February 4, 2016

Baby Goat Coats Take 3

I'm usually not too keen on winter kidding, so I tend to wait a few heat cycles in the fall before letting the girls visit the boys. This year, however, it was later than usual before the girls showed any interest. This wasn't particular to me, as evidenced by a discussion on the Holistic Goats group, making quite a few goat owners wonder what was going on. When Daphne finally went into heat, I didn't want to miss the opportunity. The result is a kidding date at the end of this month. To prepare for potential cold weather, I'm busy knitting baby goat coats.

The pattern is called "Hand Knit Kiddie Sweater" and is free at Fias Co Farm website. I've made some modifications to suit my stripy color pattern, and so far I'm pretty happy with it.

As the post title says, these mark my third set of baby goat coats. My first baby goat coat was for a March-born kid. I was worried about dipping night temperatures, so I made a kid coat out of an old sweatshirt sleeve.

Alphie in his sweatshirt sleeve baby goat coat

This added warmth for sure, but the problem was that baby boy goat anatomy is such that it got wet every time he peed. Good thing a sweat shirt has two sleeves.

Last year I found a pattern for a dog coat and made several of those.

Helen and Woody in his doggie pattern baby goat coat

Again, it added a layer of warmth, but as you can see, it didn't fit well. Plus, I had the same problem with the bucklings that I'd had before, so that the coats were always getting wet and needing to be changed. This year I hope for a better coat!

I'm planning to do four or five little goat sweaters, just to be prepared. It isn't uncommon for Kinders to have quads and occasionally quints. They knit up fairly quickly (the sweaters, not the goats), and the only problem I had was when I couldn't find my collection of double-pointed needles. I have almost every size imaginable, but with my studio being used for storage while we work on the house, I could not remember where they were. I ended buying a new set.

Working a short sleeve.

The new ones are acrylic. I like the swirl pattern in them, but I don't like how they knit. I'm using acrylic yarn, and it catches on these needles so that the stitches don't slip smoothly from one needle to the other. Also I don't like the sound they make! They don't make the customary "tink tink" of steel needles; they creak. I don't like that. Creaking is not a comforting sound.

Looks like there are quite a few kids in there.

With Daphne due in about three weeks I'm working diligently on these. It's a nice indoor project on a cold or rainy day.

Baby Goat Coats Take 3 © February 2016 by

February 1, 2016

Savory Cheese Biscuits

Here's another successful "Baking Without Baking Powder" experiment. This one uses pickle juice with baking soda for the leavening.

Savory Cheese Biscuits

2 cups flour
1 & 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup rendered chicken fat (or palm shortening)
1 cup milk (for drop biscuits - for rolled & cut biscuits use 2/3 C milk)
1 tbsp dill pickle juice
1 cup shredded cheese
1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
1/4 tsp black pepper

Mix flour, soda, salt, mustard, and pepper. Cut shortening into flour mixture. Add milk and pickle juice, and mix enough to moisten all ingredients. Fold in shredded cheese and drop (or roll and cut) onto greased baking sheet. Bake at 425°F (218°C) for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

These rose beautifully too!

I used homemade pickle juice and my own goat cheese. Yummy!

Savory Cheese Biscuits © February 2016 by

January 29, 2016

How To Render Chicken Fat

Remember those commercials about never selling a fatty yellow chicken? Well, fatty yellow chickens were what we had when we thinned the flock of our oldest hens not too long ago. The idea was to make way for the up and coming Australorps, so they would feel comfortable in the hen house, rather than constantly being chased away by the older birds who thought the place was theirs. I saved all that yellow fat and recently pulled it out of the freezer to render.

Rendering is the same thing as clarifying. Are you familiar with ghee, or clarified butter? The idea is to remove the non-fat parts in order to increase shelf-life. Solid fats are extremely stable (which is why hydrogenation came into being). It's the bits of liquid, muscle, and connective tissue which decompose quickly.

Contrary to what those commercials wanted us to believe, the yellow fat in a chicken is the prime fat. The whitish skimmings from cooking chicken are of lower quality. When we butchered all those hens (about ten of them), I canned the meat, collected the yellow fat, and froze it for rendering later.

The process is a simple one, it just requires the time to hang around and keep an eye on it.

Cut the fat into small chunks. Smaller = quicker melting

Put in a heavy-bottomed pot with a small amount of water. Heat gently.
When it seems that no more will melt, skim out the unmelted bits.

The water keeps the fat from browning and evaporates as the fat melts.

It does not want simmering or boiling! It only needs a gentle heat to melt the fat. Not all the chunks will melt and can be strained out. These are the "cracklings." They can be used in cooking (see my recipe for Cracklin' Cornbread), or fed as treats to cats, dogs, or pigs. (Chickens like cracklings too but since feeding chicken to chickens may seem repulsive, let them have the cracklings from goat or pork.)

Strain into wide-mouth canning jars and allow to cook in the fridge.

After the fat has solidified I put on lids. I always wait to put on lids
to avoid condensation by capping a warm or hot substance. The small
amount of chicken broth in the jars will be well-preserved by the fat.

As you can see, those ten fatty yellow chickens gave me four pints (a half gallon) of rendered fat. It remains a soft fat and never becomes truly hard like lard.

So what does one do with it? According to Putting Food By, it makes great biscuits (and it does). It's also said to be the must-use fat for good matzo balls. Others like it in pie crusts. For me, it's mostly a matter of not wasting anything from the animals we process at home. 

Other animal fats can be rendered too. For how to render goat fat click here. 

January 27, 2016

"Coffee Cakes"

My baking with wood ash experiments are only a small part of the content of the eBook I've been working on, although it all revolves around the creation of carbon dioxide bubbles. I've had a lot of fun experimenting with this and would like to share some of my successful recipes. This one is for "Coffee Cakes." Coffee was my kitchen acid and baking soda was the alkali. The "cakes" refers to them as cupcakes, although their low sugar content makes them good as muffins too.

You can see that I got a beautiful rise on this one!

"Coffee Cakes"

1/2 C sugar
1/4 C softened butter
1 egg
1 and 3/4 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2/3 C strong, regular coffee

Cream sugar and butter, add egg and mix well. Mix dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture, alternating with coffee. Stir enough to moisten all ingredients. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and bake for 12 minutes at 425°F (218°C).

Frost for cupcakes if desired, or eat plain for muffins. Makes 1 dozen.

"Coffee Cakes" © January 2016 by

January 25, 2016

Snow Days

The weekend brought us our first winter weather, starting with 1.25" of wintry-mix rain on Friday and ending with 3.5" of snow on Saturday.

The ducks didn't mind but the chickens hung back.

The pigs? As long as food is part of the deal they're in.
After eating they headed back to their cozy straw beds.

Goats and snow don't mix so that was a "no way."

Cats go out on an "as necessary" basis only.

Except for going out to keep hay feeders full and water buckets ice-free, Dan and I used the day for indoor projects. For me it was making bone broth, baking bread, and knitting a baby goat sweater.

One of my snowy day projects was making bone broth from
all the chicken bones I've been saving. To each gallon of water
I add 2 tbsp vinegar to dissolve the minerals from the bones. 

While keeping the fire stoked and the pot simmering I knitted.
This is one baby goat sweater out of 4 or 5. More on those here.

Dan worked in the dining room on the windows.

Dan filled insulated under the window with both batting (left)
and foam. The foam is very dense and doesn't allow air through.

The first step was to install new receptacles, the second was to cover
the gap in the wall.We decided to incorporate that into the overall 
window trim. Once the whole thing is painted, who'll be the wiser?

We were glad for the progress, but still have a way to go.

We're gradually melting out from under of all the snow, leaving a huge wading pool between the house and the critter sheds. I'm glad we didn't get any more! Ice on the trees has meant quite a few falling branches, but at least we didn't lose power.

How was your weekend? Did anyone else get snowed in?

Snow Days © January 2016 by Leigh