Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sourdough Cranberry Cake

This last week I had fun using my sourdough starter.  I made bread, cranberry muffins, and this cranberry cake.  The reason it turned into cranberry was because that's what I had in the house.  I made cranberries for dinner one night, and had some left, so into the muffins and cake they went.  I made the cake in a mold that I enjoy using, it turns out beautiful.
Sourdough is one of my favorite methods to bake with.  I usually use either half and half unbleached white flour and wheat flour, or I use all whole wheat flour.  I like to freshly grind wheat berries with my manual grain grinder, but don't as often as I should.  My children are all used to whole wheat, they've grown up with it.

If you missed my post on sourdough starter, just click here
Put the starter in a bowl;  add 2 cups of warm water and 2 1/2 cups of flour.  Mix well, set in a warm place overnight.   Remove one cup of the dough and put it back in the starter pot.

remaining sourdough
1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk (I used buttermilk, but any kind even evaporated will do)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup oil (canola) old timers used bacon grease
2 eggs
2 cups berries (I didn't have that much to put in)

Also you can vary if you don't have berries, you could make it a spice cake, and add 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon and vanilla, and a 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg or cloves.

Sourdough is very forgiving, and will turn out good and nutritious even with varying a recipe some.  You can also pour these into muffin tins.

Mix the flour, sugar, salt and soda in a bowl.  Mix eggs, oil and milk, and add to the remaining sourdough.  Mix well.  Add dry ingredient and mix thoroughly.  Then add the fresh, or frozen berries.
Grease cake pan, bake in a 375 degree oven for @ 40-45 minutes for cake, and around 30 minutes for muffins.

Sourdough Golden Honey Bread

A wholesome and delicious everyday bread.

Before you can make this recipe you will need a sourdough starter.  If you still need to make a starter click here to find out how. starter

Put the starter in a bowl, add two cups warm water, and two cups whole wheat flour.  Let stand overnight in a warm place.  Take away one cup of the dough and put it back in the sourdough pot.  To the remainder of the dough add:

4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup wild honey

Scald the milk and melt the butter and honey in it.  Cool to lukewarm.  Mix the sugar, salt, and soda.  Blend together the basic dough, the milk mixture, and two cups of flour.  Sprinkle the sugar, salt, and soda mixture on top of the dough and stir gently.  Set dough in a warm place, covered with a cloth, for 30 minutes.  Sift in the remaining two cups of flour until the dough is too stiff to stir with a spoon. 
Turn out on a floured board and start to knead, adding enough wheat flour to keep the dough smooth and firm.  Knead until light and satiny.  Divide in half, either pace in greased bread pan or into round cakes.  Grease the top and set in a warm spot.  Let it double in bulk.
Bake in a moderate 325 degree oven until it sounds hollow when thumped on top, about one hour.  Remove from the oven and turn out to cool.  Butter the top crust.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

a note to the reader

Well we have readers, I know this by looking at my statistics page, and can see that it looks like there are people going on everyday.  I want to thank you for visiting our farm and garden.  I am having fun writing, taking pictures and sharing a little of our life with you.

I especially want to thank, William, Sarah, Bluetick, Zev, Reiley, Joseph, Emma, Lisa and Softearhart.  You have all been encouraging with your words, and inspire me to keep writing and sharing.  William owns Applegarth Farm in the UK and found us here in the NW, we have similar climates for growing plants and vegetables, and theirs looks like a real working farm that makes money.  He was kind enough to send me a link to a recipe on his website for Damson Plum Tart, and I wanted to share it with all of you here: Damson Plum Tart 

Thank you William for sending me this recipe, I'm looking forward to trying it.  I have actually been wanting a Damson plum tree to plant here on our farm, this may inspire me.  I am definitely looking forward to trying it.  My mom will be thrilled, as she is from Canada, and before that our family was from England.  So growing up in my family we all enjoyed tea time in the afternoon, she may bake it before I do.

If you have wanted to leave a comment or email me and couldn't.  The default set up for my blog account is where only others with a google account can post comments, I left it that way because I wanted to keep the protection of knowing  who my commenter's were.  Maybe others have thoughts about this they could share with me.  I'm still fairly new to all this blog world, and am learning slowly.  I will post my email address on the sidebar.

Back in 2007 when I started this blog, and called it Applegarth Gardens (because we didn't have any farm animals only bees, a dog, and 3 cats)  My husband Jarin and I talked about privacy, he was concerned about sharing too much with the world of our very private life, he still is, but is kind of getting used to the idea.  I used a nickname that I've had over the years Jewel.  Recently I have been pondering whether I should just go by what people call me everyday, my birth name of Julie.  I suppose these are things new bloggers go through, what should my pen name be?? (some I've seen are quite creative) so I changed it for 12 hours, if you saw that, now I'm back to jewel ~ sometimes I change my mind :)

One more thing.  This is a farm and garden blog, I want that to be the focus.  However you will also occasionally hear about our spirituality (small miracles one example).  I learned to really pray and have faith when I had children to care for, especially for their protection, safety, health and well being.  I have always prayed for our health and finances, and have learned over the years to trust Him for all his goodness. For we have always had a roof over our heads, good food to eat, and health in our bodies.  I love to read the bible, and throughout my day I walk in the Spirit, in praise, prayer, and faith.   This is just part of who I am. 

I will also share about health, and the foods that nourish our bodies.  I have had to be a nutritionist for 20 years to raise good healthy strong children, who know how to eat right, and what their bodies require nutritionally.  Sometimes I have just said "eat it, it's good for you, your body needs it."  We are spirit, soul, and body, all three need to be fed, if one is lacking you may try to make up for it with excess in another area.  We also need friends who can help us by being encouraging and help lift our hearts,  I hope I can be that kind of friend to you.

My eye is still healing,  it was poked with a branch a few days ago.   I am being careful and laying low,  when the wind hits it, it still hurts some, so I am monitoring it closely everyday.   Just wanted to give you an update.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

lounge bunnies

Baby bunnies like laying under a warm wood stove.  We love them at this age, and enjoy bringing them in for some playtime, they all gravitate to the warmth  when they're tired.  This picture was taken late last Spring.

in bed all day

I stayed in bed last night and all of today to let my eye heal.  I feel like I had major trauma to it, and it's swollen a little, there is some pain and soreness behind my eye (a weird spot).  I can still feel the retina(?) floating a little, but it seems much better this afternoon... big sigh of relief.  My plan is to lay low for several days and let my eye heal.  When I was telling my sister about it this morning, she said "in the blink of an eye everything can change" how true, I'm thankful my sight is clear, and the headache of last night is gone.   

Late last night I had a strong cup of coffee to help the headache go away.  I don't normally drink coffee at night, but it worked.  Today as I lay in bed, sleeping, and reading Julie and Julia (a book about Julie Powell and Julia Child, remember the movie.  I've been reading about all the different recipes (504 recipes in Mastering the Fine art of French Cooking ) She cooked all of them in a years time and wrote a blog about it, this was back in 2002, when hardly anyone even knew what a blog was.

Anyway I just wanted to update  for my mom in case she reads my post small miracles, so she'll know I'm ok. 
I feel like my eye is getting better. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

the bees are flying

Today felt like spring in the garden it was sunny and 54 degrees, the bees were out in full force.  I checked both hives by peeking inside and lifting the upper deep hive box to see what was going on.  I found both deep boxes still full and heavy with winter honey, and way more bees than I thought I would find.   They are doing so much better than they ever have through the winter.  If all goes well I will go into Spring with strong colonies, and may even be able to divide them in half, and end up with 4 hives, which is my goal.  2 hives just barely gives enough honey for us to last through half the year, and to give some as gifts to family and friends.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

summer in the garden

Fond memories of afternoons working in the garden with my golden retriever "Summer" by my side.  This picture was taken around the end of August.

Friday, January 21, 2011

socked in and rainy

Looking through the upper meadow toward the big house surrounded by mist, one hundred percent humidity today.

Walking toward the barn to find warmth and a fire.

It rained steady all morning, we watched it from under cover as we had a second cup of coffee to ready ourselves for another day of living in a rain forest.  J walked the dogs in a downpour this morning, as I sat toastily by the stove.  I can sometimes be the indulgent one, who says, lets have a second cup of coffee and watch the rain together.  It's fun, we had work to do, but it could wait.  We live in the Pacific Northwest and it's naturally rainy here, I love it, plus it's a whole lot less rainy and cold than Juneau, Alaska where I spent 7 years growing up. This weather I could handle.  It's 45 degrees, my garden is starting to think it's spring, and so am I.  I get Spring Fever real early compared to most people, it hits me about now, and really goes into high gear on nice days in February and March. 

Our climate is fairly mild, though rainy, humid, socked in, foggy, soaked, grey, this is normal for us.  I just want my bees to survive, along with my 3 fig trees, they are fickle as well.  You never know, being a beginning beekeeper in the rainy Pacific Northwest, it's daunting at times, I have lost my bees 2 out of 4 winters, this winter, so far so good.

I have been researching Nigerian Dwarf milk goats as many of you know.  Today I spoke with Melissa who breeds nigerian dwarf goats in Sedro Wooley, she has a goat farm.  She also shows her goats, and is committed to excelling the breed.  We made plans to go look at her does and bucks next weekend.  She has 10 pregnant does, and 8 bucks, most nigerians deliver twins or triplets, so she'll have  many doelings and bucklings for sale.  The really good news, she said she may have a couple does in milk to sell, so hopefully we may see one or two we like.  I'll keep you posted, and will take pictures.

Today it rained all day, and is still raining here in the early evening.  As I walked around with the camera,  I found J sharpening his chisels, with his sidekick Sierra, our Great Pyrenees by his side.  I took a few pictures to share with you.

Some of the old faithful chisels used over the years helping to build and carve many a fine barn.

Sharpening system, to create a perfectly balanced blade.

A nice sharp blade, ready for use.

This is a time consuming process there are 7 different grits from start to finish, it takes time to properly sharpen a chisel.  Sharp chisels, and knowing how to sharpen them are important skills for timberframing.

Some old vintage chisels on our barn wall, that have yet to be sharpened for use.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sourdough Pancakes

This morning I made one of  my favorite breakfasts, sourdough pancakes and fresh poached eggs.  I could eat these pancakes every other morning, I love them hot off the grill, they're delicious!

The night before you plan to make sourdough pancakes you will want to set out a sponge.  Here is how to use your starter (if you're new here, we made the sourdough starter a few posts back, so you could follow that first, and then be ready).  Place a cup of the starter into a glass or ceramic bowl; add 2 cups of warm water and 2  1/2 cups of flour (I used whole wheat, or sometimes mix half whole wheat and half unbleached white flour).  Mix thoroughly.  The mixture will be thick and lumpy but the fermentation will thin it down and it will be lively and bubbling in the morning.  Cover bowl, I just set a plate over the top, and let the dough sit in a warm spot overnight.  Mine sits on the mantle by the woodstove pipe. 
This is what it looks like at night after mixing the starter with flour and water.

       In the morning it will be bubbly, and look like this.

Care and use of sourdough starter:  In the morning take 1 cup of the basic batter and store in an earthenware crock with a tight fitting lid, or if you don't have one just use a pint jar.  If your always remove a cupful in the morning and keep your starter going, you will continue to have a starter that will develop a rich sourdough flavor over time.

Sourdough Pancakes

remaining dough (after starter has been removed)
1 egg
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup milk (I used buttermilk) but any kind will do
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons sweetener if desired (honey, maple syrup, sugar, brown sugar) 
often times I don't add any sweetener except maple syrup when eating.  But if making them for snacking on throughout the day with nuts and fruit, sometimes I will add the sweetener.

Place the dough in a bowl and add egg, oil, and milk.  Mix well.  Combine salt, soda and sweetener, sprinkle over the dough and mix.  This will leaven and cause a foaming action.  Let mixture rest for about 5 minutes. 

Heat skillet on medium high heat, grease with butter and pour pancake mix onto hot grill.  Sourdough pancakes take longer to cook and need a higher heat than regular pancakes, and they resist burning well.  I usually cook them two or three times as long as regular pancakes.  Having all the tiny bubbles helps to cook the pancakes more thoroughly.  You will see what I'm talking about when your do it.  This is the time to add nuts and chopped fruit, or save it to put on top at the end.  I also heat the maple syrup to pour on.

There are many variations you can make with different flours, milk, fruits and nuts.  This recipe is just a guide, you can't mess up these pancakes, they're hardy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

signs of spring on the way

The peonies are poking up, and the fruit tree buds are swelling.  I can hear the rumblings of spring on the way... with the hum of bees making tentative flights after almost 2 months in their winter cluster.  Things are coming back to life in the vegetable garden, the kale, swiss chard, sorrel and parsley are growing new leaves from plants left last fall.  I often leave plants to experiment and see if they'll grow again in the spring, the chioggia and golden beets, along with the spicy mustard greens are growing new leaves.  Soon I will be outside, weeding, composting, transplanting, and creating the beginnings of this years garden.  I know we'll have more snow and cold, but I always start around the 3rd week of January, it's part of my internal timing.  Winter gardening has it's own virtues, like being able to move plants and trees and seeing the bones of a tree or shrub to prune properly.  Being able to have a clean slate and start over, and try to learn from last years garden what worked, or didn't.

This week our weather has mostly been in the 30's and  40's, yesterday we even had a mild snow flurry.  A couple days ago it was around 50, the bees were flying ( they will start flying in 50 degree weather).  In the northwest we can have mild days in the middle of winter, so it felt good to have a sunny day today and be outdoors. I walked all around the garden, the flower beds, and fruit trees, accessing what's growing, and what needs pruning.  Today I organized my seeds and gave them a new moisture proof container.  Even though I've been storing them indoors, I felt like they were having too many humidity fluctuations with our rain soaked days we'd been having, the rivers and valley are flooding again, and many roads are closed.

I let one of the mini rex rabbit does go in to visit the buck today, we should have babies in around 30-31 days.  Tomorrow I'll let another one, and the next day the 3rd one. You always want to take the does to the bucks cage, and never the buck to the does cage.  She is territorial and may hurt him, bucks however will happily share their lovenest with the does.  The chickens were allowed out to run around for a few hours in the sun, and loved scratching for bugs and grubs.  Yesterday we had an evening grosbeak visit our bird feeder.  That was exciting, because it is so early in the year for them, I should look up and see where they've flown in from.  The robins will be arriving in a few weeks, and their song is a true sign of spring.

This time of year the thought of aged manure and compost is on my mind.  Soon we'll be putting an ad on craigslist for aged alpaca or llama manure, we specify aged and a tractor to load, we bring a trailer to haul it in.  I have traded with fruit trees, berry bushes, and planters, along with paying for loads. We try to get it a couple of times per year.  Our animals don't currently make enough manure for our garden needs, aged manure and good compost are key factors in garden success and worth finding a good source.  You can use any farm animal manure, we just happen to like the size and ability to break down with the alpaca and llama.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

natural fiber and a romney ram

I'm not sure exactly when it happened but recently I started to think a lot about what I was wearing to keep warm.  I have wool coats, and one old woolrich sweater that I've worn out, but mostly I have fleece, polypro, nylon, and polyester sweaters or sweatshirts.  They look good and are warm and soft, but they're synthetic, what I was wearing was basically a petroleum product, right?

I had never really thought that much about it, and the more I've thought about where natural fibers come from, wool from sheep, lambs wool from lambs, angora from rabbits, cashmere from goats, alpaca fiber from alpacas.  These were all living animals, and clothing made from their fiber, the very fiber that is grown naturally on them to keep warm during the cold winter, would also be warm for me to wear.  I had been cold for a few days and this may have brought it on, my polyester sweater started bothering me.

The next time I went into our local Goodwill I went straight to the sweater isle looking for wool sweaters, button up or pullover, after looking thoroughly I found 4 that were worth trying on.  I ended up coming home with three new wool sweaters.  Yes, I have to wear a cotton long sleave shirt underneath, but I like one under my fleece or polypro as well.

One of the sweaters is a natural color sheeps wool that's beautifully handknit with wooden buttons.  I wore it the other day and felt warm and cozy wrapped in wool, and knew how a sheep must feel.  Someone took hours to make this, and now it was mine for $12.50  that was a lot for Goodwill so I asked the manager if it was real wool, because there was no tag of any kind.  Both of us were pretty sure it was, and when I got home I checked a piece of the fiber with a match.  I've never done this before, but I know how polyester  melts, when I put the match to the small piece of fuzz I picked off, it kind of smoked and smelled fiber like, and didn't melt,  so it's real wool.  It makes me feel good to be warm this winter in my new natural fiber sweaters. 
The story of this romney ram happened last fall at the bus stop.  We were sitting and waiting for the bus to arrive, and as it was pulling up, I could see it slowing down... until finally I saw the reason for it almost stopping, out walks this cute sheep down the middle of the road.  The bus went around it slowly, and picked up the kids, after it drove away I got out of my car and tried to get it out of the road.

At first it came right up to me real friendly as if saying, I'm lost who are you?  Then it bolted down the road,  I am in my slippers running after it in the dark, finally I was able to herd it into a neighbors land, going through sticker bushes in my slippers and no jacket, I gave up the chase, realizing what would I do if I caught it anyway? I didn't even have a lead rope.

An hour later the bus comes again, for the younger kids, and I have Kaley I'm dropping off for the bus. We went early to try and find it, looking everywhere and I came ready this time, with boots, wool jacket, and a lead rope. When her bus came around the corner the same slowing down happened, and there he was just like before in the middle of the road.  If this were my sheep,  I would want someone to care enough to help catch it and keep it somewhere safe. After a  long time of chasing, people stopping on the road to help us, several surrounding neighbors helping me herd him.  Finally I jumped at him, throwing the lead with a loop around his neck, and finally had him. 

I pushed him by the rear and led him with a rope around the rump to guide him home.  Fortunately a neighbor followed me in my car home as I pushed, pulled, and huffed it home.  Upon our arrival, I walked up with the romney ram to show Jarin who was making coffee in the cabin.  I hooted for him, and he looked out the door, and smiled and said "Where did you find that?" and "What are you going to do now?"   A good question too, our pasture was still a couple weeks away from completion and I had no idea who's sheep it was. 

First thing we did was get him set up with food and water, I gave him alfalfa, a little corn and some water.  He settled right in to eating under an asian pear tree where I tied him out.  He was wet, dirty and tired from being on the loose.  The first time I introduced him to Summer our golden retriever, who had never seen a sheep before, she cowered and was terrified, because when she went to sniff him, he tried to ram her away.  Sierra our great pyrenees wasn't afraid, just curious, the dogs spent the day entertained by this cute ram, and I of course envisioned keeping him if I couldn't find the owner that is.

We are still somewhat of a small community on our hill, so word got around to the right person, and come evening a very worried owner showed up, with a neighbor bringing him to our house to find his sheep.  Apparently 6 of his ewes were still missing from the night before, somehow the ram got separated from them.  The owner must have found them,  because I have never heard again what happened. 

It was my first experience with a sheep, what fun it was. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

A New Chapter

This morning my son Jason and I drove to the Smokey Point Department of Licensing, he was going to take his driving test for getting his first license.  He turned 16 a week ago, and has been anxious to get his license and car.  We got there a half hour early so he could practise one more time, stuff like parallel parking and backing around a corner.  I was nervous enough for both of us as he drove off with the instructor.  When he got back and walked in the door where I was waiting, I could tell by the look on his face that he had passed.  This is a memorable happy moment for every new driver, after all the practise and classes over the last six months, it was a relief to both of us. I told him to smile for his picture, of course it was a half grin, too cool to do a full on smile like my first drivers license picture at 16.

After that we went to meet my daughter Heather in Lynnwood at the DMV to transfer her title from my name to hers.  She is selling her car, and buying a newer one today, all on her own at 18, I am very proud of her.

When we got home, Jason and I spent about an hour looking on craigslist for a car or truck for him.  He has been looking for the last month, and narrowing down what he can afford and what make and model he likes.  He has some money to find an inexpensive starter car, and we are hoping to find something soon.

And the final thing... this is my last night being a mother of 4 teenagers, my oldest daughter Christina is turning 20 tomorrow, and we are celebrating her birthday this weekend.  So a happy and tiring day full of big events in my children's lives.  I have been a mother for 20 years now, and am entering a new chapter of my life.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

snow day

There are many magnificent trees here at Applegarth, this is one of the mighty Douglas Fir trees.  On the left you can see the road that leads from the barn to the cabin, big house, and gardens.  I make this walk many times per day going to do laundry at the big house, and showers in the cabin, and trips to the gardens and orchards. 
Last night we had a couple of inches of icy snow, and the school district cancelled classes for the day.  The roads can be risky for buses and drivers.  The kids always love a snow day to hang out and do whatever they want. Our youngest daughter Kaley who's 10 made homemade waffles for everyone this morning, so we're having tea and waffles by the fire.  Tessa's reading, and Jason is off with friends playing in the snow.

It's windy and raining outside right now, the snow is starting to turn to slush, and melting off the trees.   We are going to clean house for awhile, with plans to make some apple muffins for dessert later.  I'm always teaching the girls to cook, and am proud to say my oldest daughters who live on their own are great cooks, and conscious about the quality of their food. 

Yesterday was a day of cleaning the chicken coop, spreading out fresh shavings, defrosting waters for the rabbits, and checking on the honeybees. They bees are all still tight in their winter cluster.  I added a small box called a super to each hive, and raised the level, so I could add one old flannel pillow case filled with sawdust, not a lot of sawdust, enough to make a square with about an inch all of sawdust. I did this for insulation purposes and to help with the condensation that occurs in the hive when it's cold.  If you don't have anything in there to absorb the moisture it can cause water to drip down on the bees and chill them.  When I checked on them yesterday I noted some moisture, so added the pillowcases filled with sawdust to help absorb the moisture.  I have learned to check my bees regularly, even in the winter I will walk by every couple days and look around see if there are any dead bees that need cleaning from the entrance, and will put my ear against the hive and listen.  I still have a good amount of bees from my observations yesterday.

The chickens got a free day yesterday to run around outside the coop while I was cleaning it, and working around the yard. Their favorite place to scratch is under the rabbit hutch, and they run around happy and content under the canopy of the trees too.  I put both the dogs on chicken duty to help guard, they like to have their own jobs when we're working beside them.  Sierra has a zip line, and Summer has her post where's she's tied on a long lead.  The chickens are used to the dogs and walk all around them scratching and pecking.  We are all happily snowbound in the midst of winter.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

the one thing

The one thing that we all need to do is balance work and rest.  On this date today of 1/11/11, I thought this would be a good thing to remember.  These frogs sit on a table of ours and remind me daily to walk in balance.  I think the best is when we can be at rest in our work, because we love the work we're doing. 

When it's time to relax the contended look of dreaming on the left frogs face makes me smile.  The one on the right reminds me that we need to labor, because then it makes the rest that much sweeter.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Come Spring

I want these kind of goats.  They are Nigerian Dwarf Milk Goats, and are part of the future of Applegarth Farm.  A dream that I've had for years is to have my own small creamery and make cheese, yogurt, butter, ice cream, milk and kefir.  Today I've been researching them, a day that is cold and snowing lightly outside, and is perfect to be sitting by the fire planning.  Come Spring we'll have new life around here with baby chicks, bunnies, and in March or April we'll be getting Nigerian Dwarf goats.   Maybe 2 does and a baby doeling,  I've been studying bloodlines and looking at Washington State breeders with proven milkers.  I want the best quality does, so I can start my herd off right, and will breed them to fine quality bucks.
This is From Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats: 
The Nigerian Dwarf is of particular interest to backyarders. Introduced in the early 1980s when they were seen mostly in zoos, some of these little imports are excellent milkers for their size. As more serious breeders continue to develop them, their milk production is constantly increasing. What's more, they are considered dual-purpose animals, providing both milk and meat. The Nigerian Dwarf was the breed chosen for the Biosphere 2 experiment, in which eight people spent two years along with 3,500 plant and animal species and no outside supplies or support except electricity. Biosphere 2 was designed as a space-colony model, though ecological research became the primary, scientific goal. At any rate, future space travelers might be milking Nigerian Dwarfs!
One Nigerian Dwarf doe gave a whopping 6.3 pounds of milk on test day, and another had 11.3 percent butterfat. (2006 Update: the new one-day high is 6.8 pounds of milk!) A well-bred and well-managed Dwarf can be expected to produce an average of a quart a day over a 305-day lactation. Many of these good producers have teats as large as those of the full-sized breeds and are milked just as easily.

More information. 

Nigerian Dwarf goats (NDs, Nigerians) originated in West Africa.  They are small milk goats that produce very high protein and butterfat percentages, resulting in high cheese and cream yields.  Producing 1-2 quarts of milk per day, consisting of 6-10% butterfat, these little does are very productive for their size.  They are also very efficient at converting feed into milk.  According to the NDGA breed standard, Nigerian does must be 21" tall, or less.  Nigerians make excellent pets.  They are very playful and easy to keep.
     One of the most frequently asked questions about our Nigerians is: how are they different from Pygmy goats?  The Pygmy breed standard requires them to have a barrel "giving an impression of perpetual pregnancy".  Nigerian Dwarfs are shaped like dairy goats, with a wedge-shaped body.  The original purpose of the Pygmy breed was meat.  Pygmy goats may only be found in black, agouti, or caramel color patterns.  Nigerians may be any color or color pattern.

These sound like the perfect fit for our farm.  I like their small size, 50-60 lbs I can move with relative ease, and haul them in my landcruiser.  I may even have my daughters show them, that's why it's important to me to get the best I can.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Simple Things

I like the simple things in life like food, family, friends, and home.  I like the simple daily rituals we share in our family.

Coffee is a delightful morning ritual, we like to freshly grind our beans right before making our coffee in the morning, and make it in a European percolator, it makes about 3 shots all at once of good strong espresso. The smell of freshly ground brewed coffee is heavenly, and with an extra 25 minutes beforehand I could make it a bakery as well, pulling homemade scones or muffins from the oven.  We serve the coffee in our own special mugs, and top it off with heated almond milk, then sweeten with honey or maple syrup.   This is better than any coffee I can buy, plus I like the ritual it gives my husband and I, as we get the chance to connect in the morning, and talk about our plans for the day. 

I like cooking for my family and friends, to me it is a form of love, and is a chance for all of us to sit down together and share stories of our day.  When I make meals I carefully think about the quality of ingredients, and the  nutrients that will help my children grow and develop properly.  This has always been important to me, and I'm sure is important to most mothers or fathers.   I will rarely go to a fast food restaurant, maybe 5 times a year, if that.  I will go to the authentic Mexican taco truck (I don't count that as real fast food)  usually though I will hold out for good food at home.

We like to eat a good breakfast, not too early for me though, around 9 am is just right.  We'll choose between fresh eggs, and vegetables, an omelet, or frittata, and sometimes just simple poached eggs with salsa, and toast.  I rotate every other day, I'll do eggs or Bob's Red Mill 10 grain cereal with raisins, nuts, and fruit. or we'll just do a fruit and yogurt breakfast.  Something simple on the weekdays, and fancier on weekends like pancakes or waffles.

I love to read books and magazines, A few of the magazines I like are Grit, Mother Earth News, Countryside, Hobby Farms, and Hobby Farm Home.  I did have subscriptions to some of these at one time.  Now I check them out at the library, we use the library a lot, and figure we pay for it with our property taxes.  Our library also has a wide array of videos, armchair travel ones, concerts, and lots of how to videos.  You can learn to do almost anything from books and videos at the library, plus the Internet and you tube.  My daughter is even learning guitar through videos, you tube, and practise.

A simple pleasure is tending to our farm animals, the chickens and rabbits, and even the honeybees that I fuss over.  I like to feed and care for them, and always take time to say hi to everyone, thanking the chickens for laying eggs for us, and the rabbits for providing, fiber and meat, and manure for the garden.  The cats and dogs get extra special attention as partners on the farm, everyone here likes to have a job and feel needed. 

I hear "Thanks Mom" from the animals I take care of, from the plants I nourish, and the children I raise.  I am a mother to many.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sourdough Starter

There are only a few things you need to get your sourdough starter going.  Flour, water, a nonmetallic vessel to put it in, and a wooden (or any non metallic) spoon to stir it with.  Metal and sourdough don't go together always use glass, ceramic, and wooden spoons.

I have found over time what works best for me to get the starter going real good, meaning lots of bubbles and rise, is fresh rye flour and wheat flour, I say fresh meaning recently bought from a store that goes through their product , and gets new shipments regularly.  I like to grind my own grain, but also buy flour from the store.   

Mix about 1/3 a cup of rye flour, 1/3 cup of whole wheat flour, and about 1/2 cup of warm water, or enough to make a thick but pourable mixture.  I mix this in a bowl with a wooden spoon, you will pour the mixture from the bowl into a glass pint or quart jar.  I like to use a glass jar because I can watch the sourdough create bubbles, and see what's happening, and know when I need to feed it again.  Also the lid should be left ajar to allow the wild yeast in.

Sourdough bread is a wholesome carbohydrate, and has been eaten throughout the years.  Before mass produced bread it was common for long lived people to soak their grains overnight and allow them to dry in the open air until they were partially germinated or sprouted, they soaked and fermented lentils, beans, and other legumes.  Adding them to the sourdough whole grain bread.  I am looking forward to showing you how I  make  pancakes, muffins, and bread with my sourdough starter.

To get the starter going it needs warmth.  I place my jar on the mantle next to the wood stove pipe.  If you have a gas stove you could put a thermometer in and check first to see how warm it is with the pilot light, and that is another good place. It likes to be at around 85 degrees. I have found it also works good on a kitchen counter at room temp.  It just takes longer. 

I watch it for bubbles and rising, depending on the temp, and the thickness of the dough. In the few days of sitting out, you'll want to watch as it rises, creates bubbles and peaks or goes back down, then take about half out, and add more flour and water.  I just mix the flours in a bowl and add water to the right consistency.  Then I add about half the starter to the new flour and water mixture, and toss the other half out.   I always rinse the jar, and repour it back in.  I do this to keep the side of the jar clean, and refresh everything.   

I also smell it to check how strong it is, if it smells strong and the bubbles are mellowing, you will know it needs more flour and water.  If it smell bad you need to take half out and add more flour and water.  It needs to be fussed over and fed for a few days to really get it going good.  I usually feed in the late morning and evening.  It will begin to smell like sourdough and will have a nice tang, I think it's a good smell.  You will get the hang of when to feed by watching and smelling and adding more flour, measurements are not real necessary, it's more about the consistency, it it's thicker it takes longer to ferment, thinner will need to be fed more frequently.  Don't worry too much about messing up, if you do it's easy to start over. 

The sourdough starter will be ready to use after 4 or 5 days.  You will use some, and save the rest by refrigerating.  I put mine in a pint jar, and store in the refrigerator where I will see it.   Use  it regularly and always refresh with more flour and water.  It will last in the refrigerator indefinitely if you keep adding fresh flour and water to it every week or two.  You will have to remove some every time, or your jar will be too small as it rises. After a couple weeks the starter really gets a good aroma and flavor.  At this point is a good time to freeze some in a plastic bag.  I do this because I have left sourdough starter too long in the refrigerator without adding to it and it goes bad.  If you have a back up in the freezer  you can thaw it out, and get it going again once it's warm and is fed, you will save the 2 weeks time it takes to get it just right.

I will share how I use the starter to make bread, pancakes and muffins over the coming weeks. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Believe in your Dreams

To accomplish great things,
we must not only act,
but also dream;
not only plan, but also believe.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Rooster

This is Rodney our main rooster.  He will be allowed to grow old here at Applegarth, and will never have to fear being dinner.  I need one rooster who is a permanent resident.  We got Rodney about a year ago in February, I put an ad in Craigslist for a nice rooster wanted.  I received several responses, and chose a small local farm, that just had a few chickens.  He was hatched out in the fall on their farm, when one of their old hens walked out of their barn with 2 baby chicks following her.  All of her chickens were older and friendly, they had one old giant nice rooster, he had taught the 2 young chicks that turned into roosters how to be gentlemen.

The lady said I could have either one or both of the young roosters, she just didn't want them to be eaten, they were too special, and beautiful.  I told her we just wanted a nice one to add to the farm, for our 7 young hens needed a man. 

We brought him home to paradise, he went wild for few days with his young harem, courting, dancing and mounting.  The hens went from laying 1 or 2 eggs per day to laying 6 or 7, they were happy girls, and we had one happy contended rooster.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Running and Leaping

Can you see the rabbit running along the back of the aviary?  They start at one end, and run as fast as they can to the other side, sometimes leaping and twirling high in the air.

I let the rabbits out in the aviary run today, the chickens haven't been using it as much with snow all over the ground.  I let out Peppermint our angora doe, along with 2 mini rex does.  They all like to run as fast as they can and leap and twirl.  It is a delight to watch rabbits play in the snow.  I want to build a rabbit/ chicken tractor that I can use for both the chickens and the rabbits on alternate days.   At least one until I have 2 and can designate one for each.  I'm also planning on turning a quarter of the chicken aviary into a permanent rabbit pasture.  Peppermint is too big for her cage, and if I want to breed her this Spring, I'll need a new bigger area for her.

Rabbits like dirt, they like to dig for roots, and lay down in it and roll.  They like to eat grass and weeds, and run about.  The bucks especially have a need to dig in the dirt.  I have watched rabbits daily now for 3 years, it makes me happy to give them a little freedom to stretch their legs, and run and play with each other, I think this is important.

The Homesteading Dream Part One

There are many ways to achieve the same goal of creating a homestead.  You can begin right now wherever you are learning the skills you will need.  Cooking homemade foods from scratch, canning, and freezing excess food you find in season at farmers markets.  Learning simple things like healing herbs and how to use them.  Making your own soups and stews, bread, and pasta. 

It all starts with a mindset, you begin thinking about picking your own fruits and vegetables, and harvesting your own eggs and meat.  You may wander into a feed store, an unknown territory, even though you don't own farm animals.  Seeing baby chicks, and rabbits, smelling the farm smells that are non existent in the city.   You may begin to dream of a new life, a life where you're profoundly in touch with the seasons, and what the earth brings forth at different times of the year.  You will most likely yearn for more simplicity in your life, and will be excited by a trip to the country.  As you drive around looking at farms, the coal that is the homestead dream gets fanned a little more, until finally you say enough I want this enough to make a change.

The first skill you will need is a hardworking ethic, (if you have this it will provide you with a job and money), and the drive to work on your homestead in the evenings and on weekends to create your dream.  The second is the ability to learn as you go,  and the third is to pay as you go.
When looking for raw land here are some biggies to consider;

1.  Usability~ how much land is flat or rolling hill and usable, how much is unusable, ie. on a steep hillside or deep ravine.  How much do you need, even A small yard can be well laid out as a mini homestead.

2.  Water ~  you must have water, or know you can put in a well or hook up to city water, or a community well.  Look up the well logs of surrounding homes, this will show you what the average depth of the wells.  Water is Important!

3.  Septic ~  Does the land perk to put in a septic system. There are different types of drain field designs that work for a variety of situations.

4.  Power ~  How far to hook up, is it close on the road, or are you planning to be off grid.  How much will it cost to get power?

5.  Sunlight ~ Southern Exposure or SW exposure is the best in my opinion, especially if you want to garden.
6.  Trees ~ trees are a good thing, especially if you have enough to build your home with, along with enough to have a woodlot for firewood.  We are lucky in the NW, there are lots of big trees.

7.  Sloping hillsides are not good for drainage, if your home is situated on a hillside in the NW you will have drainage problems most likely. 

8.  High speed Internet, and cell phone service ~ This is important if it's necessary for your work.  There are a lot of places in the country that do not have these services, and you will have to use a satellite dish.

I will probably think of more things and add to this list.

If you don't have the money to buy your land yet, keep working and saving.  If you really need and want a loan, talk with a local lender, and see what kind of programs you might be able to qualify for.  Usually you need to be at the same job or similar field for at least 2 years.  Try not to have a car payment, or any big credit cards debts.  Banks like to see people come in with good debt to income ratios, and car payments really through this off. 

Vacant land typically needs 20% down, regular loans 3-5% down, some are even zero down.  Remember you need to pay this back with interest, so what you qualify for, versus what you have planned to spend, may differ quite a bit.  If you can buy through an owner contract, make sure you can pay it back within a few years, make it a priority. 

If you are just starting off here some thoughts that may help. To really get a head start on saving money, live as cheaply as you can, work extra hard and save your money.  Make more than your spend, try to save every extra dime, plan cheap or free entertainment.  Live by the motto "Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, Or do without".

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Experiences

This morning as I was cutting my son Jason's hair, we talked about the young rooster.  He had begun to breed the other hens, they also had Rodney our main rooster outside waiting for them wherever they went, 2 roosters is too many. Rodney was simply trying to protect his girls, and would get into squables with the younger one.  So we decided  today was the day.  I've always been brought the bird, cleaned and defeathered by my 16 year old son.  Well I decided to do it today, not the death part, but the scalding and plucking.  My son thought it was time I learned, and he took a few pic's along the way. 

If you only knew how this 6 month old rooster lived his happy life.  He got to be raised by Henrietta, the best chicken mom, he snuggled under her with his brother, and learned the ways of a chicken, he got to eat outside, and be fed as much as he wanted everyday, good scraps, plenty of water and fresh air.  He got to go grubbing, and eat grass, take dust baths everyday, and learned about chasing ladies, and courting.  It was a short beautiful life, and ended kindly.  We farmers live an honest life, we know where our food comes from, and  look them in the eye, and love their spirit, and the life they bring to our farm. 

We set up a table with a propane stove and large pot to boil the water for scalding.  Since there was snow on the ground.  I decided it would be most comfortable to just pluck right on the snow.  I dipped for about 30 seconds, and the feathers came out real easily, it did take time to get them all thoroughly out.  Then we cleaned out the innards, and I cleaned the chicken under cold water for a good while to get it real clean and chilled. We decided to slow boil and make soup, so the meat would be good and tender, so far I've added onions, carrots, celery and garlic. 

On a brighter note, I also baked up one of my Cinderella pumkins, picked from the garden in October, and made a pumpkin pie, this one has 6 eggs in it, and is sweetened with our own applegarth bees honey.  I love having food from our land, knowing that all the energy and love we put into the garden and animals, multiplies back to us with nutrition and health.   This is the good life to me.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Bright and Shiny First Day

Last night the sky was clear, and the stars were so bright, it was as if the snow was full of diamonds wherever the headlamps light went.  It felt extra special to begin this new year. A new year that we can attempt to live out our dreams.   Maybe your dream is to have land, so you can farm and garden, and work hard to be self can begin wherever you are to learn and study the skills you'll need.  Start looking at land, drive around the countryside where you live, and begin to dream.

Speak it out loud, write it down, and work towards it everyday.  Yes, it may take time and hard work, being frugal, going without, enduring a season that's seems bleak and less than promising.  But keep dreaming, learning and growing, staying excited about life makes it exciting.  Write out what you want to happen this year, reach for the stars, and dream big.

This morning we woke to bright blue skies, and cold in the low 20's, we need the brightness of sunshine this time of year, even if it's cold.  The animals water was frozen solid again for the second day.  I carry the water bottles, and large chicken waterer in to the fire, so they can defrost.  In the meantime I give the chickens fresh water in a new container, their eggs are dependent on getting plenty of fresh water, and eggs are precious this time of year. 

We currently have 2 roosters, and we only need one, so the young one I've allowed to stay because he's so beautiful and  nice, now is becoming a nuisance to my happy chicken family.  We had 2 young ones hatched out in the fall, and I think one of them might be a rooster too.  The reason I've allowed the hen's to hatch in the first place is to continually add to my hens new young ones, but also to raise young roosters for their  meat.  I have to remember this was all part of the plan, I planned to have meat and eggs.  The eggs are easy, the meat part is much more difficult to learn, but learning we are.

With the weather so nice today, we decided to take a drive into town, and do a few errands, we took both the dogs Summer and Sierra, they are tied in the back of the truck with short leads, kind of like seat belts for them, they love to go surfing in the wind.   This afternoon we also stopped by the Goodwill to see if there was anything good.  I found Michael Pollen's book "The Omnivore's Dilemma", and was delighted, as I'd been wanting to read it for a long time.  Now for $2.99 I own a hardback copy.  You never know what you may find, many times a small treasure for a few dollars.  We also took a drive around our valley and looked at some of the farms and dairies, I'll share some photo's throughout the week. 

Right now, I'm sitting by the fire in the cabin drinking hot chocolate as I write this.  My new Hoegger goat supply catalog just came in the mail, and my new Burnt Ridge Nursery Catalog came at the same time.  Hoegger Supply has everything for goats, and Burnt Ridge is a wonderful fruits, nuts and berries catalog.  I am making out a list of what I'll need for getting 2 goats in the Spring, it's fun to make out the big list, and then the reality of the necessities and what's most important rule out things like a $450 cream separator for beginning.  I will be ordering leads, milking starter kit, cleaning kit, hoof trimming kit etc.  I will need all the birthing stuff next year, when we'll have babies born on the farm.  So this year I'll start small, and slowly build my goat herd, with the best Nigerian Dwarf Does I can.  

Cheers to a Happy New Year!