Thursday, November 29, 2012

Maverick Moves On...

Maverick, the third from the left
June 2012
Maverick, our buck out of Ruth and Malachi has settled right into his new home with his wonderful new owner, Susan at Legacy Farms in North Carolina.  He has gotten his first chance at breeding a sweet doe named Willow and according to Susan was quite up to the task after watching Checkers in action. Looking forward to hearing good news from Legacy Farms this kidding season!

Got Milk? Nubian Dairy Got For Sale!

Shiloh our American Nubian and her doe kid, Eve.
If you are looking to add a wonderful dairy goat to your family then our American Nubian, Shiloh may be just what you are looking for. Shiloh was born in April of 2011 and gave us a beautiful doe kid her first freshening.  Since kids favor one teat over the other we only milked her on one side and we still got about 2 quarts a day.  She took easily to the milk stand and after the initial resistance of a first freshener, she settled right into the milking routine.  She gave us milk and continued to raise Eve until she was weaned without any problems.  We have bred her again to Malachi and she is due the second week of April. I do not want to milk more than 2 does at any time so we will be looking to find a home for her. We are selling her for $450 before she kids, you can choose to keep her kids or sell them! Please contact me if interested!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Super Easy Chevre Goat Cheese!

And you shall have goats' milk enough for your food, for the food of your household, and for the maintenance for your maidservants. Proverbs 27:27

Chevre.  Yes, I broke out the good china for this one!
What's creamy, buttery, delicious and great on just about anything? Goat cheese, baby! If you want to sound sophisticated you can call it chevre which is just a generic French word for goat cheese. Why is it that everything sounds so cosmopolitan in French? What ever you decide to call it, you should definitely try this simple recipe for chevre. Don't be intimidated by the cheese making process, I promise you this is one of the easiest recipes you will ever find!

You will need only 4 ingredients: 1 gallon of goat milk (you can half this recipe),  rennet (do not use junket rennet tablets...they will not work), a culture and 1/4 cup of water.   I use a double strength vegetable rennet and a little goes a long way! You can make chevre with pasteurized goat milk but if you have access to fresh raw goat milk the flavor tends to be more complex and buttery.  My Nubian goats are given grains and alfalfa as well as being free range grazers so they bring a distinct floral, somewhat savory and what I call summery flavor to our cheese that we absolutely love.  

Okay, are you ready for this?  Pour your milk into a large container, I used my crock pot because I do not like to use metal. If you must use metal make sure it is stainless steel so it will be non-reactive. Your milk can be cold or room temperature, I have done this both ways and the process has worked out well either way.

Step 1: Pour you goat milk into your container
Next add 1/4 teaspoon ( or 1/8 teaspoon if you are halving the recipe) of your culture and stir well with a wooden spoon. You do not want to use a metal spoon.

Now, add 1 drop of your liquid rennet to your 1/4 cup of water and mix to blend. I told you a little goes a long way! Take 2 Tablespoons (use 1 Tablespoon if you are halving the recipe) of this mixture and add it to your milk. Stir well.  Cover your container with a cloth napkin or dish towel and secure with a rubber band.

Let your milk, culture and rennet sit for 24 hours.
Simple so far, right? You will let your milk mixture sit out for 24 hours. I just let mine sit on the counter in an out of the way spot but if you are short on space you can place it in your oven, just be sure not to "preheat" while your milk is in there! During this time your milk will thicken into curds.

Curds and whey!
The next day you will want to drain your cheese curds from the whey which has separated during the 24 hour period.  Place a large colander in a large bowl and line with a fine butter muslin, cheese cloth or you can use a cotton pillow case. I used an old white cotton pillow case that I cut open along the seams and it worked wonderfully.  Do Not use the cheese cloth that you find in grocery stores, it is not fine enough and it will not work! 

Colander inside a bowl to catch the whey that will drip off.

I used a king size pillow case and it worked fine.
Carefully pour your curds into the colander, it should be gelled and have the consistency of a thick yogurt.  You do not have to worry too much if they fall apart some.

Tie up the corners of your cheese cloth to enclose the curds and be sure to keep the ends inside the colander or the whey will drip all over your counter.  I used a rubber band to secure the bag closed.

Curds securely wrapped and whey dripping in bowl.

You may need to pour off they whey into another container so that the colander doesn't sit "in" the whey and so it can finish dripping.  You can save your whey for baking bread, cooking with, or give it to your animals, they love it! Let your curds sit for another 24 hours.  I placed the other half of my pillow case over the top to cover it.

Almost done, I can hardly wait!

This is the moment you have been waiting! Untie your cheese cloth and transfer your chevre to a clean bowl.  Add 1 teaspoon of sea salt or kosher salt (do not use iodized salt) and blend well.  Remember to use only 1/2 teaspoon if you have halved this recipe.

Add salt to taste.
You can get creative and combine herbs and spices to your cheese or eat it plain!  I like garlic, dill and chives, or parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  Zatar is another wonderful blend of Middle Eastern spices that pairs perfectly with chevre.  Traditionally it is mixed with olive oil and baked into the crust of flat bread but I like to just mix it into the cheese or top it off and eat it! Yum.

Store your cheese in small containers in the refrigerator.  You can also freeze your chevre. Just allow it to thaw in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours before eating.

This makes about 2 pounds.
Whew. That was hard work wasn't it!  Give this recipe a try and you can impress all your friends, that is if you don't eat it all first! Enjoy!  :)


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tomato, Basil, Goat Cheese Salad

Caprese with a twist!
Absolutely nothing says summer like a simple yet marvelous tomato, basil and cheese salad. Period.

A few simple ingredients are all you need.
Chevre, so divinely simple to make and so very delicious, adds a delightful twist to this classic caprese salad.
What could easier than slicing up a couple fresh off the vines tomatoes, chopping a handful of just picked basil, throwing in some chevre and adding a dash of sea salt? Pure, unadulterated bliss. :) Of course you can always add a balsamic vinaigrette or olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing if you want to snazz it up a bit.

Salad for two anyone?
I love that I can make this salad just by going into my backyard and picking the ingredients and then adding my homemade raw goat milk cheese. What could be better than that? Bon Appetit!

P.S.  A recipe for making my raw milk chevre is soon to follow so stay tuned by joining my RSS feed, you won't want to miss it!


Eating Local & The Backyard Garden

Echos of sunshine and kisses of rain produce glorious gardens!
The trend towards buying locally grown food and supporting your community farmers while reducing your carbon footprint is on the upswing and while I fully support this movement I also encourage people to try their hand at growing an edible garden in their own backyard... you can't get anymore local than that!

Our garden has transformed over the years from a few tomato, pepper and squash plants to a veritable produce stand in which I can tantalize our taste buds, provide fresh nutritious food, increase the variety of veggies we eat and save money! We learn more about gardening each year and as our garden grows so does our confidence.

Why not try a small garden of your own?  Small raised beds or container gardens may be perfect for someone with a small yard while the benefits you'll reap are big!  Nothing beats the fresh off the vine taste of vegetables grown by your own hand.

Roma tomatoes = super rich sauces and fabulous salsas!
This year we've planted our biggest garden yet and it is looking good if I don't say so myself.  We have Roma and Rutgers tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, pumpkin, sweet corn, bush and pole beans, sweet potatoes, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, cantaloupe, eggplant, okra, watermelon, sunflowers, cucumbers, asparagus, herbs, and we even planted a banana tree for a little taste of the tropical.

Bananas in North Carolina? Yes, please!
I'm just starting to see the "fruits" of my labor so to speak.  My zucchini and squash are blooming as well as my bush beans attracting those pollinating powerhouses, honey bees.

Zucchini bloom and bees!
Bush bean flowers are so pretty!
Along with my usual sweet basil, I've planted another variety called Magic Mountain basil.  It is a large, beautiful plant producing lovely green and purple leaves with a mouth watering flavor and it attracts bees and butterflies too!  Thank you to Shagreen Nursery & Arboretum for this fabulous discovery!

Magic Mountain Basil.... so good.
It won't be long now, before we are harvesting our first fruits and I can't wait! Summer time, gotta love it!

Baby zucchini 


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Farm Babies!

Little muddy piggies taking a nap!
Okay, when I see five little piggies lying in a row I can't help but think of that classic nursery rhyme "This little piggy went to market".  Come on, admit it, you just recited it in you head didn't you? By the way, little piggies actually do go "Wee, Wee, Wee" as they run around frantically on their tiny little legs, and boy are they fast!  I must say that little baby piggies are some of the most amusing and cutest baby animals we have on the farm.

Baby chicks under the heat lamp

We have also added 28 baby chicks to the farm! Besides our Buff Orpingtons we now have Red Hampshires, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Black Australorps, and last but not least some Leghorns.  Yup, Leghorns, as in Foghorn Leghorn. I can almost hear that wise cracking rooster, " Now what, I say now what's that skinny old hen doin up on the barn".  It's amusing what come back to you from your childhood isn't it.

I love you mom!

Our Nubian kids are now 7 weeks and 6 weeks old and they are so much fun to watch and play with. They are more curious than a cat and smarter than a dog, which makes for a difficult photo shoot when you are by yourself! In the picture above our little buck gives his momma some love.  The little girl below loves to play "king of the mountain", and since she is so much like her momma (pushy) she usually wins!

Sweet little doe baby

Life is so cool and if you take the time to really experience God's awesome creations you will be blessed.  Martin Buber, a German Jewish biblical translator, philosopher, and interpreter once said, "An animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language".  I believe him.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pickled Turnips or Kabees El Lift For Dad....Delish!

All you need to make pickled turnips full of flavor!
The humble turnip root, it's low in fat and high in vitamin C. Turnip greens are a wonderful source of vitamin A, C, K, Calcium and folate and yet this lowly root is often overlooked.  I bought 2 pounds of turnips at our local farmer's market because I had a hankering (yes, I said hankering) for pickled turnips otherwise known as lift.  My Tayta (grandmother) taught my mom to make these simple pickled turnips and I have fond memories of seeing those glass jars filled with those beautiful purple, beet-stained turnips lined up on the shelves of our refrigerator.  They are zippy, crunchy and full of zesty flavor and they work wonderfully in salads, alongside sandwiches, with hummus or a babaganouj plate, or eaten just out of the jar!

Gather your ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of turnips, peeled, tips and tails removed
  • 1/2 pound of beets, peeled, tips and tails removed
  • 6 cloves of garlic, diced or sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups of cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups of white or apple cider vinegar (I used white)
  • 8 teaspoons of sea salt 
  • a few celery leaves (optional, I used)
  • a hot pepper (optional, I did not use)
  • 2 quart sized glass jars (you can also use spaghetti, jelly or any type of used glass jars)
Isn't that beautiful!
Cut up your turnips and beets into wedges, slices or "french fried" like in the picture above. Add the garlic and the celery or pepper if using.  I give it a good toss in a bowl with my hands. Just a quick note here, the beets will stain your hands, your clothes and your dish towels.  Pack tightly into your clean glass jars and set aside.

Almost done!
Now mix your vinegar and water; add your salt and stir with a whisk until dissolved. Pour this mixture over your lovely veggies using a funnel, and place the lids on the jars. 

Gently shake your jars to get the "color" flowing and store them in the refrigerator for about 1 week. You may give the jars a little "shake" every couple of days. Then they will be ready to enjoy, be careful because you can't eat just one!

Pretty aren't they!  Now if  I can just wait 7 days!
These will last a few weeks in the refrigerator or you can use a water bath canner for 15 minutes for longer storage.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Oh Nuts!

Pecan trees!

Two tall stalwart figures, garbed in brown and green
quietly standing vigil, nothing goes unseen.
Generations served, humbly and composed
I'll pause beneath thy shadows and be in calm repose.
Michelle Threewits

We are blessed with two beautiful pecan trees that must be close to 100 years old.  They were probably witnesses to the building of our 80+ year old farmhouse and have been standing guard over generations of families ever since.  Each year we receive a bumper crop of pecans and every year I struggle to find space to store them!

9 gallons in the chest freezer!

I currently have 9 gallons in the freezer and an 18 gallon storage container for the rest....this does not include the gallons we have given away!  Oh, what to do, what to do?  I love pecans as much as the next person but I needed to come up with some ways to use these lovely nuts.  I figured with the price of peanut butter sky high that I'd try my hand at making pecan butter.  As it turns out, not only is it delicious and healthy for you, it is really easy to make!

For a basic pecan butter you will need:
  • 2 cups pecans (whole or pieces) Be sure to use the highest quality, freshest pecans you can find, organic would be best.
  • sea salt/Kosher salt to taste
First, place your pecans in a single layer on a lightly sprayed cookie sheet and then lightly toast the pecans in a 350 oven for about 5 minutes or until aromatic. You can also use a skillet and stove top over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Watch carefully so they do not burn.

Mmmmm, they smell wonderful
Allow the pecans to cool and then place in a food processor and blend, using a spatula to scrape down the sides every so often.  It will become crumbly and then after 5 to 8 minutes (depending on your processor) it should have a smooth and creamy consistency. At this point you can add your salt to taste and give it a couple of spins to blend.

Crumbly stage
Wallah! Pecan butter! Store in a sealed jar in the refrigerator. Yields about 1 cup (this recipe can be doubled or tripled).

You can stop earlier for a thicker consistency.
Use your pulse button until you get the desired smoothness,
this is a little thinner that I usually make it, but it's still great!
To make it interesting you can try these different versions.

Coconut Pecan Butter

Add 4-6 Tbsp of coconut oil (organic), 14 oz of coconut flakes, 2 Tbsp of raw honey and 2 tsp vanilla extract (I like Madagascar vanilla).  Pulse the coconut flakes first until creamy.  Add the pecans and then pulse them until they are completely down.  While your processor is still running, slowly add the coconut oil until it is the consistency you want (chunky, creamy, oily). Last, while the processor is still running add the honey, vanilla and salt, blend. Enjoy! 

Or...Chocolate Pecan Butter

You can also try adding 2 heaping Tbsp of organic cocoa powder to the pulsed down pecans and then slowly adding 3 Tbsp of maple syrup while the processor is running. Easy peasie chocolate pecan butter...divine! The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Eden Was A Garden

Gardening requires lots of water...most of it in the form of perspiration.  Lou Erickson
Finally, after many days of hard work the garden has been expanded and the seeds are in the ground!  Although we smell like dirt and our bodies are sore there is something about gardening that feeds the soul and renews the spirit. It's an intimate relationship between the earth we tend to and care for which brings forth such wonderful healthy food to nourish and sustain us.  From the beginning of creation it was meant to be this way.

Earth here is so kind, just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.  Douglas William Jerrold

I truly have come to love gardening despite the hard work and the hours that must be spent to attend to such an undertaking.  Have you ever seen a beautiful garden and admired it in all it's glory?  Did you ever wonder who owned it? A well tended spot of land says something about the character of the person caring for it. I can tell you this, it didn't get that way because the person sat down the shade of a tree and fancied to himself, "What a nice place for a garden" and then continued to sip on his glass of southern sweet tea, garnished with mint, daydreaming about beautiful gardens. It is work but it is rewarding.

Witness to a miracle, sweet corn reaching for the sun
Every year I strive to create a larger garden with more diversity, a garden which more closely resembles nature than the artificial system of growing one type of plant year after year. Nature isn't a monoculture why should our gardens be. Interchanging crops and companion planting is healthier for the soil and helps the plants protect themselves against pests and disease.  I've planted my pumpkins with my corn (they will help keep the corns roots moist and weed free) and I'll plant pole beans along side the corn (the corn acts as a supportive trellis and the beans will return nitrogen to the soil that the corn uses).  This is just one example of companion planting practices that have been used for centuries, and contrary to popular belief, this style of planting produces more abundantly than modern methods without all the deadly chemicals that are polluting our world and our bodies. It's less expensive and healthier too!

I finally found a use for all those used canning markers!

All my seeds are non-hybrid, non-GMO, open-pollinated seeds that have not been treated with fungicides or chemicals.  I know at the end of the season I will be able to harvest my own seeds from my best plants to grow next year.  Seed saving is an ancient, but somewhat forgotten, practice that is beginning to find it's way back into our modern culture by plant and nature enthusiasts who recognize the benefits of such resourceful and wise practices.  If we want to protect our Earth and ourselves we would be well warned to go back to the past before modern technology destroyed farming as we know it.

Beautiful tiny grapes to be! 

The one thing that I am still learning to do is "share" my garden with the birds. I must be selfish because I don't want to! I work too hard to let my garden become a buffet for the numerous birds that await eagerly for an easy meal. Before anyone gets upset about my unfair treatment of our feathered friends know that I leave PLENTY of pecans on the ground for them, I don't kill the weeds in our lawn for them, and I give them plenty of seed. They can stay out of my garden! 

mean "garden snake" and silver flags on cucumber trellis
So, to facilitate this I am trying different things to keep them away.  I placed black hoses in the garden to resemble snakes, taped fluttery silver "flags" to various parts of the garden and created a "scarecrow" of sorts out of my PPE gown and gloves and an old straw hat. 

My girls nicknamed her "Betsy"
I don't know how effective these will be but it is worth a try to protect my precious seedlings. I find it so amazing that a tiny seed becomes a large plant that will provide for my family if only I will take loving care of it.  Thomas Jefferson once said "Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God".  I pondered that quote for quite some time trying to discern the meaning.  Were farmers special to God? If so why? I understand from Genesis we were meant to be good and wise stewards of the land and the creatures He created, so farming brings us back to the beginning when it "was good".  

A pumpkin seed pushing through the soil, another miracle!

I grasp just the tiniest measure of understanding when I witness the miracles of birth or the sprouting of a tiny seed. Each one is a whisper of a promise to come, a hope and a future, a message of love. In this way I know my God loves me. I know He cares for me and will sustain me.  In tending my small little "Eden" I will worship Him, I will glorify Him and I will sing His praises.  Everyday becomes a gift and a miracle and I am thankful for each one.

The "Garden Angel" tending the grapes!
"One is nearer God's heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth."  Dorothy Frances Gurney


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Never A Dull Moment

Have you ever had one of those days where the universe seems to be conspiring against you?  Well, today is one of those days for me. I know, I know, why should I write another post and bombard my readers with yet more prattle to interrupt their day? Well, to quote Agatha Christie "It is completely unimportant. That is why it is so interesting."

So, here is what I found when I went out to give my goats their dose of weekly herbal wormer.

This poor buck kid has an injury to his ear

I don't know exactly what happened but my first guess was that my LGD went postal on him for some reason. After I looked more closely, however, I couldn't find any puncture wounds or bite marks so then I thought maybe he got his head stuck somewhere and when he pulled it out it tore his skin. It is a mystery. There are no holes or tear marks from teeth or wire or nails so I can't imagine how this happened. So, I put those CNA skills to work and cleaned him up good with some iodine and then smeared a triple antibiotic onto the wound. 

2 cc of CDT vaccine
As luck would have it (if you could call such a thing luck), the buck kids were 3 weeks old and were due to have their CDT shot today. So, needle and syringes in hand we set to work! 

Hey, why are you picking on me?
I'll need to keep an eye on the wound and make sure it doesn't get infected and hopefully I can puzzle out what happened to his little guy.

Now, if the world would just settle down and let me finish my work without interruptions I would really appreciate it!


Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk

1 1/2 quarts of sweet and creamy fresh goat milk

Okay, so we've all heard the old saying "Don't cry over spilled milk"...well, now I know where that expression comes from!  I've been milking my first year fresheners (does who have had kids for the first time) and I must say, somehow I pictured it differently.  I dreamt of milking out gallons of wonderful and nutritious goat milk for my family while my sweet natured does munched happily on their grain and alfalfa. Not.

While my doe Ruth is gentle and doesn't seem to mind my inexperience, my other doe, Shiloh is, well...not so gentle. Bill likes to say Ruth is a bit "slow" but sweet and Shiloh is smart and stubborn.  I'll take slow and sweet over smart and stubborn anytime! If it wasn't so frustrating I'd find it hilarious that Shiloh kicks, jumps, hops and practically tap dances all over my milk stand in her (successful) attempts at keeping me from milking her. I've tried everything I can think of to win her over to no avail, from hobbling her , holding one back leg up , singing Amazing Grace to her (I find the acoustics in my milk room to be really good btw), and talking gently (and not so gently) to her. Nothing. I get no respect, and apparently very little milk. 

After 35 minutes of stress, tears and pleas for mercy I managed to get 1/2 a quart from her. Sigh. I can only hope it will get better.  I did fair better with Ruth who gave me a full quart of milk (actually I didn't milk her out completely as she is still nursing her twin bucks).  Then it was to the house to prepare my milk.

This little hand pump is perfect for first fresheners with smaller teats
After milking out a doe I put the milk in either an ice bath or the bottom of my deep freeze before I milk out the other. The faster you chill the milk the better it tastes.  Then, when the milking is done, I will filter it and either continue to chill it or freeze it for later use.  Because I use an Udderly EZ hand milker, I have very little to nothing to filter out of my milk but I do this none the less.

Bill filtering the milk so I can get this picture...what a guy!

I really love my milk filter, actually it is a jam funnel with a fine mesh filter and it works wonderfully for the small amounts of milk I process.  I may need to go to a larger filter made for this purpose when my quantities go up but that may be a while. Since I am freezing this milk I will filter it directly into quart size freezer bags.

It's a little tricky to hold and pour, but with only a quart it's not too bad.

When I've filtered all the milk I then date any bags I'm freezing or, if I'm going to use it immediately I'll place the milk back into an ice bath in my refrigerator or if it's a small quantity I'll put it back into my deep freeze until it chills down, about 20 minutes.

milk ready to be put in the freezer

When I need milk I just thaw it in the refrigerator, and it's wonderful.  This is a perfect way to store my extra milk and to save enough for making cheese or butter. So far, that hasn't been an issue. Well, there's always tomorrow, right?