Friday, April 18, 2014

Upcoming classes for homesteaders

Spring homesteading classes are beginning on Antiquity Oaks near Cornell, Illinois! Even if you do not live in our neighborhood, you might consider attending our classes if you want to learn new skills in homesteading and self-reliance. We've had people attend from Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Michigan, and other states. Here are the classes we have scheduled for the next couple of months:

Cheesemaking Basics

We'll talk about the difference between cow, goat, and sheep milk, as well as the history of dairy in this country. Deborah and Mike will demonstrate how to make mozzarella and queso blanco, and we'll talk about how to make a variety of other fermented dairy products, such as chevre, yogurt, and buttermilk. You will also learn what equipment is needed to make soft and hard cheese. A handout with recipes, a list of books, and sources for purchasing equipment will be provided.
Saturday, April 26, 9:30 a.m. to noon
Fee: $36 per person. Class is limited to eight people.

Soapmaking 101

You'll learn the history of soapmaking, how modern soapmaking is different, and how to create your own soap recipes. Watch every step of cold-process soapmaking from start to finish using goat milk. Learn to make your own soap recipes using whatever oils you prefer. Each participant will receive handouts, including a list of references for future use, and two bars of soap in your choice of scent (or unscented).
Saturday, April 26, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
Fee: $40 per person. Class is limited to eight people.

Cheesemaking 201: Aged Cheese

If you have taken Cheesemaking Basics or have made a few cheeses at home already, this is the class for you. Deborah and Mike will be making camembert and colby. The skills learned in this class can be used to make other mold-ripened cheeses, such as brie or St. Maure, or washed curd cheeses, such as gouda. We'll take you through the process from ripening the milk to pressing, draining, and waxing. We'll also talk about the aging process and what to do if you don't have a cheese cave in your basement.
Saturday, June 14, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Fee: $79 per person. Class is limited to eight people.

Goats 101

Learn the basics of keeping goats, whether as pets, for milk, or for meat. Most of this class will be held in the barn and pasture, as we discuss what goats need for housing, fencing, and nutrition. We'll also talk about basic health care, including deworming. You'll see first-hand how to administer medicine to goats and how to trim their hooves. Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes and long, well-worn pants or jeans. Be forewarned that our goats are very friendly and may jump on you like a dog, and their feet are not always clean. This class is free for one person per family who is purchasing or has purchased a goat from Antiquity Oaks.
Saturday, May 24, 2014, 9:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 21, 2014, 9:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Fee: $28 per person, one child free with parent.

Goat Breeding and Birthing

If you want milk, you have to breed your goats to freshen yearly. In this class, we'll talk about how to detect heat, pen breeding vs. hand breeding, nutritional requirements during pregnancy, signs of labor, and the birth process. If goats are due around the date of the class, you should get some hands-on experience in checking tail ligaments, assessing udders in relation to kidding time, seeing how the belly changes when a doe is close to kidding, and perhaps even seeing kids born, if timing is just right. You will see kids and learn to determine if a kid is polled. We'll talk about bottle-feeding vs. dam-raising kids and how to do each one. Castration, disbudding, and tattooing will also be covered. Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes and long, well-worn pants or jeans. Be forewarned that our goats are very friendly and may jump on you like a dog, and their feet are not always clean. This class is free for one person per family who is purchasing or has purchased a goat from Antiquity Oaks.
Saturday, May 24, 2014, 1:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 21, 2014, 1:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Fee: $28 per person, one child free with each parent.

Directions to the farm will be emailed to you after your registration is processed. Books will be available to purchase at all classes.

Coming in August! 

You can visit Antiquity Oaks and four other nearby farms in the Third Annual Livingston County Farm Crawl on August 23 and 24. The event is free, but you will be able to purchase homegrown and handmade items at each of the farms. A variety of demonstrations will be performed through the day on various farms.

The Third Annual Mid-America Homesteading Conference will be held at Joliet Junior College on Saturday, August 30, with a full-day goat workshop being held on Antiquity Oaks on Sunday, August 31.

Mark your calendars!

Shared at the Mountain Woman Rendezvous!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

False pregnancy in goats

Were you absolutely sure that goat was pregnant, but she never kidded, and now she doesn't look as big as she did last week?

It is possible for a doe to get bred and stop cycling and even to get a big belly and develop an udder and appear to be pregnant in every way, yet not be pregnant. “False pregnancy” is used synonymously with "hydrometra,” which simply means water in the uterus. Because the hormones are involved, a blood test shows a false positive. An ultrasound examination is the only foolproof way of determining pregnancy, but blood tests are still popular because they are less expensive and breeders can learn to draw blood themselves, reducing costs further. Because false pregnancy is rare, blood tests are still considered very reliable. A false pregnancy may not last for five months. It usually ends in a “cloud burst,” which is basically a release of all the uterine fluids without a kid or placenta.

Some false pregnancies started with a real pregnancy that terminated very early but the body didn’t recognize there was no longer a fetus. However, in some cases of false pregnancy, the doe has not even been exposed to a buck.

This is an excerpt from Raising Goats Naturally: The Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More by Deborah Niemann.

This post shared on the HomeAcre blog hop

Monday, April 14, 2014

Gardening is a great investment

There are few things you can do in this world that offer as much reward, financially and personally, as gardening. A tomato seed, which costs only pennies, can grow into a plant that can produce twenty or more pounds of fresh, organic food. In addition to the financial benefits, gardening provides you with a reason to go outside, breathe fresh air, and get some exercise. And once you’ve tasted a garden fresh tomato, you will understand why it is the number one vegetable grown in backyard gardens. But the benefits don’t stop with tomatoes. Practically every vegetable tastes better when it’s fresh and ripens on the vine, and it is more nutritious. From the time produce is picked, it starts to lose nutrition, and if it is picked green, it has lower nutritional value than if it is vine ripened.

Sometimes articles or books make gardening sound like a terribly expensive hobby, requiring high-priced tools, raised beds, and gravel-lined pathways. In reality, you can start growing some of your own foods for less than $10 by purchasing a few inexpensive bedding plants at your local garden center. If you have never had a garden, start small with your favorite, most-often purchased vegetable. Nothing is more disappointing than seeing a garden consumed by weeds because it was too big for you to be able to tend through the growing season.

Savings: How much money you save will depend on what vegetables you grow. If you plant easy-to-grow, prolific and expensive vegetables like bell peppers, you will save a lot more than if you plant inexpensive vegetables like carrots, which yield one carrot per seed and can be a challenge to germinate. Assuming half a pound of fresh produce per square foot of garden space, you can expect about 300 pounds of produce from the average 600-square-foot garden. At $2 per pound, that adds up to $600 of fresh produce. The average investment for a food garden is $70, providing you with a savings of about $530 annually.

This is an excerpt from Ecothrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The London Dispatches: Unexpected Aquaponics

By Cadence Woodland 

You may have heard or seen the term “aquaponics” more frequently lately on homesteading, urban agriculture, or small farming sites and forums. Though water based agricultural and multi-level systems have existed throughout human history, I’ve noticed an uptick in interest in it recently and have been curious to see it in action. As it happens, I got a chance recently – London’s superb and surprising agricultural scene delivers again!

Welcome to Farm:shop, a kitchen and a cafĂ© within a shop that is based entirely on the aquaponics system. Located in the Hackney area of London (yet another somewhat run down area with a surprising history of reclaimed garden and agricultural space) Farm:shop is easily one of the strangest shops I’ve ever set foot in from a design perspective alone. 

A glimpse of the herb wall, the fish tanks, and the cafe seating.
 Aquaponics can be described at its most basic, as a symbiotic system that incorporates both plants and aquatic animals in a closed recirculating system. Animals and plants feed off of one another’s chemical and organic byproducts. In some cases this can drastically reduce a plant’s reliance on soil for nutrients, making it attractive to some food growers with little land or space. 

Though a smaller system space-wise than, say, an acre of farmland, I had an idea that such system itself must require a significant degree of upkeep and management. But, as the worker on duty explained to me, aquaponic systems are so self regulating in design that a fairly small amount of care and intervention is needed. It’s more technologically reliant than other farming techniques but amazingly self-contained.

A diagram of the Farm:shop system.
Billing itself as the world’s first “farm in a shop,” Farm:shop’s enclosed space is almost entirely taken up with its system. Diners may eat their freshly prepared food amid the growing plants and sounds of trickling water. Leafy vegetables take up the majority of one wall, herbs another, with fish and shrimp basins and tanks all around. 

In the garden at the back of the shop, a greenhouse houses more vegetables as well as a number of tables for dining and meeting. Simply stepping in off the high street to relax amid the greenery and soil – and the chickens! – is encouraged. They also rent workspaces for a nice alternative to coffee houses for freelancers like me, and make the site available for event hire. Altogether it's an active hive of sustainable effort and opportunity, contained in a modest shop front on a London high street.

I can never resist a photo opp for urban chickens.

Primarily concerned with urban farming, Farm:shop stocks a number of homemade or organically sourced items for sale, but by far the most interesting buying options are those that allow you to garden in space and time sensitive ways. This is part of a concerted effort to encourage fresh food grown locally, and like so many of the other places I’m visiting in this series, Farm:shop believes than an urban setting is no barrier to that goal. Their goals and ethos are both wildly ambitious, but they've been open since 2010 without any signs of stopping.

Are you interested or using aquaponics systems? What has your experience been like? Since this is my first up close and personal encounter with the method, I'd love to learn more from readers. Weigh in with your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Cadence Woodland is a freelance writer, editorial assistant, and marketing consultant. Her journalism has contributed to the New York Times, the National Wildlife Federation, and other venues, but she can be found most often at her blog where she writes about her adventures across the Pond in London.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How many kids can a doe feed?

About a month ago, one of our does gave birth to quintuplets, and one of the most popular responses to the event was, "Can the doe feed that many?"

I never say "never," but I will say it is highly unlikely that a doe can adequately nourish five kids. This is a Nigerian dwarf, and when bottlefeeding kids of that breed, they need 24-30 ounces per day. Multiply that times five, and a doe would have to be producing 120 to 150 ounces or more than a gallon a day! The only does that even come close to producing that much are the ones that have placed at the very top of the milk test lists, which means that less than one percent of does would be able to produce enough milk to feed five kids.

Quads are fairly common with Nigerians, and unfortunately a lot of does do not have the genetic capability to feed that many. Again, do the math. Four kids multiplied by 24-30 ounces a day is 96 to 120 ounces -- or three to four quarts a day! My best milker in her prime peaked at 6 to 6.5 pounds a day, so she would have produced enough milk to feed four kids, but based upon milk test lists that I have seen, I would assume that only about 10-20 percent of does can produce that much. And remember, that was in her prime. What if a first freshener or a nine-year-old doe has quads? However, the doe's ability to produce is only part of the equation. The doe's temperament and the kids also play an important role!

Goats only have two teats! Because does have to be standing for kids to nurse, that means a doe with four kids will have to spend twice as much time standing as a doe with only two kids. Some does simply do not have the personality to do that.

Having only two teats also means that bigger, stronger, and pushier kids have the advantage. Baby goats want to nurse all the time, so if their mama is standing, they think they should be nursing, and they will not hesitate to knock a sibling off the teat so they can nurse longer. When a doe has more than two kids, it is not unusual to have a runt, and the poor little thing will not have a chance. When we had our first set of quads in 2004, we naively assumed that the doe would feed the kids, even though one of them was much smaller than the other three. At two weeks of age, my daughter found the smallest kid almost dead. We wound up having to tube feed her to bring her back, and she became the second bottle baby ever raised on our farm. Unfortunately that was not the last time I over-estimated a doe's ability to feed quads, but I did eventually learn.

With our last set of quintuplets, we watched the kids nursing several times a day, weighed them, and offered them a bottle of fresh milk from another goat. Within two days one of the quintuplets had completely given up on trying to nurse from her mother. When we would walk into the barn we would see her standing there with her head and ears hanging down while her four siblings were fighting over the two teats. We began bottlefeeding her exclusively, and when one of her sisters had gained only 8 ounces by two weeks, we switched her to a bottle also. Her siblings had all doubled their weights by then, which meant gains of 3-4 pounds each! Clearly she was not able to get her fair share of the milk!

Over the years I have become increasingly skeptical about the ability of does to raise more than three kids. Unfortunately there are quite a few people online who happily share that they had a doe raise four or five kids. However, I also see a lot of sale ads that say a kid is small "because it was a quad." Being a quad is not a reason for a two- or three-month-old kid to be small. By that age, kids are small because of genetics, parasites, or not getting enough to eat. Nigerian kids can survive on about 16 ounces of milk a day, but they don't thrive. They grow slowly because they are not getting enough protein and calcium, and they have lowered resistance to parasites and disease because they are not getting enough antibodies from their mother's milk.

Although I am not a fan of bottlefeeding, I would much rather bottlefeed one or two kids from a litter of four or five than wind up with sickly or dead kids.

This post was shared on the Homestead Barn Hop!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Ecothrifty alernatives to disposable diapers

As hard as some people try to argue against them, cloth diapers are definitely the ecothrifty choice for babies. Disposable diapers will cost $1,500 to $2,000 by the time a child is using the toilet, and if you use disposables that are biodegradable and not bleached with chlorine, you can spend up to $2,500.

If you have more than one child, start multiplying. On the other hand, two or three dozen cloth diapers will last through many babies and continue to serve you for dusting furniture or cleaning up spills throughout the years. The cost of washing those diapers is minimal, especially if you use homemade laundry detergent and hang them to dry on a clothesline.

There are so many options available today that you don’t have to worry about how to fold the diapers or accidentally sticking your baby with a pin. Velcro or snap closures make cloth diapers as simple to use as disposables. You can buy traditional white diapers and covers, or you can make your diaper covers part of your baby’s wardrobe because there are so many different colors and patterns available.

This is an excerpt from Ecothrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Cheese Recipe: Ricotta

Most ricotta recipes call for using whey and have a very low yield. I discovered this variation one day when I was in the middle of making queso blanco and a goat went into labor. I had just added the vinegar when I was called out to the barn. A few hours later, I came back into the kitchen and realized I had completely forgotten about my queso blanco, which had cooled to room temperature. I tried draining it in the cheesecloth, but it would not knit. It fell apart into crumbles when I opened the cheesecloth. Of course, I was disappointed at first, but then I realized that it looked a lot like ricotta, although a little drier. When using Nigerian Dwarf goat milk, which is 5 to 6 percent butterfat, this recipe makes enough for a 9 X 13 inch pan of lasagna. If you are using milk with lower butterfat, you can double the recipe.

Makes 2–4 cups

2 quarts milk
2 tablespoons vinegar

Heat the milk on low to 190°F. Add the vinegar and stir. When the curds and whey separate, put the pot into a sink filled with cold water. The water should come up to the level of the milk in the pot. Stir to reduce the temperature quickly while keeping the curds separated. When the temperature is down to 90°F, drain the curds through a cheesecloth-lined colander. The curds can be used immediately in your favorite recipe or can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator. Do not buy “ultra-pasteurized” milk at the store for cheese making because it has been heated to 280°F and will not turn into cheese, yogurt or anything else that requires cultures to grow or curds to form.

This is an excerpt from Homegrown & Handmade: A Practical Guide to More Self-Reliant Living.

This post was shared on The Prarie Homestead Barn Hop!
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