Archive for April, 2013

April 22, 2013

Food for thought: Murdering carrots

Our neighbor gave us a whole box full of Countrywide magazines and the like. A very thought provoking, if not amusing albeit, article in the Sept./Oct 2010 edition about butchering hogs written by a Roger Sherfield said the following:

“The hardest part about getting that homestead hog from pen to freezer is the part that most people don’t like to talk about- harvesting. While using such words may soothe the conscience of some, it avoids the hard truth. We have to kill the pig to eat it. People who are not willing to accept that truth should not eat. Do I mean not eat pork, or not eat meat?”

(And this is the point where I can be heard chuckling as I am being read to in the car while I drive.)

“I mean not eat. Almost everything we eat was alive. Almost everything we eat, from the grain we grind for our bread to the roots we pull from the ground, is killed so we may live.”

I am reminded of the one dinner date Hugh Grant had in the movie “Notting Hill”. You remember the one, the “fruitarian”?

William: And, ahm, what exactly is a fruitarian?
Keziah: We believe that fruits and vegetables have feeling so we think cooking is cruel. We only eat things that have actually fallen off a tree or bush – that are, in fact, dead already.
William: Right. Right. Interesting stuff. So, these carrots…
Keziah: Have been murdered, yes.
William: Murdered? Poor carrots. How beastly!

Beastly indeed, good for a chuckle too.

April 12, 2013

Homemade yogurt the easy way!

I make about a half a gallon at a time, quart and half gallon masons work very well as containers.  First I heat my raw milk to 180. Yes, this does pasteurize it. No, I don’t like killing the good qualities about my raw milk but in the end, it gives me a firmer yogurt. Heating it denatures the proteins so even if you are using store bought pasteurized milk, heat it to 180 degrees. You can make totally raw yogurt without heating it, it will give you a bit runnier yogurt, which I also make often as well. I like both for smoothies, I prefer the firmer Greek style for eating and the runnier to put into pancake batter, muffin mixes, etc.

After my milk comes up to temp. (being very careful not to let it get too hot as burnt milk will be ruined and take a good brillo pad to clean your pan, besides.), I let it cool to 95-110 degrees (either on the counter or in a bath of cool water) and I put a good size scoop (soup spoon size) or two of yogurt from another batch and stir to melt once it cools to 10, not before, you may kill the cultures. If you’re starting your yogurt from scratch, use a store bought yogurt (preferably plain unless you want residual flavors) with LIVE cultures (VERY important) or a powdered yogurt culture. Powdered cultures can be found from any online cheese making source, Hoegger Supply, etc.

While the milk is heating, I heat up a pot of water to about 115-120 degrees (On occasion I leave it go to boiling, I haven’t had any problems using boiling water). When the water is at temp., I pour it into a mason jar and stick it in my “cooler” to warm it up. Once the milk/yogurt culture mixture is ready, I put that into a half gallon mason or 2 quarts and stick it all into the cooler. I leave the jug of water in, close the lid and let ‘er rip. I’ll check it after a couple of hours to be sure it’s still at the right temp. (112-114) and just let it sit until it becomes the consistency I like (6-24 hours). If the temp. drops below 110, I add a new jug of warm/hot water in place of the other.

Once your yogurt is at the consistency you want, add ins like strawberries, peaches, etc. can be mixed in. Add honey to sweeten if you like!

Yogurt makes the BEST pancake mix! The possibilities are endless!


Yogurt Smoothie! Ingredients: raw goat’s milk thanks to my dairy girls, raw goat’s milk yogurt (made by yours truly =), honey, flax seeds, frozen blueberries, and frozen strawberries!

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April 12, 2013

Springy farm update

      The first real day in the garden in what seems like a VERY long overdue time! Strawberries were planted last week in barrels, the starts were given to us by a very generous neighbor, a much appreciated PIF (pay it forward).
     When we clean out the barn of waste hay and manure, we pile it into a big mound in different locations and it’s left to sit. It gives us absolutely gorgeous compost! Goat manure can be put straight onto the garden but with all the waste hay and bedding, we think it is a lot better when left to sit for 6 months to a year. This morning I hooked up the garden trailer to the garden tractor (riding lawn mower) and took several loads of this lovely compost to the garden to fill my raised beds for the herbs and potato pots.
     Despite the nasty ice storm we just had, nothing really seems to be too worse for the wear and we got a lot of moisture out of it to boot! I overheard someone recently say the tally was 1.5″ of rain but at least here at our place, if the buckets and bowls are any indication, it had to be closer to 2.5 if not 3″! That’s certainly a blessing!
     The grass is green, it’s a lovely spring day and just this morning -while examining the fruit trees to see if they were any worse for the wear (they’re not!)- I noticed the oats are about 2″ tall! Boy has this moisture just worked miracles for everything! It seems we got everything in at just the right time. The orchard looks amazing, the strawberries survived the ice storm and the blackberry bushes we got on clearance at Lowes for being frostbitten -despite being forgotten and left out during the ice storm, whammy #2-, they look just as dandy as they did before being frosted in ice! What’s (almost) worse, we left them in a vehicle for about 3 days after we bought them because we were lazy apparently. I thought, “OH NO”! when I realized they were still in there but come to find out, it had the greenhouse effect and those things grew new leaves and they looked lovely after a few days in the heat! You’d never know they looked dead only a few days before.
      The orchard was one of those things on the “someday” list. I am sure you know just the list, right? It’s not always easy to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but those ‘somedays’ DO come! Jeremiah just mentioned the other day how amazing it was that the ‘someday’ orchard is now a reality, just like that! It didn’t come without work, oooooh no. But, as my Grandma still says to this day, you appreciate things more when you have to work for them. How true.
     The pigs did such a great job tilling the garden in for us last fall, I seriously doubt it’ll need much more than a quick going over with the rototiller. One less chore, though secretly, it’s not a chore, I very much enjoy working the soil for the first time each year =).
     I so very much want to move the 2.5 month old chicks out of the chicken tractor and into the great big world but after the hawk attack several weeks ago that took one of my Golden Wyandottes, I am so reluctant to until they are bigger. I move that tractor several times a day (rotational grazing, so to speak) so they have fresh grass to chomp on but I know they’d very much like to be able to truly free range. Hard job, doing what’s best for them =).
     I cannot tell you how lucky and blessed we feel to be where we are at. This is a life long dream of mine, a continuation of life for Jeremiah and despite the days where it just seems like there’s entirely too much work for entirely too few people, there is entirely too little money or too little machinery, in the end, we have entirely more blessings than we probably deserve…it’s hard not to take that for granted sometimes.
     This weekend there are no farm auctions, at least none we’re going to. I am pretty sure this place will be 90% built with used items. We got a great deal on about 25 cattle and hog panels and not a minute too soon. We need to get fencing put back up between the main barnyard and the eastern oat pasture before the goats discover what’s out there and that’ll be the end of the oats and we need to finish up the fencing to the orchard. I also still don’t know what we’re doing with the pigs, we go back and forth. Some days I’d like to just send them off to freezer camp, other days I think we should move them out to pasture. I really would like the space to extend the garden for goat goodies. <sigh> One more slot taken on the ‘someday’ list, when we just got finished bumping one off, ha! This afternoon I intend to cook up a storm, despite how gorgeous it is outside! Having MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat, only entirely so much better tasting and better for us than military MRE’s =) made makes it so we can get so much more done without having to stop to come in to make a meal, or worse yet, GO GET ONE from town because I’m too tired to fix something.
     From my kitchen window I can see the does headed to pasture, Ann in particular lagging behind who may kid today -and a lovely day it would be!- and that prompts me to end this and get back to work. Have a great weekend!
April 10, 2013

This is April?

Yesterday brought some weird weather over much of Kansas. The kids and I were in town, Rachel is shorts and a t-shirt. It was so warm and humid during morning chores I was sweating! By the time we walked out of Hobby Lobby the temp. had dropped 30 degrees to 46 and we were none to happy to be out without jackets! It sprinkled some and by 2 o’clock pelting ice-hail balls were smacking the roof  of the house.

By 3 PM it poured rain, much to my delight. The rain tapered off around 6:30 PM only to pick back up violently by 8 PM with a lovely thunderstorm, big old drops of rain and the sky lighting up and and over and loud cracks of thunder! I LOVE a good thunderstorm.

I walked out to do evening chores yesterday between pelting ice hail and the goats were nowhere in sight. Odd, I thought, since the weather was awful, it was not like them to be away from the barn! The neighbor called just then to say they were in the next door neighbor’s woods happily munching away on the new rye grass sheltered by all the trees. Their house sits up on a hill and they can look down into parts of our proeprties.  The wind must have popped the chain loose on the walk through gate we have between our neighbor’s property and ours, or the does learned how to unlatch the chain! “Oooooooooh girls!” , I yelled. They all came a’runnin’, babies in tow. They know a tasty meal when they hear it, and when they don’t too =).

Last night the show outside was too good not to watch. We opened the blinds in our bedroom to a window that faces north and fell asleep listening to the the rain hitting the thirsty soil, the wind howling, the thunder clanging and the lightening lighting up the night sky.

About 2 AM the power was surging and the carbon monoxide alarm kept going off to alert us that the power had it working again. Yeah, thanks for that!

I suited up at 5:30 AM to check on everything/everyone in the barnyard.  The gate was frozen shut and I had to virtually wade through a lake to get to it. The dogs – who rarely venture into the barn except on very hot days to catch the breeze blowing through or during very bad weather- had made themselves right at home in amongst the goats. The goats were very pleased to get a very early breakfast to replace the dredges left over from the night before.

I was worried about our 2 month old chicks in the tractor as they have a tarp for cover and with that wind, I thought for sure it would go and I’d have chickencicles out there this morning but no, just a thick later of ice over the whole thing so much I couldn’t see them but heard them screaming for breakfast and water just the same! The doors were iced shut, fortunately the small door facing south had ice only on the inside so I was able to punch it open and get them a bowl of water and food, they were pleased and punch!

It’s really quite pretty out with a thick layer of ice incrusting everything, but also fairly dangerous as well! Two trees in our eastern pasture have broken. One at the trunk and another has broken a very large limb. The willow trees that normally have branches that hang low are weeping on the ground and other trees are waning their limbs very low nearly to the ground from the weight of the ice.

My Red Bud Tree out front that I so look forward to coming back to life again was just about to be gorgeous. Now, it’s frozen in time.

I planted strawberries, 4 big ol’ pots of them, 2 days ago. They were the only plants I forgot to cover. Our neighbors generously shared about 40 starts with us. Jeremiah and I dug them up Sunday. We picked up some lovely 15 gallon pots at a farm auction a couple of Saturdays ago. I had planned to make them potato pots, but I took 4 of the 12 and planted strawberries instead. So we get a few less potatoes =). I should have put straw over the strawberries, I sure hope they are okay. Their saving grace was being flanked on the north by the greenhouse so I did not really see ice on them at all this morning. The pots are much too heavy to move into the greenhouse but I did go out last night and put the blueberry bushes in.

We’ll see how the fruit trees do. A couple of them are leaning but should right easily once the ice melts, which may be tomorrow. Some of them already had buds on them, some did not.

Our 2nd round of chicks started hatching on Sunday. The “dry incubation” method worked SO much better than the “no hatch” method that we followed on the incubators directions. It’s a shame to loose chicks!

The tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, broccoli, and cabbage are all up in the greenhouse. Quite a few herbs are up as well. Even with a thick layer of ice, it was still warm in there this morning. Gotta love that!

It’s still very cold out and overcast. We may get a little snow on top of the ice before it’s all said and done but, it’s April right? Things HAVE to get warmer from here, right?

Have a great day!

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April 4, 2013

Kid photos

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April 2, 2013


The orchard trees- Pears: Keiffer semi- drawf & Ayers semi-dwarf. Nectarine: Sweet Surprise. Peach: Hale-Haven semi-dwarf and we’ll be getting one more. Apricot: Golden Sweet. Apple: Cortland, Jonathan,  & golden delicious (all emi-dwarf). Cherry: Stella (semi-dwarf) and Van. Plum Byron Golden & Santa Rosa (semi-dwarf).

The black berries are Prime-Jam (3) & Black Satin Thornless (3). Raspberry (I don’t remember the variety) (2 vines). Blueberry: Patriot (1), Pink Lemonade (1).

The vines will be trained to a trellis. One bears on first year vines and the 2nd bears on 2nd year vines. The blueberries are mid-season fruit bearers and the Pink Lemonade is supposed to be a double bearer each year. The apples are all mid-season ripeners.


The puppies have all been reserved. Two pups are going to Mo., 1 to Colorado and the other 2 are staying somewhat local. They have received their first rounds of vaccinations and will be 8 weeks old on Thursday. They are such a joy to have in the barn yard.


We have a second round of eggs in the incubator. We lost 8 of 40, 4 due to being unfertilized and 4 because of cracked shells which was probably human error due to the hygrometer I think. I candled them yesterday and they all look good! Thursday is day 18 and lock down day when we up the humidity and don’t touch them until they hatch. Hopefully these hatch! I’d feel awfully bad if they did not. The air sacs are looking great this time and everything seems to be on course.


The grass is slowly greening up around here. We got about 6 acres of brome planted and about 2 acres of oats. We’ll see how all this plays out.

We had 3 buck kids born this morning, all the other kids are doing very well!

Granite has come down with a case of mastitis unfortunately so she went to see the vet yesterday. She’s on a round of antibiotics now.

Ada is giving about a quart extra of milk a day over what her kid is taking. Apricot is giving a bit less than a quart extra. All the babies are growing like weeds and it’s so fun to watch them romp and play!

We’ve got some green coming up in the greenhouse and we picked up some really nice potato buckets the other day at a farm auction. They are pretty heavy duty plastic with holes in the bottom. Last fall when we cleaned out the barn from the summer, we let it all compost and it will make lovely stuff to grow potatoes in. We also need to take a few scoops and put it on the garden and till it all in, or let the pigs in for a day or two to do it for us.