Saturday, July 30, 2011

Preparedness Challenge #19

One of the best things you can do toward getting prepared is to make a list, organize it, and prioritize. That way, you have a plan and you work it rather than haphazardly jumping all over the place. And you're more likely to be fully prepared in at least some area sooner than later. That alone will motivate you to accomplish your next preparedness goal.

Here's some areas you might want to consider:

• 72 Hour GOODY Bag for each family member (Get Out Of Dodge Y'all)
• Get Back Home Kit
• Camping gear that can be used for pleasure and for emergencies
• 3 days worth of meals that can be prepared if the grid goes down
• 1 week worth of meals, then 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and for some... 1 year
• medical supplies for larger emergencies
• search and rescue gear
• survival gear for hiking out of your area
• supplies for gardening year 'round

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it gives you an idea of how you can break down your preparedness goals so that you can focus on working on them better. It's also a good idea to start a preparedness notebook in order to keep lists of your goals, check off items as you obtain them, keep an inventory of everything from gear to pantry supplies, emergency exit routes, contact numbers... you get the idea. Having all this information at your fingertips is helpful to say the least, but if you have to leave home in a hurry, it's easier to just grab your notebook and go.

I need to do some updating in my own notebook. If I can remember to do this when I pay bills or something else at my desk on a monthly basis, it should stay fairly current.

This week, I also purchased a cast iron skillet and a cast iron griddle for both camping and emergency cooking. We tested them out with recipes such as the GNOWFGLINS™ Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls and tonight, I'm making Sourdough Tortillas on the griddle (don't worry, they don't actually taste sour).  But using sourdough eliminates the need for commercial yeast in baked products. I'm LOVING it!! Taking the GNOWFGLINS™ eCourses has helped me feel more prepared in the area of cooking should the grid ever shut down. Let's hope we never have to find out!

Join the Challenge

To join the Preparedness Challenge, just write a post on something you did this week to prepare and then link up below or leave a comment. Even one thing a week adds up and it will encourage you to do even more! And by participating in the challenge, it will get you thinking about prepping on a regular basis. 

Be sure to take the Preparedness Challenge Picture and add it to your blog so others know you're participating and hopefully they'll join up, too!

• Update 7/30/11: It seems that some readers are starting to link up blog posts that are not on topic. Please be respectful of everyone's time and only add a post that is preparedness related. That way, readers who click your Linky know they will find a post on being prepared. If you have a general homesteading post, you may link it to my Homestead Barn Hop on Mondays. I will not be removing any posts this week, but in the future, if they are not related to the Preparedness Challenge, I will need to remove them from the list in order to retain the integrity of the link up event. THANK YOU!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Freedom Rangers and Feed

It's been 13 weeks since my Freedom Rangers arrived and they're ready for dinner. We'll almost. Saturday is the first day that I'm going to start butchering them. My homesteading group is having a... well, let's call it an "event"!

Originally, our group compiled an order of over 100+ freedom rangers. Most of us took 20-25 birds; all from the same batch. But from there, we each raised them on our own feeding program. And we learned a lot by comparing notes.

I used an corn- and soy- free organic feed for the first 10 weeks. The first feed I used was a 22% protein crumble, but I began to notice that their legs were developing issues. It seemed that the feed was missing a nutrient and so after about 3 weeks, I switched to another corn- and soy- free brand with 19% protein. No more chickens developed leg problems, but I had lost 5 of my initial 25 birds. (For those interested, I was free feeding up through the third or fourth week, then when I wanted them foraging, I backed off up to the 10th week). 

Growth was slow and I began to wonder if they'd ever get big enough to make this venture worth the time, effort, and costs. While most of the other homesteaders used either the same feed or a similar corn- and soy- free feed, one member used a feed with corn and the difference was amazing! Her birds were nearly double the size than most of the others by 10 weeks. She killed a couple and they dressed out at around 5 pounds each. 

Perhaps you already knew this little fact - CORN ADDS FAT! Now, I knew it fattened me! And that it's used to fatten up cows before slaughter. But I hadn't really thought about the fact that it would fatten my poultry. 

Sometimes I can be a bit slow figuring this kind of thing out. 

After seeing my friend's chickens and realizing the reason they were larger, I made the decision that if I wanted enough weight on the birds, I'd have to add some feed with corn to finish them and start free feeding again. And it has made all the difference. In one week, they went from around 3.5 pounds to nearly 5. Now that it's been another 2 weeks, they're laying down a lot more than before and moving slower. But they're still foraging and happy!

If I were to raise Freedom Rangers again, I'd switch to the corn feed or something similar at 6 or 7 weeks instead of 10 and see if I could trim off a couple of weeks of feed by butchering earlier. (Ideally, I'd like to do so at 11 or 12 weeks.) The older they get, the more feed they go through in a week, so by trimming off one week, I can save a bit on each bird. 

By my calculations, each bird will cost me around $10.50 or about $2.10 per pound, give or take. Now lest you think that is outrageous, in California, a whole free range organic bird is $2.99 per pound, so you can see that despite my poor feed management, I'll be coming out ahead...  I hope! I'll be sure to post my final costs when I weigh them after processing. 

There's so much more to talk about when it comes to raising meat birds; a lot of which I haven't even covered. At this point, I'm not sure I'll choose Freedom Rangers again. I'll have to do a taste test before I make a final decision. There's so much to consider... which breed to raise, what kind of feed you want them consuming, should they forage, is the goal to keep cost down, etc. And then there's the concern that some folks have regarding corn products - many feel even the organic corn has been contaminated with GMO corn. It's enough to drive you crazy trying to decide it all. Can't it just be simple!!??

I'm sure I won't be complaining much when I take that first bite of delicious chicken!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Give Away: Health For Godly Generations!

If you've read any of my Food Journey posts, you know that I started my homesteading adventures by reading Rex Russell's book What the Bible Says About Healthy Living. Russell has since gone on to be with the Lord and yet, God has not left us without teachers to guide us. He has given others a similar vision to educate people in healthy food choices despite the mass amount of poor quality food on the market. And Renee DeGroot is a young lady for such a time as this!

I'm currently reading Renee's book Health For Godly Generations and I can say without a doubt that she has some wonderful insight into the theology and theory of food from a Biblical perspective! Her biblically reformed world view is woven throughout the chapters as she discusses thoughts we need to consider in order to make wise choices - lifelong food decisions that will effect our health and ultimately how God will use us in kingdom work. (Note: God always can and will use us as He sees fit - healthy or otherwise; however, being good stewards of what He has given us is pleasing to our Lord).

The subtitle of her book, "A Reformational Perspective", reflects her view of applying the whole and authoritative counsel of Scripture into every day life, including what the Believer eats. While she acknowledges we are certainly not subject to the Old Testament dietary restrictions for our spiritual standing before God (salvation), she does exhort the reader that we should be set apart by our food choices, gleaning from scripture and wise counsel, how we should treat our bodies and the kinds of foods we consume.

If you're just beginning your food journey into healthy eating, this book would be an excellent resource to help you understand why it's so important. If you don't have a good grasp of why you're making dietary changes, when things get tough, you'll go back to the old ways of eating. But once you've read Renee's book, I believe your mind will have been transformed so that you see food differently than you ever have before. And it will have practical results in your life on a day to day basis.

For those of you homeschooling and hoping to teach a home economics course to your high school student, Health For Godly Generations would be an ideal text to use in your class. Since it covers some of the practical aspects as well as the theology, your student would have a biblically balanced course and know WHY they need to make healthy food choices.

Perhaps you've been eating healthy for years, but just need a refresher as to why it's so important to do so. Renee's book would be a great review and just might inspire you to take it up a notch! Or, at least not to throw in the towel. Healthy eating is for life, an Renee will whip you back in to shape in no time! By chapter four, I realized I had slipped in a couple of areas and I needed to get back on track and remain committed to my health.

Enter The Give-Away!

1. Visit Renee's website and find out more about her new book, get to know her a bit, and investigate some of her links. Come back here and leave a comment telling me why you would like to win this book. Please leave an email address if you do not have a blog.

2. Sign up or Renee's Newsletter and you can come back here and leave a second comment for another chance to win.

* Note: your comment/entry will not appear right away. Other than a preview copy of Health for Godly Generations, I have not been compensated in any way. As always, I try to give my honest opinion on products I review.

This give-away ends Saturday, July 30th at 11:59 p.m. PST.
This give-away is now closed.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Barn Hop #21

Welcome Barn Hop friends and visitors! Monday we spend our blogging time sharing what's been happening at our homesteads all week and we encourage you to participate, too!

Many of you may know Deborah Jean of Deborah Jean's Dandelion House blog and hostesses of the Farmgirl Friday blog hop. She's had a rough week to say the least! Her blog disappeared from the internet and after some investigation she found out that she no longer had her .com name and that it had been sold. The story is a bit long, but suffice it to say, she's had to switch her URL back to a blogspot.com which wouldn't be so bad except that few of her followers have been able to find her and most have just been lost.
Dandelion House

Blogging is lots of fun, but it's also lots of hard work with hours of time invested in a site. So you can imagine how frustrating something like a URL change can be. This would be a great opportunity to come alongside a homesteading "sister" and encourage her with a visit to her wonderful blog! Perhaps you would take a few minutes today to stop by and say hello. And if you like her site, follow along! Don't forget to link up to her Farmgirl Friday as well.

Back at the Walker homestead, I have been reinvigorated as to my own garden after visiting a friend, literally on the other side of the mountain. Her garden is fabulous! Just spending time there, seeing her homestead, and trading ideas was exactly the boost I needed. We're a part of the same local homesteading community and it's amazing how much we help each other just by staying in contact on a regular basis. I'm constantly reminded how important community actually is to people who are "re-pioneering" a lost art. Without my friends, I think I would have given up more than once.

A glimpse of my friend Jan's garden.

You know, if gardening is THIS HARD, it's a good thing most of us are working on the mistakes now when we have the luxury to make mistakes and still be able to eat. I get a box of produce from some farmers in the San Joaquin Valley to supplement my meager crops (not the best gardening year for me) and they always include a newsletter. This week, Vernon talked about the difficulty of working within the government's OVER regulation which is so costly it puts little guys out of business. Seems like I'm not the only one who sees a storm brewing in the horizon. Here's how Vernon put it...

"...there's a huge body of regulation rolling towards us under the guise of food safety that will be very expensive to implement and have insignificant public health benefits. Mostly what keeps people safe and healthy is the ability to source from people they know and I'm afraid you're on the verge of losing that."

I'll push through this gardening slump and hopefully figure out the little nuances that are necessary for working within the varying weather patterns, bug infestations, and watering issues. Perhaps I've lost the battle, but I'm aiming to win the war.

Your Turn To Join The Barn Hop!
and Amy @ Homestead Revival...

...invite you to link up and share your homesteading adventures!

1. Write a blog post about what's going on at your homestead or a post on something you're learning or an item of interest that will benefit the homesteading community. Be sure to add the red barn button and link back here so others can join in the fun.

2. Come back here and enter your information in the Linky. Please be sure to link to your actual post (click your title and then copy the URL above) and not your home page so those participating later in the week can find your post easily.

3. If you don't have a blog, leave a comment and tell us what's going on at your homestead!

Please Note: As hostesses of the Homestead Barn Hop, please understand that we reserve the right to remove any links that are not family friendly. While this may be subjective, we will err on the side of caution in order to keep our blogs appropriate for all readers. Thank you for your understanding!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday Blessing

"For you were straying like sheep, 
but have now returned to the Shepherd 
and Overseer of your souls."
~ I Peter 2:25

Photo Credit

"For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel.  I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD." 
~ Ezekiel 34:11-15

Overseer of our souls... He IS the Good Shepherd! Praise His Holy Name!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Preparedness Challenge #18

This week I listened to Lisa Bedford's new Survival Mom Podcast since my husband and I have been considering camping more often and it turned out she was having Leon Pantenburg, an outdoor survivalist, speak about it on her show. I got some wonderful tips and then I began to realize how camping is a great way to test out your "prepping" skills. The typical family camping experience isn't a replica of being self-sustaining, but it would be helpful to have some experience if you ever had to bug out fast!

One can camp in luxury or rough it and it's still called camping. We looked through some campers at an RV show this week and it was amazing what they can put on wheels! But I was disappointed for the most part. My idea of camping isn't a lavish motor home, as nice as they are. Instead, I'd love to sleep in a vintage camper, say 1960's or so. Kind of like a mini cabin on wheels with a toilet. Now there will no doubt be some who see THIS as over-the-top and not real camping. And that's fine. I'm not in competition to see who can "rough it" the most. I've done the tent thing, used a campground hole in the ground which was the potty, and not showered for days, but I'd kind of like to ENJOY my vacation and so each person needs to do what he or she likes the most.

Photo Credit

My point is this... consider camping at SOME level below the decked out RV on wheels and get a reality check as to where your family needs to make some adjustments. You may even want to try several different camping scenarios so you can test yourselves even further. And have FUN! Leave the electronics at home and enjoy nature and each other!

Lisa's podcast is divided into segments where she hosts more than one guest. One that I hadn't planned on listening to but enjoyed immensely was Linda Dixon who wrote a cookbook called Just Dutch It. Honestly, while I had been looking into solar ovens, I hadn't even considered a dutch oven. Silly me! After hearing her talk about all it's uses, I was chomping at the bit to get to the big city to purchase one. Since we keep plenty of firewood for our woodstove, we could always make a fire pit out back and cook there in an emergency.

Obviously, dutch oven cooking has been around for hundreds of years. According to either Lisa or Linda, even Lewis and Clark packed a dutch oven with them while exploring the western portion of the United States. Somehow I don't think their recipes called for boxed cake mix and commercially canned fruit, but those items are certainly easy to throw together for a cobbler. Most dutch oven cookbooks require ingredients that I might not use on a regular basis, but what makes Linda's cookbook so unique is that her 60 + recipes are all from food storage! I have not seen the book myself, but seems like she has included some quality ingredients as her recipe featured on her website uses things like whole wheat flour and honey.

Photo Credit

Once you get the hang of using a dutch oven, I think you can cook most anything you would normally cook in it. But it's those tricks that make the difference, and Linda passes them on in her book. For example, I never realized I could use the dutch oven like I would my own oven, cooking things on another pan inside the dutch oven. While my mom had a dutch oven and used it, these skills were not passed on to me. Learn how to use one and pass on the knowledge to your children!

Update (7/23/11): I forgot to mention my own preparedness - I got an apple tree and two blackberry bushes for my garden. I hope to add about one fruit tree every month or two.

Join the Challenge

To join the Preparedness Challenge, just write a post on something you did this week to prepare and then link up below or leave a comment. Even one thing a week adds up and it will encourage you to do even more! And by participating in the challenge, it will get you thinking about prepping on a regular basis. 

Be sure to take the Preparedness Challenge Picture and add it to your blog so others know you're participating and hopefully they'll join up, too! 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Greek Marinade

By far, my favorite food is anything Mediterranean. Especially, something Greek! And one of my favorite ways to eat meat is to marinade it and grill it. This fresh herb recipe is at the top of my list! As you will see, it doesn't have to be exact and you can play with it to achieve the results that please you the most.

Greek Marinade

1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard (I've substituted dry mustard in a pinch)
2 T. dried oregano (or if you have a LOT of fresh, use about 6 T. of the fresh)
1 T. fresh chopped thyme leaves or 1 tsp. dried
2 T. fresh chopped parsley or 2 tsp. dried (I tend to use a bit more of the dried)
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 T. fresh chopped rosemary or 1 tsp. dried

Combine ingredients in a small bowl, then pour over your meat and marinade for 1-2 hours.

I use my Food Saver meat marinader and leave it out on the counter for a couple of hours to really get the flavor in the meat. Here I just used some inexpensive stew meat for k-bobs. I don't even really bother skewing it. My husband just throws it in the grill basket to cook.

This entree is wonderful with my Mediterranean Couscous and some grilled vegetables. Tonight, I'm going to grill some onions along with the lovely zucchini we got from my friend's absolutely amazing homestead that we visited today. Thanks for a lovely afternoon, Jan!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Barn Cats

Our homesteading group just finished Marjory Wildcraft's Backyard Food Production where she discusses everything on her property that relates to raising food for her family within a self contained system. Her goal is to raise everything they need, including feed for animals, on her own property. One of the animals she covered was dogs and their uses on a small homestead. What she didn't cover were barn cats.

You may not think of cats as being that essential to a homestead, but where I live, they're very important. In most rural situations, you have field mice, rats, gophers, moles, voles, ground squirrels, and probably a number of other rodents that can wreck havoc on a garden or eat plenty of grains and other food stored for yourself and your livestock. Rodents also carry diseases in their droppings, another reason to eliminate them or greatly reduce their numbers. They're notorious for destroying property, chewing through almost any type of material, including electrical wiring, insulation, and other essential construction materials.

Cats can live pretty independently without outside resources when feasting on these small pests. At our homestead, we currently have 5 barn cats. While we don't have a "barn" per se, we do have a chicken coop, a large garden, and our farmhouse with the hopes of adding a goat shed or barn in the near future. I use the term "barn cat" because that's what we always called them when we were growing up and it refers to cats that are not fed a full diet of commercial cat food so that they will hunt for the bulk of their meals.

Siesta, our largest cat and best hunter!

Now I know someone will think that we're starving these poor cats, but I assure you, they are happy and healthy, doing what cats were designed by God to do - hunt! We love on them, enjoy them, and meet their basic needs, but we consider them a working animal on our little homestead farm. It would be easy to start doting on them and spoil them to where they won't hunt, so we have a routine and way we do things in order to keep them happy and hunting.

When we get new kittens to raise as barn cats, we actually keep them in the laundry room for the first couple of weeks, making sure we handle them as much as possible. We don't want ferrel (wild) cats, but rather tame cats that will hunt. A ferrel cat can be a real problem. Trust me on this, I've had to have rabie shots when I was bit by a ferrel barn cat and while it isn't as bad as everyone has heard, it certainly isn't my idea of a great event! You don't want to worry about visitors to your homestead having to go through an experience like rabie shots because their child cornered a ferrel kitty trying to pet it.

Soleil, sister to Siesta, and almost identical!

After a couple of weeks, we move the kittens to the garage, but we don't let them out. We play with them, handle them, and love on them, but we expand their area. When we want them to come to us, we call "Here kitty, kitty, kitty" and give them a wet treat (canned cat food). Just a bite, not a lot. Finally, after another couple of weeks, we start letting them out of the garage for short periods of time, using the treat to get them to come back when we're ready. Over the weeks we extend the period of time they are out of the garage and eventually, we lock them out of the garage during the day, feeding them a small amount of dry cat food only at night when we bring them inside.

Because we live in an area with lots of hawks, owls, raccoons, skunks, coyotes, foxes, and other animals that consider cats a nice dinner, we do bring them in at night. Yes, this defeats some of the purpose for having them, especially since cats are nocturnal and a lot of what they hunt is nocturnal as well, but if we don't bring them in, we run a high risk of losing them. I give my cats vaccinations and spay or nueter them when I want to control the numbers and to keep the males from spraying and marking their territory, so I've invested not only time, but money in these felines. To lose one is costly, so we try to bring them in as much as possible. And since they are trained for the wet treat, they're pretty easy to call into the garage.

Marco, who's fur is a lot longer than it looks here!
See more of Marco HERE.

Marjory Wildcraft uses the bi-products of her butchering to feed her dogs and if I were to start butchering on a regular basis, like Marjory does, I could do the same. I could also stop getting the cats fixed and leave them out at night. Doing these two things would keep their numbers down to a reasonable number, but since it isn't necessary at the moment, I don't see the need to do so. My food bill for the wet treat is very minimal, even with 5 cats, because they get one bite a day in the evening in order to get them to come in.

Keep in mind that if you wait until it is dark, you're not going to get the cats inside. You need to call them in just before the sun sets. Otherwise, only the very hungry cat will come for a treat. This has happened to us on occasion and we've learned that it's just best to wait a while, try one more time, and if we're not successful, the cat spends the night outside. For some reason, they usually are the first in the next night and they seem plenty tired the next day!

Ricco. What can I say; I'm not sure he's totally sane.

There are a few things you might consider when selecting a barn cat. Don't get white or light colored cats if at all possible. I made this mistake on our last round of kittens, and although they were darling and irresistible at the time, it was not a wise choice. The light colored kittens, especially the white, show up like a neon sign in the dark. If you're cat isn't in that evening, it has a high chance of not making it back the next morning. On the plus side, the white cats are well hidden when it snows, but the dark cats look like bushes sticking up out of the snow, so they're still the better choice.

Look for shorthaired cats if at all possible. The longer the hair, the more foxtails, burrs, and other stickers the cat will pick up in his fur. This requires more grooming on the cat's part and they look a bit unhealthy as a result. I think the exception would be if you could find a Maine Coon.

Maine Coon's are one of the only native breeds to North America, if I'm not mistaken. They're very large, which makes them less appealing to certain predators and means they have a better chance in a fight. Also, they're excellent hunters. So the trade off of a longer coat would probably be worth it. If you live where there is plenty of snow, Maine Coons do well in a cold winter environment. With large paws and an extra toe, they can move in the snow easily and use their large bushy tail to wrap around them. And their kind personality and intelligence make them a good choice for families.

Pablo, a real sweety and my next top notch mouser!

Despite the fact that we still have gopher issues, an occasional mouse, or some other rodent, if it weren't for our five barn cats, we would be overrun with these pests and no amount of organic repellent would be able to compete. Barn cats are just one weapon in our arsenal in the fight against unwanted critters, but I would say, without a doubt, that they are also our first line of defense.

Many of you may be allergic to cat hair. Actually, I have a mild allergy to them and my husband is even more allergic. Keeping the cats outside curbs a lot of the issues as does as does not handling them and washing our hands after being outside. The girls do most of the loving on the cats for us, but I've learned that if I just don't pick them up I'm usually fine. Instead, I give them a good scratching and rub here and there and they seem perfectly content with the attention. Don't leave your patio chair cushions that are covered in fabric outside when not in use or your cats will make a bed of them. An old dog bed in the garage makes the perfect sleeping quarters for cats and many a night I've found all 5 of them curled up next to the dog!

I hope a few of you who haven't considered cats in the past will find this information helpful in handling pest issues around your homestead. If it's as big a problem for you as it has been for us, I think you'll find cats a welcome addition!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Kinder Goats For Small Homesteads

My two younger daughters and I have been mentored the last couple of years by a friend who has a herd of Saanen goats with the hopes that one day we would get a couple of our own. Mostly for the purpose of having our own source of raw milk and dairy products. To say I've been dragging my feet would be an understatement!

First, this is quite a commitment. The thought of milking an large animal twice a day has just about sealed their fate around here. We're not big vacationing people, but we would like to do some more camping in the future. And when we do take a big trip, it's usually back to Texas to see family and we're gone for 2-3 weeks at a time. Do you know how difficult it is to find someone who wants to take care of a small homestead for that long of a time? And I hate to even ask! Adding a dairy animal might keep us tied to the house more than we'd like.

Second, the housing requirements for a larger animal has been a bit daunting. We want to build one time, not twice, unlike our chicken coop where we built and then realized that it was way too small! Then there is the issue of fencing. Goats require a taller fence and one that they can't mangle or climb over. Cha-ching!

Third, despite how much we've learned, we're far from being confident when it comes to hoof care, issues of an upset rumen, and the like. But I suspect we'll never feel 100% ready until we dive in. It's not like we haven't learned ANYTHING the last two years!

Anyway, I've hesitated to move forward until recently when I reconsidered Kinder goats. A couple of my homesteading friends mentioned they wished they had not "upgraded" to larger breeds and were discussing the benefits of Kinders when I received an email from Rich Anderson of Anderson Family Farms on some unrelated business. The Andersons raise Kinders and have a family based business as an off-shoot of their goat milk products. (You should really visit their site to see the beautiful products!).

All this Kinder talk led me to start asking some questions about the breed and I'm excited with what I'm finding out! Kinders are a fairly new breed on the scene; a cross between a Nubian and a Pygmy, but they are now bred Kinder to Kinder as well. Here are some of the benefits of the breed...

• smaller in size, they require more modest housing, although it should be just as "goat proof" as for a larger breed

• their food intake is also more modest, making the feed cost less

• they are considered dual purpose in that they are used for milk or meat

• they can be bred year-round

• they typically have multiple births

• their milk is high in butterfat, ranging from 5.5% - 7%

• they aren't as difficult to milk as a pygmy

• they're hardy and seem to live long, tolerating heat or cold fairly well

Obviously, these smaller goats are not going to produce as much milk, however, it's probably plenty for most families. Realistically, you might expect to get about 2 quarts per day from a milker. (The amount will vary depending on age, etc.) Given the fact that goats need companions, it would be best to have at least two or three does which should allow you to have more than enough milk for drinking and for making dairy products.

Here are some links with additional information that you might find helpful...

Kinder Goats Breeders Association
Backwoods Home Magazine "Kinder Goats"
Hobby Farms "Kinder Breed Profile"

So... now I think we might be ready to move forward into the realm of goats. In fact, we went and visited a friend with some Kinders to see them up close and personal and I have to confess, we were charmed by their wonderful personality and size! Both my daughters readily agreed that the Kinder breed was their favorite. Even my husband thought they were cute and more to his liking.

Given the fact that these are smaller animals and their needs not so grand (although just as important) has  given us the confidence to consider moving forward. And we'll be deciding in the next few days. If anyone has additional input as to the pros and cons of Kinders, or goats for that matter,  I'd love to hear from you today! Don't be shy!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sourdough Perfection!

I don't always share everything I'm learning at the GNOWFGLINS™ eCourses, but sometime I get so excited, I can't help myself. And while I can't share the exact recipe, I can tell you, that these sourdough whole wheat waffles were the best I've ever had!

The sourdough starter is built up the night before so that when you wake up in the morning, it's ready to work with. And no extra flour is needed and no commercial yeast. Just some eggs, salt, honey, vanilla, and baking soda. After breakfast, you just feed your starter a breakfast, too! How easy is that?

The whole wheat waffles come out nice and crisp - not crunchy like they're overcooked. No, no, no! A nice kind of crisp. The whole wheat recipe I used before caused the waffles to cook up nicely, but before you could butter them and eat, they were soggy. Not good. Or sometimes, if you overcooked them, they'd get hard. It was always a bit of a disappointment. But no longer! I'm now a sourdough whole wheat waffle gal!

I have to give a little credit to my waffle iron... the work horse of waffle irons. A very good friend gifted this to our family one Christmas and it's been a wonderful addition to our kitchen.

Erin, who helps Wardeh on the sourdough eCourse suggested some ideas for making savory waffles. Oh, my, they sound good! If I start gaining weight, you'll know why!

I think a common misconception about sourdough starters is that they make everything taste sour.  But I haven't found that to be the case. A lot of it depends on the environment your starter is in, the age of your starter, and the recipe you're using and it's souring time. There are things you want to taste sour and things you don't. So by adjusting the amount of time you let it sour, you have some control over the taste.

Another item I've used my sourdough starter to make is muffins. Although they didn't dome when they rose, they tasted great! I'll have to work on the poofing issue. Too bad... guess I'll just have to make and eat a lot more!

FINALLY, I made the pizza crust I've been hoping to achieve for months! I tried recipe after recipe, trying to get a thin and crisp 100% whole wheat pizza crust and it's been very elusive, always coming out bready. I took this picture before the cheese and before baking, but we got so excited eating it that I forgot to take another photo! Next time, I'm going to roll it out even thinner and bake it a bit longer for an even crisper pizza!

I'd love to hear what you make with a sourdough starter if you use one. And if you haven't tried a sourdough starter yet because you've been intimidated or think it's too time consuming, it really isn't that hard. Just 5 minutes in the morning and evening to keep it going. A worthwhile investment!


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