Goats, Milk & Cheese

We have written many articles about our goat adventures. You will find them in the archives under The Goats That Feed Us & The Things You Can Do With Milk. Just a reminder – most of our archives go to the old blog over in Blogger. If you want to leave a comment, make sure you do it here, they have been turned off at the old site since we don’t check things over there anymore.

We have continued to downsize our herd. We currently have four adult does, three of which are in milk. Kids were born to them in January and are being weaned and sold now. The cycle continues. One of the does I am milking is a first freshener, what I call a first timer. She has been very easy to train to the milk stand and to hand milk, which is great. Some in the past have not been near this easy. I’m not sure if it’s the temperament of the animal or the years of experience training a goat to be milked. Maybe both.

My favorite milker before she had her triplets in January.

We have one more first timer to birth in May. I don’t really like this goat, and have thought about selling her pregnant, but want to see if she will hold us in milk through the winter until the others have babies again next January. We haven’t been successful in having year round milk because most goats won’t breed in the off season. This doe didn’t breed at all until we got a shot from the vet to force her into heat. We were told if she was pregnant and very far along, the shot would make her abort, but we had never seen any signs of heat or breeding and she had been with the buck for months. The shot worked and now we await her first kids.

This year we are keeping two adult does in milk, the third will be sold after we have our cheese supply stocked for the year. We will keep two young does for replacements, just in case. In years past we have tried to keep does from separate blood lines within our closed herd, but not this year. There has been one ‘family’ of does that consistently out performs the others with temperament, udder size and production, and ease of milking. That’s who we are keeping.

The buck we had, on the other hand, after breeding all of the does including the late one, started losing hair until he was practically bald. It happened over a number of months. We treated him a number of times according to the vet’s directions to no avail. He still ran around when he wasn’t freezing in the cold weather, ate well, hollered like the rest, but looked horrible. He is no longer with us. This was the goat with the strange story of purchase we wrote about on the other blog in this article – Goat Tales & the Stench.

Young buck

This leaves us without a buck, or billy goat, except for the three that were born here in January. We’re on the look out for a new unrelated buck, but if necessity mandates, we will use one of these young ones for future breeding. We will ban two of them for wethers for meat, but keep one for a buck.

We have started making cheese for the season, two batches of mozzarella so far. We ran out of our cheddar a while back and bought some in several different stores. It all tastes the same, kind of like what we remember Velveeta would have tasted like. It’s the first cheese we have bought in years, we don’t remember the last time we bought any. The plan is to make a dozen wheels of cheddar and set them to age while eating fresh mozzarella for now and freezing a whole bunch. We are spoiled to our own cheese, to me, it is so much better.

Mozzarella

You can find the beginning and progression of our cheese making experiences in many of the archive articles. I still make & drink kefir everyday. Frank has always been a milk drinker and prefers goat milk to any other he has had. We did appreciate Braum’s (a regional ice cream store that also has burgers and now some fresh market foods) going to A2 milk. When our does were dry, we bought milk there, usually six to eight gallons at a time since the store is 25 miles away and we don’t like to go to town very often. If you’re not familiar with A1 & A2 milk, look back in the archives. We were very glad we discovered the difference years ago and have tried to share the information far and wide. Our vet can’t drink cows milk without ending up on the floor with cramps. He can drink the A2 milk from Braum’s with no issues. If you don’t know the difference, check it out, it’s interesting information.

Now is the milking, cheese making season along with putting in the garden. As Bear Claw, from the movie Jeremiah Johnson would say, March is a green, muddy month down below, fit for farmers and such (or something like that – we have watched that movie many times, just not in the last decade or so). He’s right. It’s a busy time of year. A good busy. We planted blueberries and strawberries yesterday. Today we made bread and planted a few more things before a rainy spell comes upon us. We do the normal chores, milking the goats, feeding the chickens and gathering eggs, preparing for the rainy weather, planting more seedlings in the greenhouse. The things that make up our daily life.

It’s a busy time and that’s great. I’m glad we have this time to continue our chosen way of life. The choices appear to become more narrow with each passing day, with each new executive order, and attempted legislation. I have no way of predicting how the next few months or years will turn out, but the folks out there saying local, local, local are correct. Frank has made more contact with neighbors in the last few months than we have in years. It’s a good thing. We’ll give you an update on the garden soon with thoughts about planting every square inch with way more than we need.

Always do what you can for yourself, your family and any you deem worthy of your efforts. Work is not a dirty, four letter word. It is what feeds the body and soul. Literally.

We would love to hear what you think. Ideas that will help us all. How to raise animals, grow food, where to buy supplies. God knows we all need help at this point in time.

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 24

Life goes on here on the homestead, in the local area, in the country and in the world. Precarious though it may seem at times, the store shelves (here at least) are still filled with an abundance of frankenfood, the lights are still on and water still comes out of the tap when I turn it. 

We continue to adjust our lives for our current and future physical abilities while continuing to prepare our minds for what may be coming down the road one day. We have recently had two and a half acres of our ten acre pasture fenced off for our much smaller herd of goats. This still allows us to have four small pastures for animal rotation, but makes it much easier to manage. We are debating about trying to hire someone to brush hog the remaining acreage once a year, or listing it for sale. Our decision changes from day to day, so for now we are just going to let things settle. We are in no hurry.

Our four does – two adults, two kids

Buck and young wether

The eleven year old matriarch of our goat herd is no longer with us. One Stripe was part of the first herd we acquired when we moved here in 2008. She never met anyone she didn’t like and loved to be petted. She gave us many babies, lots of milk and much affection. All of the does we have now are from her line. 

One Stripe


We also no longer have our wonderful Pearl. She was a one of a kind dog and we miss her. She was great with the goats and devoted to the two of us. We’ll be dog-less for a while. We don’t look forward to training another puppy, but one will come along again when the time is right.

Pearl


We’re also preparing the acre surrounding the house for eventual use as pasture. When the day comes to really downsize the land, if we haven’t already, we will sell the ten acres with the current barn. Then we will use this area around the chicken house for any pasture we may still want to use. It will maintain a couple of goats, although we would have to feed more hay year round.

In preparation for that we have had some overgrown brushy areas cleared out along with tons of pine needles.

This older storage shed has seen better days. We’ve been fighting a leaking roof for years. Now we’re working on emptying it out so it can be moved out by a neighbor that wants it. In the process we are donating many things to a local church that works with individuals and families that are in recovery from alcohol and drugs. It’s good to be able to pass on some things to people in need, but it’s also difficult to start downsizing instead of building up. It’s probably something most people go through as they age, and now it’s our turn.

I have been making some simple cheeses since we are enjoying fresh goat milk again. I tried an herb cheese with onion and garlic, but it came out really strong. Frank doesn’t even like to smell it. I tried a small wheel with fresh basil from the greenhouse a couple of days ago. We haven’t tried it yet, but it smells much milder so I hope this wheel is edible.

 

As time goes on we find we eat less, quite a bit less. Our sauerkraut crock is wonderful, but is now too big. We recently got some air lock lids to make kraut by the jar. This is our first experiment. We had them in the pantry for a dark place, but I didn’t remember to check on them, so I moved them into one of the kitchen cabinets. Two of the jars turned out fine, but the one that wasn’t full didn’t. I don’t know if it was the amount of cabbage or if it was because we didn’t include the rubber gasket in the lid when we put it all together. Another learning experience. It’s always good to learn. I am going to try peppers this way this summer. I think that would be good. And maybe okra? I’m not sure if they will ferment/pickle very well. I will have to read more about that before I try it.

I have been working on a door hanging for my mother who is in the nursing home with dementia. She has been there for two and a half years now. I agree with all of the people that told me over a year ago that this is a very cruel disease. We pray for her peace and comfort every day, and I pray for her release from this world. I can usually still get her to smile and laugh. She even sang Happy Birthday to Frank (I got it on video on my phone) recently and she hadn’t sang with me for months. It was very touching.

The greenhouse continues to feed us some nice green things a few times a week, and is now housing some seedlings, or the dirt that holds seeds that will soon be seedlings.

Two ages of cabbage seedlings

Will be carrots, tomatoes and peppers.

Carrots are just beginning to peek out.

Onions

I am going to cut the tops of these tomato plants, root them and start them in pots. I hope to get some big seedlings ready this way. We still have that one tomato that has been growing slowly all winter. I don’t know if it’s going to ripen or not. Frank thinks it will be really tough if it ever does.

 

We are saving eggs to start the incubator tomorrow. These eggs will be hatching the same time the day old chicks we ordered will be arriving. We’ll raise them all together, keep a replacement laying flock and butcher the rest. It’s a good seasonal activity. Eggs to meat to the table. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

For now, the garden lays fallow, but it won’t be long before we will plant it once more. Hope is eternal when there is spring on the way.

Our country? The world? Viruses, plagues, pandemics, politics, food shortages, lies, corruption, greed? It just goes on and on and on. Every so often I get a small, tiny spark of hope that the world will keep on turning, people will come to their senses and we can continue to live in some semblance of peace, but then the next ‘thing’ appears and extinguishes that spark pretty quickly. So, life goes on. Until it doesn’t. We do what we can and try to be realistic about what we can and can’t do. We try not to play head games with ourselves and pretend we are going to go running through the woods chasing bad guys if the collapse occurs. Not going to happen. Reality. Sometimes difficult to deal with. Choosing not to? Not an option on our homestead. How are things going on yours?

Until next time – Fern
 

Books Are Amazing Tools

Some of this article was originally written on September 20, 2013, only four months after we started this blog and had a very small readership. I thought about doing a whole new article, then I thought about adding some things here and there to the original article, but what I’ve decided to do is use the old one as a base for a new article. We still use the books I talked about then, but now we have quite a few more as well. If you want to read the original unedited version, it is here, You Can NEVER Have Too Many Books.

I have been a reader all of my life and it’s true. You can never, never have too many books. I know, I know. What about your Kindle, or Nook, or iPhone, or laptop, or computer? What about when the power goes down, and stays down? What if you could never read an electronic version of anything again? We have bought ebooks, and now own a Kindle with a number of books on it. Quite some time ago we bought all of the past issues of Mother Earth News on CD and downloaded them on our computers, which has provided us a great wealth of information. Even if we had a solar panel system that would keep our computers charged and running, it would be a waste of energy to do so. Printed material is a necessity for information preservation and a tool that will prove invaluable when the internet goes down for good. I have to tell you, Frank and I will really, really miss the internet. It is a tremendous wealth of information, right at our fingertips. Let’s face it, we wouldn’t be having this ‘conversation’ if it weren’t for the internet. We wouldn’t have ‘met’ you and been able to share information, ideas and experiences if it weren’t for the electronic super highway. And sad as it may seem, I do believe that one day information will be passed by word of mouth again for a long, long time. I wonder how many old type set printing presses will be available to create books if we come to the point of TEOTWAWKI? I would surmise not many. And so I would encourage you to obtain or maintain a print copy of the information you frequently use. 

Here is a glimpse of a wall in our living room. It is my favorite wall. Frank built this bookshelf just for me and I love it. After we put most of our books on it there was a lot of extra space, not anymore. Back then I told him, “You know what that means? We need more books!” So we got some, then some more and still some more. After a while, we had to have the floor leveled and  reinforced which was a worthwhile investment. By the way, this is the wall where most people would expect to see the big screen television. Not in our house. You will not find one television here. Computers, yes, televisions, no. An aside. We were listening to someone talking on the local repeater the other day, and this gentleman spoke of his seven televisions. SEVEN? Why in the world would anyone need SEVEN televisions? It’s beyond me to see any value in one, let alone seven. Okay, back to books.

A friend of mine, I have mentioned her several times, I told her the next time I mentioned her [back in 2013] I was going to give her a pseudonym. 

Grace, for by the grace of God we met and have become friends. Grace has laughed and told me I am her only friend that has a ‘bug book’. We have talked many times about needing to know how to do things for ourselves in the case of a collapse or downturn in the quality of life in our country. When she has asked me about a variety of

topics, my answer is often, get a book about it. We have been trying to stock our library with many useful reference books over the past few years and continue to do so to this day. By the way, you can never have too many Bibles.

These two belonged to my mother when she was a young woman.

Patrice Lewis at Rural Revolution recently [September 18, 2013] reminded us in, A project’s that never done, that having our important information on an electronic device may not always be a dependable medium. She has printed out and organized her important information so it will not be lost if she can no longer access it on her computer or online. It is still a great idea.

We would like to share some of the many books we use as resources, and some we have read for knowledge and ideas, as well as entertainment. Here are some of our favorites by category and in no particular order.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Gardening

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible – great general information

The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening – We have a very old version that is literally falling apart at the seams. Tons of great, fairly detailed information.

Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver – Good book. All kinds of plant and pest information.

Carrots Love Tomatoes has taught me a great deal about companion planting. I have changed my garden planting patterns with the help of this book.

The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control is my favorite bug book and the one Grace was talking about.

The Seed-Starter’s Handbook is not only good at helping me get my seeds started, I use it for information on how to save seeds as well. It is an old book (1978), but one of my favorites. 
The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food is one  from Backwoods Home.

I have several new and old reference books I use as well. I have begun keeping my annual garden ‘map’ of where I plant things in a binder to make sure I rotate crops and don’t plant a new crop where it will not thrive because of the last occupant.

Recently Leigh from 5 Acres & A Dream wrote an article about the book One Straw Revolution and how she was trying to increase her food production year round. Frank read this book before we were married. His copy is dated 1978. 

 

Leigh has also written a book about the adventure she and her husband have had in the process of developing a homestead titled, 5 Acres & A Dream The Book.

There are so many different resources that can be used in many different ways to increase food production. That’s what we’re trying to do with the greenhouse, so I will be revisiting the three books that we have dealing with year round food and greenhouse production, The Winter Harvest Handbook, Backyard Winter Gardening and Gardening in Your Greenhouse.

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Food Preservation

Stocking Up – the old and new version. This is a great book. It covers canning, freezing, drying and storing. It has things other books don’t. By the way, all of the recipes use honey, no sugar in this book.

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is a book I use every time I can something.

I have half a dozen other canning books including Jackie Clay’s book Growing and Canning Your Own Food. It is a great book and full of a lot of information besides canning and preserving.

A book I have had for a while and just started using [now I use it each time] with my dehydrator is Making and Using Dried Foods. After I bought the dehydrator, I was surprised that it didn’t come with more instructions. Then I got to thinking…… don’t I have a book about that? Sure enough, I did.

Another new adventure we have embarked on is making and eating fermented foods. This, of course, has necessitated a few more books. Do you get the feeling that I really love books? Yep. I really do. Some of the ‘same’ recipes in these books are quite different which I find very interesting. A little confusing sometimes when I’m trying to learn something new, but interesting never the less. Here they are: How to Ferment Vegetables, Real Food Fermentation, Making Sauerkraut, and Wild Fermentation.

Along the same lines of fermenting foods, we have added sourdough to our menu since the first writing of this article. The first few sourdough cookbooks I bought were a disappointment to me since they dealt mostly with fancy, elegant breads. This book, Baking with Natural Yeast has just the recipes and ideas for me.


Two more books that I have not put to good use yet, but I’m glad we have them are Apple Cider Vinegar and Vinegar. I finally found a recipe for simple, plain vinegar.

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Cheese Making

I have several books, but the only one I have ever used is Mary Jane Toth’s  Goats Produce Too! The Udder Real Thing. I have found recipes that work great for chevre, mozzarella and cheddar in this book and still haven’t tried any of the others. I will be branching out and trying a different cottage cheese recipe before long, though, and I’ll let you know which book it comes out of.

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Herbs 

Our book collection about herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes started many years ago. This is a mixture of old and new that I use most often now. The Herbal Antibiotics book is from Backwoods Home

The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants and The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies both have a great deal of information about how to use plants medicinally, but little to none about how to grow and harvest them.

One of my older books Growing and Using Healing Herbs has great information about planting, harvesting, preserving and using herbs.

But the best one I found for information about growing and harvesting herbs is Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. 

When I was researching sources of perennial vegetables that I could get established here I ran across Perennial Vegetables, which has proven to be a good resource.

Here are two new medicinal herb books we have added to our collection, Healing Herbs and The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook. I like to compare notes between all of the different books if I am researching a new way to use an herb, or looking for a remedy.

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Animals

When we got our first Great Pyrenees to guard our goats, we wanted to make sure it was a successful venture. We had read enough to know that training a livestock guardian is not like training the Labrador Retrievers we used to raise. We found that Livestock Protection Dogs gave us very valuable information, otherwise we probably wouldn’t have kept Pearl. She has a very different temperament, and has turned out to be an excellent dog.

We have a number of books about goats, which I call my goat book collection. If something comes up, like an abscess, I look in all of my books and compare the information I find. I feel much better informed this way because not all authors have the same opinions or give the same advice for a particular situation.

All About Goats has some good basic information.

Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats is a good beginners book with fairly thorough information.

Raising Milk Goats Successfully and How To Raise Dairy Goats are very similar and have good basic information.

Natural Goat Care is by far my favorite book. It raised my learning curve on the natural needs and health of goats. I would highly recommend it.

We have other reference books for animals which include The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable and The First Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats. I have begun to use the Farm and Stable book a little more, when researching natural solutions to our animals needs.

Now that we’ve added pigs to the homestead, we’ve also added pig books. So far, these are our two references, Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs and Free Range Pig Farming, along with another one we have on our Kindle called Raising Pastured Pigs.

 
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Resource Books

We have a variety of books that we have not and may not ever use. They are for references when and if the need ever arises for the topics they cover, such as, establishing a black smith shop, how to train oxen, small scale grain raising, cooking on a wood stove, building small tools or equipment, and more. 

Grace and I have been doing some bartering for eggs [until she got her own chickens]. One of the things she brought was this Chicken Health Handbook which is another good reference book. Books that will add to your peace of mind are also an important part of a good library. The Simplicity Primer from Patrice Lewis is one of many. We read the Little House on the Prairie series last summer [2012]. They are a great resource of information for living without electricity and growing or raising what you eat, or how to do without. There are many books that can help us in our quest to learn how to do things without the help of all of the modern conveniences. I was able to acquire an old set of Cyclopedias. I didn’t even know cyclopedia was a word until I saw these books that were published in 1913. I have looked through some of them, but haven’t sat down and read through any of them.

One thing I ran across dealt with why a war had started. I wonder if the perspective of someone from that time is different from the prevailing opinions of today. Why did I bring these books home? They may be a good resource for how to do things without all of the modern conveniences we are accustomed to these days.

 



 

So, to go back to the [original] title I truly do believe you can never have too many books. Printed information may one day be in very short supply. Electronic media may one day be a thing of the past. As memories age, they don’t keep details stored as well either. I have felt a strong need to include a plethora of books as a very important part of our preparations. 

We have even stored more than one copy of some books to share with others if the opportunity arises. Books such as James Wesley Rawles How To Survive The End Of The World As We Know It and The Ball Book of Complete Home Preserving. James Wesley Rawles’ book is what got Frank started in radio. It was the first place he read about MURS radio frequencies. You never know when that little bit of information can revolutionize a person’s perspective and greatly increase their ability to be self-sufficient and provide for their families.

Frank has added a number of books on radio communications, along with some programming discs to our bookcase collections.

We have a small, older collection of children’s readers. As a teacher these books appealed to me. Now I see them as resources when we no longer have schools for children to attend. 



There are several survival/preparedness novel series we have read over the last few years that we have not only enjoyed, but learned from as well. A. American has an interesting series that starts out with an EMP and a long trip home to family. Glen Tate has the 199 Days series that begins with the drive to prepare for the collapse of society and ends with rebuilding a portion of the country. It’s a very interesting series that gives you some things to think about along the way.

We have a number of medical resource books on our shelves. We truly hope there does not come a day when we will need to rely on ourselves, the knowledge we have and the information found in these books. But if we do, I know we will be extremely grateful they are here.

And to top it off, two of these references were a recent gift. You can’t beat that.

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The printed word may be a very valuable commodity in the days, weeks, months and years to come. When a society depends upon something as fragile as a bunch of ‘0’s and ‘1’s to maintain  the vast wealth of knowledge we have come to expect to be accessible at our fingertips, they are bound to be disappointed. Sometimes for a few seconds, sometimes for up to a minute, or even a few minutes. What will happen when we no longer have access to electronic data? Period? So much knowledge will be lost and probably lost for good. If there is something you truly value and want to insure your accessibility to it in the future, get it in writing. Something you can hold in your hand. Yes, there are some disasters that will even take your books from you, and we can’t insure against all possibilities, but we can at least try. And besides all that, I love books!

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 9

Time continues to fly by and autumn will be with us before we know it. We are finally out of the 100+ temperatures. It was 59* here last night! I don’t think it will last, though, we are supposed to be back up into the low 90’s by early next week, and that is fine. It is much more manageable than the 100+ stuff with high humidity. With the cool weather this morning, we were able to use our new double hung windows to fill the house with cool, fresh air. They work great.

We want to send our thoughts and prayers to those that are being affected by the wildfires around the country. We have friends in the northwest that have had to evacuate their home, and we haven’t heard from them since yesterday. It must be very difficult to leave your home not knowing what you may return to. There are many different types of challenges we are all given, but many times on the other side of it, we are stronger for having been tested and refined.

We continue to pen up the youngest kids and accumulate milk for cheese making. The last batch of cheddar is ready to wax, but I ran out of steam before I got to it today. Two more wheels of cheddar are now in the cheese press and will be ready to remove and start the drying process tomorrow evening. Since I won’t be able to wax these two wheels until Saturday, I put them in a plastic storage bag in the refrigerator. I will be having a sinus dilation procedure tomorrow morning, so I don’t expect to get much of anything done for the rest of the day.

 

We continue to eat our cheddar at room temperature, but have found that it gets too oily if we leave out the whole wheel. This time we cut it in half covered the open end with plastic wrap and put it back in the cheese frig until we are ready for it.

 




We also filled up the fermentation crock with four heads of cabbage today. The last batch of sauerkraut stayed in the crock for a month and it was the best tasting we have had so far. We still have three quarts of it in the refrigerator that we are eating, and wanted the next batch to have plenty of time to ferment. It’s interesting how quickly things like making sauerkraut becomes routine.

Today was also bread day. The sourdough was still doing it’s thing and predigesting all those carbohydrates for us on top of the frig while I was writing this. We didn’t get the dough mixed up until about 11:00 this morning, so I didn’t bake the rolls until 8:30 this evening. I wanted to give it plenty of time to ferment and digest beforehand. They sure are good.

 


I’ve tried to make cottage cheese twice by leaving the milk on the counter. The first time it didn’t really curdle, so I thought I hadn’t left it long enough.

The second time I left it for about four days and it was definitely soured, but still didn’t really make curds like it was supposed to. That’s too bad, I was really hoping it would work. Now it will be back to the cheese book and making another stab at modifying the recipe so I can get good cottage cheese.

We still have roosters and wethers to butcher, and we hope next week after my sinuses clear up we can get a lot of butchering done. That and get some fall crops planted. My headaches and general feelings of sickness have put everything like that on hold for way too long. So I hope to have more to report in the butchering department very soon.

The pigs are doing much better in the behavior department. There are some folks at church that have raised pigs for years and Frank was quizzing them on ‘normal’ pig behavior last week. We are still learning, and they are still growing. It will be very interesting to see how they do in the long run. I’m also very interested to see how Lance and Liberty behave once we have butchered the barrows. I think the interaction will be different then. We pay a little more attention to them since they are our breeding pair and the barrows will end up on our dinner plates. I have a question for you. Does a pig’s tail continue to grow longer and get more curly as they grow up?

The whey produced from making cheese goes to good use as pig food. They get upset with me if I take them a bucket of scraps without some kind of liquid in it. I can’t help but laugh at them when they fuss at me. It’s a funny little squeal.

By the time we got most of the day’s activities completed, the kitchen was really a mess. 

As the week has progressed we have watched more major fluctuations in the financial markets around the world. It is just another indicator of the instability of the underlying foundations of economies everywhere. We continue to discuss what tangible items we can invest in that we will be able to use in the future, come what may. An example of one of our acquisitions is a stainless steel water bath canner. We have two like the one pictured above that the whey is in. One of them, after three or four years of use, has chipped and has a place trying to rust on the inside of the bottom. Knowing they won’t be durable for long term use, especially if we get to the point that we can’t buy or trade for another one, we chose to invest in stainless steel. As you can tell, it’s still in the box. We’ll keep using the enameled version as long as we can.

We continue to pick peppers, tomatoes, cowpeas and carrots from the garden. I really hope to write another garden article before long with the things we have been able to plant for fall. 

Thank you for all of the great comments. It’s neat to be able to share. Frank and I have learned a great deal from other folks experiences. Please keep sharing. 

Prepare for the fall of the year and the fall of the world. They will both be arriving soon.

Until next time – Fern

Where’s the Cheese?

How many of you have read the short, thought provoking book, Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D.? Some would make fun of reading a book about mice that can no longer find the cheese, but if you really think about the premise of this book and apply it to the implosion of society, the world economy and the coming scarcity of everything that has always been available at our fingertips, it takes on a whole new meaning. I would highly recommend reading it.

This gardening season has been filled with many challenges. In the spring we had record breaking rain. We would get a few things planted, then they would either get washed away or rot in the ground. We replanted and it would happen again. Well after ‘normal’ gardening season should have began here, many people didn’t have a thing in the ground and it was still too muddy to plant. We got some things in the ground, but they didn’t grow well because it was so wet and cloudy. 

After it finally dried out and the sun and temperatures became more seasonal, guess who came to dinner? It seems every garden pest known to man arrived and in great numbers. While these bugs happily munched away at our garden, we were in full swing completing some projects that had been on the drawing board for a number of years. Then the 105*+ weather socked in here for about three weeks. We watered and watered and watered, and still the garden burned up. Now that the weather has cooled to more seasonable mid 90* temperatures, the next wave of bugs have arrived. And still we water with no rain in sight. 

Our okra crop, that was planted three times, is very small and basically not producing this year. All of the squash has died and the seeds that I have replanted have either not germinated at all or been quickly devoured as soon as they dare peek their leaves up from the soil. Today I picked the first cucumber of the summer and it was a little tough. The green beans are burnt and bug eaten. They try to bloom and produce, but the bugs are having a hey day. The cowpeas are giving it their best shot, but the aphids have arrived and are enjoying their new home. Even though the tomato plants look very sad indeed, they are still the most productive plants we have. The pepper plants are very small, but are producing a small crop in spite of it all.

Much of the soil washed away from these carrots

In the spring when the rains came pouring down in sheets and ran across our fertile soil, it took the soil away in little streams down the gentle incline of our yard. We could only watch from the window as the healthy, fertile soil we had built up for years was carried away. When it was over, the bare untilled ground, much lighter in color, was exposed to the light of day and to our disappointed eyes. This has greatly reduced the fertility and productivity of our garden this year.

Why am I telling you this story? Because even though this has been a very difficult year for growing vegetables in our garden, we still have the opportunity to go to the store and purchase food. We can fill in the gaps that our gardening challenges have left. We can try again next year. So far this year, it doesn’t appear that we will starve without the food that we hoped to harvest over the past two months. So far. 

Many folks around here this year have been having allergy/sinus issues, so I am not alone in that category. In a few weeks we hope to have a solution for this problem, but for now, it is another challenge to planting the fall garden and seeing how much more productivity we can achieve before winter arrives. Another hope on the horizon is the addition of our new greenhouse. I will try to grow many things through the winter this year to see just how many fresh vegetables we are able to produce in the garden and the greenhouse. 

I do contract work online for a local school district and this year we are moving to a brand new program statewide. Many people are griping and complaining and figure they just won’t be able to figure it out. They just can’t do it. It will be too hard. It won’t be like the old program. Why do we have to change? Why? Why? Why? You

know what? Initially, populating all of the data in the new program will take a lot more time than last year. Some of it is still a little confusing at this point and not all of the data I provided was uploaded correctly and completely. This will require more analysis on my part to make sure everything is accurate and up to date as school starts next week. But I have no problem with this change. Why? Because I can easily see that the new program is more efficient and will ease my work load quite a bit. I am more than happy to put in the extra time and effort initially because in the end, I will reap the benefit of less work for the same output I performed a year ago. How can anyone gripe about that? Well, for some folks it appears to be the only way they can cope with change. How unfortunate for them. Change is a part of life, there is no way around that.

The premise of Who Moved My Cheese? deals with the adaptability of people, or in this case mice. Just as in this book, there are those among us that refuse to see the changes that are taking place all around us. They expect their ‘cheese’ to show up in the same place, the same way, at the same time, day after day. There are those that get angry when the cheese doesn’t show up in the same place, the same way, at the same time and have to have some one or some thing to blame for the late or

nonexistent arrival. There are those that will see if their neighbors have any cheese to spare and will beg a few crumbs from their table. There are those that will forcefully take any cheese they can find, because it is their right to have cheese, any cheese they choose, regardless of the rightful owner. There are those that realize that the cheese supply is dwindling down and will soon be gone. They can see the writing on the wall. So before their supply is totally depleted, they go in search of a new supply and greener pastures. If they find an abundance, they go back and tell their neighbors and friends so that they too, will have more cheese and not have to do without. Some will go to the new location and adapt to the changes that are required so that the supply of cheese will be steady. Others will refuse to leave and will sit and wait for the cheese to return. And wait, and wait, and wait, to no avail.

You see we have to be adaptable to manage the circumstances we have been given. Regardless, or sometimes in spite of, the challenges we face in achieving a goal, be it gardening, or weight

loss, or raising pigs, or the collapse of society or the economy, we have to be able to see alternative choices. If we are solely focused on accomplishing a task the same way we have always done it and that is no longer an option, will we accept failure? Will we just give up and say, “Well, I tried, but it just didn’t work.” A time will soon arrive when failure is not an option. Right now we still have that luxury. More and more I think of failure as a luxury. How many of us would have couched the term failure as a luxury five years ago? Not many I would guess.

Sooner rather than later your cheese is going to be moved so far away from it’s normal place that you need the mindset of being determined to find it. Otherwise, what are you going to eat? This short book will provide a mental exercise in preparing your mind for the catastrophic changes that are just around the corner.

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 6

The days have been so full, Frank’s Tuesday night radio class seems like more than a week ago. It is going very well, good attendance, with more questions coming up all the time. One of his students came by to discuss antennas and towers yesterday morning while I got started on an all day canning spree. We continue to be very encouraged by the interest folks from around our small area are expressing about being able to stay in touch with each other by radio should an emergency arise, short term or long term.

The day before yesterday I harvested all I could from the garden. The tomatoes are finally ripening and taste really good. We don’t have enough to can yet, but we will. The canning spree yesterday included 16 pints of yellow squash in the first canner. It filled up both layers in our canner with some left over that made it into another batch with one pint of green beans and two pints of cowpeas.

After I got that started, I worked over the plums that our friend Grace gave me. They are very sweet and a pretty, dark red. I canned five pints leaving plenty of room for water to make a nutritious juice to drink along with the fruit. 

 

Next came some minced garlic. I bought nine pounds of peeled garlic. I haven’t harvested ours yet, it’s out there, I just didn’t get to it. Patrice Lewis over at Rural Revolution has a tutorial on canning minced garlic and I wanted to give it a try. I have been using dried minced garlic for years, but wanted to switch to fresh. The problem is I never take the time to peel and chop garlic for our meals, dried was always easier. The house REALLY smelled like garlic last night, so much so that Frank wondered aloud whether people would shy away from us today because we smelled like garlic. Well, no one turned up their noses at us, but we didn’t ask how we smelled either. 

The garlic turned green on top when we added the boiling water to it, but when it came out of the canner it was brown, which concerns me. I had added a quarter teaspoon of citric acid powder to each jar. I read in my canning books that when you can onions they darken and get soft. I hope that is the case with this garlic. We had a little left over that is in the frig which we will use first before we open one of these jars. We’ll let you know how it tastes.

We’ve had another rainy spell with a little over three inches in the last few days, but it looks like we’re in for a hot dry spell for a while. The humidity and heat index have been pretty high and look to go even higher next week. We will have to be extra cautious when we’re working outside.

I’m having a time battling the squash bugs and haven’t spent enough time on my efforts lately. We have lost some plants and if I don’t get out there and fight them some more, we may lose them all. This is another instance of not enough hours in the day.

I have started my mulching project in the garden in between everything else like making another batch of cheddar cheese. We are eating the third wheel and it tastes great. I may have already told you that, I’m not sure. Anyway, the cheese is turning out well, even though there are still a few small holes in it from all the yeast floating around our kitchen. And speaking of yeast, the sauerkraut continues to ferment along over in it’s corner, only needing a little water added to the moat every so often. It’s also time to make bread again, which means I need to get the sourdough starter out of the frig and wake it up for a day or two to lessen the acidity that builds up during storage. 

You know what? I love my kitchen. Not so much the physical aspects or aesthetics of it, just the fact that we have a working, functional kitchen. I like to cook. I love having naturally occurring, healthy foods ‘perking’ away on my counters in the form of cheese, kefir, sauerkraut and sourdough. I like having another bushel basket over flowing with Cushaw squash sitting on the floor that I need to can again. I like fixing fresh food that grew from a tiny seed in the dirt outside my house, that I can pick and cook and serve to my husband. Kitchens are a central, integral part of a home and I like the fact that in this house, where you enter is in the kitchen. Our kitchen is the heart of our home and where most of our living takes place. It’s a busy, happy, productive place. Messy sometimes, since I don’t like to clean near as much as I like to cook, but in our kitchen you will find our ‘home’.

 

And speaking of the kitchen floor, a big section of it is now covered with eight half bushel boxes of peaches we picked up from a local orchard today. Yes, I talked myself out of buying five bushels and settled for four. The next few days will be filled with more canning, while fighting off a few squash bugs and spreading out more mulch.

 

The goats are doing well. Cricket has recovered from her worms and scours. She is still a little thin, but is already well on her way back to normal. We had scheduled the vet to come out this week to teach me how to administer the copper boluses, but Frank and I have been fighting sinus issues with all of the wet weather, so we have rescheduled the vet for next week. The day he was coming this week we both had bad headaches and another hours long rain storm would have had us all soaked in the process. I’m glad we rescheduled. I will take pictures and let you know what I learn sometime soon.

Now that Cricket is doing so much better, we have changed back to our original plan of breeding her and One Stripe this month. We backed up the date to July 15th instead of the 1st to give her more time to recuperate. With the hot, 95* to 97* temperatures that are forecast next week, I don’t know if the goats will breed or not. We have had them do so in the past, so we will just have to wait and see.

 

The greenhouse exterior is almost finished. We still need to settle on which doors we are going to use and figure out some final details on enclosing the roof line and corners. Then the door leading from the greenhouse into the house will be installed. There is currently a house window being covered by the greenhouse. That will be taken out and a door installed in it’s place, with steps leading down to the ground level. The gentleman that we hired to

help with the work is on vacation for a few weeks, and in the meantime, Frank and I will bring our 55 gallon water barrels down from the barn and begin placing them inside. They will be the ‘workbench legs’ we will be using. We will explain more about that once we work out the details of how everything will be set up.

Our adoptive momma hen decided it was time to go back to the flock. One evening when we were feeding and watering she decided to go out into the big pen and visit the rooster, then she walked right back in with ‘her’ babies. The next day she laid an egg in the corner of their pen. That evening when she went out to visit the rooster and the flock she didn’t go back, so now the teenage chicks are on their own again. The young roosters are starting to square off to see who is boss, so it won’t be long before we start butchering them. There are some interesting color patterns developing and we are starting to think about which ones we may keep to replace the current rooster. Once these new young hens are old enough to lay, we will butcher and can the current laying hens, thus renewing our flock and putting more food on the shelf.

 

The baby chicks are doing well, growing and acting like chickens. When we brought them out to the chicken house they made the ‘teenage’ chicks look much bigger. And the ‘teenage’ chicks made these babies look awfully small. The young babies are learning from their next door neighbors. When I bring out greens for all of the birds in the morning, I put the babies greens right up next to the ‘teenage’ pen which encourages the babies to peck at them. It’s been interesting to watch their interactions.

 

The pigs are doing fine. They have adjusted to the routine and environment well. Sometimes they complain if I don’t bring them their desired scraps. They squeal at me, and it’s quite funny. One day they even followed me back to the gate complaining. I kept telling them that’s all they get and if they want something to eat they would have to eat what I brought. It was a funny conversation. I had brought them the Cushaw seeds and peelings from the days canning without any whey or milk or other liquids. Guess that wasn’t their favorite meal. They are all growing well and are a good addition to our homestead. So far.

The days seem to be just flying by, and it’s hard to believe we are almost to the middle of July already. As time ticks quickly on, there are so many things we want to accomplish before the fall arrives, the fall of the year or the fall of the world. We can only hope we can work hard enough and fast enough to beat it here. As we watch the financial markets of the world and read as many perspectives as we can on the complexities of our world, we can’t help but know, really know, deep down that time is running out. But that’s okay. We will do all we can, and it will be enough. As we were talking about it today Frank said it’s like he’s been preparing for this all of his life, and it really does seem that way. There have been so many experiences Frank and I have been given that have lead us to this time and place. We are right where we are supposed to be, doing what we are supposed to be doing, and if the truth be known, loving every minute of it. No matter how the world turns out, it truly is a great life.

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 4

It seems lately our homestead has been a flurry of activity. I will see if I can give you a glimpse of our life on the homestead.

We told you about the new windows we had installed almost two weeks ago. Well, we have made a little progress on trimming them out, but they aren’t finished yet. Frank had a great idea of making the top board longer and angled. I think they look great. But since we aren’t finished with that project, the porches are still in disarray. It really doesn’t bother me much, life goes on with our daily routines even if things aren’t in their customary places.

You may be wondering why two weeks later, the windows still aren’t trimmed. Well, a day or so after the windows were installed, we began a large project on the barn, which is only about half complete at this stage. This project involves building lean-to shed roofs on the east and west sides of the barn, the full length of the building. After much planning and consulting with the two man crew we have hired to do the building, then acquiring the needed supplies, this project got under way.

The day after the barn supplies arrived the local electric cooperative came and set a new pole for us. We have long wanted power to the barn, but it is quite expensive. Well, this is the year. The pole is about 120 feet from the barn so we will still need to run the wire underground to connect there.

We expected to have a meter and power once the pole was set, but then we discovered that we needed to install a breaker box on the pole and connect it to the meter box. Enter Frank and his many abilities to fix and build things. While the work crew began their tasks using a generator, Frank worked on installing the breaker box and connections. In a couple of days, the cooperative was back out with the meter and we were in business. Then Frank got busy installing an outlet on the pole with a 20 amp fuse, so the guys could have power via heavy duty extension cords. This provided stronger, more consistent power for their tools which was great. It is truly a blessing to have a husband that can do or fix just about anything.

As we began the barn project one of the first things that we had to do was dismantle the pig pen. We had already allowed the pigs out into the larger pen that contained their small, initial pen. But the first day of construction, the pens were dismantled and the pigs were allowed out into their two acre pasture for the first time. Needless to say it was a little confusing to them. That was the day I became a pig herder, spending a lot of time with them showing them around the pasture.

Because of the floor leveling and window installation and rain, we hadn’t had the chance to brush hog the pigs entire pasture, so Frank made some wide trails for them to use. They lead to the one, lone tree in that pasture, down to the pond and provide three ‘lanes’ to the barn area. At first, I coaxed the pigs to the tree with food and water. I knew they needed shade, water and mud. So that day and for several days after, I carried many a bucket of water to the tree. After about two days, the pigs would go to the pond on their own, enjoying the mud for a wallow and whatever they found that was tasty at the pond’s edge. Now they comfortably wander around on their own and we don’t have the concern of lack of water or wallow to keep them cool.

 

So, how are the pigs? They are doing great. I have to say, I am really enjoying them. We can pet them and scratch their backs almost any time we go into the pasture. We even scratch their heads while they are anxiously awaiting the contents of the feed bucket in our hands. Every so often one will bump the backs of our legs when we are walking to the feed pan. This is when I remind them not to bite me. But 

really, I don’t think they would, it’s just a ‘Hey! Feed me!” kind of bump. They are really funny, and I’m getting used to their grunting and squealing sounds. We are planning a trip later this week to bring home another gilt. She will be much smaller than these guys we have now, but I hope she will work out well.

The pig side of the barn should be complete tomorrow, if we’re not rained out. Then we will reconstruct a pen and place their house under the shed roof. This will provide more shade and a place to pen them if need be. But for now, they have free range of their pasture. I will give you a more specific pig update in a few weeks.

The west side of the barn is next on the barn project docket. It includes our rain catchment system which we are very excited about. I will do an in-depth article with the whys and hows of that project as we get closer to completion.

 
Our cheese stash continues to slowly grow. We now have 24 wheels of cheddar aging. Well, make that 23. I have been wanting to see how it was doing for a while, so I have opened the first wheel. It is drier than I like, which means I pressed it too hard. It also has a bunch of small holes in it, which it is not supposed to have. Frank read an article recently about why swiss cheese has holes and it was because of the bacteria on hay dust that got into the milk before the cheese was made. This was back in the days before milking machines prevented any air contact with the milk. This made me wonder if something similar caused the holes in our cheddar. It doesn’t appear to affect the taste. This wheel has a very, very mild cheddar flavor since it was only allowed to age for two months. It’s good, though, and we are enjoying it.

We have begun to eat yellow squash from the garden. There is nothing like that first squash of the season. I hope to begin canning some before long.

We have also discovered that we like a dish of turnip greens, collards and beet greens. Not only is it tasty, but very nutritious. Since the turnip patch is almost overrun with crab grass, we plan to harvest the patch and see if there is enough to blanch and freeze the greens. We’ve already done this once and they taste just fine. Not quite as good as fresh, but most things aren’t. Now I need to learn to can them. That will come with the fall crop.

This is the first time we have grown collards and we are very pleased with it’s performance here. The chickens, pigs, goats and humans all like them. They appear to be very hardy and productive. I will be curious to see how they perform in our hot summer weather. The patch is very small, and I pick from it each morning for the animals, but it continues to grow very well. I think I will plant another patch [which I did today] and see how it does this time of year. Just to learn a little more about the plant.

The wild and tame blackberries are ripening now, but the tame berries are not sweet at all. I don’t know if the extended rainy period we had in April and May caused this or not. I do know that these berries need sunshine to sweeten up, but we’ve had a couple of weeks of sunny weather lately. I was hoping that would make a difference in the flavor, but it has not. I ate a few ripe wild berries this afternoon and they were much sweeter, so I hope to pick some in the next few weeks to help decrease our dependence on store bought berries.

The baby chicks and their adoptive mom are still doing very well. Before long they will be moved to the pen next door to make room for the next batch of chicks that will be hatching. Our chicken house will be getting very full of little cheepers, but that also means that in a few months our freezer and canning jars will be filling up as well, and that is good.

The kids we put in the ‘boys’ pasture to wean continue to nurse through the fence at times. We had to do some rearranging when the barn project started, and for now the does are in a pasture adjacent to the weaning kids. It has cut down on our take of the milk, but that’s okay. It just means we only make cheese about one to two days a week, and with the building project and the garden needing attention, that has worked out rather well. We will be breeding two of the does in July for December babies. This is something we tried last summer, but it didn’t work out. Our plan is to breed two in July and the other four in November. This will provide us with milk through the winter and a larger supply in the spring for next year’s cheese supply. We’ll see how it works out this time.

The beneficial insect class I took taught me to identify a few more bees and a few more plants, but didn’t really cover insects specific to gardening. I learned some new information, but it hasn’t really affected my gardening techniques. I did learn that 90% of bees are loners that nest in the ground. I thought that was interesting. 

We continue to prepare for Frank’s survival radio class which will be starting in a few weeks. There has been quite a bit of interest from our small communities, which is exciting. The possibility of creating a communication network in our area is very important to us. It could make all the difference in the world should a natural or man made disaster, emergency or collapse occur. We will let you know how it goes.

Life on the homestead is good. Very good. Busier than usual with projects underway, new animals, a different gardening season this year, and just normal daily chores and routines that come with living a life of producing all we can for ourselves. I know some of you have been wondering if we have made soap. Not yet. We have everything we need, and have talked about it a number of times, but it hasn’t happened yet. One day we will surprise you, and us, with that post. It is almost time to make another batch of lotion. I am really glad we make our own now. It’s quick, easy and not full of chemicals. 

We still have our aches and pains, and our bodies won’t keep up with our minds anymore, but with the exclusion of many chemicals and processed foods, we are healthier than we have been in a long time, maybe ever. That will be important in the coming days, weeks and months. Keep your head up and pay attention. More and more people are saying there is something out there, something in the wind that is unsettling, dark and ominous. Be prepared in all things, but especially in your heart and mind, for without them all of the ‘stuff’ you have will come to naught.

Until next time – Fern