Friday, October 28, 2011

Pumpkin spice cookies

This is one of my favorite holiday cookie recipes for so many reasons -- convenience, taste, and nutrition, to name only three. They're easy to make and actually have some pretty nutritious ingredients in them. It might seem like you're making a lot of cookies when you first look at the recipe, but that's what I love about it. You can freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, drop them into freezer bags when frozen, and pull them out whenever you need a quick snack. And of course, they wouldn't be one of my favorites if I didn't love the taste. They're really delicious, but don't expect crunchy. They have a cake-like texture.

1 c. butter
1 c. coconut oil (can sub with butter or lard)
2 c. sugar
2 c. canned or cooked pumpkin
2 eggs
4 cups flour
1 T. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. cloves
1 t. allspice
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, coconut oil, and sugar. Add pumpkin and eggs, and mix that up. Add all of the dry ingredients and mix up. Once it's thoroughly combined, drop the dough by spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. If you have a nifty little scooper, that works especially well with these cookies.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on a rack. You can enjoy them warm straight from the oven, but if you want to make them look a little fancier (or if you have sugar addicts at your house like I do), you can add frosting and top each one with half a walnut or pecan.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Homegrown in the city

The only thing I regret about moving to the country is how many people look at me and say, "I wish I could do what you're doing, but I live in town." Oh, but you can do what we're doing, even if you live in town! I interviewed a few people for H&H who are doing it, and today I'm posting an interview with another person who lives in town and is doing it!

Rachel Hoff, along with husband Tom, and son Paul, 14, live in Vallejo, CA, a city of 120,000, and decided last year to start eating locally and growing as much of their own food as possible. Their city lot is only about a quarter acre, which is about the size of most suburban lots.

They have 19 chickens that provide eggs, and they are currently raising several animals for meat, including seven chickens, three turkeys and nine rabbits. Recently they butchered two male goats that were the offspring of their milk goats. They also have bees for honey.

The family's garden consists of three 4-foot by 75-foot beds and two 4-foot by 42-foot beds, where they grow a longer list of vegetables than we do! "You name it, we probably grow it or have at least tried it!" said Rachel. Vegetables include artichokes, asparagus, green beans, drying beans, shelling and snap peas, beets, carrots, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, garlic, kale, lettuce, casaba melons, watermelons, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, hot and sweet peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, rhubarb, rutabagas, salsify, winter and summer squash, swiss chard, tomatillos, tomatoes, and turnips.

Fruit shrubs include aronia berry, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, currants, rose hips, gooseberries, currants, blackberries, huckleberries, pineapple guava, kiwis, prickly pear and cranberries. Their two dozen fruit trees include apricot, apples, nectarines, Asian and European pears, cherries, persimmon, fig, pomegranate, lemon, blood orange, clementine, lime, naval orange, mandarin, mulberry, quince, medlar, peach, plum, almond, and olives.

After learning about Rachel and her family, I just had to contact her so I could share her family's story. Here are a few questions that I asked her:

Why did you decide to embark upon a homegrown -- or locally grown -- diet? 

Rachel: Several years ago I developed an intolerance to soy and then canola soon followed. We had already started eliminating processed foods but we really hadn't taken the dive. Then we bought our home because we loved to garden and it had a very large lot for our area. We wanted to produce most of our food but had never really pushed ourselves to do it. Then we watched No Impact Man, which is a documentary about a family in New York City who live in an apartment and went a year without creating any trash, driving any vehicles or using any electricity. We realized that if someone could do that while living in a small apartment we could do something as well. We learned about our food system and decided that we wanted to make sure we knew exactly where all of our food came from. To do so, we would have to buy directly from farmers and grow and raise our own.

What was the biggest challenge? 

Rachel: Planning meals was difficult because everything was seasonal. Cookbooks nowadays are based off of the fact that all the ingredients are available all year long so we couldn't use them in our meal planning. Not being able to just get up and have a snack was tough too because if you wanted something to snack on, you were going to have to make it. And forget about cravings. If it wasn't here there wasn't anything you could do about it.

What did you like the most about the past year? 

Rachel: We know exactly where our food comes from, what's been put (or not put) on it, what it's been grown in. I love being able to grab food right out of the garden, bring it in and eat it right away. Most importantly it's brought us closer together. We've become a team and have learned how to work together really well.

Any big surprises? 

Rachel: It was surprising to find out that once we had sourced everything how easy it actually was. Friends and family always say they could never do it, but really it's not that hard. It takes a little extra time to cook but we no longer spent all that time in the supermarket. We went to the farmers' market once a week and placed an order for our staples once a month. It also made shopping for food fun. It wasn't a chore anymore.

You were originally going to do this for only one year. Why did you decide to continue? 

Rachel: The reasons we started doing this haven't changed and we've saved money while buying higher quality local food that's been raised and grown sustainably. I love meeting and supporting the farmers that grow our food. They are hardworking people that deserve a lot more respect than our society pays them. The food also tastes better maybe because of all the blood, sweat and tears that go into making it.
 * * *

If you'd like to know more about Rachel and her family, you can visit her blog, A Year Without Groceries, and her website, Dog Island Farm. You can also ask questions in the comment section below, and she'll pop in on Monday to respond!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Copper requirements in goats

I'm in Grand Rapids, MI, at the annual conference of the American Dairy Goat Association this week and am writing up blog posts on some of the more interesting things that I learn.

If you've read Homegrown and Handmade, then you know that I fight an ongoing battle with copper deficiency in my herd because our well water is high in sulfur, which binds with the copper. I arrived late on Sunday (thanks to road construction), so I was only able to attend the tail end of a session on copper in goats. The presenter was Dr. Robert Van Saun with the University of Pennsylvania Extension.

Before I get to the important tidbits I learned from Dr. Van Saun, I need to give you an update on my herd since H&H went to press. A couple of my bucks had trouble with zinc deficiency last winter because they were getting alfalfa hay instead of grass. Alfalfa is not good for bucks because it contains too much calcium, and among other things, it can cause a zinc deficiency. The vet at the University of Illinois clinic suggest that I start supplementing my bucks with Multi-Min, an injectable supplement. It also contains copper and selenium, so I would not have to give copper oxide wire particles or BoSe (a selenium supplement) to the bucks. Seemed like a great plan.

Then a buck died a couple months ago, which was three months after the last Multi-Min injection. He seemed completely healthy in every way, and as I sat there staring at him, I finally realized that his bright red coat had faded to tan -- a symptom of copper deficiency. I haven't had any copper problems since I started supplementing with copper oxide wire particles (COWP) four years ago, so I had not noticed that his coat was starting to fade. I had Katherine remove his liver, and we sent it to the lab for a copper analysis. It was 14 ppm, which is definitely not high enough. Normal is 25 to 150 ppm. What happened?

Dr. Van Saun also did a session on selenium, and in both sessions he stressed that we should not supplement by injection. Nutritional supplements should be oral, and they should be available on a regular basis. He said that injections are for animals that are so severely deficient that they are actually sick. So, if I had noticed the faded coat on my buck before he died, THAT would been the time to give him an injection. Although injectable minerals are easily absorbed, they are also easily excreted through urine and feces. He said that in one study, 40% of what was injected was excreted within 24 hours in the urine. Wow! So, this means that I will be going back to oral supplementation with COWP.

I also attended a session on general goat nutrition on Tuesday and picked up a couple more important tidbits on copper from Steve Hart, Ph.D. -- if you add molasses to feed, you could wind up with a copper deficiency problem because molasses is high in sulfur (like my well water). Sulfur is also in distiller's grain, so that is something else to keep in mind, if you use that feed source.

It is fascinating how all of the vitamins and minerals interact with each other, either increasing or inhibiting absorption. I'll have at least one or two additional posts on nutritional information that I learned this week.

Monday, October 17, 2011

You're kidding!

Today's post comes to you from Grand Rapids at the annual conference of the American Dairy Goat Association.

I'm not kidding -- I'm talking about goat birthing! Today I attended two sessions on goat birthing. Both talked a lot about what can go wrong, even though the vast majority of births go just fine with no help from us humans. But there isn't much to discuss about births that go just fine, whereas we could probably have talked for another two hours about all the odd things that can wrong -- sometimes once in a lifetime! One of the slides showed a lamb with two bodies grown onto a single head! And amazingly enough, the vet was able to get it out vaginally. Of course, it was not alive, but the really amazing thing is that there was a live lamb born before and after the deformed lamb(s). Now, get that picture out of your head because you and I will probably never see a situation like that.

So, what can I tell you about the two sessions? Well, I don't want to get into too much detail in a blog post because I don't want to give you just enough information to help you really mess things up. I'm a very big believer in having a live mentor to help you through a difficult situation as it is occurring. Every situation is different, and it's tough to know what to do when you've never encountered something in the past. However, I am going to share a few tidbits that everyone can use.

1. Have a baby monitor connecting your barn and house during kidding season. When people ask me what they need to buy for kidding, this is always number one on my list! This is really the most important thing you can have that will save kids' lives, especially if it is cold outside or you have a first-time mom that might not realize quickly enough that she needs to clean that mucous off the kid's nose so it can breathe. Although I didn't technically learn anything new here, "baby monitor" was on the kidding kit list, and I wanted to share it with you because I do believe it is really important to have one.

2. You can use newspaper to clean off kids when they're first born. I never thought of this! It seems most of us use old towels, but if you use towels, you know they get really icky. Robyn Wixom, LVT, said she uses newspaper for the initial cleaning so that her towels don't get so gross.

3. Don't use shavings in the kidding pen or for kids' bedding because kids can ingest them, and they can cause an intestinal blockage. I never used shavings after the first year because I didn't like the fact that they were getting into the kids' mouths, but I didn't know that shavings could result in a kid's death.

4. You should not have kittens in your goat barn or really anywhere near your does. Older cats are usually immune to toxoplasmosis (because they had it when they were young), but kittens and young cats can have this disease, which can cause abortions and stillbirths in your herd. Robyn told us about the year when she had two barn cats with kittens and all 15 of her does had stillborns. Very sad!

5. Make sure your hay or straw supplier doesn't have cats in the storage barn because you can bring in toxoplasmosis in your hay or straw!

Tomorrow I will be spending the whole morning in sessions learning more about goat nutrition, which I'll share with you tomorrow night.

And tomorrow afternoon, I will be on Martha Stewart radio (Sirius XM) at 3 p.m. eastern time!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It's here! It's here!

The book is here at my house and on Amazon and at, and very soon, it will be in a bookstore near you. I've already done several book signing events, and there are more to come. Be sure to click on the "Events" tab above to see if one is coming to a city near you.

If you'd like the chance to win an autographed copy, click over to my Antiquity Oaks blog and guess when Alexandria is going to have her kids. 

Sorry I didn't post last week. I was at the Mother Earth News Fair in Pennsylvania talking about the book. Upcoming events and book signings are already scheduled for Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Kansas. I'm hoping to add Indiana and Missouri to the list soon.

And so that you don't have to wait around for me to post on here, I've invited some amazing authors and bloggers to do guest posts when I'm busy! I'm really excited about some of the recipes and wisdom that they've agreed to share over the next couple months!

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