Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2009

A Quick Break

The writers here at Women Not Dabbling in Normal are taking a quick break to do some work in regards to the technical and writing aspects of the blog.  We hope it won’t take too long.  See you soon!

Read Full Post »

Knitting Afghans

Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by Howling Hill

When I was a kid my maternal grandmother attempted to teach me to knit. It was a catastrophe. We both got very frustrated. You see, I was trying to do what I saw her hands doing. I was sitting across from her so I attempted to move my hands in the same fashion I saw her hand moving but I was doing it backwards. It didn’t occur to either of us for me to get up and sit behind her so I could mimic her precisely.

Fast forward to 2008. I said to a woman I was friends with I wanted to learn how to knit. She had the same desire so she went and picked up some knitting needles and a book and we sat down for a weekly Knit N’ Bitch (UK Stitch N’ Bitch). Unfortunately our friendship ended but the legacy of my knitting has continued.

Now realize I’m excellent at starting projects and wretched at finishing anything so knitting has become a challenge for me in more than one way. I have finished a couple things including two baby blankets and a bunch of washcloths which was a big accomplishment. However, one of the first things I started knitting I’ve yet to complete. It’s a Hufflepuff scarf but I’ve not figured out how to attach the tassels. I don’t think I’ll wear it which is why I haven’t finished it because it’s *huge*. Anyone who’s about 6 feet can wear it with comfort but my 5’3″ frame is dwarfed by the scarf. Let me know if you want it and I’ll mail it to you otherwise it’s just going to get dusty and take up space. I’d rather someone wear it.

The biggest problem I’ve had — aside from completing projects — is learning how to read a knitting pattern. I’m still really, really fuzzy on a lot of the lingo. And since I’m not one who learns from books (I need to see something then repeat it) I’ve not advanced any further in my knitting. I’m excellent at knitting and purling but anything like a stockingette or dropping stitches eludes me still as does how to connect tassels or two squares together. But practice makes perfect, right?

I’ve started an afghan for Wolf’s niece who is getting married in May. I got the pattern free from Lion’s Brand Yarn. I am really enjoy making stuff for other people, something which comes as a surprise to me. In the past I’ve always been one to just buy something unique especially when it came to weddings. When I got married I found it was the handmade gifts which meant the most to me so I wanted to start making stuff for others in hopes my craft means more than a rice cooker (no matter the rice cooker we got is the most used shower gift). This is the first time I’m making a gift for a wedding.

I tend to write out the patterns because it confuses my brain a little less than seeing stars (*) and “rep”, etc. Basically what the * and “rep” mean is to repeat (rep) from the star. So, for example after you knit P1, K9, P9, K1, go back and repeat those same stitches. I did so four times though now I realize I should’ve done it at least six. This afghan will be long as opposed to wide because I want the married couple to snuggle under it together and as it is now it’s only big enough for one person.

Niece Blanket
This is a picture before I finished it. In the picture I was on row 120 and just started the sixth skein. I have six more skeins but I think I did ten skeins instead of twelve. I wanted it to be big enough for two to snuggle under so I had to make it long instead of wide. I would suggest adding another block or two to the width to make it snuggable.

Edited by Kathie: Pattern removed due to copyright issues.

If you decide to make this afghan please show pictures!

I have an account at Ravelry if you want to check it out. Just put “h0wlinghill” into the search function (zero not the letter O) because, for some reason, I can’t add a link directly to the page.

Read Full Post »

i have a lot of cook books floating around here. i like to have a variety of recipes to choose from. who doesn’t?

one of my all time favorites is the fanny farmer cook book. there are so many helpful tips and information in addition to the recipes. it’s quite a hefty little cook book! the pages are covered with splatters from a sloppy cook. i like how each type of meat is broken down with diagrams of cuts and descriptions of the cuts, along with the best way to prepare them. the same is done for fruits and vegetables too. it’s a cook book i highly recommend to anyone wanting to cook from scratch!

the nourishing traditions cook book is another great book that talks about preparing foods in the ancient tradition, soaking foods and keeping them alive (as opposed to just baking them such as granola which is supposed to be a no-no…we love it here so i make it anyway!). in addition to recipes, the columns are filled with customs of tribes around the world on food preparation and statistics of their health.

the sunburst family cook book is a hippy style cook book that offers alternatives to cooking with sugar and refined flour. recipes usually use honey and whole grain flour as well as other types of flours and sweeteners. it is vegetarian based.

putting it by with honey is excellent for jelly and jam recipes using honey instead of sugar. they generally turn out a bit runny but around here, sweet is sweet.

those four preside within easy reach for reference. the rest of my varied stash hang out on a higher shelf, some being rotated during the season they are needed the most:

dry it, you’ll like it! is about dehydrating just about anything, including meat.

wild fermentation is useful during harvest season to make krauts, pickles and such.

solar cooking gives me ideas during the summer on how to use my solar oven.

in addition to those perennial favorites, i have another assortment that sits even higher:

the vegetarian epicure

the vegetarian epicure, book 2

fields of greens

vegetarian times

moosewood cook book

moosewood restaurant cooks at home

the barefoot contessa

the naked chef

the little house cook book

cooking by moonlight

that is the short list! there are plenty more hidden around the house as well. the problem with that is i use maybe 1-2 recipes out of the majority of the cook books and so they sit around collecting dust and getting in my way, thus the reason they are up high on shelves.

to solve that problem, i have compiled my own cook book of sorts for my household binder. i type the recipes on a page created in word, including the source book and page number for easy reference and then print the pages out and keep them in my binder. i have 4 sections: entrees, sweets, breads, misc (sourdough, kefir, kombucha, etc). when i try out a new recipe, i’ll add it to my word document and print the page once it’s full and add it to my binder. that way, i’ve always got my tried and true recipes within reach without trying to remember which cook book i found a particular recipe in and spend half the day trying to find it. and even though i love my fanny farmer cook book, having all the recipes i truly enjoy all in my binder saves me from trying to remember the name of the recipe. i still use my fanny farmer book weekly but if there’s a specific recipe i want, i go straight to my binder. the bonus is, when i travel, i generally take my binder along since it always has travel information in it as well. so, if i’m staying away from home, i still have an arsonal of recipes at my disposal any time i feel like whipping something up. and yes, even when camping, i use it!

now that i’m organized, who’s got some more cook book suggestions for me??? what is/are your favorite cook book(s)?

Read Full Post »

Southern Fudge Pie

It’s funny that one of the easiest recipes I make is the most requested.  I’m not sure where I even got it originally, but it’s now an old standby.

I talked to my friend “L ” recently by phone long distance, and she told me she had just make 3 of “those” pies.  I said what pies are “those”?  She said, “you know…those….the fudge pies you brought me after each of my sons were born, and I still remember it to this day…heaven! ”  

24 hours of heavy labor, and the fudge pie she remembers…cool!

She continued, “You swore it was so easy, it was like 3 or 4 ingredients you just mix up and that was it, and I didn’t believe you, so you gave me the recipe.  And now we make it all the time!” 

(I won’t mention the fact neither of us are today the same weight we were back then or speculate on just how much this recipe may have figured into that…)

Another friend, “A,”  rented a room from us back in the day, and we shared a household for several months…which means all sharing a kitchen daily(which takes sharing to a whole new level!).  The transition was made terminally unbearable a bit rocky when she got up regularly at about…ohhh..FOUR A.M. (or was it five?) to run her teeth-jarring, skull-rattling, gravel-crunching whole grain through the electric grinder to make her homemade bread. 

The ACTUAL bread, later  pulled hot from the oven,  helped soothe much of the residual grumpiness emanating from the remaining non-morning-people.   Her other occasional specialty, an awesome homemade salsa made with all fresh ingredients, after a long day at work, achieved the restoration of  peace and tranquilty…until the next early morning. 

Then one day “A” got on a fudge pie kick, having hijacked my recipe and taken it to whole new levels of baking frequency.  Mi cucina es su cocina.

It happens.  Two women hardwired for chocolate, and sharing a small space. Hello, my name is Robbyn, and I’m a chocoholic.  “A” was the ultimate choco-enabler and, together, we made record time in receding all 12 steps from facing our denial ;-) 

Here’s the really simple recipe.  You may like it, or not.  But for sure your hips will remember it with great attachment! Or you may embrace your inner co-dependant and share it with friends who inexplicably eat a few bites, make embarrassing mouth noises,  and fix you with an unblinking Pit Bull glare if you seem ready to cut yourself another piece.     Just       leave      it       there…

…it’s easy enough to go make yourself another one that’s all your own to share.

If you don’t have it already, here’s the soooooo easy recipe:

SOUTHERN FUDGE PIE  <—(caps not meaning to scream, but you can scream it if you like)

2 eggs, beaten

3 Tablespoons cocoa

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 cup chopped pecans

1 unbaked pie crust (your own, or the ready roll-out sort)

Mix dry ingredients together;  Add eggs and mix with fork;  Stir in vanilla, butter, and pecans.  Pour into crust. 

Bake 350F about 1/2 hour.  Start checking it after 20 minutes — you want the filling firm in the middle but not overcooked.  Remove just after filling firms but might seem a tad undercooked…it will firm more as it cools.  Enjoy warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and roasted pecan chips, or just accompanied with an ice cold glass of real, creamy milk.

Surely this recipe must have some nutritional or anecdotal merit…I think it may well be an ancient remedy used to soothe individuals awakened perpetually-early by Hyperactive Morning People, but don’t quote me on it… 

;-)

Read Full Post »

Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by a guest writer (Eva) filling in for Gina

Hello! I am stepping aside today for a guest writer with a great topic! ~Gina

ryan

Thinking of getting animals? Think again.

By Eva

*******************************************************************************************************

Why do you want animals?

 

What type of animals, which breed?

 

Start with something easy. Easy is small, cheap, easy to fence, easy to shelter – that often means chickens or maybe rabbits.

 

Talk to someone who has the animals you are interested in. Not someone who is trying to sell you his or her animals as they have a vested interest. Once you have narrowed it down to a few types of animals talk to several people who have these types. Ask them why they chose them, what problems they have had.

 

Think the whole process through – getting your first animals, raising them, housing through the winter, dealing with predators, fencing, watering all year, selling extras, acquiring new animals, dealing with sick and dead animals, slaughter. All of this may seem intimidating. You don’t have to learn it all at once or even before you get your animals – you just have to be willing to learn. An experienced neighbor is an invaluable resource.

 

Are you allowed to keep animals on your property? Sometime zoning and/or neighbors can make it difficult or impossible.

 

Consider if you can afford the animals. Housing, feed, vet costs? For years? Animals are a long-term commitment.

 

Make sure you have fencing and housing in place before you get your animals.

 

Do you have a vet nearby who has experience/expertise in this type of animals? Lots of vets only take care of pets.

 

Where will you buy supplies? A good feed or hardware store nearby makes keeping animals easier.

 

Sharon has an excellent run down on which types of livestock to get “Little Livestock for Urban and Suburban Gardens” http://sharonastyk.com/ February 12th, 2009

 

Things to consider when choosing a breed

 

  • Is it a healthy breed?

 

Babies/birthing

Does the breed you are considering have easy births and are they considered to be good mothers? It’s a lot easier for an animal to mother and feed her young than for you to do it.  Multiple births are often touted as being more productive, but can lead to more problems.

 

Size

Giant or tiny breeds tend to be inbred and may have health problems. Also consider what size animal you are comfortable working around. Here we have a farm rule – no animal that we can’t comfortably wrestle to the ground. I’ve heard other people say: “no one shits bigger than me on this farm”.

 

Breed diseases

Is this breed known to have any diseases?  What about pests and parasites?

 

  • Is it a common breed?

 

How hard is it to find more of this breed in your area? Unusual or exotic animals may be good or seem like fun but when it comes time to replace a few animals you’ll be glad not to be shipping animals across the continent. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider only the most common breeds. Pockets of different breeds exist in different place. Again look around.

 

  • Feed

If you can add an animal to your mix that eats the same feed as the animals you already have you have less to keep track of. Or if you keep animals that can eat a food resource that is currently wasted or not fully utilized. Consider the cost of feed and if you can grow some or all of it yourself. Where will you store the feed? Think about making your storage vermin proof.

 

  • Yield

Is it a high producing breed? Do you want a lot of milk, meat? Consider that animals that are bred to be very productive often have problems. All that “extra” often comes with a cost – more difficult births, higher feed consumption, more illnesses. Consider whether it is worth getting several animals that produce less, rather than a one high producing animal.

 

  • Do you like them?

Chose both a breed and a type of animal that you like. This may seem obvious but it makes chores easier. It’s a lot easier to tend your animals well if you genuinely enjoy being with them. If you think they are ugly, mean, or smell bad you are less likely to take good care of them.

 

  • Do you have helpers?

Other family member who are willing to help take care of the animals? Neighbors who can look after them for a day if you need/want to go away?

 

Eva dabbles in gardening and food activism. I have also mastered the following rural skills: sheep shearing, baking in a wood cookstove, using a chainsaw, making do and being satisfied with what I have.

Read Full Post »

I have come across another article from an old Organic Gardening Magazine ( September 1975 –authored by Jane Nordstrom) and thought that I would type it out for you all this week.
Maybe some of you have heard of this…but in my many years of bread making and doing self sufficiency this was the first I had come across in some detail the idea of using malt for my bread in place of sugar. Most recipes seem to substitute malt for some of the sugar and then either use (still) a bit of refined sugar or a substitute like honey or molasses. Personally honey or molasses in my “regular” bread is not my favorite anyway—though I know many enjoy it for their selves. And though I don’t have pictures for you since I am just trying it myself as of this weekend I am adding some links for you to research this further. This idea seems to have been popular in the 70′s. This one I am re typing from OG is, as far as I have found, the earliest reference still around though.
Hope you all enjoy it.

Diastatic Malt – The Secret of Sugarless Bread
Better bread, higher in protein, lower in cost, uses an Old World yeast food that makes sugar unnecessary.

Professional bakers in Europe have an ingredient in their yeast breads that is virtually unknown to home bakers in the U.S. It is a unique yeast food and bread improver called diastatic malt.
You may have noticed that most recipes for yeast breads call for a small (sometimes not so small) amount of sugar, even for those breads which are not meant to be sweet. The purpose of the sugar is to feed the yeast and increase its gassing power. Sugar, because of its ability to caramelize, also makes the crust brown. But these are the sum of sugar’s virtues in bread, and we all know about its manifold vices.
People who are concerned about nutrition often substitute honey or molasses, which perform the same functions of feeding the yeast and browning the crust. But more effective still is diastatic malt. Not only does it do everything sugar does, it has other significant qualities. Diastatic malt is full of enzymes and vitamins which increase bread’s nutritional value. In addition, the catalytic action of these enzymes on the yeast and flour improves both flavor and appearance of the loaf, fosters a finer texture, and helps the bread stay fresh. Is it any wonder the travelers remark about the superiority of bread in Europe?
Just what is diastatic malt anyway?
That was my question when I first learned about it in a letter from my daughter who was apprenticing in a Swiss bakery. I remembered seeing cans of Blue Ribbon Malt on grocery shelves when I was a child, but I had no idea what malt really was nor where it came from. I thumbed through every cookbook I had, but found no reference to diastatic malt. Most cookbooks don’t mention malt of any kind, except possibly a passing reference to malted milk. Even the dictionary referred to malt only as a “germinated grain used in brewing and distilling. “
I took the dictionary’s lead and began reading books on beer making. That is how I discovered what malt really is. It is sprouted grain ( usually barley) that has been roasted and ground. It is then dissolved in water and filtered to remove the husks and bran, after which it is reduced to a syrup or dehydrated to make a powder. I also learned that DIASTITIC malt, unlike conventional malt, has been dried and processed at a low temperature (under 170 degrees) so that its special enzymes are not destroyed by heat. Much later I learned form my daughter that these enzymes have the power to transform the starch in flour into maltose and dextrin – yeast foods which assist in the fermentation process. These enzymes also help in the production of soluble proteins for the yeast’s use.
After checking several sources I was finally able to obtain some diastatic malt syrup at a beer supply store, and thus began an adventure in baking bread with malt rather than sugar. The bread was great. The problem was that the malt syrup was so thick and unmanageable it was a nuisance to use.
At about that time my husband happened to be reading a book on Mesopotamia. In it was a detailed description of how the people of those ancient times made malt for their alcoholic beverages by sprouting barley kernels and then drying them in the sun. That is when I made the critical connection. Malt was not so exotic after all. I had been sprouting mung beans in my kitchen for years. Why not sprout barley as well and carry it two steps further – dry the sprouts and grind them? There would be no need to filter out the husks and bran since my malt was to be ground and made into bread rather than beer.
The problem was where to find the grain. Hulled barley would not sprout and there was no unhulled barley anywhere. I searched through health food stores in New York City and wrote many letters to organic grain suppliers, but to no avail. Finally in an encyclopedia, I learned that malt can be made from wheat as well as barley, and that the enzyme action is the same.
For several years now I have been making my own diastatic malt with wheat berries. They are available at any health food store. I am convinced that diastatic malt makes the subtle difference between a good bread and a great bread.
Used in place of sugar, honey or molasses in any yeast bread recipe, the action of the diastatic malt is so powerful that only a small amount is needed. One teaspoonful will be enough for a batch of dough yielding three to four loaves. A little more won’t hurt but use restraint. Once you have made your own diastatic malt and see how easy it is, you may be tempted to simply dump it into the dough, believing that “more is better.” It is true that diastatic malt is richer in nutrients than the grain it was made form. However, if used in excess it will overwhelm the yeast (give it indigestion, so to speak). This will cause a breakdown in the texture of the loaf during baking and will yield a sweet, sticky fiasco.
For those who do not wish to make their own, Schiff Bio Food Products, Inc. makes a dehydrated diastatic malt called Dimalt ( This company no longer makes this product—you can find malt through King Arthur Floors now).

How to Make Your Own Diastatic Malt:

Place on cup of wheat or barley berries in a wide- mouth glass jar and cover the top with a pieces of nylon net or cheesecloth, secured with a rubber band. Pour 4 cups of tepid water into the jar through the net and let the grain soak for about 12 hours or over night. Drain off the water from the swollen grain (save the water for bread liquid, soup stock, or for watering your house plants—it’s full of water-soluble vitamins and minerals.) Pour more tepid water into the jar, shake gently, and drain thoroughly. This rinsing and draining keeps mold from forming on the sprouts. Keep the jar near your kitchen sink and repeat the rinsing, shaking and draining three times a day for two days or until the little shoots are about the same length as the grains. There will also be tiny white rootlets. The temperature of your kitchen will determine the length of time required.
When the sprouts have reached their proper length, rinse and drain once again and arrange the sprouts evenly in thin layers on two large baking sheets. Place them in an oven at a temperature no higher than 150 degrees. The sprouts should be dry in 8 hours or less. They’ll give off a delightfully sweet, earthy fragrance as they dry. Or you can air-dry them by placing the baking sheets in a warm place, preferably in the sun, for several days until they are thoroughly dry. Then grind the dried sprouts to a fine meal or flour in a an electric grinder or blender. This amount will yield one cup of diastatic malt – enough for up to 150 loaves of bread. Store malt in a tightly closed glass jar in the refrigerator or freezer. It will keep indefinitely.

Whole Wheat Bread:

2 cups water
1 tsp diastatic malt
2 tablespoon yeast or 2 packages
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (olive is good but others can be used)
2 teaspoons salt
5 cups whole wheat bread flour.

Since I am retyping this out I am going to leave you to figure out how to make the bread. Simple instructions can be found most anywhere. Below are some links to take you to some other interesting places. As I said in the beginning: Enjoy. Oh yes…have a great week too.

http://www.radicalfrugality.info/homemade-diastatic-malt.html

http://www.sugaraddict.com/Bread_Recipes_2.html

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/1979-09-01/Sugar-Free-Bread.aspx

http://abrfaq.info/treatise/195

Jane Nordstrom also wrote a few books. One deals specifically with this subject and is called “ The Barmy Bread Book”. You MAY be able to find it. Search hard — there are copies out there for under $25 dollars if you would really like one.

Lastly as an addendum to a previous article on pressure canning I did on January 19th,2009 (http://womennotdabbling.wordpress.com/2009/01/19/pressure-canners-and-all-their-uses/)
I wanted to add this link that I found by searching through the radical frugality link above:
http://missvickie.com/recipes/recipeframe.html –loaded with pressure cooking recipes, times and information.

Read Full Post »

Soup Pantry

We eat a ton of soup in the fall and winter months.  It’s comforting, easy, nutritious, and frugal.  In order to keep the soup flowing, I keep a well-stocked soup pantry and rarely follow a recipe.  Keeping your pantry stocked and full makes it much easier to throw together a quick and delicious soup in no time.

  • Save your bones, all of them in the freezer until you gather enough to make stock.  Keep different containers for poultry, beef, fish, pork, etc.  After your meals, put the bones in the appropriate container and when full make up a pot of stock.
  • You can save your veggie peelings for stock as well, though most folks probably use that for compost.
  • Save leftovers in another container in the freezer, as well.  Bits of leftover meats, veggies, legumes, and grains make a soup truly grand and stretch your dollars even further.
  • Keep your pantry stocked with canned and dried items to add flavor and substance.  Think vegetables, dried mushrooms, herbs, spices, and more grains.
  • Keep onions and garlic on hand, they can punch up the flavor of anything.
  • Canned tomatoes are usable in so many ways for chilis, soup ingredients, and a quick blend turns them into a wonderful soup base if you’re wanting something a little different than your usual chicken broth.
  • Most importantly keep permission on hand.  Permission for yourself to be daring with your ingredients, permission to combine things that you haven’t seen in a cookbook or on a blog.  Remember to use the ingredients that you and your family enjoy and get creative in making that soup.

Round out your soup meals in a variety of ways to keep it truly filling and slightly more substantial.  Homemade and/or store bought breads, biscuits, crackers, and/or croutons make a delightful addition to soup.  Shredded cheese can add tang, salt, and flavor when sprinkled on top of some soups.  Even tortilla chips or strips can add crunch and variety to the same old soup. 

Remember permission to be daring and different will get much futher than 100 soup cookbooks.  Mostly enjoy, sample, and try again and again.

Read Full Post »

butchering
Red only added for the drama of it all

Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by emphelan of A homesteading Neophyte

I have been pondering today’s subject for awhile now. How should I approach the subject of home butchering without offending people? Then it hit me, I never cared if I offended most people, of course there are always exceptions. I still see the wisdom in approaching Butchering in a sensitive manner. On A Homesteading Neophyte I give me readers a couple days advanced warning. I realize that there are people out there that do not wish to hear or see the subject. I use to be one of those people. I was a vegan for 15 years. Things changed for me. But I will not and have never pushed my ideals onto anyone, be it carnivore, omnivore or herbivore.

When it comes to home butchering, I feel that anyone that eats meat should participate in the practice at least once. Many people spout about knowing where their food comes from, but in reality, they only know that it was raised in a certain area. To truly know your food, you must witness the evolution of your food, from birth to death. And to truly respect your food, and to be more gracious for it, you need to get your hands dirty.

I will not get into details of butchering here, in respect for the WNDN readers. I will link you about to various post covering the how-to’s of it. But be forewarned, those posts are graphic in their details and their content.

It is difficult to butcher your first time. It is emotional and you almost feel like it is wrong, until you realize that you already have a freezer full of meat. You come to respect the animals for their lives and their deaths. My first time was difficult, I was a suburban girl, these things were for the uneducated back woods people to do, not me. But it is a huge part of the journey to self-sufficiency. (vegans excluded) Don’t allow anyone to tell you that it isn’t. It might not be a requirement, and it isn’t about having to, it is about needing to.

You do bond with your animals on a homestead. You are dealing with them one on one on a daily basis. They look to you for food, and comfort. But raising livestock of any size will lead you eventually to the need of butchering. Usually when you have too many roosters in the bunch.

There are many local lockers in every one’s area that will butcher for you for a price. And I am not saying that it is wrong to do this. Having a locker do it saves you time, and keeps it out of sight out of mind. Call around, see who has the best prices, find people that have used their services and check to see their USDA inspection is as current as possible. Also make sure you have a list of the things you want back from your animal. If you leave anything out of that list, they will not give it back to you.

Now for the home methods. My first suggestion is that if you can find someone that has done it before, that is willing to help you, grab them. If not, if you like my ‘stead have to go about it alone, grab your favorite homesteading book (most should cover butchering in them). Be prepared for mistakes. Your first time will not be easy. And we find that peppering it with humor helped us on our journey.

If you are interested here is a list of links that will take you to various animals, and our first time doing it. And remember, it does get easier each time, so don’t give up out of frustration. (and believe it or not, these links are my most popular posts)

Chicken

Duck

Turkey

Goat

Pig

Fellow blogger Applehead has a good post on his first time with Rabbits. Warning, video.

Read Full Post »

//s5.tinypic.com/eg1zq8.jpg" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>

When people start making plans to move to the country or to grow more of their own food, many start planning to bring a family cow into their lives.   A pastoral scene is etched in the minds of many homesteaders, and that picture usually contains a contented cow grazing lush pastures, and the cow comes when you call, and calmly lets her milk down for you, and you easily milk her and carry your foaming milk bucket to the house.  There your rosy faced children greet you, and open the door for you, and you tend to your milk.  After that, you don your prettiest apron and make butter, and all kinds of cheeses.   That is all in the morning.  Repeat in the afternoon, leaving out the butter and cheese part.  I know, I’m being mean, it doesn’t really work like that.

It can come close though, (except I don’t wear aprons, unless I’m playing dress-up) if you truly want a family cow, and all she can provide for your family.  You will be rewarded with a close relationship with an animal, plenty of fresh milk for all kinds of dairy products, and a calf that will grow into a future cow, or beef for your freezer, and the best fertilizer (according to Steiner) for your garden.

What your cow expects in reward is grass to graze, fresh water, minerals,  some grain or root crops to supplement her while she is lactating, comfortable housing, and daily kind care taking from you.  She expects you to buy the best hay for her that you can buy, not the cheapest or best deal.  Cows can get by on cheap feed, but it will cost you in the long run.  

WHERE TO BUY A COW?

Family cows can be scarcer than hens teeth.  Ask around, the local Weston Price chapter may have information on raw milk producers who are selling a cow or know of someone who is.  If possible, try to avoid the auction barn, usually a cow there will have health or behavior problems, she is a cull, that’s why she is there.

If you want to treat a cow organically, check organic dairies.  If you practice Western veterinary medicine check conventional dairies.  Dairies may have a cow that doesn’t produce enough for fluid milk sales, but will give plenty for a family cow.  The dairyman will probably give you an idea too, about the cow’s manners.  You are looking for a gentle, inquisitive cow.  Not one that blows snot when she sees a human. 

Craigslist, feed store bulletin boards, 4-H clubs are also good places to check.

BREED?

I’ll leave that one up to you.  Popular breeds are Jersey, Milking Shorthorn, Dexter, Guernsey, Holstein, and crossbreeds of any of the above.  Some breeds have higher butterfat, some give more milk, some are small, and some are large.  And be prepared if you start asking, people will tell you that you HAVE to get the breed they have because… .  I won’t list the reasons, the more questions you ask, the more questions you will have.  A lot of it depends on availability, you may have your heart set on a sweet doe eyed  Jersey, but you just can’t find one that fits your criteria. 

HOW MUCH SHOULD I PAY?

That depends on how bad you want a cow.  Registered stock costs more.  Grade animals and crossbreeds will cost less.  A quick check on Craigslist today showed Jersey’s going for $1500.00.  One had a sketchy sounding life in the ad, and one sounded like the cow had been managed well.  If you buy from a novice, you may not get the whole story on the cow because the seller really does not know what to look for in the way of problems.  If you buy from an experienced person you  may not get the complete story either, there may be something to hide.  Ask why the cow is being sold.  There are no lemon laws to protect you from a bad cow deal.  You have to be informed. 

And remember no matter how sweet the cow is, and how much you want her, if you have to sell her because of problems – she will only be worth what she brings at the auction barn.  In other words, cow price at the stockyards, usually about $.50 a pound.  If your cow weighs 900 lbs, you can plan on selling her for $450.00.  Then subtract commission fees, hauling fees and heartache – you don’t end up with much. 

If she gets sick and needs certain drugs, she can’t be sold into the food chain and must be put down.  Depending on where you live, you may have to pay a renderer to come and get the carcass.  Or you may do the deed yourself, and bury the cow if the laws in your state allow it.  Just some things to think about, before bringing home Bossie.

DO I HAVE TO MILK EVERY DAY?

Yes, and most of the lactation twice a day.  I share the milk with my cow’s calf, so when the calf gets old enough to take one of the milkings, I let the calf milk.  I keep the calf separated and let the cow and calf together at milking time only, then separate again.  Before turning the cow out I make sure the calf has drank all the milk, if not, I finish the job.  Leaving milk  that has been let down, in the udder, is a sure way to get an infection going.  Mastitis can be hard to treat, so if you can prevent it, your milking life will go easier.

DO I REALLY HAVE TO HAVE PASTURE?

Well, I’m going to say yes, because that is the natural feed for cattle, with a little browse mixed in.  You can purchase all the feed your cow will need, if you don’t have pasture, but that is how confinement dairies work, and we all know how good that works.  We have more and more medicine to treat livestock with these days, and the livestock is sicker than ever.  The idea of having fresh milk is more than the milk itself.  The life the cow leads is important too. 

I would say if you have to buy a good portion of the feed, you may as well get your milk from the store. 

CAN I SELL MY SURPLUS FRESH MILK?

In most places NO.  You can’t advertise.  You can give it away, or sell it as pet food.  But the easiest way to sell your raw milk, is to feed it to a pig or two and sell the pork, or just raise the pig for your own consumption or for barter.  Perfectly legal, and tasty too!

DOES THE COW HAVE TO HAVE CALF TO GIVE MILK?

Yes, and if they are healthy they should have a calf every year.  And be prepared, you will have to possibly end that calf’s life at some point.  If it is a heifer (girl) and you want to increase your herd she may get a bye.  If the calf is a bull, he can grow up to be your meat supply.  He will have to be castrated, and that will make him a steer and a little easier to manage than a young bull.

WHAT ABOUT BREEDING?

You can rent a bull, or have Artificial Insemination done.  The old fashioned way (bull) works the best, but there isn’t always a bull available.  Artificial Insemination can give you a purebred replacement for a good price if that is the way you want to go. 

IS IT WORTH IT?

You’re asking the wrong person!  Of course I will say it is worth it, I love cows.  But yes, a cow will provide you with enough manure to compost for a 1/2 acre garden.  She will provide you with milk, and a calf for beef and this is every year. 

But this is a personal choice, and a huge monetary and time consideration, so make sure all family members are involved in the decision - and happy milking!

Read Full Post »

dscn18692

the washing area next to the back porch, complete with hot and cold running water.

although i have a washing machine, i had the opportunity to try first hand doing all my laundry without it for 8 months. our washer broke down and for one reason or the other, no one bothered to examine it for that long. i purchased and acquired a few items in my quest to make this chore as streamlined as possible.

first off, i bought a glass washboard and metal plunger. why glass for the washboard? glass seem to be more durable than the metal ones and they seem to be gentler on the clothes. i reserved this for really heavy, grimy stuff that needed a good scrubbing to get clean.

as for the plunger, i have read you can use an ordinary toilet plunger and get nearly the same effect but the metal one has some fancy construction to it that allows air into it while it plunges into the clothing, helping to blast out dirt from clothes.

to begin with, i used both of these inside in our bathtub. i put about an inch of water into the tub along with a teaspoon or so of detergent, added the cleanest clothes first, rolled up my skirt hem, took off my socks and started stomping and plunging. after several minutes of this, most were clean. i’d wring them out and throw them into a laundry basket and grab the next set of the next dirtiest clothes and repeat. once i got through my stack, i’d scrub anything that was still showing dirt with the washboard. if anything needed to soak longer, i’d transfer it to the sink for soaking. then, i’d drain the water and start over, this time without the addition of detergent. i usually had to do the ‘rinse’ cycle a few times just to get all the dirty water and detergent out of them. then, i’d hang them on the line to dry.

this eventually evolved to outside using a double wash basin. of course, i couldn’t jump in there anymore, but having the plunger waist high made it a lot easier to do the job. about this time, i purchased a wringer that mounted between the two basins. while i LOVED the wringer, it saved me from so much pain with my hands, it started falling apart at the clamps and started rusting in areas. not cool for an item i paid over $100 for. so, i sent it back and never purchased another one.

one washer i’ve always coveted but never could fork out the money for is the james washer. with the wringer attachment, it will agitate and wring out your clothing for very little effort on your part. if we ever lose this washer and decide not to get a front end loader, i’ll be investing in this instead.

after awhile of washing all the clothes and diapers by hand, i decided i’d like to try the wonder clean washer. this little thing will hunt! while it can’t tackle the larger items, it is super for smaller items. i used it to wash diapers, wipes, shirts, socks and undies, even a few skirts and shorts. fill the washer with the amount of items to be washed, add up to 6 quarts of hot water, a teaspoon or two of detergent, place on the lid (this can be tricky, make sure you get it sealed. i found that standing on a stool above it and applying my body weight helped to to get it to close properly), and start cranking. once the drum gets going, it is super easy to continue the spin. i’d just watch the clock and spin it the recommended minutes, stop it, drain it into the kitchen sink and rinse the clothes in the other side with a bit of water.

all these methods were eventually used in conjunction with each other. over time, i learned what worked best for what items. for instance, it’s easier to wash towels, sheets and blankets in the bathtub although wringing them out by hand is very hard. having two people to do this job makes it easier. each person grabs the opposite ends and then one holds their end while the other twists or they both twist in opposite directions. jeans, shirts and long skirts are best washed in the double basin washtub with the plunger. smaller hand towels and wash cloths wash well in here as well. and, as i mentioned above, the smaller items wash up quick in the the power washer.

towards the end of my tour of laundry, i purchased an old electric maytag washer and wringer. (i know, it’s electric but i figured i’d give a shout out to this amazing washer that can be purchased for about $20).  to this day, i prefer that to my other electric washer and i hope to have it running again this spring (the hose came unattached and had rotted through. i’ve never had clothes clean so thoroughly as using this thing. and the wringer is amazing at getting the water out. i wish it had a hand crank option so i could use it with the double basin! it handled large loads well and washed things quickly, without all the whistles and bells of the modern washer. the woman i bought it from only did so because she was elderly and her husband was in a wheel chair and could no longer help her with the maintenance of it. and, she had gotten her thumb caught in the wringer and almost tore it off so he didn’t want to risk that anymore (the wringer can be extremely dangerous, if you get one, always, ALWAYS keep children away from it and pay attention to yourself).

i look forward to hand washing our laundry again some day…when there are less kids, less diapers and less clothes!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 354 other followers