Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

The goat lady – my new party trick. February 28, 2011

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Politics — realfoodmama @ 12:39 pm
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Got goat?

There are days when I am pretty sure I don’t get out enough, but this weekend I was able to sneak away from my maternal and farm related responsibilities and attend the 30th birthday party of a close friend of mine. I love her parties because there is always great food and interesting conversation, however I seem to be the recently elected expert on all things goat. In fact, at the most recent event the host literally dragged me over to a complete stranger and announced that I “had goats too, you two should talk.”

I don’t really mind talking about my livestock, and given that many of the folks at these parties are hardened foodies who are highly concerned about food politics, local sourcing and re-connecting with our food it seems only natural that they would want to know more about my goats and how it is that I am able to have the animals in the city limits. The really great thing is that there were some other folks at the party who also have goats and we were able to discuss the upcoming kidding season and whether or not my goat is actually pregnant – which I am not sure she is, honestly…but that is another post.

The wonderful thing is that when I am with the food community here I feel as though they are receptive to information about my urban homestead. They want to know what my goats are like and they think it is awesome that I have chickens too. I suppose if I had an audience that was slightly less receptive I might be less comfortable talking about it. I mean, no one wants to be known as “that crazy goat lady”. In fact one of the things I like so much about Santa Fe is that it is incredibly receptive to backyard livestock and in fact, sees it as the norm. Perhaps it is the Hispanic population component or the fact that Santa Fe is a 400 year old settlement, or maybe it really is just due to the fact that it is the City Different. In either case, I am not complaining. I love that I can have my animals without worrying about the legalities or getting permits or having neighbors think I am crazy. I am hopeful that with the urban homesteading movement and with the desire to get back to real food that more places around the country will adopt the same lenient policies as Santa Fe.

Until then, however, I think it is important to work with our neighbors and legislators in order to make them understand that backyard chickens really are the best thing for everyone *wink wink*.

Happy Eating!

 

So Long, Fresh Milk January 27, 2011

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Raw Goat Milk — realfoodmama @ 11:12 am
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Eek!

This week is the week I am going to finally dry up my poor goat. She has given me copious amounts of liquid white gold for nearly a year now, but the continued lactation is finally taking a toll on her. She is skinny, she dislikes getting up on the milk stand, frequently kicks at me and generally looks annoyed whenever I come down to the pen with the milk pail in hand.

I am anticipating a long dry spell this year. My Nubian didn’t get bred until November so she is not due until April. That means I am looking at at least two months of milklessness (yes I realize that isn’t a word). In an effort to alleviate the horror of it all, I made a gallon of kefir yesterday in order to continue to bake and make pancakes. I suppose I will just have to give up on alfredo sauce altogether. The household will continue to purchase yogurt as the primary eater of yogurt hates the flavor of goat anyway (sorry to out you mom!) and we always have half and half about for coffee and such for a similar reason. I suppose I can resign myself to putting half and half in my tea if I must.

The alternative, of course, is to buy raw goat milk from a friend or the farmer’s market but that really just get’s my goat, so to speak. I hate buying it when I actually own the animals! Regardless, I think my girl will be much happier when she no longer is obligated to feed us. She needs a nice long rest to put on some fat and enjoy life before I get her impregnated this fall.

 

Knocking up a goat October 15, 2010

Filed under: Animal Husbandry — realfoodmama @ 3:04 pm
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One of the largest commitments I have made towards having a more healthy food supply is the purchasing of two dairy goats. Goats are great animals, require much less space than a dairy cow and, at least in my opinion, have much better personalities. They are incredibly smart (mine frequently escape their locked pen), curious, playful animals and I personally believe that the world would be a happier place if people participated in daily goat watching activities.

Additionally the benefits of raw goat milk are numerous. Goat milk is much easier to digest than cow’s milk as the fat molecules are smaller and more easily broken down. Lactose is still produced, however there is evidence to suggest that other factors minimize the effects, such as certain anti-inflammatory properties of goat’s milk which minimize the immune response. Additionally goat’s milk has a higher calcium and phosphorus content than cow’s milk. Calcium and phosphate join in the body to assist with bone mineralization, however calcium can also help with other physical ailments such as migraine headaches and pre-menstrual cramps.

Lastly, and most importantly, goat milk does not taste like goat cheese. While it has a different flavor from cow’s milk, it does not have to taste at all goaty, especially if chilled immediately after milking.

All this is a very long lead up to the fact that I need to get my goat pregnant this fall so she can have milk next spring! Goats need to be pregnant in order to produce milk (unlike chickens who will lay eggs regardless of the presence of a male) and in order to get pregnant I need to take my girl on a date.

I am frankly totally freaked out about it for a couple of reasons. Last year, when I got my other goat pregnant, I took her back to the breeder I bought her from in order to get her knocked up and she lived with them for a full month. I have elected not to take my goat to the same location this year primarily because it is very far away and I can’t have my goat gone for that long.

So instead I had to advertise for buck services (male goats are called bucks, females called does…similar to deer) on Craigslist and am sort of walking into the situation blind. I have asked a lot of questions and generally feel like the breeder knows what he is talking about, but I have never seen his set up and am worried my sweet girl will be knocked around, mistreated, or injured. There is also the possibility that she won’t even get pregnant!

Suffice it to say all of this really makes me wish I had the space for a buck of my own. It really isn’t practical since I only have two girls and I am hardly making money off of them so a buck would just be an expense, unless I rented him out for breeding purposes. However I really don’t have the room as a buck can get very stinky when in rut and I wouldn’t want it to affect the flavor of the milk.

So basically I am at the mercy of other buck owners. I am sure that everything will be fine, but in the event I don’t like the looks of the buck, or the set up or anything I have no qualms about backing out of the agreement and going with someone else. So wish me luck and lots of goat fertility!

 

Chickens, gardens and goats oh my! April 17, 2010

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Home Economics — realfoodmama @ 5:19 pm
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Tomato seedlings - Black Krim

Things here have just been crazy. So much so in fact that I barely have time to cook, much less write about it.

In the past three weeks we have planted our salad garden, built a chicken coop, welcomed two baby goats and a dozen chickens into our household and have started a variety of seedlings. Things are all going very well with the exception of the eggplant. For some reason none of the seeds sprouted and I admit to being pretty upset about this given that eggplant seeds can take nearly two weeks to germinate and they need to be about a month along before you can transplant them outside. So if we replant the seeds this weekend, the mature plants won’t be able to go out for six weeks which is nearly a full month after the last frost date here.

I am determined, however, to grow them so even with the late start I am hopeful we will get some fruit this season.

On a brighter note, the tomato’s are doing absolutely fantastic and I am hoping another two weeks in the solarium will really get them going. In addition to tomatoes and eggplant, we also did some Ancho chili’s and will be doing tomatillos tomorrow. We will also be planting some new raspberry bushes, since we killed our last year when they got placed next to the potatoes, a grape vine (yippie!) and a couple of new trees, including a peach. We will see how that does here, as it was a gift and not purchased locally.

Our spinach, lettuce, cress, arugala and the first round of peas are all sprouted and doing very well outside, and all of the trees are flowering, although the apricot buds are already blown which is rather bizarre.

Apricot tree

The baby goats are getting enormous and are taking pretty much all the milk mom has for themselves. Any attempt to milk her at this point is met with an empty udder and much exertion on my part. Tonight is the first night they will be separated from her, however, so I am hopefully that tomorrow morning I will get a lot. We shall see…she is incredibly hard to milk.

On another goat related note, my Nubian lost a horn today while trying to prove her dominance and although she is slightly bloody she seems otherwise uninjured. For those of you readers who are not goat owners, she didn’t lose a big horn, she has what the goat world calls scurs, and these are remnants of an improper disbudding or horn removal at a young age. They tend to be less well attached than the real thing. Aside from being kind of gross, she seems unfazed by it so that is good.

As for the chickens, I think we have one rooster and eleven hens. The reason I think this is due entirely to the fact that one of them is getting a very red comb and none of the others are. I could be totally mistaken however, as I know next to nothing about chickens. However, if I am correct, not only will we be getting a huge number of eggs, but we also may have the opportunity to allow the hens to brood, resulting in chicks next spring!

That is pretty much all that is happening here at the urban farm. I am hoping that once the livestock issues settle themselves and we get back into a routine that I will be able to focus, once again, on cooking and eating. Until then however, here is a nice shot of the greenery in my solarium!

Happy Eating!

Plants

 

Spring time is busy! March 31, 2010

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Home Economics,Real Food Wednesday — realfoodmama @ 11:34 am
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The last two weeks have been very busy here at my pseudo urban farm. One of our milk goats kidded, resulting in two adorable (but sadly useless) male kids, we got our pullets (baby chicks) and have been working on their permanent home – they are currently in my bathroom – and we have been planting and waking up our gardens and trees.

A lot of work!

It has been relatively rewarding, although I admit to being pretty disappointed about the fact that my Saanen doe gave us two boys. I had hoped to keep at least one girl, but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. While the boys are cute and quite playful and exceptionally fun to have around, they can’t stay long and I have been having a hard time deciding exactly what to do with them.

First, the reason we have to get rid of them. Adult bucks (i.e. unaltered males) smell terrible and if they are too close to your does, your milk and everything you make with it will also smell terrible. In order to keep a buck you really need about 30 yards of space between your girls and your boys and frankly, I don’t have the room. Secondly, I don’t want to feed them. Even if we altered them and ended up with a wether (castrated male) I couldn’t afford to keep him.

That being said, I am soft-hearted enough to dislike the idea of selling them to someone who may use them in a rodeo (or generally not take care of them) so I have been toying with the idea of hanging onto them until they are about 3 months old and then eat them.

The rest of the family has seriously mixed feelings about this idea and as of yet, it has not been confirmed.

In addition to the goat news, we also have a dozen Barred Rock pullets in my bathroom – not the ideal spot for 12 small chickens! The weather has been too cold at night still for them to go outside so until their coop is completely finished and set up with a light, they will live in the bathroom.

Lastly, the garden is really exciting so far this year. The garlic we planted last fall has sprouted and is doing very well. The leeks I let over winter are also in great shape and promise to be tasty, as do a few onions we missed during last years harvest. Don’t ask how we managed that, but we did. The strawberries weren’t quite as successful. Of the ten crowns we had last year, only seven survived to wake up this spring, but of those they are all doing well. Lastly, our fruit trees have been pruned and given how cold it was this winter I am looking forward to a decent crop.

Suffice it to say, all of this has been keeping me extremely busy and as a result I haven’t had much time to write! However the farmer’s market is really beginning to get jumping with spring greens and I have been doing some pretty fabulous cooking so I am hoping to be able to share something along those lines soon.

Until then, Happy Eating!

This post has been my contribution to Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday.

 

The Quest for Organic Chickens? February 24, 2010

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Home Economics,Real Food Wednesday — realfoodmama @ 1:10 pm
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This spring it is my plan to raise chickens. We have a lot of work to do before we can purchase our birds. We have to build a chicken coop, decide on a breed, figure out how many birds we want, and determine whether or not we will be able to sell any of our eggs come fall.

My desire to have chickens is motivated by the same thing which spurred my desire to own goats: that is the desire to know where my food is coming from, and that it is being treated humanely before it gets to me. In addition to providing the family with a regular supply of eggs (between the four of us we easily go through two dozen a week) I am also hoping that the chickens will supply much needed fertilizer and pest control for our gardens.

The thing I am really struggling with at this point, regarding both my chickens and my goats, is what to feed them – specifically, whether or not to give them organic feed. Now this may sound somewhat ridiculous, but the primary reason for my concern is financial. I can buy conventional feed for both animals, or I can buy organic feed. The reason I hesitate to buy organic feed is the price: for my goats I spend about $20 a bag on their feed twice a month, not including the alfalfa. If I were to upgrade to the organic feed I would be spending $35 a bag twice a month. This is nearly double and frankly ends up with the goats costing more than they are saving us – i.e. I have a very small “profit margin” and purchasing the organic feed pushes me into the red. At this point, we break even if you calculate feed costs and compare them to the amount we would be spending on milk in the event we didn’t have the goats. If I fed them organic feed, we’d be losing money.

So while I am hardly a large industry, I am affected by the costs associated with organic certification. It makes me think that the whole process is yet another way for the big guys to get richer while the small farmers suffer. And while I hardly identify as a small farmer, in a way that is exactly what I am. I own livestock, I grow my own food, and I am placed in a specific financial situation as a result.

This has in no way altered my decision to purchase chickens, nor has it inclined me to get rid of the goats. However it is something I struggle with and I really have no idea how to resolve the issue short of growing my own alfalfa and grain and I just don’t have the room for that. It concerns me because I wonder what is going into my milk, and how it is affecting my animals. Will it increase vet bills? Could I afford to buy the organic feed every other bag? It is easy to rationalize the additional expense when the food is going directly into my body, or the body of my two year old, but I seem to have a harder time with it when it is coming to me second hand.

In either case it is nothing that I will be able to resolve today, and if we are in a financial situation where I can afford the organic versions I will certainly cough up the additional cash. Until then however, the goats and chickens will be getting conventional feed and that is just the way it will have to be.

This post has been my contribution to Real Food Wednesday, hosted this week by Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

 

Goat Milk Kefir February 3, 2010

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Raw Goat Milk,Real Food Wednesday — realfoodmama @ 10:19 am
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Mmmm, dairy...I finally got my Kefir grains from Cultures for Health and I have been spending the last few days acclimating them to my raw goats milk. I am very excited about these little bundles of bacteria and am hopeful to be able to make an actual batch of kefir next week.

For those of you unfamiliar with the stuff, kefir is a fermented milk beverage. It has a sour flavor similar to yogurt, but the texture is very different allowing you to drink it. Said to originate in Russia and the Caucasus, kefir has many health benefits, not the least of which the introduction of beneficial bacteria to the intestinal floura. It is for this reason alone that I have been wanting to start my own kefir culture. More information about the history (real and legendary) and the health benefits of kefir can be found here.

The grains themselves came packed in a small amount of powdered milk which I just added to my raw goats milk. The instructions said to let the grains sit at room temperature in the milk for 24 hours, at which point you strain them and add them to fresh milk and repeat the process.
Soaking the grains Apparently in 4 – 7 days you should have a product that smells slightly sour, possibly yeasty, and not at all off. Today is day 5 for me and I suspect I may need another day simply because my milk is raw and the kefir is working with a much higher load of existing bacteria than if I were using pasteurized milk. It also looks as though my grains are already multiplying! I am very excited about this for a variety of reasons. First, it means that they are healthy and working, secondly it means I can share them if people are interested! Very exciting indeed.

With that success in mind, one of the things I have struggled with is whether to rinse the kefir grains when I change the milk, as there is nothing about this on the instructions from Cultures for Health. I have simply been adding any accumulated cream/curd back into the fresh milk, rather than rinse the cultures with water. It turns out this is absolutely right! I was doing some research and found a great site with a ton of information about kefir grains. Not only did it clarify the process a bit for me, but it also provides some ideas about how to store the grains if they are not being used, as well as giving a few ideas on kefir variations (such as refrigerator kefir or a double fermentation method).

The irony of all of this is of course it is very near the end of milking season and I am running extremely low on my goat milk. Goats typically only lactate for 9 months and I am pushing the issue with my Nubian so that I can have milk until my other girl delivers (expected late March). I am milking my girl every other day in an effort to dry her off slowly and as a result, only have about a quart every two days. Given that I have had to use 2 cups from each milking for the kefir I don’t have a lot left over! Not the best planning in the world!

In either case, I am hopeful that by this weekend I will have a nice batch of birthday kefir (my B-day is Friday!) and when I have managed to get a successful batch, I will post about it here. Until then, Happy Eating…and drinking!

This post has been my contribution to Real Food Wednesday’s, hosted this week by Cheeseslave.