December 28, 2020

Tasty Fermented Fruit: Apples & Cranberries

Right after the holidays, fresh cranberries go on clearance, so it's a great time to buy a bunch. 

Last year I made and canned cranberry sauce, but this year I wanted to try a recipe I found at Homesteading Family blog for fermented cranberry sauce. I lacto-ferment a lot of vegetables, but have never tried fruit before; this just seemed like the time to try it.

Ingredients: fresh cranberries, apples, raisins, pecans,
sea salt (mine is Himalayan), whey, and apple juice.

The fruit and pecans are chopped to bite-size pieces.

Sweetener is stirred in (I used unbleached sugar),
and the mixture spooned into a large glass jar.

The brine is made from apple juice, whey, & salt.

Ferment time is only a couple of days. Then it's ready to eat.

I was pleased with how delicious this is.
A wonderful addition to our winter diet.

I try to serve something probiotic at least once a day. When we have fresh milk, that's usually kefir and fruit as part of our breakfast. But with less milk now, I was looking for something else to fit with oatmeal or toast. Fermented fruit is perfect. I noticed pineapple is on sale at Aldi. Maybe I'll give that a try next.

Have you lacto-fermented fruit? Have a favorite? I'm looking for other ideas to try.

December 20, 2020

Chocolate Pecan Bars

Last month, when I showed you our best pecan harvest ever, a couple of people asked how we used them. Here's one of our favorites! It uses pecan meal, which forms a crispy top layer when the cookies bake. Very rich, very special, and very holidayish!

Chocolate Layer cookies

Chocolate Pecan Bars

Bottom Layer:

½ C butter
¼ C sugar
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla
1¼ C unbleached flour
⅛ tsp salt

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine flour and salt and add in 3 parts to creamed mixture. Pat dough into the bottom of a greased 9 x 12 inch pan. Bake 15 minutes at 350°F (180°C).

Top Layer:

While the bottom layer is baking, mix the following:

2 eggs, beaten
1½ C brown sugar
1½ C chocolate chips
6 oz pecan meal (can make this in the blender)
2 tbsp unbleached flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Remove the bottom layer from the oven and spread the top layer mixture over it while still hot. Bake another 25 minutes. When cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar and slice into bars.

When the kids were little I'd bake a different batch of Christmas cookies every week for dessert for Friday night pizza. We'd eat some and I'd freeze about half-a-dozen or so. I'd start the baking right after Thanksgiving, so that on Christmas Eve, we'd have a huge assortment of Christmas cookies for dessert after our traditional pepperoni bread. That's a lot of cookies for just the two of us, so I don't do that any more, but we certainly do enjoy our best favorites this time of year. Do you have Christmas cookie baking traditions? I'd love to hear them!

December 16, 2020

Fodder For Feed

I sprout grains regularly for our chickens and goats. (See "Sprouting Grain for Goats" for why.)

Sprouted wheat, oats, and black oil sunflower seeds.

But until recently, I'd never tried fodder. And what is fodder? In this context, the term is popularly used to describe sprouted grains that are allowed to grow leaves to several inches in length. Since they are grown without soil, it is a clean feed for poultry, rabbits, and ruminants alike. Here's my first attempt at growing it. 

I used the same seed mix as for sprouts.

After soaking in warm water overnight, I spread
them out about ½-inch thick in an old nursery tray.

It's watered daily, and after about 5 or 6 days it's showing good growth.

After about 8 or 9 days.

The sections lift right out of the trays. 

The critters love it! They especially appreciate fresh food during winter.

Mine took a little longer than most people said because of our cooler house temperature. It took off better when I put the tray outside on a sunny mild day. That being said, I probably wouldn't do this if the weather was too warm. One problem people face is the grain souring or getting moldy. Because of that, many use diluted bleach water for their soaking and daily rinsing. I'd rather not use bleach if I can help it, because I prefer to minimize inputs to make the process as simple, and as economical, as possible. Plus, it would restrict what I could do with the rinse water.

This was just a first-time experiment, but for an ongoing fodder supply, most folks set up a series of trays stacked on shelves. The trays are tilted slightly, so that when the top tray is watered, the water drains onto the tray below, which drains onto the tray below, etc. The best set-up I saw was in a greenhouse, where the bottom tray emptied out into a greenhouse bed. Otherwise the drainage water has to be caught and removed to wherever one wishes. 

I see two huge benefits from a fodder growing system.

  1. It richly increases nutrient value of the grain as a feed.
  2. It cuts the feed bill by (an estimated) 50-75%.
I felt like this experiment was quite successful. So now, I have to work on a system similar to what I described above. One more project to add to the to-do list!

Fodder For Feed © Dec 2020 by Leigh 

December 12, 2020

Holiday Gift Giving? Think Books!

Here's my annual December plug for myself. It's my way of saying "remember my books" as you work your way through your holiday gift-giving list. From now through Christmas, I'm offering discount codes on the revised editions to my Little Series of Homestead How-Tos

How To Make An Herbal Salve: an introduction to salves, creams, ointments, & more (revised edition) 

Discusses herbs, oils, beeswax, essential oils, why some herbal preparations don't work, and how to make an effective salve. Included are simple, basic recipes for slave, lotion, lip balm and non-petroleum jelly. Regularly $2.49, now 99¢ at Smashwords with coupon code ZA53G.
How To Grow Ginger: how to grow, harvest, use and perpetuate this tropical spice in a non tropical climate 
(revised edition)

Ginger is a tropical spice that is easy to grow, and this little guide will help you get started. You'll learn how to select rhizomes for planting, how to plant, how to care for your growing ginger, when and how to harvest, how to grow a continual supply, how to store and preserve, plus some unique and useful ways to use it. Regularly $2.49, now 99¢ at Smashwords with coupon code FW63Y.

How To Garden For Goats: Growing, foraging, small scale grain and hay, & more (revised edition)

This revised edition offers more ways to supplement your goats' feed from home through gardening, foraging, feeding canning leftovers and kitchen scraps, small scale grain. pasture, and hay growing, stover, sprouting grain, hydroponic foddering, and more. Includes expanded and new lists of plants and goat goodies. Regularly $2.49, now 99¢ at Smashwords with coupon code WK58C.

How To Get Cream from Goat's Milk: Make your own butter, whipped cream, ice cream, & more (revised edition)

Have you ever heard that goats' milk is naturally homogenized? Is that true? This little eBook says no. It shows you how to test your goat milk for cream, various ways to collect it, and how to turn it into butter, whipped cream, sour cream, crème fraîche, and ice cream. Includes 8 recipes. Regularly $2.49, now 99¢ at Smashwords with coupon code HV95F.

How-To Home Soil Tests: 19 DIY Tests and Activities for Learning More About Your Soil (revised edition)

Offers simple at-home tests for soil texture, stability, pH, drainage, and earthworm counts. Learn how to make your own pH paper, read soil colors, and what your plants can tell you about your soil. Includes charts, tables, glossary, further resources, and why all soil lab test results are not the same. A good resource for gardeners, homesteaders, homeschoolers, and budding soil scientists. Regularly $2.49, now 99¢ at Smashwords with coupon code VE54L.

And don't forget my paperbacks. Most popular are my 5 Acres & Dream Homesteading Series

"The 5 Acres & A Dream homesteading series reveals the nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty realities of working toward a simpler, sustainable, more self-reliant lifestyle on a self-sufficient homestead. Leigh and Dan Tate had a dream but very little money. This series shares how they made their dream a reality: facing the challenges, solving the problems, and sometimes changing their minds along the way."

More information and where to buy, here

Prepper's Livestock Handbook: Livesaving strategies and sustainable methods for keeping chickens, rabbits, goats, cows, and other farm animals.

This prepper's resource by Leigh Tate focuses on sustainable and self-reliant methods for managing your land and your livestock. Covers livestock choices for homesteading, options for shelter and fencing, homegrown feeds and hay, breeding, birthing, veterinary care, and dairying. Learn pitfalls to avoid and how to keep things manageable. Learn simple, low-tech, off-grid ways to preserve eggs, milk, cheese, and meat. Prepper's Livestock Handbook will help you make the best livestock choices for your personal homestead needs and goals. More information here.

Critter Tales: What my homestead critters have taught me about themselves, their world, and how to be a part of it.

Where the 5 Acres & A Dream series reveals The Tates' journey of discovery into homesteading, Critter Tales focuses on their learning about sustainable animal keeping. It presents an entertaining but honest exploration of the challenges of sustainable critter keeping on a self-reliant homestead: suitable breeds, numbers of animals, housing, fencing, growing one's own feed, health issues, mysterious disappearances and deaths, dealing with predators, critters that won't stay put, and how the animals themselves don't always agree with "the experts." More information and where to buy here.

How To Bake Without Baking Powder: Modern and historical alternatives for light and tasty baked goods

Baking powder is a common kitchen staple, but did you know you can create your own leavening power with common food items you already have on hand? How To Bake Without Baking Powder will teach you basic kitchen chemistry, so that you will never have to throw out expired baking powder again. Discusses the science behind baking powder, plus substitutes for both cream of tartar and baking soda. Includes how to make sour milk, buttermilk, and sourdough starter, plus the author's hardwood ash baking experiments, 20 baking powder alternatives, 12 easy reference charts. and 54 modern and historical recipes. Available in both paperback and eBook. More information and where to buy here.

December 9, 2020

Dan's Winter Project

Do you remember this?

It's a photo from last February, when I blogged about heavy rains flooding the buck shelter. The boys were standing in six inches of water and we had to move them out.

Every heavy rain since then, Dan and I are concerned about a repeat performance, so we've been discussing options. Those options have all been variations on one of two ideas: do something to prevent the shelter from flooding again (like a seasonal pond), or move the bucks' home to a new location. After tallying up the pros and cons of each, we realized there are more incentives for moving the bucks rather than messing with drainage. The biggest incentive is that having them closer would be more convenient for water, hay, and feeding chores! The other problem is that the roof in the buck shelter has been leaking, so a repair would be necessary if we left them there, in addition to fixing the flooding problem. 

After discussing all the concerns and options, we decided to build new buck housing and tear down their current shelter to re-use the materials. We'll put the boys back in the old buck barn for the time being.

So Dan's winter project is building the new barn. Here's where we're putting it.

The blue above is the location of the new buck barn. We're going to re-do the chicken yard to set up an area for the bucks that will facilitate a new pasture rotation plan. Please note that nothing is to scale!!! But you get the idea.

It will be a gable roofed building. One half will have three exterior walls and a pony wall will divide the two halves. That will be the bucks' side. The other half will be open (no walls) and used for feed and hay storage. 

Here's how it's going so far!

There's no specific time table for this, but we've had some pretty weather so hopefully, it will move right along. After that, it will be fence repair and rearrangement. 

Continued here.

December 6, 2020

All Kinds of Book News

Firstly, I'm excited to mention more good reviews for 5 Acres & A Dream The Sequel.  It's such a relief to see it so well received. I hope you'll check these out.

Secondly, I'm pleased to be participating in a Kickstarter project for a fellow author and homesteader, Kate Downham. Awhile back I reviewed her first book, Backyard Dairy Goats. Now, she's coming out with a new book, a cookbook! It's entitled 

A Year in an Off-Grid Kitchen: Homestead Kitchen
Skills and Real Food Recipes for Resilient Health.

If you aren't familiar with Kickstarter, it's a way to fund project through donations. What's fun about this, is that there are incentives for donating, which include a lot of free stuff! Prizes start at the $1 (AU) level! How can you go wrong with that?

I'm pleased to participate in the final week of the Kickstarter, by offering four of my Little Series of Homestead How-Tos. 

All four will be included in the bundle of goodies available to everyone who donates at the "Ultimate Supporter" level and up. What's that you ask? You can learn more about Kate's book, the Kickstarter, the donor levels, and all the freebies at this link

I can tell you that the cookbook will be amazing. I've got my hands on an advanced review copy and will do a book review soon. 

December 2, 2020

Chicken Waterer Upgrade

I haven't blogged much about our chicks lately. So here are a few photos so you can see that they no longer look like chicks!

They look like Barred Rocks, but they're not.

They're Dominques.

With the girls in the background.

We've kind of gone along with our chickens for years, but recently have been discussing their water. We've tried buckets, pans, and the inverted "fountain type" waterers, but the problem is always the same - the water doesn't stay clean. So we decided to try waterer nipples. They're installed in a water container, like a 5-gallon bucket, so the chickens can help themselves and the water stays clean. Here's what one looks like.

The options were to buy the complete bucket with nipples already installed (expensive), or buy a package of nipples only and install them ourselves (inexpensive). Dan had the perfect container for it, the old 5-gallon water jug he used to take with him when he drove over the road.

We were both a little concerned about how to show the chickens where their water now was. But there was no need to worry! One of the little cockerels ran right up to it and started pecking. They figured it out pretty quickly. 

We bought them from Amazon, here. A couple of them were defective, and you can see in the above photo that the one leaks. But it was a 20-pack and they were cheap enough that we haven't worried about it. 

Now, not only does the chickens' water remain clean, but it's cut down on chicken chore time. We used to have to fuss with the waterer several times a day, but now Dan only has to fill it about once a week. This is so much better! I only wonder why it took us so long to switch!