Archive for February, 2013

Eighty Eight Pounds

…give or take a few.


We don’t have electricity in the barns, nor to we have running water to either of them.  Instead, we haul water in buckets.  Five and six gallon buckets, to be precise – two of them.  Twice a day.  Right now, we’re also hauling half-full (but partially or completely frozen) buckets back to the house, too, to allow them to thaw.  In the summer, when it’s hot, we haul full buckets out, and empty ones back, which is rather easier, though that’s sometimes a three-trip-per-day job in the hottest weather.


I worked out how much they weigh, and it came to about forty-four pounds per (full) five-gallon bucket.   Eighty-eight pounds out to the barn, and probably about fifty pounds back to the house.   It’s a few hundred yards from the house to the barn when you’re not carrying buckets (or carrying empty buckets), but it’s about seven miles, uphill both ways, when those buckets are full.


At least I get to save on gym memberships…

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Rosemary Salt

I had never really used rosemary for cooking, particularly.  I know it is in the Italian blend herb mix I put in all sorts of things, but I don’t know if I had ever actually used it on its own.  The flavor is nice, but I hate the way the little needle-y leaves stick in my gums, and I could never find powdered rosemary at the store.


However, I decided to grow a rosemary plant in my windowsill herb garden, just because.


My windowsill herb garden is a little bigger than you are probably imagining right now.  I have a gorgeous, south-facing  window in my living room, six or eight foot long.  I put a shelf under it, and have space for about a dozen 6″ pots…or six 6″ pots, a 10″ pot with a dracena, a 7 foot tall scheffelara, and a big dish of cat food, as the case may be.  I sowed the herbs last spring, and am growing oregano (two pots), lemon balm, rosemary, sage, and thyme.  I had a couple of pots of basil, but it always seemed to have aphids, so I gave up on that one.  The rosemary, thyme, and sage, in particular, were getting out of hand; the rosemary was around two feet tall.  Since we’re just getting into the part of the year where all my houseplants start growing like mad, I decided to give my herbs a serious haircut.


What do you do with a huge, foot-long bundle of rosemary branches, though?  Especially when you don’t like the stuff as a dry herb?  I hated the thought of wasting it.


I remembered that I have put together a rosemary-salt rub for some chicken in the summer, by grinding some fresh rosemary with a handful of pickling salt in my mortar and pestle, and the solution presented itself.


Rossemary Salt


It is a LOT of work to grind the rosemary down in the mortar and pestle, and it is very sticky stuff.  Just stripping the leaves off the branches left my fingers feeling like I had dipped them in pine tar.  Then I ground and mashed and ground some more.  The needles hold their shape for a long time, but just as I began to despair, they started to break down and meld with the salt.  It took what seemed like forever; however, the results are worth it.  We’ve been using this salt in spaghetti sauce, and it makes a delightful rub for our home-grown chicken – I just loosen the skin on the breast (by working in from the neck end), and rubbing the rosemary salt into the meat under the skin before roasting it.  I’m sure it would be lovely with pork, as well.


If you want to try making your own, I used about equal parts coarse pickling salt and rosemary leaves.  Start small – a tablespoon or two of each, as the rosemary is tough to grind, and tends to leap out and get all over the place if you start with too much.  The salt gets a bit of a sticky, moist texture, but it keeps just fine in a covered container for at least six months (which is as long as we’ve tested, with the leftovers from last summer’s chicken rub).


Since I happened to also have sage and thyme, I made an almost-Scarborough Fair mix, grinding generous handfuls of the three herbs with a few tablespoons of pickling salt.  I think that one would be great for seasoning chicken dishes, and I’ll be testing it out in my next vinaigrette mix, as well, I think.  Blueberry-herb salad dressing?  Yes, please!  Now I’m plotting what other herbs I could plant to try this with…

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Last Saturday, Hubby went out to do chores, and found our buck laying dead in the barn.  Just…dead.  There was no sign of illness or injury; no blood, pus, mucous, cud, diarrhea, lumps, bumps, bruises…nothing.  He was found laying on his side in the straw, but there was no sign that he’d had convulsions or anything.  No indication at all of what might have happened.  The buck was a little on the skinny side, but had been eating and drinking normally as of the night before, perky and being a nuisance when the boys were being fed.


I immediately called our breeder to ask if he had any ideas.  He asked us about our worming program.  I had postponed worming, because I picked up the dewormer after the does had been bred; the directions on the package indicated it wasn’t to be used in pregnant cattle (there are never instructions for goats, alas), and I couldn’t find any information about whether or not it might be safe in goats.  He also asked about supplementation.  We give a bit of fortified goat ration, and a blue cobalt salt block, but the breeder informed me that this probably isn’t sufficient – our area is deficient in selenium, and the goats probably also need more copper and maybe calcium than the ration would contain.  Between those things and the extreme cold (it was -35 that night), the breeder indicated he might have just died due to poor condition.  Of course, he could be fine on all counts and just have dropped dead of a heart attack or aneurysm, too, and there’s no way to know for sure, short of a post-mortem, which I’m not willing to pay for at this point – we’ll need that money to buy a new buck.


I have this nagging feeling like we might have killed our awesome boy through ignorance and neglect, though, and we’re both pretty cut up about it.   He was such a docile and friendly buck, and we’re breeding for attitude, so he was perfect in that regard.  He’d really become a pet, as we knew we planned to keep him more or less forever.   We’d gotten completely attached.


On Saturday, I finally sucked it up and tried eating goat cheese.  With Baby M having such a violent and extended allergic reaction when I eat any cow products, I had been too chicken to try any alternatives.  I have been working up my courage since before Christmas.  So I made up a pizza on a gluten-free crust with home-made goat ricotta, mushrooms, onions, pineapple, and peppers.  It was absolutely divine, after six months without a bite of cheese.


Baby M did not react at all.  I would have been dancing a happy dance if not for the black cloud hanging over our heads with the loss of the buck.


I’ve been finding a way to work cheese into pretty much every meal since…


Tuesday, while I was out doing chores in the girls’ yard, I got this creepy feeling like I was being watched.  I glanced around at the girls, who should have all had their heads in their grain buckets; the three older does were all looking to the north, ignoring their grain entirely.  I looked around, too, and didn’t see anything…until it moved.  A huge coyote, slinking out of a derelict building that is not at all far from the girls’ pen.   I’m certain it was a coyote and not a wolf, but it was a seriously large coyote.  And bold!  It sat down in front of the building and just watched us.  I charged that general direction, yelling and flapping my arms; the coyote moved a few steps and sat down again.  I grabbed a chunk of snow and threw it…if my aim had been better, I might have had better effect – but the coyote just moved a few more steps before sitting down again.   Eventually, it wandered off, but the girls and I were all spooked.


After chores, I got the dogs, and went exploring around the area.  The coyote had been into the compost pile; Hubby knew something had been digging in there, but had blamed Poppy, or thought maybe it was a skunk.  There were pretty well-established trails in and out of the bush, suggesting this critter has been hanging around for a while.  I am not sure what our next course of action should be.  We could try to trap or shoot the coyote, but I don’t know if it’s worth the hassle.  There are still all the foxes, plus plenty of other coyotes, waiting to take this one’s place.  I am not so worried about the goats, especially since they go in the barn at night, but the cats are at risk, and the chickens are pretty vulnerable.  The snow has effectively reduced my five foot fences to about three feet – even the non-drifted areas are up well past my knees, and the snow around the goat and chicken yards is packed fairly solidly from us and the critters walking on it.  My biggest worry is when the goat kids come.  The goat yard is easily approached from the bush, and a kid would be pretty tempting for a hungry coyote.  I haven’t seen the coyote since that day, but we know it’s still hanging around.


There has been so much piling up that it’s almost hard to tackle writing a blog post about it.  However, in short, it’s been a rollercoaster of a week – we’ve been down (way down) about the loss of our buck, up about the possibility of me being able to eat cheese again, and worried about that stupid coyote.  Bleh.  I’d rather things were boring…


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