Homemade Raspberry Mint Vinaigrette with canning instructions

Raspberry mint vinaigrette

I’ve been pulling out frozen food from the freezer and using it up in preparation for the onslaught of fresh fruit and vegetables coming soon.  I had a few bags of frozen raspberries, and since my bushes are loaded this year I need to use up the older berries now.  Some of them were used in fruit leather, but I decided to make some into raspberry vinaigrette.

I’ve been wanting to make my own salad dressing for a long time, and while I have conquered homemade mayonnaise and ranch dressings, I haven’t had anything I can safely can yet to make shelf stable.  Oil, cream and eggs can’t be safely canned at home.  But anything that is acidic can be, and raspberry vinaigrette can be made without the oil (to be added later, when opened).

raspberries and mint

It isn’t hard to make, uses up extra berries, and is flexible… you can add or sub different vinegars, or even make with other fruits.  I added lime juice to one batch to make raspberry lime vinaigrette, and fresh mint to another.  The mint is my favorite.

Homemade Raspberry Mint Vinaigrette from Scratch
Author: 
Recipe type: salad dressing
Cuisine: American
 
Homemade raspberry mint vinaigrette has a tang and sweetness that match the best commercial dressings available. Instructions for canning included.
Ingredients
  • 8 cups raspberry juice
  • 1½ cups organic cane sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 8 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. dry mustard powder
  • 6-8 sprigs (stem and leaves) fresh mint
Instructions
  1. Prepare raspberry juice. Place frozen berries in large thick-bottomed pot and heat on low to thaw. Strain through a fine sieve to remove seeds.
  2. Measure and add remaining ingredients except mint. Heat to almost a boil. Whisk well; sugar should be dissolved.
  3. Add mint. Remove from heat and steep mint in vinaigrette until it is cooled. Remove mint.
  4. Pour into prepared jars. Wipe rims clean, add lids and rings. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. Remove from canner and cool. Store, without rings, for 12 months or more.
  5. When you open the jar, pour into a larger jar and mix 2:1 vinaigrette to oil of your choice. .
Notes
Makes 6 pint sized jars.
Feel free to sub lime juice for the mint, or remove the mint altogether.
You can use therapeutic-grade peppermint essential oil in place of fresh peppermint if you like. Start with just a few drops... it's powerful!

Raspberry Vinaigrette with lime

 

Raising Pigs for Free: How to Scavenge Food For Your Pigs!

Bacon. Ham. Pork chops. Sausages. Pastry. Lard. So many great products from one animal.

My husband and I have been raising our own animals for meat, dairy, eggs and honey for the last few years. Up until last fall, the only meat we had produced ourselves was chicken. And farm-raised, free-range chicken is unbeatable. But you can’t make bacon out of chicken, and while we aren’t huge pork eaters, we do appreciate good quality pork on occasion. The problem was, I couldn’t find organic pork locally, and if I could, we would be paying a horrific price for it.

We are huge supporters of local, pasture-raised meat. We are also huge fans of certified organic products to avoid GMOs. We soon discovered that it was going to be impossible to find these products locally, and so if we were going to eat it, we would have to produce it ourselves. Bring on the pigs.

As usual, we jumped in. Sink or swim… we have learned to swim. And with pigs we learned fast.

We had a secure location for them, a nice, small barn, and… three bags of organic feed. We picked up 2 Yorkshire female piglets, age 6 weeks. They were just starting to get past the cute stage… a good thing. And they loved to eat. And eat. And eat. At $24 a bag for organic hog feed, we learned pretty quickly that we would have to come up with a better solution for food. At the rate we were going, our pigs would cost their weight in gold!

Pigs can do really well on pasture. They root up everything, eat weeds, roots, shoots, greens… everything. If you have an area you want cleared, as long as it is properly fenced, they will clear it for you and you won’t have to buy much food for them. If you DON’T have a secure field for them, you will have to provide a lot of food. LOTS of food. We live on just under 2 acres, and much of it is heavily treed. We really are only using about an acre, if that. Fencing is very expensive and our property is challenging to fence. So we knew that, at least this time, our pigs would be relying on twice-daily feedings of good, quality food.

In my opinion, hog feed isn’t awesome. In our area, the hog feed that is available, even the organic feed, is chock full of corn (pig junk food), and soy (cheap protein). Unless it is certified organic, both ingredients are likely to be GMO products. (Unless you are raising them on your own corn). Corn isn’t great for pigs… especially exclusively. It makes for a lot of fat, and not so much meat. Hog feed also generally contains vitamins and minerals, which may or may not be sourced naturally or GMO-free. And it is dry. I honestly can’t think of any mammal that would enjoy eating dry food its entire life. Or any mammal who would benefit from it. We don’t even feed our dog dry dog food. (She gets raw, frozen dog food).

Everyone knows pigs will eat anything. We needed to come up with something that was healthy, easy to source, and cheap. And everyone knows that it is who you know, not what you know. We raised our pigs on stale certified organic bread, and all the vegetable trimmings they could eat, provided from a local produce store. We also produced the best tasting ham, bacon, pork chops, and roasts you can ever imagine.

Sourcing free food:
Bakeries
Most bakeries have extra, stale bread that they need to get rid of. I found several local bakeries that gave away their stale bread. And stale?? Not really… more like, not sellable. 2 day old stuff won’t sell if there is fresh stuff. Phone around, talk to the local bakeries, and see if you can find one who will give you stale bread. And if you want organic, you might get as lucky as we did. We found a bakery that produces certified organic sourdough bread, and that would give us their extra. BIG TIME SCORE!

Produce Stores
Here is where you might have some issues. Don’t go to the big box stores, unless you know someone who can pull some strings for you. Go to the smaller, independently owned ones, and ask the owner or manager. We have connections with a small grocery store with a large produce section, and they gave us bags and bags of vegetable trimmings and fruit that was no longer sellable. Those pigs got everything from kale and chard to strawberries, watermelon and pumpkins! Their favorite, believe it or not, was kale. They didn’t like whole potatoes, eggplant, peppers, or citrus peels.

Milk Products
Pigs loooooove dairy. If you are so lucky as to have a cheese-making business nearby, ask them for their leftover whey. Pigs drink up whey like I would (like to) drink chocolate, and they benefit from the protein in it. Again, whey is a by-product and companies like to give it away rather than pay to dispose of it.

Bedding
Another tip… pigs need clean bedding. They are messy eaters, and they tend to get their bedding full of potato peelings and banana peels. If you don’t get wood chips delivered by the ton (and we don’t have storage for that kind of thing), then you know that wood chips by the bag are expensive. Head out to your local high school. Chances are they have a wood chipper and all their wood ends go through the chipper. I get bags and bags of wood chips for FREE from a local high school. Occasionally I drop off a dozen eggs for the teacher who lets me in, but that trade is worth it! The schools in our area have to bag it up and put it in the trash otherwise, which costs more to dispose of, so they are usually very willing to give it away.

We brought our pigs in to be processed almost a month ago now. We had the butcher package up the ground pork, roasts and chops, and the rest they gave us back fresh, uncured, unsmoked, to do ourselves. We spent the better part of 2 weeks curing 4 hams and 35 lb of bacon, then smoking it all on the BBQ. It wasn’t hard, although it was time consuming. But WORTH IT! Oh man was it worth it!

The flavour, the texture, the richness, made it worth it. Knowing that we raised our own pigs for our own meat in a humane, healthy environment, was worth it. Even the hard work made us feel good. We knew every mouthful of food that went into those pigs. We knew exactly how they were raised. We were happy to say that up until the very last moment, where they were killed humanely and efficiently by a local butcher, they were in our hands and well taken care of. Hard work pays off! In the end, we sold most of one pig, and kept the rest for ourselves. The cost of the butchering and packaging was paid off by the meat we sold. The benefit of having a local butcher do the processing was that the meat was inspected and so was legal to sell. And everyone wanted some! I think if we had raised 10 pigs we would have had no trouble selling the meat.

Thank you pigs. Indeed, it was your life for ours; we are very grateful.

 

 

 

 

How to Make Apple Cider Vinegar from Apple Peelings.

Apple cider vinegar has become a buzz word amongst the health-conscious crowd lately, and rightfully so. It is not only a culinary necessity, but it can cure skin conditions, detangle hair, stop heartburn, play a roll in weight loss and detox the body. Click here for more information on apple cider vinegar. Real apple cider vinegar, with the mother, may be easy to find in the grocery store now, but it isn't cheap. In fact, you can expect to pay around $9.99 for 1 L (quart) at many grocery stores. This doesn't go over very well with the budget, but the good news is, it can be made for almost nothing, from apple scraps you would normally compost or feed to your chickens. AND it is easy to make. Sound good? Yes! Here is how. And start collecting your glass ACV or maple syrup bottles now! Make apple sauce/apple pies/apple fruit leather/apple WHATEVER, where peeling and coring the apples is involved. Enjoy your whatever, and keep your apple peelings. If you don't have enough for the first go round, store it in a zip lock or a jar in the freezer and add to it until you have enough. You can use apple cores too, if you aren't concerned about the minimal amount of cyanide that is in the apple seeds. If this is a concern for you, then just use the peels.Directions:
  1. Collect your apple peelings and put them in a gallon glass jar/container. Those large pickle jars from Costco, or from the thrift store, work perfectly. Even a large glass cookie jar will work.
  2. Once your jar is filled with peelings, cover it with a water/sugar syrup made from 1 gallon of boiling water with 1 cup of white sugar dissolved in it. Your peels might float a bit. Some people weight it down with something so they don't float. I don't bother.
  3. Set your jar in a cool, dark-ish location (I used my laundry room) and cover the jar with cheese cloth and an elastic, making sure it is thick enough that fruit flies won't get in. Because they will try!
  4. Stir once a day for 1 week.
  5. After a week, strain the apple peels through cheese cloth and allow to drain over a bowl overnight, to collect the juice. Then give the cheese cloth a good squeeze, and feed the apple peels to the chickens/pigs.
  6. Pour the strained juice back into the jar and cover with cheese cloth again.
  7. Stir once a day.
  8. Store in a cool location out of direct light for 6 weeks or until it tastes as strong as you'd like it.
  9. Bottle and store in your pantry or fridge indefinitely. Enjoy!
Tips:
  • If you notice mold on your apple cider vinegar at any stage, skim it off and keep going. I have never experienced mold growth but have read that it can happen.
  • Some people weight their apple peels down during the first week so no apple peels are exposed to air. They have a tendency to float. You can do this if you like, but as long as you stir it once a day I don't think it is necessary, and I never bother.
How to Make Apple Cider Vinegar from Apple Peelings.
Author: 
Recipe type: Condiment
 
Make your own apple cider vinegar from scrap apples!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 gallon water (4 litres)
  • Apple peels and cores
Instructions
  1. Collect your apple peelings and put them in a gallon glass jar/container. Those large pickle jars from Costco, or from the thrift store, work perfectly. Even a large glass cookie jar will work.
  2. Once your jar is filled with peelings, cover it with a water/sugar syrup made from 1 quart of boiling water with 1 cup of white sugar dissolved in it. Your peels might float a bit. Some people weight it down with something so they don’t float. I don’t bother.
  3. Set your jar in a cool, dark-ish location (I used my laundry room) and cover the jar with cheese cloth and an elastic, making sure it is thick enough that fruit flies won’t get in. Because they will try!
  4. Stir once a day for 1 week.
  5. After a week, strain the apple peels through cheese cloth and allow to drain over a bowl overnight, to collect the juice. Then give the cheese cloth a good squeeze, and feed the apple peels to the chickens/pigs.
  6. Pour the strained juice back into the jar and cover with cheese cloth again.
  7. Stir once a day.
  8. Store in a cool location out of direct light for 6 weeks or until it tastes as strong as you’d like it.
  9. Bottle and store in your pantry or fridge indefinitely. Enjoy!
Notes
◾If you notice mold on your apple cider vinegar at any stage, skim it off and keep going. I have never experienced mold growth but have read that it can happen. ◾Some people weight their apple peels down during the first week so no apple peels are exposed to air. They have a tendency to float. You can do this if you like, but as long as you stir it once a day I don’t think it is necessary, and I never bother.

 

 

My Journey Towards Learning Homesteading Life Skills: Carding Wool

Wool. Carding. Spinning. Weaving. These words are all a part of our heritage from many years ago, that lasted for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The common people knew how to make their own fibre from what they had available, and most areas had wool available, from a variety of sources. Today, in first world countries, many people wouldn’t know the difference between spinning and weaving, and most certainly wouldn’t know how to turn a sheep into a sweater or a rug. We have lost the need to know this. We are the “rich”; we have people who do this for us. And we don’t use wool much anymore either. Synthetic fibres and overseas factory production have taken over the homestead spinning wheel and the loom. Production time and cost is so much improved that we have all but lost the need and the know-how to produce fibre in our own house. Only those with extra money can afford to purchase locally-spun or woven products. Unless you do it yourself.

I have always been interested in creating things. I am a potter; I make my own dishes. I know how to crochet, knit and sew. And over the last few years I have developed a real drive within me to go further, and to learn the skills the average woman would have known 100 years ago. My husband has been listening to me, and he found me a beautiful, second hand spinning wheel for Christmas this year. I am now the proud new owner of an Ashford Classic! And I don’t know how to spin :). Thankfully YouTube has it all.

Before you can spin, however, you need carded wool. Wool that has been sheered off a sheep (or other fibre animal), has been washed to remove the natural oils (or not, depending on what you desire), tagged (picked through to remove undesirable bits), dyed (if desired, and not necessarily in this order) and carded (brushed, so that all the wool goes in the same direction and can be spun). You can buy wool already prepared, or you can get a fleece from a sheep, and do it all yourself. Naturally, I wanted to do it myself. (Naturally, because I always seem to choose to do things the hardest way!)

My friend Jenn gave me a fleece from one of her Romney sheep. It is a medium grey, and was ready to be washed. My friend Monika told me how to wash the fleece. Friends are awesome! For more information on washing your wool check out this video.

You can hand card the wool or you can use a drum carder. Hand carding take a lot longer than a drum carder. My friend Monika had a drum carder so I invited a few friends over with wool and/or an extra set of hands, and we carded wool! I now have a huge stack of carded wool, ready to be dyed (if I want) or spun, or felted. For more information on carding wool check out this helpful video.

The next step is going to be dying the wool. I have found a local supply store that carries a beginner set of a variety of all natural dyes. I am purchasing this, and will be set to dye the wool. The fun has only begun!

There is so much to learn, and so little time. Between raising my children, preparing meals, taking care of my farm animals, keeping the house in some sense of order, and learning new skills, life is busy! I’d love to hear from other people who are also interested in learning a sustainable skill. What are you interested in? How are you learning? What has been the biggest help in your journey? The most challenging obstacle?

Check back in a week or two for my next Life Skill lesson learned: Dyeing Wool.

Inside Our Chicken Coop: Lessons learned, Key Features and Tips

Our homesteading adventure began 4 years ago with 5 hens and an old shed-turned-chicken coop. We now have over 50 hens and we sell our extra eggs. We have learned a great deal from experience, from other’s experiences, and from information shared online. Our newest coop is a combination of lessons learned, advice given, and experimentation. So far, this coop has been a big success.

Our biggest issues we have had to face to date have been predators, mites, food spillage (and waste), production and cleanliness. This new coop takes each issue we have had to deal with into consideration, and, as with all homesteading experiences, attempts to keep us one step ahead of the problem!

Raise Your Coop!
Our most destructive predator to date has been mink. A cousin to weasels, they are small, smart, and exceptionally destructive. Once they have made their way into the coop they can wipe out an entire henhouse, one bird at a time, overnight. They are small enough to get into even rat or mice holes, and vicious enough to keep even you away. They attack, generally at night when the hens’ vision is practically nil, suck the blood out of their prey, and then often sever the head. One good way to tell if it is a mink attacking your hens is that the hens’ combs will be almost white, for lack of blood. Our first coop was an old shed, and full of rat holes. The only way to deal with a mink in a coop like this is to trap them or kill them, and this will be AFTER they have already killed, since you won’t know they are there, otherwise. Prevention is best, and the key to keeping them out is to have your coop raised above the ground, with no holes for entry. Our latest coop is 5 feet off the ground and very secure. While you don’t need to have it this high, higher is better. This will prevent a number of predators from getting in. It will also help keep mice, rats and other pests out.

Your bedding will remain drier if the coop has air flow underneath. This will help prevent mold, ammonia issues, and pests like mites and ticks.

Water Drip System
The best way to keep your hen’s water sanitary is to use a drip system, also known as a nipple system. The chickens peck at and drink the drips that hang from the nipple once it has been nudged by the chicken. This method is what commercial chicken producers use because once it is installed it is virtually maintanence-free, and pretty much the only truly sanitary watering method. I highly recommend investing in this kind of system. Contact a local commercial poultry supply warehouse or check online. if you only have a few chickens, you can even buy the nipples individually and install them in the bottom of a hanging bucket.

Our water system is fed via a large food-grade barrel purchased from a barrel company. At present the drip system is fed from this large barrel, and we need to fill the barrel about once a month from a hose. Our future plans is to convert this system into one that would collect rain water from the roof to full the barrel, and then supply water to the nipple system. One of our older coops functions well this way.

Large, Deep Feeder
We feed our hens certified organic layer mash. The convenience of pellets is lost when you switch to organic since the product they use to bind the feed into pellets is not organic, so the organic feed is all mash. We had a great deal of trouble with our original feeders because the hens would peck out what they liked to eat, leaving the parts they didn’t like, and scattering it all over the coop. Eventually the bedding seemed to be nothing but old feed. Our final solution was turkey feeders, because they are large, and much deeper. The hens are able to peck the feed, but unable to pull it out of the feeder and scatter it around. This results in the birds eating ALL of their food before we fill it, which results is better quality eggs, since their feed is “a complete meal”. (Of course they free range all day as well). These feeders hold a 50lb bag of feed and last 30 hens 3 days or so before we have to refill the feeder. Hang your feeders to keep them off the ground. This helps keep them from filling up with bedding as the chickens scratch.

Oyster Shell feeder
We provide all of our hens with free choice oyster shells to help promote strong, healthy shells.


Poop deck

“Fondly” referred to by us as a poop deck, all of our coops now have a deck beneath the roosts that are lined with old feed sacks, which we roll up and compost in the manure pile every week or so. This keeps the bedding MUCH cleaner since they sit and poop on their roosts all night. It also provides a rich manure for the compost pile! Whatever you do, make sure you change the papers once a week or as needed, because the poop will eventually breed flies and other pests. This poop deck method has saved us a lot of time and keeps the coop so much cleaner and nicer smelling, especially using the deep litter method.

Deep Litter Method
To save time, to keep the coop warm in the winter, and to make a rich compost, you can add a foot or so of white wood shavings to the bottom of the coop. The chickens turn it over by scratching in it, they use it for dust baths, and the manure that starts to compost in the wood chips keeps the coop warmer in the winter. If used properly, this method is good for months without cleaning, and is an accepted, safe method of maintaining your coop. We do a complete cleaning of the coops once every 4 months or so.

Lights On!

In the long Canadian winter months our chickens will come to a complete production stop, will molt, and will not start laying again until mid spring. This can mean up to 6 months of almost zero production, and since we are raising chickens to sell their eggs, this will not allow us to meet our costs. By keeping one single lightbulb lit in our coop for 12 hours we will be allowing our chickens 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness to sleep. This is enough to keep our chickens producing, and while they will molt and stop producing for 6 weeks or so, they will start up again and continue as before. Chickens are native to Central America, and are not meant to be in the dark for 16 hours a day, sitting on roosts for 16 long hours, which is what we would be putting them through in the middle of our Canadian winters. While I don’t advocate 24 hour lighting, I do recommend 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness in the winter months. There is a minimal daily

Dust Bath!
One of the worst pests chickens can come up against are mites. They can destroy a chicken’s health in a short period of time. Chickens’ natural defense against mites is to dust bath. Dust will cut up mites and smoother them. You will notice free-ranging chickens finding the most perfect (to them) locations to dust bath… namely, in your flower garden, in the sand box, or at the base of trees. Providing your hens with a box 3/4 full of diatomaceous earth will give them an opportunity to dust bath and keep the mites in control while they are locked in their coop. Keep it free of manure and wood shavings.

Nesting Boxes
It is recommended that a coop has at least 1 nesting box per 5 hens. We use old milk crates, turned on their sides, and filled with clean hay. Make sure you change the hay regularly to keep the bedding and eggs clean. We cover our boxes with a “roof” now, simply a board on an angle, to prevent any hens from roosting on top of the boxes where they will poop into the nesting boxes.

Windows/lighting
We have a large window in the front of our coop that we found free on craigslist. It allows daylight in which makes electric lighting unnecessary in the spring/summer/fall months.

Entry/Exit
Keep your trap door for the chickens up above the ground. Chickens can fly, and some predators can’t. The chickens will quickly learn to fly back up into the coop if your trap door is a few feet above the ground. One of our coops’ doors is about 5 feet up, and while most of the birds can fly in and out, the heavier ones can’t, so I recommend 4 feet above ground. This helps keep pests like mice, mink and rats out (although they may eventually find a way up) and predators like dogs and coyotes out. We use a simple trap door that hinges at the bottom, and provides a “landing spot” for the hens when they fly up to the roost. Once the trap door is closed, we simply latch it shut with a piece of wood.

Free Ranging
Our chickens free range all day, every day. We have lost a few occasionally to coyotes, but for the most part, our dog keeps the coyotes away, as well as bears, mink, raccoons, and stray dogs. Free ranging gives chickens access to a more natural environment including scratching, dust bathing, and fresh greens and bugs which enhances the nutritional value of the eggs, and keeps the chickens healthy.

An Extra Tip:
One thing we should have done when we first built the coop was to paint the walls and floor. Paint helps keep mites down since mites will burrow in the walls and come out at night, attacking the chickens. Paint seals the walls, and also makes the walls easier to clean off when you are spring cleaning the coop.

Our coop is by no means perfect, but we have been working on improving our coops for years now, and have come up with certain things that work, and others that don’t. Learning from others’ experiences has been highly beneficial to us, and I hope that sharing this information will help you on your homesteading journey. Please take a moment to comment and let me know what has worked for you in the past, and what hasn’t. Online information through sharing with others has been a valuable resource for us. Thanks!

This article has been linked to From The Farm Blog Hop and The Homesteader’s Hop #19.

How To Make Yogurt in Mason Jars and a Quilt.

Yogurt is, quite simply, super easy to make. As in, you’ll be shaking your head wondering why you haven’t tried it before. There are lots of reasons to make your own: it is economical, healthy, plastic-free, additive/preservative-free, and a good way to use up extra milk before it goes bad. And you don’t need to buy a yogurt maker to do it. Here is how to make it in mason jars and a quilt. Enjoy!!  This is one of life’s simple pleasures.

How To Make Yogurt in Mason Jars and a Quilt.
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast, snack, condiment
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Simple instructions for a delicious yogurt made with ingredients and utensils you have at home.
Ingredients
  • 1 quart milk
  • 1 quart 18% cream (or milk)
  • 2 tbsp. plain yogurt with live culture (this is your starter)
Instructions
  1. In a large pot heat milk/cream to 110F. Remove from heat.
  2. Whisk in yogurt.
  3. Pour into quart jars and put on lids and rings.
  4. Place jars in a box or cooler completely surrounded and covered by a quilt.
  5. Store in warm location (room temperature)
  6. Leave for 10-12 hours then refrigerate jars.
  7. Serve.
Notes
If you want a thick, Greek-style yogurt, there are 3 ways to do it choose one: 1. Use half milk, half 18% table cream. If you don't want it that high in fat choose one of the next two options. 2. Add 2 tbsp. milk powder when you add the yogurt to thicken it. The final product will be thicker. 3. Strain it through cheese cloth after it is made to remove some of the whey which will make it thicker.

This post has been linked to Frugally Sustainable’s Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #93.

A Goat Is Born! Homesteading With Nigerian Dwarf Goats and Video.

Homesteading with Nigerian Dwarf Goats

Meet Lulu, our senior Nigerian Dwarf Goat. Lulu is a seasoned mother. At 4 years old she has produced six beautiful babies for us, and more for her previous owner. Our experience with her has been amazing: she is a fantastic mother, kidded quadruplets last year with no trouble and nursed them all exclusively, has a wonderful, laid-back temperament and is an easy milker. To date, she has passed on her good temperament to all of her babies with us. Currently Lulu is supplying us with 1.5L of rich, creamy milk a day.

Homesteading generally involves raising your own animals for meat, eggs or dairy. We chose Nigerian Dwarf goats as our source of dairy because of their compact size and yet surprisingly good milk production. We don’t have a large piece of property so we needed a dairy animal that was small, efficient, and friendly. The Nigerian Dwarf goats fit the bill. Bred to provide impoverished African families with milk, they don’t eat a lot and still have the capacity to produce up to 2L of milk a day. They stand no higher than 23 inches tall (buck) and 21 inches tall (doe) and babies weigh about 2lb at birth. Nigerian does are well-known as easy birthers, and to date we have not had to assist in any labors. We have only had 3 kiddings yet though, so I am sure our time will come.
Nigerian Dwarf goat milk is one of the highest in milk fat for any breed of goats, at around 8%. They also have the sweetest flavoured milk, with no hint of “goat-y flavour” noticeable in their fresh, raw milk. (Milk that is over 2 days old will take on a slight goat-y flavour, and pasteurized milk also takes on a stronger flavour.) The result is a very rich, creamy, healthy milk that is incomparable in flavour to any other milk, goat or cow! Raw Nigerian goat milk makes a fantastic cheese and yogurt as well.

This year Lulu delivered twins in June on an evening when I was home, and able to watch the birth. We have a web cam that connects us to our barn from our computer in the house, and I was spying on Lulu who had been acting uneasy all evening. Sure enough, she went down at about 10pm and I ran outside. By the time I got there the first baby, a little black buck was already born and she was busy licking him off. I called my son and my husband to come watch, and we were able to record the miracle of the second birth, another strong buckling, to share with you. I love the mothering instinct that comes naturally to Lulu.  When she began to deliver her second baby, she continued to talk to her first-born.  The miracle of life is beautiful!  <3

Anyone who is considering raising goats for dairy should definitely take a moment to watch a birth, just to get a feel for what will happen. This birth, as I said, was straight forward, quick and perfect. I did not have to assist at all, and Lulu knew what to do when the babies were born. Just like humans, not all goats make perfect mothers, so it is important to be around for delivery.

For all information on raising goats, please refer to Fiasco Farm website, a complete guide to goat care.

Please enjoy this beautiful miracle, and one of the best rewards of homesteading life!  Click on the links below.  They will direct you to our youtube videos.
*Warning! The video is graphic. I find birth beautiful, but others might not.

This post has been linked to From the Farm Blog Hop, The Homesteaders Blog Hop and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #87.

And for fun, a video of the babies frolicking, as only goat kids can, just a few days old.

Plastic Wrap Alternative: DIY Beeswax Cotton Wraps

I was first introduced to beeswax-coated cotton wraps when someone gave me one made locally They quickly became an important part of our food storage regime. They are beautiful, functional, reusable, economical and eco-friendly.  And, as I soon discovered, not difficult to make.

I have been trying to cut back our kitchen plastic usage for years.  I don’t trust plastic especially when it is holding food, and it is simply NOT sustainable.  I replaced all my plastic storage containers and zip lock bags with glass or stainless steel ones.  Other than the cost, those weren’t too difficult to switch over to.  The item that I had a greater challenge replacing was plastic wrap.  The convenience is difficult to replace.  These beeswax wraps, however, have single handedly eliminated plastic wrap from my kitchen.  They are great for wrapping cheese, covering dishes, or folding into snack bags.  They can even be sewn into small snack bags to be used at school or work if desired.

Plastic wrap (I used Saran wrap) is a wasteful, single-use, petroleum product that I am convinced is not an acceptable part of natural living.  When used to store or heat food, plastic leaches toxins into our food that we then consume.  Many studies have now proven that BPA, a chemical that is in many plastics, causes a number of unacceptable health issues in those who consume food products in contact with it.  All plastics contain chemicals, and some are not well-studied to prove their safety. Plastic wrap is no exception.  Beeswax cotton wraps provide a safe and effective alternative.

We have beeswax available all the time since we keep honey bees.  Beeswax is 100% natural, non-toxic, and relatively inexpensive.  I use it in my body product recipes such as hand lotions, body butters, deodorant and balms.  It is water-repellent and has natural antibacterial properties.  When applied to cotton, it renders the cotton “unbreathable” which helps maintain the proper moisture content when storing food.  These qualities make it a great candidate for a plastic wrap alternative.

When choosing your fabric, use 100% cotton (organic is preferable).  The ideal thickness is a sheeting cotton.  (Think, your bed sheets or pillow case).  You can reuse old sheets or pillow cases, or you can choose beautiful fabrics for fun.

If you would rather purchase these wraps made in North America by a sustainable company and priced reasonably, click here.

Materials

  • beeswax, grated (or pellets).  I use about 0.5 oz. of beeswax per wrap
  • 100% cotton fabric, cut to appropriate size (12×12 in. or 8×8 in. works for us)
  • old cookie sheet (that will be used for this purpose only, forever after)
  • paintbrush (that will be used for this purpose only, forever after)
  • chop stick for stirring the wax as it melts
  • cheese grater (used exclusively for beeswax)
  • a make-shift clothesline and clothes pins
  • oven

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 185F.  (Higher will burn the wax.  I know from experience…)
  2. Place pre cut fabric on cookie sheet.
  3. Sprinkle evenly and lightly with grated beeswax.  You don’t need a lot!
  4. Place in preheated oven.  Watch carefully!  This should take 5 minutes or less.
  5. As soon as the beeswax is just melted, remove from oven.
  6. Spread wax evenly with paintbrush to cover over any spots that are not yet coated.
  7. Hang on makeshift clothes line with clothes pegs, to dry.  Once cooled, you can use it!

Notes

  • If your wax starts to harden before you have evenly spread it, simply reheat it in the oven and try again.
  • This recipe uses less than 1 oz. of beeswax per sheet.
  • If you have a lot of wax left on the cookie sheet, place another piece of fabric on empty cookie sheet and it will absorb the extra wax.
  • All of the supplies except the beeswax can be purchased cheaply at thrift stores and can be used again for other DIY projects involving beeswax.  Purchase the beeswax through Mountain Rose Herbs, a trusted company carrying all sorts of ingredients for body products.
  • Wash in cool water with a mild soap.  I use liquid castile soap.
  • Each wrap will last several months or more depending on usage.

This post has been linked to Frugally Sustainable’s Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #54, Fresh Eggs Daily: Farm Girl Blog Hop #10, Homestead Revivial’s Barn Hop # 89, 116th Wildcrafting Wednesday and Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesday November 20th.

 

Surprise! Monsanto et al. Likely Own Your Seed Companies.

Where do you buy your seeds or seedlings from?  I was not aware until very recently that much of our garden seeds are now produced by companies owned by large pharmaceutical/chemical companies such as Monsanto, Dow and Bayer etc. These aren’t seeds that are genetically modified.  These are the plain old garden seeds you see in many grocery stores and nurseries.   What in the world are bio-tech companies doing buying up seed companies?  One can only speculate.  Control is a big word.  What they own they can potentially genetically modify?  Or, what they own they can eliminate, thereby supplying their own GMO seeds to the farmers who can no longer buy the seeds they used to use?

This chart shows us what seed companies are owned by which of the Big Six companies, the largest being Monsanto.  These seeds are NOT genetically modified.  But the patented seed (for example  Big Beef tomato seeds or plants) come from companies owned by these giants.

An article called Forewarned is Forearmed: Veggies owned by Monsanto by A Garden For The House provides a list of seeds and seedlings that are owned by Monsanto.  Take a look: you will be amazed at the plant names you recognise.  You can also assured that the majority of big box stores will be buying their seeds from these guys.

What can you do?  There are still some smaller seed companies around that are not owned by the Big Six.

Ask you seed supplier.  Do they buy from any of these seed companies?  Look for small, local seed companies who collect and sell their own seed.  I am buying from Salt Spring Seeds.  They grow and collect their own seeds.  Unfortunately they can’t ship to the USA because of customs regulations.  They do ship internationally.   Here is a link to a list of companies that do not buy seeds from any of these companies.  I didn’t make the list so I can’t verify it but it looks like a good place to start.

Look for local seed exchanges.  Don’t buy your seeds at all!  Trade them with other gardeners in your area.  Here is an article with a lot of links to seed exchanges.

Start collecting your own seeds.  Cheapest, safest way, hands down.

Where do YOU buy your seeds?  Can you recommend any seed companies that grow and collect their own seeds or buy only from companies that have no ties to bio tech companies?

This post has been linked up to Natural Parenting Group Blog Hop, Patchwork Living Blog Hop,  Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #16, Our Simple Farm link up, Living Well Blog Hop 31, Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesday and  Hometead Barn Hop #51.