Introducing… A Year in an Off Grid Kitchen!

I’ve been quiet on this blog for the past few months, because I’ve been working on something very big…

I’ve been busy creating a cookbook that teaches the kitchen skills that are most important on a homestead, as well as a huge amount of adaptable everyday homestead recipes.

When the the panic buying, empty shelves, and restrictive rations hit earlier this year, it was not a problem for my family, because we knew these skills, and knew how to feed ourselves without the supermarket system. With the help of this book, you can learn these skills too.

I’ve created a Kickstarter in order to pre-sell enough copies to cover the printing costs. Running a Kickstarter means we can cut out the middleman, so I’m able to offer you a better price than the future retail one, while also being able to offer extra ebooks and other goodies.

Here’s the link to the Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/706848724/real-food-cookbook-a-year-in-an-off-grid-kitchen?ref=b91p7r

There’s also an earlybird offer of extra stuff for people who back the Kickstarter in the first 48 hours, including the best natural home cleaning book I’ve read, plus documentaries on rocket ovens, hugelkultur, and more. You can find out more about the earlybird offer here: https://permies.com/t/151135/Earlybird-bundle-Grid-Kitchen-Kickstarter

The joy of gardening in circles with chickens

Chook dome and circular garden bed

Recently planted circular garden bed, and homemade geodesic chook dome

I first found out about this way of mandala gardening from Linda Woodrow’s “The Permaculture Home Garden”. She provides a design for a complete system that involves fruit trees, wild animal habitat, annual vegetable beds, and chook fodder plantings, with chickens being rotated around in a homemade chook dome. It all fits together so beautifully, with each element benefiting another, and it inspires me to grow food in this way.

I am in a colder climate (zone 8b/9a) with less sun in winter, with limited flat land, and am working on my own way of doing this that’s suited to my land and climate. Linda Woodrow doesn’t provide much information about which chook fodder perennials to grow in colder climates so I’ve just been using the entire circular bed to grow annual vegetables at this stage, usually for pumpkin, sunflower, grains, or potatoes. I would like to try out growing some chicken fodder plants but am not sure how the ones most suited to my climate (siberian pea tree, tagasaste) would go with being kept as a small shrub rather than tree. The chook fodder perennials fix nitrogen, produce mulch, feed the soil, and provide habitat for insect predators and pollinators.

One thing I like a lot about this system is if life gets busy and things get unharvested or weeds get out of hand, I just move the chickens on to that bed, and the the bolted and weedy plants turn into chook food and mulch. After two weeks the chickens have left me with a mulched, fertilised, weed-free bed, with also some tasty eggs to eat – it is almost too easy, and I’m thinking of terracing some of my land to fit in more chook dome spots for this reason.

Circular polyculture garden bed

A polyculture garden bed, with zucchini, beans, Asian greens, tomatoes, cucumber, and more around the edges, and pumpkin, corn, and sunflower in the middle

The soil has improved a lot in the spots where the chook domes have been. It’s been really inspiring to see it turn from a boring compacted lawn into a thriving garden that is feeding us and the chickens.

Every time the chook dome is moved, it gives a doable piece of garden to get planted. The mulch is often moved to one side of the bed by the chickens, so I first rake that out over the whole bed, and then I broadfork it. On a new bed over compacted soil I will usually broadfork it in two or four separate sessions, but once the soil underneath is getting a nicer structure, I can easily broadfork the entire bed at once.

Once the bed is broadforked, I use a hoe to create small pockets and lines in the mulch for planting. I fill these small pockets up with compost and plant them with seedlings or seeds. The spacing between the pockets will depend on each individual plant, I try to mix the plants up so that I don’t have blocks of a single plant, and this means the spacing can be very close because different plants are sending roots to different places. I can also plant with succession in mind, so that I can grow fast-growing Asian greens and lettuces right next to small seedlings of zucchini and tomatoes, and once the zucchini and tomatoes are starting to take over, the greens are ready to harvest, and I’ve made use of space that is often wasted.

One challenge I have experienced has been with my climate – it’s best if the chooks are moved every two weeks, but in winter there’s not much that can be planted once they have been moved, and in late spring there is so much to plant that it doesn’t feel like they can be moved quickly enough sometimes. One thing that’s happened a couple of times has been when I’ve moved the dome, not gotten around to planting the previous bed, and then moved the chooks back on to the previous bed for a day to get rid of the weeds before moving them on to a third bed – this way I end up with two beds ready to plant at the same time. A winter solution is to move the chickens into a greenhouse over the winter, or in mild climates to keep them in one spot with lots of mulch added.

The kind of tarp I use on top of the dome helps a lot with chicken comfort in extremes of weather – one side is silver and reflects heat, and the other side absorbs heat, so I have the silver side outside in summer, and inside in winter. In colder climates than mine this wouldn’t work, but I’ve tried it here and the chickens are happy.

The chickens can also help to make compost – just throw in way more mulch than you need, and anything else you want composted, and the chickens will scratch it up, and mix it with their manure, and once the chook dome is moved, you just need to shovel that out onto a spot in between the beds, water it, and it turns into compost.

With lots of mulch around there are usually slugs and snails – the chickens help to keep the population down, and the pond and rocks in Linda Woodrow’s design attract lizards that eat the snail eggs.

I am working on producing more of my own mulch for the chickens, from grains grown in the beds, as well as perennials grown around the edges of the garden. I’m also still figuring out the best plants and combinations of plants that thrive in this system in my climate.

Zucchini, tomato, chinese cabbage, sunflower, and more

Zucchini, tomato, chinese cabbage, and more

Enter your email address here to get new blog posts from The Nourishing Hearthfire.

More Goaty Goodness

kickstarter2tnh.jpg

Just a quick post to let you all know that for this week (until the 12th I think) I will be officially answering goat questions over on the Permies forums. Here is the link. If you have any questions about goats at all, feel free to ask over there (or in the comments here if you like).

I would also like to thank everyone who has contributed to my Kickstarter campaign so far. Here is the link for that. There’s now less than two weeks to go, so if you’d like to get a discounted book, a signed book, or books with extra goodies please select a reward and make a pledge there.

The lovely people at Pip Magazine have kindly offered to send a free digital copy of issue 8 (the goat issue) to all supporters with pledges above $10.
Pip_Issue8_Fullcover_05LOWRES.jpg

“In issue 8 we feature articles on backyard goats,  an urban goat co-op, growing your own raspberries, communal living, earthships, bush foods, neo-peasants, a beanie pattern, DIY compost toilet, permaculture in Afghanistan, bush schools, urban farms, plus all the usual profiles, growing guides, kids section and more!”

Click here to learn more about the Kickstarter campaign for my book ‘Backyard Dairy Goats’.

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.

cover-small

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Continue reading

Cutting up a pig without a saw

how to

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).

Continue reading

Pig day

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.
Continue reading

Perfection

_6113221-480.jpg

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.

_6113226-480.jpg

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.

_6113223-480.jpg

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.

_6113232-480.jpg

Enter your email address here to get new recipes and blog posts from The Nourishing Hearthfire.