Thursday, July 20, 2017

Range Free Eggs

 Aye, me has plenty of blogs to write about and even the pictures too but life is throwing curve balls a mile a minute and I've not the time. So please bear with me. I'm doing me best. Today, a light hearted Irish spirited post. Me husband thought one thing and I another when I put up the sign at the end of our sun room.
I painted me chicken and wrote Range Free Eggs and he quite disagreed. I don't always do things right and maybe he would say quite often but this time I would disagree. I know that most folks write 'Free Range' but me doesn't quite understand. To me Free Range means the land does not cost. So that interpreted means land does not cost - eggs. Is one making a statement that one has free land and eggs too? As you can see I'ze a bit confundered about the whole issue. 

 So me house, me sign. Chicken, (see painted chicken) range free. In other words they roam about the place except at night of coarse or we simply would be feeding the wild beasties. Plus, they give eggs - yummy, tasty, healthy eggs. Once explained like that me husband had to quite agree. It made sense. Or is that just me way of thinking?

Of course you may add your opinion, we all have them and you may have another thought pattern instead.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A New Dish with Butternut Squash and Garlic Scapes

Look yummy? It was. Sorry, there's none left. 
but, don't worry, I can tell you just how to make it so you can have some too. This is my experimentation with Scapes, garlic scapes.

Scapes are the top seed set on garlic stalks. Garlic and I in the past have not been friends. Oh I love the stuff alright but for reasons I've not yet figured out, it either dies, or does not do so well in the garden. I'm think that I am planting it too deep. Who knows but this is the first year in which I've had garlic plants that are normal size. What is under neath has yet to be revealed but I'm hoping it is good. Outdoors may have been a bomb but I had big success indoors. The stalks came back time after time until they finally gave out. Those stalks chopped up and put in culinary dishes not only added a lovely vibrant color but flavor galore. No bulb left underneath when the tops finally gave out but a definitely worth doing again. So imagine how thrilled I was to not only to have tall garlic plants in the garden but scapes. I've read about those things and now I have my own. Now what oh what shall I do with them? I've read you use them when they curl and not before and mine are ready for something.

When I spied I butternut squash at the store, I knew this was what my first adventure with scapes should be. Raw butternut squash chopped and fried with diced onions and scapes. One of our favorites. The only hickup was when I tasted the chopped scapes. Not much flavor there.  Much more mild than my stalks from my winter garlic pot. Maybe I'd better add a little of the bottled garlic I thought or this isn't going to be what I want. Don't turn up your faces. It is the only thing I had. I've been trying to find some decent raw garlic at the store and not only is it scarce but it is all dried up too. We aren't exactly in the heart of culinary country. This only adds to my motivation to grow my own.

So get out your cast iron skillet and use whatever garlic you have. Cast iron so you can get that slightly blackened look that makes onions and garlic so yummy. When heated, add some olive oil. (I was out of ghee though that would have been better to add that buttery taste.) Then toss in the squash, two kinds of garlic or whatever you have, and onions. Cook till done and voila, the bestust thing ever. Just as a side note, I've used frozen chopped butternut squash also. Not quite as good but close. 

Since this dish is a newby for me. I'm trying to grow some butternut in the garden. That is a first too. As I stare at the shrimpy plants I'm not sure they are going to make fruit in time, or is it a vegetable? Anyway, it doesn't look promising. Nearby though is some very lovely Sugar Pie pumpkin plants in bloom.Hm.....

You know it. I'm looking up recipes for using pumpkin in the place of butternut. Did you know you can make fries with pumpkin. We love sweet potato fries. I've got to try it. And in this dish, pumpkin can be a nice substitute also I thinking. Pumpkins and squash are after all in the same family. Whatever you decide to use, give this dish a try and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Experiment With Egyptian Onions

When a Colorado friend said that I needed Egyptian Onions. I didn't have a clue what she was talking about. But since her goals are essentially the same as mine, she had my interest. Especially since I've failed miserably a number of times trying to start onions from seeds. Oh I can grow the seeds really well and collect them just fine but all the plants that come up are super spindly. I don't know what I'm doing wrong but I've done it four times now. I figure if you are going to make a mistake at least you could make a different one each time so you can learn but  yet make progress. I'm still stuck at ground zero.  That is what made this onion that keeps going on its own sound almost too good to be true. When a friend of my husband, who adores my peanut butter cookies, said he had some and offered a few plants. I figured a trade was in order. His parting words of, "Be careful or they will take over the garden." left me a bit nervous but not detoured. Was this like Spearmint?
Rest assured they are not and I've decided I want more, and more, and more of these. They really are yummy! A bit strange since they clone themselves forming multiple onion sets on the top instead of seeds but strange can be good. When the sets are too heavy to hold up, the stalk bends over allowing the new plants to touch the soil and form roots. Thus one plant becomes many more and from this propagation method comes the name walking onion. The top set of tiny onion plants gives this plant the name Top Onion and for others they may know it as Winter Onion because it is good from zone 3, which is us, to those in zone 6 where you can pick this hardy onion all year. I've read that there are differing types of these onions but then not all relatives look alike so I'm not surprised. They do all have the strange propagation method.

 With so few plants, I did not cook with any of the onions until this year mainly due to confusion on the subject. I saw lots of recipes for pickling of the little onion sets on top and learned that you pick them when they are at least a half inch in size. But seriously people, I'm not growing these things for a few tiny little onions on top so I kept researching. Meanwhile, I removed the sets off of the tops of a couple plants like you would the flower bulbs that begin to form on traditional onions. 

As I suspected, the energy in the plant went to the bulbs instead of onion top sets. In fact, they gave up growing top sets of onions all together and the bulb increased in size. Now were talking something I can really use.

How big they will get I'm not sure. Like a kid with a pocket full of candy, I had to sample. Everyone on the Internet I listened to said the onion is a bit zesty. I did not taste that. Maybe it is because we live in zone 3 and heat has a tendency to make things hotter in flavor but these onions just tasted like... onion. Maybe a hair, and only a baby hair stronger but to this onion aholic, it was yum dilly ishush. I cut up a couple bulbs and cooked part of them with potatoes. There is nothing like fried potatoes and onions. They are soul mates.

Now I'm thinking why oh why did I not clip the tops of more of the onions while the sets were just beginning to form? I think I'll pretend it is so I'll have lots and lots of Egyptians Onions to do it to next year and you can bet I will. 

As for the rest of you, you can pick the top sets if you like to pickle but it takes a whole heaping lot to amount to anything, so for me, I'm going for the bottoms. If you are harvesting enough bottoms, you can be sure these onions are not going to take over the garden and how could you not. They are too yummy to let walk away.

While I was eating the bottoms, I tasted the top sets too. One has to compare and after all it is what everyone is talking about. Very mild in flavor like I suspicioned - similar to traditional onion stalks. For me that is what this onion is missing. Good tender stalks. The mature stalks are rather tough and woody. They say you can use these onions in the early spring like bunching onions and the stalks at that stage are tender but alas, I did not. Seems to be alot of that this year.  Maybe next year I'll feel I have enough to use these as spring onions. They should be ready just about the time my stored onions run out or the last few are getting soft. How perfect is that? Thank you dear friend. These are indeed a must have for my garden. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Goat Teats

Udderly gorgeous - that's Comedy. She earned her Permanent Championship certificate in great part because of her udder. But there is more to a pretty udder when you are the one milking morning and night for 9 to 10 months. In this discussion I want to talk about teats. I've milked long ones, fat ones, skinny ones, and even ones that I had to milk with three fingers which makes it more challenging. 

Hannah, our yearling, had tiny teats when she first freshened. It was a three finger milk job so I left her doelings on her and they stretched them out. Of course my three fingers kept milking her out once a day to make sure she was emptied until the kids did their job. Then I have kept milking as the two doelings have a favorite side emptying one more than the other. Recently I've noticed that Now one teat has become longer than the other. Not quite what I had in mind. I'd say it was the kid's fault but I know better as it has never happened before and I've had dairy goats 33 years. It must be on the bucks side and something genetic. I'm not as familiar with his relatives. I'll blame on him anyway as that sounds as good a reason as any.
I always say, "Pretty is as pretty does." for I've had some goats with pretty udders that were not fun to milk and I'm not talking about their personalities. Leah was just such a goat. That girl had looks but it took all my strength to squeeze milk out of her. Not fun! It seemed like a competition between her keeping it in and my trying to get it out. Milking her took time and all my strength leaving my hands cramping and the end. The problem was orifices that were too small. An orifice is the hole in which milk comes out. You can not imagine how many times I wanted to take a hot needle and poke a bigger hole. Would it have worked? I wondered. But I'm sure Leah would never had let me come near her again.

Too big an orifice hole and the doe is susceptible to mastitis since it leaves a wide open space for bacteria to crawl inside.  Too large a teats in circumference and it is hard to grab a hold of and squeeze. It also makes it hard for kids to put the teat into their tiny mouths to suckle. Too small and the funnel has little area for the milk to pool before coming out and it takes more squeezes.
Another thing you can not tell from the show ring is the exact placement of the orifice hole. Orifices are not always placed at the bottom of the teat. If not, you have to turn your wrist so as to aim at the bucket and it takes a bit of practice. Sometimes I get a doe with just one side that goes askew, and sometimes it shoots off in odd directions on both sides. That takes a little finesse. A new doeling does not appreciate your squirting her in the leg or belly until you get the hang of it. Even when you do, you'll still mess up on occasion. I do anyway. 

You don't want a doe with teats too large because it is hard to get a good grip. Too long and they are likely to get caught on fences and rip. So like Goldilocks, "not too big and not too small" is best. It is also a bit of preference. I know people who like larger teats and as for myself I don't. My hands are small. And of course you do not want does with more than two teats. The extra or extras may not function but they might and anyway they are not a genetic trait you want to pass on. These are things one often does not pay attention to when buying a doe but since you have to deal with it so often, it pays to check it out before you hand over the money. For a little more visual reference on correct teat placement, I've added the ADGA sites page on udders. But I'm curious, what do you have in your barnyard?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Dropped Cholesterol Twenty Points Eating Lots of Meat

 We had a pleasant surprise when we went for our annual wellness check ups. Kirk's cholesterol had dropped twenty points. Twenty points lower eating approximately the same amount of meat as in  past years. I'm sure this has many of you shaking your heads in confusion because what could we have done to make this dramatic of a reduction? Simple, we lowered the amount of store chicken that was served on our table. But wait, chicken is a leaner, healthier choice- right? Not necessarily.

Chicken is leaner than beef- true. Farmers have changed genetics to where there is more muscle to fat ratio in chickens. The problem is leaner means tougher, dryer, and less flavor. Now how do you sell that to consumers? You add up to 15 to 30 percent of body weight in saltwater, corn syrup, and flavor enhancers. Unbelievably, even organic chicken is treated this way. Yes, maybe organic has less of some things but really, do you think the buyers have saltwater, sugars, and flavor enhancers in mind when they choose the organic label? No wonder everyone is saying, that tastes like chicken but what does chicken actually taste like? 

Customers want more natural foods so the industry labels the same chicken as they were selling before as natural or heritage. Marketers make a living out of bamboozling peoples emotions to sell more products. I admit, I've grown to like those giant sized chicken breasts from the store because they have been a staple of our diet so my taste buds have adapted. But seriously, when did you ever see cleavage on a hen like that? These are D cup girls were talking about that were genetically created. It is not natural in a chicken. I will have to thank our tight wad budget as it taught me a good lesson. I need to use more rabbit.  

But it makes me mad that the food industry gets away with labeling these chickens natural because there is a creative list of natural ingredients allowed. Corn syrup is on the list and pumped into your chicken. Corn syrup is made from the starch of corn with the addition of maltose. Maltose is a hydrogenated sugar that is in the alcohol sugar family. It is cheap and filled with some really scary chemicals used in its processing. My dentist tried to get me to use xylitol, the latest dream child of the alcohol sugar family. A close relative of maltose. Poor dentist, he mentioned it to the wrong patient. I did my homework on how it is manufactured and if it really comes from birch trees like he told me. Of course it ca...n, BUT, it doesn't. That would be really expensive so they use cheap GMO corn husks and chemicals galore, scary ones right up your tingle factor alley of horror shows. Alcohol sugars are hydrogenated sugar. Remember how nice hydrogenated oils are for you? When they first came out they told us that they were so much better than butter and other truly natural products. Now they say how bad they are for us but that is only after the health of millions was demaged and after they've made their millions.  

The truth is in the details because fat is not all created equally and that includes beef fat. We need a certain percentage of fat in our diet because that is part of the foundation from which hormones are created. Fat tenderizes meat. (Why is a gastronomically interesting read. Okay, maybe just for me.) Fat also gives meat flavor and moisture. Fat is good and bad. It is one of those moderation kind of things and of course some types are better for us than others.

 As I create more and more of my own products, I've come to realize just how tasteless the stores are. The real deal on food is simply amazing. People are always surprised by the difference in our meat, our buttermilk, our anything. It has such robust flavor. We just smelled our vinegar that I started six months ago. I can't believe how different it smells from the stores. It actually smells appley and yummy. But lets talk about that later.

We may not have dropped our meat consumption but we did make a conscious decision to cut dramatically down on the amount of meat we buy at the store - all kinds. It isn't like we don't have plenty of meat of our own. We even have a nice variety yak, chicken, lamb, beef, deer and rabbit but like many or should I say most, we crave certain meals for supper or breakfast and our freezer or jar supplies don't equal our desires. This year too few roasts and too much hamburger but that changes from year to year. The store has filled in. I'm almost weaned from store meat but there are areas like ham, bacon, and sausage to go. This shift away from the store is not something we can make overnight. It has been a slow process that will continue into next winter because my attitude and habits have to change. 
I'm sure we will continue to eat some chicken but as we shift more into raising a greater number of rabbits, the plan is to adapt a large portion of our chicken recipes to rabbit meat. To us, domestic rabbit tastes a bit like turkey anyway. Of course we will continue to raise a few chickens. Right now we have thirteen roosters strutting around the yard thinking they are hot stuff. They are the only ones impressed because the hens aren't. Add to the roosters a few this year's hatch hens which will not be saved for the future laying flock, and  most of the two year old hens, and we will have a bit more bone broth and canned meat. Hardly enough chicken but like I said, we are shifting our diets. The less we can purchase from the store the better. 

Did you know that once we bought a beef steak and it actually grew in size on the barbecue grill? Now something is not right there.  What do you think is fishy in the meat industry?

Monday, July 3, 2017

Goat Feed Charts

The first chart helped me evaluate goat performance on kidding and milking behavior. This next goat chart I designed is all about feed input and milk output. Grain in particular since we feed hay from large round bales and though I'd like to know how much hay we feed on average, we have no way to weigh wheel barrows of hay so we are concentrating on grain consumption.

In the past, I just fed grain equal to consumption while I was milking - hardly money saving. Goats who ate quickly received more grain than goats that savored their food. Not good for those who easily kept weight on and ate fast consuming lots of grain. Not good for the slow eaters that needed more grain to keep weight on but ate little. Belle does not keep weight on as easily and Comedy, though far larger in size, needs the same amount but is far fatter. So what is the solution? How much grain should I feed? First, I simply measured grain and watched to see how much the two does on average cleaned up in the amount of time it took for me to get them milked. It was one pound. So I fed one pound. BU...T when Belle was just enough slower that that last little bit of milking was done with restless leg syndrome in full force leaving me nervously guarding the milk pail. 
So I tried using a mixture of whole oats and whole wheat mixed in with the COB (rolled corn, oats, and barley). The volume is less because it is heavier but it solved the faster eating problem. I refuse to feed more grain since Belle is already producing two pounds of milk less than Comedy. 

Comedy was doing well with the COB but not increasing in milk production. She was milking eleven pounds before she arrived and the stress dropped her down to five and a half. Now she has dropped even further and quit eating hardly any grain at all. Her milk is dropping fast.That means I need fast action so I hit the internet as I'm wondering if she is getting enough grain. How much grain should a doe get on average for each pound of milk production?
 This website gave me an idea. If I get there formula correctly then Comedy when milking eleven pounds of milk per milking would need the maximum amount of grain recommended which is four pounds. Wow!! that is a lot of grain and money. Do I really want milk from that much grain? Of course milk from grass is far more healthier for you. I also wondered how much grain has to do with production? Of course you are what you eat whether you are an animal or human.
I looked for another site and this is what I found.
The site did not answer my question except to tell me that I should be feeding a very uncomfortable amount of grain.The first site even said up to half the feed input. No way am I doing that. Can't afford it and can't believe it is healthy for them.  BUT this site was super helpful in explaining the relationship of feed and production at different times during the does lactation cycle. I'm definitely copying it and studying it further. It is clear that feed changes need to be made in advance of periods throughout lactation because body reserves are being consumed to keep up with milk production. 

But back to solving my problem. This chart will help, maybe not right away but in time for it will show patterns I can learn from and make changes. It has the Current date, does name, how far the doe is in her lactation, type of feed or feeds being fed, how much, and amount of milk produced. Notations can be made for weather and other disturbances since heat and cold do change production amounts as well as changing milking times. I kept records for several weeks and it has helped me make changes to it so it better suites my needs. Things were the same as far as amount of grain and amount of milk production. I realized that doing it every day was not necessary. Several times a week works fine. But when I stopped for a week, or was it two, because of craziness in life, things had greatly changed .... Comedy is only picking at her grain and the milk pail shows it. 

So when we hauled the kitchen garbage to the land fill today, we went shopping for feed. I bought some beet pulp to help with the stuff. I bought some pellets that combine grain and alfalfa hay because our present bale of hay is not the best quality. I bought goat pellets. I've never used goat pellets but I thought I'd see what they do. I will mix in the remaining COB also. May be a pain to weigh each of them but what I am presently doing is definitely not working well. Since my greatest successes have been when I mix my own grain combinations then I'm going back to that.

So do you think a chart like this would help you? Any suggestions?