Because We Like To Eat

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After a long winter I’m still feeling a bit spoiled when I gather our daily harvest: a half-gallon of goats milk and almost a dozen eggs. Now I can make a huge (9 eggs!) omelet for the whole family and not think twice about whether or not I’ll have enough eggs for the rest of the week.  Since the snow is gone the chickens are free ranging, upping the vitamin content of their eggs, and finding a good bit of their own food. Plus, they always get a pailful of kitchen scraps. The chickens see us coming and gather ’round for their treats.

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Indoors we have only a few types of seeds started. This is mostly due to the lack of space, or a least space that has decent lighting and is where little kids can’t (inevitably) spill the containers. We did start some sweet peppers (man, do we have some pepper eating fiends around here!) as well as cauliflower, a couple of cucumbers, and some melon.

To maximize our growing season, and space, I made a cold frame out of an old wood box and some windows that came out of the barn.  I filled it with composted bedding and a good inch thick layer of worm castings (plus worms) from our worm bin. We have mostly lettuce in there for now.

DSCN6270Then we have the old pig pens. I like planting in these because they’re well fertilized, fenced off from the goats and No Grass!

DSCN6224 So far we’ve started planting our cold tolerant plants: peas, spinach (or were those sprouting broccoli seeds?), kale and radishes. We’re still 3-4 weeks out from our last frost date so I don’t want to get too carried away.

Here’s hoping the garden will start producing before we’re completely sick and tired of eggs!

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Homemade Doughnuts!

           I think we found ourselves a new fall tradition – making homemade doughnuts!             While I’m not the biggest doughnut fan in the family I won’t turn one down either. They make an extra special and festive breakfast, snack, or if they last that long, dessert. Especially with a cup of tea, coffee or milk. If you’ve never had one before HOT doughnuts really are that much more delicious!

DSCN3737I started the season by making apple spice doughnuts, perfect for fall. The recipe came with a deep fryer that was gifted to me. It’s a great cake doughnut recipe but it does call for an hour of chilling time. While an hour allows plenty of time to clean up, set up the fryer, paper and sugar for topping, and don’t forget, setting up the coffee maker! We’re a bit impatient. Once we’ve got the dough/batter made the little ones start asking “are the doughnuts are ready yet?!” So I found a quick and easy recipe that’s ready to go right away. The dough is a bit soft so I do let it chill for about 15 minutes and do a quick cleaning/ setting up. Bonus! This recipe is even crisper on the outside and, while it’s still a cake doughnut, it’s not quite so dense and filling. Also, this recipe uses butter whereas a lot of doughnut recipes call for shortening.

DSCN4124Just for the fun of it, the boys pick out various cookie cutter shapes to make the doughnuts. Once we get down to the small scraps I switch to doughnut holes.

DSCN3726So far, we’ve tried stars, trees, snowflakes (my favorite because they have more crispy points) and small leaves.

 If you don’t have a deep fryer you could fry them up on the stove top in a heavy pan, like a cast iron skillet or dutch oven. Just remember to use caution, it’s extremely hot and prone to splattering.

Now for the recipe! I found it on allrecipies.com. For your convenience I’ll reproduce it here. I also found this recipe for yeast raised doughnuts but I haven’t tried those yet. It’s easy enough the kids pretty much mix it up themselves. I referee the turn taking and make sure they use the right measuring spoon, and of course I do the frying!

Plain Cake Doughnuts

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 dash ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 quart oil for frying

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg (add more cinnamon and nutmeg if you want spiced donuts, otherwise you don’t really taste the spice). Mix in butter until crumbly. Stir in milk and egg until smooth. Knead lightly. Chill slightly to make working with the dough easier. Turn out onto a floured surface. Roll or pat to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with a doughnut cutter, or use two round biscuit cutters of different sizes or cookie cutters.
  2.  Heat oil in deep-fryer to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  3. Carefully drop doughnuts into hot oil, a few at a time (like 3). Do not overcrowd pan. Fry, turning once, until golden. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with sugar or spiced sugar.

DSCN4119Enjoy!

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Milking the Goat- Without A Stand

I don’t have a milk stand. I had intended to build one as just about every goat handling book has diagrams and directions for building your own. It seemed like if you milk goats you need a stand. I never got around to it partly because of time and partly because our old goat barn was rather dimly lit. I wanted to have a portable stand so I could milk outside when it was nice but I also wanted to be able to move it inside in bad weather. I did find one prefab metal portable goat stand which only weighed 30 lbs but it was something like 400 dollars- definitely wasn’t happening. However, the more I thought about it and considered nomadic goat herders and descriptions in books like Heidi the more I thought “well it can surely be done”. And so, this is how I do it:

First, I usually give a little grain to occupy Ms. Ellie then I straddle the goat facing backwards.My view is something like this:

Occasionally I kneel beside her but that changes the angle of my hand (making milking less efficient) and then I don’t have my knees to keep her from wondering off. Then I reach under (or sometimes around) and brush her off making sure any hay or loose hairs won’t fall into the milk. After a clearing squirt or two I get down to business and milk. I use a quart size mason jar to milk into. I prefer a wide mouth jar because I can clean it easier- although a regular mouth jar is a little easier to hold. I hold the jar under with one hand and squirt the milk into it with the other. Because I needed one hand to take photos with the camera I have to break it down into two shots.

Holding the jar:

Milking:

For this shot I placed the jar on the ground but I’d rather hold it because there’s less aiming and it prevents her from knocking it over and spilling it.

There’s more than one way to grasp the teat and milk. Goat teats are rather small and can be difficult to grasp. I prefer the way in the photo above although sometimes I alternate. When I first started milking I had to alternate methods because of hand fatigue. Now I don’t need to and milking probably takes me half the time. To be honest tho I don’t really know how long it takes me I’d guess 10-15 minutes.  I also only milk once a day in the morning. This is Ms. Ellie’s first time being milked and she gives a little over a quart. If I milked her twice a day she’d give a half gallon a day which is about average.

Fresh raw goats milk.

I use the same position for trimming the back hooves and I face the other way to trim the front hooves. For scur trimming I have struggling_along hold Manson’s head while I trim. While I can see how a goat stand would be useful I certainly don’t think it’s a necessity.

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In the Kitchen :: Nourishment

Each morning, after a cup of tea, I don my insulated overalls and a bundled baby in a back carrier and make my way down to the goat barn.  How lucky we are that each morning we can harvest a few free ranged eggs and a quart or two of fresh raw goats milk. After several months without either these basic staples they feel all the more luxurious- especially when these simple ingredients are transformed into decadent puddings, custards, french toast and omelets. Snacking on fresh homemade cheese and deviled eggs (yummy with mango chutney…) feels like a treat. And since we’re getting all that important calcium and protein we might as well indulge.

Here are a few of our favorites from the past week:

Peanut butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (with a tall glass of milk of course)

Pudding has been a huge favorite- rice pudding and especially the leftover queen’s butterscotch pudding. I don’t have any scotch so we’ve just been adding extra vanilla. Noah has declared this his favorite.

photo from the leftover queen- click on photo to go there

It’s been exciting to be making cheese from our own goat’s milk,this one is just a simple cheese made by heating milk and adding an acid like vinegar or lemon juice.

And, while these are neither eggs nor dairy I have to tell you about these fermented fries. Oh my are they delicious. Everyone LOVED these. The hardest part is waiting the 3 days they take to ferment. We’re pretty much starting a new batch as soon as the first one is done. I don’t have any tallow right now so I’ve been frying them up in bacon drippings. Sorry no pics of the fries finished- they were devoured too quickly but here’s one of them fermenting. Notice the air lock cap, these can’t be fermented in an open crock (click on the link to go to cookingtf.com for the explanation).

Now if I could only find a ketchup recipe that actually tastes like ketchup….

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