August 30, 2010

Goat Tales

Our goat population has been fluctuating.

We've gone from two to three to two to three.

My first goats were Abigail and Bathsheba Crybaby (Lord B's first love, aka Baby, aka Baby Dumpling)

They are Boer/Nubian crosses, mother and daughter. These were badly needed as brush goats, with future plans that they would breed meat for us.

Next on my list to get was a dairy goat. As I looked around on Craigslist, I thought even the mixed breed dairy goats were kind of high. I was actually thinking about a Kinder. As a small dual purpose goat, they seem perfect for the modern homestead. Since I couldn't find any in my area, the next best thing would be to start my own herd. For that I needed a a registered Nubian doe, so I bought Surprise...

Then the problems started. I knew there would be an adjustment phase, but what I didn't know, was that Abigail would turn out to be something of a bully. She never fully accepted Surprise.

At first I assumed this had to do with maternal instincts, but once Surprise had been around long enough to obviously be no threat, (and indeed, Baby loved her), I thought everything would be okay. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case and Abigail never liked Surprise. She was ever chasing her away from the food and the barn. Since she was horned and Surprise wasn't, this was a concern. I tolerated it until Abigail cornered Surprise in the barn one day, ramming her until her shoulder was bleeding. That was it. I sold her.

Baby frantically searched for her mother (in between mouthfuls of grass and browse) for about a day, and then we got Charlie....

Never mind mom, what in the world was that huge fuzzy thing in our barn??? Baby attached herself to Surprise pretty quickly and adjustments were made all around. Then Dan thought we needed another goat, since two and a llama weren't keeping up with all the vegetation in the field.

I perused again craigslist, and found a gentleman in his 80s, who was selling off his herd. By the time I went to visit, he had three registered Nubian does left. Two were in milk,and the third was being dried off. Since we aren't really set up for milking, she was the one I bought.

This is Deer Ridge Farms L Jasmine.

She started her residence here like the others, in the barn (shed really, but we call it the barn), with the gate closed until introductory sniffs could be made.  I don't believe she'd ever seen chickens before, so she was a bit cautious about them. She'd definitely never seen a llama, and she wasn't all that thrilled about her new caprine companions. Understandably he just wanted to go home.

After the others wandered off to browse and graze again, I let Jasmine out. She stuck to me like velcro. She  had her face glued to my backside as I walked her out toward the others.  I had to sneak off by taking gradual backward steps because she hollered every time she thought I was leaving her out there alone with them.  (Melodrama is a Nubian specialty.)

Everyone gets a small amount of feed in the evening. Jasmine of course, didn't know the routine and wanted to chase Surprise and Baby away to eat it all herself. That's when Charlie stepped in. I usually feed Baby and Surprise from a large pan, and Charlie from a small, handheld enamel sauce pan. I had a smaller pan for Jasmine. When he saw Jasmine try to run the other two off, he got right in there. He shouldered Jasmine out of the way and blocked her so that he, Surprise and Baby all ate from the big pan.

Of course Jasmine was upset and the whole neighborhood knew all about it. We soon got it all straightened out and over the next days things settled down and Jasmine quickly became one of the girls.  Anytime I say "girls," all three goats will answer me. (I made the mistake calling the hens "girls" the other day, and the goats all answered in unison.  I have to remember to call the hens "chickens" with the emphasis on the "ch".)

Jasmine is a very sweet goat. Loud, but very friendly. And she adores Dan. Of course, her previous owner was a man, so while she likes me well enough, she'll drop me like a hot potato and run to Dan every time she sees him.

And about her being dried off. You may have noticed that I mentioned goat milk for my coffee in my last Independence Days Challenge update. When I first brought her home I wondered how well miking would go.  I'm happy to report that milking a goat is like riding a bicycle. Once you learn how, you never forget.  I'm not getting much, less than a quart every so many days, and that not for much longer.

The plan now is to breed them this fall. I'm trying to find a registered Pygmy buck to breed the Nubians to, so I can start my Kinder herd. That's proving to be a more difficult task than I thought, as there seem to be zero registered Pygmy herds within 150 miles of here. Hopefully I'll have some success with that to blog about one of these days soon.

Goat Tales photos and text © 30 August 2010 by Leigh at

August 29, 2010

No Frills IDC Update

I've had less writing time lately but I am working on a couple of updates on the goats and llama.  That means a no frills  Independence Days Challenge  update for today!  :)

1. Plant something
  • onions (Ebenezer)
  • beets (Detroit Red)
  • lettuce (Parris Cos)
  • turnips (Purple Top White Globe)
  • radishes (Pink Beauty)
  • orchard grass
  • ladino clover
2. Harvest something
  • watermelons
  • strawberries (we get a small handful each week)
  • tomatoes
  • sweet peppers
  • cucumbers
  • sweet basil
  • green beans
  • buttercup winter squash
  • okra
  • eggs
  • goat milk
  • popcorn (just a couple of ears to check)
  • sage
  • chard
  • black turtle beans
3. Preserve something
  • made and froze pesto
  • froze okra
  • froze eggs
  • canned green beans
  • dehydrated tomatoes
  • canned tomato soup
4.  Waste not
  • scraps to chickens and goats
  • manure to compost
  • re-using canning and cooking water
  • line drying clothes when the sun shines which isn't as often these days
  • recycling all our cardboard, plastics, glass, & cans
  • saving most glass containers for re-use
  • trying to buy less plastic so I don't have to "waste" it
5.  Want not
  • mostly food preservation & seed saving
  • our neighbor told us where there is a persimmon tree on our property
6.  Build community food systems
  • blogging about it
  • traded eggs for hardwood logs (for firewood)
7.  Eat the food
  • melons for fruit
  • eggs for baking, breakfast and lunch
  • tomatoes and cukes for salads
  • okra & Swiss chard for cooked veggies
  • potatoes baked or roasted & leftovers for hash browns
  • chicken & local farm raised pork & beef
  • and a teensy bit of goat milk for my coffee (more on that next post)
Want to read what others are doing?  Click here.

No Frills IDC Update © August 2010 by Leigh at

August 27, 2010

August Garden Tour

August has been an odd month. It's usually one of our hottest, along with July. June is usually mild, sort of easing us in to summer. This year, it's as though August and June switched places. This year, June presented itself with a long, uncomfortably hot heat wave. July was more of the same and even though there was adequate rain in the area, it always seemed to skirt around our place, leaving my garden dry and thirsty. August has been amazingly cooler and wetter than I remember past Augusts to be. Cool, of course is a relative term, and is often offset by our humidity.  Still, highs in the mid 80s to 90s is welcome, compared to  flirting with 100 like we did during June and July.

Other things seem uncharacteristic too.  Even though the thermometer says "hot," the breezes blow cooler. Their sound in the leaves of the trees is reminiscent of September, not August. Something else that's strange,  has been the occasional sound of crickets during the day. That's a sound thats usually reserved for autumn. Considering that last winter was longer and colder than usual, I'm hoping we aren't in for an early winter this year.

Because of all the rain, August has been a green month. Everything is happy with the moisture and it shows. In fact, some things in my garden have made a comeback. Like the Swiss chard...

... and my bush beans ...

I had long since given up on these as being done for the year. In fact I neglected them terribly when I watered.  The variety is State 1/2 Runner, which had already given me 24 quarts of canned green beans. I now have high hopes for another batch or two.

My Kentucky Wonder pole beans are doing well too...

... though these have been slow to start producing. These are the ones I planted with the popcorn, in hopes of having ready made bean poles.

I have learned that popcorn isn't the best corn to do this with. It doesn't grow tall enough!  At least it's true of this Japanese Hulless, which was the only OP variety I could find.

The most striking plant in my garden is the giant golden amaranth...

At eight to ten feet tall, it's a traffic stopper.  Well, maybe just a traffic slower-downer.

The seed heads are supposed to produce up to a pound of seed each. I planted them for chicken feed.

One thing we've learned about it is that the seeds don't all ripen at the same time. They ripen over a period of time, so that harvesting needs to be done on an ongoing basis. This has proven to be something of a challenge. Not only because the heads are  larger than any container I have (I've been spreading out a sheet to shake them into), but because the stalks are so stout. It's nearly impossible to bend the plants over to shake out the seeds.Harvesting a two person job.

There are other types of amaranth. I chose this one for it's advertised output. Hopefully I'll be able to collect enough seed to make them worth it!

Other things doing well are my watermelons, as shown in this post.  Also the okra...

It's Clemson Spineless.  And my sweet peppers...

These are an heirloom variety called "Chinese Giant." I'm afraid they haven't lived up to the giant part, but they are pretty and have an excellent flavor.

My sweet potatoes too (Bush Porto Rico), have thrived.  They are the dark green bushy plants in the back row behind the bush beans ...

Those are yellow cosmos in amongst my sweet pepper plants in the front.

Actually I need to check on the sweet potatoes soon, as they are harvested according to desired size, rather than when by what the foliage is doing.  Definitely before first frost, which can damage them.

The sunflower heads are now heavy with seed.....

... and drooping under the weight of them.  I grow these for feed.

One of my biggest frustrations though, are my tomatoes, of which both varieties (Roma and Rutgers) which have been stricken with blight.  At least I think it's blight.  I've compared the leaves and fruits to pictures in The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control,  and blight seems the most likely cause, though some plants fit other disease descriptions.  I did spray these early on with a liquid copper based fungicide, but obviously it either wasn't enough or it was the wrong thing.

Unfortunately, I lost a lot of fruit because of this.  Fortunately I planted more plants (30 Romas, 6 Rutgers), than I would have needed if they'd remained healthy. Volume offset loss, though I wouldn't have minded having more.  Obviously I have some studying to do before next year.

That's this month's highlights.

August Garden Tour photos and text © August 2010 by Leigh at

August 25, 2010

How 'Bout Them Watermelons

Our Sugar Baby watermelons have done beautifully this year. We've had juicy sweet watermelons to eat almost daily, and to give away to family and friends. Eventually though, we had a few too many, so I decided to dehydrate some.

Dried watermelon is something like fruit leather: sweet, sticky, chewy; probably about the closest thing there is to a natural candy. It's a real treat if you're a watermelon lover with a sweet tooth, or a kid.

It's a great thing to do with over- or under-ripe melons. The hardest part is getting out all the seeds.

I cut it into slices between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick.  The thinner they are, the less drying time they require.  My Excalibur sets the drying time for fruit and fruit leathers at 135° F.  Because watermelon has such a high moisture content however, my quarter slices took a couple of days to reach the desired stiff but slightly pliable, leathery texture, like the photo on the left below.

What's going on in the photo on the right?  Well, our humidity has been so high, that the finished, dried pieces quickly get soggified if left out!  I had to re-dehydrate several traysful.

In fact, I did that a couple of times.  In the end, I took the finished, cooled pieces, and layered them in a container between wax paper, and put them in the freezer.  A tad frustrating, I admit.

I figured there was no sense in staying frustrated about it though, so I consoled myself with....

Care to join me?

How 'Bout Them Watermelons © 25 August 2010 

August 23, 2010

We Big Kitties Now

Riley and Katy's first outside.
Katy the Cautious..........

Riley the Bold.............

=^..^=  Kitties purr for comments =^..^=

We Big Kitties Now photographs © August 2010 

August 22, 2010

Pay It Forward Book Winner & IDC Update

And the winner is ..........

Mama Pea of Home Grown Journal!

And my Independence Days Challenge update for August 15 - 21 is below. Rain put a damper on a few things, mostly fall planting. I'm not complaining, because July was so dry. Since our 2½ inches of rain a week ago, we've been getting about a tenth of an inch a day. Just enough to keep things soggy. Other than that ....

1.  Plant Something - the ground's too wet :(

2.  Harvest Something
  • green beans (bush)
  • green beans (pole)
  • strawberries
  • tomatoes
  • okra
  • black turtle beans
  • sweet basil
  • rosemary
  • oregano
  • thyme
  • cucumbers
  • eggs
  • amaranth
  • chamomile flowers
  • dill
  • figs
3.  Preserve Something
  • froze okra
  • dehydrated figs
  • canned dill pickles
  • froze eggs
  • dehydrated bananas
  • canned soup from garden veggies & my defrosted "waste not" turkey stock from holiday turkeys
4.  Waste Not
  • The usual composting of whatever scraps aren't fed to the chickens and goats.
  • We've been getting a goodly amount of rain lately, so instead of using cooled canning water on plants, I've been putting the clean stuff in the washing machine. 
5.  Want Not
  • seed saving
  • preserving the harvest
6.  Build Community Food Systems
  • blogging about it
  • Pay It Forward homestead book giveaway
  • Benita has suggested several times that I ought to consider writing a book about our life here. I find that wonderfully encouraging, but can't imagine anyone being that interested in what we do.  I finally told her I'd think about it, talked to DH who was all for it, and so have said I'll work on it  Hopefully "working on it" doesn't commit me to a tremendous amount of progress.  I mean, who has time?  ;)
7.  Eat the Food
  • the usual (and loving it)

August 21, 2010

Colors of August

Rose of Sharon
AKA Hardy Hibiscus


Giant amaranth

Butterfly weed


Okra blossom

Dill weed seed heads
Do check out Sue's blog, Life Looms Large, for more Colors of August.

Colors of August photographs © August 2010 by Leigh at

August 20, 2010

How To Freeze Eggs

In my chicken and egg update post, I mentioned wanting to try freezing some of our extra eggs.  They would be great for use this winter, when we will likely get none.  Freezing eggs is something I've never done before, but I wanted to give you the steps in pictures (hee hee, this is actually so I have a reference for myself in the future).  I followed the directions from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

I probably don't have to tell you that farm eggs should be individually cracked open into a separate container before adding to anything.  I'm pretty confident that mine are all fresh, but it isn't unheard of for folks to find developing chicks in them.

The eggs are then beaten, to mix the whites and yolks.

According to the directions, the yolks can get grainy when frozen.  To prevent this, a small amount of salt, sugar, or corn syrup can be added to the eggs before freezing.  I opted for the salt, as everything usually has a little salt in it, even cakes or cookies.  The ratio is 1/2 teaspoon salt per cup of eggs.  I had two cups.

[UPDATE: 1/23/11: I found even this much made scrambled eggs too salty. Comments for my taste test post indicate salt probably isn't even necessary. The directions addressed adding salt when freezing yolks, but didn't mention whole eggs. Next summer I'll try freezing whole eggs without the salt.]

Hmm. It's a good thing I'm writing this post for myself, because I just realized that I added 2 teaspoons. :o

The next step was to pour the mixture into an ice cube tray. Supposedly, one can get one egg per cube, but obviously this depends on the size of the cubes, since not all trays are the same size. Now, according to this egg chart, a large whole egg equals 3 and 1/4 tablespoons.  Well, my largest ice cube tray only holds a tad under 3 tablespoons per cube.  I reckon the question is, how exact do I want to be with this?.

And the answer is, not that exact.  What the heck, my own eggs are a variety of sizes anyway.  Only my two Ameraucanas lay those large eggs every consumer loves. At least I'll have my own eggs for winter baking.  For the record, it took eleven eggs of a variety of sizes to fill that ice cube tray.

The only thing the directions didn't mention, was that the frozen eggs bonded to the tray like glue.

A few seconds in warm water solved that problem and I was able to turn them out easily.

A quart freezer bag holds the dozen nicely.  I did notate that this batch has extra salt.

I'm not sure how many I'll freeze, but I'm getting over 3 dozen a week. We do use a lot of eggs and give some away, but I'll make it a point to preserve as many as I can. I know I'll be glad I did come winter.

Now, curious as to how they turned out for cooking and eating? Get the lowdown here.

How To Freeze Eggs © August 2010