Thursday, April 29, 2010

Don't get used to this

2 posts in 2 days! I'm on a roll. More like I want this eat-from-your-own-land-bug that I've got to be really contagious. So, what's on the menu tonight???


1 lb of grassfed Samsula ground beef (which we traded some chickens for)

1/2 lb of ground mutton (Bella, to be exact)

1 store bought onion (because I used all my green onions in recent meals)

1 can diced tomatoes (one day they'll be homegrown)

1 bunch parsley (their last hoorah)

several sprigs of homegrown rosemary and thyme

3 fresh eggs

And this shall be served with roasted homegrown sweet potatoes and store bought cabbage (again, one day... maybe)

Pictured is the meatloaf and the sweet potato/cabbage (in a loaf pan) in our nifty convection oven. Since its not too hot, I'm cooking this inside because the convection oven is small and looses less heat. When its hot out and the AC is cranking, I roast things on the porch in a separate roasting pan. I rarely use the big oven anymore.
The second picture is what's left over of our sweet potatoes. The laundry basket was FULL in December from about 20 square feet.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Weeds- its what's for dinner!

Actually, its way more than weeds, but I couldn't resist steeling this little phrase from the market beef industry. This is my homegrown quiche. Yes, I know, its only spring and the true test of a gardener is in the summer, but I'm very pleased with our production thus far. I'm down to grocery shopping every other week where I only buy cabbage, carrots, fruit and sometimes yogurt (store bought yogurt as a culture has a better tasting end product). So this is our dinner tonight:
10 freshly laid eggs
1 cup homemade ricotta cheese
2 small homegrown zucchini
1 bunch of homegrown Okinawa spinach
a few dried tomatoes from last fall's harvest
1 bunch homegrown green onions
1 small bowl of dollarweed (harvesting was WAY fun with the kids!)
several sprigs of homegrown thyme
store-bought salt
1 (this is CRIMINAL!) store-bought pie crust
I can't believe I confessed this... even more surprised that I did it. I normally make quiche in a cheesecake pan with no crust. I don't like that. It has no form. We eat it out of bowls. This time I was sorta planning on maybe making a crust from scratch as I would a Christmas pie... then I looked in the freezer which was recently stocked with a few luxuries from my dad's freezer... like a store bought pie crust. I caved in the name of cleaning out a freezer. I poured this homegrown wonderfulness into a store bought, bleached-enriched-white-death pie crust.
But... I know this will not be the last quiche so I'll have another shot.
Back on topic now, the homesteading hubby and I are really excited. At one time we felt that being food self-sufficient was a real stretch. Now it feels at our fingertips. I purchase very few veggies. We're still learning about fruits to grow but loquats and mulberries from other people's trees are satisfying us for now. (Except the boys... they get grumpy without their bananas). Its funny to hear first time gardeners talk. They're so optimistic. And I have to guard my tongue to not rain on their optimism. But they talk about the size. Their eyes light up with these mammoth dimensions or the HUGE number of plants. I read one blog where a Florida guy bought 3 packets of corn seed and a few other veggies. Why??? Do you really think you're going to grow that much corn??? In Florida??? His blog stopped there for obvious reasons. Your 50 tomato plants aren't any good if you can't get any fruit to set or get to eat it before the bugs. Well, God bless them. I've been there. I remember my crazy seed orders, trying everything under the sun. Its when I finally said that I want real production that I focused on getting these gardens to yield. I had to change my pallet from wanting broccoli to wanting okra every night for 10 days in a row. And we seem to now have certain veggies narrowed down. We don't have a terribly varied diet right now, but darn it, its homegrown. Yes, we're eating dollarweed, but hey, its growing well and always will and is most certainly edible and nutritious so why not?
So what are our present staples?
1) Lettuce- some is still coming in good (most has bolted). I planted some on the east side of the house hoping the afternoon shade will prolong it some into summer.
2) Collard Greens- learn to love them if you're a FL gardener.
3) Zucchini- don't know how long I'll have it, but its great right now
4) Yellow Squash- same as zucchini
5) Sweet Potatoes- still eating the ones we harvested in December.
For herbs, the thyme and chives are thriving. My basil is still very small. Parsley has gone to seed. Rosemary and sage holding their own. Will take off I'm sure when I overhaul the beds which I won't do until the basil is ready for transplant. Green onions are the regrowth from the bulbs of store bought ones I bought over a year ago. I thought I killed the Okinawa spinach by not covering it this winter, but its come back strong. Will take cuttings and get a good stand of it going this summer.
What's planted for summer eating? Okra, beans and collards are the staples. Giving eggplant and amaranth another shot this year. Got some peppers in but I think they do better in the fall. Lima beans are a first for us. Lots of cowpeas coming up as weeds and more will be planted when the squash and melons come out. Sweet potatoes will get planted sometime soon but not harvested until winter... still working on some slips. My last 2 attempts at slips have molded instead. I think it was too cold where I was keeping them.
I also have lots of tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelon, pumpkin and butternut squash in and growing well. Hoping for good returns but won't scrap my collards expecting a pantry full of pickles. Oh... and swiss chard. We LOVE swiss chard. Tried planting it this winter and it just didn't grow until the sun started shining good. Its growing now... so I planted a bunch more. May not do anything before the heat is too much for it but as long as I've got my collards and okra to fall back on, I'm fine using space in experimentation. Also experimenting with kale.
The next thought is how to become more independent of the feed store. Yes, we're raising (or trading for) all the meat and dairy we consume, but those chickens and goats can chow down the hay and grain. Challenges for another day.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Grass Power!

Meet our grass-powered, self-replicating, edible lawn mowers! This is Button and Esperanza. Every day that someone will be home most of the time, we tether these 2 out on a section of lawn and they eat to their hearts content. Button is still very skittish though improving considerably. Coming from a large farm with little to no human interaction has not made for the easiest of transitions, but we're getting there. In the picture they are in a 6'x8' dog kennel. This is where we put them at night and for long stretches when no one's home. Its small enough that one person can easily catch them and get them on a leash and lead back to their feed source. If we were to throw them back in the pasture, it would take 2 people and the dog and a LOT of time and running to catch Button again. Esperanza follows her mom, but isn't nearly so spooked by us. And their tether is a pile of free weights we found on the side of the road. Its perfect. You get just the right amount of weight where if they have to move some, to reach shifted shade or water, they can, but they won't go far and certainly not fast enough to not be caught. We still keep a close eye on them to make sure they didn't knock over their water or get tangled around the kids slide or each other, but they really do very well. I now run BEHIND Button as she races to the front yard in the morning. They are also well trained getting back into the kennel at night. Its a great system. We still have to mow some as they just don't eat it all, but its more like every other week instead. We don't intend to eat these, but these will be our breeding stock. We'll breed them each fall, raise their babies in the same manner until the greenery slows in the late fall/early winter then they become a great meat source.

Goat Swap #2

We were so pleased by our acquisition of Dulcinea for the price of "2 bucks" (being 2 useless-to-us-bucklings) that we thought about doing it again. But this time the price was greater... and a tug on our heart too.

Our first goats were Annabelle and Fudge, a mother daughter duo acquired in 2007. We had recently traded Annabelle for Copper, our breeding buck, because she needed a good retirement home. That left us with Fudge and her daughter, Noel, the first goat, the first anything, born on this property. Realizing the vast difference in milk production between the goat breeds, we decided to take the plunge. Fudge and Noel, pictured, were traded for another mother-daughter duo.

Meet Helen and Doby. Helen is 3/4 Nubian, 1/4 Lamancha and Doby is 5/8 Lamancha and 3/8 Nubian. They were acquired from the same previous owner as Dulcinea so we knew we were getting good stock. Helen is, like Dulci, in her first lactation and was giving 1 gallon a day! The owner then kicked her out onto a large paddock with the rest of her milking does and the shock of leaving the cushioned life of a kidding pen shocked her. She dropped a bunch of weight and her production too. She's gained weight since coming to us where our paddock is always small and we have no such luxury as a kidding pen. She also went into heat just last week so her due date is September 19th... sound familiar???
Doby (because she looks like a Doberman Pinscher) is almost 3 months old (I think). We gave little farm girl the job of bottle feeding her. It was a great fit. We recently weened her and she's doing well though still follows the girl around like a puppy.

So all in all, this has been a happy change. It was sad to see Fudge and Noel go, but we've been good about drowning our sorrows in goat milk. We've been getting between 3 quarts to a gallon a day still. When milk stock piles we make yogurt. When the yogurt stock piles, we make cream cheese. Then last week we ordered some more cheese making supplies. We got some cultures for buttermilk, kefir and necessary ingredients for mozzerella and ricotta. Mozzerella is on the to-do list today, but this may be too lazy of a Sunday for something that new. We shall see.

And just for the record, we still have Copper, our Nigerian Dwarf breeding buck. He's so sweet and small enough to not be a problem that we're not inclined to upsize him. We're in this for the milk and a dairy goat's udder knows nothing about the size of the baby coming out. We'll truly have mutt goats on our hands, but mutts can still be cute and that's all anyone seems to care about around here.

And another note, this all took place in early March... yes, I'm behind. You have no idea.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pink Eye and Other Stuff

This post feels like a homecoming... a sign of maybe, just maybe, life returning to normal. I've kept an ever growing list of topics to report in my absense. And here's the first:

We had Copper, our breeding buck, come down with a rather serious case of pink eye. The first I noticed was that it seemed as though he were always winking. The next day it was closed. I thought he scratched it or something. The next day it clouded over. Remembering how quickly goats go downhill, I jumped online and determined that it was indeed pink eye. In kids, you squirt breastmilk in their eye a few times a day... so does that work with goat's milk? I never did try that. Allopaths got me scared so when Friday hit (having been caught with a sick goat that didn't last the weekend), I ventured to a feed store to get the big guns- antibiotics. I went to one store that only had stuff for dogs. The second store had the same stuff and swore it was the "only thing that works on pink eye" (I had mentioned allowing it to run its course to this store keeper's horror). I went to buy it and discovered it had expired in '08. Well, if pink eye's as common as it seems to be, why aren't more people buying treatment if this is the only stuff that works?

So I went home empty-handed. No, I swung by a grocery store for some epsom salts. For Copper, I squirted a few drops of colloidal silver in his eye. The does (who all were in milk), I washed their eyes with epsom salt water while they were on the milking stand. Noel started to show a tiny bit of crusting over, but it never amounted to anything. I gave Copper his treatment only twice (mostly because he was NOT cooperative!) and his eye started clearing up immediately. Later, when I was talking to a vet who we were doing a swap with (another post), she said pink eye can cause miscarriages. I had assumed that Noel and Fudge were both pregnant but I never noticed any signs of something amiss. But then they never did get it. The epsom salts did a great job of preventing it.

And to fill in on the rest of life, Homesteading Hubby has been employed again by a fabulous company! God has blessed us richly indeed!!! And his layoff turned out to be perfect timing... my father grew very ill and died in those 4 weeks while he was unemployed. It in some ways felt like we were getting punched in both eyes, but really, it was good. My husband was home to take care of the kids so whenever my dad needed me I could be at his side. He came to live with us and died shortly after. I then had to see to tying up the lose ends on the sale of his business and other estate matters and could do so without a worry as to how I was going to care for 3 small children and milk the goats too. I was just finishing up the worst of it all when my said hero got a call to start the following week. Its been a hard month, but I'm confident that my dad is with our Savior now. I miss him immensely, but I think it helps that the pain is clear, not some weird psychological messiness. I miss my dad, plain and simple. But he's safe, healthy and gardening in heaven where there are no weeds. I can't ask for better for him.