that my vegetables are happy and healthy here, is to start with heirloom seeds.

I plant them, then I take the very best specimens. The ones that did the very best, in my climate, in my growing conditions and in my soil. I allow them to go to seed and collect and save the seeds. I then plant those seeds again next year and take the best specimens. I am not changing anything. I am not hybridizing. I am not genetically modifying. I am however, ensuring that the strongest and most appropriate for MY garden, survive.

Birds do it, bees do it-even the silly weeds do it.

My goal is to get to the point that I only plant heirlooms-and plant all of my plants from seeds. As I get really good at this, I will then SHARE the seeds that I have saved with my local gardening friends, because if these plants excelled in my garden, then they should excel in their garden as well. Besides, the only way to truly save a seed is to plant it anyway. Then save it, then plant it again.

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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.

 

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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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