Sunday, March 21, 2010

March Ramblings

I've had a head cold the last few days so I haven't been up for much. I am hoping to get some photos up of our trip to the ice park along as well as some pictures of my new grain mill, baked goods, awkwardly pregnant goats, seedlings etc. All in good time. Here are some various ramblings about this and that:

Chickens: The chicks are all doing fine. Our Welsummer hen did finally kick the bucket about a week ago in case you were wondering. She died after being inside and dropper fed for almost two weeks. If I had been more adventurous I might have opened her up as I sure would have liked to know what was wrong. The same day she died we discovered our last Brahma hen dead. Then we noticed a sick Ameraucana hen, who died shortly after coming to our attention. I don't think the deaths were related as they had different symptoms. We have had a few chickens over the year with serious external injuries, (dog bites, head injuries, not able to walk for weeks). They have all recovered with a little pampering. Usually once we notice a hen with no obvious injuries who is sick and droopy, it is already too late. So I was pretty surprised that the Welsummer hung in there that long, I may have just been prolonging her suffering by nursing her along. Chickens die unexpectedly sometimes and for this reason I like to keep more than we really need. We still have seventeen layers and the Ameraucana pullets are starting to lay more eggs. The two Welsummers are laying as well as the Sexlinked hybrids which is quite impressive - although they were about four months behind in starting.

We have three very pregnant looking does due in mid April. They are beginning to lay around much more. I reported recently that Xoe's udder has been filling out. Soon after, her two year old daughter Yin started nursing off her again. We had this problem last year when Xoe kidded as well, so much for Does drying their kids off on their own. Yin waits until Xoe gets up on her hind legs to reach they new hay on top of the feeders, then she darts a quick suck before her mom comes down and buts her away. It is so wrong, as Yin is actually bigger than Xoe who probably has three kids inside, and is trying to produce all the colostrum and good antibodies that her kids will need once born. We were looking in Hoegger goat supply at an udder cover that would prevent Yin from being able to nurse.

What we really need is that second doe pen we were hoping to have by kidding season, but is filled with deep snow and fallen trees that need sawed up. So last night we decided to take a gamble and move Yin along with the two doelings up into the vacant pen next to the bucks, risky business indeed. They have a low ceiling hovel in adjacent to a partially complete stall that just needs another wall and a door. It has been warm enough that some of the does have been choosing to sleep outside as it is so we decided they would have access to both protected areas in addition to the pen. The risky part is that they share an interior woven wire mesh fence with the bucks. It also has a couple strands of electric fence, but the snow is so deep that the fence is hardly four feet off the ground.

We tried to breed Yin this year yet I believe she remains dry. I'd prefer that the doelings wait till fall to breed, however, they are almost a year old. I doubt that they will be coming into heat this late in the spring as Lamanchas are seasonal breeders and we are pushing the end of the season. If a buck gets over the fence and the does get bred, we decided it wouldn't be the end of the world. The doelings are about a year. Worse case we might have a fence to rebuild and some August kids. The benefits are that the three awkwardly large pregnant does get to lounge around and enjoy their final weeks of pregnancy without their daughters taking advantage of them. Once the kids are born there will be less chaos and more room for moms and kids as well.

Seedlings. If you live in Interior Alaska, now is the time to be starting your tomato and celery seedlings, along with slow growing herbs, onions if you grow those from seed, and any flowers that say to start eight to ten weeks ahead indoors. I've got some herbs started. My plan was to start tomatoes, peppers and celery today if I can sum up the energy.

In the Kitchen: I've used my new grain mill four times now. This last time I wore a handkerchief over my face as previously I was sneezing and blowing my nose all day after grinding. I guess I'm sensitive to the fine particulates in the air. So far with success I've baked 100% whole grain bread, cinnamon rolls, pizza rolls, savory wheat thin crackers, graham crackers, pita, biscuits and pizza dough. The secret seems to be in soaking the wheat overnight in buttermilk. Not only does it improve the digestability of the whole grains, but also does wonders for the texture of the final product. I've been very impressed with how soft and light everything has baked up. I recently bought Peter Reinhart's book Whole Grain Breads which is where I found the pizza and pita recipe. Both the bread and the wheat thin like cracker recipe came from Annette's blog; Sustainable Eats . Thanks Annette for some great recipes and the inspiration to begin with!!!!!


Unknown said...

Isn't Annette great! She lives in my neighborhood and always has tons of great ideas! The buttermilk soaking is a good idea. I think I'm going to try that this week.

Anonymous said...

Hi- when you soak your grains overnight in buttermilk before using, do you do that before or after you grind them? I wasn't clear.

Emily said...

For making most of the recipes I mentioned, I ground the flour and then measured out the flour and buttermilk I needed and combined them. Some of the recipes I made called for a starter and biga that were just flour and water. I went ahead and exchanged the water portion for equal parts water and buttermilk, which was taking a bit of a gamble but it worked fine with these particular recipes. I have a cookbook called Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, she pretty much pre soaks and ferments everything with either whey, lemon juice or raw cultered yogurt or buttermilk as it makes everything easier to digest as well helping preserve the food. I use to soak my oats and whole grains for making oatmeal, other hot cereas, blender pancakes and muffins in buttermilk mixed with water overnight. Takes some pre-planning and often I'm baking on a whim, but I am trying to get back to that practice as well. Doesn't make much sense to be feeding my family whole grains if we aren't able to get the good stuff out of them!!

So the answer to the question is Yes, both, either or, depending on your recipe. After grinding for recipes that call for flour, before for intact grain recipes.