Thursday, October 22, 2009

Goat's Milk Ricotta Cheese at Home

Do you ever wonder what can be done with goat's milk other than drinking it? Well baking and cheese making ranking pretty high around here as well. The simplest cheese on the face of the planet to make has to be ricotta. In fact I had no idea that I could have been making my own ricotta even from grocery store milk all along. It was one of those revelation moments such as I had when I started preparing my own buttermilk.

Here's how I go about making our own fresh, creamy ricotta cheese. Heat two quarts goat's milk to 180 degrees on the stove top stirring frequently but gently to distribute the heat. As it nears the 180 degree mark, stir in two tablespoons of either apple cider or white vinegar. As you continue to heat the milk, you will notice that the acid in the vinegar will begin to coagulate the milk and the yellowish whey will begin to separate. You may have to raise the temperature up to 200 degrees to achieve separate of curds and whey but do not let it go any further than that. If you have reached 195 degrees and there is no separation, add an additional tablespoon of vinegar and that should do the trick as it continues to climb to the 200 degree mark. Once you see the curds really begin to form, remove from the heat and allow to cool. The curds should float on the whey and form a semi-solid mass. For the creamiest ricotta, allow to cool undisturbed for a half of an hour. You can then gently lift the curds off of the whey with a slotted spoon and place them into a container. You may occasionally need to drain extra whey from your container as you fill it with the warm curds. Refrigerate and use within the week.

That's all there is to it. Once you're comfortable with making your own ricotta, next thing you know you'll be hankering for some semi-soft cheese as well. It's easier than you think and more rewarding as well. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rotten Eggs

"Last one home is a rotten egg!" Ever hear that before? It was a frequent phrase while I was growing up, but I must admit I never stopped to wonder what was so bad about a rotten egg. Do I ever know now...

Raising your own hens for fresh eggs has always been a desire of mine since we adopted a bantam chicken when I was a child that appeared out of nowhere in the middle of a suburban LA neighborhood. Now that we have the property to keep chickens, we do. Their eggs are fantastic. We love them and so do our occasional customers. However, with that said it bears repeating that eggs are only as fresh as you allow them to become.

I will admit that during the times we are not providing eggs for customers, my egg collection habits can get a bit sloppy. And yes, we have a couple of roosters hanging around so the eggs are fertilized. So now imagine the scenario...eggs get fogotten under hens or the lucky child sent to get eggs does not want to bear the wrath of an angry hen and doesn't search for any under particularly annoying ladies. That same eggs escapes coming into the house for more days than it should while receiving the incubating warmth it needs to develop. One day the egg is unsuspectingly collected with the others and brought into the house. It may sit around awhile in the fridge before it's used, and then one day, it's cracked open to the panic of the cook. And boy does it smell...reek...of a most distasteful, putrid odor. No matter how fast you rush that egg and its watery contents out of the house, you're left with a lingering reminder of your careless mistake.

So, here's how I should be protecting myself from further odoriferous adventures other than the obvious of prompt egg collection and refrigeration. Eggs can be floated in a bowl of water and observed. Those that lay flat on the bottom are as fresh as fresh can be. If they begin to tilt upwards at a 45 degree angle, they're ok but the yolks may crack upon breaking. A little more age on the egg, and it will float on its end on the bottom of the bowl. I'd still use this egg but maybe just in baking. Once that egg is floating on top of the water, it's gone. The last test for a dead-ringer of a bad egg...give it a little shake. Any sloshing inside is an indication that all is not well inside and you should get that egg to an outside garbage asap.

After another incident with a rotten egg, I have vowed to be more careful with egg collection at our home. With cooler weather coming, the eggs do stay fresher outside in our refrigerator temperature weather here. But all the same, they do belong inside in the refrigerator.

I guess life raising animals to provide your family with healthy and nourishing food can throw you a twist now and again. Any harrowing stories you'd like to share? Love to hear and laugh along with you.

Tomatillos from the Garden

One of my favorite cookbooks is Mexican Kitchen by Rick Bayless. It is pure and simple authentic Mexican cooking. As such, it is one of my main resources to turn to when the garden is full of produce utilizing vegetables and fruits native to Mexican cooking. Specifically, I love the recipes using tomatillos.

I had never heard of tomatillos for many years until I stumbled across them in my seed catalog and decided I should try growing some. They are an unusual looking... small green globes covered in a papery husk. I also hadn’t realized they were the main component of many of Mexico’s green sauces. They are also prolific. These small, innocent little plants usually get planted among peppers and other 1’ x 1’ square plants in my garden, as I seem to forget every year how they grow. They sprawl and crawl and take over an enormous amount of space rivaling that of a well-manured zucchini. Hence, after planting two of these guys this year, I will be way over my head in tomatillos.

Rick Bayless advises using the tomatillos whose husks have turned papery but have not become golf-ball sized yet. After collecting a bowlful of the ripest tomatillos, it’s time to head to the kitchen and remove the paper husks. The husks leave behind a slightly sticky residue so a rinse under cool water is necessary. My favorite way to use them is his “Essential Simmered Tomatillo-Serrano Sauce” although I don’t add as much heat as the recipe calls for and adapt it slightly.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
Fresh chile peppers (1 ounce Serrano or jalapeno for spicier, 2 ounces banana for milder taste)
2 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 small white onion, finely chopped
¼ cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (if needed)

Place tomatillos on baking sheet and place under broiler. Boil until skins blister and blacken then turn them over and repeat, about 10 minutes total. Cool.

Roast chilies and garlic in a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally until blackened in spots and soft, 5 to 10 minutes total. Cool and then remove stems from chilies and peel garlic.

Place cooled tomatillos and their juice into food processor along with cooled roasted peppers and garlic. Pulse until reduced into a coarse-textured puree.

Scrape the sauce into serving bowl and stir in ¼ to ½ cup water to thin to a spoonable consistency. Place the chopped onion into strainer and rinse thoroughly to remove its hot taste (trust me on this little extra works). Shake dry and add to salsa along with cilantro. Season with salt and add sugar to taste if too acidic.

Grab your bag of chips and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Busy Season

This is definitely one of the busiest months of the year for us. Family visiting. Church camps. 4H horse fair. Lots of garden harvesting. Berry picking. Animal and house sitting for others. Goat kid weaning and sales. Extra milking.

Therefore, posting here may seem sporadic but should start to improve. I still update our daily harvest here and am just keeping a daily journal posting over at our home blog site, Six in the Northwest.

In other words, don't go away. So many wonderful and interesting things happen around here but there just doesn't seem to be the time to get them posted. Working on that though.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Off Flavor Goat's Milk Solved

Do you remember my post from last week? The one about the nasty goat's milk we'd been getting from our normally fantastically fresh and sweet milk producer? Well I proceeded to play scientist and start to go through my list of potential taste offenders. Here they were:

1. Checking milk taste now that stainless pails have been sanitized with acid detergent. Also tasting the milk immediately after milking will determine if milking containers, our cooling process, storage jars, or shelf life are affecting the taste.

2. Comparing taste of milking doe's milk to that of other does still with kids to see if the unpleasant taste is there as well indicating that it could be their intake of the different hay. I will also compare the milk taken before feeding in the a.m. to that taken in the p.m. after feeding.

3. Purchasing B vitamins in injectible form to combat any potential deficiency, and reviewing mineral content of their supplement.

4. And lastly, if the taste suddenly dissipates regardless of the above, perhaps residual from the wormer was the cause.

I started at the top of my list and immediately found out that the taste of the milk directly after milking was delicious, just like it always had been. I again milked before feeding and even several hours afterwards. Guess what? The off taste couldn't have anything to do with the hay.

I grabbed some milk from another doe. Her milk was fabulous too. Definitely not the hay.

I went back on-line and checked around for some specific descriptions of the taste I had been experiencing after the milk had been processed and refrigerated for several days. I stumbled across several sites which went way in-depth as to the different off-tastes that milk can take on. This is almost a full-time profession for some it would seem. The best way I could relate the taste of the milk was the equivalent of tasting the smell of tallow. I learned that oxidation of the milk can be a common cause for this taste. I also noticed a small comment. Milk that has been warmed above the temperature of 50 degrees and then recooled can dramatically alter the taste.

Light-bulb moment. I had gotten lazy and had been pouring fresh strained milk into some half-full akreadt cooled quart jars. Guess what I had been doing? Raising the temperature of the milk by pouring in warm milk. Bingo.

Let's face it. Sometimes we get sloppy when we feel it doesn't matter or affect anyone else. If the milk were intended for someone else, I would've never dreamed of treating it so. Why is it that we allow ourselves to take shortcuts when we're well aware of the risks or problematic outcome? Not to get too philosophical here, but it made me do some thinking. Perhaps this experience...that nasty taste will not be soon forgotten...will stick with me long enough to remind me to take care in all areas of my life - family, friends, faith. No more thinking it won't matter or taking the easy way out.

Miniature Dairy Goat Kids for Sale

That time of the year has come around fast...weaning and sale time for the kids born at Abernethy Creek Farm. Of the seven mini kids born here this year, we still have three available for sale. We will also have for sale one of breeding stock does, Maddie, who will still be in milk from her first freshening this year.

Here are details and photos:

Maddie - Miniature Toggenburg Dairy Doe - $175

Maddie is a two-year old miniature dairy goat. She was bred last year and freshening with twins this past April Fool's Day. She is the perfect size for someone looking for a small dairy goat for home milking. As miniatures are a cross-bred dairy goat including the Nigerian Dwarf breed, she would also make an excellent pet or companion animal as the Nigerian dwarf breed is very personable in nature.

Edward - Miniature Toggenburg Dairy Wether - $75

Edward is a wether out of our miniature Toggenburg doe, Kari. He is the largest of our miniature kids born this year and has great coloring. Edward would make a great pet or companion animal.

Alice - Miniature Toggenburg Dairy Doe Kid - $150

Alice is one the triplet kids - sister to Edward above - born this year to our 4H champion miniature Toggenburg dairy doe, Kari. As all of Kari's kids tend to be, she is friendly as they are handled daily by our children. With her dam's great udder in her breeding, she would make an ideal doe for someone looking for a dairy doe for home milking.

Bella - Miniature Nubian Dairy Doe Kid - $150

Bella is miniature Nubian dairy doe born this year to our miniature Nubian doe, Wroxy. Wroxy's kids tend to be the quietest of the bunch and very laid-back in personality. Wroxy too has a great udder so Bella should make an equally good dairy doe for the home milker as well as companion or pet animals.

We are also liquidating some of our percentage and Boer goats as well. Please contact us by email (click on PROFILE link under blog header) for additional information.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Off-Flavor Goat's Milk

I'm on a mission. A fairly important one too. We've recently experienced an off-flavor developing in the milk of our dairy goat doe. If this milk were to be my first impression of goat's milk, I too would be one of the many that balk at drinking goat's milk due to an unusual taste. It is even obvious when combined with espresso in my morning mocha. We are currently only milking one doe, an Oberhasli, who started off our milking season with her characteristically wonderful, sweet milk. But over the course of the last week, the flavor has changed. Now to figure out why.

A little research indicates a few basic reasons as to why this could be. It is interesting to note that an article in the Tri-County Goat Newsletter published by the University of California Cooperative Extension, Tulare County ranks possible flavor offenders as 80% feed related, 5% due to oxidation, 5% rancidity, 3% from chemical residues, 3% related to hygiene, and 4% from other causes. Here is the list I formulated to research the possible cause in our case:

1. Keeping a buck on the premises - No buck here, so ruled that out.

2. Bacteria laden milk - Performed California Mastitis Test, and all clear.

3. Unsanitary milking conditions - I personally perform the milking and know that the udder is being cleaned, the milking is done into a sanitized pail, and promptly cooled in a glass container.

4. Foodstuff that is imparting a distinctive flavor - Several weeks ago we did purchase some local hay to supplement on normal Eastern Oregon orchard hay which was of a lesser quality than the does are normally accustomed to. Suspect #1

5. Possible vitamin B-12 cobalt deficiency - Possibility although we do provide goat-specific free choice minerals. Suspect #2

6. Administration of routine vaccinations or antibiotics - Nothing here

7. Too early in lactation cycle and milk includes colostrum - This would be the doe's fourth month of lactation.

8. Chemical residual - We did recently worm her with Eprinex which does have a zero day milk withdrawal, but perhaps there is a possibility there. The timing did coincide somewhat with the off taste. Suspect #3

9. Residual tastes in milking/storage containers - Due to research I came across today, I just started using a dairy quality acid detergent to remove any possibility of off flavor associated with milkstone in our stainless milking pails. Suspect #4

10. Toggenburg breeds known for stronger tasting milk - This is an Oberhasli doe and her milk has always been acceptable in the past.

11. Unpleasant ambient odors can impart off flavor within 15 minutes of milking just by being inhaled by the doe - Not in conjunction with the off taste but because of pen switching, I have started to milk this doe on an outside stanchion as opposed to in the barn but the taste was present before and after this move.

Another interesting bit of information from the Tri-County Goat Newsletter was defining the unpleasant taste of the milk - rancid, bitter, strong, minty. This I am finding hard to categorize in our case. The closest descriptive term might be rancid, I believe, which is said to resemble a bitter, soapy taste. Perhaps not using an acid detergent did leave behind residue that has been affecting the milk as a cause for rapid deterioration of the milk.

In other words, I have four different suspects as outlined above. Being a scientific minded person, I plan on:

1. Checking milk taste now that stainless pails have been sanitized with acid detergent. Also tasting the milk immediately after milking will determine if milking containers, our cooling process, storage jars, or shelf life are affecting the taste.

2. Comparing taste of milking doe's milk to that of other does still with kids to see if the unpleasant taste is there as well indicating that it could be their intake of the different hay. I will also compare the milk taken before feeding in the a.m. to that taken in the p.m. after feeding.

3. Purchasing B vitamins in injectible form to combat any potential deficiency, and reviewing mineral content of their supplement.

4. And lastly, if the taste suddenly dissipates regardless of the above, perhaps residual from the wormer was the cause.

Stay tuned...and wish me luck. I miss my morning goat milk latte!

Click here for the rest of the story.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Transplants Have Hit the Garden

The end of May is my target date for getting my warm weather vegetable starts out into the garden. The weather has been warm enough to raise the soil temperature and the nights will hopefully stay above 45 degrees.

I now have a total of eight 4' x 4' raised box gardens this year for direct seeding and transplants raised indoors. All but two are now filled. I love the way some box gardens have permanent square foot dividers. Until I figure out exactly how I want to do that in my beds, I've been using bamboo garden stakes and move them to the next box as needed. Once the plants are large enough to claim their 1' x 1' space, it's usually not too hard to work around.

My vertical crops such as string beans and cucumbers are planted around a heavy pole inserted into the ground. I have an eye hook at the top of the pole and run string through that hole down to wooden stakes pounded into the ground at the edges of my plants. This provided vertical space for these vining crops to climb. The photos only show the stakes at this point.

Being that the garden is completely different this year, I decided to try something different as well for my tomatoes. Between the poles I've planted a single tomato and then spaced the remaining tomatoes out along a line at the edge of the garden where they will have more than enough space. I've been known to cram them into too small a space where the vines become a tangled mess and it becomes very hard to harvest their fruit.

There have been two harvests of mesclun, and I'm amazed at how much can actually be produced from one 1' x 1' square. It seems to rebound and take off growing again within the next day or two...think how fast grass can grow I guess. Planting a few squares of micro greens such as this ensures some early greens before actually heads of lettuce can develop.

Garden tasks ahead of me now include planting the pole beans, continuing to direct seeds root crops and greens in the remaining raised beds to be sure we have a continual harvest. We've got a space semi-ready for the pumpkins and winter squash, and they will be set out soon. Guess that means no trips to the pumpkin patch for us this year. We'll have to start having people over here instead!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Moving Seedlings Outdoors to Harden Off

With warm weather on the way, I decided it was time to bring out my seedlings that have been growing under lights in our garage and introduce them to some real light. No sense in throwing them into the ground without proper conditioning, right?

I usually start with taking the trays outside for a couple of hours when it is either slightly overcast or earlier/later in the day when the sun's rays are not as strong. This gives the plants just a taste of that stronger sun.

The next day I might do so again but during a period of time when the sunlight is more intense. I always make sure that the soil is plenty moist during this transition period. They would dry to a crisp without adequate water.

By about the third day, they're ready to be outside all day as long as it's not an unusually warm day. I bring them in for the night if needed as our temperatures can still drop down into the 40s and it can be quite a shock for them.

Day four has them outside all day and into the cool of the evening. Depending on the temperatures, they may stay outside all night. They're are going to have to get accustomed to it sooner or later.

After having a couple of complete days and nights outside, my little seedlings are ready to start their life in the garden. By helping them adjust to temperature fluctuations and more intense sunlight, they shouldn't suffer any setbacks once they're in the ground.

Now the countdown can begin to the first ripe tomato.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Seedlings are Growing Like Weeds

Remember those pepper plants in the last post that needed potting up a size? Well, due to a bout with a nasty flu and upper respiratory virus, they had to wait a little longer. I did get them moved up this weekend along with the tomatoes and basil. Just too far behind in life to actually get a photo to go along with this, but I'm telling you...some new soil and room for the roots to stretch out along with their weekly watered down fertilizer has made them take off. Mind you I only re potted them on Saturday, but by Monday, those tomatoes were scorching their leaves on the grow lights. I'm sure they put on at least an inch growth. It has helped too that we've had temperatures in the 80s to get them going. The peppers haven't put on much height but have definitely experienced an increase in leaf size.

In this climate, I usually don't set out my tomatoes unprotected until Memorial Day which is creeping up close this year. As I don't have any immediate means to protect them, I'm thinking of waiting a week or two more. Since they haven't stalled out their growth, I think it's safe to expect them to stay in their pots and under lights for a little longer.

Our field pumpkins got potted up as well and are growing fantastically. I don't have a place ready for them and am a little hesitant to keep them in pots indefinitely. My DD7, H-Bob, would like a sunflower house this year. Our plan was to plant our sunflower seeds in a U shape with the opening being a door to her 'fort'. The pumpkins will grow along the perimeter and will be encouraged to grow away from the house hopefully. But as we just figured out how to keep the family dog from marauding the garden and gated the chickens so they no longer leave ornaments all over the front porch and driveway, I'm not sure when we'll get to figuring out how to secure an area safe from their scratching feet. Will have to be soon though.

I can hear the rain outside tonight, so that tells me I won't need to spend time watering. I'm hoping that little bit of saved time will allow me to tackle some of the weeds that are in the process of taking over the raspberries and the new blueberry bushes.

Oh for more time in the garden....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Starting Seeds Indoors

We live in the Pacific Northwest which can be damp, cold, and raining through May and possibly June. Direct seeding all of our garden vegetables can be risky and generally not very rewarding. Hence the reason many years ago, I slowly armed myself with tools to start seeds indoors successfully.

Here's a brief rundown of how I go about it:

* Using nine-cell starting pots, I fill the cells with a seed starting medium. You can purchase it already prepared, or some years I mix together my own using 2 parts bagged potting soil to 1 part vermiculite and 1 part perlite. The cells are placed in a tray which is filled about half full with warm water in order for the dry soil to absorb the moisture necessary for germination.

Seed starting medium

Growing trays filled with nine-cell pots ready for seeding.

* I love purchasing seeds through the Territorial Seed Company. In absence of purchasing their very reliable and region-specific seeds, I settle for other seeds produced by companies in the northwest such as Ed Hume Seeds. Using popsicle sticks for labels, I plant the seeds - usually just one variety per nine-cell pot - and cover them with a fine layer of vermiculite.

My collection of vegetable seeds from Territorial Seeds.

* I attribute much of my seed starting success to a growing mat which releases gentle heat underneath the tray and warms the soil to an ideal temperature for germination. Our laundry room where I start the seeds is rarely over 65 degrees, so this insures warmth for the seeds. The trays are either loosely covered with a layer of plastic wrap or with a plastic dome cover designed to enhance moisture retention.

Warming mats are so helpful in successful germination in cold climates.

* The minute I see growth from the seeds, they are promptly put under my growing lights. I happen to have a two-tier plant stand designed just for this with two rows of fluorescent lights suspended over each layer. Each tier of lights is supplied with a warm and a cool toned bulb to provide a full spectrum of light for growth. And just to make life easier on me, I use a timer to turn my grow lights on and off after a 12-14 hour light cycle each day.

Two-tier grow light system

Simple timer to control lights.

* After the first set of true leaves appear - those that have the characteristic of the plant itself - I carefully remove the plant from its cell and transplant it into a four-cell pot using more of the same seed starting medium. This allows the roots room to grow and spread. When they begin to outgrow this container and if the weather is still too cool to set them outside, they are moved up into individual 2" pots.

Basil seedlings ready to be potted up into four-cell pots.

These pepper plants should have been potted up earlier. A little too much growth for these pots.

Tomato starts in their four-cell pots.

2" pots for transplanting

* About once a week they are watered with a diluted root and bloom type of liquid fertilizer to develop a healthy root system.

There are always exceptions to the rules and sometimes I do take the chance of skipping steps that are beneficial for the plants. The seedlings should gradually be introduced to the outdoor temperatures before being set out. The seedlings may become a little root-bound and may need to skip the four-cell pots and move up into their own individual pot. But usually the varieties I'm growing are all forgiving of my lack of observation or time. Starting with nine plants of the variety you wish to grow usually insures that you'll have plenty of plants to set out and give away to friends as well.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Raised Bed Box Gardening and the Square Foot Method - Box 1

Today was a great day...I was able to set out the first transplants of the season and direct seed some vegetables into my new box gardens.

As you can tell from my prior post Getting the Garden Ready for Spring there wasn't anything spectacular about my garden area this past spring. I had debated on whether to go back to box gardening and the square foot method in particular. My most successful gardens at other houses we have lived in were box gardens. Sometimes they were difficult to till as the dirt would spill onto the pathways and there was never the option to change the layout of the garden. Because of that, I have hestiated for the past seven years to put in box gardens here. There was also the part of me that thought a rural home needed traditional row gardens, but since I'm over that now, I'm finally ready to get serious about maximizing my space with these new beds.

I also had a hard time considering growing your own vegetables to be frugal minded if one had to go out and purchase frames and dirt for the beds. My husband likes to create things for posterity - including garden beds - but I was able to convince him to just purchase cheap boards and call it good. With the four-way garden soil purchased at a local landscape supply and the wood from Home Depot, each of my four 4' x 4' raised garden beds cost a total of $12 each. These frames should last several years and are not so large that if I got a hankering to move and rearrange them that I could. Based on the amount of produce that I intend to get out of them, they seemed to be a good way to go.

I have some of my warm season vegetables - tomatoes, peppers, squash, and the like - growing under flourescent lights in my garage. I also tend to start my peas in 9-cell starting containers as I seem to have better success that way. So today my pea starts went along a fence line, some cilantro and parsley went in about four of the squares, broccoli and cabbage starts took up eight more, and in the last four I direct seeded green onions in one, mesculin mix in two, and spinach in the last.

I have three more boxes to start working in next. The basil will stay indoors under lights for quite awhile more as will the pumpkins and zucchinni. I'll probably plant radishes, carrots and beets in this next bed, as they'll do well in our still cool and wet weather conditions.

We have room for many more boxes but didn't see the need to try to build and fill them all in the same weekend. I'm also anxious to bring my gardening to a new level by trying out which allows you to create, track, and view production results on line. Their 45-day trial offer will let me figure out whether I will benefit from this or not.

Check back soon to see our progress, and leave me a comment. I'd love to know what you think of raised garden beds versus traditional row gardening and if you've had experience with the Square Foot gardening method.

Next figure out howto keep our free-range chickens out of the garden...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

4H PreFair Show

Several weeks ago we participated in our first official event of the 4H Horse Project season...our annual PreFair Horse Show. But let me first preface things by saying that we love 4H. Our children have been involved in 4H one way or another for the past ten years. Our entire 4H experience actually grew out of a Little House on the Prairie sewing club that stemmed from some home educator mothers whose children participated in a local children's choir proving that you never know where life will take you! From Foods and Nutrition and other home-ec type projects to livestock, we've sampled quite a few project areas.

All bathed and ready to show

Our DD13, Goat Princess, joined a new club this past 4H year and was excited to once again try participating in 4H's Horse PreFair. While in her first year of the project, she took her P.O.A. gelding Chester to PreFair but had a disappointing experience due to her lack of knowing what to expect and her horse's opinion that he did not like being separated from his herd buddy, Gus. There were tears aplenty and vows to never participate again. But this year everyone had a more enjoyable time.

Red ribbon Showmanship

A basic requirement in our county is to participate in Showmanship which gives the member a chance to show their ground-handling skills of their project horse. Basic maneuvers such as leading, trotting, backing and stopping are worked into a pattern that they memorize the morning of the show as well as forehand or haunch turns. As well they need to exhibit the proper handling of a horse and the "quarter system" of allowing the judge to examine your ability to groom your horse to its best potential. They are also asked to "set up" the horse for inspection. Goat Princess did a great job considering Chester became a little nervous at the pigeons flying in and out of our county's fair building where the show arena was set up. The judge's comments reflected that she appreciated the great job she did considering her horse's nerves.

Memorizing the pattern

At PreFair they are also able to participate in a Trail Class in which they ride through ten different obstacles. This year's course included retrieving mail, riding over a bridge and a set of raised poles as well as backing between barrels and opening a gate. Goat Princess and Chester did a fantastic job and received a red ribbon. Couldn't have asked for better considering that Chester got a little frustrated at the mail box.

Waiting for Trail Class

The last class of the day, and in this case it was literally almost the last class, was Equitation. Goat Princess chose to ride in a walk-trot class and came away with a blue ribbon. We were all thrilled. Their pattern was perfect and Chester behaved both on the rail and standing in line. Perhaps the day had worn him down a little, and I believe Goat Princess relaxed a little herself.

Blue ribbon Equitation Class

Kids learn so much through 4H: responsibility for what they do and do not do before they exhibit their skills; organizational skills in packing what they will need for the day; communication skills with their parents, leaders, club members and their horses!; and a ton of patience to just keep smiling.

Hopefully everyone who has experienced 4H has had the positive impact on their lives that we have. Although the Horse Project is a biggie to be involved in, it has made a great difference in our children's lives. Are you involved in 4H? What do your children think of it? We'd love to hear your experiences as well!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Daily Harvest Here at Abernethy Creek Farm 2009


goat's milk
dozen and half eggs
2 quarts Nickel fillet green bush beans
6 very large golden beets
1 small Stupice tomato
3 pints everbearing raspberries
2 pints wild blackberries
2 average zucchini
more cucumbers as well as a few slicing cucumbers
2 very large heads Broccoli


goat's milk


more cucumbers - too many to keep track of any more
small handful of first green pole beans
3 small tomatoes
more wild blackberries - just enough for milkshakes


goat's milk


goat's milk
1 pints raspberries - fall crop coming on strong
1 cup of final marionberries
3 small Stupice tomatoes - all that's been ready yet
8 Orient Express cucumbers
3 good sized zucchini but still manageable


goat's milk
pint of wild blackberries
picked final batch of Santa Rosa plums


goat's milk
dozen eggs or so
small bunch golden beets
large batch green bush beans - a little big - should've been picked before we returned from trip
basket of Santa Rosa plums


goats milk
large bunch basil for making pesto
2 lbs. red raspberries
2 small heads bok choi
1 bunch spinach
2 lbs. Marionberries
radishes and bok choi that had gone to seed were pulled and composted
armfuls of zucchini that had escaped my daughter's eye while we were out of town
20 or so Orient Express burpless cucumbers
6 slicing cucumbers

Due to extended vacation, there are no postings in this date range. Our daughter picked far more zuch's and cucumbers than she could use however.


goat milk
4 cucumbers
3 zucchini


1 1/2 lbs red raspberries
3 lbs. marionberries
goat milk


dozen eggs
goat milk
4 side shoots of broccoli
9 cucumbers
5 zucchini
bunch radishes
cinnamon, sweet, thai, and lime basil
3 head pac choi chinese greens
4 lbs. red raspberries
3 1/2 lbs. marionberries


3 1/2 lbs. marionberries
1 1/2 lbs. raspberries
1 head Romain lettuce
goat milk


4 cucumbers
1 zuchinni
2 gallons goat milk


2 stalks broccoli from side shoots
3 lbs. mixed raspberries, black cap raspberries, marionberries
1 head bibb lettuce
1 head cabbage
2 gallons goat milk


1 zuchinni
3 cucumbers
2 gallons goat milk
3 lbs. marionberries
2 lbs. red everbearing raspberries
4 lbs. Montmorency pie cherries


2 gallons goat milk
3 lbs. marionberries
1 1/2 lbs. blueberries
2 zuchinni
3 cucumbers
1 bunch radishes


2 gallons goat milk
2 lbs. red everbearing raspberries
small basket snow peas


basket of first ripe marrionberries
6 lbs. Montmorency pie cherries
2 gallons goat milk


1 head broccoli
2 cups black cap raspberries
2 quarts red everbearing raspberries
1 bunch radishes
5 burpless cucumbers
1 zucchini
2 cups snap peas - pretty much last of harvest
dozen eggs
5 quarts goat milk - now milking additional does since all kids now weaned


too busy with family to do hardly more than get watering done
3 quarts goat milk


1 zucchini
1 head broccoli
2 burpless cucumbers - 'Orient Express'
3 lbs. Montmorency pie cherries
3 lbs. Rainier sweet cherries
3 quarts goat milk


no harvest
3 quarts goat milk


3 quarts goat milk
4 heads Chinese cabbage - nice large ones
4 head Bibb lettuce - just about ready to bolt in heat
5 lbs. Montmorency sour cherries
10 lbs. Rainer sweet cherries


3 quarts goat milk
1 pt early raspberries
large bowl snow peas
8 bunches spinach - just about ready to bolt in heat


3 quarts goat milk
gathered dozen eggs

plenty to harvest - but alas, no time toay. check daily journal for today and you'll see why.


9 lbs. Montmorency pie cherries
3 lbs. Rainier sweet cherries
1 bunch red and yellow beets
3 quarts goat milk


3 cups sour Montmorency pie cherries
1 zucchini
2 heads Bibb lettuce
1 head Romain lettuce
spinach leaf thinnings
3 quarts goat milk

Friday, April 17, 2009

Disbudding Goat Kids

Photo courtesy of Cornell University

Well today's blog topic is not one of my favorites but falls under the category of necessary animal husbandry...goat kid disbudding. Today all seven of the miniature dairy goat kids were disbudded by CamoQueen. This is her second year taking care of our disbudding needs, and I am eternally grateful. GoatPrincess assisted her, and I simply fetched and returned kids as needed.

What is disbudding you say? Well it is the process of cauterizing the blood flow to the kid's horns so that they will no longer grow. Dairy goats with horns in tight quarters can cause damage to udders and get caught in fences. Our local 4H program does not allow kids to show or handle dairy goats with horns, so it is a simple necessity that must be dealt with each and every kidding season.

I found a great photo link from Cornell University that outlines the disbudding process if you're interested or are not familiar with it.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Getting the Garden Ready for Spring

Yes folks, these are shots of my garden as of March 2009. Not much to write home about. Pretty hard to believe any produce came out of this mess. Winter is hard on gardens who weren't properly put to bed in the fall, and now I have to pay the price.

Today the temps are in the 70's which is a treat around the northwest for this time of year, so I spent some time trying to remedy the garden.

I trimmed back my everbearing raspberries that should have been cut to the ground last fall after they finished fruiting. I didn't take them all the way to the ground as they had already started some growth...don't want to shock them too much. The lower part of the canes will fruit some in July which will be welcome with the majority of the fruit coming at the top of the canes in September, an even bigger treat.

The marionberry canes were a tumbled and tangled mess. Many, many scratches later I sorted them out, tied them into clumps, and then wove them in a circular fasion on my horizontal wires so that the end of the canes are off of the ground. There were already plenty of them that had started to tip root. That would have been okay, but they had chosen to take root in the pathway.

The black raspberries never seem to produce juicy berries. They are always a little dried out. Perhaps I don't give them enough water, so this year I plan to focus on that a little more carefully. Their long gangly canes were cut back to about 5' and the dead canes from last year's fruiting were removed.

I took a look through the strawberries and was glad to see that they had about doubled their space from last year. Awaiting the first ripe strawberry is probably one of my most anticipated garden events each year.


Keep tuned and see how this mess rights itself and starts producing the berries and vegetables we so look forward to.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Two More Miniature Dairy Goat Kids Born Today

Today we were surprised by the kidding of a first-timer out in the main goat yard with no advance notice. While going out to check the kids born yesterday, we heard a kid scream but it wasn't coming from the house where yesterday's kids were. It seemed to be from the goat shed. Looking out towards that way, I was sure I saw something little and white. We don't have any goats that color. I quickly shut the door to the goat house and slugged through the mud - in the wrong shoes I might add - to find Maddie furiously cleaning a newborn kid. What caught my eye though was another kid face down in the mucky hay on the outskirts of the shed, bottom stuck up in the air, and not moving. I grabbed it quickly and found it alive and breathing. Calling for reinforcements quickly, I stuffed it in my coat to try and warm it immediately. It had not been cleaned off at all.

We moved the momma doe and the two kids down to the barn out of the wind and rain to see what we had. The littlest one was a doe and the kid up and moving around was a buck. We brought down towels, heating pad, and portable heater along with supplies to tube feed the littlest if needed. When presenting Maddie with the kid she had originally ignored, she took no interest in licking it off at all, so we stepped in and got her cleaned off as well as some good rubbing to get her circulation moving. By placing her on a towel over the heating pad, it did a good job of warming up her extremeties which were very cold to the touch while we briskly rubbed her body and head to warm/dry her off. As she perked up, we moved her closer to Maddie who suddenly took interest in the kid. We think she was a little overwhelmed as a first-time mother and didn't know how to address the fact that she had two kids to deal with. Now that Maddie was open to accepting the kid, we felt that a major hurdle had been crossed.

With the doeling too weak to appear interested in nursing as her robust brother had been for the past hour, we went ahead and milked out some colostrum and tube fed her. The first kid we ever tube fed was Maddie which seemed coincidental of sorts. Sure enough after some warm milk in the tummy, the little one tried standing and shuffling along. She was pretty pathetic to watch but very determined. Once on her feet, Maddie stepped in and gave her a thorough going over.

Goat Princess stayed all afternoon to watch Maddie and her kids to be sure everyone stayed warm. After checking in on them just before dinner, Goat Princess reported that the little doe had been nursing on her own and walking pretty good. Excellent sign.

Tonight we moved the little family in with the other two does and their five kids who have been in the warmer goat house. Only concern of mine was that Maddie would get overwhelmed with the other does and kids, but after spending some time observing, everything looked great.

Tomorrow will be exciting to see how much more active these two kids will be and the fun they will have interacting with each other. Seven little kids together should be a riot!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Five Kids Born Today

Today was a busy day here.

Kari started off April Fool's Day by delivering a doe kid quite suddenly. Her due date was yesterday, but her udder was not filled to over-capacity as we usually use as a sign as to when kidding will begin. Within a short while, she delivered two buck kids right after another...all alive and healthy...a good thing around here. We were surprised that only one of the kids took on the gypsy markings of their tri-color Nigerian sire.

Within a few hours it was obvious that Wroxy was going to deliver. We had suspected her from the night before even though her official due date wasn't until tomorrow. Wroxy delivered her kids easily as well with both being doelings. Once again, we were surprised by the lack of color but they are beautiful just as they are.

We are anxious for the five little kids to get strong on their feet so they can be introduced to Corona, Vega's doe kid, who has been anxiously awaiting a 'playmate' for some time now.

Check the sidebar post to the right for a slideshow of the kids and their moms.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Goat Kids Due This Week

This should prove to be an exciting week around Abernethy Creek Farm. We have a total of three does due to kid this week. There are two miniature dairy does - 50/50 full sized dairy with Nigerian - that are due. Kari freshened last year with quads and Wroxy with triplets. We also have another first freshener miniature dairy doe - 25/75 full sized dairy with Nigerian - who is smaller than the 1st generation miniature does. We are anxious to see the size of her kids. We're anticipating that they will resemble good-sized, full term Nigerian dairy goat kids. Pictures will be up as soon as we can get them once those kids are here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

HPF Rose - Story of our unsuccessful Boer goat kidding

Now that it has been a week since our Boer doe HPF Rose unexpectedly kidded, and she's now on top of the game, I'm able to post about it. A little background is in order.

Rose's first freshening two years ago brought about a stillborn runt buckling, a live buckling, and yet another stillborn buckling. The first kid was presented butt first but delivered in that position with just a tiny bit of assistance. He was only about two pounds but fully developed. It was my first kidding by myself without CamoQueen to assist. GoatPrincess was there but we were flying blind. I blamed myself for the two stillborn kids as these were the prize kids that were to be delivered by CamoQueen's two-time county fair champion Boer doe. It just wasn't right. Long story short, the buckling was sold and kept as a buck and has thrown some great kids.

The following year we bred Rose to the same buck and brought about another pregnancy. She was as big as a house again this second year and all appeared normal. Normal that is until she got close to her delivery date and did not develop an udder. Strange we thought. During a cold spell near her due date she developed what we thought was ketosis, standing in the blowing snow - not coming in to eat - rather dazed in appearance. We noticed her backside was completely wet and thought that odd. We treated her for ketosis and watched her. No udder. No labor. It was then we realized that she had lost her baby belly and was back to normal size. What had happened? A little research brought us to realize that perhaps she had experienced a false pregnancy. One of those oddities of nature where their uterus will fill with fluid, they will not come back into heat, and take on all aspects of being pregnant only to deliver a burst of fluid. Very strange.

This last year we bred Rose to another buck fearing that the last two breedings were not bringing about compatable pregnancies. This time she came back into heat after the first breeding so we took her back for another weekend with the buck. We changed her due date and were hopeful. Last week, one day after her original kidding date, we heard her out in the goat yard. She was down in the shed pushing. All panic broke out and we decended with towels. The kid was delivered just fine but stillborn. We were devastated. Not being sure if there was a kid number two, we took her into the kidding stall to observe. During a quick trip back up to the house, she did deliver kid number two - stillborn as well. She had cleaned it off and was lying next to it but it gave no appearnce of having been born live. We were absolutely crushed. But our next concern was Rose herself. She did deliver her placenta but refused to eat or drink and continued to grind her teeth. No temperature. No ketosis (used test). Just looked poorly.

It was then that we made the connection between the way she was acting now to that of last year...same depression, lethargy, lack of interest in anything. Remembering that lavendar oil last year seemed to lift her mood, we placed a few drops on her forehead and left her in the kidding stall with our latest doe to kid along with her kid. We drenched her with a goat Power Punch and hoped for the best. It took nearly four days for Rose to finally perk up and seem interested in life again. Is there a medical term for this? Perhaps a bad case of baby blues and depression? Perhaps we will never know. And the question still remains, why did she come back into heat a second time and permit herself to be bred but yet delivered full-term kids from the first breeding?

Today Rose is backing to eating with the herd again. It is so good to see her standing there, finally contentedly chewing her indicator for a happy goat. I think I felt as poorly as her lamenting for her lost kids. There's no doubt in my mind that the maternal instinct in some animals is very high and they do mourn. I'd like to research this topic a little more and hear from other animal owners of their experiences in dealing with this.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Preggo or Not?

Time is ticking away, and I'm beginning to think that our black and white Boer doe is not really pregnant. Her and our last doe to kid were with the Boer buck for four plus weeks, and we had reason to believe she was bred fairly close to the same time as Vega. So far, no udder on Tori. The buck didn't go home until the first of October, so there is possibly still time for Tori to kid. Personally, I'm just not sure that she will due to the lack of any udder development so far and no baby belly. A surprise would be nice though. We'll keep you posted.

Friday, February 20, 2009

First Kid of the Season

This was no ordinary kidding to kick off the kidding season this year. Our third-year freshener, Vega, was looking as if it was time to kid late afternoon on Thursday as her udder was filling and she had distanced herself from the rest of the herd. We hooked up the baby monitor, kept her in the little goat house with a friend overnight, and kept checking. By 12:30 a.m. Friday, it looked as if we might as well get some sleep, so off to bed we went with the monitor running.

About 5:00 a.m. there came the sound of Vega's bleating. I woke up CamoQueen and GoatPrincess, and we headed out in the chilly 27 degree night air to see what was up. Yes, Vega was streaming goo and looking uncomfortable, so we settled in on the straw to wait. Within 45 minutes or so she started serious contractions and getting down to push. But unfortunately, things did not proceed as quickly as we would have expected. After waiting a while longer, CamoQueen lubed up and decided to see if the kids were presented right. Yes, there was a front leg, another one, and the head. All should be fine. Six-thirty came and went we decided it was time to call in some help. As our dear friend was on her way, CamoQueen tried pulling the kid somewhat but there was too much resistance. Tammy arrived and confirmed that everything was lined up right and began to think that perhaps the head was too big to pass through the pelvis as it was just too tight in there. A few more phone calls and it was decided at 8:00 a.m. that since Vega had pretty much given up pushing and was totally exhausted that it was time for some intervention-perhaps even a C-section.

The back of the Suburban was loaded with straw and Vega went for a ride to our closest goat vet about 40 minutes away. Once there, she was given a once over by the vet, and he decided to try to pull the kid. Rather than go into the graphics here, we'll just say that after some tranquilizer to calm her down and a lot of bracing, he was able to extract the kid - not a whopper like we had perhaps thought, but just an average kid...a little doe looking just like her full sister from last year. The vet couldn't come up with any specific reason for her needing assistance other than her pelvic area did seem a little tight. Probably won't be breeding her to the same buck next year.

Our little girl has not been named yet although the Spanish word for crown, Corona, was suggested. She belongs to CamoQueen so the decision will be hers. All in all, she's a pretty cute little girl. She was up on her feet on the way home and had no trouble find mom to nurse once they got settled into the house. More updates will show up as those pictures keep pouring in.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

No Babies Yet...

We're waiting, but no goat kids yet. Those expectant mothers never keep to anyone's schedules. We were all impressed yesterday though by one of the kids' head firmly protruding from mama's belly. We're taking bets on at least two kids. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Baby Watch

Well, the baby watch is on. Two does due this week. Rather than obsessing over them this year, we are watching for udders to fill and will then decide if they need stalled at night with the baby monitor. We did not get much sleep last year by stalling them early and "listening in" all night - cud chewing and ears flapping about do tend to keep you up all night!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

It's All About the Eggs

Yes it is all about the eggs, isn't it? Why else do we keep chickens. Since moving to our little place, we've had a hen or two on hand. The first was a throw-away Easter chicken that a friend of ours rescued in town and thought would live quite nicely out at our place. We had no chicken accommodations in the early days, so we put her out in the front pasture with our only other piece of livestock, a miniature Mediterranean donkey. Well "Daisy" the hen got pretty attached to "Holly" the donkey and soon started following her around everywhere. It was kinda cute. We put out a doghouse for her and that was where she slept. Then one day ... it happened ... screams from the front pasture and a small child running back to the house with a beautiful green egg in her hand. We were hooked and have been purchasing chicks at the feed store every year to keep ourselves in chickens.

I don't keep track anymore, but I think we have around 15 or so. They lay more than enough eggs for our use, so I usually try to sell the extra dozens for $3 or so. As you can see, some are Araucanas and lay the Easter colored eggs, but for the most part, the others that are laying the best right now are traditional breeds ... sexlinks, banties, and last year's buff orpingtons.

We allow the hens to hatch out eggs, or they do so on their own because we just don't know about it. The chicks that survived the natural course of events this year have all turned out to be roosters it would appear, so several of the following guys are going to have to go.

And another reason to keep poultry, the crowing. During the times we haven't had a rooster on the premises, we actually got to missing that sound and had to track one down to purchase. And by the way, it's only a bedtime story fallacy that roosters crow in the morning. First-hand evidence at our place indicates that roosters crow plentifully during all waking, and at times, non-waking hours.

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