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

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. Continue reading

Lulu nurses her 4 babies at once! (Well, sort of. She only has 2 teats!)

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.

DIY Homemade Soap Recipe: The Modern Homesteader Bar with goat milk and tallow.

Soap making: A brief explanation:
Soap is simply the combination of lye and oils.  When you combine them, they produce a chemical reaction called saponification and the end result is soap.  You cannot make soap without lye.  ALL soaps are made with lye, or they aren’t soap, they are a detergent.  You can buy melt and pour soap kits, but all that means is that the saponification part has been done for  you already, and you are simply remelting the soap and adding other ingredients.  From Zest, and Ivory, to Dr Bronners and any local soap, all have been started with lye.  Soap must be left to rest, or saponify, for 3-4 weeks before you can use it.  If you use it too soon the lye might not have completely chemically changed, and you could potentially burn yourself still.

This particular soap I have called the Modern Homesteader soap.  I love the challenge of using ingredients I can produce myself, with ingredients homesteaders in my area would have had access to 100 or more years ago. The tallow (beef fat) which I rendered myself from grass-fed beef, and the goat milk from my own goat, satisfy this “homesteader” urge I have.  The coconut oil and olive oil in the recipe are available now to “modern homesteaders” because we have the privilege of transporting these products to where we live so we can benefit from them too.  Old time homesteaders in my area wouldn’t have had access to these ingredients, so this is the modern part.  Olive and coconut oil are both fantastic ingredients in a soap, making a nice, hard soap with a great lather.

Before you start making soap, make sure you read through the recipe and the notes.  Have all your material on hand and your safety precautions in place.  If you are totally new to soap making, you might want to use water instead of goat milk since goat milk can be a bit tricky to use at first.  But, if you are like me, my second time making soap I was using goat milk.

Materials:

Scale
Stick blender
Soap mold (even a shoe box)
Plastic garbage bag
Old towels or blankets
Rubber gloves
Safety goggles
White distilled vinegar, in case of lye burns
Long sleeved shirt
2 thermometers
1 large bowl, 1 large pot
Spatula
Stainless steel whisk
Spoon
Several smaller bowls for measuring ingredients into

Ingredients:

44 oz. tallow
20 oz. olive oil
20 oz. coconut oil
11.7 oz. lye
27 oz. goat milk, partially frozen in ice cube-sized chunks (or water, if preferred)
1 oz. essential oil

Directions:

  1. Have all tools and materials ready and available ahead of time.
  2. Prepare your soap mold.  You can use an old shoe box or a fancy soap mold, whichever you like.  If using a simple wooden mold or box, line it with a plastic bag, trying to keep as smooth as possible.  You will be pouring your liquid into this so you don’t want it to leak.  Keep your stack of old towels or blankets for wrapping it in, nearby.
  3. Wear your gloves, safety glasses and long sleeved shirt!
  4. Measure, melt and combine tallow, olive and coconut oil.  Set aside.
  5. Combine lye with goat milk.  When adding lye to goat milk, do so VERY slowly, stirring VERY thoroughly to prevent scorching the milk.  If it starts to turn even the slightest bit orange,  back off with the lye, and put the bowl in a separate bowl of ice cubes to slow down the heating.  The milk will melt.  The key to adding milk to soap is to do it very slowly.
  6. Measure the temperatures of both bowls.  When both are between 110F and 115F, combine the lye mixture with the oil mixture.
  7. Using a stick blender, blend, in a figure 8 pattern, making sure you are blending all of the combination.  Continue to do this until the soap reaches trace. (Trace is when you lift up the blender and a drip sits on top of the mixture slightly, like pudding).
  8. Add and mix in essential oil.
  9. Immediately pour into prepared soap mold.
  10. Cover mold completely with a board, or you can lie plastic wrap or a garbage bag carefully across the top of the soap.
  11. Wrap well with old blankets or towels to prevent from cooling too fast.
  12. Store in a warm location (room temperature, no drafts) for 24 hours.
  13. After 24 hours are up, using gloves, remove from soap mold and cut into pieces.
  14. Place pieces on an old towel, with air being able to circulate between each piece.
  15. Let sit for 4 weeks, turning soap once a week.
  16. If a haze appears on your soap you can simply scrape it off after 4 weeks, or just leave it.

Enjoy!

Tips:

  1. Lye is caustic.  It is a powder, and is activated when any moisture touches it.  It gets very hot, very quickly.  Use rubber gloves, long sleeved shirt and safety glasses to prevent burns.  If you do get burnt, pour plain white distilled vinegar directly onto the burn.
  2. You want to combine your lye mixture with your oil mixture when they are both about the same temperature.  Sometimes you will have to reheat either the lye or the oils to ensure they are at the same temperature.  That’s ok!  To reheat the lye mixture, place the bowl in a bowl of hot water.  To reheat the oil mixture, put it back on the stove and reheat.
  3. When dealing with goats milk (or any milk) you don’t want to scorch your milk.  This can happen very quickly since the lye will heat up very fast.  Freeze the milk in ice cube trays, for easy measurement and a more even melting.  Allow the milk to partially thaw, being slushy when you need it.  If, when  you are mixing your milk and lye, it starts to turn orange, stop, place the bowl of milk in a bowl of ice cubes, and try again.  Add the lye VERY slowly to prevent scorching.  If your mixture is a bit orange, that’s ok… it will turn brown when it saponifies.
  4. You can replace the milk content with plain, distilled water if you prefer.
  5. If you don’t want to use tallow, don’t use this recipe!  It isn’t recommended to change amounts and types of oils in a recipe since each oil has a different way of reacting to the lye.  I will be posting other recipes that don’t use tallow shortly.
  6. This recipe is a large one, and will produce about 7 lb. of soap.
  7. What types of oils to select?  Any grade of olive oil will work.  The more virgin it is, the lighter the soap will be in color.  Pomace grade (the cheapest kind) seems to come to trace a little bit faster but may contribute to a darker, slightly greener color.  For the coconut oil, I use an RBD grade (refined) coconut oil.
  8. Where to buy your ingredients?  Mountain Rose Herbs has a lot of high quality, organic soap making ingredients.  I have linked to them in the ingredient list above.  Lye cannot be mailed since it is caustic so you will need to find a local supplier.  I have a soap making supplier who is local and I pick up the lye at her store.  The oils can often be bought at grocery stores.
  9. Soap-making isn’t scary. It isn’t hard. And it is lots of fun to do with a friend. These bars turned out to be about $1.30 each which is MUCH cheaper than buying quality, homemade soap from a store.

This post has been shared on Waste Not Want Not Wednesday #17, 75th Wildcrafting Wednesday, From the Farm #34Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #75 and Homestead Abundance #9

Raising Our Own Food in a Food-Dependent Society.

Vegetables from our garden.

Before we had kids we were pretty mainstream.  We bought the products we saw advertised.  We ate our (non-organic) vegetables.  We shopped for the best deals.  We cleaned with harsh cleaners.  We threw away our plastic and pretty much happily lived our life with our heads in the sand.  Until we decided to have children.  And couldn’t.

After years of trying to conceive I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis.  The lining of my uterus was growing not only in my uterus, but outside it as well, on my bowel.  My bladder.  My ovaries.  This all created a toxic environment for fertile embryos, and I couldn’t get pregnant.

I started researching my disease and discovered that there was no cure, and no definite cause.  There was some indication that diet could help control it, and some indication that toxins absorbed by the body through food and body/cleaning products could have caused or exacerbated it.  Major changes started to be made in our lives.

Our own goat’s milk.

I started choosing green cleaning and personal care products.    The food we ate was “free range” or “hormone-free” or “organic”.  Eventually, we did become pregnant and gave birth to our son.  We went on to conceive two other children, although not without difficulty.

While raising our children, we became more and more aware of the food we were putting into our and their bodies.  A gradual change occurred.  We started questioning where the food came from, and what the ingredients really were.   No longer were we interested in putting just plain organic food into them.  We wanted to know exactly where the ingredients came from.  Exactly what the animals were fed that we were eating.  Exactly what organic meant.  We wanted NO pesticides, not just “safe, organically-certified ones”.  We didn’t want produce picked on massive production farms in Mexico.  We wanted our own.

We live on just under 2 acres in a city on the coast of Western Canada.  Most of the acreage is forested.  We have learned to make good use of the unforested areas.

A pumpkin growing in our garden.

I have always had a garden. But each year my garden doubled in size, to what it is now.  This year, we have a good sized glass greenhouse with 58 tomato plants, various pepper plants, lettuce and more growing in it.  We baby our vegetable plants through typical wet springs and fight slugs with ducks rather than pesticides.  We are growing carrots, corn, cucumbers, squashes, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, potatoes, onions, leeks, herbs, peas, beans, chard and more.  We have raspberries, strawberries, currants, blueberries, blackberries, cherry trees, apple trees, pear, plum and apricot trees.   We can, dehydrate, juice and freeze our produce.

We stopped buying processed, prepared food.  We began to make our own bread, cookies, cakes, muffins, granola bars, crackers, yogurt, cereal, soup, dinners and so on.  Our meals are prepared from scratch with a lot of our own food produced on our own property.  That way, we know that the food we are feeding our children is not genetically modified, contains no BPA, preservatives, artificial ingredients, artificial color, or fillers etc.

Our homemade bread.

A few years ago we decided to raise a few chickens for eggs.  It grew from there, and now we regularly have 40 layers (we sell the extra eggs)  and we raise our own meat birds every year.  We feed them organic feed and kitchen scraps, and they free range on our property.  We process them ourselves.  We know exactly what food has gone into them and how they were processed.

One of our Black Copper Marans hens and babies.

Not long after, we decided to raise dairy goats.  Organic milk is expensive, and we go through a lot of milk.  Unpasteurized goat milk does not taste or smell like store-bought, pasteurized milk.  It has no scent and tastes like rich, creamy cow’s milk with virtually no stereo-typical “goaty” after-taste which comes from the pasteurization process.  We have Nigerian Dwarf goats which are capable of producing up to 1 L of milk a day.  Nigerians are compact, clean, friendly and full of fun!  They are just the right size for our small property.  Our goats add a flare of personality and a whole lot of fun to our homestead.  We know what our goats have been fed, how clean our barn is, how clean the goat was before she was milked, and how good that milk is!

Lulu, our milk goat, and her babies.

Honeybees seemed to be the next logical step.  We built 2 top bar hives and now have thousands of bees making pounds of honey.  Bees survive the winter in their hives by eating their own honey.  Store-bought honey is typically made from bees who have been fed sugar-water or even worse, high fructose corn syrup and water.   Nature makes a perfect food for the bees, but we greedy humans prefer to take their honey and sell it, and provide sugar which is essentially the same thing as baby formula: a substitution.   We allow our bees to keep some of their honey so that they can overwinter as nature intended.  From our bees we receive perfect, raw honey and pesticide-free bees wax for candles and body products.

Our honeybees at work inside our hives.

Raising our own food hasn’t come without its difficulties.   Farms require maintenance and my “muscle-in-the-arm” who also has to work a full time job always has work to do around the farm.  My husband has to work long hours so that I can stay home and raise our family.  This places a lot of the daily workload squarely on my shoulders.  As a result we don’t go on holidays a lot, we stay near the farm during the day, and the daily household duties including childraising and housecleaning add to the workload.  Good hard work only makes you stronger!

One of our daughters and a baby goat.

We have lost animals to predators from mink and bears to neighbouring dogs and coyotes.  Bad weather has almost wiped out our bees and our gardens.  I have to do things I never thought I would ever do in my life, such as disbud baby goats, put down suffering chickens, hunt mink and chase away bears.  But we also reap the benefits.

Fresh eggs!

My children have learned the value of food.  They see the hard work involved in harvesting it, preparing it and storing it.  They see the sacrifice made when lives are given for our food.  They have learned how to love and let go of animals that have left our farm by sale or by death.  They have seen and handled the heartache of loss and the rich satisfaction of plenty.  They pick their own snacks, and help make their own meals.  In a day and age where many children have never seen a dairy animal or tasted a carrot fresh from the ground, our children have milked a goat, picked berries and vegetables, held baby chicks and collected eggs.  Food is very real to them.  And valued in a way that many children do not have the privilege of experiencing.

Overall it has been a very rewarding experience.  We have learned so much in such a short period of time.  There is very little that is more rewarding than preparing a meal that was produced entirely on your own land.  We are a far cry from being fully sustainable, but we are thrilled with what we have accomplished and look forward to the next step in our journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

Our son with blueberries from our bushes.

This post was written in conjunction with Farmer’s Daughter’s Green Mom’s Carnival: Food Independence.

This post has been shared on TheMorrisTribe’s Homesteader Blog Carnival #16, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways # 36, Homestead Revival Barn Hop #72 and Fat Tuesday.

Pumpkin flax pancakes from scratch.

Canadian thanksgiving has come and gone.  The turkey is eaten, the pies are done, but the remaining pureed pumpkin sat in the fridge waiting for me to make something with it.  I made pumpkin loaves last week, and so this week I pulled out the pumpkin and made pumpkin flax pancakes.  Easy, quick, fall-flavoured pancakes make everyone happy!  For once, all of my kids ate their lunch.  All of it.  I served it with homemade blueberry syrup, homemade apple sauce and locally-grown apple-pork sausage.  The left over pancakes are great frozen and popped in a toaster for a quick, healthy breakfast, or eaten as snacks with peanut butter and jam on top. 

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c. organic whole wheat flour
  • 1 c. organic white flour
  • 4 tbsp. ground flax
  • 4 tbsp. cane sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice mix (ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or cloves)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 beaten free range eggs
  • 2 cups goat milk
  • 1 1/2 c. pureed pumpkin
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp. organic canola oil

Directions

  • In a large bowl combine flour, flax, baking powder, baking soda spices and salt.  Whisk well. Set bowl aside.
  • In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk, pumpkin, vanilla and oil.  Whisk well. 
  • Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and fold to combine.  Do not over-mix.  
  • Ladle onto greased griddle or frying pan.  Cook on medium heat until bubbles have popped. 
  • Flip carefully and cook for another minute or until lightly browned. 
  • Remove from pan and serve hot!
 Notes
  • Add a few tbsp of water to the batter if you like thinner pancakes. 
  • Obviously, substitute any organic ingredients with non organic, and goat milk with regular or almond/rice/soy milk.
  • This makes a large batch.  Recipe can easily be halved. 
Simple, healthy, delicious food NOT from a package!!  Taste the difference, feel good about the ingredients, and celebrate whole food!

This post has been linked up to Fat Tuesday: Real Food Forager.  Check out the links for great, REAL food!