Proverbs 27:27 And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Good-bye Bluebell and Twinkie

We have been working hard at cutting costs and evaluating what we do around here to produce and bring forth food.  Grain is very high and just keeps going up.  I am getting older and can not work the way I did around here when I was younger and although I have a lot of children to help, we all have a lot to do each day and I try to make things as easy as possible on everyone. 

At our yearly family meeting we talked and brainstormed about what we needed around here and what we don't.  What things might improve how much work we do and how much  money we spend.  We talk about it not only in relation to our little farm but in our home as well.  Money is always tight with a family like ours.  Carolyn made the decision that she no longer had interest in raising geese so she made the decision to find homes for her four American Buff geese.  Our farrier had always showed interest in them so we called him and he seemed very happy to get them.  That decision has made Carolyn's work load smaller and will bring our feed cost down a little.   We don't feed them hardly at all in the summer when the grass and bugs are abundant but in the winter months we have to supplement.  So this will save on feed costs. 

We also had been doing the Great Goat Experiment.  Slowly, over the last several years, I have been moving our herd over from full sized Nubian and Lamancha Dairy Goats to the smaller Nigerian Dwarfs.  I had heard and read about the milk to feed ratio being so much better and I must say it is really true.  They don't need fed at all, if on good pasture, unless they are being milked.  And the amount of feed they need to produce a fair amount of milk is very good.  (I do have to share and say, I did buy from very good milk lines though, from disease free reputable Nigerian dairy goat farms)   It is always worth doing research and buying the best you can afford in my opinion, as they are an investment and give you good stock to work with in your breeding program.  I feel anyone who breeds any animal should try to better the animal they have and not just breed to have milk or pretty babies. 

I had hung onto my very best two, full sized Lamanchas, (Bluebell and Twinkie) just as a back up and just in case we didn't really like the smaller milk goats.  I have found the mid-sized crosses and full blooded Nigerians very easy to handle with my balance issues and am enjoying them very much.  They do give a good amount of milk as well with a smaller amount of grain.  Also, we no longer need gallons of milk a day, so these smaller goats are better for us in that area as well.  The other reason why I was keeping my two favorite full sized girls was because they were special to my dad and myself.  Very personalble sweet girls the results of years of breeding.  I had plans on just retireing them out here in the pastrue.  I soon saw that I was going to have to grain them to keep them in good body condition, plus the amount of work to care for extra animals that are no longer producing was going to be more on everyone.  (an extra stall to muck, extra hay to buy in the winter, and grain year round)  I had a talk with my dad and he agreed to let me give them to a friend.  (A close friend who has retired out goats for me before)  I know I can trust him and his wife to care for them well and keep them together.  Also should I ever want a baby out of either of them I know he would work with me.  I bred them for him before sending them over to his farm with his choice of buck.  It was yesterday he picked them up.  A very hard and sad decision for us all.  It helped a lot to know they were going to such a good place.

I by our feed once a month.  In that once a month order is every farm animals food from goats to cats and dogs.  For the last several years it has run me around $400.00 a month for all the feed.  Plus we have needed to buy between 100 to 150 hay bales a year depending on drought and what condition our fields are in for grazing.  (that is Bermuda square bales)  This is not counting round bales for ponies.  As I have sold off my larger goats and these smaller Nigerians have grown into adults, our feed bill has fluxed here and there.  But slowly come down.  I knew the last two large goats would be picked up soon so only bought what grain I knew I needed for the Nigrians and mid sized goats we have now and rest of the farm animals.  My feed bill was 198.00.  I am amazed.  I have not had a monthly bill that low in a long time.  I also had bought 100 bales of hay last year for winter and had 50 left still this year!  So I only had to buy 40 bales to full up our hay mow this year.  So all in all.  I know I might have to milk two goats instead of one if I need more milk for some reason or another.  But,  for our family...this has been a very worth while move and I am very happy with how the Great Goat Experiment has turned out.  Praise God for His wisdom and help.

On another non-related note... we have two ponies. 
We put them up into stalls at night with outside access.  Millie the black one is pretty much unflappable.  Nothing spooks her to much.  Even a dog running up barking will not usually faze her.  Two days ago the children went out to do their chores and Millie was not in her stall.  The children called me out and we found her in one of the goat upper pacocks.  As we got to looking something spooked her badly in the night.  She knocked down the fencing in between her pen and the goat pen next door totally sheering off, at the ground, a green metal T post!  

The below picture is after we started to pull up the piece broke off in the ground with a crow-bar.

I can not believe it. Metal T-post!!!  Snapped right off.  Then she was still so spooked she kept going and went over the hog panel of the next paddock.  Bending it down in the shape of her tummy.

That stuff is tough stuff!  We found her in the next paddock which is much larger and I guess she got calmed down once in there.  I am still amazed.  Totally amazed that praise be to God, she was not hurt at all!

Life is never dull here on the farm that is for sure!

Blessings and happy farming,

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Chicken And Dumplings!

This time of year brings cold nights and brisk chilly days.  I love having gallons of soup, stew or chilli cooking away on the stove all day long.  I stew down a couple of roosters once a week or so, so I can have lots of yummy bone broth to drink and cook with and the meat for making lots of great things as well. 

There are two kinds of Chicken and Dumplings that I have seen mostly over the years.  The kind with biscuit type dumplings and the kind with huge noodle type dumplings.  We make the one with noodle type dumplings.

I cook for a very large and hungry family so I do all my cooking and baking big.  I will just go ahead and tell you what I do from start to finish. 

When I make this recipe I stew down two roosters in one huge stock pot.  Bring it to a quick boil and then turn the temperature down and leave 12 hours on a low setting.(I leave my burner on 3)  Then take out the birds, let them cool and pick the meat off the bones.  Put the meat in a container in the fridge and then I put two table spoons of Braggs Apple cider vinegar in the broth and put the bones back in.  I let that simmer for another 8-12 hours.  Then strain the broth.  I usually put half the broth right back into the pot and put the rest up in the fridge, in jars for later use. 

I add some water to the broth in the pot to get the level back up some and then add the veggies we want in it.  Anything you have really.  Or use a bag or two of those mixed vegetables you see in the store.  Also chop one onion fine and add and a few chopped celery stalks.  
After that cooks on the stove top for a while (few hours) I take the chicken meat out of the fridge and shred (pull apart into small pieces with my fingers) and add it to the soup pot. Once that comes up to a boil I season the soup.  I always use salt and pepper to taste but sometimes I also add Garlic powder, or Braggs herb mix or even some chives too.  Keep adding and tasting and remember you can't take it out once it is in so be careful with the salt.  Soon you will have it the way you want it to taste. (and be careful tasting as it is hot)

So basically you want to make a good flavorful chicken soup to add your dumpling noodles to.  

It is time to make the dumplings.  The reason why you want to season the soup before making the dumpling noodles is  that you want the noodles to absorb and cook in the flavorful soup giving even more flavor to your dumplings.

I love making dumplings as it is one of those things you make, that you can see great change as you knead it and watch it come right together as you mix it with you hands.  Your hands start out a mess and by the time you finish incorporating all the ingredients you have a beautiful dough ball and your hands are clean!

This recipe makes enough dumplings for a very large stock pot of soup.  So half it if making a smaller pot.

4 cups of flour
2 tablespoons salt
1/4 cup softened butter
1 1/8 cups warm water

Mix salt, flour and butter with the tips of your fingers till crumbly and the butter has been well worked thru the flour.  (take your time and enjoy yourself  :)   

Add the warm water and mix with your finger and hands, kneeding till you have a shinny firm ball of dough.
Our dough is made from fresh ground whole wheat flour so is quite dark.
Separate dough ball into four small balls and roll out one at a time.

 Cut into 1 inch by 2 inch pieces.  (about the size of a sweet and low packet)

While the soup is at a rapid boil.  Drop dumplings one at a time into the stock pot.

Once they are all in, stir it once in a while over the next 20 minutes while the dumplings cook. 

All done and YUM!!
It smells delicious and tastes great too.  Makes for a meal you can cook all day on the stove top and have ready by dinner time.  No rush.

Blessings and happy farming.