"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Friday, July 29, 2022

Balking a Buck (Apron Antics)



Breeding season is here.  It seems awfully early, being still high summer, but the days are getting shorter and that is the signal that sends the does ovaries into overdrive. It doesn’t seem to matter that they all gave birth fairly late this year and are all still nursing young kids. 

Since we have our own buck this year, I have to take precautions to prevent him from impregnating everyone right now. Not only would it be hard I the does to get pregnant again so soon, but if they get pregnant in July they’ll give birth in December or January and that is not good. 

We do have one goat named Christmas, who was obviously born Christmas Day, and she’s a fine healthy goat, but that is an anomaly. Some breeders like to have kids born in winter, presumable because they’ll be grown enough to breed come fall, but those farmers must have barns with electricity and heat. Probably heated electrified barns that are not situated a few hundred yards away from the house so they have to trudge through a howling blizzard to get to them. Or maybe they live in places that seldom experience cold weather, even i the depths of winter.  We have a primitive barn and a cold wet climate, and we like our babies born in May. 

That means we have to control the buck. Not an easy thing to do. Until today he was separated from the herd in the sacrifice area along with the cow, but they ran out of grass. So I bought the  contraption you see in the photo: a buck apron. 

A buck apron is designed to provide a barrier between the buck’s business and any does. Reports of its effectiveness vary, and I’ve never tried one before. I guess we’ll find out. 
It wasn’t a ton of fun putting it on him - he stinks to high heaven - and it was expensive, so I hope it works. 


Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The Pantry Project (Ice Cream Edition)



Ran across an ice cream maker at Goodwill the other day, and it reminded me that ice cream is a wonderful way of preserving the products of the season - goat milk, eggs, and fresh fruit. Also it’s been pretty hot lately and that’s just the excuse I needed. I bought the ice cream maker. 


This delicious pink concoction, my first foray, is not technically ice cream, because it doesn’t have any eggs in it (or cream for that matter) but rather frozen yogurt. Sorta. I’m calling it “raspberry cheesecake” and it’s based on a batch of chévre that didn’t quite firm up enough to be called cheese. I could have used it like sour cream, but I already had sour cream in the fridge. It occurred to me to sweeten it instead, mix it with a bunch of raspberries, some yogurt, and run it through the machine. It’s delicious and right now I’m enjoying it as a bedtime snack. 

From the farm: 

Goat milk
Chèvre 
Raspberries 

From the grocery store:

Sugar
Yogurt 

Nothing from the gleaners pantry in this batch of ice cream, but maybe next I’ll try peach - there are always peaches at gleaner’s right now. 

Thursday, July 14, 2022

They’re BAAAAAAACK (Prey Animal Strategy)




Right before bed, I decided to go out and check on the goats one more time, on the off-chance that mama Clio had found her babies. I was fairly certain coyotes had dragged them off, since two hours of me and Clio both searching for them this afternoon, Clio yelling her head off the whole time,  had yielded nothing. But there they were, like nothing ever happened. Just two sassy little baby goats without a care in the world. 




Im so relieved. I had been so sad, so angry at myself for putting them back in the big pasture, and so disappointed. I scooped them both up and took a selfie to send to Paloma, who was just as sad as I was about it. Then I dragged them all back into the backyard, where they will stay with the chickens until the babies are big enough to run fast. 

Baby goats hide while their mothers go off and eat. Just like baby deer do, and probably lots of other baby prey animals. And they are really, really good at hiding. It’s their only chance at survival - they have no other defense. Of course know that baby goats are good hiders, and for two hours today I assumed that’s what they were doing. But when their own mother was running around panicked, yelling and searching, I got worried. I thought they would answer her if they were there. But I guess as long as they don’t feel safe, they will stay quiet and immobile. And in four acres of chest high grass, there was no way we were going to find them if they didn’t make a noise. 

Phew. I’m wrung out. I’m gonna take a bath. 


The End, I Think

I’m done. Lost TWO more baby goats today, presumably to coyotes. I came home from work and Clio’s twins are gone. They were born just a week ago, and Clio, a first freshener,  was a great mama goat. She’s been yelling and yelling for them for the last hour, following me around as I walked the pasture. 


Coyotes have gotten four out of six babies born this year. This is the first year they’ve ever bothered the goats, been here fifteen years and never had an issue before. Must be a new pack with different hunting habits. But I’m just totally demoralized. I don’t want to have goats anymore.

Between worms, coccidia, and coyotes, I just can’t. My heart can’t take it anymore. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Project Pantry (Meatballs and Morels)



Today’s dinner - kinda sorta Swedish meatballs but not really. I had a pound of ground venison from the gleaner’s  pantry that I wanted to use, but I’ve never cooked with it before. As I was perusing google on the subject of ground venison, Swedish meatball recipes kept popping up and they looked great. I’ve never made Swedish meatballs before either, but I have eaten them. I belong to a Lutheran church full of elderly people of Scandinavian heritage. 

After I decided to make Swedish meatballs, I realized that I was short several ingredients, but the benefit of having a deep pantry is that one can always adapt. I don’t have any beef broth, but I have dried morels, so I made more mushroom stock. I consider that an upgrade. I do wish I had fresh dill or parsley, all I have is chives and celery leaves. But who cares, I tasted the sauce and it’s fabulously delicious. 

I can’t remember what Swedish meatballs are traditionally serviced with (which starch, I mean. I know they are served with lingonberry jam but we will make do with blackberry). I’m thinking wild rice would be a good choice to go with the mushroom sauce. 

“Swedish” venison meatballs 

This is how I made them today, substitutions and all. Not how they are “supposed” to be. 

1 pound ground venison 
1/2 pound ground pork 
1 egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs 
1 teaspoon sugar 
Garlic powder to taste 
Dash cinnamon (go very easy on this, a pinch is plenty) 
Fresh ground black pepper 

Mix all ingredients with hands and shape into meatballs. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or tinfoil and bake at 375 for 20 minutes. 

While meatballs are baking, get out a cast iron skillet and make sauce 

2 tablespoons butter 
Two yellow onions, sliced fairly thin ribbons 
Two tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon maggi chicken bouillon 
1 cup give or take dried morels, some broken into small pieces 
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 cups goats milk
Black pepper 
Minced fresh herbs 

Melt butter and sauté onions over medium-low  heat until softened, about ten minutes. Increase heat to medium. Sprinkle over flour and mix with a wooden spoon until well incorporated and onions are coated. Sprinkle maggi and keep stirring. Add mustard and about 1/2 to 3/5 cup water. Add the morels. Stir until sauce smooths out and begins to thicken. Add more water if needed. Then add goat’s milk and stir until smooth. Bring to a simmer but not a boil. Add meatballs. Turn meatballs in sauce and let simmer until sauce is slightly reduced. Just before serving shower with herbs and fresh ground pepper. 

Breakdown: 

From the gleaners pantry: 

Venison 
Pork
Bread (for crumbs)
Maggi chicken bouillon 
Flour 

From the farm or trade network:

Egg 
Herbs 
Goat’s milk 
Morels 

From the grocery store:

Butter
Onions 
Mustard
Pepper 




Sunday, June 19, 2022

Meet the Herd



Clio (pregnant first freshener) with her mom Bitsy. 





Buck of many names. In keeping with our tradition of using weather or atmospheric or space related names for our bucks, we named him Jupiter. But the the girls started calling him Juniper instead. And then, just recently, I talked to one of his former owners and they said his name was Hunter. Homero likes that name and so now we all call him something different. He cares not a whit. 



Christmas (pregnant) is my oldest goat at about 7 or 8. She’s also my biggest goat except for the buck and a great milker. 
Behind her is this years only surviving baby (coyotes got the others), Luna. 



Sweetpea, Luna’s mom. Great little goat and very friendly because she was a bottle baby. 



Closeup of Luna. I love her unusual coloring, but experienced goat people tell me the brown will fade to white or cream. 


Friday, June 17, 2022

Cajeta (The Best Thing You Can Do With Goat’s Milk)



This time of year, I am usually drowning in milk. 2022 is a bit of an anomaly, because the only two goats in milk are the two young first fresheners, and they don’t give a ton of milk. Also, we let one of them dry off when Homero and I went on vacation last week. Now it’s just Sweetpea to milk, and she has a baby on her so there just won’t be much milk from now on this year. Unless Christmas gives birth - I am still uncertain if she’s even pregnant or not. 

Knowing that this milk season would likely be short, I made the most of the milk I had before we left and milked every day. Even two undersized first fresheners can collectively produce about three quarters of a gallon a day. By comparison, a single good milk goat in her second or third kidding season will produce a gallon all by herself. 

Three quarters of a gallon of milk a day is still a lot. We store the milk in half gallon sized mason jars, and by day three there are nine of these big jars in the fridge, hogging all the space. I absolutely have to do something with all the milk at least every third day. 

The simplest thing to do with milk is make chevre. That’s just involves adding culture to the still-warm milk and leaving it in a warm place for 24 hours, and then draining through a jelly-bag and salting. 

The next simplest thing to do is make what I call “easy Cheese.” That’s a paneer-type fresh cheese made by heating the milk to 180 degrees, adding vinegar, draining the curds and pressing. It takes about twenty minutes and makes a nice, fresh tasting cheese suitable for quesadillas. It’s a bit bland but it’s easy (hence the name). 

When I have more time I may make cheddar for long term storage, which is a multi-step process that requires active involvement and attention at various intervals over a several hour time frame. If I have lots of time but not the inclination for meticulous processes, I make cajeta. 

Cajeta, for the uninitiated, is Mexican caramel sauce made with goat’s milk. It’s unearthly delicious. Just crazy good. Try it on sliced bananas, or fresh peaches. My husband likes it on toast for breakfast. Everyone likes it on vanilla ice cream. Cajeta can be water-bath canned, and so I often give it as Christmas gifts. Nobody ever complains about getting a jar of cajeta. 

CAJETA 

1 gallon goats milk (must be very fresh) 
6 cups granulated sugar 
Teaspoon vanilla extract 
Half teaspoon baking soda 
Pinch salt 

In a very large stockpot, combine milk, sugar, and vanilla. Put over medium-high heat. When milk is hot but not yet boiling, add the baking soda. Careful, it may foam up quite a bit, but it will subside. Add salt. 

Bring milk to a  boil, then turn down to a fast simmer. Be careful - when the milk boils it will rapidly - instantly - I greatly increase in volume. That’s why the stockpot needs to be really big. But when it goes down to a simmer it will subside. Keep the simmer as fast as possible though, almost a true boil. 

Leave it for about an hour. Every once in a while, check on it and scrape the sides with a rubber spatula. Keep it simmering until it thickens, and coats a spoon thickly.  It may take up to three hours, but it can be pretty much unsupervised except for the last bit. At the end, it will begin to boil quickly at the same heat. That’s okay, just stir it and don’t let it scorch. It should get medium-light brown (the cajeta in the picture above is a little bit pale), and be thick like caramel. It will thicken more as it cools. 

Put hot cajeta into sterilized jam jars and top with sterilized lids. Process in a water bath for fifteen minutes. If any jars don’t seal, don’t worry, they will keep in the fridge for a month, anyway. 

Monday, June 6, 2022

Project Pantry (Poor Man’s Soufflé)




Episode two of Project Pantry, my occasional feature where I describe a recent home cooked meal and detail which ingredients came from where. Tonight’s dinner was a broccoli strata, and it was delicious. 

Strata, as far as I can tell, is a relatively new term made up to seem fancier than “savory bread pudding.” It sounds vaguely Italian, which this dish probably isn’t. This dish, in fact, screams “Ladies Home Journal Brunch Contest 1996.” 
That’s not an insult - as a veteran of a few recipe contests myself, I appreciate the ingenuity, ease, and frugality evident in a dish like this. But I like to call it a Poor Man’s Soufflé, because it really is almost as puffy and delicate. 

Ingredients: 

2-3 cups cooked broccoli, chopped into small pieces 

4 large eggs 

1 1/2 cups milk (I used goat milk since that’s what I got) 

5 pieces sandwich bread. You can use whole wheat but it has to be soft, squishy bread. Nothing too crusty. 

3 oz chevre or other semi-soft, crumbly cheese 

1 cup extra sharp grated cheddar 

Fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350
Tear up the bread and scatter in a casserole dish. Beat eggs with milk and pour over bread. Add chopped broccoli and chevre. Several grinds of pepper. Turn with a large spoon several times to coat. Leave bread to soak for at least fifteen minutes. Then add cheddar on top, and bake for 30 minutes, until puffed up and barely jiggly in the middle. Broil for one minute to brown cheese topping. 

Serve with a green salad, or as I did, with fresh asparagus from a local farm stand. 

Ingredient breakdown: 

From the store: cheddar cheese, broccoli, pepper

From the gleaner’s pantry: bread 

From our farm: eggs, milk, and chevre

From a local neighbor’s farm: asparagus 


Monday, May 30, 2022

Herb Harvest 2022


Mint is one of my favorite herbs, not only for its zingy flavor and medicinal qualities, but because it’s a hardy perennial that’s damn near impossible to kill, even for a notorious plant murderer like me. 

I have spearmint in the front yard and peppermint in the back yard. The spearmint is buried in amongst a hedge of tall weeds and I have to forage for it. This used to be the case for the backyard peppermint as well, but ever since we moved the chickens, the mint is the only green thing left. The rest of the yard has been scratched bare. 




Spearmint is a lovely herbal addition to lots of dishes and we eat a fair amount of it fresh. I add it by the handful to tabouli, for example, and to fresh fruit salads, especially melons. I added some to the melange of herbs I chopped finely and added to my chevre. It even goes well into a pot of Mexican chicken soup, if you can believe that.

Peppermint is a different proposition altogether. It’s much too strong for use as a vegetable or salad green. Mine is so strong that if you chew on a fresh leaf it actually burns your mouth. It’s pretty strictly for tea. A few years ago I made some peppermint vodka, but that’s out of my realm these days. 

Last year I cut a couple bunches and hung them up to dry in the playroom. Then I forgot about them for an entire year. You don’t generally want to leave your herbs to dry for a whole year - most books will tell you dried herbs last a few months, maximum. However, today when I took the bunches down and rubbed the leaves off them, the scent of peppermint that wafted up was still vibrant. So I crushed them in my hands - they were crispy dry and crumbled nicely into bits - and put them into an airtight storage jar. Later on tonight I’ll make some tea and see how it tastes. 



Then I went and cut five more big bunches of peppermint and hung them up to dry. Since they are in the chicken yard, 
I gave them a good rinse first. This time I will try to remember to strip the leaves and jar them up before another year goes by. I should probably order some desiccant packs from the restaurant supply store, too. That will eliminate any chance of mold. And I’ll want them in a few months when it’s mushroom drying season. 



Now, I should probably get to work and harvest the lemon balm! Lemon balm makes delicious lemony tea and it’s very calming and good for nerves and insomnia. And I have an absolutely ridiculous amount of it. It’s in the mint family as well, and it gets out of control fairly quickly. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Another One for the Coyotes (Attempts at Fence-Fixing)

Ever since the coyotes took Cosmos from the main barn during the night, we’ve been locking up the two remaining babies in the smaller, secure mama barn at night. We have to lock them up fairly late, unless we want to get up at the crack of dawn to milk the mamas. We go out after sundown but before full dark, which this time of year is about 8:30-8:45. 


Two nights ago When Paloma went out to get them, Gingersnap was missing. They coyotes got her while it was still light out. They are incredibly bold. I thought they babies would be safe during the daylight hours, but I guess I thought wrong. I really am just about out of ideas. Almost everybody I talk to agrees there is really no long term solution for coyotes - if you shoot them, they just have a bigger litter next year. Total eradication of a pack - if that’s even possible - will only create a temporary vacuum for a new pack to move  into. They are smart animals, tough and persistent. 

The hole under the fence has been patched, with an ad-hoc and frankly rather embarrassing mishmash of materials that Homero cobbled  together. We had a large number of wooden stakes, which he used to tack down the field fencing by stapling the lower wire to the stakes and then pounding them into the ground. The big hole was blocked with some concrete cylinders that have been lying along the back acre since we bought the place. It will do for now. 



In this picture you can see how much acreage our neighbors to the west have. It’s about 300, give or take, and it has fields and forest and streams. It’s absolutely teeming with coyotes. When I complained about the problem on Facebook a few hunters contacted me and offered to help me out, so I may ask the neighbor’s  permission to let a couple hunters try and pick off the boldest ones. It may discourage them for a while. Especially if, as has been suggested, we leave a carcass hanging to rot on the fence where they normally come in. 



As I was walking the pasture that evening looking for signs of Gingersnap, I could hear the coyotes howling and  yippi-ki-yaying back in the woods. It sounded like a pretty fair number. “They’re fucking celebrating over my poor Gingersnap,”  I thought, filled with thirst for revenge. 

But the next day at church, we read psalm 148, which reads in part “praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all you deeps; fire and hail, snow and fog, tempestuous winds, doing God’s will; mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars; wild beasts and all cattle….sing praise.” And I remembered the coyote song and thought to myself  “I may be upset, I may be sad, but the coyotes are praising the Lord.” 



Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Coyote Blues (Adios Cosmos)




I thought we were going to have a great year for baby goats. Last year was just terrible, we lost three out of four babies. But this year, so far, was shaping up to be great. Two out of three mamas have given birth, without issues, to a healthy single doeling and to a pair of healthy twins, a buck and a doe. 

The buckling is -was - this beautiful fellow here. As adorable as he was, for some reason his mama took a dislike to him and rejected him. But he took to a bottle with no trouble at all and was thriving. Like all bottle babies, he became very friendly and would run up to us as soon as we appeared. After a week or so, his mama (Bitsy) decided he wasn’t so bad after all and let him nurse again. He was just entering maximum cuteness phase, that’s probably why :) 

Because of his flashy coloring, there was a lot of interest in him and I actually managed to sell him for the very decent price of $200. A neighbor wanted him for her new herd sire. He would have made a very handsome buck, for sure. He was going to look just like his papa, Jupiter. We named him Cosmos. All our bucks have weather or atmospheric or space related names. 




But alas, it was not to be. Day before yesterday when we went out to do morning chores he was just missing. The other babies were there but Cosmos wasn’t. We searched the whole pasture but he was totally gone. We didn’t find any signs of him - not hide nor hair nor bloody patch of grass. What we did find were fresh tracks in the muddy area under the fence on the western side of the pasture where the coyotes come in. 

Damn coyotes. They have eaten well from our farm over the years. Never before have we lost a goat, though, only poultry. But we lose at least half our flock every damn winter. This winter we were down to a single chicken when we decided to just move the poor thing into a shelter inside  the fenced backyard; the coyotes wouldn’t dare come right up to the house like that. So we built a new coop and got a few more hens to be her companions and we haven’t lost a chicken since. 

If I had put any thought into it, it might have occurred to me that without any chickens to eat, the coyotes might not just shrug their metaphorical shoulders and move on. That they might, in fact, decide hey, we’re here anyway, might as well try out baby goat. 

For now, we are just locking up the babies at night. Hopefully before long they will be too big for the coyotes. I’m not sure what to do about it long term. We can patch one spot in the fence - though it would not be easy to get enough gravel or cement through the pasture to the site - but the coyotes could and would just dig a new hole. Considering that there’s 1000 linear feet of fence line it doesn’t seem likely that we are going to successfully fence them out. 

Opinions are mixed on the effectiveness of shooting them (we don’t have a rifle anyways). Most sources suggest that’s it’s a very temporary solution at best. There just doesn’t seem to be a great solution. Keeping the goats locked up at night is probably as good as we are going to get. And that’s problematic as well because it increases the chores exponentially. It decreases the time they can spend on pasture, thereby necessitating more hay,  and it drastically increases the amount of poop in the barn. 

Losing this baby hurt. He was gorgeous and sweet. I thought they were all going to live this year. It’s a gut punch. And, I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t any fun to give back that $200, either. 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Pasture Puzzle (All Flesh is Grass)




This year the grass has been slow to start growing. It’s been a very cold, wet spring. But finally, nearing the end of April, after months of mud, there is finally a decent amount of grass. Good thing too, because we’ve flat run out of hay. Actually we’ve run out of hay twice and gone for more, but as of yesterday we are out again. At one of the places we bought hay there was a tame raccoon and I got to hold her. Just putting that in there so I don’t forget THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE. 





The goats are in the main pasture now, but the cow has been in the sacrifice area, because he is rambunctious and I worry he will injure the pregnant goats or the newborn babies. That’s why we had to get rid of Rowan’s cow, Nettles. Also I want to preserve grass for the goats. One dairy cow eats as much grass as six or seven goats, easily. 

We have three fenced pasture areas, but only the largest - which is about 60% of the total area -  has any real grass in it. The second largest one is about 100x100 and is our sacrifice area. The smallest simply isn’t large enough to have much grass, and moreover the grass doesn’t grow great in there because it is very wet. It’s more of a holding pen for keeping animals separate from each other when necessary. 

There is one other fenced area, and it has a ton of grass. That’s the orchard. Unfortunately we can’t put the goats in the orchard, because they are fully capable of killing the smaller trees in a day or two. I long for the day that the trees are big enough to withstand the caprice onslaught, but that day is still several years away. The cow may nibble on the trees, but cows aren’t browsers like goats are, so I’m hoping he will munch on the grass instead. 

Getting the cow INTO the orchard, however, was a problem. The cow has not been trained in any way, shape, or form, and when he gets out of the corral he goes mad with freedom and starts running about wildly and kicking up his heels. He’s very dangerous. Instead of attempting to lead the cow across the yard with a grain bucket, which might end up with a cow running around on the state highway, I decided to get some wire cutters and open up a gap between the sacrifice area and the orchard. 

Currently I am sitting on the lawn with a book, watching to make sure the cow doesn’t start trying to push over the trees or anything like that. The gap in the fence is closed with a bungi cord. I have a loaf of sliced bread next to me. If the trees are endangered, I can just undo the bingo cord and throw bread through the gap. The cow will chase the bread into the sacrifice area, and I can bingo the fence shut behind him. 

I hope this works, because we really have needed an extra area of grass for a long time now. A five acre farm is really quite small - all those silly books about homesteading on an acre? Yeah, chuck those books out the window. We have about three and a half acres of pasture and that is a bare minimum, even for dairy goats and it really isn’t sufficient for a cow PLUS dairy goats. 

It’s been frustrating to have a big fenced area of green grass we couldn’t use, and it’s very gratifying today to sit here listening to the cow tear up and chew all that green embodied sunlight. Come fall, it will all be meat. For, as the Bible tells us, “all flesh is grass.” 

I may have a slightly different understanding of those words than Isaiah intended. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

First Babies of 2022 (Bitsy Babies)




Bitsy surprised us today by quietly popping out twins with no fanfare this evening. We had just finished trimming all the hooves - a horrible, grubby job that we put off for too long, as always. Over the winter it is hard to force ourselves to trim as often as we should, what with the ankle deep mud and the shit and the freezing cold. The hooves were all fairly badly overgrown, with the soft rotten spots that they get from standing in the wet all the time. Those spots all need to be trimmed out or they will go lame. 

All the goats are rather flighty and shy after a long winter with little handling, especially the young does. They had to be caught and bodily lifted onto the stanchion, and then it took both of us to grip the legs and hold them still enough to trail with the extremely sharp hoof trimmers. The buck, Jupiter, is extremely strong and does NOT like having his hooves trimmed. Bitsy is small and easier to handle, but she didn’t like it either and struggled a lot. 

After we finished, I opened the gate and let them all out to graze on the front pasture for a while, but Bitsy didn’t follow the herd. She just hung back, bleating plaintively. I was worried the stress of being manhandled might have caused her a shock, or that we might have accidentally hurt one of her legs holding it in position for trimming. I didn’t think she was near kidding yet - she had an udder but it wasn’t tight and shiny the way it gets right before kidding. 

However when I went back out to check in her after dinner, she was in the back of the big barn and two babies were struggling to stand up next to her. I ran for the house yelling for help and towels. Homero and Paloma came out and we all trooped back and put her and the babies into the mama barn, where it is warm and dry. Over the next fifteen minutes we watched as they stood up and successfully nursed. Bitsy was wonderful - she chuckled at them and licked them clean and stood still to let them figure out where the milk is. She’s a great little mama. 

However, she is quite thin. We wormed her yesterday and repeated the worming today - I’m using ivermectin and fenbendazole together, two doses twelve hours apart, repeated in ten days. But as I’ve written ad nauseum, the worms on my farm are very resistant and the poor mamas always get thin and pale this time of year. All I can do is worm her, give her lots of good food, and hope for the best. 

Theres a buck and a doe. As seems to be usual, the buckling is the pretty flashy one, and the doe is just regular brown. But they are both healthy and vigorous, and that’s the most important thing. I’m tremendously relieved after last year’s awful losses that we are off to a good start to kidding season. 


Sunday, April 3, 2022

Spring Chickens



We got some baby chicks. Now that we have a coop for chickens so close to the house - right inside the fenced backyard - and can be reasonably sure that coyotes aren’t going to get them, we thought we’d take the risk on a few more. 


There wasn’t a lot of variety available at the farm stores in town. Mostly red or black sex links, broilers, and a few heritage breeds. I was specifically looking for broody breeds,  and I was frustrated because not only are there just not that many broody breeds being produced these days, but the stores uniformly had no information about the broodiness or lack thereof in the breeds they were selling. In one store, I asked the person working “do you carry any broody breeds of chicks?” And she answered me “what does broody mean?” 

I must be getting old. 

Well for those who don’t know, like the girl working in my local farm store, a broody breed of chicken is a breed in which the hens will sit on eggs, hatch out chicks, and raise them herself. What? Don’t all chickens sit on eggs? NO. Most modern breeds of chickens have had the broodiness bred out of them. When a hen is broody, she isn’t laying. When she’s raising chicks, she isn’t laying. It’s not cost effective to raise broody chickens for egg production. All your best egg laying breeds - leghorns, Rhode Island reds, etc, will not go broody. 

We eventually found two Cochin chicks. Cochins do go broody, and they also have cute feathered cheeks and feathered feet. We also bought two Golden Comets (not broody) and two Easter Eggers (seldom broody - they are  not Americaunas, which also lay blue eggs and DO go broody). Now all six chicks are out in the converted rabbit hutch under a heat lamp, which I hope will be sufficient in this nasty, cold, wet weather. 

Speaking of colorful eggs, something very weird happened yesterday. We have five Rhode Island Red hens who have been laying all spring. They have all been laying many many eggs, and all of those eggs are, as you would expect, large and brown. Until yesterday:



There was a mystery egg in the nest box - a small blue egg. I have never, never, in all my years heard of a hen who could lay eggs of different colors. Hens who lay white eggs ALWAYS lay white eggs, and ditto brown, blue, green, and pink. Sometimes you get some weird eggs alright - teeny little ones the size of marbles, wrinkled ones. Once I even found an egg without an outer shell, just the inner membrane. That was an odd egg. But I have no explanation for this blue egg. 

Maybe we had a chicken visitor. My daughter and I had a good laugh imagining a lady chicken visitor who suddenly realized she was about to lay an egg. 

“Oh Penny, do you mind if I use your nest box?” 

“Oh of course Georgina, it’s right there on the wall. Yes, that plastic milk crate attached with zip ties. Make yourself at home.” 

“Oh thank you Penny I can’t imagine how I forgot to do this before going out….. BUCK BUCK BAGAWK!” 

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Project Pantry Week One




Every single ingredient in today’s dinner - chickpea and sausage stew -  is from the gleaner’s pantry, except for the nettles, which were foraged. But even if you were to buy all the ingredients, this would still be a cheap meal. And it’s healthy, too! 

Chickpea and Sausage stew 

- One sausage per person. I used Louisiana hotlinks because that’s what the gleaner’s pantry gave me, but Italian sausage, Polish, kielbasa, or chorizo works great too. Slice into coins. 

- one yellow onion, sliced 

- one bell pepper, sliced, red preferred. 

- 1-2 cups nettles, or whatever tender greens you have on hand. Spinach is good. So is Swiss chard. Chop roughly. 

- 1 large tomato, chopped

- one can chickpeas 

In a little bit of oil, sauté sausage over medium-high heat until browned. Add peppers and onions.  Continue to sauté until vegetables wilt and are slightly browned. Add chopped tomato. Add rinsed, drained beans. Add greens. If needed, add a tablespoon or two of water. I find the vegetables usually give off enough moisture, but sometimes a little water is good. Or lemon juice. 

Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes, until flavors meld. 

Nice additions if you have them - chopped Kalamata olives, capers, zucchini. 

Score:

Gleaner’s - 5

Foraged - 1

Grocery store - (the oil)