October 17, 2017

Oven-Fried Green Tomatoes

My tomato plants have recovered from their late summer droop and are not only perking up, but beginning to produce again.



If our first frost holds off I will be able to make another batch of pizza sauce! However, when my tomatoes look like this...


I think of fried green tomatoes! But frying is a bit of a bother - messy, time consuming, and using a lot of oil or fat. So I got to wondering, could I oven fry them instead? I oven fry okra and other veggies (roasted, actually), so why not green tomatoes?

Did it work? See for yourself.


Faster, easier, and just as tasty. Here's the recipe -

Oven-Fried Green Tomatoes

  • green tomatoes cut into quarter-inch slices
  • oil (Your choice. I used a combo of coconut and olive)
  • cornmeal, flour, or combination
  • salt, pepper, etc. to taste
Combine seasonings with cornmeal and/or flour. Coat tomato slices first in oil then in the flour mixture. Spread out on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400°F (200°C) for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately!

Even if our first frost doesn't hold off, maybe I should can a batch of green tomato slices too. I could oven-fry those for a winter treat too!

Oven-Fried Green Tomatoes © October 2017

October 14, 2017

Gjetost (Norwegian Goat Whey Cheese)

Making cheese means making whey, lots of whey. More whey than one knows what to do with. Usually I make ricotta with my whey (how-to here). I love ricotta and have a number of recipes I use it in (click links for those): as a fat substitute in biscuits and ice cream (called gelato), also in cheesecake and gnocchi (Italian dumplings). But ricotta leaves whey behind as well, more than I can used in cooking. With about four gallons of whey in the fridge at the moment, I thought it was time to try something else.

I grabbed David Asher's The Art of Natural Cheesemaking and looked at the chapter on whey cheeses. Of course ricotta is always listed first, but then I saw his recipe for mysost. Mysost (my' sost) is a whey cheese made from cow milk whey. The goat version is gjetost (yeh' tohst or g tohst') which means goat cheese. It is also called brunost (brun' ohst) or brown cheese.

The recipe looked simple enough with only two ingredients: whey and cream. The down side was that it called for two to three hours of constant stirring after the cream is added. Now, me and sitting still don't get along very well, so I started looking for alternatives. I compared David's recipe with the one in Ricki Carroll's Home Cheese Making. No shortening of cooking time, but it called for using a blender. That didn't seem very authentic to me, however, my own method didn't turn out so very authentic either! I used my crock pot! It solved the constant stirring problem and worked well for me.

Here is the process in pictures.

Gjetost
Norwegian Goat Whey Cheese

Ingredients:
  • 1 gal. fresh sweet goat whey from any goat cheese
  • 1.5 C goat cream (how to extract goat cream here)

Fill crock pot with whey & turn on high. When
it begins to simmer, skim foam and set aside.

Once it's simmered down a bit, the foam can be stirred back in.

It's about half the volume here and the consistency of evaporated milk.

As it cooks down it continues to thicken. When it's about
one quarter of the original volume, stir in the cream.

The cream is optional, but usually added to give the final product a creamier texture.

I stirred frequently and scraped the sides of the crock pot. The
scrapings melted back in & I used a little whisk to smooth them out.

How much to cook it down is apparently a matter of taste. The more
 it's cooked down, the firmer the cheese. It was 9 p.m. and I didn't
want to let it cook for another night, so this is where I stopped.

Primost is a softer, spreadable version of mysost or getost. It's made by not cooking the whey down so far. I think it would take a bit of experimenting to learn how long to cook the whey for the desired end product.

The hot cheese is cooled in a bowl in cold water. Stirring
helps maintain a creamy texture. It thickened as it cooled.

The last step is to put it in a mold. I used a glass dish, but traditional
Norwegian gjetost is put into square or rectangular wood molds.

Then it was into the fridge for overnight. The next morning the challenge was getting it out of the glass dish. I can see why the Norwegians use take-apart wooden molds!

My first gjetost

Mine was too hard to spread, but too soft to make firm, thin slices. But that's okay because it gives me experiential information for next time.

Next time I'll cook a little longer for a firmer, more
sliceable cheese, plus I'll try to find a better mold.

How does it taste? Heavenly! You'd never guess it was cheese! It has a tangy, nutty, slightly sweet flavor that is a delight to the taste buds. We had it for breakfast in place of our usual peanut butter and jelly on toast.

Can't beat this: toasted bread from our homegrown wheat, raspberry
jelly from our own raspberries, and gjetost from our own goat milk!

What did Dan think? He agreed it's a definite winner. We really like our PB&J breakfasts, but until I can grow peanuts and make our own peanut butter, this is an outstanding replacement, in both taste and price (free versus about $4.50 per jar of "natural" peanut butter.)

Will I try it again? Absolutely! I'd like to experiment with no cream and also with using whole goat milk instead of cream, just to see the texture differences (plus I have way more whey than cream). I'd also like to try primost, the spreadable version. That might be the best option for our morning breakfast sandwiches.

The only other thing I have is a few more links for both gjetost and mysost:
  • Gavin Webber (formerly of The Greening of Gavin) has a good video here. He adds cinnamon to his.
  • David Fankhauser's gjetost photo recipe (no added cream) is here.
  • Docaitta's recipe (here) used the whey from whole milk ricotta. That recipe is first, followed by the one for mysost. Also without cream.
  • And if you would like to hear the authentic Norwegian pronunciation of gjetost, plus see Norwegian dairy goats and how they milk them (makes my back hurt just to watch!) click here

October 11, 2017

The Challenges of Sustainable Pastures

When I signed up for the slow life I didn't dream that it would be this slow. I can accept that a learning curve requires some experimentation to figure out. But when one is working with annual cycles, such as pasture management, that trial and error can mean it takes years to figure something out!

Luke in the buck pasture in September.

One of our goals is to feed our livestock from our land. That sounds pretty straightforward, doesn't it? But learning to go from modern animal management practices to the simpler agrarian model has been extremely challenging. One of the things I have learned in our attempt is that humans are a whole lot better at complicating things than simplifying them!

Of course, trying to focus on too many goals at once makes a slower go of it. So once the barn is done (our #1 priority), Dan's and I are going to turn our focus on our pasture and forage areas. This post will review our novice attempts to work toward that self-sufficiency goal, including what we've done right, what we've done wrong, and what we need to improve.

Same pasture in May of this year.

One of my "mistakes" (quotes because it wasn't a wrong decision, just a decision that hasn't helped me work toward my long term goals) has been to plant annual pasture forage every fall and spring. I've done this because of local seed availability. My local perennial pasture choices are bermudagrass (wiregrass planted on purpose) and tall fescue (which has recently earned the label of "toxic fescue," because animals do so poorly on it). Rather than buy expensive mail order perennial pasture seed (shipping often doubles the cost), I've worked with more economical locally purchased annual.

Annual pasture and hay mixes (such as deer and turkey forage mixes) are available, economical, grow well and are tasty and nutritious. But since I often can't coordinate the planting and growing of warm and cool mixes, I'm often left with minimal forage in between the seasons, and bare spots where the annuals have died. No good because something always volunteers to grow in the bare spots and it usually isn't what my goats need and will eat. The weather is key too, of course, and our seasons are unpredictable. Our climate is supposedly mild, but it's the extremes we need to plan for. For example, we've had winters that were too cold and snowy for forage to grow. Some summers we get enough rain, but sometimes summer is too hot and dry for anything to grow.

Anna and Cinnamon in the doe pasture in June.

Remineralizing, is something we've done right. Healthy forage needs the right balance of soil minerals to grow. Animals need minerals too, so it's much better in the long run for them to get their minerals from forage. Otherwise I'm constantly have to buy all their minerals. Detailed testing and purchasing organic amendments is expensive, so we've only tested and amended some of our forage areas. But this is an excellent investment in our land and heading us in the right direction.

Planting a variety of grasses, legumes, and forbs has been something else we've done right. Dan has been reading Joel Salatin's Salad Bar Beef and I'm going to say it's a must-read for anyone who wants to pasture animals. Dan also found an video by Gabe Brown on this topic, "Cover Crops for Grazing." Excellent! We're realizing we're on the right track, we just need to plant a greater variety with more perennials.

Doe pasture in August.

Keeping the chickens from gobbling up newly seeded areas has been a huge fail, and it's an expensive way to feed chickens! I clip their wings and we keep them in their yard after seeding areas, but there are always one or two escapees anyway! One chicken can do a lot of damage on a newly seeded quarter acres. The ducks have been bad about his too, and they are harder to contain.

This year's young chickens (and squirrel) on pasture.

Soil building is another badly needed goal. My modified-Fukuoka method of planting has been encouraging, but it's slow going.

Rotating grazing livestock is another must for maintaining healthy forage plus animal parasite control. From my observations I've come to the conclusion that we need more paddocks and we need to rotate more frequently. We're looking into intensive rotational grazing, similar to what Greg Judy describes in this blog post. That would address both rotation plus the soil building goals. Goats are a bit different than cattle though, so we have to keep that in mind as we fine tune any plans.

Because of all this, pasture improvement has been under much discussion and research for awhile now, and we are working on a specific plan, with specific steps to accomplish our goal, including moving some fences and gates (much of our fence is in need of repair anyway). As we get ready to make the shift from barn building to pasture renovation, I'll share specifics with you in a upcoming post or two, along with an updated Master Plan. Stay tuned!

It's true, the grass is always greener on the other side
of the fence (even though it's the exact same thing!)

October 8, 2017

Reconsidering the Muscovies

Dan and I recently revisited our "Winter Numbers" discussion with what to do about all our ducks. The original idea was to keep just two over winter, with the rest relegated to the freezer. But over lunch one day, we began discussing the Muscovies, our set up, and how much trouble work they are with our present barnyard arrangements.


Trying to decide what to do is not an easy decision, because we like the Muscovies; they are a neat bird. Very likable. Even though they supposedly don't need water, they love it so we keep a kiddy pool filled for them. That means there is the chore of emptying and refilling it. Ideally that water could be used on plants, but logistics aren't in favor of that.

Other considerations? Muscovies are flyers, so they are continually going over to root around through the neighbors' flower beds. Or I'm trying to shoo them out of the hay because they poop on it. Worse, they've been roosting on Dan's barn beams and leaving poop all over everything below. They provide eggs and meat, but the eggs are too rich for Dan. The meat is delicious, but ducks are very labor intensive to pluck. They are prolific, with M.O.M. setting on her third clutch of eggs for the year.


If we don't watch out we'll be overrun with Muscovies!

Any time an animal (or animals) creates an imbalance in time, resources, or benefits, it's time to rethink keeping them. We originally got them as a trade, and so didn't have a set-up specifically for ducks. We've discussed ideas to accommodate them, but for now, time and resources are demanded elsewhere. So, we're putting most of them into the freezer and will rehome our original pair. Kinda sad, but it's the right decision for now.

October 5, 2017

Borax for Fur Mites on Cats

Katy

Several month ago our Katy started pulling out her fur. It was mostly on her lower back, and there were little tufts of fur everywhere. She was so obsessed with this that she practically did nothing else. She was constantly licking, biting, and pulling, until her lower back was starting to look bald. We examined her closely, but couldn't see anything. Still, something was clearly wrong.

I researched this and found a number of causes. Stress is one of them.

Katy and Meowy have consistently refused to be friends.

Allergies is another cause. We already have the cats on a no-wheat, no-corn, and no-soy diet, so I stopped giving her milk. The problem continued.

Another cause is fur mites. When Dan found what looked like teeny tiny larvae in her sleeping spot, we concluded it was mites after all. I started looking for shampoos for this. In my research I ran across a homemade mite shampoo from Vetinfo. It called for 1 or 2% hydrogen peroxide, warm water, borax, and Vitamin E, mixed and applied to cat's fur for several days in a row. It was said to kill adult mites, eggs, and larvae.

I didn't have vitamin E, but I had the rest of the ingredients, so I mixed up what I had. It took the two of us to wrestle her down and work it into her fur, but it seemed to work. For awhile. Then she would start with the fur pulling again. I reckoned that to get rid of the problem once and for all we'd need to soak her in a warm borax solution bath and massage it into her skin.

Dan was skeptical that we could manage a bath, but being an old pro at giving cats baths, I said not to worry. I filled the kitchen sink with warm water and dissolved a handful of 20 Mule Team Borax into it. Then I picked her up and securely held her legs in my hands and lowered her in up to her neck. Dan worked it into her skin. We had a large warm towel at the ready and after we dried her off as best we could she took off like a firecracker and hid.

A little while later we found her on the bed giving herself a bath. I worried a little about her ingesting the borax, but I was also worried about the mites. After she'd dried herself off she went to sleep and slept all day. That was the first time we'd seen her actually sleep in weeks.

Katy in her favorite chair.

I laundered everything she slept on with hot water and borax so she wouldn't re-infest herself. She stopped the incessant licking and fur pulling and her fur is gradually growing back. Amazingly, none of the other cats got it!

I was glad to find a simple solution without any fancy, expensive chemicals. Now if we could just find something similar to get rid of fleas...

Borax for Fur Mites on Cats © Oct. 2017 by

October 2, 2017

Barn Progress

It's coming along! Last time I showed you the construction of the hay loft, now Dan has started work on the roof.

The roof is beginning to take shape.

Roof rafters over the hay loft.

Making more rafters.

Making rafters from home-milled lumber is a challenge. Very few of our pine trees are straight, so trying to cut straight boards is often a challenge. Uniformity is impossible! Oh well! And even the waste finds itself in use for things like collar ties and snow block.

Collar ties, all from scraps.

Snow block is from scrap lumber too.

"Snow block" is something Dan got from his log cabin book (Build Your Own Low-Cost Log Home by Roger Hard. He's referred to it often for our barn project). Instead of making soffits for eave ventilation, he's just blocking the openings to stiffen the rafters. We don't really need eave vents, since the barn will be neither insulated nor air tight, and Dan has other plans for ventilation.

Taking a step back...

First two sheets of plywood sheathing.

The feed storage and milking room will be on the left where the old coal barn carport used to be. (Click that link to see what we're replacing.) The milking room roof will start just above the gap under the sheets of plywood you see above.

Rafters for the lean-to roof on the back side.

Plywood siding on the back gable end. Something tells
me I'd better get this painted before the roof goes on!

Autumn temperatures have arrived and our weather has been absolutely gorgeous. Next weekend we'll probably have to take a break to work on firewood. Then we'll be back at it. The goal is to get the roof on before the autumn rains hit. We'll see!

Barn Progress © October 2017 by

September 29, 2017

A Treat For the Goats: The Harvested Corn Field

Every year after we've harvested our dried field corn, I turn the goats into the corn field.





The girls get the morning shift, and then the boys get their turn in the afternoon.



The goats love the change of diet and eat the corn leaves plus the weeds and grasses growing in between the corn stalks. This plus a handful of chopped oregano, rosemary, and okra pods every evening, and I'm getting 25% more milk! Everybody's a winner!

September 26, 2017

Autumn Harvest

Crabapples. Not terribly pretty but they're my first ever!

Scuppernongs (green muscadines.). I haven't
gotten any of these since our 1st year here!

Field corn. I love making our own corn meal.

I'm very thankful for these once a year fruits of the earth!

Autumn Harvest © September 2017 by

September 24, 2017

Preparedness Resources Part 2

To most folks who regularly read my blog, preparedness probably makes sense. We have different reasons for doing so, and it's already made a difference for Dan and me. As things get more expensive, the government imposes more mandatory expenses, political and social discontent grows, and our income goes down, I can't help but have this feeling of inevitability. At some point in the future I'm going to be glad that we took the preparations that we have, and probably wish we'd done more.


So why do some people not feel the need to prepare for whatever emergencies life sends our way?

Your Family Matters by Todd Sepulveda

This collection of essays will give you a glimpse into why people don't prep and why they don't think it's necessary. It's an interesting look at real-life situations that the author and his family have experienced, situations that are common to all of us. Lots of meat here to make you think. Also lots of practical advice and ideas here to prepare you and your family for problems ranging from common to uncommon.

A Prepper's Anthology of the Collapse of Venezuela: Case Study by Daisy Luther

Here's another one that will make you think. This book is not your typical prepper material, but it is an extremely interesting read. Venezuela's economic and political disaster did not happen overnight but over years. What makes this book so eye-opening is that Daisy has been able to sift through these events, compare them to similar problems in other countries, and formulate patterns. If you follow American news and politics, much of it will sound uncomfortably familiar. A must-read, especially for those who think it can't happen to us.

Family Preparation in the City and Suburbia by Susan K. Stewart

So what if you live in the city or a suburban neighborhood?  What if you can't rely on growing all your own food and being self-reliant? This is the book is for you. It everything a suburban home or apartment dweller can prep for: water, heat, food, lighting, medical, money, entertainment, education, employment, protection, and community. Includes printable forms to help you with situation assessment, electricity assessment, and a document tracking system.

These three eBooks along with 27 other resources are available in


Click on that link to choose a purchase option.
  • $29.97 (about $1.00 per resource) for online access where you can download these PDF files
  • $69.97 for online access plus a flash drive containing this preparedness library.

The PrepperBundle will be available until midnight Monday, Sept. 25.

September 23, 2017

Preparedness Resources Part 1


The PrepperBundle 3-day Flash sale is underway! As promised, here are reviews on three of the thirty resources included in the bundle.

Preparing For Emergency Evacuation

Simple 72 Hour Kits: A Step By Step System For Busy Families by Misty Marsh

Most of you are probably familiar with "bug out" kits, i.e. a grab-and-go kit you prepare before something like a weather disaster strikes and you have to leave in a hurry. But what do you need to put in it? This book will guide you through the process of creating an emergency evacuation kit containing three days of supplies for your family.

Preparing For Empty Grocery Store Shelves

Food Storage Made Easy: a three-part program by Jodi Moore and Julie Weiss

So you return home and thankfully find your house still standing. Or maybe you were fortunate enough to not have to leave. Now what? If you need to rely on FEMA or wait for the grocery stores to be restocked, you will be wishing you had a food storage. This 3-part book will teach you now to begin and stock a preparedness food storage pantry. Covers food (grains, legumes and meats, baking ingredients, fruits and veggies, comfort foods) water, and non-food item, plus recipes.

Preparing For Loss of Power

How To Embrace An Off-Grid Lifestyle by Tammy Trayer

While most of us probably aren't aiming to go off grid, losing power is a distinct possibility in many disaster scenarios. Who better to help you know how to plan than someone with off-grid living experience? In addition to the how-to of going off grid, this book help you think through everything you need to consider for when the grid goes down temporarily: tools, heating, water, sewage, appliances, laundry, cooking, baking, foraging, food preservation and storage, living without refrigeration, sickness and injury, protection, even phone and internet.

If you think these resources might be useful to you,


The price is $29.97 (about $1.00 per resource) for online access where you can download these PDF files, or $69.97 for online access plus a flash drive containing this preparedness library.

Let me know if you have questions!