For a short time this winter, on the darkest, coldest days when my children moaned and groaned about coming outside for farm chores, I began to fantasize about taking a break from raising goats. I flirted with the notion of purchasing both a goat and cow share from the same farm. I could pick up a gallon of goat milk weekly for drinking and a gallon of cow milk for cream and yogurt making. I went on with my planning thinking that maybe we'd take this summer off raising meat birds or getting new layer chicks and let our chicken population drop so that we have just enough eggs for ourselves but not have to buy, haul, move and make so much chicken feed. I thought to myself how nice it would be to not HAVE to get out each day. Instead of spending our outside time doing chores, the kids and I could spend our time taking peaceful walks (I would not describe goat walks as very peaceful) together and going skiing.
When you've had a steady supply of your own eggs and milk for years and haven't had to buy any, you forget how much of a pain that is. Usually there is a month each year where we are only milking one goat that we were milking through without re breeding, or some years we have had a month or two where we stopped milking completely to let the does rest before kidding. As much as I think it will be nice to take a break from milking, it only takes till we use up the last jar of milk in the fridge before I realize how much I already miss it. Yes you can freeze milk, but for me it generally involves lots of frozen cracked jars and thawed milk that was once frozen never seems to be quite the same as fresh milk.
My fantasies about downsizing lasted less than a month and came to an abrupt halt the night I realized I had a mouth full of cavities. As soon as I started reading about the tooth re-mineralizing diet I realized how unique our position was. Instead of trying to find a source for grass fed organic milk or for grass fed liver, I just changed my habits and began drinking more milk and saving the livers from the chickens we butcher. Obviously they aren't grass fed this time of year. But the goats eat dried grass in the form of hay (not at all the same thing but better than primarily grain fed). I've started making changes to the goats and chickens diet. The chickens are getting wheat grass almost daily. I've started reducing the goat's grain ration and have increased the dried herbs and fresh vegetables they are getting. Thanks to my kale chip addiction (I average a bunch of kale in two days) and our every other day carrot and vegetable juicing schedule, we have a steady supply of kale ribs and carrot vegetable pulp coming out of the kitchen. We've also been feeding some of the small garden carrots and some of the withering cabbages to the goats as well. My goal has been to make sure the milkers get a couple big handfuls of fresh vegetables on top of their grain daily.
When we first started reading about eating liver, instead of getting online and ordering it, we butchered four roosters and saved all the organs to eat. In the past we have gone back and forth on what organs we save. I always save the feet, heart and neck for chicken bone broth. Sometimes we take the time to clean the gizzards for stock and sometimes not. From now on we will be consuming the livers as well, although I have to say I have a hard time with the texture still - it is just different and I'm hoping to get more accustomed to it.
So I've been thinking about the tooth remineralizing diet (which if you don't know what I'm talking about just scroll back a few posts), and how that coincides with a homesteading diet. The remineralizing diet recommends lots of seafood. However, we live in an Arctic Desert, hundreds of miles from the sea. AND seafood is expensive.... and as each year goes by I am beginning to think that our seafood has higher levels of mercury and other pollutants that at some point may outweigh the benefits. We do have our own Copper River Red Salmon that Dustin hauls out of the Copper River each summer. We have upped our Salmon consumption to Salmon dinner once a week and have started incorporating our canned smoked salmon into our lunches and snacks multiple times a week.
Thankfully we have our own raw goat milk that we drink daily. I make a half gallon of yogurt weekly as well as chevre that we eat daily - all highly recommended foods. We have our own chicken eggs and hope to have some goose eggs this spring. Thankfully we can supplement and play with our animals diets to make our own diets more healthy. Our freezer is still fairly full of goat, moose and chickens. We make bone broths every time we have leftover bones and I have been consuming it in soups almost daily. As far as vegetables go I roasted our last squash today. We are still enjoying our own fresh carrots, beets, cabbages and potatoes. In the freezer we still have stewed tomatoes, frozen thyme, zucchini, scallions, basil concentrate and greens. We still have our own honey on the shelf as well as flats of raspberry and blueberry jam as well as crabapple sauce, all sweetened only with our own honey.
As thankful as I am for our own produce, meat and eggs, I am also thankful that we have access to fresh produce from thousands of miles away. D went to the store today and his list looked like this: bananas, apples, oranges, grapefruit, kale, cilantro, scallions, spinach, lettuce, avocados, peppers, broccoli, cucumbers, peas, sour cream, nutritional yeast and pickled ginger. He added cauliflower, ham and sausages to the list and forgot the pickled ginger. We are consuming significantly less fruit than usual but way more vegetables. The kids use to eat fruit in the morning and in the afternoon and now we are down to about a fruit a day. I went most of the last two months without fruit with the exception of the occasional grapefruit, but it has all caught up to me and I am really craving fruit right now. I caved when I passed the Minneola oranges at the store last week and decided I've got to enjoy some fresh citrus while it is at it's best.
The more I look at our "old" diet, the more wheat and grains are really seeming more and more out of place. I do adore baking and eating bread. However, after my mini grain growing experiment this summer I am realizing that there is no way we could grow anywhere near enough wheat or other grains to meet our needs. Or if we did grow enough, I'd never have the patience to clean and process it. If it was up to me to grow and clean our own grains, we would hardly eat any because I do not make the time for tedious tasks such as that. How is it that whole grains have become such a big part of our diet? Mass machinery me thinks... Does grain have a place in the homesteaders diet?
In case you have any doubts, I am no longer fantasizing about downsizing. We are currently budgeting for bees, turkey poults and drip irrigation supplies. We are planning on hatching a small number of our own layer chicks and hoping that the Geese will hatch some goslings as well. I am hoping that all six of my does are bred but having a feeling that we got four out of six. Which will still give us plenty of milk, but will make it harder to sell the dry goats. My Fedco order is in and I pulled out the seedling rack this weekend to begin dusting off.
I know that a lot of you are homesteaders as we are. We think of ourselves as having common sense and not being easily swayed by the current diet trends. We eat real food. Food that we've grown, harvested, canned, dried, frozen, butchered, cured and smoked ourselves. We enjoy the challenge of seeing how much of our diet we can grow ourselves and how long we can get that food to last us through till the next growing season. The good news is that most homesteaders are already eating a diet high in raw milk products, healthy eggs, vegetables and self harvested fruit. It is gratifying to find compromise in what initially appears to be a very strict diet. I realize that I have a limited view of the homesteaders diet as I am thinking of our lives here in Interior Alaska and what we can grow and harvest ourselves. So feel free to jump in and share the foods that you consider to be your homesteading staples.
Weathering the drought
2 weeks ago