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Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Not *quite* two years, but close enough – yikes!

 

It has been a somewhat…eventful…couple of years, too.  Hubby went back to school to get some education in web development, and we had to sell the goats in order to find the time for him to work school in around acreage maintenance and childcare, but he got his certificate with high honors, and we’re casually looking at goats again.  I’ve had some health challenges, and have been trying to keep my graphic design / illustration business afloat through the crazy time challenges we’ve had.

 

On the bright side, we’ve continued expanding our knowledge and refining our garden, and the orchard is coming along nicely – we harvested a 5-gallon bucket of apples last fall, as well as crabapples, chokecherries, black and red currants, highbush cranberries, sour cherries, grapes, strawberries, and raspberries; we’re expecting the plums and pears to start bearing in the next couple of years, too.  We end up drowning in squash every fall, and I’m getting pretty good at inventing ways to eat them.

 

We’ve kept the chickens, too, and have added a few breeds to the roster.  We got Cochins last year, and we’re hoping that we’ll get some broody hens out of the deal, who will raise our chicks for us, and save us all the fussing with heat lamps and such.

 

I’ve got (yet another) ambitious order of trees coming for spring, and we’re looking at plowing up another garden bed, as we’re running out of room in the smaller one by the barn; I ordered some roses, too, to prettify the place, now that we have most of the fruit trees we really wanted.  Perhaps I will find some time to post about our growing, picking, cooking, and preserving again this summer!  Meanwhile, here is a little photo of the kids, who are also growing like weeds:

The kids, reading

I can’t believe I’ve got a child old enough to read!

 

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Riches

We knew it was going to be a busy summer, and it has lived up to expectations.  A toddler and a new baby, on top of the goats, chickens, garden, and regular maintenance work has us feeling like we’re going 100 miles an hour, all the time!  Hubby has even wished out loud that winter would just hurry up already, so we can rest a bit.  I completely disagree, and want summer to go on and on, but then again, I haven’t been doing any of the heavy work.

 

Our garden has exceeded expectations.  The squash is taking over the lawn, and we have so many beans and zucchini that I’ve been selling them to colleagues.  For a garden that is less than a quarter of the size of the original, it is really producing!  We do need more space – we did not grow potatoes or corn this year, and the garden bed is packed so tight that we have to do quite a bit of watering, but the yield so far is still more than I expected.

 

2014 garden

 

A shot of the other side of the garden, where the squash is really going nuts:

 

squash in the lawn

 

We also have raspberries coming out our ears.  I love raspberries – they are one of my favorite fruits, but they are always expensive, and often hard to find, outside of the little $5 clamshell packets from California.  So, our first year here, I planted lots of raspberry canes.  I probably overdid it.  No, I definitely overdid it.  We ended up with two 80 foot rows of berry plants, that have since grown together into one massive raspberry patch:

 

raspberry patch

I don’t really mind, though.  We have more berries than we can pick or use right now, but what we don’t use, the birds and other wildlife will appreciate.  In fact, I hadn’t really thought about it, but that huge raspberry patch is excellent habitat for a whole lot of critters, ranging from the fairly enormous “ohmygod what on earth is THAT” bugs that I’ve never seen before, but which were out in abundance this year, to spiders and even finches.  While I was picking, I came across a bird’s nest with a baby bird and all!   I saw it just in time to avoid knocking it off its perch, so I carefully marked the spot so that I could come back with the camera, then avoid that bit of the patch until the little bird had grown up:

 

goldfinch nest

I am pretty sure this is a goldfinch nest, mostly because they are the only common bird around here that I know of that nests in the fall.

 

Looking around at all of the bounty we have here to use and share, I truly feel rich.

 

raspberries

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Mom was cleaning out cupboards some time ago, and asked me if I’d like her old Donvier crank ice cream maker.  It’s the kind that has a metal piece that goes in the freezer to pre-chill, and then you pour in the liquid mix and crank…and crank…and crank…

 

I know the technology is better now, and there’s even electric ice cream makers, but it wasn’t something that was even on my radar, until we had this Baby M’s dairy allergy to contend with.  I wasn’t even too concerned about it until the last couple of days, when the temperature finally went from ‘cold wet spring’ to ‘definitely summer’.  It was over thirty degrees today!  Suddenly, ice cream was in order.

 

Luckily, the goat kids are old enough that I can ‘steal’ some milk from the does without any issue.  Last night, we separated the kids from the does, and this morning, I milked.  Happily, Skye, who has never been milked before, was very good on the stand, at least until she ate all her grain.  Saffron, of course, was her usual bomb-proof self.  I got a decent-sized bucket of milk for my efforts…enough for a quart of ice cream, with some left over, even!

 

I didn’t realize ice cream called for eggs, as well.  Fortunately, we have plenty of those, too. I used the green-shelled eggs from Blue-Legs, our Americauna hen, since she ranges the most, and has the yellow-est yolks.

 

Blue Legs eggs

 

In fact, of the four ingredients on the list, the milk and eggs were produced completely on-farm, and the vanilla was something I also made, from beans I ordered from Uganda.  The sugar was the only thing I did not have a hand in in one way or another.  When you think about raising and milking the goat for your milk, raising the chicken that laid the eggs, and soaking the beans for six months to make the vanilla, this ice cream is really, really slow food!  It certainly makes me want to eat less and savor more, which, really, may be a solution to the wide-spread over-consumption we seem to have in North America.  When you make something from scratch-scratch, by producing even the ingredients, you suddenly realize how under-priced food is at the store…but that is a rant for another day.

 

Like so many good things, the recipe is very simple – only four ingredients!  You definitely want to use the freshest milk and nicest vanilla (no imitation extract!) for this, as the flavor is so dependent on the ingredients you use!

 

farm eggs and milk

 

French Vanilla Goat Milk Ice Cream

 

4 cups goat milk

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 to 2 tsp vanilla

 

Beat the eggs into half the milk, until everything is very well-mixed.  Add the sugar and the rest of the milk, and heat on low, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens a bit and sheets off the back of the spoon – about 15-20 minutes.   Cool the mixture (I put the pot directly in the fridge for a few hours), then add the vanilla (I like strong flavors, and used 1 1/2 tsp, but my vanilla is at least double strength.  You can taste the mixture to see if you want more vanilla in it).  At that point, put the mixture in your ice-cream maker, and chill or crank according to your machine’s instructions.

 

ice cream maker

I would have included a picture of my ice cream with strawberries, but it was melting too fast in the heat, so I was forced to eat it quickly!

 

 

 

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Well, it is almost zucchini season. I am almost afraid of it, this year – we planted a bunch, and I am expecting a literal ton of zucchini. Besides grating them into pasta sauce and cakes (which I can’t have these days, with the gluten restrictions and all) and giving them to neighbors, I don’t know of all that many things to do with zucchini. However, I actually like them just grilled on the BBQ, to eat as a side to my burger.

 

Of course, my ‘burger’ can’t be beef, anymore, nor can I have real (cow-based) cheddar on it, or put it on an actual bun. I can’t finish it off with ice cream, either. This kid’s allergies are killing me! My vegetarian sister introduced me to great recipe several years ago, though, that actually is quite possibly tastier than burgers anyhow, so I really can’t complain too much. Instead of hamburgers, she eats barbecued portobello mushroom caps.  While not dairy-free or vegan in my recipe, it is easy to make them so – just use Daiya or other vegan cheese, and (for vegans) skip the mayo – an easy way to accommodate a range of dietary needs at a backyard barbeque.  These are satisfyingly hearty, and fit perfectly on a bun. Or, as the case may be, a gluten-free bagel…

 

Grilled Zucchini:

 

Wash the zuke, and slice on an angle to get wide rounds.

 

sliced zucchini

 

Set in a dish, and pour olive oil over the slices, and toss to coat.

 

Sprinkle liberally with Italian seasoning blend.

 

zucchini with herbs

 

Grill on the BBQ on low-medium heat until lightly browned.

 

 

 

Grilled Portobello Caps:

 

portobello mushrooms

 

Wash the mushroom caps and pat dry with paper towel. Break off the stems. Rub both sides liberally with olive oil. Barbeque, cup down, on low-medium heat for a few minutes until the mushroom begins to soften. Flip, and sprinkle cheese or vegan cheese (in my case tonight, goat feta, though cheddar or mozzerella is also tasty) in the cap (optional – spoon a dollop of green basil pesto into the cap, before sprinkling with cheese, though be aware that most canned pesto has dairy in it). If you don’t add the green pesto, sprinkle a little Italian seasoning mix over the feta. Leave the mushrooms on low-medium heat until the cheese melts and begins to brown. Serve on a hamburger bun, or (in my case) a gluten free bagel with a bit of mayonnaise (garlic mayo is a nice touch, if you’re feeling creative):

 

vegetarian BBQ 'burger' with grilled zucchini

 

Unfortunately, I can’t help you with the whole ice cream problem…

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In the admin statistics for this blog, I have a record of search terms that led people here.  There are the expected searches, like things relating to goats, or root cellars.  Some are a little surprising.  The top terms that bring people to Rural Dreams are searches for a recipe for rose petal jelly, and searches relating to dogs eating tampons.

 

Then there are the ones that make you wonder.  “Pictures of chickens when defecating”?  Really?  Or “chicken with raggedy bum feathers”?  “Do sun city palm desert garages have rebarb”? Huh?  “Porn”?  When I read that last one out to Hubby, he laughed out loud, and said my blog must have been the very last click on a totally epic night.  How many pages in would you have to be in on google to find this blog with that search?!?

 

Some of the search terms make me wonder if the seekers found what they were looking for.  I even have good answers for some off them, but I don’t know if they’re really typed out, here on the blog.  It’s been bugging me, here are some of the questions, and my answers.

 

How long can you keep unwashed eggs in a root cellar?

 

We’ve kept them in the root cellar for several months, even in the summer.  It does depend to an extent on how cool your root cellar is, but even if it is a cool-ish room temperature, you’ll have a couple of months at minimum, as long as the eggs were fresh from the chicken when you put them down there.  In the UK (and possibly other parts of Europe, though I wasn’t paying enough attention in other countries), they don’t refrigerate eggs at the store or in homes – they are often kept on a basket on the counter.  Of course, the UK doesn’t experience the same sorts of summer temperatures as, say, Texas, so your location does play a role.  However, most root cellars will keep a reasonably stable cool temperature right through the summer, so you should be fine.

 

Also of note, if you have any question about whether your eggs might be good, drop them in a glass that is three- quarters full of water.  If they float, discard them.  If they sink, they’re probably fine.

 

How to melt winter snow quickly for toilet flush?

 

Well, first, don’t flush the toilet if it’s only pee.  That’s a waste of good water.  It takes a few gallons for a satisfactory flush, and it takes something like eight or ten gallons of snow to get one gallon of water.

 

We found the most effective way to melt snow was in large pots on the stove.  One trick, though, is to melt one pot full by continuing to add snow as things melt and compact, then let it get quite warm.  Pour that into a five-gallon bucket of snow (if you have one), and the heat from the water will melt a lot of snow very quickly.

 

If you suspect you will need to flush a number of times, it is efficient to scoop up pots and buckets of snow in the evening and bring them in the house to melt overnight.  Then you can heat the resulting water to melt a bigger bucket-full for flushing.

 

What to do with 20 pounds of cherries?

 

I recommend eating as many as you can.  I am happy to eat both sweet and sour cherries out of hand, but I am odd that way.  They are a pain in the neck to pit.  If you have a cherry pitter, it is a little more manageable, but it is still an awful lot of work.

 

If you are still determined to preserve them, the best way of doing so depends on whether you have sweet cherries or pie (sour) cherries.  Sweet cherries freeze fairly well, especially if you have a vacuum sealer.  Sour cherries are best canned, in my opinion.  I have tried making jam from sweet cherries, and found it fairly bland; pie cherries make a delightful pie filling or jam.  You could also make them into pies, and freeze them that way.

 

Can homemade ice tea stay out on the counter?

 

Yes, but not for more than a couple of days if it is sweetened, especially if it is hot out.  It will, in fact, go off.  Even if it is unsweetened, molds can grow in plain black tea, though unsweetened iced tea would probably last longer than the sweet stuff.  If in doubt, give it a sniff, and you’ll know.   However, to me, the whole point of iced tea is to have a refreshing cold drink, so we normally keep it in the fridge.

 

How long will my infant goat live without food?

 

It depends on the age of the goat kid, but if it is still exclusively nursing, then you probably have hours, not days.   The baby goat gets its liquids from the milk, as well as its nutrition, so the main issue here would be dehydration.  By the time a goat kid is a couple of weeks old, it will start experimenting with nibbling hay and grain, but it may or may not be drinking from a bucket.  If you are desperate, dip your finger into some water, then drip it in the goat’s mouth, or give it some in a baby bottle with the nipple sliced a bit to make the hole bigger.  This will buy you a little time to figure out what to feed it.  If it is a brand-new newborn, however, it needs colostrum right away, which gives it some antibodies to keep it from getting sick.  Without that colostrum, it does not have a very good chance of surviving.

 

Pics of dreaming cute baby?

 

Yup.  We can do sleeping:

 

cute sleeping baby

 

Or waking up:

 

cute baby waking up

 

 

 

 

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We did not have much of a garden in 2012 – everything kind of conspired against us.  Me being hugely pregnant, Baby M’s birth being so traumatic, his allergies (and constant screaming), and that big storm in late June that knocked over an awful lot of our little plants.

 

However, we did manage to harvest a significant amount of carrots (maybe forty or fifty pounds) about the same of potatoes, and a lot of onions (we planted 500 sets).  In the autumn, we bought some cabbages, beets, and turnips in bulk, and also we picked up some pumpkins and spaghetti squash from the farmer’s market to round out our winter vegetable supply.

 

In 2011 / 2012, the root-cellared carrots were done by mid-February.  This year, however, we’re still eating them from our root cellar.  Some have rotted, and the texture is not as crisp as when they were harvested, for sure, and there is some fuzz on some of them – we peel them now, instead of just scrubbing them – but we ate some in our soup tonight, and they are still entirely edible.  The potatoes are also fine, and the cabbages as well, though you have to peel off several layers of dessicated leaves to get to the good stuff.  The beets, like the carrots, are softer, but still edible.  The squash is fine.  Squash lasts forever.   Some of the onions are starting to sprout, but the rest are still as good as the day they were harvested.

 

The difference between this year and last year, for the carrots at least, is that we managed the humidity better.  Last year, some of the carrots got dried out quite early in the year, and got too dried out and bitter to eat much earlier than they should have.  Others of our storage carrots last year were too damp, and rotted early, as well.  This year, we kept the carrots in a plastic Rubbermaid tub, with a plastic bag draped over top, which we adjust when we’re down there – pull it off a bit if things seem too humid, or pull it more closed if things look like they might be drying out.  It appears to be working quite well, considering we’re still eating last September’s carrot harvest, on May first.  While the root cellaring books I have read suggested storing them in damp sand or sawdust, we haven’t found a good supply of either of those things, and are happy that our rigged system appears to suffice.  I am quite delighted to be eating our own local produce, eight months later!

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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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