Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Comfort Quilt

Sorry, for the silent Friday but I just didn't know exactly what to say. I could of told you that my attempt at making orange creme soda like ice cream didn't turn out so good, or that I made Cracker Jack like popcorn because I've been craving it for weeks, or that my husband and I were plum tired and lazy yesterday. We watched two television shows and a movie on the computer. See, not a very exciting day but we needed down time after the very demanding last couple of months. So please pardon the silent Friday for in exchange I've got photos of a warm cuddly quilt I started yesterday that I'd like to share with you.

I've been hankering to sew this quilt for the past three years and once again, I've more urgent sewing projects that need done. But, I was in mental need of this project. Something warm, not demanding to be done right now, and something tactically soft and fuzzy. A comfort project shall we say. I figured since this was a fast strip quilt it wouldn't divert my attention for too long and I could stop after I'd pieced the quilt top and tuck it away until I'd figured and sent in my taxes and we'd had my mom's eightieth birthday.

The fact that this quilt is for a twin bed for a BOY makes it definitely not needed at the moment for we've three grand daughters - no grandsons. But, someday... we may be blessed with a grandson along with granddaughters.
Anyway, enough talk , let me show you this easy quilt. It's the only kind I do.

I scribbled on some graft paper and came up with a design. I'd like to say I designed and THEN bought fabric but that isn't usually how I work. Normally, I'm cruising down the fabric isle and glancing at the flannel - I LOVE flannel - then see something I think I've just got to have. Sometimes I buy enough for a baby blanket and sometimes I just pick up a 1/2 yard to 2 yards.

In the case of this fireman flannel, I thought how cute, our daughter's father-in-law is a firemen and if our daughter has a boy wouldn't this be an adorable baby quilt. That was two baby girls ago and after their older sister was born. Yup, three girls.

So you can't really blame me if my mind reconfigured that fireman flannel fabric that was intended for a baby quilt into a twin quilt. What happened was, I saw some red and green fabric that would match perfectly. I bought some of each and kept my eye out for some matching yellow flannel. A year past before I discovered any and for another two years the four pieces of fabric sat waiting while I sewed pink and purple things. But I'm making that quilt whether I have a grandson or not for even if we end up being blessed with only grand daughters I can still use it on the twin bunk beds.

I began doodling quilt designs onto graph paper as soon as I had the quilt in mind and I was looking for the right yellow flannel to appear. One idea had to be scrapped because it would need more green than I had and in another the fireman flannel wasn't dominant enough.
No, I don't worry about having left over flannel just not enough fabric to complete a project, for any remnants left over will be incorporated into a scrap flannel quilt. I'm in need of making another. Our two oldest granddaughters each have a child size nap quilt that they use when at our home but their little sister will soon outgrow the baby blankets in the linen closet and want a child size one too. There never seems to be enough quilts.

So with a plan to make the fireman fabric the focus, I began to cut strips. From the red, green and yellow flannel, I cut 2 1/2 inch strips.

The fireman fabric I cut into 4 1/2 inch strips along with 4 1/2 strips from the yellow fabric.

Then the piecing began using 1/4 inch seams. A red 2 1/2 inch strip was sewn on each side of a fireman flannel strip. The strips with the fireman flannel were then cut into 4 1/2 inch wide strips and the others 2 1/2 inches wide.

I pressed my seams open to avoid bulk when piecing.
The added 2/1/2 inch wide strips to the 4 1/2 inch strips to form a quilt block. This process goes very quickly.

Then the blocks are sewn together alternating the ones with the green and the ones without. That is as far as I've gotten and only a quarter of the quilt is done but I've only spent a few hours on the project but I look forward to many more hours of sewing and wait in expectation to see if the quilt will look the same as the one I designed in my mind. I'll keep you posted with my progress and you can watch the quilt take form. If you haven't made a strip quilt before give it a try. They're fast and rewarding.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Leftover Soup

Our supper was leftover soup. Not because it was leftover from the day before but because it consisted of leftovers from the night before. Because of a little pre-planning the stew was savory and full of flavor. Especially comforting on a cold winter's night.

The evening before we had stew, we ate pork roast, corn, green salad, and garlic bread. No potatoes were present on purpose so my husband wouldn't ask, "Where's the gravy?" That way I could use the wonderful juices from the roast for a tomatoey stew. Had I made gravy I still could of used it to make a pot pie or even a stew but that wasn't what I had imagined for the next night's meal.
So in preparation I put more water in the roasting pan than usual, about an inch and a quarter. Then topped the meat with slices of onion and a sprinkling of beef boulion. This was so that I would have lots of flavorful broth for my stew the next day.

A good stew always starts with good quality ingredients and there is nothing like home grown pork and vegetables to intensify the flavors. I began my stew with cubing the leftover pork roast, tossed it into a saucepan with the water that the pork roast baked in the night before and then began adding vegetables.
Their was corn left over from the night before.
The chopped carrots were from last summer's garden that I had stored in the frigerator,
The onion I chopped came from the store since mine from the garden were used up a couple weeks ago.
Then I added a pint jar of home-canned chopped tomatoes..

Last, I went to my freezer and pulled out a mixed blend of rice. Some I'd gotten from a health food grocery store and since I rarely have the oportunity to buy at a organic grocers, I buy enough to last for quite some time and freeze it. This rice blend is whole and not refined so it would go bad fairly quickly on my cupboard shelves so into the freezer it goes.
To all this I added a little beef boulion, salt and pepper and let the stew simmer until the rice and carrots were done.
The toast you see with the stew is a loaf of artisan bread that we love. When it begins to taste just a bit stale, which for me is after a few days - I'm real picky, then I make French toast or Texas toast with it. It's the best kind of bread for French toast and it is devine sliced thick, slathered with butter (goat butter if you like) and sprinkled with garlic salt and then toasted in the oven on broil. If you want a crispier toast, slice it thin like I did to have with the stew. I love this bread sliced thick and thin. I've been intending to make some croutons with this bread but there's never any left.
So the next time you're making a roast, think leftovers and plan for a savory stew for the next evening.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

From The Corrals To The Garden

From squash pudding and apple pie with home-made ice cream to our topic for today- horse, chicken and goat poop. Well, you can't say this blog isn't diversified. Let's just say we're starting at the beginning, before the squash and apple appeared to the soil they grow in.
This pickup load is a thank you to all the microorganisms that inhabit my soil. The wood shavings is from the goat shed and the chicken manure with some alfalfa hay mixed in is from the chicken coop. It is a perfect combination as wood shavings open up the soil allowing air and water flow along with lowering the Ph making the soil more acidic. The draw back is wood shavings bind up nitrogen because the microorganisms consumes lots of nitrogen to break it down. That's where the chicken poop comes in. It is very high in nitrogen and releases this nitrogen more quickly than cow or horse manure. Hence, a wonderful match. Chicken manure for the delayed nitrogen to the plants and the addition of goat manure for a later nitrogen boost.

Like I said in A Complicated Story Made Simple blog, "If you feed them they will come" in reference to the microorganisms. (I have to apologize for those who read the blog earlier in the day because it wasn't a simple story at all but I went through and completely rewrote it so you might want to browse through it once more.) I want as many of these good guy organisms working for me as possible because they are the garden plant's doctors, chemists, cooks and shipping department that delivers their food. In turn some of the bacteria will take a small amount of sugar and starch from the plant's roots to feed themselves. But in return they allow you to weed less, water less, fight fewer pests and harvest far more from your garden than you would if these good guy bacteria were not present in large numbers. Disease and pests are like carnivores, they seek out and feed off of the weak and these good guys keep them at bay.

When I was in Junior High one student did a science fair project with plants and there reaction to different music. During this lecture she talked about how some plants actually emit sounds to call armies of helpful insects to come to their rescue to devour the bugs that were eating them. Others secreted nasty tasting liquids through their systems. Couple this with the antibiotics that the microorganism docs give to plants and nutrients that they feed the plants to boost their immune systems and plants will pretty well take care of themselves if you will just feed the good guy bacteria.

We talked about earlier that my native garden soil is solid clay. That means when you water, the soil holds the moisture, too much, too long and it drowns the plant's roots along with these microorganism. That's where the wood shavings and manure comes in. They help lower the Ph of the soil and open up the clay soil so water and air can flow. If the good guys can't breathe they die and the bad bacteria takes over spreading disease since they don't need air.

I found a good visual comparison of soils, if clay is a pea, then silt would be a ping pong, and sand would be a basketball. The sand heats up nicely in the spring but nutrients and water flows away too quickly. To open up my soil I tried adding sand. The coarse kind but it bound with the clay and soon I had bricks. The kind the pioneers around here built their sod houses out of. We have deposits of clay, sand, and scoria around the county. I had even added lots of manure but in areas like the asparagus and raspberries where they are in the soil for a number of years, the manure was broken down and the clay took over. It may of not started out as a brick but one developed quickly.

That's why you have to be so careful in adding sand to soil that is dominantly clay. I've found it is best to just stay away from it unless you are adding large quantities of manure year after year.

American Vetch growing on the prairie behind our house.
Clay soil does have a tendency to hold its nutrients because of its tight structure. This is evident as on the prairie behind our house the American Vetch grows and this plant requires a fairy rich soil. Our PH is way to alkaline though which is typical in a dry climate like Wyoming's and this slams the door shut on many of the nutrients ever reaching the plants. It is apparent that we have a high PH because the
Canadian Thistle is a real pest in our lawn but since the prairie behind our house has an even higher PH it does not thrive there. When I add enough sulfur to the garden the thistle disappears. Lowering or raising your PH should be done slowly from year to year as any great change will kill the microorganisms in the soil and disrupt growth of your plants.

I had some new weeds growing in the garden last year and I regret that I didn't look them up. They would have told me what changes were going on in the garden with the PH and dominant nutrients etc.
These wood shavings and goat manure may be waste at the corrals but they are a blessing on the garden and so the recycling continues from lumber waste, to shed, to garden. I've used wood shavings just out of the bag onto the garden. Just keep in mind that the more manure or wood shavings is turned, it will break down faster. Heat and water is also a big factor in breaking down compost and that's where the goats help in that they turn the wood shavings and add manure rich nitrogen, getting a good start on the decomposing process. This year, I am going to use wood shavings out of the bag for mulch in between the crop rows in a section of the garden to see how effective it is. The garden could use more wood shavings than what the goat's supply. I've obsured that the where the garden has a little more shavings the plants do much better. I think it has to do with the raised PH and the more open soil.
Keep in mind if you want to use sawdust that it is much finer and can bind clay soil together into a brick so beware of the size of the wood particles and if you are adding it, go lightly the addition of lots of manure, leaves or whatever mulch is available. We have about zilch leaves so I can't say much about them. Just don't burn them and put them on the garden like my step-dad does. It doesn't work because it serilizes the soil and that which you are adding is a whole nother chemical combination than when you put on crunched fall leaves.
This is a load of horse manure that sat in the neighbors horse corrals and is what I will begin to unload today. It is just a little of the pile his horses King Of The Mountain. I laugh and laugh at their shinanigan and appreciate the way their trapsing up and down it breaks down the manure. I know my garden soil is frozen and this layer of manure will just seal in the cold but a lady has to do what a lady has to do to get the job done. My back is not good and since I need lots of manure this year, I'm starting now. I'd like about four of these trailer loads this year. We need to raise one end of our garden and we're adding about six feet or so of garden to one end. That requires lots of this smelly, good stuff.
In another blog I'll discuss the use of green manures and how they can lower the need for the animal type. We started using them lightly last year but this year we will begin to incorporate them in earnest. I'll share with you our plans as they develop.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Vanilla Ice Cream

Oh, the sacrifices I make for you. I had to dish up for breakfast some ice cream and put it on apple pie to bring you this photo for today's blog. Of course after I photographed it, I couldn't let it go to waste. Where did the apple pie come from? Well, I had pie dough left over after I made the squash pie I showed you yesterday. "Waste not want not" you know.

Okay, I could have done chicken pot pie with the rest of the pie dough and that would have been far more nutritious. But in the interest of nutrition, I used a combination of Braeburn and Granny Smith apples and cut the sugar to 3/4 cup since Braeburns are so sweet. That should count for something. Besides, I think cookies probably have more sugar in them than a slice of my apple pie. Of course they don't have a scoop of ice cream on top. But if you would have seen the big smile on my husbands face when I handed him a plate with apple pie and ice cream last night, you would know why the thought of chicken pot pie went out the window. Sometimes improving marital relationships just has to comes ahead of nutrition.
What I really wanted to show you was my new ice cream maker. It lets you peak inside while the ice cream is mixing and chilling. Also, it makes ice cream faster than my old model, a quart to two quarts, not a gallon, and no ice or salt is required. I love it!!

My old ice cream maker was used when I bought it at a backyard sale years ago.

You put your custard into this tall cylinder shaped canister and surrounded it with chopped ice and rock salt. A word to the wise, if you are not making a custard and are using raw eggs, DON'T put them in whole and expect the ice cream maker to mix the ingredients for you. You'll have frozen orange shaped balls in your ice cream. Wonder how I know that?
Since I now make only three cups of ice cream at a time, digging that little bit out of the bottom of this tall tube was a pain. With only Kirk and I at home now, we don't eat nearly as much ice cream and a change of flavors - vanilla, rocky road, orange sherbet, chocolate chip mint, etc. - is preferable to months of eating one kind.

Besides with this machine, you can talk over the top of it. It takes up less room, is faster, and makes a firmer ice cream. Have I told you lately? I am so glad I bought a milk separator! Oh, the fun we've been having with goat cream, Alfredo sauce, cream biscuits... and the ice cream recipes we've been coming up with.

From Pumpkin Pudding to Squash Pie

I was reading along through one of the blogs I follow and the author shared a pumpkin pudding recipe. When they described how they ate it for breakfast I was hooked. Pie is one of my favorite breakfast foods and this looked like an easier deal since I wouldn't have to even make a crust. BUT-- when I got ready to make it I'd just sorted through the squash in the basement.
Yup, those of you who have been reading this blog know what comes next. -- I saw the two cups of pumpkin that the recipe called for and thought: I have two buttercup squash that are turning orange; I'd better use them up quick before they go bad; why not substitute squash for pumpkin.
So, I baked the two squash that needed used all the while knowing that was way too much squash for the recipe. I ate some for lunch and then mixed up some pie dough and place it in the frig to chill. So much for the, this will be way easier than making a crust.
Then the rest of my day went something like the story, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, or If You Give A Moose A Muffin because after I'd placed the squash in the oven, I figured I should check the garden potatoes. A small amount were going soft and since I'd let part of our apples from our tree rot because I didn't get them used up quick enough, I thought I'd better make hash browns to store in the freezer. The few that were too soft, I cut up for the chickens. Since I was going through the produce, I figured I should check that which was in the refrigerator. The lemons needed used so I made lemonade and chopped the not so crisp any more bell peppers to go into the freezer for omelets and pizza.
By then, I'd used up all my Betty Crocker ambition and most of my allotment of energy too. I went and put my feet up for awhile and decided the pudding and pies could wait until the next morning. Just after morning chores, I pulled out the recipe I'd photo copied and read through the instructions carefully -
2 cups of pumpkin,
I'm using squash, I thought,
1 cup non-dairy milk.
Non dairy milk? What kind of pudding recipe uses non-dairy milk?
(preferably a rich soy milk or a nut milk... I use cashew milk)
Good for you, I thought and you must have a cashew tree outside, but have you looked outside my window. We barely have any trees at all, let alone cashew ones. Our vegetation is so sparse that even the Jackrabbits pack their own lunch when they pass through this area.

Besides Leta would be grumbling and who knows what else if she heard I'd even thought about using NON- dairy milk. So I substituted.
1 cup light goat cream

And as sweet as our squash is, I wondered about the amount of sugar and molasses but I followed the recipe. I shouldn't have. Believe it or not, I followed the rest of the instructions. Oh sorry, no I didn't. I didn't use the cornstarch and I didn't have allspice so I used cloves.
Squash Pudding ready to be baked
Here's a tip for those of you with impaired short term memories like mine. When I go to altering recipes, I use a small dry erase board to write the recipe on and then go over it making changes. After I taste the dish, I erase parts and write what I would change next time. Check it over to make sure I have it right and then copy it onto paper before placing the revised recipe in my three-ring binder of recipes.
After the pudding had baked, I made the squash pie changing the pudding recipe even further since indeed for us it was way too sweet and the spices overpowering. Maybe, that was in part due to using pumpkin which I wouldn't be surprised if it has a lower sugar content than buttercup squash.
I was well pleased with the pie but would add vanilla next time and then make a new assessment of the spices.
Buttercup Squash Pie or Pudding Recipe
3 cups Buttercup Squash (I don't know why you couldn't use acorn or Turban squash.)
1 cup light goat cream (I think you could use half/half from the store or try evaporated milk)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each ginger, nutmeg and salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Generous 1/8 cup cornstarch
(I used some pretty thick buttercup squash but if yours isn't, add 1/4 cup of cornstarch instead)
******* I'm going to add 1 teaspoon vanilla next time. ******
Throw all the ingredients in the blender and mix. You'll have to stop occasionally and using a spatula to scrap and move things around. Then either place in ramekin containers or into a pie shell and bake at 350 Fahrenheit for 1 hour. I'm guessing one hour because I never checked the time, SORRY - Maybe, I should say cook until a knife or toothpick comes out clean. Refrigerate after cooked or I often wrap my pies in foil to freeze for later use.
I tried something new when I separated milk this time. I ran the cream through twice as usual for extra thick cream. Then I ran everything but the extra thick cream through again and their was quite a bit of lighter cream that separated off. That is what I used to make the pudding and pie. I tried making whip cream with the blender but it was contrary and skipped the whipped cream stage and went right to butter. Alas, no beautiful picture of a slice of squash pie with a dollop of whip cream. I did have pie for breakfast this morning though. YUM!!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Complicated Story Made Simple Again

After reading what I wrote this morning. I thought even I can't understand it so I rewrote the whole thing.
From all the reading I've been doing lately I have been struck hard that I've been going about my gardening with the wrong emphasis, too much attention to the surface and not enough to the foundation. That's when I began studying Ph levels and their effects on plants along with how it locks up or releases nutrients. Then I went even deeper to the microbes in the soil itself. It was like watching Men In Black I and II where they open the locker and find first of all the tiny creatures with their own little world and then open the large locker door and the giant creatures are walking below them. The world I opened up with my reading was so tiny that we can't see it with our naked eye. In fact, the microorganisms or bacteria are so small that in a gram of soil there can be billions of these creatures and most live in the organic matter on the top 10 cms of soil.
In the case of my native ground, they barely exist at all. Yet, this world of creatures is what makes the true difference of whether your garden is a success or not. They're the cooks that stir up and mix the ingredients to feed the plants. We just need to feed them and cultivate their environment so they can multiply.
I'd been amending the soil in my garden for years rather haphazardly but I didn't understand fully what I was doing. This limited my success. People who see my garden are amazed as you can see from past photos, little vegetation naturally grows here. I intend to do much better. I needed knowledge and so I began an earnest study of the soil. Something Eliot Coleman said in his book, The New Organic Grower, hit me hard. "If I attempt to feed the plant directly, I am in effect deciding that I can do a better job. " He is referring to the use of chemical fertilizers. Then he goes on to say, "The soil serves merely as an anchor for plant roots, and the majority of the food for plant growth is provided by the fertilizer. The soil remains infertile, however, and the fertilizer application will have to be repeated for every crop. The situation is similar to helping a student by providing the answers to the test. The result may be a good grade but the help will have to be given every time."
It wasn't that I was using chemical fertilizers in my garden beyond amending the Ph with sulfur but the fact that I took the soil for granted thinking it would simply take care of me if I threw a little manure its way. A friend tells me that the definition for a fool is someone who keeps doing the same thing thinking they'll get a different result. My garden was better by far than it had been but it was far from reaching its potential because I wasn't changing my strategy.

By now your wondering what the photos have to do with the blog's topic - nothing. Since a number of blogs I looked at since coming home with our computer had beautiful sunset pictures, I figured I'd show a sunrise a couple of days ago. Didn't want to feel left out. lol
The role of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, let alone the trace minerals had me confused and I wasn't sure how much I needed to add. Then I learned you could throw all the nutrients you wanted at the plants but if they weren't in the right form it was like placing a whole cow on your plate and saying, "Eat up!" The cow was simply too large and not in the right form in which to consume. This is often what happens with clay soil. Clay soils are typically full of nutrients but not in a form the plants can consume.
All this information I was collecting was awesome but overwhelmed me and I didn't know how I was going to compute it all into something I could act upon until I realized that as complicated as all this was to understand, you really only needed part of the information.
I needed to throw out all the big words I couldn't pronounce and create a picture even I could understand. And this picture of the soil's needs didn't start with a soil sample sent to the lab so you can save your money. I'll show you other ways you can tell what's going on underneath the ground. In Eliot Coleman's book he talks about what happened when he sent the exact same soil sample to three labs. The results were starkly different. I sent a soil test to our state lab once years ago and then thought, this is only good for the moment. My soil is every changing from week to week and very different every year, sometimes better and sometimes worse. With more ground being transformed into garden every year and the old ground never staying the same, I'd be testing over and over again for each area of my garden.
Yet the basic needs of each area of the garden soil was the same: air, food, water, and shelter and these had to be met in order for the soil's microorganisms to live. That was what I first needed to address.
My soil base is clay, clay, and clay. If you add water it drowns microorganisms because it doesn't drain. It is so compacted that they can't breathe since there is so little air. Wait a minute, that isn't entirely true, the bad bacteria don't require air, they die if their exposed, and without it they produce toxic compounds that limit root growth and predispose plants to root diseases. That sounds familiar.

They tell me that clay soil has a warehouse full of nutrients but what good is it if the plants can't access it. I began wondering who was guarding the stockpile. If you live in a fairly arid area its most likley the stingy clan of guards from the Alkaline family. They don't share, just hoard.
I realized my first order of business was to fire the guards and open the warehouse. That means changing the PH of the soil to a neutral area. Not too quickly as microorganisms are fragile and can be killed by the slightest changes in the soils PH environment. Their sensitive little guys, too dry, too hot, too wet, too acidic and you'll have mass graves.
The second order is to supply the bacteria in charge of shipping an air supply by increasing the humus in the soil. The third is to feed them. Lay out a lovely buffet of goodies and they will come.

After reading what masters these bacteria are I'm not even going to begin to take over their tasks. These bacteria are master chemists combining calcium to render phosphate soluble and available to plants. They take nitrogen from the air and transform it into a form that plants thrive on. These soil bacteria even have doctors. They call them Frankia, an Antinomycetes, that administers antibiotics when needed to the plants. The microorganisms or bacteria even have an army that keeps the bad bacteria like e-coli in shackles.
They've a perfect system. I'd just bungle things if I interferred so I'll leave them to their task and try and learn my part. It's complicated enough.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Goats Versus Cows

I'm so glad to be back blogging. I really missed it. Our computer became infected with a really bad virus and instantly after it happened, I knew it. I made a fast trip to Spearfish, South Dakota Tuesday and the computer sat in the Intensive Care Unit at Jon's until this afternoon. His experienced hands stubbornly worked until finally this morning, he was able to get a toe underneath the virus and boot it out. Thank you to all who expressed their wishes for a speedy recovery, to leave you hanging in the middle of a important point bothered me terribly but I'm back and so let's get started.

My research found a number of interesting points. First of all, I want to establish that for a small to medium size family a goat, or two, maybe even three is far more economical for them than a milk cow. I tried to find facts and figures to substantiate this but couldn't. So much of what I will list below is common sense and points made in an old copy of The Dairy Goat Journal along with my experience.

I did find an interesting article that compared a commercial goat dairy to a commercial cow dairy. Unfortunately, it diverted off on to establishing goat milk to feed goat kids versus selling the milk. The point was well made that a commercial cow dairy could sell its milk for far less than a goat dairy and I'll bring up a few of those points that they made at the end of this blog because it established some important points for those with a number of goats.

Goat versus a cow for family milk supply
1. A goat is 1/10th the size of a beef, so it requires far less feed and will milk about 1/8th the amount a cow does at a better feed to milk production ratio. For most families, a half a gallon to a gallon of milk a day is plenty for their needs so a goat could easily supply that with the top producers giving two gallons a day at their peek. A cow on the other hand gives 6-10 gallons a day. What is a family to do with that much milk? Here piggy, piggy, piggy that and raising bum calves and lambs is all I can think of. I'm not going to make that much cheese. Some people I've known milk their cow just once a day versus twice to drop the milk production but that makes the feed to milk ratio quite expensive.

2. You should dry a cow up for three months before she calves and a goat for two months before she kids. That's a month more without milk if you have a cow versus a goat. Also you could have two goats and have a steady supply of milk with them bred at different times and still have a lower expense.

3. Trimming goat hooves requires an inexpensive set of hand clippers that resembles a pair of scissors.

A milk cow requires a large turn table in which to restrain her and tip her on her side and an electric disc grinder. We use to hire a gentlemen to trim our daughter's FFA steers a month before county fair since we neither had a turn table or the knowledge. Our beef now end up in white packages at about the time their feet need trimmed. If they lived on the range, the land would naturally wear their hooves down but ours unfortunately live in a large pen. Rich feed such as grain causes accelerated growth in hooves.

4. A goat requires less pasture than a cow and a smaller pen due to the large difference in size.

The same holds true for housing so the overall cost of fencing and a building is much less.

5. Goats compact the soil less which has less impact on the land. Since goats are browser and cows are grazers, their pasture requirements are different. You may have pasture more suitable for goats than cows.

6. Goats can be transported in a van or in to a compartment that slides in to the back of a pickup. A cow requires the expense of purchasing a horse trailer.

7. Goats require less initial investment. I purchase goats from a show herd. They are culls and I pay $350 a piece, where as a good Jersey cow around here will cost you at least $1200. A cow normally has one calf but a goat usually has two kids.

8. Far more feed goes into a cow before she freshens since she is two years old when she has her first calf, where as a goat freshens when she's one. Also keep in mind that a cow is far larger so you not only have an extra year of feed you've put into her before you gain any milk but the amount of feed she eats in one year is far greater than a goat.

9. You heard of cow pies. Well, they aren't small and manure quickly fill the pen. But goat's dingleberries are small pellets that can easily be gathered with a rake and shovel. Goat's excrement doesn't draw flies as badly either.

10. Smaller amount of wormer is required for goats than cows.

12. Finnaly, this may not be considered an economic reason but for me it is. Goats don't have a long tail to swish, thereby they can't use it to sling muck in to the milk pail when their aiming for a fly. Their always aiming for a fly or just moving the air around. That's why we always tied the tail up.

In my experience, if a cow wants to put a foot in the bucket, she does. I'm not strong enough to stop her by reaching back with my arm. That's why you often see a set of hobbles on a cow dairyman's wall.

A goat on the other hand, I just lift my arm, elbow raised horizontally, and block a doe's leg from coming forward. Most of the time I can catch her before she puts her foot in the milk. It could be that I'm not as good a cow milker as I am a goat milker but I've lost less goat milk than I have cow's milk.

My back also appreciates that our goats jump up on to a stanchion and I'm sitting upright milking rather than hunched over. Economically, that saves on a lot of Advil I might otherwise be taking but then that's just me.

13. If a goat doesn't want to get on to the milk stanchion or enter the milking shed, I can man handle her if need be. Try man handling a 1300 pound or more dairy cow. In my experience if Bessy, that was the name of our cow when I was little or was it Bossy, really wants to go somewhere, Bessy does.
14. Calling all goat owners, what did I miss?---
It's when you start adding numbers that the cost difference between goats and cows change. Most of it is in the labor. A goat needs their feet trimmed far more often than a cow and you times that by the number of animals you have since a goat dairy takes far more goats to supply the same amount of milk. This holds true for udder wash and wipes, vaccinations etc. since there are more animals to tend. There are far more to attach and remove from the milking machine. Along with more animals to assist and watch when they have their young, more young to care for etc. etc. The goatworld article said it was 1.5 to 2.5 times more expensive due to labor costs to have a goat dairy versus a cow dairy. In the end, its the number of animals that makes the difference so when you start adding more and more goats you can't say your saving money over buying a cow. Time is money.

The nutritional difference between goat's and cow's milk is another matter. Goat's have the advantage hands down. I'll discuss that in another blog but first I think I'd better tend to a garden blog and a cooking blog.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sick Computer

Ah the joys of computers. I received a frantic call from my mom (this blog's creator Holly) last night telling me she had a really bad virus on her computer and she would have to run it to the computer doctor immediately. That meant she would not be able to finish the blog on dairy goats, and she felt horrible about that. The computer will be "under the weather" for about three days and then blogging will resume. Thank you for your patience. Ah the joys of technology.
Holly's daughter Toni

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Economic Reasons For Owning a Dairy Goat

The decision whether to own a Nigerian Dwarfs, a typical dairy goat, or a milk cow is always partly a personality thing. It's like the difference between dog owners and cat owners.

I'm babysitting our son's puppy, a German Wire-hair, this week and the cats and I are already looking forward to this Saturday when he leaves. He's well mannered and sweet but his hyperactivity and demand for my attention is just more than I'm comfortable giving since he spends quite a bit of time indoors.

Sir Reginal Stewart (the cat)
It's not that I don't like dogs. We've owned several but when our children came along with their many health issues, I needed a pet that was less demanding so, we switched to cats. Presently, we have two indoor-outdoor cats. They are already fed up with Bard, the puppy, jumping up and down in front of them and asking them to come play, especially our fourteen year old cat, Bridgette. And I wish the yowling and barking would cease over the whole issue. Most of all right now, I wish Bard would quit tapping the keyboard or tucking his head under my arm begging for attention while I'm trying to type this blog. Grrrr... Do I sound mean? Bard doesn't think so either.

Bard now seven months old and sixty some pounds
It's a personality thing. I require more emotional and physical space. That's partly what drove us to buy Saanens since their rather laid back and our other choice at the time was Nubians, which many of us know desire lots of attention. Some love that. My sister does but then she also owns cats and dogs.
"Bard quit tapping the keys!"
Just like cats are less demanding than dogs for care and attention with exceptions to the rule. -- If you dog owners are envisioning a cat twining around your leg wanting attention we haven't a single one, house cat or barn cat ---
"Bard quit! Please go lay down and quit resting your chin on the Enter Key.."

The same is true with whether you have a milk cow or a dairy goat. But though I love cattle and at the moment I have two beef, the decision to own dairy goats was made purely upon reviewing the facts. Goat's milk is vastly superior for human consumption than cow's milk and economically much less expensive to own a dairy goat than a milk cow.
Frothy pail of goat's milk.
It didn't hurt that the kids and I had allergies to cow's milk. Though that doesn't keep me longing to someday own a Jersey just as my husband wants a yak. Yes, you can milk a yak. They have lots and lots of cream. How willing they are to undergo the whole process is what I haven't yet found out. The point being we must all have our dreams and sometimes they come true. Who knows maybe someday I'll have my goats and Jersey and Kirk will have his yak.
It's the economic facts and the superior health benefits that keeps us milking goats rather than a milk cow. And yes, I love goats. If I didn't, it wouldn't matter how much smarter it was for us to own goats, we'd have a dairy cow.

So in part one ----
"Bard, what are you in to? Quit dragging my socks and shoes all over. Where did you get that smiley faced beach ball?" (now deflated)

Where were we? Oh yeah, in part one I'll discuss the economics of owning goats versus cows and then in another blog I'll talk about the differences in the milk. No, I haven't forgotten about the gardening.

Excuse me, things have gotten rather quiet. I wonder what he's in to now? Whew, he's back.
"Yes Bard, I love you too. Bard, let me type. -- Quit! No, I don't want to play. No! You don't fit in my lap anymore. Okay, maybe you do -- kind of."
Excuse me, I'll be back. Maybe, a rousing game of go fetch will wear him out. I can hope can't I? Then we'll finish this discussion later this afternoon.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Our Native Soil

Did you do your soil sample? If your asking what sample, I'd suggest you go back one post and read From The Ground Up or it will be like skipping the first chapter of a book.

Mine held some real surprises. Not good ones.
Because areas of the ground was muddy and I could detect dusty ground in others, I thought I could dig down four inches at least and get a soil sample. But, when I leaped upon the shovel with my chunky frame, it went doing, jarring my frame and only penetrated just over an inch into the ground. 'Great!' I thought to myself. I'd just announced to the whole world on my blog that I was doing a soil sample. I couldn't back down so if an inch was all I could get, then 1 inch was what I'd test. Besides that is suppose to be the highest in humus and the richest cream - metaphorically speaking. I even went the second mile and tested a sample with and without salt. If you haven't tested yet, definitely use the salt if you think you might have clay soil. My first sample without salt, the clay hung suspended in the water for over an hour, a murky mess. An hour and a half later, the heaviest clay layer had separated and finally the last 3/8th's of an inch settled on top. What the prairie sample told me was my garden's top soil had originally been, heavy clay, clay and clay. I hadn't been wrong when I said our top soil was only called that because it was on top. It definitely had no reference to richness.
What does this rich- lol - soil produce? This is a picture of the prairie just behind our house. As you can see a little stubby grass and shrimpy sagebrush.

Yup, not even the sagebrush grows well in this plot of ground.
How is a garden, especially one around 700 square feet going to produce anything? It won't without a great deal of help. If I'd of done this simple soil test when I first began gardening, well... I don't know what I'd have done. Sometimes ignorance can be bliss for I merrily piled on the manure and planted seeds. And though the results were pretty puny, I chocked it up to inexperience. My parents didn't have but a few garden plants most years and though my first two gardens after I was married were pretty good, I just figured my new home's soil was just going to be a little more of a challenge - what an understatement.

I tested the soil in five locations in my garden. Just the first inch and figured if I found clay it needed some serious work because the lower layers would be only worse since clay is heavier. The contrast of the prairie soil jar and the five taken from my garden was profound. I wanted to show it to you but I lost the pictures. Oh, where or where can they be? When I tried to redo the test this morning so I could take pictures, last night's dusting of snow had frozen the ground solid. Instead, I'll show you a picture of the wet prairie soil I dumped onto a wet section of garden soil.
Looks like something was sick and actually it is --the soil. Note the crack in the ground on the left hand corner. That's a sign of clay. No this isn't the best area of my garden.
I tell you what I started to do yesterday to remedy this problem in the next gardening lesson or maybe the next. This is taking longer to explain than I thought.
While I was doing more research yesterday, I came across another test for clay. You wet some soil and roll it into a ball and work it with your thumb. Now this is an area that I'm an expert in. I was the mud pie queen was I was little mixing seeds, grass, and water with mud, and sometimes rolling it out like pie dough, pretending I was cooking and canning. A lot of spoons and jars disappeared out of my mother's kitchen during this stage of development.
With so much practice my mud balls were a cinch to make. But, when I tried to stretch the clay into a ribbon with my thumb, it kept sticking. When I pulled my thumb away, it made a fairly loud sucking sound. I almost thought I had something beyond clay until a little research told me I'd used too much water. It was a long time ago that I was a mud pie queen. I guess I'm a little rusty.
This is the nicest area of my garden. See-- no cracks despite the thawing and freezing that causes soil to shrink and swell. It's not exactly rich loam, but it's not half bad. The clay isn't the dominating soil type.
This spring I'm going to do the -Shake and Settle - test (that's what I'm going to call it.) again only I'll take samples beyond an inch in depth of soil.
Next in our gardening lesson, I tell you the virtues of clay soil - Yes, there are some - and of course its draw back as if you many of you didn't already know. I'll even tell you how I made bricks while I was trying to amend the soil. And for those of you with sand I've a few things to say about it too. Some areas beyond town have pockets of sand.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

From The Ground Up

A good garden begins with the soil and few of us have the perfect combination of equal parts sand, clay, and silt, called loam. I definitely have never experienced anything remotely related to such perfection and think of Iowa when I do. Whether that is right or wrong, I don't know. I'd guess you Iowans have your share of gardening woes too but you know that the grass is always greener on the other side.

When we were first married, we grew beautiful tomatoes and cucumbers and the soil was obviously pretty good. Then we moved----. Our next garden plot was made up of almost entirely sand. Sand doesn't hold water, or the roots of plants either. Nutrients, especially Nitrogen which is water soluble, leach quickly and your plants soon starve. I added lots of manure and got by pretty good especially enjoying how quickly it heated up, a bonus in the cold northern states like Wyoming. It was also easy to weed.

In my youth, I dealt with it's larger cousin, rocks. I'd just think I'd rid the garden of the larger ones and the ground would heave in the winter time bestowing upon me a fresh crop. I remember the beating my arms and shoulders took as the rototiller tines collided and the machine shot off in the wrong taking me with it.

Then early in our marriage, we bought home and what we've dealt with the past 29 years is what I've labeled as clay. This lovely plot of ground our town resides on was originally bought by a coal mine to start a community for its workers. They purchased it cheap, real cheap, because the rancher thought it the bane of his land holdings. We weren't privy to that little bit of information when we purchased our home and never thought we'd still be living in the same house 29 years later. The dream of growing enough vegetables and canning them to keep us off the shelves in the store has been my dream, so I've fought with this wretched soil admittedly incorporating more brawn than brain. Along the way, I've made a passel of mistakes and I can give you first hand knowledge how the homesteaders in the area build sod homes. I've cemented my vegetables into the ground using several different techniques. At one time, it was my specialty. It is a curse with clay soil that as you leave your raspberries or asparagus in a somewhat fertile plot, the clay quickly works to reclaim its territory. The earth never holds still. Nutrients leach and your plants are once more mired in a waste land. I'm a specialist on the don't, but I'm hitting the books hard this winter. I've had an increasing amount of success just because I've refused to be defeated.

I've been telling you that I'm gardening in clay and I'm sure that's what I started with but technically to fully qualify your soil as clay it has to be 50% clay particles. So I ran across these simple tests and I invite you to join me. No cash is require and it ought to be enlightening. Take a handful of damp soil in your hand and squeeze it. Does it form a solid clump and can you roll it into a log between your hands and form a ribbon. That's clay which consists of very fine cohesive particles.

On the other hand when I read about silt, the next size up of particles, that sounded a bit like our soil too for when our ground is wet its slicker than ___. Well you know what I mean. My backside can attest that after a rain, the ground is like walking on an ice skating ring with slick soled shoes.

Rub some of your soil between your fingers does it feel slick? Or does it feel rough, gritty and is hard to form into a clump in your hand when damp, instead falling apart. That's sand.

What loam feels like I haven't a clue and my research didn't inform me but I think if I ever experience it, I'll know heaven when I touch it. My back section of my garden came close one year. I could burrow my fingers down into the soil and pluck baby potatoes without dislodging the plant. It was awesome. Two years later it is isn't quite so pretty. I've work to do.

The next test requires a quart sized jar. I'm getting 6 or 7 and heading outside in few moments to take samples from numerous areas of our garden. I've increased the size so many times the ground varies greatly. Join me. Grab a jar of your own and fill it half full of a sample of your garden's soil. Top off the jar with water and one Internet site said add a teaspoon of Calgon, another recommended 2 teaspoons of salt. I'm using the salt. Shake vigorously. Within an hour or two, the clay will settle to the bottom, the silt will be next and finally if you've any sand that will be the next layer. Organic matter will be floating on top.

I want to hear your results so let me know and tomorrow I'll tell you mine.

The second test requires a shovel and it's winter so I'd recommend those of you in the north wait until spring. Some already know the answer. I do. At the best of times you can't dig a hole in this ground without soaking it and digging and soaking it and digging ... It even takes a pretty stout hydraulic post hole digger to do the job and I'm not digging a 1 to 2 foot hole when I already know the answer. If you don't know how fast your water perculates through your soil, it's important, so get to digging. Pour water into your hole and if the water drains out in less than 12 hours, the soil should be able to support plants that require well-drained soil. If it takes longer, you've got clay. Pick your plants accordingly.