Homestead News, Volume 16

When I sit down to write about the news from our place, I always look back at the last article to see what I wrote. I was surprised to see that the outdoor kitchen was still a slab of concrete, and that the antenna towers had just been put in the ground. It seems like much has happened since the last edition, so much so that I won’t remember it all.

We ended up with 77 quarts of pears. I had to do some rearranging on the pantry shelves to get them in there all together. That wasn’t such a terrible task.

I’ve canned another 6 pints of green beans this past week. Six jars aren’t a lot, but I’m still surprised that the Missouri Wonders are producing this time of year. I will be canning a few more pints  along with a few beets, maybe tomorrow.

Yesterday I picked the last of the tomatoes. We have temperatures forecast in the mid 30’s on Saturday and Sunday night, which means we will probably get a frost here at the house. We were really surprised the first time that happened. The house is in a small, low dip in the land, and the barn is on a small hill. It will frost at the house, but not at the barn when the temperatures are in the mid 30’s. That means the tomatoes, green beans and okra will die this weekend. I was surprised at the number of tomatoes we harvested. Most of the vines are suffering from some kind of wilt and are dying anyway. Today I will wrap a bunch of these tomatoes in newspaper and tuck them in the pantry to ripen. 

I was also surprised at the number of carrots we still had in the ground along the tomato trellis. After the rains pass through today, I will dig up the remainder of the carrots along the green bean trellis. I have really enjoyed being able to go out and pull a few carrots for a salad throughout the summer. Carrots are something I have finally figured out how to grow. Now if only I can learn how to grow onions, and store them.

I used to be sad to see the last of the garden die out for winter. This year, all of the new growth in the greenhouse has replaced that sadness with a continuation of ‘gardening’ activities. Many of the new seeds I planted last week are coming up, including the Austrian Winter Peas. I look forward to adding them to our salads and picking a few for the chickens as well.

 Since we are expecting a frost, I dug up one sweet pepper and one jalapeno plant to see if they will survive the transplanting and live in the greenhouse. They have been blooming and producing more peppers, so I thought if the frost was going to kill them anyway, it won’t hurt to experiment with transplanting. I

had mentioned these plants to a friend of mine that encouraged me to try this. I know she’ll be watching their progress or demise, whichever comes first.



Frank has been working on giving some of our trees and shrubs haircuts. The new antenna set up will be a little different configuration, thus the trimming activities. We have made several trips to the brush pile to keep the yard cleared. 

 


 

 

We have another rainy day today which is very good. The soil has gotten very dry over the past few months and we appreciate the nourishment the rain brings. We hope to get several inches today. The hay we put down last week to cover the bare parts of the garden have worked out very well. That was a very good use of old hay. Now it looks like we will be getting some serious weather later on today.


 

The structural portion of the outdoor kitchen is finished. Now we need to paint the plywood walls to protect them from the weather. When that is finished we will start ‘installing’ the stove, grill/smoker, rocket stove, sinks and cabinet/workbench.


This water tank has been lurking around here for about six years. Our original plans for it have long since gone by the way side. Our latest plan was to put it up on a platform by the outdoor kitchen and attach it to the sinks, but that just never seemed quite right. You know those ideas you get that seem to be pretty good, but just don’t quite come together in your mind? Well, Frank and Henry discussed the placement of the tank there by the kitchen one afternoon with plans to build the platform the next morning. That night when we went to bed, we were talking about the next days work and a new idea emerged. I had already asked Frank to put a 55 gallon drum under the guttering down spout by the greenhouse, then I could dip out the water easily. Well, our late night idea was this. Put the 305 gallon water tank here instead. Looks great, doesn’t it? It will be connected to a short run of guttering, with a faucet of sorts for accessing the water. It’s a few short feet from the greenhouse which will be wonderful.

 

In the next few weeks we will be showing you the installation of the water lines. Emmet has been back several times digging the beginning of the ditches required for water and electric lines. This will allow the gentleman to come and dig the lines without worrying about the barn, fencing or existing water line. I have some really exciting pictures on here, don’t I? Holes in the ground….

A few days ago Frank commented on how many acorns one of our oak trees has dropped this year. These are larger acorns than many of the other trees, large enough to affect your footing if you have too many of them underfoot. Until this year, they have been a nuisance to contend with, this year they are turning into meat. Seeing all of the acorns brought a vague memory to mind, something about pigs eating acorns. We researched oak acorns and pigs to make sure they were safe, and found not only are they safe, some people consider pigs raised on acorns to be some of the best pork available. So yesterday I began collecting acorns. It only took about 30 minutes to pick up this many. I gave a few to the pigs yesterday morning and at first they didn’t pay much attention to them. We thought it might be necessary to crack the hard outer

covering, but it’s not. Last night all of the acorns were gone and this morning I saw one of the barrows crunching away on one. It’s interesting how perspectives can change. There are lots of things I now view as meat, meaning food for animals that will turn into meat. Many of these things have lain about for years going to waste, but now with a little effort, they are increasing our food supply. Speaking of pigs, for the rest of this week Liberty has come running into her pen each time I feed. She starts out in one of the ‘outside’ feed pans, but as soon as I pour out her feed and call her, “Come on, Liberty”, here she comes running. Every so often one of the boys tries to come with her, but they’ve figured out that this is not their food. This has been very interesting to me.
 
I thawed out the leg roast I saved from the last goat butchering. We tried cooking one of these roasts, but it was really tough. This roast was sliced yesterday and marinated in soy sauce and pepper so we can try another batch of jerky. Frank didn’t care for the first batch, and I have to admit it is really tough to chew and doesn’t have a lot of flavor. It’s okay, but we hope to improve. One thing I am doing differently today is starting it in the morning so it won’t be left in the dehydrator overnight, which was too long the first time. We also hope the soy sauce improves the flavor. If not, I’ll go back to sea salt and add more than I did the first time.

Easter & Patch

Our buck moved to a new home yesterday. Since we kept his daughters, Easter and Patch, we wanted a new buck for breeding. We have yet to find a new buck, though, and will be borrowing Faith’s new buck in a few weeks. One Stripe and Copper will give us another set of kids from the buck we just sold, but Easter, Patch, Lady Bug and Cricket will all be bred to Faith’s buck. This will give us the chance to add some new blood to our herd. We will keep looking for another full-time buck for our next round of breeding in May. We are still trying to have year round milk, which means two ‘breeding seasons’ per year. It makes things a little more complicated, but we think it’s worth the effort.


Enjoy the blessings of these peaceful days. On the surface, most things seem calm. Don’t let the depth of the swift undercurrent pull you under. The decisions we make today will help determine our ability to survive in the future. Choose wisely.

Until next time – Fern

Making Simple Jerky

A couple of days after I butchered the goat last week, I made my first ever jerky. Chevron jerky. This wether was about two and a half years old, and should have been butchered a while back. The only meat I left whole were the two back legs. I baked one while I was grinding the rest, and it came out very tough. We chewed on some of it for a few meals, then I froze the rest. It can go into a jar the next time I can some stock or soup. From this same leg, before I cooked it, I cut out a big chunk of meat with the idea of trying some jerky. This is a task I have wanted to try for quite some time.

A while back, I don’t remember if I mentioned it or not, someone out there told me in a comment that very simple jerky could be made with sliced meat, salt and pepper. That is exactly what I was looking for. I don’t want to buy an extruder and have to grind the meat, mix it with whatever, then squirt it out on a sheet of something that won’t let it fall through the cracks. I know some folks make excellent jerky this way, but I wanted something very simple. I stored the meat in the coldest part of the refrigerator until I was ready to make jerky. You know, that place on the top shelf that will make boiled eggs freeze solid? Right there. It was good and cold when I got it out and started slicing, which made it pretty easy.

I wasn’t sure how much salt and pepper to use, so this time I only sprinkled it on one side, pressed it in and placed the meat on my standard dehydrator trays.

The directions in this book said to dry at about 180* for four hours, turn it over, then dry for another six to eight hours. The problem with that is that eight hours later was about 1:30 am, and I knew I wouldn’t be up then, so I figured a little extra drying time wouldn’t hurt. The baby chicks were in the room I normally use for dehydrating, so we moved next door into the pantry. There isn’t room in the kitchen, so the dehydrator lives elsewhere in the house. Here is the jerky at four hours. It looked very good to me.


I turned off the dehydrator at 6:00 the next morning. Needless to say, the meat was dry, probably too dry. You can’t bite off a piece, you kind of have to chew it off. The four tray Excalibur dehydrator we use is very simple, with a knob that controls the temperature. It doesn’t have an on/off switch, so we plug it into a power strip that does.


What did we think? Frank’s seal of approval is still out for deliberation. Me? I think it’s great! I am very pleased with the process, the ingredients and the taste. Now I have to learn how to store it so it doesn’t go rancid or mold or something. I know I can keep it in the freezer, but what if we don’t have electricity one day?

One of the reasons I am interested in jerky to begin with, is that it is another way to store meat besides canning. Canned meat is very nutritious, but it is one of my least favorite ways to eat meat as far as flavor goes. Fresh cooked meat is great, but if you’re in TEOTWAWKI stage of life, the day of butchering will be one of the only days that fresh meat will be available. Jerky is also a great way to store protein and salt in an easy to transport package. If times get really lean, it will also give your mouth something to do for a while in times of hunger. All of these things come to mind when I think of making jerky from our chevron, or goat meat. I’ll try the same thing when we butcher our first pig. Meat from American Guinea Hogs is more of a red than pinkish white meat you see from many pigs.

The goal in learning simple, efficient ways to grow, cook and store food will hopefully make a difference when survival is the name of the game. Packing nutrition into every item in a meal, instead of empty calories void of nutrients, will be an absolute necessity if we’re going to make it. The shear volume of work required to live in a collapse, grid down, do everything yourself or you won’t make it situation, will require adequate nutrition, or will soon turn into an impossibility. Think about it. Seriously. Think long and hard, discuss it with your friends and family that are on board. Come up with solutions that will fit your situation and implement them. Now.

Until next time – Fern

Nary an Udder the Same & Goat Happenings

As I milk the does each morning, it is always interesting to note the differences in their udders. It’s something I have experienced for years, but I didn’t think about sharing it with you until recently. Goats, just like people, each have their own special peculiarities that make them unique. And since I milk my goats, one of the things I pay particular attention to is their udders. Many goats udders are very similar, but the group of does I have right now don’t share many characteristics, and because of that, I thought I would explain the differences and what I think about them.

I’ll start off with One Stripe, our old lady goat. She is now seven years old and has been with us since she was five months old. I think she is starting to slow down a little, but for an old lady, she is doing quite well. Her udder is getting longer as she ages. It also has more mammary tissue that the other does. The first year or two I milked One Stripe, her udder was much firmer and more congested than the other does. She didn’t have mastitis, but either she wouldn’t let me have her milk or the mammary tissue took up so much room, she didn’t have much. I have always wondered if that has affected the size of her udder. It still never completely empties when I milk her, but she is a breeze to milk. One Stripe’s teats are straight, easy to handle and allow a good amount of milk with each squeeze. She and I have been doing this together for so long that sometimes she will turn her head around and nudge my shoulder when she is ready to leave, but I’m not finished.

Copper is One Stripe’s two year old daughter. Copper’s udder is even, and holds a nice capacity. She does not have the longer, type of udder her mother has. The teats are even, a little longer than some, and also allow a good amount of milk with each squeeze. Copper is a taller, longer goat than the other does I have. I scoot my chair closer to the end of the milk stand to reach her udder comfortably. Copper was an accidental single kid in the middle of winter, so she didn’t have anyone to play with when she was born. Consequently, she came back to the milk stand with One Stripe while I was milking. She has always been very tame and easy to handle, if sometimes a little onery.

Cricket and Lady Bug are twin sisters that are one year old. They each had their first kids this spring. It is always interesting to see how a doe will turn out on the milk stand. Ivory, their mother, was a great milker so I had high hopes for these two.

Cricket started off with very small teats. She was hard to milk and not at all interested in letting her milk down. After a few days I remembered that Ivory started off the same way. That gave me hope that Cricket’s teats and udder would develop well during her first lactation. So far so good. She is definitely easier to milk, and she will let her milk down for me now. One of the challenges of increasing her milk production is having her son continue to nurse through the fence. With the work on the barn and the addition of pigs, available space for weaning is limited for now.

Lady Bug started off too wound up for my taste. She was not relaxed, but furtive and anxious. Now, after almost three months she has calmed down nicely, and is very easy to milk. Surprisingly, her teats are much larger than her sisters. They are not as long as One Stripe’s or Copper’s, but they hold a good volume of milk per squeeze, making her very easy to milk. For a first freshener, Lady Bug also has a very good quantity of milk, even though Easter is still nursing some through the fence.

We sold Penny, who is Copper’s daughter, to Faith back in April. I wish I had remembered to take a picture of her udder before she left. She is the first doe I have had that had two different size teats. Noticeably different. One side is much easier to milk than the other. At first I wondered if it was because her twin bucks were nursing more on one side than the other, but Faith tells me they have continued to remain different sizes. She doesn’t have any trouble milking Penny, and has adjusted to the different techniques needed to get milk from each side.

Every milker has a preference for the type of udder and teat they prefer to milk. I know I do. As time has passed and my experience as a milker has increased, I am now much more particular about the animals we add to our herd. If we are looking for a new buck, I ask to see the mother’s udder in milk or at least pictures of it. If it is pendulous, or the teats are large and bulbous, I pass. If the teats are small, or the udder is poorly attached, I pass. Since I plan to milk our does, I want animals that have the genetic propensity to produce healthy, well formed, udders and teats. I don’t have to have an animal that will produce a gallon a day, but I would like to have a decent amount per animals.

Speaking of bucks, when the vet was out recently working on our new pigs, we also had him work on Bill’s horn scurs. Bill’s horn burning didn’t go well before we bought him. We knew he had some scurs when we brought him home, but we have never had any that grew
out like this. Bill had rubbed or caught the sideways scur that had gotten pretty long, and ripped it away from his skull, which caused it to bleed a little. The vet takes care of these types of scurs with large landscaping loppers. Scurs on goats don’t generally bleed a lot because they don’t develop the same type of blood supply that a regular horn has. This was true for Bill this time. The vet applied some standard blood stopper powder for good measure. While we had Bill in hand, we also wormed him and trimmed his hooves. We hadn’t caught Bill in a while, but he is usually tame enough when we feed. You can reach over and pat and scratch him then. But when I poured out the feed and took him by the collar, he jumped up on his hind feet, hollered and fought valiantly to get loose until the vet could take over. I was very happy to turn him over to someone else. If you had been standing around, the dance Bill and I did would probably have been somewhat comical. Luckily, it worked out okay.

We plan to turn One Stripe and Cricket in with Bill on July 1st, to begin our first breeding cycle. We hope they breed sometime in July to give us December babies. This will allow us to have plenty of milk through the winter. We tried this last summer, but Bill wasn’t mature enough to handle this responsibility at the time. If our breeding plans are successful, Cricket will dry up around the end of August or early September. One Stripe has already been dried up. Since she is older, I wanted her body to have a break before she becomes pregnant again. I will continue milking Copper and Lady Bug until late December or early January when One Stripe and Cricket are in milk again.

We will breed Copper, Lady Bug, Patch and Easter in November. This will provide us with the larger supply of milk in the spring so we can begin making next year’s cheese supply. Well, that’s the plan anyway. We will see how it goes.

We still need to butcher our older wethers. We hope, cross your fingers, to get that done in the next week or so. It will be nice to have our own meat in the freezer again. I want to figure out how to make a very simple jerky from our ground chevron. Most of the recipes I have read have more ingredients than I want to use. If you know of a very simple recipe that does not use liquid smoke or any sweeteners, I would be interested in looking at it. I would like to use little more than salt and pepper, but I don’t know if that would work or not. I need to do some more research on simple jerky recipes.

The over abundance of rain this spring and early summer has also caused an over abundance of worms this year. I have had to worm the goats more than usual. Even Pearl, our Great Pyrenees, has had difficulty with worms which she has never had before. The vet said the weather this year has caused a tremendous flush of worms for all of the animals he sees. It’s something good to learn and be aware of as we continue to learn the nuances of our location. We have been here seven years and in that time we have had two years of serious heat and drought and two years of incredible rain and flooding.

We continue to see our goats as vital to our homestead. They provide us with milk which we make into kefir, butter and cheese. The by product of whey is then fed to the chickens and pigs. The dog and cats also benefit from the milk everyday. The goats provide us with meat and the other animals with nutrition through the organs, fat and scraps from our table. We enjoy our goats. They are a good farm animal. But more than that, every animal on our homestead is here for a reason. They all have jobs to perform, and if they don’t meet the expectation or need that we have, we don’t keep them. Regardless of how much we may like them or want them, if they don’t perform adequately, or exhibit an undesirable behavior that we are unable to alter, then we don’t keep them. Some we eat, some we sell, some we give away with full disclosure of why we are getting rid of them. 

Homesteading is our way of life. Soon we feel it will be our survival. We continue to increase our skills, so that hopefully, we can depend on what we know, what we have, and what we can do, to see us through the hard times that will soon be upon us all. We would encourage you to do the same.

Until next time – Fern