January 24, 2018

Year Around Milk

We don't drink much milk, but sometimes nothing
beats an ice cold glass with freshly baked cookies.

One question I had when we first started producing our own food, was how to have a year around supply of everything. In the beginning I canned, froze, or dehydrated all the vegetables, fruits, and eggs I could. As we shifted toward a more seasonal model of living, I began to build my menus around what was producing well rather than what was stocked in the pantry.

This shift in eating habits shifted other things as well. By that time I had learned what grows well for me and what doesn't. Initially I wanted to grow a large variety of foods, but by focusing more on seasonal eating I realized I didn't have to grow dozens of different fruits and vegetables, because our variety is seasonal. Just about the time we're tired of one thing, it's done and something else is ready to eat.

I used to freeze and dehydrate a lot of eggs, but now I use
them if I've got them, or plan meals without them if I don't.

I can have variety in other ways too. For example, I save both watermelon and cantaloupe seeds, but we can only eat so much melon. Rather than devote a large amount of garden space to growing both, I grow watermelons one year and cantaloupes the next. Planting every other year also works well for things that tend to cross-pollinate, such as cantaloupes and honeydews.

I still preserve foods, but by focusing more on extending my gardening season, I can preserve less, which is a time and energy saver. Even so, I combine my biennial plantings with my food preservation plan. One year I grow enough green beans to can two years worth. The next year I grow enough black turtle beans to dry two years worth. These space and work savers help me manage my time and energy better.

And then there's milk. The traditional way of preserving milk is as cheese. It's a rare person who doesn't love cheese, after all, and most folks like to take a break from milking. However, fresh milk is one thing I would really like a daily supply of. Why? Two reasons. Most importantly, feeding my kefir. Secondly, because I find it easier to make fresh cheeses to eat as we need them, rather than going through the business of waxing, aging, and storing them (things challenging to do in our hot humid climate).

Still waiting...

So what are the options for having a year around supply of milk? Dairy animals require a two-month break at the end of their pregnancies to let them put all their nutrients into their soon-to-be-born young. One way to keep the milk supply going is to stagger breeding and birthing. In fact, that's what I tried to do this year. Last year Anna was bred a little later than the others, in hopes she'd still be giving milk while they are dry. Alas, she's pretty much dried up herself now, with less than a month until my first due date. So that's an experiment that didn't quite work out as I hoped.
Anna gave me milk for about seven months, but some does don't dry up as quickly. Some will produce milk for as long as two years or more. These individuals make good candidates for breeding every other year. With an extended lactation, it's possible to "milk through" the breeding and kidding season without taking a break. Some Kinders are capable of this, but none of my goats so far has had this trait.

The other option for me would be to breed twice a year. Once for spring kiddings, and six months later for fall kids. Most goat babies are born in spring after a fall breeding. Kinders are aseasonal breeders, however, which means they can conceive and kid any time of year. If I bred half my girls in fall and the other half in spring, it seems I'd have a better chance at having year around milk.

Jessie, Cinnamon, Anna, Violet, Ellie, and Daisy

So that's the plan, assuming no one gives birth to quads and needs all her milk to feed them. I have one yearling doe that will probably be ready to breed late this spring. If that works out, maybe next year I'll achieve my goal for year around milk.

Year Around Milk © Jan 2018 by Leigh 


Goatldi said...

That plan could work if you don't mind a split kidding season. Give Anna another chance as it is not uncommon for a doe who is young or used to having a shorter lactation period may not milk as long as desired until the second or third go round. They can be such creatures of habit.

Living Alone in Your 60's said...

Great post very informative. I only have my garden to grow in but it produces lots of goodies for me. I'm trying to extend the growing season more each year.

Mama Pea said...

Loved this post, Leigh, in that it represents what all of us homesteaders have gone through as the years go by and we figure out what works (and doesn't work!) for us in our particular climate and stage of life. Learning to live with the seasons and with the bounty our gardens provide for us is, I believe, the more natural way to go. Just yesterday I was wondering about all those blueberries I have in the freezer which we snarfed up while available fresh for the eating in August . . . but which don't seem nearly as tempting now in January. Know what I mean?

Leigh said...

Goatldi, yes, that's true about first fresheners. I'm just saying that my idea didn't work out as I hoped this year. Two sets of kids per year would be fine for me, otherwise I seem to be overrun with goats as they grow big enough to go to new homes. Kinders often have trips and quads, so I can easily end up with twelve kids from four does. My goat barn is too small for sixteen to eighteen goats (even a bunch of young ones) plus we find it hard on our limited pasture. Folks contact me twice a year to see if I have any goats for sale - spring and late summer. The hardest part is that their heats are quieter at other times of the year. The girls are raring to go in late summer and fall, but less obvious at other times. It will probably take a season or two to adjust my kidding cycles, but it seems like it might be my best plan!

Tania, thanks! Extending the growing season is a great goal. Our harsh winter put the brakes on this year's winter garden, but most years we get to eat fresh salads most of the winter. It all depends on how well nature cooperates!

Mama Pea, thanks! Your example of the blueberries is a good one. In the past I've found that if I preserved a lot of something and we ate it all winter (I'm thinking okra now) then when it came in fresh again it wasn't quite as exciting. Still, it's nice to have in reserve just in case.

Ed said...

Never really thought about it in this way but my life has kind of evolved similarly to yours. When I was younger, we always preserved everything with the aim of eating it year round. When I look at my freezer and canning shelves, about the only two vegetable items that I preserve anymore to have year round are tomato products, pickled items and jellies. I occasionally do other items but if we run out, we just don't eat it until it comes back in season. Stuff like corn, peas, green beans and such that we used to preserve we no longer do so and instead just eat fresh when in season. I guess I really don't miss those things when they aren't in season but I do look forward to them when they are about ready to pick!

Leigh said...

Ed, that's it exactly. I think the looking forward to makes it more fun not to mention taste better. :) It certainly simplifies things in terms of time and energy to preserve, plus deciding what's on the day's menu! Your preservation staples are mine too, except perhaps with the addition of bone broth. I do like to keep that around. I use it for gravies, to cook rice, and to toss into a pot of leftovers to make soup for lunch.

tpals said...

I read an article once by someone trying to only eat seasonal and local; he got really sick of cabbage. :)

I also avoid growing everything every year. Beans and zucchini are easy to preserve.

Leigh said...

tpals, most people get sick of zucchini! LOL That reminds me of Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. She and her family committed to a year of eating only seasonal and local. It's an interesting read, but I have no desire to restrict myself that much (unless TEOTWAWKI of course :). I do like the less work part of living this way, also that it's easy on the food budget in terms of what we do buy. Those are important as we get older.

Goatldi said...

In toatal agreement goat breeding to seasonal eating. You must be doing it right since folks seek you out for starter goats. Good job!

Goatldi said...

Loved that book and am LOL over the zucchini comment. It does have a life of its own doesn't it?

Leigh said...

Goatldi, one of the reasons I chose Kinders was because of the demand for the breed. As mid-size, dual-purpose goats, lots of homesteaders are interested in Kinders, so there is definitely a demand and most breeders have a waiting list. :)

I do have to mention that I don't grow zucchini! LOL It just isn't a favorite summer squash. We don't eat much summer squash anyway, so only a few plants are just fine there. :)

Rain said...

Hi Leigh :) I love that last photo of the goats! You're pretty smart you know? I really hope you succeed in having the year round milk. That's something I think about a lot...not the milk just yet since I'm still reliant on the grocery store...but seasonal food. This year is the first year that I'm planning meals based on what is in season (i.e. what is on sale). When I'm able to have a bigger garden I'll be working more on that, like you do.
Oh btw, my winter garden was a bust lol...but...I have beets and carrots that are in "cold storage" in the cold frames so hopefully they'll be yummy when spring arrives! :) I've realized that a winter garden here is not possible unless I have a greenhouse...or maybe a grow-light type of set up indoors. Live and learn! :)

Donna OShaughnessy said...

We only have our one milk cow now and I drink milk, nice and raw, every evening with turmeric, pepper, ginger and coconut oil. A fabulous sleep tonic! But soon she'll be dried off as calving expected late April. I'll start freezing milk soon so we'll have it for cooking. All so different from the days when we had 20 cows and an never ending supply. The smaller the homestead it seems the MORE planning one must do. :)

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

Hi! Finally just figured this captcha thing out I think! Nothing I can do about having milk here in the courtyard but that gives me food for thought about trying to grow one thing for two years! Hmmmmm Nancy

Leigh said...

Rain, I don't know about smart, I'm just teachable! One of my mottos has been "work smarter not harder" so give me enough time and I figure it out!

Sorry to hear your winter garden didn't do as well as hoped, but the knowledge from just doing it is something to put under your belt!

Donna, I would love that sleep tonic recipe! I sometimes need one! I've thought about that with cows. It seems like more than one for a small homestead would be too much, but having to go through a dry spell every year would be a drag. So different from when you and Keith were full swing with your organic farm. Sounds like you've got a big freezer though, so that's a save!

Nancy, this is one of the reasons gardening is so challenging - we each have to figure out what works best for us. No one size fits all! You did well this year considering you are in a new location. I know your garden will be better next year!

P.S. Captcha works best if you just ignore it. Skip it go directly to "publish your comment." ")

Kris said...

Wow, Leigh. This is a great insightful post. Your 2-year plan (re: beans/cucurbits/bienniels and associated work load) is an eye opener for sure. Seasonal eating is so old it is new again, but many prefer to shop/consume imported veg. I'm going to see how I can apply your tips in my limited container garden here in NE Ohio where the growing season is not as long as yours - but the deer/groundhogs (@&^%!!) are plentiful (sigh). Good luck with the milk plans. Kris

Leigh said...

Thanks Kris! The mindset was an adjustment for sure. I think most of us are so used to being able to buy anything at any time of year that we assume that's the norm. Then we try to replicate it from our own gardens. I'm not saying it can't be done, but for those of us with more going on than just a garden, it only makes sense to change our strategies. Mine was learned the hard way!

Commiserations on the deer and ground hogs. For years I couldn't grow beets because the deer always at them. They liked my sweet potato vines too. We've had ground hogs in our fields, but fortunately never in the garden. Hopefully it will stay that way!

Annie in Ocala said...

I'm working on the same... Year 'round milk. I keep a few goats for meat, milk, weed eaters, and sell surplus kids. Also do a small amount of gardening and have some edible landscape. I really enjoy you blog! And have great barn envy!

Rachel said...

This is all so very interesting and enlightening. I live quite close to the city, but I'm a farm-girl at heart, and hope I am able to incorporate some of these sustainable approaches to living into my life as I start my own family. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll ever have goat, though it is a dream of mine!:)

Sandy Livesay said...

What a great post! My thought, go with what works for you and your family. Why exhaust your time and money on things (seeds,animals, preserving) that don't work or benefit your family. It's alawys a learning process.

Chris said...

I can see how changing from preserving to seasonal eating, made it possible for you to view this change as doable. Because having everyone in lactation at once, makes sense, if you need that much milk - like making hard cheeses. But by changing the way you eat, you can make this split in milk supply, to divide it up. I hope it works well for you. :)

Leigh said...

Annie, it's an excellent goal! I think producing even part of our own food is a big help in more ways than one. :)

Rachel, we can all do something! It's true our location and circumstances set parameters, but we can all work within those to become even a little more self-reliant and a little more self-sustaining. Glad to hear you're working on yours!

Sandy, exactly! And it does take several years to figure those things out. Still, I've learned not to look at things that didn't work out as failures, rather they are learning experiences that yield valuable information. :)

Chris, I hope it works too! Somehow there's a mental transition that has to take place, I think. We all have particular constraints that we have to work with, around, and through. It's always an experiment!

deb harvey said...

i have complained bitterly about recaptcha to all the web loggers i favor. didn't know it was google.
i don't have acute enough vision to play their game and it sometimes takes a lot of doing to post, or i give up altogether.
if email is provided i sometimes email information i think is necessary to the log owner.
thanks for the enlightenment.
jackie at backwoods home magazine tells how she plants some things that cross pollinate every other year to keep the strain pure.
i used to buy what i thought a good pantry should have but we didn't eat enough of it to get it all before sellby date.
i put by dried beans but only plan to use them when the canned ones become hard to get. also have lots of rice put by.
everything else needs to be rotated carefully.
rancidity is a problem.
ate a tin of beans one year past sellby date yesterday. they were fine but had been stored away from light and temperature extremes.
hope one day before i die to have a piece of ground of my own with a decent garden.
daughter loves our goat pictures and looks forward to the kidding season photographs. coming soon!

Leigh said...

Deborah, I haven't met a blogger yet who actually likes recaptcha.

I agree about keeping a good stocked pantry. I've taken to canning more beans plus vacuum canning my grains (the ones I don't keep in the fridge or freezer.) I'm hope right along with you for some garden ground to call your own!

Kidding should start here any day. We're on day 144 for two of my does, both due Feb. 4. I'm on goat check around the clock!

M.K. said...

You're such a good planner! Those are great ways to get variety without working yourself to death. Your goats are so cute!

Leigh said...

M.K., getting older makes one think about ways to work smarter not harder. We want to be able to maintain our homestead for as long as we can, so figuring out ways to make things easier has been a priority!