Winter is here! A few inches of light snow blankets the ground. The trees have filled out, with snow building up in all their hollow places and along every branch. Every footstep is marked, stamped into the snow, including that of a neighbor fox who has been circling the duck pen and chicken coop nightly. I'm intending on sharing some more informative and posts here now that things are slowing down. I'll be reviewing our gardening successes and failures. I promised to share our essential oil bug spray recipes earlier in the summer and my failure to do so at the appropriate time of year has been nagging at me. I also wrote of making homemade dog food recipes last spring which I never delved back into. These are just a few topics I've been intending to get back to. I'm looking forward to having more leisure time at the computer, and not always feeling as there is something more pressing I should be at. This morning I'm a little scatter brained, so here are some odds and ends of what we've been up to and what has been on my mind.
Yesterday I bred the first goat of the season. Many dairy breeds, including ours, are seasonal breeders. Their breeding season begins in September and stretches into December/January. The gestation period is about five months. I would prefer to breed in October and November to kid in March and April. We have six does to breed this year, three junior does and three does who have been in milk and kidded a few seasons already. I'd like to wait to breed does in milk till last so that we can keep milking them. It is fairly common to keep milking a doe until half way through her gestation, but I'd caution that this is a doe by doe case which depends on the doe's health. We have yet to milk a doe through consecutive seasons without re-breeding. We have been eager to increase our herd size and see how the kids turn out from different bucks. We may milk one doe through this winter, we'll see.
Yesterday I bred Zinnia, out of Lew and Rose. She is a year and a half old black and white doe. Her dam produces the most milk of our three senior does, and has the largest, widest, nicest shaped udder. We have been walking the junior does up the hill and putting them in a pen by the bucks for a few hours daily, so that we can observe everyone's behavior and catch any doe in heat. Yesterday I went up to check on them and notices Zinnia standing with her backside to the boys wagging her tail. Wasting no time I brought Xavier over and let the other does out. Zinnia would have nothing to do with Xavier, rather she kept running back to Zanzibar, who was on the other side of the fence. I thought maybe she'd warm up to Xavier after a while, but no such luck. So I put Xavier back and brought Zanzibar over, and lets just say she was much more receptive. If all goes well, Zinnia will be our first doe kidding in early March.
Dustin is getting some time off work. Today he is blowing insulation into the ceiling of our addition. Yesterday he went to buy a new wood-stove for the addition. The one we want won't be here for four weeks, we should have known better than to wait this late.
I rendered pork fat into lard this past weekend. I can't wait to make pie crust with it. I'll let you know how it goes.
We still have four Turkeys and several male ducks to harvest. We have two chest freezers and two refrigerators with pullout freezer bins, and all of our freezers are packed to the top. One of our Turkeys we are giving to our friends who raised the pig for us. They are also breeding four does to our bucks, free of charge, and that is the price of our pig- an exchange we are all ecstatic about. So we'll eat one of the Turkeys fresh, grind one up and save one for Thanksgiving, leaving us just one whole bird and some ground meat to make room for in the freezer. Fortunately we should be able to rely on the outdoors as a temporary freezer for some things soon.
In terms of food security, this is a bountiful season. Our freezers are full of Copper River Red Salmon, our own chickens, a pig, berries, goat cheese, vegetables, chicken stock and soups. The pantry is loaded with applesauce, jams, smoked salmon and more chicken stock. We have beets, carrots, potatoes and turnips in cold storage. The onions and garlic are still hanging. We keep enough sugar, flour, beans, grains and dry goods around to last a good year or more. With having our own eggs, meat, milk and vegetables, there isn't much to buy at the store except extras. I've been feeling guilty in regards to the contents of my shopping cart lately, which tends to consist solely of processed foods, cold cereal, chips and crackers. I'm hoping to amend that now that I have more time in the kitchen. I've been debating lately if I'm up for a processed foods strike. Most of our processed foods are organic and include mostly whole grains. While I try to avoid ingredients like preservatives, "natural flavorings", corn syrup and canola oil, I am bringing some of these into our home, and I'd like to remedy that by making more of our own snack foods. I guess there is no time like winter for some food experiments in the kitchen.
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