Monday, May 28, 2007

Raw Milk Dairy - First Steps

Our dairy goats have two young kids, and the milk is flowing like a river. As a person raised in a large metropolis (Minsk, Belarus - two million people), I was mildly conflicted about such an act of intimacy as drinking milk from my own goat.... I had had plenty of fresh, still warm, cow's milk as a child, spending summers in the countryside. But I did not know the cows, or milk them, I just drunk the sweet and wonderful milk. Well, now it is different. I am involved in this magical process of extracting milk. I feel like I am part of some kind of a human-goat constellation, a guild in which I am not just a participant, not just a caregiver, but an inseparable element. It is a very interesting experience!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Farm Losses

Reputed as good mothers, our Bourbon Red turkeys have had big progeny in the previous years. Our works was limited to catching the entire family after the chicks have hatched and to locking them up in the chicken house, until the chicks learn to fly. Otherwise, the mothers nest on the ground and get killed by racoons.

This year, within days one of nesting females was reduced to a pile of feathers, leaving nearly two dozen orphaned eggs. This was a call to action, so the remaining two were gently lifted from their nests in the darkest hour of the night, and moved to the safe haven of the chicken house - eggs and all. They are not smart, but something that disrespectful had definately registered. They took off the next morning. Three more relocations later, and the turkeys have finally agreed to nest in the chicken house. Some of their eggs got bad in the process, and chickens and guineas were sneaking in the nest.

This has happen before, many times - when birds put their eggs under another bird. The resulting medley of chicks is a true testimonial to diversity: turkeys raising chickens and guineas, and chickens returning the favors! It is fun to watch how each different kind of chick searches for its identity when mixed in with other kids. It takes them a while, but they all become who they are meant to be and leave the little tribe of their brothers and sisters to be with their own kind.
This time, only two chicken chicks hatched. Both mothers got busy mothering and fussing. While I was busy with the goats, they lost both babies to a hawk....... So much for all that work.
This is truly the Year of the Goat at our farm.

Friday, May 18, 2007

What's for Dinner? Local Foods - May

My husband is away, I am engaged in my habitual withdrawing from going to the grocery store. I do it every time he leaves (and most of my female friends admit to the same habit). Great way to clean up the pantry, the refrigerator. It is not that I don't eat.... I just don't buy the food. Well this time is he gone for a month, and am transitionining into extreme Local Food situation - and with pleasure am finding out that I can (almost) survive!
Today, on May 18th, I have:
  • cooking greens (both outside and in the greenhouse) - chard, kale, cauliflower & broccoli greens, French sorrel (great in soups)
  • wild greens - lamb's quarters, thumble weed (delicious when very young), wild mustard, stinging nettle (great in soups)
  • salad greens are in the full swing (the greenhouse is gone, but the outdoors is still cool enough). Garlic greens and chives, of course.
  • eggs from chickens and guinea fowl - lots
  • meat in the freezer from our own turkey butchered last fall
  • meat from a local beef ranchero
  • milk from my two goats - lots. With milk comes cheese and yogurt
  • winter squash from last year - I really need to get it finished!
  • canned goods from last year - peach jam, tomato sauces, beets, chutneys
  • some honey
I am out of sundried tomatoes, which I miss on my salads.
Well, there is still enough to make it by! I only have one more week to go until real shopping.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Yogurt making episode

After making plain but wonderful Queso Blanco, and delicious goat milk Mozzarella for the past few weeks, I finally got too much milk to deal with and decided to face the inevitable - opening up my future Raw Milk Goat co-op. The idea is that folks buy shares in my animals, and then get the milk from their "own" goat, bypassing the regulations around raw milk.

Birth of Jesus

The goats were supposed to give birth a long time ago. Nothing for days, and eventually I forget to even think about it. Good that my friends keep bugging me: any kids yet? Annoyed I decide to get ready, just a symbolic exercise in futility. Maybe they are not even pregnant?

I get online and learn a lot of grizzly details about how a birth can go wrong. Panic sets in. I must go shopping and get all the necessities, in case things fall apart. As I am out shopping, Katia and Rosa (the goats) are peacefully doing nothing. The day is warm and slow, and I am back at my computer. After a while, I get an itch to go outside and take a photo of my goats. My arrival is met by Katia in full labor, with two feet and a nose already out! I panic again. Quick handwashing follows, with clipping my nails (fill in the blanks, why I may be doing this!) -

Katia is howling by now, pleased to have an observer. As I pet her, I turn around, I see the entire animal yard gathered in the doorway of the barn - chickens, guineas, turkeys, the cat, the other goat. Necks are stretched, eyes are shiny and everyone is wondering what is going on. The next moment the baby is born.

His name is Jesus ( Spanish pronunciation).