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Archive for January, 2013

I have a friend who is trying to go gluten free and vegetarian.  He also claims to be a bad cook.  He asked me to post up some recipes for him; today seemed like a good day to oblige 🙂

 

I was down in the root cellar this afternoon.  Some of the turnips were going wrinkly-soft (as opposed to rotten-soft), and some beets, too.  The carrots are still going strong, but I grabbed a few anyhow.  I also grabbed a bag of parsnips – we bought a bunch on sale back in October, but keep forgetting to use them.  I also grabbed a couple of sweet potatoes.  Several onions.  Two cans of chick peas.  A head of garlic that was starting to sprout.

 

Really, this recipe is awfully flexible.  As far as vegetables go, the critical bits are a couple of onions, a sweet potato or two, and whatever other root veggies you have on hand and/or need to use up.  Today, I used three onions, two sweet potatoes, four or five parsnips, four beets, four carrots, and most of a head of garlic (I cut each clove in half, and sprinkled it over the veggies); however, any of these things are pretty optional.  You could also add white potatoes, if you wanted.  Just chop everything into sticks or bite-sized chunks and spread them out on a cookie sheet (or, like me tonight, two cookie sheets).  Make sure to chop the sweet potatoes into bigger chunks than everything else, since they cook a fair bit quicker; conversely, you can cook everything else for twenty or thirty minutes first, then add the sweet potatoes – your choice.  Being lazy, I just cut things to different sizes – turnips and beets in little chunks, sweet potatoes in big sticks.

 

Once everything is chopped, spread it out on the cookie sheet(s) and pour a generous amount of olive oil over top.  I’m talking a few tablespoons per cookie sheet.  Toss the veggies around a bit to get them covered in oil, then sprinkle with salt and Italian seasoning.  Be generous with the Italian seasoning – maybe a tablespoon or two per cookie sheet.  Give everything another stir, then throw it in the oven, uncovered, at 350F for about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how small you chopped your veggies.  At that point, they should be still a little crunchy – basically not-quite-cooked.  Drain a can of chick peas per cookie sheet, and stir them into the mix.  Put the veggies back in the oven, and start your rice.

 

For this particular recipe, I used to make couscous with a bullion cube (or two, depending on how much couscous I was making) and some fresh-grated ginger.   Of course, couscous is not gluten free, so now I just boil up a pot of rice with a bullion cube (or two).  You could use vegetable bullion, onion bullion, or chicken – whatever you prefer – or nothing at all.  It is just to keep the rice from being too bland.

 

By the time the rice is done (about 20 minutes, by the time you boil the water and let the rice cook 15 minutes), the veggies should be cooked.  Serve immediately.

 

This is a favorite around here, because it only uses stuff we have on hand in the winter, and it uses up any root cellar veggies that are starting to go soft, but are still edible.   The leftovers are awesome – the flavors have extra time to blend – but this particular recipe does not freeze well.

 

This is probably a terrible recipe if you want to lose weight, but it’s a seasonal winter recipe that’s vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, and very, very tasty!

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I will open by saying I am reviewing this product from a totally neutral position; I was not asked or paid to write a review.  I happened to pick up this cookie mix at my local grocery store, on a day when I happened to be feeling sorry for myself and craving cookies.

 

cookie mix box

 

The Gluten Free Pantry chocolate chip cookie mix was definitely simple to make.  It calls for butter (or a substitute; because of Baby M’s dairy allergy, I used vegan margarine, which worked just fine) and two eggs.  Everything else is included in the mix, and the chocolate chips are even dairy free, which is a real bonus for me!

 

Mixing up the cookie dough according to the directions, I wasn’t sure they would be liquid enough to really make much of a drop cookie.  However, in the end, it was fine.  In fact, the tray of cookies that waited on the stove top for their turn at baking got almost runny, as they got warm.

 

 GF cookie dough

 

It was difficult to tell when the cookies were actually done.  The first time I took them out, they were still pretty raw.  In other cookies, I would call them ‘chewy’ and eat them anyhow; unfortunately, the texture of these cookies demand being cooked to the crisp stage.

 

Once they were actually properly cooked, the cookies were very good.  They have a flaky texture that regular cookies don’t, but the flavor is excellent.

 

For the convenience and the price (I think it was about seven dollars for the box of mix, which netted me a couple dozen good-sized cookies – pricey for cookies, but mid-range for gluten-free products), I would absolutely recommend the Gluten Free Pantry chocolate chip cookie mix.  In fact, this was my second time making them, and I was still impressed.  It is difficult to find good gluten free products that are also dairy free, so this one is a big win!

 

mmm cookies!

 

 

 

 

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Breastfeeding Update

About six months ago, I posted about all the struggles I was having with nursing Baby M.

 

Well, we’ve been at this over seven months, now, and things have, indeed, improved.

 

I still don’t love breastfeeding, though.  It’s convenient; especially when we’re out and about.  It’s portable, and simple; I never have to worry if things are the right temperature, or if baby is eating too much.  I can forget the diaper bag, but lunch is always with us, which is good, considering the number of things I forget when I am trying to rush out the door with an uncooperative kid.

 

There are a lot of ways that it still sucks, however (pun intended).  My body is not mine.  I can’t eat what I want – no wheat, dairy, beef, soy, or nuts for me.  There is no such thing as a restaurant meal anymore, with a diet like that.  I can never be very far from Baby M; in fact, he was over six months old before I was ever any further from him than from the house to the barn.   Even now, I am on a three-hour tether.  When the round-trip to town is around an hour and a half, that doesn’t make it worth trying to go shopping alone, so I haven’t.  My clothes are still designed solely around easy access and spit-up concealment, rather than being able to wear something nice.   It might be nice to dress up sometime, except that none of my nice shirts fit, anyhow, with these monster breasts.

 

Nursing is still much like diaper changing.  It needs to be done.  I do it.  It’s not something I particularly enjoy, especially now that baby has sprouted a couple of teeth.  However, it is good for him, with the added benefits of being cheap and easy, so we will continue, at least until I go back to work.

 

I do still object to the propaganda that makes breastfeeding out to be some earth-mother nirvana.  For me, it was not.  It was (is) work.  Hard work.  I was not prepared for how difficult it would be.  It wasn’t just the pain, though that didn’t help.  It was the total loss of autonomy.  The loss of most of my identity, all at once, with no warning, and no preparation.  I went from being a well-respected career woman, with an important role at work, as well as being an equal at home, to being a pair of boobs for a very demanding little guy.  My whole existence was reduced to feeding the baby.  This was not a chore I could share with my (awesome) husband, either, as much as we might both wish we could split the load.  It was my duty, and mine alone.  I wish that had not come as such a shock.  I wish someone had told me that.

 

People say that only the positive aspects of breastfeeding should be discussed, because if women knew how hard it was, nobody would ever even try.

 

Bullshit.

 

I’m pretty sure my marathon-running friends knew they weren’t signing up for a stroll in the park.  I backpacked alone in North Africa, and I knew in advance that there would be challenges.   I know many very strong women, who have voluntarily done many very difficult and amazing things, and they generally made the decision knowing exactly how hard it was going to be.   I don’t think many women expect motherhood to be easy, either.  I just wish there was more public information about the parts of breastfeeding that are challenging, or painful, or just plain hard.  That way, there wouldn’t be the ‘nasty surprise’ aspect to contend with, on top of the sleep deprivation, steep learning curve, and all of the other issues that you face as a new parent.   I think more women are likely to quit because they were misinformed, than are likely to quit if they commit, in advance, to doing something that is difficult, but which improves the health of their babies.

 

Give us some credit.

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Goat Buck Horns

Goats, in general, have horns.  However, particularly in dairy goats, horns are often considered undesirable, and are normally prevented from growing, a procedure called ‘disbudding’.  Disbudding is done while the goat is very young, either by burning the horn area with a hot iron, or by using a very caustic paste.  The point in either procedure, is to destroy the horn ‘bud’, so that it does not grow into a proper horn.  Toggenburgs, our breed, are traditionally sold either disbudded or de-horned, and any serious buyer, willing to pay registered Toggenurg prices, expects hornless goats.

 

As with everything else goat-related on this farm, there have been…issues.

 

Since we knew that we did not have a clue how to properly disbud a goat, we took all of our goat kids to the vet last year to have the procedure done.  It turns out, the vet was a little shaky on the procedure, himself, and additionally neglected to mention that he did not have the right tools for the job.  We ended up paying a pretty penny for local anesthetic, painkillers, consultation fees, and a half-assed ‘procedure’ that was ultimately useless on our bucks (the girls were okay), leaving us with one buck kid with full horns, and another who had one horn and one scur (though he has currently broken that off, so he has one horn and one matted blood clot):

 

Boris horn and scur (clot)

 

Now, from my understanding, horn scurs are pretty common with buck goats.  A scur is where a true horn does not grow, but portion of the horn tissue does continue to grow, producing something that is sort of like a horn, but not nearly as strong or dangerous.  Something about the testosterone makes those buck horns defy disbudding attempts; girl goats rarely have this problem.  Even our foundation buck, Tuscan, who was properly disbudded, has horn scurs:

 

Tuscan horn scurs

 

The scurs are something of a pain in the rear.  Tuscan periodically catches his on the fence, and breaks one partially or completely off.  There tends to be a lot of blood involved, though it doesn’t seem to bother the goat very much.   However those remnant horn bits tend to curl pretty tightly to the goat’s head, rather than pointing up or out, where they can get properly stuck in, say, a fence, or hurt an innocent bystander, like, say, me.   Titan, who still has full horns, frequently pokes me with them when he is getting over-eager to get at the hay I am carrying…and he is a friendly and very docile boy.  I wouldn’t want to tangle with a scared or aggressive buck who had horns like that, I can assure you.

 

I am still quite frustrated that the vet charged us for a procedure that did not work…twice.  We took both boys back in when it became apparent that the horn buds were growing, despite the treatment.  We were quite shocked when we got mailed the bill.  This year, we are considering disbudding paste, as it is a real hit to pay the vet big bucks to end up with horned bucks anyhow, and not being able to sell them as a result.

 

Or, in a perfect world, we will end up with all girls…

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Garden Porn

Well, it’s that time of year again – the dead of winter doldrums have hit, so the seed companies take advantage by sending out their brightly-colored little catalogs of garden porn.  Naked seeds, laying suggestively on colorful cloths, dirty carrots, blushing tomatoes…the pictures on those shiny pages are enough to make any gardener shiver.  And covet.  And spend far more money than was strictly necessary, on things that there isn’t necessarily enough space for in the garden…yet…

 

Seed Catalogs

 

I always spend hours pouring over these catalogs, wanting.  Wanting to try all the different varieties, wanting to see how they grow, how they taste, what they really look like in my garden.  I have discovered that most of these things aren’t really suitable for neglectful gardeners in zone 2 dryland, where even hardy tomatoes and peppers and melons need a lot of watering and covering and coddling.  It does not seem to stop me, however.

 

This year, I am trying a new tactic to combat over-spending on seeds.  I wrote out a list of every vegetable we actually eat, then allowed myself to order a couple or three varieties of each of those.  I’m getting two kinds of beet, for instance (Cylindra, and some golden variety, though I have not yet decided which one).  I’ll get three types of dry bean, maybe four (Jacob’s Cattle, Red Kidney, Black Turtle, and maybe a Maine Yellow Eye), and two types of wax bean.  We already know which varieties of peas, carrots, wax beans, turnips, and onions we like, so those are easy.  I am debating about whether to try hybrids for cucumber, summer squash, and broccoli; we have not had as good of luck with these as I would have liked.  I am totally stuck when it comes to squash, though; even if I allow myself two types of pumpkin and three other winter squash varieties, I can’t narrow it down to that.  I love squash so much, and it’s a go-to storage veggie for us, so I might just get one of everything!

 

For the things we have never tried (kohlrabi), that are marginal (artichokes), and ones we’ve never had any luck with (melons), I am setting a ‘fun budget’.  This is a budget of money, but also a budget of garden space.  While we have more room than we will ever need for gardens, there is only so much space Hubby can actually manage to keep weeded, watered, and picked, so we’re in heavy negotiations over what is reasonable, and what is completely crazy.   Anything we agree on will still probably be overly ambitious, as we’re both total optimists about the garden, but maybe we can pare back a bit from the 8,000-plus square foot (literally!) monster that we began with.   Of course, I’m still looking at two types of artichoke, several melons, a couple of novelty gourds, and so forth; ‘restraint’ is kind of relative…

 

We are also looking at trying some new tactics with the gardens.  The main bed is currently located a long ways from the house, past two hedges, and through a large patch of grass that will hopefully be fenced off and turned into goat field sometime soon.  It is not very accessible, and it’s out of sight, which means we forget to weed and water as often as we should.  We want to move the garden to a more obvious and accessible location, though we don’t have any place close to the house that is big enough.  What we hope to do is plow up as many as four new beds, in various places between the house and the barn, and near the barn, where we are more likely to weed/water/pick, because we will be seeing them more frequently.  As well, this would resolve the issue of how to juggle garden duties with caring for Baby M; the new locations would be near shady protected spots where a baby could be parked in a play pen, rather than being out in a hot, exposed, windy open field.  We will have to wait for the snow to melt in order to measure up the patches, but we think we’ve found enough places to make this work.

 

So back to the picture-circling for me…I’m sure in two months I’ll be complaining about where to put all my seed starts, but the looking and wishing and choosing sure is fun!

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Bad Feather Day

Blue-Legs the hen was one of the last girls to start molting.  In fact, we weren’t sure she was even going to, based on how much later she started than everyone else.  Then we started finding little piles of Blue-Legs feathers in the barn, which, while disconcerting, let us know she was just on a  different schedule from the other girls.  As I mentioned before, the don’t all fall out at once; rather, a patch will fall out and regrow, then another patch.  Blue-Legs’ neck feathers (the last bare patches) are finally growing in now.  The new feathers are initially enclosed in shafts, which reminds me of a character from an old horror movie called Nightbreed, but I digress.   Soon, Blue-Legs will look all shiny and sleek, but for now she looks like she’s having a perpetual bad feather day:

 

Blue Legs bad feather day

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Goals and Resolutions

Aah, 2013.  Already.  Where does the time go?  Oh, yeah, I remember:

Baby M

 

Since we seem to have survived the Mayan Apocalypse, I guess we should set some goals for 2013.  I said resolutions in the title, but I actually kind of lied; I make resolutions all the time, but rarely on New Year’s Day.  I am not one to save them up for a special occasion that way!  We do have a lot of goals for the acreage, though.

 

In 2013, the garden will be better.  I say that every year, but this year, it is almost certain to be true, since it would be difficult to be a whole bunch worse than 2012.  We are actually looking into moving the garden; it is currently a long way from the house, on the other side of a tall hedge, so we never seem to notice the weeds until they’re at the “oh, shit” stage, and if we don’t make a conscious effort to be out there every day, we get behind.  We took a walk around the yard today to get a sense of where we could put a new garden area; there is no single spot big enough, but if we split the garden into two or three areas, we might be able to fit it in somewhere near the small barn.  Stay tuned.

 

In 2013, we will be better prepared for kidding.  We’re already way ahead on this one, just with the stuff that we got last season.   We have some frozen milk from Saffron, as well as milk replacer.  We have bottles, nipples, towels, preparation-H, a thermometer, molasses, and tattoo equipment.   We will be signing ourselves up with the Canadian registry this week, and will hopefully have an official herd name and tattoo soon thereafter.  We held off breeding the does, and did not put them in with the buck until mid-November.  That means that even if someone kids significantly early, we’re still looking at April, not February. We put Saffron, Missy, and Skye in with the buck; we hope they were all successfully bred.  Time will tell, I suppose.

Skye, 2013-01-01

 

In 2013, we will shear the alpacas.  Somehow.

 

We are researching the possibility of adding bees, and maybe turkeys.  Maybe.  We would like to add more hens to the flock, but we still have a freezer full of roosters, so we may have to break down and buy adult hens.  I am also looking into getting another buck, so that we can keep some of Tuscan’s daughters in our herd…Aurora (Missy’s daughter from 2012) in particular, is a very nice looking little doe.

 

There are many other thoughts, dreams, and goals, but those are the most realistic of the bunch; some have made it as far as to become actual plans.  We had a lovely stroll around the property this morning, and I took a few photographs, so I will leave you with some pretty pictures, and our best wishes to you for 2013!

 

Stevie 2013-01-01

 

Gallus 2013-01-01

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