Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The hubster's recipe: Quick cheese soup

We were in a hurry, looking for a quick lunch.  The hubster came up with this idea...

Cheese soup!

I had some homemade chicken broth in the cellar, and dumped a quart jar into a sauce pan.  While it was beginning to heat up, I ran out to the garden for a couple of scallions and some rosemary, which I chopped and added to the simmering broth.  Then to the cupboards for garlic powder (this was a QUICK soup, no time to peel, mince, and saute' garlic which would have been oodle better), parsley, salt, and pepper.  I let this simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavors while we ran around and did other busy things.

We put the hot broth into bowls and added some cheese curds from a "failed" Gouda....once in a while, inexplicably, my cheese curds don't stick together and become one big hunk of cheese.  When I take the cheese out of the cheese press and unwrap it, it falls into little individual, although somewhat flattened, bits of cheese.  But since there is no such thing, really, as a failed cheese, we eat these fresh curds up by adding them to eggs, soups, serving them in a bowl with fruit, etc.  

Today I just threw generous handfuls into the hot broth and YUM!  A quick and easy soup, eaten with fresh raw carrots on the side.  Veggies could certainly be added to the soup while making it.  I needed to get this simmering and hop into the shower, so it was easier this time to just bring some carrots with us for eating later.  I also like to eat some raw veggies daily, and this was a way to do both.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Flourless spice cake

Made with beans! 

Gluten-free spice cake made with white beans!

In the tradition of the chocolate black bean cake,  this variation contains no flour and needn't contain any white sugar.  Although not appropriate for a strict sugar handling diet, it is a nice cheat that doesn't wreck your adrenals and mess with your insulin in the way that a typical dessert would.  Especially if you top it with good fats and proteins to reduce the impact on your blood sugar even more.

Never before in the history of mankind has there been an emergency need to lower blood sugar.  That is, until white flour, refined corn products, and cheap refined sugars became so plentiful and cheap in this country (and others.) it is, the recipe. 

Monique’s White Bean Spice Cake

2 cups (one can plain or one pint home canned) white beans
4-5 eggs (5 store bought….we have chickens, some give us huge eggs!)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt
½ c lard or butter, just barely melted and not too hot.  Coconut oil might work, too, but didn’t try it.  I used lard from our pastured pigs. 
¼ cup raw wildflower honey
1 dropperful of liquid stevia (or just use a half cup honey instead)
1-2 tsp vanilla, depending on strength (I use homemade, so it varies)

Grease 9” round ceramic or glass dish with lard, generously.  Bake in a preheated 350 oven for 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

This cake is not very sweet, so if you or your family are not concerned about sugar (you probably should be) then add more.  We are no longer acclimated to highly sugared foods and found this to have plenty of sweetness, with a topping that was also sweetened.

To top this, I sweetened some chevre with stevia and vanilla....honey would have been better, but we are still avoiding too much of any sweetness.  Maple syrup would be grand in this topping, with walnuts.

Topped with vanilla chevre...

Then I roasted some almonds that had been soaked and dried, and after turning the heat off and stirring the nuts for a couple more minutes while the pan cooled a bit, I added some butter and tossed to coat the nuts.  Adding the butter too soon results in burnt butter, so be patient and let the pan cool a bit.

Buttered roasted almonds

Then I coarsely chopped the nuts with a pastry blender.  This is how I chop just a few nuts, placing my hand over the blades with each press to keep the nuts from flying all over my kitchen....although Biscuit was waiting at my feed to catch any errant almond bits.  If I needed to chop a lot of nuts, I'd haul out my food processor.  

Chopping a handful of almonds

Walnuts or pecans would be much better in this recipe, however, I am allergic to them so went with the almonds.  Black walnuts would be even better, and I'd sweeten the chevre with real maple syrup....that would be heavenly!  I may have to do this for guests one day.


We ended up adding more almonds after the photo was taken.  Full-fat cream cheese would work with this, as would strained yogurt or kefir, or even whipped cream.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Container gardening, only better

It is spring, so I must take a break from cooking and eating and show something we do to grow some of our food.

A bucket of mint.  Baby mint.  Look closely, it is in there.

We do have plenty of garden space here, but when we lived in an apartment, we were introduced to Earthboxes.  Being frugal, we made our own.  Here is how....but first, the what and the why.

One of the problems with container gardens is the need to keep the plants well watered.  Many vegetables, notably tomatoes, need a steady supply of water and should not be allowed to dry out.  This type of container solves this problem by having a well full of water at the bottom of the container, and a soil "wick" to draw the water up to the plant's roots.

The above pail has four inches of water at the bottom, with the soil suspended above it.  The trick is to keep the soil out of the water, but to still wick the water up into the soil.  The other trick is to keep the pail from over-filling with water, making a swampy pail suitable only for growing cattails.  Here is how it is done.

You need a saw, some pipe in two sizes, a pail, and a drill.

The four inch drain pipe (regular pvc pipe would work just fine if you have scraps) is cut into four 4" pieces and placed in the bucket.  You will need a fill pipe for getting water past the soil and into the well.  A length of 1" pvc pipe, just a little taller than your bucket, is perfect for this.

You will need to drill a drain hole now, before proceeding any further.  See the drill bit sticking into the pail in the above photo?  You will drill a drain hole (size doesn't matter....maybe 1/4"?) slightly below the height of your sections of pipe.  Drill it next to your fill pipe.  You will thank me want to be able to easily see the water coming out as you run your hose into the fill pipe, and not have to lean over the pail looking for signs that the well is full.  

Hardware cloth.

Next, cut a piece of hardware cloth just slightly bigger than the diameter of your pail.  Set it on top to mark where to cut an opening for the fill pipe.  Be sure to wear leather gloves when cutting hardware cloth.

Press it in place, cutting a corner for the "wick."

This is the only tricky part, and it is only tricky the very first time you make one of these.  The hardware cloth is what will hold the soil up and out of the water, while allowing some soil to drop down into the water to act as a wick.  But you don't want all the soil to gradually fill up the well, so take some care with this step.

Can you see in the photo above that there is a section of hardware cloth, opposite from the fill pipe, that is cut and bent towards the bottom of the pail?  All the other edges of the wire are bent up.  Use a stick or a bit of pipe to press the wire into the edges and corners for as close a fit as you can.

Now can you see the space for the wick?

Wet some layers of newspaper and place them on the wire.  Make a tube with a piece of folded paper, a few layers, and put it into the space created for the soil to drop down into the water.  There is a small spot next to the fill pipe in the above picture that needs more newspaper.  Otherwise, a lot of soil will be lost, filling and clogging the well.

Filled pail, ready to cover and plant.

Now it gets fun.  Fill the pail with soil, packing it a bit as you add layers.  Purchased potting soil will do, but I use finished compost from our pile and mix it half and half with peat moss.  Yes, we had a couple of compost piles at that apartment, held in rings of fence wire.  We had a cool landlord.

Plants in these buckets will grow very fast and will need feeding, so a good handful of fertilizer is put into a trench in the top of the soil, and left uncovered.  The above design is for a single plant placed in the center of the pail.  For smaller, leafy plants, put the fertilizer in the center and put 3-6 plants around the edges, such as 3 chard plants or 6 leaf lettuce plants.  Use a 10-10-10 or lower fertilizer for this project.

Lastly, cover the top with black plastic to hold moisture and soil and eliminate weeding.  I use heavy garbage bags, trimmed and held in place with duct tape.  Cut x's in the bag where you want to place your plants.  Water from the top just once, to get the soil moist so it will wick up the water.  Oh, yes, fill the bottom with water through the fill pipe, stopping when it starts to come out of the drainage hole on the side.

We still use this method for our leafy greens.  It is virtually slug-free and is the best way to plant lettuce, in my opinion.  You can even extend your harvest of greens such as Swiss Chard by moving the pails to a protected garage at night, and keep lettuce from bolting on sudden hot days by moving them into a shady spot north of a building until the weather calms down.

When we were at the apartment, we planted many things in these containers.  Tomatoes will be amazing, but be sure to put the stake into the ground next to the pail.  The plants will be HUGE and will topple the whole thing over if not properly staked.  Only one plant per pail, trust me.

My folks planted a small garden this way when they were still working and had little time for gardening.  The yield is rather prolific, so be prepared!  They had summer squashes, chard, tomatoes,  herbs, etc, all in pails.  My father set up a series of drip lines from the hose and tested it for a few days so they could go on vacation for a couple of weeks and leave their garden unattended.  Genius.

You will want to change the soil in the pails about every other planting, except for heavy feeders like soil each time.  For leafy greens, I often just scrape out the top of the soil and add more compost.

You won't need to water the pails to often at first.  Maybe every week or two.  As the plants grow, and also depending on weather conditions, you will have to water more often.  A mature tomato plant, ripening a lot of tomatoes, may need water once or even twice a day, but the yeild and perfection of the fruits will make it worthwhile.

I may experiment with putting something in a pail that can be brought into the cellar for the winter, or at least for the first part of the winter, to extend the harvest...maybe kale?  Any ideas?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What I ate today on the sugar handling protocol

Delicious food, and plenty of it!

Water first thing in the morning to hydrate after a long sleep.  If the stomach is hydrated well, it is protected and can do its job more efficiently.  I make sure I stop drinking a half hour before eating so as not to dilute digestive juices.  Since I want to eat within an hour of getting out of bed, this means I need to drink my water in the first half hour.  I try to drink at least a pint, or two glasses.

Since I had a lot to do this morning, and it didn't seem like I'd get a chance to make my first food within that hour, I had a quart of raw full-fat goat's milk to tide me over.  It offers protein and fat in small amounts, along with many other nutrients, enzymes, and friendly bacteria.

Breakfast is always high in protein and fat and low...or even devoid...of carbs.  Eggs are my favorite, with sausage or bacon to flavor them, or both.  Sometimes I'm in the mood for cheese, and will add that.  Leftover hearty soups or stews are a wonderful winter breakfast, too.  A nice, meaty chili works as well.  Today I had eggs with sausage and cheese, cooked in bacon grease.

Lunch was a large bowl of pork hock soup, made by roasting the hocks for an hour, boiling them for another couple of hours, removing them and picking off the meat, returning everything else (bones, fat, whatever was left) to the pot to simmer overnight.  This was strained and the usual soup ingredients were added....but no grains, pasta, or starchy vegetables were added.  Just carrots, rutabagas, scallions, herbs, onions, and garlic.  Very satisfying.

Snacks were a handful of crispy almonds and some fresh coconut, and a handful of fresh snow peas.  Also a half cup of mint chocolate chip ice cream, a mild cheat.

Two more quarts of water throughout the day....a full quart while lounging in the bath and getting dressed for work.  A pint in the car on the way to work, and another pint on the way home.  Oh, and another pint this evening.  I guess I got three quarts in today.

Tonight, for supper, we had spinach sauteed in bacon grease (we are out of salt pork, waaaah!) and some of our homemade sausage, and some organic carrots with plenty of butter and sea salt.

Later snack:  My special chocolate cake with chevre and berries.  In a 20 oz corningware bowl.  A generous portion with lots of whole milk chevre.

Notice nothing was skim, low fat, lite, etc?  Notice nothing was fortified with anything?  Notice nothing had a label with an ingredient list?  Notice that there was plenty of food and that it was all delicious and satisfying?

I noticed that, too.  This is how I eat to have great sleep and lots of energy, and the way Peter is eating to lose lots of weight.  Clients who are eating this way who need to lose weight are losing it, those who don't need to lose weight aren't.  One client joyfully announced, recently, that she was officially "obese."  Why was she joyful?  Because she'd lost 25 lbs. and was no longer "morbidly obese," and was always full and satisfied.  She reports weight loss every week....except once, when she gained two pounds back.  But she said, "Now I know exactly what I did."  She knows the principles, understands the science.  She can fall off the wagon with no surprises, then hop right back on with the same great results.

There are many principles and much science behind what we are eating and why it is transforming our health in this way, too much for this little blog post.  Be patient.  It is coming.  Soon.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mint chocolate chunk ice cream

I was in the mood for ice cream.  Mint chocolate chip is my absolute favorite, so that is what I made.

Half cup ice milk pops hardening up in the freezer.

This recipe started last summer, when I stuffed a canning jar with peppermint from our garden, weighted it down with a scrubbed rock, and poured some 95% alcohol over it.  Vodka will do, and I've used it for years, but if you can get Everclear or something similar, it will extract even more flavor from your herbs.  Let it sit in a dark cupboard for at least a month.  Or longer.  Mine sat for about 11 months.  I strained it into a Grolsch bottle today.

A couple of weeks ago...or more....I started saving the most perfect, clean eggs for this.  Since this would be a raw ice cream, I wanted to use eggs that were unwashed, and for that I needed eggs that were pristine.  Please don't use grocery store eggs for any recipe that won't be well cooked.  Salmonella is very, very common in hens that live in the overcrowded and unnatural conditions of a commercial egg farm....even organic.  Organic on the label simply means that the hens were fed organic feed.  It does not mean they were scampering around in the grass, chasing bugs.  Find someone who has those hens and pay them handsomely for some eggs if you cannot keep your own chickens.

Only the most perfect, clean eggs were saved for the raw ice cream.

Only the yokes were used.  Aren't they a lovely color?

For this batch, I used about 13 cups of milk, 5-6 Tbsp homemade mint extract, 5 Tbsp arrowroot powder (a thickening agent to use instead of cornstarch to avoid genetically modified corn), 15 egg yolks, a half cup raw wildflower honey, a few squirts of stevia extract, and a couple shakes of sea salt.

Milk, honey, peppermint extract from last summer.

This mixture was whirled around in the blender to thoroughly mix it.  I tasted it and added a bit more stevia and a bit more mint extract (I'd originally used less than the amount listed above, that number is accurate.)  I had to blend it in three batches.

Frothy goodness!

Next, I needed ice.  I froze some in juice containers left from making quick wine for the folks.  This is easy to crush by simply tapping it with a hammer on the back steps, and putting the resulting crushed ice in a bucket.  It will not come into contact with the ice cream, so it needn't be clean.  When I was a kid, we would break off icicles to use for this purpose. 

Smashing the ice.

The ice cream mixture was put into the freeze container and everything was set up carefully.  That s-curved thing you see is actually the paddle that will churn the ice cream as it freezes, giving it a grainy texture as the ice crystals form.

Setting up the freezer container.

To make the ice really cold, I layered it with rock salt.  Again, this won't come into contact with the ice cream, no worries!  The salted ice goes in the blue bucket, outside the metal freezer container of ice cream mix.

Yup, the same stuff you use on the sidewalk.

Set up in the basement scrub sink, no special clean-up necessary after it is done.

All I had to do was plug it in and leave to go do my evening chores and milk the goats.  I had to come back and check on it every few minutes to add more ice and salt as that melted and the ice cream froze.

I diced some 80% chocolate, the good stuff, about 6 oz.  You can certainly use more, but that is what I had in the house.

Chopped 80% chocolate.

Finally, after an eternity, I heard the noisy motor stop downstairs.  When the ice cream gets very thick, the motor can no longer turn it and it jams.  Time to unplug it and take a look:

Taking the lid off.....look at that color!

That lovely color is from the egg yolks and a little from the mint extract.  Unlike commercial ice cream, mine has no green dyes in it.  This is really ice milk, so it will freeze quite hard and is a little grainy.  Unlike commercial ice cream, mine has no antifreeze in it (yep, that is what I said, google it) and is not loaded with sugar, which prevents the hard freezing as well.  Using cream instead of milk would make it a little less hard, and this is how I would make it if I had access to raw cream.  Goat's milk is naturally homogenized and unlike cow's milk, the cream does not rise to the top.  Well, a little does, but most stays mixed within the milk.  I would need a mechanical cream separator to extract the cream, and they run about $4-500, which I really can't justify.  That's ok, I like the ice milk just fine.

Because it freezes hard, I like to make pops with it instead of storing it in one big container.  I did run out of little cups so I put two small containers in the freezer.  These will need to sit at room temp for a few minutes in order to eat them.  What I usually do is just let it thaw a bit, then eat around the edges, and put the container back for another time.  Shhh, don't tell on me!

This ice cream makes a very healthy snack, as it is really a frozen eggnog.  There is very little sugar in it....a half cup of honey to 14-15 cups of ice cream is not much sugar.  I may just have some for breakfast tomorrow.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Farm breakfast

When feeding the chicks this morning, I took a few steps towards the fence by the woods to peek at my mushroom logs.  There were a few that were ready to pick, so I snagged 'em for supper.  Meanwhile, two smaller ones ended up in my breakfast.

A few shiitakes from our logs.

A generous sprinkle of salty feta, made from our goat's milk.

Sausage from our hogs, herbed from our garden, and the shiitakes.

Eggs from our pastured hens....that yellow yoke is unmistakably from healthy hens!


This was so good, I may just have it for lunch today, too!  Worth the trouble?  Oh, yes!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Teaching the chicks to from hawks

I don't really need to teach them.  They instinctively know what to do.  I just have to give them access to suitable forage, and keep them safe from predators.  This is how we do this here at Blue Viola Farm.

  These chicks will be 8 weeks old tomorrow.

A couple years ago my dad and I build this hoophouse aka chicken tractor.  This is a way to keep chicks...or in some cases, full grown chickens....on pasture while still keeping them contained and safe from most predators.  We only had to purchase 4 2x4's, two of them eight feet long and two of them ten feet long, and three cattle panels for the frame of the walls and hoop.  We had chicken netting, tarps, and the door (that rusted thing you see in the picture below, something that a friend found in a dumpster where he works and that has had many uses here ever is fantastic for setting on a wheelbarrow for sifting compost.)  The door is simply wired in place for hinges and there is a snap wired on the other side to hold it closed.

Light Brahma hen visiting....note the size difference.

Here is a view of the entire hoophouse.  It got warped last fall with that freakish, wet snow storm we had in October, even without the tarps in place.  But it still works just fine.

Bricks are used to fill any chick-sized gaps when we move the hoophouse each day.

We do this so they can have access to fresh grass and weeds, and we attach ropes to the corners of the tractor (so-called chicken tractor because it moves) and drag it very slowly to new grass, watching for chicks that might get crushed.  Haven't squished one yet.  They learn pretty quickly to rush to the new grass.  It really is amazing how much fresh greens they will eat, given the opportunity.  It is a large part of their natural diet, along with plenty of bugs.

This is why the netting covers the entire chicken tractor.

Now that they are outside...they went into this new home at six weeks of age, once they were fully feathered and could withstand temperature fluctuations without a heat lamp....they get fed a diet primarily of whole grains.  I slightly sprout wheat and oats for them, any small grains will do.  Barley is great, but I can't get it here.  They also get a small amount of whole corn in the afternoon.  Some of the chicks are still a bit small to handle the whole kernels, but they seem to find smaller pieces to eat.

For the protein portion of their diet, I still feed catfood, but only when something more natural is not available or if my schedule is just too tight.  Otherwise, they get fresh goat's milk, whey from cheesemaking, chevre that is getting past its prime, meat scraps from making broth, and worms that I dig from our organic vegetable gardens as I prepare the soil for planting.  I can fill a quart container about 3/4 full of earthworms in a few minutes.  This is the chicks favorite food, hands down.  Wings down.  Beaks down?

Most importantly, they get no soy, not a speck.

I love this brown and white spotty Icelandic chick.  Hope it is a pullet (young female.)

Ginger hopes for grain, while Peach stands on the board that I took off the hoophouse to take pictures of the chicks.  Plummy scratches her back with her horns....don't you wish you could do that?  Tilt your head and scratch that itch between your shoulder blades?  Ahhhhh.......

Once the chicks are close to full size, I'll start letting them out to mingle with the rest of the flock.  I'll lift their hoophouse onto concrete blocks on one end so they can come and go without interference from the goats.  Then I'll start training them to join the rest of the flock in the coop at night by carrying them in just after dark.  The hens, anyways.

The roosters can continue to live in the hoophouse until fall, when the weather cools and it is time the freezer.  Our roosters have a fantastic, happy, natural life and only one bad day.  Unlike commercial chickens, for whom the reverse is true, when their final day offers them release from misery.

There are growing numbers of small, local farmers that are raising their poultry in such a natural and healthy manner.  Not surprisingly, the meat and eggs from such birds are very, very healthy for us.  If you can't raise your own meat bird or keep a few hens for eggs....and most communities do allow a few backyard chickens....get to your local farmer's market and talk to people.  You'll find someone nearby who has properly-raised poultry and eggs to sell.  It will be double or triple (or more) the price in the grocery store, but you can enjoy truly healthy food without thinking about the concentration camp conditions that the animals were kept in.

In the spring, it is not unusual to have someone in the neighborhood with a few hens running loose.  Often these people have excess eggs to sell.  Go knock on their door and ask.  Eggs will keep in the fridge for four months if not washed (ask for unwashed clean eggs if you plan on storing them.)  Feel free to buy while they are available and stock up.  Do the same if you keep a few hens.

When I was a kid, we lived next door to a commercial egg farm, the type with the "battery" cages.  Five hens stuffed shoulder to shoulder in wire cages above a manure pit.  A conveyer brought them their food and water, and they laid their eggs on the wire bottom of the cage.  The cages had a slight tilt and the eggs would roll out to a gutter and a person would roll a cart along the aisles, collecting the eggs twice a day.

The fumes would make your eyes water.

Those hens never did this.    Or this.

As a kid, I learned to mimic the sounds those hens made.  As an adult, when I finally kept a some hens myself, I learned that the only chicken sound that I could make was that of a hen frightened and upset.  That was the only sound I'd ever heard.  I was rather disturbed at this realization.  This was a very large part of our decision to start to raise chickens for meat as well.

I'm asked often how I can do this, raise them and then eat them.  If I'm going to eat chicken....humans are can I not?  It is not because I am cold-hearted, rather, the opposite is true.  I know not everyone can do this, either because of their location, time factors, or the ability to look at a live animal one day and have it on the dinner table the next.  But everyone can support local farmers who have taken cruelty out of meat.  Don't be someone who rails against the likes of Michael Vic and then supports that behavior and worse in the grocery store.  Vote with your dollars.  Buy good meat, poultry, and eggs.  It is so worth it.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Never enough baby goats!

It is time for some baby goat updates.  They are growing like weeds!

Bartlet and Lilly

Cute weeds, that is.  These close in age that I can't help but think of  them as triplets....are full of health and life and vigor.  Their personalities are already starting to stand out.

Ginger's twin bucklings, 3 weeks old today, I call Cortland and Bartlet.  Yes, I know they'll get new names when they go to their new homes, but I have to sort them out in my mind.  All my goats are named after plants, and since the oldest buckling is huge and white, he is named after a large apple.  Bartlet is sweet and tan, so he gets named for a pear.  And Lilly, five days younger, is so feminine, even more so next to her feisty brothers.

Bartlet, Lilly, and Cortland

Cortland is always in the front, the first to run up to me, the one who demands the most attention in a boisterous way.  He will be a fun goat, and will be bold and a loyal friend, a great pet.  And huge.  He will clear a LOT of brush for someone and enjoy every single bite.

Cortland practicing his brush-clearing skills

Bartlet was the snuggler right from day one.  He is the one that would leap onto my lap and push against me for warmth and affection.  I don't allow this anymore....even at only three weeks old, these kids are far too big to be competing for my lap.  I stand when with them now.  They still get plenty of pats and scratches, but I must consider their behavior now as to how they should behave when fully grown.  Climbing and any pushiness with the horns is not tolerated, rather, they are firmly pushed away.  They are already getting the idea, and last night Cortland got on his hind legs a few times to reach for me, then didn't touch me with his feet.  Good little boy!

Lilly scooting past big brother Bartlet, and Bartlet still turns it into a hug of sorts.

Lilly still gets her feet on me from behind while I am working with her brothers.  I finally figured out that she was asking to be held, so I can avoid this behavior by picking her up shortly after they finish their bottles.  I hold her and talk to her and give her some special time, preparing her for the special relationship with the future person who will ultimately be milking her twice a day.  Once she has a few minutes of "me time," she is ready to be put into the fray and have some frolicking with her siblings.

A few very short videos:  

Why do I have goats?  This is a question that I am often asked.  It was suggested to me some years ago by a naturopathic doctor that raw milk might be healing to my digestive tract.  Yikes, was she crazy?  Did she know that a mere teaspoonful of dairy products would make me very sick, with much pain, for at least two days?  Now she wanted me to drink it by the cupful....and RAW???

This was the first time I heard the name Weston A. Price.  She suggested that I do some research on and  Intrigued?  Here is a great place to start....a very short video by my heroine, Sally Fallon Morrell, on real milk.

It took me well over a year of reading and research before I got brave enough to consider trying raw milk.  I even payed surprise visits to farms within an hour's drive to see if I wanted to buy raw milk from them.  I didn't.  I did not see cows on pasture, in fact, I didn't even see any pastures, just closed barns full of confined cows on a gorgeous day.  One farm has a little muddy paddock that was empty but had cows in it recently, but not a blade of grass in site...within a fence, that is.  Plenty of grass, just not that the animals had access to.  Other farms had small pastures with cows in them, but a closer look revealed that these were the dry cows.  Once lactating, they moved indoors onto cement floors and had all their food carried to them by humans.

I gave up.  I bought a pregnant goat.

Ginger in her third season.

The day finally arrived when I would try my very first sip of milk in over 25 years.  I was a nervous wreck.  I had a supply of Benedryl and planned my sip to take place just before two days off from work.  I took a timid gulp and waited.

The feeling overwhelmed me.  It was a feeling of desire for more, an instinct that told me that this white liquid was something my body wanted and needed and would not rebel against.  Funny thing is, I don't even like plain milk.  Yet I was strongly, irresistibly drawn to it.  I drank an entire cup.

I was fine.  In fact, my mouth watered for more.  To this day, years later, my mouth waters when I milk the goats.  And I still don't care for the taste of a glass of plain milk.

And yes, indeed, it was immensely healing to my digestive tract.  This became very apparent after the first season, when I needed to dry off my doe (gradually stop milking her so she could put her energy into her current pregnancy) and would be without fresh milk for about ten weeks.  Many symptoms of my previous long-term struggle....ok, I'll say it, cover your eyes you delicate souls: daily diarrhea.....came back during this time without real, raw milk.  The next year I was ready and froze many bags of milk for use during this time.  Yes, we must breed the does each year in order to get plenty of milk.  Pregnancy and delivery of babies is what triggers lactation in all mammals.

Plum is a "first freshener," or a doe who is on her first lactation.

It soon became apparent that we would be keeping dairy goats for a long, long time.  We can easily consume 2 or more gallons a, not by drinking a gallon apiece, rather, most of it is made into cheese (raw cheese, which cannot be purchased in the US unless it is aged for at least 60 days.  This means no chevre, no cottage cheese, no May Gouda....) for use throughout the year.  Most of this cheese is made during the spring, summer, and fall, when the does have access to green, growing pasture.  Other things we do with the milk include making kefir, yogurt, chowders (yes, I can tolerate real milk even if it is not raw), shakes and smoothies, ice cream, etc.

Even my feral cats have become quite tame through their twice daily dose of raw milk.
 Sketcher now lets me pet him.  It was three months before I even saw him when he first arrived on the farmlet.

Johnny Cat startled me one day by sitting very close while I milked, purring rather loudly.

Even the cats know what is real food.  Why is it so hard to get real milk?  Vote with your wallets, dear readers, if you have access to real food of any type.  Pay a little more, create demand.  It is so worth it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The spring of fruit

The spring of fruit...that is what I'm calling this one.  We completed the raspberry bed, dug holes for currants and gooseberries and are awaiting the arrival of the bushes  Now the grape arbor is completed.

This time Goldie is supervising.  Until she gets fired from the job.  Soon.

Disclaimer:  We have no carpentry skills.  Just determination and a circular saw and hammer and a drill.  This project is simple enough for such skill-free people such as the hubster and I.  I'm sure you could do a much better job.

The entire project cost less than $80, and was financed by money from selling goat's milk soap.  I try to make the farmlet finance itself whenever possible.  This way I figure the resulting grapes will be free.  This is one of my favorite words, even more than "clearance."  Here is how we did it:

It started with a couple of impulse-buy vines.  One survived in spite of severe neglect for two years.

Working off existing fence posts, we set four more posts.

The size was based on a cattle panel, $20 at TSC.  With a coupon.

Filling the post holes once the posts are level.  We did two at a time, securing them with the top boards before back-filling the post holes.

After the frame was secured, the cattle panel was stapled in place.

Enough for a Sunday afternoon.  It is looking like an arbor.

Two innocent hens in supervisory positions.

An argument breaks out over which employee deserves a bonus.

The employee deserving the bonus steps in to separate the squabblers.  Supervisors are both fired and escorted to the coop to clean out their desks.

Monday:  Install the grape vines and finish some details on the arbor.

Add boards under the panels for support.

Move the Concord grape vine from the front yard.  There is a small sign of life, and where there is life, there is hope...of grapes one day.  This vine was given to me by an elderly woman for whom I was raking up acorns to feed my pigs two falls ago.  We had a great time chatting about many things.  I went home with acorns, walnuts, and a grape vine.  Her very simple arbor inspired mine.

That original Catawba vine put down roots everywhere that the vine was touching the ground.  I divided it up and got four from the one.  I hope they all survive.  If not, I have grape insurance in the numbers.

Two of the four vines, Catawba if I remember correctly.

The finished and planted arbor.  I completed the project by sprinkling the bare mounds of dirt with white clover seed to crowd out weeds.

Why are we going through all this effort?  I am becoming more and more disturbed at what passes for food in the grocery stores, and all the chemicals that are sloshed onto the whole foods.  I got a book from the library a couple of years ago that was written to teach aspiring organic farmers how to get through all the rules and regulations, explaining each one in real farming terms.  I read it hoping to learn some methods.  It left me disturbed at how many loopholes there were....for example, otherwise toxic items can be used to fertilize crops if they are composted first.  Composting doesn't neutralize all chemicals, and no testing is required to see that any bad stuff remains.  Although I will still purchase organic foods over non-organic, they are still far was quite eye-opening to see that what I pictured as organic farming is NOT what is happening, especially on a large scale.

And the large scale is scary, too.  I just don't trust the huge Food Giants integrity when they offer organic items.  Sorry.  Can't do it.

The solution is to grow as much of our own food as we can, adding some items each year.  The care and maintenance gets easier each year and becomes habit.  The savings in our food bill are enormous.  The health benefits are incalculable. 

To complete this project, I'll still need to move some of the perennial flowers that are under the arbor....bee balm, purple coneflower, and a butterfly bush.  Simple enough.  Our backyard makeover is almost complete.  Whew!  Can you fit a food bearing plant or two in your yard?