October 31, 2016

Amaranth Harvest and Other Seed Crops

Here is my amaranth harvest for 2016.

A small Golden Giant amaranth head.

That's it. One small head of amaranth seeds. But even that was a surprise, because I thought the entire planting was bust. I planted a large bed of amaranth last spring, but that was before our two months of upper 90s and no rain. After we finally got rain, no amaranth grew and the little plot was soon overgrown with everything I didn't plant.

Amaranth is usually easy to grow and relatively heat and drought resistant. Both greens and seeds are nutritious as human food, but I especially grow it for animal feed. It is rich in protein, calcium, copper, and is a good source of lysine, an amino acid (which makes it a good protein balancer for corn, which we also grow but is low in lysine).

Both chickens and goats will eat the seed heads, which require virtually no processing. I store whole heads in large trash cans and toss them to the chickens who peck the seeds out. For the goats the heads can be chopped or the seeds roughly stripped (I just pull the head through a gloved hand). If the stems are chopped or broken to small pieces the goats will eat that too. Leaves can be fed either fresh or dried (which I add to my DIY mineral mix). The stalks can be chopped finely and fed as bulk in a homegrown feed mix.

The one plant that made it was stunted and pretty much hidden in the weeds. I didn't notice it until we were getting ready to turn the goats into the garden. Like my lone hope sweet potato I'm considering it a seed crop and am grateful for at least the one head. It will give me a lot of fresh seed to plant next spring, when I can hope for a better year and an abundant harvest.

Three other seed crops have been field corn,

Truckers Favorite open pollinated corn


Ozark Razorback cowpeas

and cushaw squash.

Cushaw winter squash, harvested from an unexpected place.

Of the corn I planted only a small patch for the purpose of getting next year's seed. We knew the goat barn would take up all of our time and so chose not to plant our usual quarter acre of corn. Corn seed is only viable for a year or maybe two, so being able to have fresh seed next year was important.

The cowpea harvest would have been more abundant if we'd gotten good rainfall, but at least I have some. Like the corn it feeds us plus our critters, so it's something I like to grow every year.

The cushaws were volunteers! In the buck pasture of all places. I fed rinds, pulp, and seeds to pigs and goats, who both had access to the buck pasture. I'm guessing they spread the seed in their manure. Even while the pasture was drying up I watered these vine's with leftovers from the goats' water buckets. They are small for cushaws, but will provide a good amount of winter squash eating for Dan and me this winter (with more rinds, pulp and seeds to feed).

On the bright side, this year we were plentiful in blueberries, figs, apples, pears, almonds, acorns, and pecans. Strawberries, peaches, raspberries, and elderberries weren't record harvests, but I got plenty for pies, jams, jellies, and ice cream.

Winter gardening may be a bust this year too. We've only gotten a quarter inch of rain in the past two and a half months, so my garden soil is either powder or hard as a rock. Hopefully things will change soon.

So how is everyone else's harvest doing? Do any of you have a fall or winter garden in the works?

October 26, 2016

Looking for Folks Willing to Sponsor a Giveaway on Their Blogs

Earlier this month I finished an eBook version of Critter Tales. It worked out as a series, really, with each set of tales becoming it's own volume in the collection. Now comes the ongoing job of promoting, and I was wondering if any of you faithful readers would be willing to help.

Here's how it would work. If you are willing to sponsor an eBook giveaway on your blog or website, you would receive a free review copy of the Tales of your choice (in the eBook format of your choice). After you run your giveaway, you would contact me with the email address of your winner and I would send them a free copy of the same book.

Ground rules:
  • If you agree to participate, then I expect you to follow through and hold the giveaway.
  • You set up the giveaway as is convenient for you: dates, length of time for readers to enter, deadline, and how you draw your winner are up to you. You can open up your giveaway to the entire world, because these are eBooks so there is no postage involved.
  • You don't actually have to write a review for the book you give away, but if you do, you must state that you received a free copy in exchange for your honest opinion. 

All the copies (review and winners) will come from Smashwords, because they allow me to set my own discounts up to 100%. The books are available at Amazon and other online vendors too, but only Smashwords lets me give away copies for free.

Speaking of free, the introduction to the series, volume I, Concerning Critters, is permanently free at Smashwords. You'll find that here. It sets the stage for the tales that follow.

If you think you might be interested, you can take a look at all the volumes here. It would be nice to have a couple of giveaways for each volume, so I'll work that out with volunteers on a first-come-first-served basis. To find my email address, click on "View my complete profile" here, or at the top right-hand side of my blog. A link to my e-addy is listed in the left-hand column.

People love giveaways and they are a great way to build followers and readership. I think your sponsoring a giveaway would be beneficial to both of us. Let me hear from you if you're interested!

October 23, 2016

Lone Hope Sweet Potato

Before we could turn the goats into the garden, we had to harvest our sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes usually do well for us, but less than half the slips I planted survived our hot, dry summer. Then the ground was so dry and hard that it was difficult to dig them out; it was more like chiseling than digging.  All I got was this.

1.75 pounds, that's it.

It may be a bit early to do this, but I picked the best one to put in water in hopes of growing some slips. If they make, maybe I can pot them once they have roots and leaves.

If I've said it once, I've said it a dozen times - something is better than nothing. At least I have something in hopes of next year's sweet potatoes.

Lone Hope Sweet Potato © October 2016 by

October 20, 2016

Homestead eBook Authors Wanted

Do you all remember that I participated in the Back To Basis Living Bundle earlier this year? This was a bundled eBook package with over 65 individual eBooks and courses written by homesteaders for homesteaders. It had a lot of excellent information on homesteading, homeschooling, cooking and gardening, DIYing, green living, preparedness, and natural remedies. For the amount of information it was a really good deal. I decided to participate again for the 2017 B2B Bundle.

The group is currently looking for more authors to join the project. The only caveat is that the deadline is October 31st. Joining in means earning a commission for your plus an affiliate percentage for the bundles you sell. It also means being able to share your work with a larger audience and getting useful information out to people who want it and appreciate it. Plus it's fun to meet other authors with similar goals and interests.

If you're interested you can sign up at the Back To Basics Author Referral page. You can share a previously published eBook or one you're just getting ready for publication.

If you have any questions, I'll answer if I can.

October 18, 2016

Goats in the Garden

The other day Dan helped me move the electric net fence. The girls had finished their brush control duty, so I wanted to partition off part of the the garden for them. I'm still getting a few tomatoes and green peppers, also sweet basil and some okra, but the rest is done for the year. At least it's done trying to grow vegetables - weeds are going gangbusters.

The garden will make some good eating for the goats, especially since the pastures are all dried up.

The only problem is that this is unfamiliar territory for them, so they won't go down there by themselves.

They wait for me to lead them through the gate and expect me to hang out with them.

Sometimes I'm able to sneak off and they don't notice.

Then a car whizzes by or a scary kitty cat comes along and they all go charging back to the barn.

Once they get their fill we'll see about trying to make it look like a real garden once again. Ordinarily I would like to have everything prepared and planted by this time of year, but the soil is so hard and dry from no rain that's it's impossible to do anything with it. The wiregrass hasn't minded, though. It is fast growing and tenacious and is what is covering the ground in all the photos above. Even most of my cardboard and wood chip mulch has disappeared under it.

One thing I've learned about trying to live off the land is that it requires patience, faith, and a willingness to adapt annually. The results aren't predictable and there are no guarantees. It's a humbling way of life.

Goats in the Garden © October 2016 by

October 15, 2016

Brined Chevon Roast & Pizza Sauce

The other day I took inventory of the deep freezer. We're going to be harvesting meat soon, and I need to make room in the freezer for it. Besides meat I store bulk grain in my freezer, also my shredded mozzarella cheese, frozen eggs, and unbaked pies. I add peaches, blueberries, figs, strawberries, elderberries, raspberries, and tomatoes as I harvest them. Now it's time to start turning those into jelly, jam, and sauce.

I decided to pull out the frozen tomatoes first and begin pizza sauce making. While I was in there I grabbed a small chevon roast and decided to brine it after it defrosted.

The next day I put the tomatoes in a colander to drain.

I started freezing tomatoes when I learned that peeling frozen tomatoes is easier than the boiling water and ice dunks. Now that I have my Roma Sauce Maker (photo of that here, plus the recipe for my pizza sauce) it's even easier to simply run the tomatoes through it to remove the seeds and peels. I drain out the tomato water from defrosting first, however, to save on sauce cook-down time. I save it for things like - well, you'll see.

Next I made the brine for the roast. I use the "all-purpose brine" from Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing (a must-have book for home meat processing.) I scaled it down for my small roast.
  • 1 quart water
  • 1/4 cup canning salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Add meat and optional seasonings as desired.

My optional seasonings were a big handful of fresh cut rosemary and a small handful of fresh garlic. These made a nice bed for the roast in the brine. Brining time was about 4 hours.

After lunch I drained off the brine and discarded it. That's not something I would ordinarily do, because my frugal nature requires that I use and reuse everything I can. But the brine was used for soaking raw meat which meant it wasn't safe to use again.

I saved the rosemary and garlic to add to the roast for cooking. I also added one cup of my tomato water and put it in the slow cooker on high for about two hours, then low until it was done. Fresh baked bread and steamed carrots rounded off the dinner.

Here's the embarrassing part. The finished roast was beautiful and I honestly meant to get a picture. But it had been smelling so good all afternoon and we were so hungry that I forgot about a photo until it was too late.

And the pizza sauce? It's still cooking down in my crock pot, but it smells might good too. When it's thick enough I'll can it.

People often ask what goat meat tastes like. I don't think there is any way to correctly answer that question. It doesn't taste like beef, pork, mutton or lamb, or venison. Each kind of meat has it's own incomparable flavor. I've heard rabbit, snake, and alligator meat all compared to chicken, but I've had them all and no, they don't taste like chicken! Heck, even turkey doesn't taste like chicken. The only answer is that chevon is a red meat and that's what it tastes like.

Now we can look forward to some good soup from the leftover stock and meat scraps. The bone will be saved for broth.

October 12, 2016

First Almond Harvest

Firsts on a homestead are always exciting. This year's first was our first real almond harvest.

1st sampling of homegrown almonds

We planted an All-In-One almond tree in December 2009. It's given us beautiful blooms for a number of years now.

It blooms in March (when this photo was taken)

Hall's Almond trees are more commonly planted, but the All-In-One was described as soft shelled and heat tolerant. Heat tolerant is always a plus in my part of the country. Considering how hot and dry our summer was, I'd say it has performed as advertised.

Of almonds, it's only given us a handful or so in the past, but this year I picked up a bucketful.

Since this was a first harvest I had to look up the particulars of harvesting, processing, and storage. My The Gardener's A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food says to harvest when the hulls are splitting on the nuts growing on the inner branches of the tree. These are the last to ripen, so it serves as an indicator of when they're ready. Mine were falling to the ground, some with split hulls and some with intact hulls.

The book said to remove the hulls immediately. This is so the nutmeat can dry properly. I hulled the ones I could, but many of the hulls were too hard to remove. I spread them out on an old sheet under one of the pecan trees, wondering if the hulls would split as the nuts dried. They did not. I reckoned this because we had a wet muddy winter followed by a hot dry summer; the harvest wasn't being textbook.

Then last weekend Hurricane Matthew gave us a gift of a quarter-inch of rain. Not as much as we needed, but enough to soften many of the hulls so that I could remove them.

I spread them out to dry, but not until we sampled a few.

The shells seem hard compared to pecans, but my nut cracker split them right open. The driest ones were easiest to crack.

According to UC Davis almonds can be stored in the shell for eight months at room temperature (which they say is 68°F / 20.0°C, and to which I say, "Ha ha, try room temperature during one of my summers"), and for a year or more in the fridge. Shelled almonds can be frozen and retain good quality for over a year.

It will take awhile to crack all of them so I'm not sure how many we'll end up with, but I guarantee every one will go to good use.

October 9, 2016

Cream Puffs

And now for dessert. :)

This recipe came from my grandmother. If you have a copy of How To Bake Without Baking Powder, you'll find it on page 62. The puffs beautifully demonstrate the leavening power of eggs.

The eggs create huge air pockets in the puffs, perfect for favorite fillings.

That copy of recipe did not include the fudge sauce, so all you'll have to write that one down.

Cream Puffs
For the puffs:
  • 1 C boiling water 
  • ½ C butter 
  • 4 eggs 
  • 1 C flour 
  • ¼ tsp salt 
Place water and butter in saucepan on high heat. When it comes to a boil, add flour and salt and stir until the dough pulls away from the side of the pan and forms a ball. Add eggs one at a time, beating with a fork until smooth and fluffy. Drop onto greased baking sheet and bake at 425ºF (220ºC) for 15 minutes, then 30 minutes at 325ºF (165ºC). Let sit in oven until cool.

For the cream filling: 
  • 1 pint milk (2 C)
  • ¼ C sugar 
  • 2 heaping tbsp flour 
  • 2 eggs 
  • salt and vanilla 
Mix and cook over double boiler until thick and creamy.
Slice puffs and pour filling over bottom half. Replace the other half and top with chocolate sauce.

For the fudge sauce:
  • 2 squares ounces of bitter (bakers) chocolate 
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 small can evaporated milk (5 ounces, see Recipe Notes below.)
Cook in a double boiler until thick. Thin with water if it gets too stiff.

Recipe Notes:
  • Unsweetened baking chocolate used to come in fat 1-ounce squares individually wrapped in paper. They're in a bar now, and each square is half an ounce, so the recipe took four squares of bitter chocolate to make.
  • I don't keep canned evaporated milk around so I substituted whole goat milk (which is pretty rich).

This recipe uses half-a-dozen eggs, so it's one I use when the chickens are laying well. If you're like me, though, you're probably already thinking of other fillings and toppings for the puffs.

Cream Puffs © October 2016 by Leigh 
at http://www.5acresandadream.com/

October 6, 2016

Fiesta Cornbread

This is an easy, one-dish meal using lots of homegrown ingredients. Just serve with a salad.

Fiesta Cornbread

For the cornbread

Preheat a 10" cast iron skillet at 425°F (220°C) with 1/4 cup of your favorite fat or oil.

1.5 cup cornmeal (I used homegrown, home ground)
0.5 cup unbleached white flour (makes the cornbread less crumbly)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp chili powder
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk, yogurt, or kefir

Pour into hot skillet and bake till half done (about 10 minutes).

Recipe note: Baking cornbread in a preheated cast iron skillet is the Southern (best!) way of making cornbread. This technique makes a delicious cornbread with a crispy crust. If you use a regular baking pan, add the fat to the batter.

For the topping

Brown in another hot skillet:
handful of chopped onion
handful of chopped green pepper
ground meat (ours is usually chevon)
salt & pepper to taste

Have ready:
canned chili beans (can use any cooked dry bean. Leftovers are good here)
grated cheese
chopped fresh tomato

Remove half-baked cornbread from the oven. Top first with beans, then browned meat mixture, then the cheese, lastly the tomato. Finish baking (until inserted knife comes out clean).

Slice into wedges and serve immediately.

Recipe note: I like to preheat the beans before spooning them onto the cornbread batter. I find cold beans slows the baking of the top of the cornbread.

For those of you who would prefer precise amounts for the topping ingredients, I apologize. This is one of those recipes where you just use what you've got to taste. More or less of any topping ingredient is absolutely okay!

Fiesta Cornbread © Oct 2016 by Leigh 
at http://www.5acresandadream.com/

October 3, 2016

October To-Do List

October is the month we can usually expect our first frost. Most of the planting should have been done by now, but with so little rain last month, the soil is either powder or hard as a rock. It's also the month in which we tend to some seasonal chores. So what's on the to-do list?

Garden Planting

Most of the fall garden should have been planted in August and September, but I keep waiting on rain that doesn't come. Still to plant:
  • Greens in the hoop house: lettuce, kale, claytonia, arugula
  • Root vegetables (these should have been planted already but better late than never I suppose): mangles, beets, turnips, carrots, and radishes

Winter Wheat

I mentioned in this year's Master Plan post that we are changing where we grow field crops to a different paddock.

Blue is proposed

The new location will need a fence (maybe electric) and ground preparation to plant,

but with the ground so hard from so little rain we're behind on soil preparation here.

Winter Pasture

Deer and turkey seed is an inexpensive way to plant a winter pasture.

I like to sow pasture seed right before it rains, because I don't like to leave it sitting on the ground, even mulched (see "A Modified Fukuoka Method of Planting Winter Pasture") because of the chickens. Usually I hand broadcast to fill in bare spots, but it will take more this year because we lost most of our pasture due to the hot, dry weather.

Confining the Seed-Eating Culprits 

Escape artists, every one.

Given the opportunity, the chickens will consume every last pasture and crop seed we plant! That means they will have to stay confined until the seed is sprouted and growing. On the to-do list are wing clipping and checking the chicken yard fence for any escape points that need to be mended.

Meat Harvest

We can start this when the days are too cool for flies. This year it will be mostly ducks and maybe a few chickens.


Here's part of what we have done.

We have a good start but there is still quite a bit to split

Here's part of what still needs to be done.

Woodstove Chimneys

These need to be cleaned of soot and buildup inside the pipes.

Finishing the Little Barn

Seasonal chores put projects on hold, but we'll still work on finishing the Little Barn as we can.

First coat of barn paint on the new door and first windows in.

What about you? What's on your October to-do list?

October To-Do List © Oct 2016 by Leigh 
at http://www.5acresandadream.com/