Thursday, April 29, 2010

Busy Times

We are embarking on the busiest and most frantic time of year for us. A week ago my garden was still covered by a foot of snow. With temperatures in the fifties and sixties all week, I was able to turn a bed yesterday without hitting ice. I can see the brown garden in it's entirety which that in itself gets my brain churning. I fell asleep last night debating where to the beets and carrots. As always I have intentions to plant about twice as much as I currently have room for, however, I have a large pile of topsoil and a row of various stages of partly composted goat and chicken bedding. So after we make use of all the beds which just need turned, we'll be building new beds, moving soil, ammending the soil and planting.

The last two days I've made it up to the garden with the kids to work for a bit. Noah remembers last summer well and is so excited to be up there playing in the dirt and working with his garden tools in his small plot. Avery is just excited to be outside walking around wherever she pleases.

Our farm apprentice started this week. She has come up every day this week mid-morning and worked until mid afternoon. We have been doing the morning routine of feeding, graining and watering. Then we've been milking together. Now is a good time to learn to milk as we are not trying to milk the does out completely. We are just getting the does back into the routine of eating their grain on the milkstand while we milk out their lopsided side. It takes a while for the hand muscles to gain enough strength to milk out an entire udder, and then two more after. So this is gradual muscle building practice for next week when we start separating the kids from their dams. We've been eating lunch after morning chores are finished. Then heading out to work on side projects like cleaning out the duck stall, clearing mulch off beds and turning the garden beds.

I am behind on starting squash and cucumbers, so I need to switch gears today and take advantage of Avery's nap to focus on some seed starting. I think we will also start some cold greens in flats in the greenhouse, and maybe even do a small amount of direct seeding in the garden, maybe beets and radishes or carrots and then cover them with plastic row covering.

Our ducks arrived yesterday. So we had friends stopping by throughout the day to pick out their ducks. We are left with twelve Saxonies, five Welsh Harlequins and five runner ducks. Out of the batch of sixty we lost one small black runner duck. The order had included one extra runner so that worked out ok. Today we will be finishing setting up summer housing for the growing chicks, so that we can move the ducklings into their current brooder area.

I began attempting to make chevre this week for the first time since fall. After three botched attempts I have come to the conclusion that my three year old rennet has finally reduced in potency. So I stayed up last night placing an order for more rennet and cultures from The Dairy Connection, my favorite source for direct set cultures.

It is feeling like summer around here even though it is still brown everywhere. The hallway is filled with dirt covered clothes and boots. I've been too worn out for much posting or picture downloading. I've got sore muscles, mosquito bites, and skin that has that lingering sense of sun, and for me, that equates to summer.

In my few minutes of down time I have been savoring a new cook book as if it were a novel. The book is Forgotten Skills of Cooking, The Time Honored Ways Are The Best - over 700 Recipes Show You Why by Darina Allen. Some of the sections I am fairly familiar with like growing and preparing vegetables, raising and butchering poultry and making dairy products. The sections I have been most fascinated by using all the parts of the animal, especially the pig. I've been reading about making your own Prosciutto, Salami, Bacon, cured hams and sausages. I had recently checked out the book Charcuterie, so I had been reading similar information and techniques there as well. This topic is my most recent fascination and obsession. A girlfriend of mine is raising three pigs this year, one of which is for us. We are planning on having someone come out and kill and help us butcher the pigs on site at the end of the summer. We are hoping to use as much of the animals as possible, and are in the planning stages of possibly buying a larger smoker and meat grinder so that we can smoke and cure our own bacon, ham and grind and stuff our own sausages. I've been meaning to get out and see the pigs while they are still young and cute, but they are growing fast and have already past the small weaner pig stage.

I'll be coming back to this cook book in future posts as it is a wealth of significant information. Darina shares her memories of times before electricity came to their village and how food was stored and prepared. I love the bits of memories and side information that introduce each section and the individual recipes. This cookbook could not have come at a better time, when we have yet to see the wild greens come up, and have plenty of time to decide what vegetables to sow. I've been re-inspired to make butter again, and I'm already beginning to plan how we'll be making the most of our pig. So much to do and plan for this time of year, its hard to know where to begin....oh thats right, breakfast for my hungry kids, followed by feeding all the animals.We'll go from there, depending on the day and the weather.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Setting eggs, seed starting, kids nursing lopsided and first milking

Tulips from my son

Lilies from my husband

It is a sunny spring morning here in the Chena Ridge Hills. True blue skies and not a cloud in sight from where I'm sitting. My house is amazingly silent and I'm not sure what to do with myself. Noah is having a sleepover at my folks, for which I feel somewhat guilty as he has a bad cold, sorry Mom! Avery has a cold too though and she is teething on top of that, so just having one fussy babe is plenty. At the moment though, she is down for her nap already along with her dad. I am sipping tea and eating cantaloupe and doing a very good job of being silent. I could wash dishes, put dishes away or cook something, but that would make way too much noise, so alas I am forced to sit and have some computer time, not enjoying myself at all....

The does are outside together for the first time since having their kids. The kids are in a pen together. They've probably worn themselves out by now and are sleeping in a big pile. Rose's weak little boy is still catching up to the rest of the kids. I took him away from his mom for an afternoon to feed him mother's milk in a drenching syringe. At the time he wasn't standing, sucking or swallowing. Now he is doing all of those but still needs assistance finding the teat. So every few hours I help him nurse and watch the other kids to make sure they are nursing. 

One of the biggest issues we have is that the kids prefer to nurse on the easiest (least full) side and quickly begin to favor whichever side they've drained. Then even after I come along and try and empty some of the pressure from the huge side, they are still going for whichever side they've nursed on the last few times. So we attempt to combat this by milking some of the heavy side so that it is similar in size as the other, then directing them towards that side, covering up the teat on the side we don't want them to suck on etc. Fortunately, this means that we get some milk, earlier than we would otherwise. I milked Rose and Xoe yesterday just enough to even out their heavy side, (they still looked about half full when I was finished) and we got a half a gallon of milk. At two weeks old we will begin putting the kids into one stall and after we milk their moms we will let them out for the day. This way we all get milk, the kids grow well and get to spend the days with their mom and sleep with their siblings and friends in a safe place at night.

This is the third kidding year (second for Xan) that these does have had and each year their udders are larger, more developed and therefor hold more milk. Once we start milking all three does every morning, I'm guessing we will be getting around three gallons of milk a day. Once their kids are sold, we then have the option to milk at night as well if we chose, which would give us another three gallons. If you drop them down to one milking a day they won't produce twice as much, but rather about the same amount per milking. So it comes down to time and or demand for milk. Do we want three gallons or six gallons a day? You get more bang for your buck, but it takes another hour (scooping grain, getting goats, cleaning udders, weighing milk, straining and jarring milk, washing pails and totes...) more than an hour if the kids are in tow. We will just have to see how our summer develops.

Last year Dustin was working ten hour days six days a week for a majority of the summer. He would get home, shower, eat dinner, then play with the kids while I did evening chores. Then they would all go to bed and I would stay up till eleven or one in the morning watering and working in the garden. Avery wasn't sleeping well at the time though, and often I would get summoned down to the house by a half asleep husband holding a crying baby and facing up the hill towards myself who would be scurrying around trying to water another row quickly. The last two summers I wasn't up for a night time milking, but this may be the year. 

We have hired our first farm apprentice! Welcome Becca! I am so excited about our summer together! B is going to be coming up to help five days a week for four to five hours a day. She will be feeding and watering all of the chickens and ducks, tossing hay and graining the goats, filling waterers, milking goats, processing milk and starting some basic cheeses. She may also help with separating cream and making butter. Other various farm chores on her list will be cleaning out coops, sheds, building compost piles, digging holes for fruit trees and mini duck ponds (think mud puddle), and planting, watering and harvesting the garden. In return we will be sharing eggs, milk, cheese and any extra veggies or other farm products in addition to paying her a monthly stipend. This arrangement works well for both of us as she is interested in farm experience, appreciates fresh real food and also wants to keep her other jobs. And I sure can use the help from a responsible and eager adult.

I have fantasized about starting some seedlings in the greenhouse or hoophouse in the ground, covered with windows, or in flats with domed tops, especially cool weather plants, cabbage, kale or cold hardy greens. I might get there yet but so far have opted for my usual seed starting rack indoors where I can closely keep an eye on everything. So far I have around forty tomato plants in three to four inch pots, peppers, flowers, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, a few greens and lots of culinary and medicinal herbs, some of which I've sowed multiple times to have it at different stages. I need to start squash and cucumbers next, followed by corn, sunflowers, nasturtiums and maybe beans. In most places you would direct seed these last things, but here our soil is so cold, they take a lot longer if ever to germinate. So if you can they will benefit from a couple weeks inside, before planting out. Noah wants to grow the corn in his garden as he did last year, however I hadn't taken his garden very seriously and had given him corn seed to push into the ground in mid- June. Well what do you know his corn ears got so close to ripening. So this year we will try a little harder.

We got an incubator in the mail this week and set some Amauracana eggs. We don't have any white eggs for me to put them up against. I did pull out our whitest looking eggs but this didn't end up being a very good photo to show off their lovely color. I'll try again sometime. When there is more light these eggs are much more colorful. We have purchased two batches of ten Amauracanas from two different small hatcheries over the past few springs. Unlike the equivalent that you would get from say Mcmurrays or Privett, these are show quality birds with excellent egg quality and color. We are down to our last two hens and a rooster so we are trying to keep things going. Both batches of chicks were heavy on the roosters. I had just started collecting eggs for hatching when our last hen (a blue hen) from the first chick batch died. I've got two of her eggs in here, I could tell them apart when they were fresh, but as they've sat a week I can't tell now. Our other hens are black and the rooster is blue so we should get a mix of black, splash and blue chicks, regardless of chick color, they should all lay lovely eggs, at least the hens will. We will set a couple batches of chicken eggs and if our sole Khaki Campbell duck starts laying again, I'll toss in some of those as well.

Speaking of ducks, we are expecting a shipment of sixty ducklings on Monday or Tuesday. Only twenty five are for us, but still, I will be picking them up and taking care of them for a day or so until the other ladies make it up to sort through them. I can feel mommy urges and baby lust flowing already at the thought of so many baby ducks to care for.

Xoe has turned out to be a great mom this time around. Can you imagine having three babies trying to nurse off you at the same time? Or three toddlers all running in different directions and trying to keep track of them all? Whew! Good job mama goats, I'm impressed.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Five new goat babies!

So it's a long story as it was a long night, that I'm not up for telling...too tired. But the short of it was both Rose and Xanadu went into labor last night. Xan kidded to the doeling above, a black and tan as well as the chamoisee buckling that Noah is greeting. Rose kidded an hour later to three good sized bucklings, two black and white boys and I guess the technical name is light red, although he looks butterscotch colored with white markings. I finished up at four a.m. All the kids and moms were well. This morning one of the kids was weak. I must not have got enough colostrum and milk into him before I retired to bed. He is in the house today and we've been feeding him with a drenching syringe. I hope to have him back with his mom and brothers by the time I go to bed. So that's it for kidding season, six boys, two girls and three does with nice big udders full of milk. I milked a quart out of Xoe's lopsided udder today. Can't wait to be swimming in milk. Tomorrow we take the first kids to get them disbudded. I think we'll also be putting up woven mesh fencing on the outside of the electric strands, so we don't have any kids ducking the wire and getting lost.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

First of the goat kid pics of 2010

 Here are some pictures of the new kids at twenty four hours old. We have been dealing with serious computer issues this week. On top of that I've been having difficulties downloading pictures, ergh! The weather has been too nice to be inside frustrated with the computer anyways so I've been slower than usual in sharing pictures. Above, I'm drying off the first kid, a girl!

I got around to weighing the kids yesterday when they were about twenty four hours old. The doeling was seven and a third pounds, the first boy was six and a half and the second boy was five and three quarters. In this picture the smaller buck is on the left and the doeling to the right. Below is the youngest buck, he has the start of a white belt on his belly.

Above and below are pictures of the doeling. I think we are going to name her Asia. For those of you who are not in the world of naming goats, each year the American Dairy Goat Association recommends a letter to begin goat names with, as a way of keeping track of when goats were born. Obviously you can go along with the naming system, or not. I find it kind of handy. There are so many names out there, it is nice to have some guidelines. We bought our goats on an X year, so all of their names began with X! Then our first kidding year was Y, then Z. We are so ready to be past X, Y and Z names. If Xanadu has a doeling I'm leaning towards the name Avalon, another mythical place name. If Rose has a doeling I kind of like Apple, but I might try to find a flower name. I'm not to fond of Amaranth, Aster, Azalea or Allysum? We don't know if we will be keeping Asia or selling her. It depends on how many more kids we have. I'd like to keep two....

The first boy is on the left, not a very good picture of him though. I included this one because it was Noah's first meeting with the goats. Today we took a bunch more pictures with Avery and Grannie and the kids. Maybe I'll get those together tomorrow. I am pretty sure Xan is expecting. I trimmed her udder area yesterday and it looks like her udder is filling out just a bit. She and Rose are both due in the next week or so. Their early due date is Thursday and they could kid anytime the following ten days or so. It feels good to have Xoe's kidding behind us as she has been our problem mom, problem kidder. Rose has been doing lots of goat yoga, getting those kids into place. In the last two years she has kidded to a single white buckling the first year, and last year a white buckling and a black and white doeling who we kept, no issues either kidding and a great mom. Xan has only had a sole buckling her first year and last year failed to breed. I would love to have a doeling from her. She is as big as a house, so maybe there are a couple in there!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

First Goat Kidding of the Season

Xoe kidded to a doeling and two bucks tonight!!!! They are all black and tan like mom and dad, however, the doeling has less tan than usual, all black around the mouth, chin and nose. I haven't weighed them yet but they are all about the same size, five to six pounds each I'm guessing. This is Xoe's first positive kidding/ nursing/mothering experience so we are all very excited. She has had traumatic deliveries and has rejected her kids initially her past two kiddings.

Two nights ago I was checking in on Xoe at four a.m. and was sure she was in labor. I ended up staying up a couple hours to realize that if she was, nothing was happenning any time soon. We've been watching her like hawks, maybe too closely, for the last couple days. We ignored her for most of today and noticed some obvious contractions mid afternoon. By six p.m. we decided she was in heavy labor, she was beginning to brace against the ground with her back legs during contractions, which were fairly consistent and long. After sitting with her for over an hour her labor began to stall, and it seemed as if the contractions were letting up. We decided I should lube up and go in just to see if I could tell what was going on. I could feel a head upside down with a leg in front of it, but the kid was way in there and not close to coming up. I didn't feel any other kids tangled or nearby and decided to back out and see if things would pick up, as I had popped her water while searching around.

Shortly thereafter she begin to push out a head. My bucket with supplies was about fifteen feet away. I had latex gloves and a tub of warm water and lubricant ready. Within a minute I was back with my right hand, gloved and lubricated pushing the head back before it came all the way out. I followed her neck down and felt the right leg, grabbed it and pulled it forward, switched over to her left side, another contraction almost pushed her head out again. I grabbed the left leg and pulled it forward and then grabbed both legs together and during the same contraction pulled the kid out, in less than I minute. Can you tell, I am proud of myself!  In case you are wondering, kids usualy cannot be delivered with their legs back against their bodies. Instead  their legs need to be in the diving position. The first kid was the doeling, an exciting start to the season! The next boy was upside down and backwards, a position which can be delivered in, and he came right out. We were busy drying everyone off and moma was busy licking her kids. I tried the bouncing technique described by Molly on her Fiasco Farm site and was pretty sure I felt another kid inside. Finally Xoe took a break from her kids to deliver the third, which came out in the proper position.

We moved doe and kids into the back stall with fresh hay, water (and molasses water), grain and a heat lamp. There we continued to dry everone and help the kids nurse. We made sure all three kids got several good sucks before we left them to rest a bit. It is now eleven p.m. and we are inside watching Xoe and her kids on the T.V. via surveilance camera. At the moment one is resting, two are standing and every once in a while they try stepping or hopping and fall into a tangled heap. So far Xoe is doing great with the exception of accidentally stepping on the kids a few times. We'll be helping the kids nurse one more time before we go to bed and again in the middle of the night or early morning. It takes the kids a while to get the hang of finding the teat and latching on. It is vital that they nurse soon after kidding and then every couple hours after that. We are highly involved in enabling and forcing the kids to nurse initially and then making sure we see them nurse every time we visit for the first couple days.

I'm hoping to get some pictures uploaded tomorrow....Been thinking of A names, thats right no more X, Y and Z, thank goodness. This year the official letter to begin names, (if you wish to be a trend follower or conformist) is A. We bought our first kids on an X year, then thought of Y names, then Z names and now we are finally getting around to something different. Other naming restrictions that we have imposed on ourselves are that Rose's kids have flower or botanical names, Xanadu's kids get place or mythical place names. I'm not sure about Xoe's kids, cute punky trendy names? Rose and Xanadu are both due next week, although we are still concerned that Xan might not be pregnant. On my four a.m goat check last night Rose (who is pure white) was standing in the middle of her pen doing yoga in the night. I'm not kidding. She was stretching, going into a downward dog like pose, and back up into cobra. Movin those babies into place. It was beautiful to see, wish I could have captured it on camera. Well here is to a sucessful start to our kidding season!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pregnant Does and Kidding Season

I took these pictures about a month ago and at the time thought the does all looked obviously pregnant, especially from behind and above. The brown doe looked like this last spring at kidding season, but her udder never filled up and she never kidded. She was huge though, just as she is this year, so we won't be certain she is expecting until her udder starts filling. Both the white doe and the black and tan are filling their udders already. The black and tan doe pictured in the last photo is Xoe. She is due any day now. Gestation for goats is 145-155 days. Xoe is on day 146. The last two years she has kidded on day 149, so my guess is that she will kid on Friday. She had two kids her first kidding and three for her second, so I'm guessing three kids again this year.

We have had nothing but trouble with Xoe's kidding, but I can't blame her completely so this is her year to come through for us. We bred her too young in our eagerness for milk. Her front legs started to buckle under the pressure of her pregnancy but I was able to wrap them for support. She was fine after she kidded. Except for the fact that she rejected both of her kids. We had to keep her kids separate from her and hold her so they could nurse. After a couple weeks she finally came around to them. Last spring we were attending Xoe's labor and it didn't seem to be progressing as it should. We finally went in and it was just a mess with all the kids tangled inside. After hours of struggling and pulling and turning we finally pulled the first guy out, then we had to pull the next kid out which was a doeling that never started breathing, and a very weak buckling who died that night. This was our first kidding of the season last year. Needless to say my anticipation dimmed and was replaced with caution and dread. After such a traumatic kidding, Xoe rejected her kids a second time and again we had to hold her for the first several days so her son could nurse.

Xoe is easy to work with and has a great disposition. I would like to keep her in the herd. It was not her fault that her kids were tangled. For both of our sakes I'm hoping for a smooth kidding and a good relationship between dam and kids this year. In the world of dairy goats, it is common place to separate the kids from their dams at birth and raise the kids by bottle with pasteurized milk as a method of preventing the disease CAE. We took great lengths to start our herd with CAE negative goats. For a dam to reject her kids when we are trying so hard to have dam raised kids, is.....ironic. In our experience the does udders fill out completely to the point of a shiny tightness, painful to see. The other sign which I am just starting to get a grasp on is feeling for their ligaments which when they disappear means that kidding is hours away. Xoe's udder is not filled out completely and I can still feel her ligaments, which means I should have a couple days, but I'm still keeping a close eye on her.

I have been debating on whether to pen her up on her own or not. The three pregnant does are on their own. They have been sleeping outside the barn in a covered area near the feeders. I want her to be comfortable and to be able to come and go as she likes. In my experience when a doe is in labor and in obvious pain, the other does want nothing to do with her. However I would worry that if the kids were on the ground the other does then may want to check them out and they aren't gentle with other does kids. We are checking on the does at bed time and again in the morning and throughout the day. We have a security camera set up and wired to our TV so we can keep an eye on them inside. As Xoe gets closer I may put her in a stall, or more likely, I'll just turn on the TV every couple hours.

I try and get the does out for walks a couple times a week. Lately the trails have been treacherous, slippery as can be. I've been hesitant to let three awkwardly pregnant does out on the icy road for fear they'd slip. But I got them out today and as I watched them trudge along I was reminded, that they are goats, sure footed even during their final days of pregnancy.

Rose and Xan, white and brown doe, are due in a couple weeks. We won't know until everyone kids who we'll be keeping, if anyone, and who we will be selling.

As far as advice to anyone entering their first kidding season, I would say BE THERE, no matter what. Our first kidding season we had four does kid, one of those does had her son come head out and get stuck there. We were present we just were not experienced and had trouble getting him out, finally the vet came through and pulled him out. If we hadn't been there Xanadu would have died. Last year Xoe would certainly have died if we hadn't been there. That is two of our four senior does in the space of two years would have died in labor if we hadn't been there to assist. These complications were not caused by feeding practices, but I believe that goat breeders have focused on looks and milk production and not hardy goats that kid easily. I don't know enough about goats in history to know how much better their kidding rates would have been. But I do know that by assisting births and continuing to breed does that consistently have complications in labor, that we continue the cycle. I for one admit that when I purchased my does I was shopping for looks, quality genetics, good looking udders, high milk production, high butterfat levels. It never occurred to me to ask how their dams did in kidding and how often they had complications or needed assistance. It is now my responsibility to be there for my does.

Lacto Fermented Pickles

 I originally wrote this post as a guest post for one of my favorite blogs, Sustainable Eats. It  hasn't been posted yet, and as I haven't gotten around to writing a new post lately I thought I'd cheat and post this one here for now.

A few summers ago I came across Eull Gibbon's Dill Crock recipe in Stocking Up, The Third Edition of The Classic Preserving Guide by Carol Hupping and the Staff of the Rodale Food Center. The recipe caught my eye because it uses lacto fermentation to preserve the vegetables rather than vinegar. At the time my son was a little over one and I was looking for a way to increase his consumption of lacto fermented foods. I had been making sauerkraut and other lacto fermented vegetable salads and condiments but they weren't very finger friendly. My son enjoyed eating store bought pickles and brined olives but those are just full of vinegar and oil, tasty but not nutritious. Today most pickled foods use vinegar, whereas traditionally they were fermented by the lactobacilli; lactic acid producing bacteria which feed off the starches and sugars in food and in return fight off harmful bacteria and provide beneficial enzymes, raise vitamin levels, increase digestibility and even add antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances.

 The Eull Gibbon's dill crock pickles are both healthy and tasty. They store well and are simple to make. You hardly even need a recipe, and after making them once you will probably just look up the recipe to remember how much salt to add. Start by choosing crisp fresh vegetables, whole or cut into pieces if dense or large. The veggies are layered in a crock with dill and garlic. Then you make a salt water brine and pour it over the vegetables and then store the crock away for a couple weeks. Once the veggies are pickled to your liking you can eat them or store them in the fridge or cold storage for up to several months. I usually keep a crock or two going during the summer months, and transfer the contents into jars which we keep in the fridge. We just recently finished off the last of our veggie pickles from last summer. I feed them to the kids as snacks and alongside their lunches. This recipe makes about a gallon of pickled veggies. I use a glass crock but you could use a gallon glass jar. You could easily downsize the recipe and just make a quart for starters, just do the math for the salt water brine. The original recipe called for three quarters a measure salt to ten measures water.

Lacto Fermented Dill Veggie Pickles

  1. Wash and scrub your vegetables. Suggestions include green beans, green tomatoes, peas, cauliflower cut into small florets, baby onions, cucumbers, beets or turnips cut into cubes, the white part of scallions or leeks, baby carrots or sliced carrots (use different colored carrots and vegetables if you have them; red and yellow carrots, purple beans, etc. makes for fun eating especially if you have small children). The original recipe used peeled and cored Jerusalem Artichoke which I'd use if we had them. You can also add red tabasco peppers if want some heat.
  2. Cover the bottom of the crock with fresh dill followed by several peeled garlic cloves
  3. Then alternately layer firm, crisp vegetable, followed by another layer of dill and then another vegetable. Proceed until you are near the top of your crock or have used up all your veggies.
  4. I usually just have about three to four layers of dill and garlic. Example from bottom up: Dill and garlic, carrots, cauliflower, dill and garlic, beans, baby onions, dill and garlic, peas, topped off by a little more dill.
  5. The original recipe calls for ten measures of water and three quarters measure salt, which would be ten cups of water and three quarters cup of salt. I believe this makes a little more brine than you need, so you could break it down to eight cups of water and five eighths of a cup of salt or so depending on how many veggies you have to cover. The recipe also calls for a quarter cup of vinegar for taste. You could add whey or lemon juice in place of the vinegar, or leave the extra acids out.
  6. Finally you need to put something heavy on top to keep the vegetables submerged beneath the brine. You can use a small plate and set a quart jar of water on top. Or, if a plate does not fit I have often filled a gallon plastic storage bag with water and a couple tablespoons of salt (in case it leaks) and set that on top of the veggies. Cover all of this with a flour sack or cloth and secure with a rubber band to keep flies and dust out.
  7. Set your crock in a safe location, away from direct sunlight, but somewhere you'll remember to check on it every now and then. The time it takes your pickles to ripen depends on how warm your house is, but it should be around two weeks or so. If a bit of mold grows on the surface just skim it off, the veggies beneath the brine are protected.
  8. You can preserve your pickled veggies for shelf storage by water bath canning them for fifteen minutes. Just strain off the liquid, bring to a boil and pour over your veggies packed into hot clean jars. Leave half and inch head space. This does destroy most of the healthy enzymes and bacteria. However, sometimes you just don't have to fridge or cold storage room. And these are still healthier than other dill pickle or pickled green bean recipes that you might already make and can.  
  9. Enjoy your pickles! 

After reading Brookes post (at Sustainable Eats) on lacto-fermented salsa a while back, I lay in bed thinking of salsa and how long it would be before I'd have fresh tomatoes and a chance at her recipe. Then I thought about what I did have on hand, and what would make a more seasonally appropriate veggie ferment. I had cabbage, carrots and onions. I also had some cilantro and a jalapeno (both far from local or seasonally correct). I'm sharing this with you, not because I'm suggesting you run out and buy these exact veggies and follow this recipe to a T, but rather, to inspire and share how easy it is to make a lacto fermented dish or condiment with whatever it is that you do have on hand.

The next day I shredded part of a cabbage, a couple carrots, an onion, a handful of cilantro, a few garlic cloves and a half a jalapeno. I added to this a few Tb. of whey off the top of my yogurt and a tablespoon of salt. We stirred this all together and packed it into a jar. By leaving this veggie ferment out at room temperature for a couple days, it begins to ferment. The live enzyme and beneficial bacterias begin to multiply. I did not want to ferment this to the point of soft sauerkraut. Instead I was looking for a crunchy slaw and salsa like condiment. We have been using this as taco filling, or just on a plate with some bean dip and tortilla chips.

I ferment a lot of things these days. I just make them like I usually would, but then I add whey and let them sit out for a couple days before putting them in the fridge. This goes totally against how I was raised; to refrigerate everything immediately, not let food sit out on the counter... I am beginning to implement traditional food practices in my cooking. I am trusting in my own common sense and in the healthy bacteria I know are there waiting for a chance to do their job.

With summer on the horizon you will soon have ample opportunity to try your hand at fermenting some fresh garden produce. Happy fermenting everyone!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter Weekend

Here are some pictures from over the last few days. Above are our new chicks, three to four weeks old by now. The Cornish Cross and Black Sexlinks were already a week when we got them and  the Rhode Island Reds and Amauracanas were just a couple days old. Once we had twenty four chicks in a tub in the hallway, they outgrew the house quickly. They are much happier in their new home. We are going to switch to organic grower crumbles for a couple months. I've been grinding our all purpose whole grain feed in the spice grinder. Now that we are grinding a five pound bucket every other day it is getting to be a bit of a chore. Last summer we tried feeding the adolescent birds whole grain feed after their first month or so, and they wasted a lot of it. Fortunately it grew into lush nutritious pasture which I've been wanting to write about. If it comes back this spring I'll be sharing some more info and pictures on it, for what can be better than wasted chicken feed that isn't really wasted because it GROWS!!!

Above is what our woods looked like a few days ago. Each morning I step out for chores and am surprised how much more bare ground is exposed.  We are having an early break up and melting. We are enjoying the early spring immensely. In town there are just a few dirty piles left here and there. In the hills we are a little slower to lose all our snow, less pavement to heat the ground up. I started three more trays of seedlings the other day, more herbs both medicinal and culinary, and lots of flowers.

We had a lovely Easter day. We had brunch with friends. The kids dyed eggs, and hunted for plastic eggs in the snow. It was warm enough in the sun that we spent most the afternoon on the deck, visiting and drinking mimosas, champagne for the adults and candy for the kids, treats for all.

Here the kids are digging for some plastic eggs that were inside a snow fort that collapsed while they were hunting for eggs. Zoom in on the picture below and on the right side is a bare leg. This young lady had shorts on and was sock-less all day, a fine Alaskan in the making to be sure.

Here the kids are cleaning the futon for Grannie T's arrival. We had them sweep off all the crumbs and then D took a rug doctor to it. My mother-in-law is flying up tomorrow from the east coast. We are looking forward to her visit, especially the part where we leave her with the kids and head to town for dinner, drinks, entertainment and maybe even a night away.

Two similar dumbfounded expressions.

We've been spending lots of time on the back porch as it is flat, dry and relatively clean. Avery hasn't gone down the slide willingly yet, but she sure does enjoy climbing to the top and surveying her realm.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring is here at last

It is April first and I can easily say that spring as sprung here in the Interior and it is here to stay. Our days have been reaching into the forties, well above normal, and the trend is expected to continue over the next several days. Before we know it all the snow will be gone. We have had the easiest, shortest and warmest winter I can remember. We have been remarking on our good fortune all winter long, hardly daring to believe that the harsh cold days could be over. We are now in the safe zone. We could easily get snow and below zero temperatures this month, but chances of extreme cold are long past.

Bare ground is starting to show on our heavily used trails. On my morning walks the snow crunches under my boots. In the afternoon it is almost too warm to be slippery, boardering on slushy, by late night watch out, slip bam before you know it.

I can not emphasize how elated I am knowing that spring is finally here and the days are only getting warmer and lighter. We are receiving more than twelve hours of daylight and gaining over six minutes each day. The kids have been spending a lot of time outdoors. They get dressed to go outside, coats, hat, mittens and boots. Then they get outside and play, eventually get bored because there are not too many toys outside yet and they are mostly confined to the back porch or the driveway, hands get chilly etc. They come in and get all their clothes off. Get bored indoors and before I know it are headed back out. I can hardly keep up. I think the outside layers got put on and taken back off about eight, maybe ten times today. By the end of the day Avery's outside clothes were all wet, but she was still insisting on going out and that was all I had to put her in. There was a while today where the sun was so intense that D was on the back porch in a t-shirt and the kids were hat and mitten-less. I shopped around town looking for rain (muck/farm/ all purpose) boots for Avery today without much luck. She has tiny feet and the smallest kid sizes were too big and finding rain boots for baby sized feet is not easy, at least in this town.

The pace is picking up. By the time we get up the sun is already shining, the kids are wanting outside before they've gotten out of their jammies. The days have been filled with all those things (indoor cleaning, organizing, projects we've put off all winter) we'll never make time for once the ground is thawed.

Twenty-four chicks have moved out of the house and into the chick section of our chicken coop. All peepin and going strong.

Three awkardly pregnant goats are lounging around enjoying their final days of peace and solitude. We are counting down the days. We've got about two weeks until the first kids are due.

Tomato, herb and pepper seedlings are growing. I'll be starting more herbs and flowers soon. Today I dug my hands into the thawed soil in the greenhouse. I think I might start some cold hardy greens and brassicas in the greenhouse and cover them with an extra layer of glass or plastic for extra protection.

We killed two roosters and a drake this week. The roosters were not yet a year but I noticed the meat was not near as tender as the Cornish. At first I made a quick stir fry but the breast pieces were too chewy, the dog was happy though. Then I made an Indian curry and the drumsticks and thighs were thankfully tender enough to enjoy.

I've been making most of Chana's dog food. I had tried my hand at making dog food for her a couple years ago, but eventually went back to the convenience of store bought dog food. Well, I have been re-inspired so I'll be sharing the basic recipe at some point. I've also started just making extra for her when I cook our meals. I make more scrambled eggs on purpose now, and slather a piece of homemade bread with peanut butter when I'm making the kids sandwiches. At one point in my life I actually believed that store bought pet food was the healthiest diet and I felt like I was breaking some law feeding table scraps. I've read enough to realize that maybe the average American diet is not only unhealthy for us but yes also unhealthy for our pets. However, for those of us cooking from scratch with wholesome ingredients, that is another case entirely. So I'll write more on this topic.

As far as this weekend goes, I'm preparing a ham that we bought with our half a pig last spring to take to an Easter brunch with friends. Later in the day we are headed out to my folks for a leg of lamb, brioche, asparagus soup and white chocolate raspberry cheesecake. I am making some sort of salad with my version of shredded duck confit from our duck. I think the salad will have blue cheese, toasted pecans, pears and sherry shallot vinaigrette. Today I made a cheesecake for my mom's birthday which we are celebrating tomorrow. As requested it is a baileys cheesecake with chocolate cookie crust and caramel topping. With a weekend full of cheesecake I am surely doomed as I've been having completely unpredictable dairy sensitivities especially when consuming pasteurized, ultra homogenized unorganic dairy products. Ah, such is life, on one side of the scale is cheesecake and on the other a runny nose and lots of sneezing...

I have ambitions to write some informative helpful posts with pictures included in the following week. I'd like to write more about prenatal goat care, making dog food, grain mill and baked goods and the list goes on. I know if I don't do it soon it isn't going to happen because my time is about to be all consumed by goat babies followed by a planting frenzy. For now, I hope I haven't bored you with my ramblings. Well happy spring everyone! So long dark slow cozy days, hello bright frenzy!