Monday, January 20, 2014

Winter Homesteading: Keepin' Warm and Stayin' Busy

Winter is our time to refresh. During the rest of the year, we are constantly engaged outside with projects, gardening, and animal care. Winter is a special time; a period when no excuse is needed to curl up with a book near a dancing fire. Life becomes more home focused, rather than farm focused. School, baking, and crafts constitute our daily work, while farm chores require little more than trudging out to the barn a couple times a day to check food and water. I treasure the simplicity and solitude that falls on our home with the snow...

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chicken

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Update: Baking Artisan Bread

It has been six months or so since beginning my bread baking adventure, and I need to update my recipe! The recipe in my original post  is not that different, but I have made a few minor alterations and clarifications in the directions. The no-knead method is unbelievably quick and simple; I usually double the recipe and keep it in the fridge ready to bake as needed.

Master Recipe for Basic Boule Bread

(Boule is a fancy French word for round loaf.  Use this term when guests come over and your bread will decidedly improve in taste before a bite even reaches their mouth.)

3 cups warm liquid*
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
6 cups flour**

Directions

1. Mix ingredients. Dough should be wet and easily stirred, but not liquidy or hard enough to form a ball.

2.  Let rise until doubled, 2-5 hours.

3.  Put in fridge for up to 10 days. Flavor will improve over time, as the sitting time replicates a sourdough style bread. It is important to refrigerate the dough for at least a few hours before baking, as it will be very difficult to shape if the dough is warm.

4. When ready to bake, pull off a grapefruit sized chunk and dust with flour. Stretch the dough around the top of the ball to the bottom, making quarter turns as you go. You will end up with a smooth, uniform top and four bunched ends on the bottom. Shaping the loaf takes some practice and doesn't affect the end result too much, so don't stress if you don't get it right the first time!

5. Place on pizza stone and let the dough rest for 40 minutes. Preheat oven to 425.

6. Slash top of loaf with serrated knife. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until top is very brown. This recipe produces a very moist loaf, so the crust must be very dark to ensure that it is baked all the way through.

7. Let cool on rack. Or consume immediately with ample amounts of butter. The latter is my preferred method.

Notes
* I use a combination of milk and water.
** I bake with sprouted wheat flour. This produces a dense loaf, so I usually add 1/4 cup raw honey and a tablespoon of molasses to the batter, as well as a splash of olive oil to produce a better consistency.

To Make a Seeded Loaf
There is nothing better than a loaf of crusty bread speckled with seedy goodness. When getting ready to bake my bread, I sprinkle my stone with a combination of flax seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds (or any seeds I happen to have in my pantry). After shaping my loaf, I roll it in the seeds before letting it rest on the stone. I promise you, the result is rather delightful.

This recipe is loosely based on a no-knead bread recipe found in the book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  I found the basic boule recipe from this book posted on Food.com, as well, though I highly recommend getting the book.  There is a wealth of information in it, as well as yummy variations on no-knead recipes.









Friday, January 3, 2014

A Dairy Goat Homestead: Our First Breeding Season, Part 2


Well, it’s been a few months since I complained about our woes at the start of our first breeding season. We do not have a buck on our property, and figuring out when my does were in heat proved to be a larger challenge than I originally anticipated. Breeding season is now drawing to a close, and I am happy to announce that all of our does have been bred!

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Archibald


Our roosters got into a fight this morning. It was not the usual barnyard scuffle, but rather the kind which one of them was not going to leave alive. We came to the realization that we had to make that choice for them; the younger, friendlier rooster got to live, while the oldest and meanest rooster had to go. It was not an easy
choice--choosing when an animal will die never is. This was not my first chicken slaughter, by far. This last fall, we killed 70 meat chickens in one day, and I wielded a machete at the butchering block. However, slaughtering an animal that was not originally slotted for the freezer was different. I played with the dog so that his barking would drown out the sound of the gunshot.

Archibald came to us as a tag along. We paid for a flock of chickens, and he was thrown in to the mix labeled as "one old rooster that I didn't have the heart to kill." I don't know what that makes us. But, he was happy during his time here. He had his small harem of cast-off hens that the younger rooster, Henry, did not bother with. Archibald and Henry would occasionally get into crowing wars and, though Henry was always the clear winner, Archibald would still strut proudly after its conclusion. He had beautifully iridescent tail feathers, but the rest of him exuded a somewhat scrappy appearance.

We were going to be late for our family Christmas party. It was scheduled for this afternoon, but the rooster 
ordeal set us back. The husband had to chop wood, the goat had yet to be milked, and I was left
standing in the kitchen holding a feathered carcass among gift bags waiting to be filled. Upon spotting the headless bird, my toddler pointed and cried, "uh-oh!" I quickly sent her upstairs. As my dining room table disappeared under a pile of downy feathers, I could hear her running through the bedrooms. She was supposed to be taking a nap.

Eventually, I finished dressing the chicken and filled the slow-cooker with ingredients for stew. We originally
planned on discarding the carcass; however, I have a hard time letting food and life go to waste. If we are
going to kill an animal, we are going to use whatever we can. So, Archibald simmered in the slow-cooker, and a pile of his exquisite tail feathers was saved for my oldest daughter, who collects them.

We arrived at our gathering an hour late and somewhat frazzled. The morning had been full of setbacks. My
husband missed a shot at a deer due to an ill-timed bark from our dog, spent longer than expected trying to cut wood with a dull chainsaw, and was unable to get our 4x4 truck up our slick hills to pick up the wood after it was finally cut. My homemade gifts were assembled in a way that would make Martha Stewart blush, and I dug out leftover cranberry sauce from the fridge to present as a side dish. We were hungry and somewhat cranky, but happy to relax with our family and devour some ham and apple crisp. Our dinner-table conversation turned to the intimate details of chicken slaughtering and goat breeding.

By the end of the day, I came to a few different conclusions. First, we are blessed with a very gracious and
supportive family. They regularly put up with our farm schedule and all of its demands, and they laugh at our rather inappropriate stories. They bless us with homesteading and goat related gifts and appreciate my simple, homemade ones in return. Second, we can do this. We can make the difficult decisions and make the best of it. There are tough days--but not impossible ones--and plenty of joyous moments in between. And finally, I need a new filet knife. And a slaughtering table. Fortunately, we are going to Cabela's tomorrow.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas on the Farm


Well, I somewhat dropped the ball on writing the obligatory annual Christmas post, but better late than never!

One of my favorite Christmas morning activities is celebrating with our animals. After presents have been unwrapped and coffee has been downed, we take little treats to each one. My oldest daughter made popcorn for all the poultry, and, before Dad could put on his boots, she trudged through the snow falling gently down to hand deliver it to her barnyard friends. The goats were given a dollop of molasses with their oats, which stuck to their lips as they licked it up. I dug out a venison bone from the freezer for the dog and gave the kitties goat milk with their breakfast. All in all, the whole farm took part in our Christmas celebration, which seemed appropriate. After all, Jesus was born in a barn.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6



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Merry Christmas





Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Shopping

Need a last minute Christmas gift for the goat lovers in your life? Check out this adorable tote by West Elm!


Market Tote Bag - Totes Ma Goats

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Dairy Goat Homestead: Building Our Goat Barn

After our goats spent many summer months with only a small shed for shelter, we decided it was finally time to build them a real barn. Winter was quickly pressing upon us, and it would soon be followed by kidding season in the spring. Also, our bossy new Alpine doe made it necessary for us to provide more space for the others to get out of her way, especially since they would soon be pregnant. So, using a continuous supply of homemade apple pie as a bribe, and we got a crew of a few family members and friends and got to work.

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