Young Liflin

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Note: If you’d like to learn more about how and why I keep dairy goats, I’ve had a couple of guest posts published recently on Practical Self Reliance, and Nourishing Days. These blogs have a lot of other good stuff to read about too.

Liflin was born here, he’s the son of Snowy and Ned, and the cute baby goat you can see in my midsummer post. Last year we had high hopes for him, and he certainly tried his best, but he was probably too small or young to get our does pregnant.

This year he is bigger and stinkier, and there’s no mistaking that he is no longer a cute little goat kid, but a big stinky billy goat. I don’t find the smell that bad – there is something endearing about it, as I affectionately give him a scratch between the horns while calling him big stinky billy goat. Spending a lot of time with goats, I don’t really mind it, but when I first smelled a buck, it definitely was very strong!

Towards the end of April I noticed muddy hoof prints on Sunshine’s back. Soon after, other does began to go into heat, and all of a sudden it seems as though they were all covered with hoof prints.

These days Liflin is still stinky, and a bit frustrated, as none of the does are interested in him anymore. I hope it is for the right reason, and that we’ll see lots of babies and milk in the springtime.

I look for every sign of pregnancy, and am hopeful, but still nervous. Only two does are in milk now, and their supply has really slowed down. Geraldine will pick back up in springtime, whether she’s pregnant or not, but the others may not.

I dream of a summer and autumn ahead where I make one or two hard cheeses a week and store them away for the winter and spring. I dream of regularly making pizza from my own cheese, of having chévre for barter and gifts. I dream of my six does being in milk during the winter, and giving us enough milk to drink, and make yoghurt, and the odd batch of chévre. The thought of this abundance from our land is beautiful, but Liflin is untested, I don’t know whether it will happen or not…

I wonder when in homesteading things become ‘real’. I visit museums and historical sites about our pioneer ancestors and imagine what life was like for them – dropped off on our strange island with limited supplies, and no choice but to survive on the land and make the best of it that they could. There was no option of looking on Gumtree for another goat in milk, no option of buying someone else’s cheese, they had to make do with what they had.

I wonder if this was a source of worry for them, or if they just faced challenges, accepted their situation, and made the best of it, maybe drinking less milk some years, more milk other years, and finding other sources of food. It’s hard to know the answer to this. Everyone I speak to from older generations seems to avoid the idea of working to directly produce their own food as if it were a bad thing, while viewing a sedentary life in an office as an interchangable cog as something worthwhile to do in life. Yes, it can be hard to worry about the animals and our staple foods for the year ahead, but I find fulfilment in being connected to this.

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Building a better world… with tomatoes and goats

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Sometimes it’s hard to feel anything but angry about the current state of things, but there are lots of positive actions that can be done that boost personal resilience and wellbeing as well as reducing ecological footprints.

There’s a new book all about this, currently on Kickstarter here. My new book ‘Backyard Dairy Goats‘ is included as a stretch goal on it!

Preserving tomatoes at home

This year I did something I’d been thinking about for a long time. I bottled our entire tomato supply for the year…

I’d delayed this in the past due to annoying finicky instructions that insist on peeling the tomatoes, removing seeds, putting them through an expensive single-purpose gadget, and all kinds of stuff, but in the end I thought it was about time I tried this myself, using nothing more than a kitchen knife.

Our own garden harvest was not that big this year, for a few reasons that I’ve hopefully learned from, but rather than buying in bottled tomatoes from the other side of the world, I found a local organic grower, bought more than 30kg of sauce-grade tomatoes and bottled them all.

This is how we did it:

Step 1:
This step is only worth doing if you have too many tomatoes to fit in your pot at once. Sort through all the tomatoes and separate the damaged and super-ripe ones from the ones that can wait for a bit longer. Put the ones that can wait aside for another day (we preserved our 30kg+ of tomatoes over 3 days).

Step 2:
Wash the tomatoes, remove any leaves and stems (this is a good job for little helpers).

Step 3:
Roughly chop the tomatoes and put them in a big stainless steel pot (I used my 20 litre one).

Step 4:
Heat the chopped tomatoes over medium-high heat, smashing them up as you stir every so often. Once the tomatoes are bubbling you can either bottle them now, or reduce them for a bit. The jars I used were a bit smaller than the passata bottles I’m used to, so I chose to boil them to reduce them by around 1/4 to 1/3, to make for a more concentrated jar of tomato goodness. If you’re using plum tomatoes or paste tomatoes you’re more likely to get away with boiling them for less time, but ‘sauce tomatoes’ here just means any tomatoes that aren’t quite perfect, so they can use a bit of boiling to get rid of the extra liquid.

While you’re waiting for the tomatoes to heat up or reduce, sterilise your jars and lids and keep them warm.

Step 5:
If you’re concerned about the tomatoes not being acidic enough on their own to store safely, then add a tablespoon of cider vinegar or lemon juice to each 500-600ml jar, or 2 tablespoons to larger jars.

Put the hot tomatoes in the warm jars and seal them with their clips or rings, depending on which jar type you’re using. Put a big canning pot with a false bottom or canning rack on the stove (or use a tea towel or some cutlery at the bottom of a normal pot), put a small amount of warm water in it (so that the hot jars aren’t shocked by a sudden change of temperature), then carefully add your jars. Add more water, so that the jars are surrounded by water either to just above the top of the lid, or at least 3/4 of the way up.

Put the lid on the pot and bring it to the boil, or at least above 90ºC (195ºF). Hold it at this temperature for 40-45 minutes, then allow the pot to sit with the lid off for 5 minutes. Carefully remove the jars using a jar lifter and allow them to cool on the bench before storing.

Fill up the next batch of jars for the pot and repeat until you’ve run out of hot tomatoes, making sure that the water in the pot at the beginning is around the same temperature as the jars. You can do this over two or more days, as long as the tomatoes are brought to the boil and kept hot for a while before bottling, and put into hot sterilised jars.

The result:
Bottling my own tomatoes at home has reduced the amount of far-away foods in our diet, reduced our tomato costs by half, made us more resilient, reduced waste, and they taste better than factory-bottled ones. It was an enjoyable time with family, with all of us appreciating the process and the results.

Backyard Dairy Goats: A Natural Approach to Keeping Goats in any Yard

I am excited to announce my new book Backyard Dairy Goats: A Natural Approach to Keeping Goats in any Yard

You can read more about it by clicking here.

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To help cut out the middlemen involved in publishing I’ve started a Kickstarter campaign for the book. This means that if you’d like to pre-order a copy for less than the future price, you can easily do this on Kickstarter. You’ll get bonus mini-ebooks too, and the option of other exciting rewards like cheesemaking kits, tree planting, and getting your name on the acknowledgements page of my book.

The campaign is only on for 20 days, so please click here if you’d like to read more about it and be a part of this unique and independent new book.

Backyard Dairy Goats is a book focusing on raising dairy goats in a way that respects their nature, on any amount of land. My aim with this book is to make backyard dairying achievable for anyone.

Most books about goats focus on keeping them on a larger scale, and don’t address many issues for those who just want some milk from a couple of goats in the backyard. Topics covered include:

•Natural goat health, how to prevent and fix most issues without a vet.

•Small batch cheesemaking.

•Everything you need to know about goats – their behaviour, how to feed them, handle them, what they need to thrive, and so on.

What this book is about:

•Caring for goats in a way that respects their goatness.

•Getting dairy goats now, wherever you are. It doesn’t have to be a dream that may happen one day in the distant future, it could happen now, and this book will show you how.

•Learning from observation, and goat behaviour in the wild to provide the right foods for goats to thrive.

•A permaculture approach, looking at the whole backyard ecosystem and the many interactions between goats, animals, garden, people, and trees.

•Cheesemaking and home dairying without artificial weird stuff.

Goat dairy as a homemade staple food, for health, survival and self reliance. Recipes included.

Not just for backyards

This book is relevant for larger bits of land as well, especially in the early years while you’re waiting for perennials to grow or waiting to build more fences. Goat milk provides an instant harvest, with a minimal amount of brought-in feed, using smaller amounts of land and food than cows, while providing manure for the garden.

Click here if you’d like to learn more.

Raising pigs for meat and lard

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Our pigs at around 12 or 13 weeks old. Healthy Wessex saddleback boars, raised in the forest with portable electric fencing.

How much time does it take to raise pigs on the homestead for meat? How much of a commitment is it? What do you need to get started? How much does it cost?…

I write this partly for myself to read next year, so that I remember how it all works, partly for others who are considering raising pigs.

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Cutting up a pig without a saw

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Before our pig kill (see this post) we had discussed what we wanted to do with each part of the pig. To keep costs down, we just had the mobile butcher here on one day to do the kill, hair removing, gutting, and sawing the pigs in half and leaving them to hang for a day before we would cut them up ourselves. If we wanted him to cut them into pieces he would probably have to come back another day.

We’ve never before cut pigs up ourselves, and how we handled it is a bit different to the process I’ve seen elsewhere because we didn’t have a saw. Every other instruction around is for how to do it with a saw, so I will write about how we did this using only 6” (15cm) boning knives, and maybe a firewood axe and a good aim (depending on how the spine has been cut).

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Pig day

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Our 6 month old Wessex saddleback boar pigs

The next few photos are of the pig slaughtering process, with commentary, to help others who want to raise their own meat or understand a process that has mostly been forgotten in modern times.

Our pigs have lived happy lives in the paddock above for the past few months. They have been able to express their pig-ness, and have enjoyed a diet of acorns, whey, scraps, and local gmo-free grains. Their natural behaviour is to search for roots in the ground with their snouts, turning over some of the soil in a gentle way, and also manuring it. They feed the soil life and prepare the ground for new plants to grow.

Vegetarians might want to stop reading this now.
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Perfection

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I am not that great at describing foods. I sometimes laugh at the descriptions on the back of wine bottles, and at the obsessions that plague the cosmopolitan boomer-inspired worlds of recipes and restaurants, when to me there is just nothing like simple foods created traditionally, and there’s not much to say except ‘perfect’.

This cheese deserves praise though. I will post pictures of it and tell its story.

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This cheese was the last cheese I made this year, towards the end of March when I switched back to once a day milking. I’ve had a few hard cheesemaking fails this season due to my rennet being old and stored badly, but there is just nothing like homemade hard cheese, raw and full of flavour from wild cultures, so I persist in trying them every so often. This one used a ‘washed curd’ technique that gouda and havarti use, I used some of my homemade viili yoghurt as starter, and I probably made it on a fruit day in the biodynamic calendar. I used an 800g cheese mould, using 5-6 litres of goats milk.

Lately my land and house have been wanting to grow camembert-style rinds. As this cheese became soft-looking as it aged, and the sides of the rind ‘splooged’ (for lack of a technical word) I noticed a beautiful white rind forming on the splooged bits. At some point it stabilised, but I eyed this off every time I tended to the cheeses, wondering if it would be similar to camembert when I cut it open.

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We cut it open the other night, it was like no other cheese I’ve had. Cheese perfection that doesn’t fit into any little cheese category in a book. This cheese can’t be replicated with packets of cultures and milk from the shop, it is just like all good foods should be, an expression of the land that makes it.

I sat it next to the ripening chorizos and saucisson secs in the larder, to spread the white bloom.

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Spiced Elderberry Oxymel (a herbal cold and flu medicine)

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Here is a simple way to make a healthy medicine for the cold months ahead. I can’t say enough good things about elderberries, and this way of preserving them for the winter can be used either as a daily boost to health to prevent colds and flus, or as something taken when you are sick to relieve the symptoms and get rid of the cold or flu quickly. This recipe is cheap to make, using stuff that’s always in my kitchen.

You will need:
Elderberries
Optional spices (see step 3)
Raw apple cider vinegar
Raw honey

1. First you will need to find an elderberry tree in fruit. I found these in the first month of autumn and in the garden of an old homestead we were visiting. Sometimes trees are on the side of the road, or branches are hanging over someone’s fence. Elder trees are beautiful to look at and many people have them growing in their garden as ornamentals that don’t end up being harvested. They’re supposed to be quite easy to grow, and the leaves and branches are good goat food.

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Photo credit: here

2. Carefully harvest the bunches of fruits off the trees, gather as much as you’re likely to use. I started with around 2 litres of loosely packed bunches and ended up with around 1300ml of oxymel.

3. Wash the berries and gently strip the berries from the twigs into a cooking pot, it doesn’t matter if a few small twigs get in too. Mix in a small amount of water (for around 1200ml of berries at this stage I added half a cup). Add some spices now if you wish, I added 1/2 inch of grated fresh ginger, a pinch of ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

4. Bring the berries to the boil with the lid on, then remove the lid and continue to cook, while squashing the berries with a wooden spoon to extract the juice and evaporate some of the water. Do this for 10-20 minutes, being careful to not evaporate too much of the liquid, until it looks like you’ve squashed the berries as much as they can be squashed.

5. Filter the juice through a fine mesh sieve, then continue to squash the berries into the sieve to extract the last of the juice. Pour the juice into a measuring cup or jar to see how much you have. I ended up with 400ml of juice. Allow the juice to cool down to a blood-warm temperature.

6. When you can put some of the juice on the inside of your wrist without it hurting, pour the juice into a mixing bowl and add the same volume of raw cider vinegar and raw honey, so that you have 1 part elderberry juice, 1 part cider vinegar, and 1 part honey.

7. Pour into sterilised jars and store in a fairly cold and dry place. Take 1 tablespoon at a time, either on its own or mixed with water. It’s also good mixed with boiling water as a hot drink.

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