July 29, 2011

July Harvest (And Preservation)

Garden harvest is in full swing this month. Every day involves one or more of the 3 P's: picking, preparing, and preserving.

Cucumbers

Sweet bread & butters
The cucumbers are still producing, though they seem to get bitter quickly in our heat. I've got most of the pickles we need. Last month I started pickle making and finished up the sweet pickle chips this month.

Gallon of lacto-fermented dills
I also thought I might try my hand at pickles the old fashioned way. These are lacto-fermented sour dills, and boys howdy are they ever sour. I used the "Sour Pickle" recipe on pages 50-51 in Sandor Katz Wild Fermentation. I'm not particularly fond of pickles and only make them because Dan enjoys them. These have a lot of pucker power, even for him. Still, I've discovered they are quite tasty with a grilled hamburger.

Cucumbers preserved this month:
  • sweet pickle chips, 6 pints canned
  • sour dills, 1 gallon fermented 
Total canned pickles preserved so far this year:
  • 11 pints dill pickles
  • 16 pints sweet pickle chips
  • 1 gallon sour fermented dills

Potatoes

Fingerling potatoes
I've harvested the fingerling salad potatoes, you know, the ones in my pretty marigold and petunia beds. I have to say that while cute, I haven't found them to be very productive. Of course if a bunch of volunteers pop up, I'll know I did a poor job with the harvest. They've made tasty potato salad however.

In addition to these, I've harvested some volunteer Red Pontiacs, along with some volunteer beets, carrots, and turnips. All of these we eaten fresh, the carrots in cole slaw and the others roasted. None preserved, but I've saved a lot of seed.

Slim pickin's, literally
Blueberries

Sadly the blueberries are about done. Last year I harvested them all July long and into the first week of August. Because of the goats however, we only got two weeks worth this summer. In spite of my best goat deterrent methods, they still continued to sneak in and help themselves. We had most of them fresh and I froze a few quarts. Jam making was from all the quarts I froze last year, but we didn't eat.

Blueberries preserved this month:
  • frozen, 7 quarts
  • jam, canned from last year's frozen quarts, 10 pints  

Melons 

Last year I planted Hale's Best cantaloupe, this year I decided to try something new, Green Nutmeg melons. I'm having trouble telling if they are ripe or not. They have a delicious flavor, spicy and sweet, but the flesh has been crisper than cantaloupe and I'm not sure if this is what to expect when they're ripe. Watermelons too, are just coming on. We will eat our fill of fresh melons and I will dehydrate and freeze the rest. We loved the dehydrated watermelon, and the frozen cantaloupe, while not so good for table use, was great in smoothies

Melon preserved this month:
  • green nutmeg, dehydrated, 1 pint

Summer Squash

Sauteed in olive oil, yum
This year I decided to try a scallop type squash, Bennings Green. We especially enjoy summer squash freshly picked and sauteed in olive oil with a little salt and fresh sweet basil. Last year I decided to try freezing some of my abundance of yellow squash, but there are 6 quarts still sitting in the freezer because I really didn't care for them. Still, what does one do with one's summer squash once the neighbors have been inundated and have taking to running and hiding when they see me coming with more offerings in hand?

I decided to go ahead and freeze some, but try a different form. I shredded them with my King Kutter, laid the shreds out on cookie sheets to freeze, and then bagged them in quarts. I figure I can use these in soups and vegetable pancakes. Or at least try them these ways. We'll see.

Summer squash preserved this month:
  • 2 quarts shredded & frozen

Cabbage

I started my cabbages indoors last winter, and I'm just now harvesting the heads. I showed you how I've been treating for cabbage moths in my July garden update, and pictured on right is how well the thyme sprinklings have worked. I haven't preserved any cabbage; we do love sauerkraut, but we've been enjoying these with carrots as cole slaw.

Tomatoes

Making pizza sauce
Pizza sauce is my tomato preservation priority. I call it pizza sauce, because that is how we usually use it, on pizza. (Spaghetti or lasagna occasionally). We used 21 of the 33 pints I canned last year, so that gives me an idea of what I'll need this year. At a minimum, I like to have at least 26 pints in the pantry. More would be better, either for increased use or if my tomatoes don't do well next year.

I make mine the easiest way possible. I wash, quarter, and cook down a potful of tomatoes. Then I run them through my Foley food mill. I cook this down in the slow cooker to about half the original volume.

Handful of garden fresh oregano,
thyme, & rosemary
Fresh herbs are an important ingredient. I used to carefully remove the leaves from the stems before using. Now I just cut a big handful and throw it all into the pot. The leaves cook off the stems, which are then easy to pick out. I add salt to taste last, and then can in pint jars. We prefer pints because of the way we use it.

Stewed tomatoes & okra

The other way I've been preserving tomatoes, has been as canned tomatoes and okra. I ended up with quite a bit of frozen okra from last year, about 12 quarts. Since frozen foods have a shorter shelf life than canned, I figured I'd cook the okra up with fresh tomatoes, and can that.

Frozen tomatoes peel easliy
I needed the tomatoes peeled for this. The reasons I don't can tomatoes (as tomatoes) is 1 - we rarely use them canned for one thing, and 2 - I find peeling them to be too hot and time consuming. I read though, about freezing whole tomatoes first, and then peeling. I tried this and discovered it works great. I just dip the frozen tomato in water and it peels beautifully. So much nice working with them this way than over a kettle of boiling water! I figure I'm probably saving on my electric bill too, because the freezer is running anyway. An added plus, is that I can pop them in the freezer when ripe, and come back to deal with them later, either for the okra, or to cook down for more sauce.

Okra. In addition to dealing with last year's frozen okra, fresh okra has been on the menu. Not in large quantities yet, but I've managed to put a few quarts by in the freezer.

Tomatoes and okra preserved so far this month:
  • Pizza sauce, canned, 24 pints 
  • Tomatoes & okra, canned, 16 quarts
  • Okra, frozen, 2 quarts

The other thing I just got first pickings of, is green beans. That was an adventure in itself, so I'll tell you about it soon.

July 25, 2011

Corn Jungle

View of the corn from the main vegetable garden

The other day I ventured out into our corn patch. I had avoided it during the first part of the month because of all the rain. But the corn was getting tall and I really wanted to check on my pole beans and pumpkins. What I discovered was, we don't have a corn patch, we have a corn jungle. I wasn't even sure I wanted to wade around in there.

What used to be the main path

I planted the corn as a companion group, just like the garden. Once the corn plants were about 5 inches tall or so, I planted pole beans and about 5 or 6 hills of pie pumpkins. I was happy to see that the beans were in flower, and taking good advantage of the corn as bean poles.

Kentucky Wonder pole beans & Truckers Favorite field corn

Each corn stalk appeared to have two ears per. The other thing that was doing well was the volunteer morning glories.

Corn stalks make great poles

In some spots they're engulfing the corn plants.

The thing I had trouble finding, was my pumpkins. At last I spotted one...

Can you see it? A pumpkin vine amongst the corn & weeds?

It took a bit of weed pulling, but I finally got a better look.

Small Sugar pumpkin plant

This is the only pumpkin plant I could find, though I must have planted 5 or 6 hillsworth with half a dozen seeds each. I have not done well with pumpkins. This plant was from seed saved from the two pumpkins I got last year. The previous year, I only got two pumpkins as well. This is disappointing because every year I count on a lot of pumpkins, not only for pies and baking, but now for animal feed too.

Not all the corn has done so well.

There are sparse spots 

Since there are no weeds growing here either, my guess is that this has something to do with the soil. That will be another project to research for improvement.

We did two plantings of corn, the first in April, and the second in May. When I ran out of corn seed, I planted the rest of it in black oil sunflowers.

Black oil sunflowers and who knows what else

The weeds here, have been much harder to deal with. Dan weeded the first planting of corn with the tiller, to give it a head start. The rest of the field was neglected for a variety of reasons. The weeds established themselves so well, that the things we planted (corn and sunflowers) have had to struggle for their place.

All of this is a learning experience and part our experimenting on growing our own grain. We obviously have a lot to learn, like how to deal with all those weeds! We planted a total of 5 pounds of seed corn, so we'll just have to see how much we get and how long it lasts; one of our many first steps in the establishment phase of homesteading.

Corn Jungle © July 2011

July 22, 2011

Fencing the Buck Browse

Our property had no fences when we bought it. Well, that's not entirely true, there were rusted away remnants of field fencing and barbed wire along the property lines in the back woods, and along the ridge between the chicken coop and Fort William. Since it was always our intention to have animals, especially goats, fencing has been the one of the biggest projects we've had to tackle so far. (Tearing down the chimney runs a close second.) It's also one of the most expensive, but fortunately, we can buy what we need as we go along.

We had absolutely no experience installing fences when we started. Our first bracing assembly was accomplished by me reading instructions out of a library book, while Dan did the actual labor. It was slow and awkward. We now have four areas fenced, and have come a long way since then!

The latest fencing project is what I've labeled "buck browse," on our master plan...

Click for a closer view

Goats love browse, i.e. any vegetation that isn't grass.

Surprise and her twins, photo taken in June,
before the twins were weaned

In fact, they'll do anything to get it, and ignore perfectly good grass in the process. Fencing the woods will give them that, in addition to pasture.

The first wooded area we're going to fence, for the Billy Boys, will utilize fence we've previously put up, so will only require three more legs.

Clearing a path for the fence
along the back of browse area 

We started by clearing a path along where the fence line will go.

First section up. This is a view from the back of the buck barn.
Another gate will go at the bottom.

Next the posts and braces are put in, and lastly the welded wire fence is attached, 100 feet at a shot. (For details, tips, and what we've learned, click here). We debated about whether to put the fence smack dab on the property line, or several feet on our side of it. The original fence appears to have been on the property line, so by moving it a few feet in, we don't have to take the remnants of that down. Plus, we can let everything grow there, and since the goats can't eat it down, have some visual privacy.

It's been hot and muggy, so this hasn't been a fun job. Plus the woods are downhill from the front of the property, so there's little air circulation there.

The bigger job though, is yet to come. The very back of the property, where the point of the triangle comes, will be a chore to fence. It's very overgrown in some spots, i.e. brushy, plus there are a lot of downed trees that will need to be cleared. It's the larger of the two wooded areas, and perhaps can be subdivided even more. No matter what, I say it's a job to save for winter, when we have better visibility.

Once all the fencing is done, we'll have 5 or 6 areas secured for the goats. That will give us the ability to rotate them through these areas, which is good for pasture and forage management. Plus, it will keep the neighbor's kudzu from completely smothering our property. Even then, our fencing project won't be be done. Indeed, it will never be done. Once we finish putting up fence, our job will shift to maintenance and repair! It's just one of those ongoing projects.


Related Posts:
Progress On The Fence - with tips we've learned

July 20, 2011

Companion Group Gardening: Mid-Summer Notes

Nutshell version: The garden is a mess

Detailed version with excuses & rationalizations: We've had a lot of rain this month, over 4.5 inches so far, with more predicted daily. That means the garden has been wet and muddy, a situation I like to stay out of. Consequently, the weeds are out of control! On the plus side, I got most of the garden beds mulched this year, unlike last year, so the weeds are mostly on the periphery and in the aisles. Other than that, here are my thoughts on my companion bed gardening plan to date.

click to enlarge a bit

This year I started at the top of the garden, and planted my way down. No particular reason other than I had to start somewhere. I started mulching at the top and worked my way down with that too. The first two beds contained my early planting of potatoes (fingerling salad), which are ready to be dug up, once the ground dries out a bit.

Fingerling salad potatoes, cabbages, & marigolds

For the most part, these beds have done well. The only problem has been cabbage moths, for which I've treated the cabbage plants twice.

Sprinkling the cabbage heads with fresh snipped thyme

I read that thyme is supposed to repel cabbage moths, but my thyme is all planted in my herb garden. I cut handfuls of that and sprinkled snippings over the cabbage heads, pretty much covering them completely. This actually repelled the buggers for quite a few weeks. Above is my second snipping because, as you can, see they returned to reek more havoc.

In the second potato bed are purple petunias, and cowpeas (for animal feed), in addition to the potatoes.

Cowpeas in the potato patch, ready to harvest

The cowpeas are Ozark Razorback, from Baker Creek. I bought one packet and have been very impressed with them. They produce loads of pods and are very easy to harvest; they send up stalks with 2 or 3 pods on the end of each, very easy to spot and pick. They seem to be a semi-runner type bean, so I've been wondering if I can plant them as one of the 3 sisters in next year's corn patch. They don't seem to have tendrils however, so I'm not sure they're a climbing bean. The true test will be how well the chickens and goats like them.

Broom corn, Marketmore 76 cucumbers, & yellow cosmos

In the beds I mulched early and deeply, weeds have not been much of a problem. What has become a problem .....

Vardeman sweet potatoes & morning glories

... has been morning glories. Last year I pulled them all out as seedlings. When I was researching companion gardening, I read that they attract beneficial insects, so I let them stay. Not a good idea. Don't get me wrong, I love morning glories. The problem is that they are taking over.

Morning glories sprawling all over the yet to be planted beds

I don't think I could get rid of them now if I wanted to.

One problem I'm having is a planning problem.

Black oil sunflower & Bennings green tint scallop squash bed on left
Clemson spineless Okra and cosmos (& more morning glories) on right

There isn't enough room in the aisles between the beds. We actually measured them out wider, but somehow they shrunk. ;)

Another problem (also in the above photo) was because I didn't properly secure my log terrace borders. The ground become so soft from the rain, that a few of them rolled into the aisles.

In general, my beds are overflowingly crowded.

Calico popcorn & sugar baby watermelons

This is mostly planned. I say mostly because I wondered if the same principle that applies to perennial edible forest gardening, also applies to annual vegetable gardening, i.e. that the polycultural choirs work together to keep down weeds and bugs. Based on early observations, I'm suspecting this to be somewhat true.

The other thing though, is that I just don't have the heart to thin seedlings. I know we're supposed to and I have no trouble yanking out things I don't want (weeds). Those deliberate seedlings though, I worry that something might happen to them and I may need all those plants to produce wonderful things to eat. Then too, it seems an expensive waste of money to throw away perfectly good production plants. I know that because there won't be 100% germination, the rationale is to plant thickly and then thin. I just can't bring myself to do that. I tend to space out my seeds and just plant more of them in hopes to make up for those that don't germinate. Does anybody else have this problem?

Hutterite Soup beans & Red Pontiac potatoes

One bed where my theory isn't working quite so well, is my late potato and bean bed. These two are traditional companions, and mine are Red Pontiac potatoes and Hutterite Soup beans. The bean leaves are suffering yellowing around the edges. I've been looking through books, trying to diagnose this, but am not sure what it could be. They are producing beans and I wonder if perhaps our Southern heat is a bit too much for a bean which is usually planted farther north. Ideas?

Of course no garden tour would be complete without showing off one's tomatoes.

Supposedly Roma tomatoes

I wish I could just give you this photo and say that's it. I am pleased to say that these are absolutely the prettiest tomatoes I've grown in the three summers we've been here. No cracks, no blemishes, and no blossom end rot! Blossom end rot was a terrible problem my first two summers. This is due to a calcium deficiency in the soil, and easily treated with a calcium spray. This year, none! Perhaps my dynamically accumulated mulch and plantain in the compost is working!

The sad truth about my tomatoes is this....

Roma tomato plants with blight

Blight, sigh. What's interesting about these plants however, is that they were grown from seed I saved from last year's Romas. The problem last year wasn't blight, it was anthracnose. Because of that, almost all my tomatoes were blemished. I must have thrown away more than I was able to use. (Not thrown away actually, but fed to the chickens mostly.) I know we're told not to save seed from diseased plants. What I wondered, was, could the plants develop an immunity which would be passed on to their offspring? Crazy I know, but I did it anyway and have no anthracnose in this year's tomatoes. (Or maybe it was because I composted the manure from those chickens who ate those tomatoes, hmm). So this year it's a different problem, though I do have beautiful tomatoes. The end result either way, is decreased harvest.

One thing my husband says about this garden, is that the prettiest we've ever had, and I agree. I wish all the herbs and flowers had come up, but I'm learning a lot and will make adjustments next year.

For now though, it's time to be getting my fall garden in! Hopefully I can take what I learned last winter and apply it to that. My goal is year round fresh veggies. As soon as the ground dries out enough to be workable, I'll get started on that.

July 18, 2011

Cheese Making Update: Goat's Milk Mozzarella

Tasty, melted homemade mozzarella on homemade pizza

When I last blogged about making cheese, I had three hard cheeses under my belt, and was trying my hand at mozzarella. The hard cheeses were still in the 2 month aging process, and the mozzarella making was only going so-so. However I was determined to master it, because mozzarella is one named cheese we use quite often, weekly in fact.

My success rate was 50% at that point. I'd made four batches of mozzarella, but only two turned out. The others ended up as crumbles. Tasteless crumbles. That all changed with Marissa's (Sand Holler Farm) comment to my post. Here's what she said...
"First, always use milk that is 3 days old. Usually, you want to use the freshest milk possible but the pH of older milk is good for this one. Just following that rule made my failures go to almost zero (I made this cheese probably 40 times last year and only had 2 batches go bad - in the crumbly way you describe).

Next, that says to wait 5 minutes for a good curd. Goat milk can, and usually will, take a bit longer. The gals I learned from say they usually just walk away from it for 30 minutes while they do other things. I rarely have that patience, but waiting a bit longer always seems to help with the stretch.

Finally, those same gals said to NEVER heat goat mozz over 150F. I've done it accidentally a few times and the stretch was noticeably worse. I aim for 140F.

And even more finally! To get rid of the bland flavor, soak the mozz in brine. Mix 1/2 gallon of whey and 1/2 gallon of water with a pound of salt. I soak 1/2 lb balls for 2 hours, so you may want to soak a bit longer with the larger ball. Then you need to let it sit in the fridge overnight for the salt to completely diffuse through. The brine can be used over and over, just refrigerate it. I don't like to use cold brine (it makes the cheese even stringier) so I heat it up to about 100F if it's it's been in the fridge."
Since incorporating Marissa's advice into my mozzarella making, I've made 7 batches without one failure. My success rate has jumped to 100%!

I know several of you commented on having difficulties making mozzarella too, so I'd like to share how I'm making it now. There are lots of different recipes for mozzarella, but this one is based on the simplest I could find with the fewest added ingredients, Ricki's 30 Minute No Nuke Mozzarella (not a goat milk recipe), incorporating Marissa's tips (specifically for goat milk).

Grating my fresh mozzarella cheese for pizza

A caveat - this recipe is is not meant to be a lesson in cheese making. It is simply the steps I follow, and assumes a basic knowledge of the process, such how to heat the milk, stirring in the rennet, recognizing curd formation, and curd cutting. I just want to share with other beginning cheese makers what's working for me!

Homemade Goat Milk Mozzarella

For the cheese:
1 gallon raw, 3 day old goat milk (mine is spoon skimmed)
1/2 tablespoon citric acid
1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet
non-chlorinated water for dissolving citric acid & rennet

For the brine: (prepared ahead of time. Can be reused.)
1/2 gallon whey
1/2 gallon water
1 pound salt

1. Dissolve citric acid in 1/2 cup water. Add to goat milk in large pot. Mix well.

2. Slowly heat milk to 88 - 90 F / 31 - 32 C

3. Dissolve rennet in 1/4 cup water. Add to goat milk. Mix well.

4. Let sit 30 minutes, or until the curd forms (clean break)

5. In the meantime heat a kettle of water. This will be needed for stretching the cheese.

6. Cut curd into 1 inch cubes. Let rest 10 minutes

7. Scoop curds carefully into a colander. (I let my whey catching bowl sit in hot water, to help keep the curds warm.)

8. Fold the curds over on themselves several times, to work out whey

9. In a separate bowl, mix the hot water with cool, for a temp of 140 F/ 60 C. Quickly break or cut the drained curds into 1 to 2 inch pieces, and put in the hot water.

10. As the curd warms, it will get stretchy. Rubber gloves are handy at this point for handling the hot curd; I've also worked it awkwardly but successfully between 2 large wooden spoons.

11. Stretch cheese like taffy until is smooth and glossy. If it begins to break, warm it up in the hot water again.

12. Shape and place in prepared brine for about 2 hours, turning occasionally. If the brine has been refrigerated from previous cheeses, heat to about 100 F / 38 C

13. Remove from brine, towel dry, cover, and place in refrigerator overnight for the salt to permeate the cheese.

Weighing & cutting the cheese before shredding & freezing

I've actually been making this with 3, half-gallons of milk at a time because this is what my pot holds and it's a time saver to make larger batches. From this I get three pizza's worth of cheese. It is a soft, but nicely formed mozzarella. I don't make balls or braid it, because mine is destined to be grated. It is tasty (I could probably eat the whole thing in one sitting all by myself!), easy to shred, and melts beautifully.

My goal now, is to make enough mozzarella to last until milking starts next spring. I'm not sure yet when that will be, so starting from now, I'm aiming toward making, shredding, and freezing 40 pizzas worth of cheese. That should be way more than enough, for pizza or anything else we might want it for. Happily, I'm already more than halfway there. :)

How To Make Mozzarella from Goats' Milk: plus what to do with all that whey including make ricotta. This little eBook was born from my learning how to successfully make goats' milk mozzarella. Mozzarella is now on of my best cheeses!  Explains why this isn't a cows' milk recipe, the difference between quick and cultured mozzarella, all about rennet, all about pasteurization, and what to do with all of that whey, including a recipe for pure whey ricotta. Follow the link for available formats and where to buy.


July 15, 2011

Food Self-Sufficiency & Animals

I received a lot of excellent comments on my "The Economics of Food Self-Sufficiency" post. Most of you, like me, see a definite benefit to growing your own food, but don't see a significant savings monetarily. I going to hazard a guess that this is because most of us are in what Dan and I call the establishment phase of homesteading. Most of us are starting from scratch. We do not have the benefit of inheriting the family farm and the knowledge and skills to go with it. Nor do we have the benefit of a local, like-minded community, where social gatherings center around work days: barn raisings, canning bees, harvest days, corn huskings, butchering, sugaring off. Most of us know what our goal is, but aren't always certain of the best way to achieve it.

Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
Crude protein 16.8%
Digestible protein 13.9%
Feed for: goats, chickens

When it comes to food self-sufficiency, I figure we have two choices. We must either learn to grow everything we want to eat, or we must learn to eat what we can grow. A vegetable garden is the most basic, and a fruit orchard often follows that. Animals take it to another level. The benefits of eggs and milk alone, appeal. In addition, there is meat for those who eat it, manure for fields and garden, increases of flock and herd for selling or bartering, and the simple pleasures and entertainment that animals provide. The trade-off is, now, instead of buying our own food, we buy food for our animals. No relief for the pocketbook there.

Dan and I decided at the beginning, that we wanted to become self-sufficient in regards to our animals. Each animal must contribute to our needs, and we in turn must not keep more animals than our land can properly provide for. That means we have to learn how to grow our own animal feed.

Field corn
Crude protein 8.7%
Digestible protein 6.7%
Feed for: chickens, humans

I've spent a lot of hours researching this, and have run in to the same problem I did when it came to eggs and chickens; much of the information out there is based on the scientific approach, which is aimed at production and profit. Recipes for feed for example, are so complicated as to be discouraging. I don't even have a local source for some of the ingredients. And the cost? Prohibitive.

On the other hand, it would be a mistake to oversimplify the whole thing and think, well, back in the day they didn't feed them anything extra. We have to keep in mind that back in the day, topsoils hadn't eroded much and the nutrients hadn't been leached out. Thanks to decades of modern agricultural practices, our soils are often little more than a medium to hold the plants up. Because of that, our foods are no longer nutritionally adequate for humans or animals. Unless one happens to find a piece of virgin land to homestead on, this is a problem.

Wheat
Crude protein 13.2%
Digestible protein 11.1%
Feed for: goats, chickens, humans

So. We've set a goal to grow our own animal feeds. We look at this as a long term goal, which we can only accomplish one step at a time. We've begun with some experimental patches of wheat, corn, cowpeas, and black oil sunflower seeds.

One priority, is to make sure they get enough protein. A milking doe is said to need a diet of about 16% protein. Laying hens, 16 to 18%. As I've researched protein, I've learned there is a difference between crude protein and digestible protein. Crude protein is basically the sum total of the nitrogen in the plant. Crude protein figures include both digestible and indigestible protein. Whether or not protein is digestible, depends on the protein source. My copy of Raising Milk Goats the Modern Way (an older version of Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats) has a great chart in it showing the average composition of selected goat feeds. It gives both crude and digestible proteins, which I find very useful. Obviously this can apply to other animal feeds as well.

Cowpeas
Crude protein 23.4%
Digestible protein 20.1%
feed for: chickens, goats

There are other things to consider: calcium, roughage, vitamins, trace minerals, etc. We'll have to experiment to figure out what grows best in our part of the country, which will also meet these needs. Our wheat grew well and our corn is so far. I plan to experiment with things like oats, barley, millet, as well.

Something we grew last year was amaranth.

Amaranth, Golden Giant
Crude protein 12.5 - 17.6%
Toxic raw???

The chickens didn't seem to care for it, but the goats ate it. I later read it is toxic unless cooked, so I stopped giving it to the goats and didn't plant a patch this year. I know there are numerous articles about sprouting and cooking feeds for animals, but to be honest, I don't have the time to mess with that. I need a regime that meets my animals needs, but is simple. I still read mixed reports on amaranth, and I have enough volunteer plants to harvest quite a bit anyway. For the time being, it's not on our list of feeds to grow.

In addition to grains, there is pasture, browse, and hay of course, Pasture improvement / hay is one of the next projects on our list. Plus, there are a lot of things we can grow in the garden for feed: turnips, beets, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, mangles, collards, pumpkins, winter squashes, etc.

Comfrey
Crude protein: 22 - 33%
Feed for: goats

Obviously this is not a goal we will reach in just a year or even two. It will take experimenting in regards to the amount of seed we need to plant and the expected harvest. It will take trial and error as we explore the best possibilities, but at least we've begun.

Those of us pursuing a goal of self-sufficiency understand that it is a difficult goal to achieve. Not only in terms of skills, knowledge, and resources, but because our culture is not set up for us to succeed. One of the biggest obstacles is having a mortgage. In addition, the tools and resources we need are expensive; ever price an off-grid energy system for your home? However, I'm a firm believer that something is better than nothing. A tomato plant on the patio is better than none. Growing at least some of our own food is better than none. Some relief on our feed bill is better than none. It's a journey, a process. When I get discouraged I consider the alternatives. Is there any other life I'd rather be living than this?

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