Saturday, November 30, 2013

Holiday shopping specials through Monday

No glitz, no glam, no hype ... just a few special deals to help you with your holiday shopping through midnight on Cyber Monday. Whether you want to buy goat milk soap or learn to raise your own goats and make your own soap, we have something special for you!

Book specials

Two book special: Autographed copies of Homegrown and Handmade and Raising Goats Naturally (one each) for $35 with FREE shipping. (Cover price is $47.90.)


Three book special: Autographed copies of Homegrown and Handmade, Ecothrifty, and Raising Goats Naturally (one each) for $49 with FREE shipping. (Cover price is $65.85.)

Just soap

Four bars of goat milk soap made with organic oils! Each bar will be scented with a different essential oil, chosen from the following list: lavender, peppermint, Siberian fir tree (smells like a Christmas tree), orange, tea tree, lavender-spearmint, lavender-grapefruit, orange-cinnamon, lemon-lime, rosemary-peppermint, or lemon-spearmint (regular price $24) for $20 with FREE shipping.


Ten bars of our goat milk soap, each one scented with a different essential oil from the above list. Regular price is $60, but until Monday, you can get 10 bars for $45 with FREE shipping.


If you prefer unscented soap, try our three bar unscented special -- one bar each of plain unscented, unscented with oatmeal, and unscented with coffee for only $15 with FREE shipping. (Regular price $18.)


Books and soap combinations

Get the three book special with four bars of goat milk soap for only $60 with FREE shipping. (Regular price $89.85)

Sorry! These specials are no longer available!

If you would like to purchase individual bars of soap and choose your own scents, you can always visit the Antiquity Oaks website. To buy individual copies of the books, visit the Buy page of this website.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Turkey Stroganoff

Here's hoping that everyone had a splendid Thanksgiving yesterday. Assuming that many of you have a lot of left-over turkey, especially dark meat (because it has so few fans), I'm sharing the perfect recipe for those legs and thighs that no one ate yesterday. It occurred to me a number of years back that our heritage turkey leg and thigh meat looked more like beef or pork, so I decided to start using it in recipes that would be suited to beef and pork -- and what a great idea that was! We have since discovered lots of great ways to prepare our dark turkey meat. Since we don't buy commercial meat, I can't vouch for the taste of this when made with CAFO turkey, but we have received nothing but praise when serving this to guests, even those who said they don't like dark turkey meat.

And bonus points -- this only takes a few minutes to prepare, making it perfect for the day after Thanksgiving. In fact, a couple of years ago, I made this recipe on a morning talk show during a seven-minute segment, so give it a try!

Turkey Stroganoff

Makes 4 servings

egg noodles
2 cups cooked heritage turkey leg and thigh meat, cubed
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups sour cream, buttermilk, or yogurt
1/2 cup milk

Make noodles according to the recipe or package directions. While noodles are boiling, melt the butter in a large skillet and whisk in the flour until bubbly. Add the sour cream (or buttermilk or yogurt), continuing to stir until bubbly again. Add the milk and continue to whisk until smooth. Add the turkey meat and noodles to the sauce and stir. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes until meat is heated through. Arrange the noodles on a platter and spoon the meat and sauce over them. Steamed spinach makes a great side dish for this because it really works well with the creamy sauce.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pumpkin Chévre Cheesecake

Having a hard time deciding whether you want pumpkin pie or cheesecake for dessert? You can have both in the same dessert by making this yummy, all-natural, lower-fat version of cheesecake that we make with goat cheese, more correctly known as chévre.

There are three reasons that cheesecake is not so good for you -- the high-fat cream cheese that is the central ingredient, plus lots of sugar, and the large servings. We take care of the first problem by using goat cheese, and we solve the second problem by using a small amount of sugar. Use a deep dish pie pan rather than a spring-form pan, which makes a cheesecake that is twice as tall, so you can use half as many ingredients, and you'll have a shorter finished product, which means you can cut a piece of cheesecake that has half as many calories as it's taller counterpart. The nutrition facts below are based on a serving that is 1/8 of the whole cheesecake, which is the size pictured above, and you can see that it has only about half or a quarter as many calories as most cheesecakes.

20 graham crackers
1/8 cup sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter

Pulverize the graham crackers in a food processor, then add the melted butter and sugar, mixing until it becomes crumbly. Press into the bottom of the pie dish then bake for 12 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

1 pound chévre (goat cheese) 
1 to 4 tablespoons milk
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (depending upon how sweet you want it)
1 1/2 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup cooked or canned pumpkin
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
2 eggs (at room temperature)

Cream the cheese, adding milk slowly until the mixture is consistently smooth. Add the flour. Don't over-mix -- you will be less likely to have cracks in the finished product. Mix in the pumpkin, spices, salt, and vanilla, again just mixing until it is incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time. If you are using an electric mixer, you may want to allow the eggs to get about halfway blended in, then use a spatula to get them fully incorporated.

Pour the mixture into the baked graham cracker crust and bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes. At the end of 45 minutes, turn off the oven but leave the cheesecake in there to cool gradually. Quick cooling can cause the top of the cheesecake to crack. You can remove from the oven two hours after turning off the heat. Cool in the refrigerator for several hours before serving.

Many thanks to Antiquity Oaks Farm apprentice Jane Davis for tweaking and perfecting this recipe over the past couple of months.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Did you know....?

Goats discovered coffee: According to the National Coffee Association, a goat herdsman by the name of Kaldi started to notice his goats becoming very hyper in the nighttime hours after eating a foreign plant. They had so much energy that the goats had trouble sleeping at night. Kaldi reported his findings to the local monastery where the plant was experimented with and made into a drink. The abbot of the monastery soon began to feel the effects of the new beverage as he was alert and up in the long hours of the night, which benefited his evening prayers. News soon spread of the beverage and after reaching the Arabian Peninsula, it went global.

“Did you know” will appear every Monday through December to celebrate a fun goat fact in celebration of the publication of Raising Goats Naturally: A Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cold Ducks: Keeping ducks in winter weather

by Victoria Redhed Miller

We have raised laying ducks for nearly six years now, and one of the things we are asked about most frequently is how to care for ducks in the wintertime. We live in the foothills of Washington State's Olympic Mountains, at an elevation of 1000 feet. We get a fair amount of snow each winter, sometimes being snowed in for a week or more at a time. Most commonly our low temperatures are in the teens and twenties between late November and mid-March.

Currently we have a laying duck flock of about 30 Khaki Campbells. We started out with Khaki Campbells and Blue Swedish ducks, both of which are quite cold-hardy. While most ducks do well in cold weather, it's a good idea to choose a type known to be hardy in your particular climate. Other things to keep in mind about keeping ducks in the winter are similar to considerations for other poultry types: housing, feed and water. Let's look at each of these.

First, housing and shelter. While ducks are very hardy, they do need shelter from the weather. They don't mind being out in the rain, but high winds, sleet and ice storms, and heavy snowfall are very stressful for ducks. Our ducks are out on pasture during the day, but they all go into their respective coops at night. They often sleep during the day, and they prefer to be under some kind of cover, such as under a car or a dense bush.

We're often asked if it's OK to leave ducks out on the pond to more or less fend for themselves. Sure, you can do that, but keep a few things in mind: Ducks are more vulnerable to predators, especially hawks and eagles, when they're on a pond. If the pond freezes over, they won't have access to as much food as usual. And of course, if they have no coop or shelter, collecting their eggs will be very difficult. Because your ducks will be in their coops for longer hours at this time of year, it's very important to keep the coops clean and dry. I toss in some fresh bedding at least every other day, and our smaller duck coops are cleaned out completely about twice a month.

Second, feed. Ducks have relatively short legs, so if your ducks free-range like ours, plan to help them a little when you have snow on the ground. We have four feeding stations for our birds, and when there is more than about 4 inches of snow, we sweep or shovel paths between the coops and the feeding stations. A broom works well for this if the snow is dry.

Normally at this time of year, adult ducks are either still moulting or have recently finished their moult. It's important to keep up the protein intake; feathers are about 85% protein, so your birds will benefit from extra protein while they grow out their new feathers. And although their egg-laying does slow down or stop during the winter, I recommend continuing to supplement their feed with extra calcium, such as crushed oyster shell.

When the weather is especially cold, we like to give our ducks a bedtime snack of cracked corn, about an hour or so before they head into the coops. This gives them an extra boost of carbohydrate, which helps provide extra body heat during the night.

Third, what about water? We all know how ducks love water, and not just during warm weather. In addition to the 3-gallon drinkers, we have about 8 tubs of different sizes for the ducks to bathe and splash in. These range from plastic garbage-can lids to a 50-gallon livestock watering tank. The smaller ones get refilled at least once a day; the big tank is refilled every other day. We live off the grid and don't use electric water heaters, but I hear that they work well. When it gets cold enough here for the water in the tubs to freeze, we've found the best strategy is to simply empty them at night and refill them the next morning. Otherwise, we try to position the drinkers and tubs in the sun, and sometimes top them off with a little warm water during the day if temperatures stay below freezing.

One additional tip: Make sure you collect duck eggs promptly. Ducks lay most of their eggs during the night, so we pick up the eggs first thing in the morning, when we let them out. If there is adequate dry bedding in the coop, ducks like to bury their eggs; this helps protect them from the cold as well as hiding them from predators. Still, when the weather is very cold, the eggs can freeze, so pick them up early.

Victoria Redhed Miller is a writer, photographer and homesteader who lives off-grid on a 40-acre farm in the foothills of Washington's Olympic Mountains with her husband David. As well as raising heritage chickens, turkeys and ducks, she works towards enhancing her family's self-sufficiency through gardening, food preservation, craft brewing and distilling, antique repair and restoration, and other traditional skills. Victoria blogs about her experiences at Pot Pies and Egg Money and Canyon Creek Farms. She is the author of Pure Poultry: Living Well With Heritage Chickens, Turkeys and Ducks.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Recipe: Apple Cinnamon Muffins

If you still have some fresh apples sitting around, this recipe makes a great snack or even breakfast. It's low calorie and low sugar. They stay nice and moist, so you can make them in afternoon or evening for the next morning's breakfast.

Mix together:
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. salt

1 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. honey
3 T. melted butter
1 egg

Once everything is mixed together, add:
one apple (peeled and chopped)

Fill muffin cups about half full and bake at 375 degrees F for about 15 minutes or until top of muffin springs back when touched lightly. In other words, if you poke it gently, and the muffin now has a dent in it, it's not done yet. This recipe makes a dozen muffins.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Did you know.....?

Vera chewing her cud after a day of grazing

Goats are ruminants: Just like cattle or sheep -- and 150 other species of mammals -- goats chew cud as a part of their digestive process. They have a four-chamber stomach that food must pass through in order to be fully digested. The process begins in the first compartment softening the plant-based food, then regurgitating the food where it is re-chewed, also known as “chewing cud.” This helps to further break down the food and to stimulate digestion. The entire process is called ruminating.

“Did you know” will appear every Monday through December to celebrate a fun goat fact in celebration of the publication of Raising Goats Naturally: A Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Life on a Small Acreage Goat Farm

By Elyse Nicholson

One of the biggest myths surrounding goat ownership is that you have own a lot of land for them to graze on, and that they need a way to go in and out of a shelter whenever they please. In reality, this couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, goats can be raised in a variety of living situations --- evening grazing on your own front lawn (if zoning permits it, of course). Such has been the case for my four goats over the past eight years. Living on a small amount of acreage, the vast majority of Happy Acres Farm's 18acrers spread is devote to a hay crop --- more than 16 acres worth to be exact! So, that doesn't really leave a lot of room left for goats when you factor in a house and barn on the remaining two. Yet, we've been doing it for nearly eight years now. To make it all work, we've learned a few tricks around the norms of goat farming, such as a movable fence in place of electric or wire-mesh, beach umbrellas for shade instead of a walk-in barn, and an over sized horse stall for living quarters. In this post, I'd like to give you a "little" glimpse into life on a small acreage goat

Rotational Pasture

The biggest issue people will raise regarding small acreage goat ownership is the pasture itself --- goats need space to browse. And since most of our land is devoted to hay, that doesn't leave a lot of options for setting up large areas of fencing. So what do are goats do for grazing? The front, side, and back yards surrounding out home, of course! Using four 16-foot metal cattle panels, wired together on the corners, we've constructed a lightweight, movable pen which contains enough "pasture" to last the goats one day. The pen is moved each day to a new spot in our yard, slowly traveling around out house until its gone from one side of the driveway to the other. Because our yard is slightly bigger than most, it takes the goats about eight weeks to completely around the house in a typical grazing year with average weather conditions. This is almost ideal for rotational pasture and parasite-prevention as the goats never return to the same spot for another eight weeks. Each grazing location is then marked on a map of our property to ensure that the goats aren't returning too soon. During the winter, after the last hay cutting has been harvested, the pen is moved to the hayfield, giving the yard three months without goats to recover and to kill off any leftover parasites during the winter.

When the goats want more grass than is in the pen, they stick their heads through the fence to eat on the other side. After all, to a goat, the grass is ALWAYS greener on the other side! They can also push the fence to allow more grass in their pen --- and believe me, they can push it far! If there is something on the other side of they want, all they have to do is push with their shoulders and the fence goes with them.

The only problem in the system occurs when we have a drought year, such as the Mid-West experienced this year. The grass grows slower and is thus shorter, so the goats move much faster through the cycle than usual. This is where we get inventive with grazing. Sometimes the goats are given hay in their pens. Other times they are moved to unique locations, like overgrown weedy areas, dirt piles with grass or even the leftovers the horse won't touch in their own pasture!

Keeping Cool

Since the goats are grazing in the yard, which is connected to the hay field, there isn't a lot of shade options due to the lack of trees. So that means that during the extremely got summer we get here in the Mid-West, there aren't very many ways for goats to keep cool, especially when the barn is too far away for them to go in and out. So, as usual, we've improvised a little! Wooden electricity spools, left over from area wiring projects, are placed in the pens to allow for a movable shade option and a sense of shelter during normal days. And when the temps really rise up, a large breach umbrella is placed in the pen to keep the goats cool. When the heat is too much to handle, the goats are taken back to the barn where their stall is equipped with a high-powered fan.


In the barn, the goats are set up with a very unique living situation. Our barn was built with the intention of five horses and an arena. But for years the fifth stall has sat empty. So, it soon became the goats' home. Its filled with a wall of wooden spools to allow the goats to climb and see over the high walls. Each day they are led from their stall to their outdoor pen with leashes.

Their favorite part about this living situation is standing on the stall wall to greet people as they walk by. The spools are just high enough to allow that goats to put their front hooves on the top panel and look out to see everyone!

Raising goats on a small amount of acreage can be challenging at times when you are limited in your resources. But when you're creative and inventive enough to find ways around the limitations, you end up with a pretty cool set up and some very happy goats! And if you're lucky, you might just end up with goats outside your window for a few days! Life on a small acreage farm sure has its benefits!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Review: Fields of Farmers

Joel Salatin's latest book, Fields of Farmers: Interning, Mentoring, Partnering, Germinating, should be required reading for everyone who is interested in farming, even if they don't think they want to be a mentor or an intern. Many people have the mistaken idea that interns are merely free or cheap labor, which is a misconception that Joel repeatedly corrects throughout the book.

An internship is an educational experience for the intern, and it is far from cheap for the mentor. If you don't like teaching, explaining, and answering questions, then mentoring is not for you. In addition to time, you will wind up with broken and lost tools and sometimes lost profits. Although I was laughing hard when I read his story of the cow that escaped at the processing plant due to an intern's mistake, I'm sure it was not a laughing matter for all of the people involved in capturing the cow.

My new favorite quote is from the introduction to the book --
This is my best advice right now. I'm sure I'll learn something more tomorrow, but this is what I think today.
Putting aside Joel's caveat, this book is filled with fabulous advice! I really could go chapter by chapter telling you every wonderful bit of advice he offers, but I know you don't have all day. So, I'll offer you a few of the best tidbits -- and tell you to buy it as soon as possible.

Joel starts the book by laying out his case for the farmer shortage and why we should care. The average farmer in this country is older than 60! Don't think that's a problem? He says, "No civilization has ever survived an inability to feed itself. Period." In my book, Ecothrifty, I talk about how importation of food continues to rise year after year, so although we don't see a problem in the supermarket, we have a problem, and it is getting bigger every year.

Next, he talks about why internships and apprenticeships are the best way for future farmers to learn their profession. Notice how I used the word "profession," rather than "trade." Throughout the book, Joel reinforces the idea that modern farming is for smart, motivated, business-savvy individuals, which is a far cry from the stereotypical farmers of a century ago. In fact, he makes a great case for a farming internship instead of a college degree.

The meat of the book is about how interning and mentoring work -- the application process, agreements, housing, food, remuneration, and all of the nuts and bolts of creating an internship program. Although there are separate sections titled for mentors and interns, everyone should read both sections, regardless of which role you want to fill. In fact, I highly recommend not skipping any sections.

For example, I wanted to skip the section on obtaining land because I really didn't think that applied to us. After all, we have 32 acres that we are not fully utilizing at this time. However, I'm glad I read that chapter, as well as the rest of the book, even though he was not specifically talking about internship programs. I guess I hadn't given much thought to the "Partnering, Germinating" part of the sub-title, but this book is all about helping new farmers get started, and it doesn't end after a short internship.

For the past few years as my children have been leaving home to go to college, I've been thinking about having an intern in charge of the garden in exchange for a commission on what is sold from it. However, I kept pushing it to the back of my head, with negative self-talk that it was a bad idea. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Polyface has many such agreements! The book even includes several of the contracts, which Joel calls a "memorandum of understanding" or MOU. I could totally relate when Joel said:
   When people ask me what I want to do with this farm, I have a host of interests. But I have neither the technical skill nor time to do them all. I'm trusting that people will continue to be drawn here to create their own compensation packages with their own fiefdoms that will synergize with whatever already exists. My responsibility is to massage the team by making sure each player has an opportunity to achieve full potential.
As I said earlier, I could go on and on about this book! (Just ask my family!) Hopefully I've convinced you that if you have any interest in farming -- even if you don't think you need to be a mentor or an intern -- you owe it to the future of food in this country to read the book. My copy is already dog-eared and highlighted and notated, and I'm sure I'll be referring to it a lot in the months and years to come as we refine our internship program.

Disclosure: I received my copy of Fields of Farmers: Interning, Mentoring, Partnering, Germinating from the author in exchange for an honest review. This post also includes affiliate links. If you click on the links and purchase the book from Amazon, Thrifty Homesteader will receive  a very small commission while you pay exactly the same price as you otherwise would.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Did you know....?

Goats, sheep, octopus, and toads all have one thing in common: All four of these species have a rectangle shaped pupil which is different than the round pupil humans and most animals have. The reason behind this is that when dilated, rectangular pupils get very narrow, giving an animal excellent depth perception in their peripheral vision. This helps these four species keep an eye out for predators.

“Did you know” will appear every Monday through December to celebrate a fun goat fact in celebration of the publication of Raising Goats Naturally: The Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The London Dispatches: City Meets Country

By Cadence Woodland

London is a remarkable city for a lot of reasons, but one of them is the amount of green space it has. It has more parks than almost any other city in the world and almost all of them are open to the public. There are gardens, greenways, and many informal natural spaces – the largest of which is a full 790 acres!

But this isn’t really surprising in some ways. The Brits are famous for their love of nature and gardens and even today it’s unusual to find even a cramped city flat that doesn’t have some kind of growing thing. But then there are some who do a lot more with their urban spaces: whole farms! Admittedly as a person with no experience of them, while I wasn’t surprised to hear that there was an urban farm just twenty minutes from our flat, I truly had no idea what one would be like. Which meant, of course, that I had to investigate!

Welcome to Surrey Docks Farm, located very nearly in the financial center of London. Open to the public daily, it claims to be the only urban farm in the city open seven days a week, and though it is less than three acres, it prides itself on being a real hands on and educational venue. Classes and educational events are put on regularly, produce grown on site is sold to the public, and there’s even a small café that cooks its wares with the harvested bounty.

A teaching moment by the forge.

Surrey Docks got its start as a project to turn the once pretty run down (and occasionally sordid) shipping docks area around a little. It’s endured a few troubles over the years, including an arson attack and the theft of one of their beloved ferrets most recently, but in spite of that it’s become rather a fixture of the Rotherhithe area of London.

I was really surprised at how much was organized in the farm’s space so well. There are several pasture areas for the grazing animals, multiple plots and raised beds, berry bushes, grape vines, fruit trees, a duck pond, and an enclosed area where the goats and chickens mingle to the delight of visitors. All of this exists on less than three acres…literally right next to the Thames!

A riverside view.

I visited during their annual Harvest Festival which meant that in addition to their usual attractions, they had stalls selling additional wares (jams, oils, herb packets, seeds, and so on) and a number of volunteers on hand to answer questions about the day to day running of the farm.

The animals were also out in full force and there were lots of opportunities to interact with them. The sheer number of them really amazed me! I counted two donkeys, one pony, two massive hogs, at least five other pigs, a small flock of geese and ducks, and at least a dozen goats. The chickens were innumerable!

Some of the residents.

I always imagined that farms had to be large to create large quantities of produce. Seeing Surrey Dock Farm was a real revelation. That 2.2 acres could hold so much livestock alone really impressed me. I’m not an expert by any means, and although the enclosed areas weren't large, there seemed to be a decent amount of space designated to each group of animal. But to add to it, the vegetable produce for sale and the education spaces was really impressive.

One of the many individual plots.

While I do have experience helping my father on our family’s land, ours is not a farm and we don’t keep any livestock or even garden (Dad’s goal is to maintain most of it as a natural wilderness). I’ve never worked or lived on a farm so while I had some general ideas on how they operated, I was largely ignorant. Getting to see an operating site in compact form was really eye opening. From the workers explaining the nutritional needs of their individual breeds to demonstrating how they lay out their plots for rotational planting, it was a real education.

This muddy gentleman was by far my favorite new acquaintance.

And in case you’re thinking Surrey Dock is a lone example, I was bowled over to discover how many urban farms London has, one or two of them fairly large! And most operate on the same model of combined production and education. They are extremely popular with families and often contribute to the large number of markets around the city in addition to selling their own goods. Britain may have spent the last three centuries becoming an industrial power, but even in the depths of the country’s capital, agriculture here is alive and well!

Since I’m still pretty ignorant, let me know in the comments if there is an urban farm culture in your area and how it interacts with the community. Are they popular? Utilized? Ignored altogether? And what benefits or challenges do they bring to their areas? I’m interested to learn more and plan on visiting a few more urban farms in the future, if nothing else to bring home some of the wonderful produce!

Cadence Woodland is a freelance author's assistant and writer. 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, November 6, 2013

Q&A with the author of Pure Poultry and a giveaway

Today we're chatting with Victoria Redhed Miller, the author of Pure Poultry: Living Well with Heritage Chickens, Turkeys and Ducks. And if you think that looks like a banty hen with turkey poults on the book's cover,  you are correct. Living off-grid, Victoria sometimes has bantam hens hatch a variety of poultry, rather than using an electric incubator.

Thrifty Homesteader: Why did you move to the country and start a homesteading lifestyle?

Victoria Redhed Miller: My husband David's grandparents bought this property back in the 1930s. We moved out here in 2006, after David retired from his job in Seattle. We weren't looking specifically to live off the grid. Our place just happens to be off the grid, and we love it that way. Ever since he was a kid, David had been hoping to live here someday. As his retirement approached, we spent a lot of time talking and daydreaming about what it was going to be like to live there. We wanted to raise more of our own food, and were really looking forward to designing and installing our own solar-electric system. We like not being dependent on the electrical grid. We have our own spring-fed water supply, and lots of space for gardens and the poultry.

TH: How does poultry fit into your life?

V: We had been at the farm for about a year when we decided to start raising poultry. Initially our plan was to raise enough chickens to supply us with eggs and occasionally meat, with enough to share with our families. The following year we started raising turkeys and laying ducks. We got an Egg Dealer's License (required in Washington State to sell eggs wholesale) and have been selling duck and chicken eggs to a local restaurant and several retail stores since 2008. We still keep some turkeys and breed them, but we don't sell them commercially for meat. For the past couple of years we have been discussing possible changes in what we're doing with the birds; it does take a lot of time, and we're not getting any younger, so we'll see what happens next. But for now, we enjoy the relationships we have with local customers, and we feel very fortunate to be in a place where we can let the birds free-range on pasture during the day.

TH: What other livestock do you have on the farm and how do they fit in?

V: Right now we only have the chickens, turkeys and ducks. For several years we raised Tamworth pigs part of the year, raising them out for meat, mostly for curing. Because of our limited pasture space, we realized pretty quickly that we couldn't raise pigs year-round and still have enough pasture for the birds. At this point we have no immediate plans to raise more pigs; the shortage of affordable organic corn is a factor there too. I personally would like to have a go at raising goats, but so far I haven't convinced David to try it.

TH: What's your favorite part of your lifestyle?

V: Not being in the city. I lived in Seattle between when I was three months old and when we moved to the farm, so you'd think I was a confirmed city girl. Definitely not! I was, of course, used to the city and its conveniences and traffic and crime and noise, but I honestly feel at home here on the farm in a way I don't remember ever feeling in Seattle. We live at the end of a road in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains, two miles up the hill from our nearest neighbor. Most of the land around us is State-owned, so except for during deer hunting season, it's usually very quiet here. Still, it only takes about 20 minutes to drive into our town. I always think of it as the best of both worlds, actually. And the older I get the more I value the peace and quiet.

TH: What's your least favorite part?

V: Well, being by ourselves out here is kind of a two-edged sword. Sometimes it seems like it would be nice to have neighbors close by, and we do have to deal with trespassers more often these days. In the city it was nice to be able to walk everywhere, but that's about the only thing I can think of that I miss at all about living in Seattle. I don't know that I would change anything at this point, though.

TH: Any thoughts on going back to the city or your former life?

V: Oh, no. The only way I could imagine that happening is if one of was ill or something happened that made it impossible for us to continue to live here. There are so many things about our lifestyle here that fit in with our values and the things we care about, it's honestly difficult to imagine being somewhere else. We both go to Seattle regularly to visit our mothers and other family members, but neither of us miss living there.

TH: Why did you write Pure Poultry, and how did you come up with the name?

V: The concept of Pure Poultry has changed a lot since I first started thinking about it several years ago. Mainly my motivation came from the frustration of trying to find answers to questions I had prior to starting to raise chickens; many of my questions were specific to something about our situation, and I couldn't find resources for many of my concerns. I also noticed that at the time, it was nearly impossible to find anything specifically about heritage-breed poultry. Then again, I thought it might be useful to have a book written from the perspective of someone just starting out with raising poultry.

My original working title was Pot Pies and Egg Money; the publisher came up with the title Pure Poultry. Actually I like Pure Poultry better than the title I came up with. It's succinct, simple and alludes to the premise of the book being about purebred poultry. I hope that readers will be inspired, if not to raise poultry themselves, at least to think about ways they can take a step here and there toward food independence or other kinds of self-sufficiency. We have found that heritage breeds work best for us, and I hope that readers will consider my point of view about heritage breeds versus hybrids.

TH: What do you hope readers will take away from Pure Poultry?

V: An important message of Pure Poultry is that everyone needs to find out for themselves what works for them in their particular circumstances. The included "Poultry from Scratch" worksheet will take readers through the process I went through in the early weeks and months of our poultry-raising experiences. I certainly hope that readers will be entertained as well. We continually find humor in the day-to-day routine of caring for the birds, and they frequently surprise us with their funny and endearing mannerisms. Pure Poultry is a story of our actual experiences, so I hope that it inspires readers to believe that they can succeed in the pursuit of their own lifestyle goals and aspirations.

If you would like your own copy of Victoria's book, Pure Poultry, you have a variety of ways to enter below! The book can only be mailed to the U.S. and Canada.
 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 4, 2013

Did you know....?

Goats have accents: Yes, it’s true! Just like humans, goats can have accents in their voice based on the herd they grew up in. A recent study by the Queen Mary University of London found that goats will develop different accents as they age and become part of different herds. They found this to be true as goats in different herds will “talk” with sounds very similar to each other, which differs largely from herd to herd. The only other animals thought to do so are elephants and dolphins.

“Did you know” will appear every Monday through December to celebrate a fun goat fact in celebration of the publication of Raising Goats Naturally: A Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Breed Profile: Golden Guernsey Goats

by Teresa Casselman

While I have bred Nubian dairy goats since 1994, I’ve always been intrigued by rare livestock breeds. I first learned about the Guernsey breed in 2003 when the Dairy Goat Journal featured the Golden Guernsey goat on its cover. As the name implies, the Golden Guernsey goat originated on the Island of Guernsey and nearby Channel Islands. The Golden Guernsey is very rare globally, and was being bred on only one farm in the United States.

In that issue, the magazine described how breeders were establishing the Guernsey breed in the United States utilizing the British Goat Society’s grading-up program, by using purebred Golden Guernsey sires on Swiss-type dairy does to create the British Guernsey goat. I mentally filed the information away, since I owned Nubians and Nubian crosses were a definitely no-no in the breeding up scheme.

I continued to follow the progress of the breed in the United States, and in 2011, purchased my first Guernsey does. By this time, both does and bucks were starting to become available, but they were still few and far between. I drove to Pennsylvania for my does and to Washington for my buck. The does were bred and kidded in 2012. As beginner’s luck would have it, my first Guernsey kidded with quad does. I was off to a great start! My breeding goal with my small Guernsey herd is to raise productive animals that are structurally correct, keeping in mind that the animals being raised now are the foundation animals for this developing breed.

Guernsey goats have a friendly and affection temperament. Many people are attracted to their golden hair coats, which can be short or long and flowing, and range in color from pale cream to deep russet. They are known for their efficiency of production, and their productivity and smaller size make them ideal for a household or a less intensive production system.

While the challenge and satisfaction of working with a rare breed initially attracted me, I have come to appreciate the Guernseys for the qualities that make them unique and useful.

Teresa Casselman was raised on a central Illinois farm. She and her husband have operated Six Point Farm for more than 30 years. The family became involved in dairy goats in 1994 when a couple of registered Nubian does were purchased as a 4-H goat project. Now, nearly 20 years later, the boys are grown and have left the farm, and another goat breed has joined the Nubians... the Guernsey.

This post was shared at the Homestead Barn Hop.
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