Friday, January 31, 2014

Kidding in winter

No, I'm not talking about cracking jokes. When they give birth, cows calve, sheep lamb, and goats kid. Because calves are so big and lambs are born with a wool coat, winter birthing doesn't cause anywhere near the issues that it does for goats, which are smaller and have less insulation. The smaller the goats and the lower the temperature, the more you need to keep an eye on goats that are close to giving birth.

You need to get kids dried off as quickly as possible when temperatures are below freezing because of the risk of hypothermia. And if it's windy, and the goat is outside, a kid can get hypothermia at fairly reasonable temperatures. When we were very new to goats, we almost lost a doeling to hypothermia when her mother gave birth unexpectedly in the pasture on April 1. Although temperatures were in the 40s, it was very windy, and the doe had triplets. After seeing that doe give birth in many subsequent years, I know that there would only be seconds between the births of the kids, so it would have been impossible for her to get all of them cleaned off before they would get chilled. So, in some cases you need to be there not because a doe might have problems but because she gives birth too easily and too quickly.

A kid can lose the tips of its ears to frostbite in just a few minutes if it's wet and temperatures are below zero Fahrenheit. It can die from hypothermia fairly quickly at those temperatures when soaking wet. At this point, a lot of people ask, "Doesn't the mother clean it off?" Well, sure the mother will lick it, but her tongue is small and wet, and I've discovered that the definition of "dry" is very different when temperatures are below zero and when they are more reasonable.


The first time kids were born on our farm at below zero temperatures, I was there, as well as both of my daughters. We had a stack of towels, a blow dryer, and a heat lamp. We dried the triplets as much as we could with the towels, and then we turned on the blow dryer. At that temperature, the blow dryer has to be within a few inches of the kid, or the air will be cold! After 45 minutes, we thought the kids were dry, so we turned off the blow dryer. A few minutes later, one of my daughters realized that the tips of the kids' ears were starting to freeze. Rather than being nice and soft and warm, they were feeling hard and crunchy and cold. So, the blow dryer was turned back on! Unfortunately, in spite of our best efforts, one of the kids still lost the tip of one ear to frostbite.

The second time a doe kidded when the mercury fell below zero, we were focusing so much on the ears that their tails started to freeze, so it is important to keep moving the blow dryer across the kids from nose to tail. And although we haven't experienced it here in Illinois, a breeder I know in Canada has had kids wind up with frozen feet, in which case the kids may have to be put down.

Once the kids are dry, they don't seem to be bothered by cold weather much. However, this can vary depending upon the kid's size. Standard breeds of goat kids don't usually need anything in the way of additional warmth, but the smallest of pygmy or Nigerian dwarf kids (2 pounds or less) may need a little coat or a heat lamp. Keep in mind that heat lamps are the number one cause of barn fires, and if you use one, make sure there is no way that a curious goat can knock it down. If the heat lamp winds up in the straw or wood chip bedding, it can easily ignite a fire.


The coat pictured can easily be made from the sleeve of an old sweatshirt. The wristband of the sweatshirt becomes the neck band for the kid. Cut two small holes for the kid's front feet, and you're good to go! Remember, if the kid is a buck, you need to be sure the coat doesn't go under his belly far enough for him to be able to pee on it.

If you would like to know more about caring for your adult goats in cold weather, you can check out our previous post on Goats in Winter.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Recipe: Creamy Southwest Corn Chowder


Soup is such a great food this time of year because it can really warm you up quickly! And what's better than hot soup? Hot and spicy soup! You can make it as spicy as you want (or not) based upon which salsa you choose to use.

1/4 pound butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup of flour
quart whole milk
1 pound corn
2 cups shredded potatoes (frozen)
1 cup salsa
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. onion powder
1/2 t. salt

Melt butter in a saucepan and whisk in flour. Let bubble a minute or so while whisking and add milk. Continue stirring over medium heat. When it starts to thicken and bubble, add remaining ingredients, turn heat to low and let simmer 10 minutes. The recipe calls for frozen shredded potatoes (also known as hash brown potatoes) because they will cook quickly. If you use fresh potatoes, you will need to cook them in a small amount of water until they are soft. Remember, when you drain off the water, you can use it to make fresh bread because potato water makes a great dough conditioner.

Serve soup with crushed tortilla chips on top as garnish, if desired.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Did you know...?



Chickens have their own unique language. While they don’t have a language as varied as humans, chickens have been found to use different calls and sounds to indicate different matters. From finding a good food source, to a mating call, to even warning the flock of a potential predator, chickens utilize many different sounds to communication with one another. In total, there are over 30 different sounds a chicken can make.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Chickens vs. Ducks: What's the difference when it comes to eggs?

by Victoria Redhed Miller


Here at Canyon Creek Farms, we have been raising laying hens since 2007, and laying ducks since 2008. Here's a brief comparison of duck and chicken eggs.

Productivity

At various times we have raised Blue Swedish and Indian Runner ducks, and now maintain a laying flock of Khaki Campbell ducks. The Khakis have consistently started laying at 5 to 5-1/2 months of age, several weeks ahead of our dual-purpose New Hampshire hens. When production is highest in the spring, we typically collect 5-6 eggs per week from each of our 24 laying ducks; each of our hens delivers 3-5 eggs per week.

Young Khaki Campbell hens
You may have read that Khaki Campbells can average 320 eggs or more per year. I think this would only be possible if the coops were artificially lit during the fall and winter months, which we choose not to do. On the other hand, our ducks continue laying farther into the fall than our hens typically do; the production slowdown generally runs from mid-November to mid-January. Depending on when the moult starts, our hen egg production usually drops to almost nothing by mid-October.

As with chickens, the optimum egg production of ducks depends on proper nutrition. Young ducks grow faster than chickens, and require more protein to sustain this growth rate. They also benefit from added Vitamin B12, in the form of either oats (our ducks love rolled oats) or brewer's yeast. Our ducks love to forage, so give them access to pasture if you can.

Characteristics of the eggs

Duck egg on the left compared to a large chicken egg on the right
The most obvious difference between chicken and duck eggs is that duck eggs are larger. While they vary in size like chicken eggs, our duck eggs average between 3 and 3-1/2 ounces, compared to a large chicken egg, which weighs between 2 and 2-1/4 ounces.

The shell of duck eggs is noticeably stronger than that of chicken eggs, contributing to longer shelf life of the eggs.

People often ask us what duck eggs taste like. Opinions vary, but generally most people think they are a bit richer and creamier than chicken eggs. When laying ducks have access to pasture, their eggs, like chicken eggs, tend to have less cholesterol, more beta-carotene and more Vitamin A, among other nutritional benefits.

Duck eggs have slightly different proteins in the albumen (the white). Some people who are allergic to chicken eggs find that they can tolerate duck eggs; we have many customers who buy our duck eggs for this reason. Check with your doctor first, though, to make sure that this is safe for you to try.

Marketing duck eggs

We have been selling our chicken and duck eggs locally for about six years now. Our main customer is a restaurant, the Alder Wood Bistro in Sequim. In the spring when we have lots of extra eggs, the surplus goes to several local retail stores. We've found that duck eggs have a particular niche market here. We know several serious bakers who swear by duck eggs for baking; the egg white has higher viscosity than that of chicken eggs, making duck eggs an excellent choice for recipes calling for the eggs to be separated. The baker at the Alder Wood Bistro uses nothing but our duck eggs for all the desserts she makes, including a wonderful gluten-free flourless brownie.

Duck eggs are more valuable than chicken eggs, partly because they are larger, and also because they are not as plentiful in many areas as chicken eggs. Our duck eggs currently fetch a wholesale price of $6.00 per dozen; depending on your location, they may sell for more or less than that. In Washington State, we are required to have an Egg Dealer's License to sell our eggs wholesale. Be sure to check your local regulations before selling your homegrown eggs.

Conclusion

Ducks are fun and easy to raise, and excellent producers of table eggs. Chances are there is a market for duck eggs where you are, if you're looking for a small farm enterprise. Once you try your first farm-fresh duck egg, you might find, like we did, that there is nothing like it.

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. She is the author of Pure Poultry: Living Well With Heritage Chickens, Turkeys, and Ducks.

This post shared on the Backyard Farming Connection

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Recipe: Best Chocolate Chip Muffins Ever!



For those of us who don't light our chicken coops (and don't buy store-bought eggs) this time of year can seem somewhat depressing as we have either very few or zero eggs with which to cook. A few years ago, I developed this muffin recipe to use during this time of the year, but it quickly became a family favorite, and now we make it even when we have plenty of eggs. Not only are these muffins delicious right out of the oven, but they are the best day-old muffins I've ever had!

Makes 12 muffins

3 cups unbleached flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

Mix together flour, sugar, and baking soda. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender. Add milk and stir to mix. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into muffin pans - unlike most muffin recipes where you only fill the cups halfway, these should be full. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes



Monday, January 20, 2014

Did you know...?


Egg color is related to breed. Some people assume that you can tell what color eggs a hen will lay by its ear lobe or feather color. There are a lot of chicken breeds that lay brown eggs, and yes, sometimes the color of the feathers will match. But this isn’t always the case. It all comes down to genetics. Egg color is based upon the genetics in the animal, just like genes in humans determine color of hair and eyes.

Egg colors are usually consistent within one breed, regardless of feather color. For example, there are several colors of Plymouth Rocks (white, buff, barred, and more), but they all lay brown eggs.

But basically, color is color and it has no bearing on nutritional value. Healthy eggs come from healthy chickens --- not ones that lay the correct color!

Friday, January 17, 2014

The London Dispatches: Not Just a Garden

By Cadence Woodland 

My previous forays into London’s sustainable and urban agriculture have been primarily animal based – today it’s almost entirely about the plants!


I first stumbled across Walworth Garden Farm entirely by accident on a Sunday exploratory stroll in Kennington. Kennington is an area south of the Thames that, like many of its neighboring areas, has gone through cycles of poverty and gentrification. In the 21st century it’s mostly been the later but there are still some places that have fallen into disrepair. I was actually walking past a boarded up building when I rounded the corner and came upon Walworth for the first time. A little green hideaway in the middle of a residential area!

Walworth is an active charity. The land it sits on was derelict before it was claimed by local residents as a spot for horticultural education. What really sets it apart from other urban agriculture plots and sites I’ve visited is this educational emphasis. The garden farm is open to volunteers and community visitors, but one of its main purposes is to provide practical education and even employment training.

With a tree festively decked out for the holidays.
They hold classes on topics ranging from introductions to gardening to beekeeping (there are hives on site), and partner with schools, other charities, wildlife clubs, and youth groups. One of the main organizers I spoke to also talked about her work with a number of groups for people with disabilities who use gardening for exercise and therapy. Another of their classes aims to provide individuals with certified horticultural work experience, and even offers assistance to help participants craft a resume, develop their interview skills, and find employment. They even help with literacy and numeracy skills if you need them for any reason!

On the day of my visit, I was invited to help other gathered visitors and volunteers craft holiday wreaths, centerpieces and ornaments to be sold to raise money for the garden farm’s maintenance. Our materials were natural and gathered from the garden itself. This was my first time attempting anything crafty in a long while and though my first attempt didn’t impress me, I was able to donate three wreaths to the cause.


It was a bit bare, since my visit was in December, but for a single plot of land I thought it was well planned! There were multiple greenhouses for nurturing growth and winter preservation, edible and ornamental plants, and even a water garden. And in the true style of proper English gardens, everything had its own specified place, but managed to look melded together very well. I imagine that in summer it must look splendid, and I definitely plan on coming back to see it in full bloom.

Walworth Garden Farm is another example to me of how proactive agricultural space is in London. There are plenty of parks and gardens that are maintained for beauty, recreation, and public enjoyment (Britain is in many ways very protective of park and natural spaces in cities, although urban spread is a problem), but I have yet to come to an urban agricultural space that does not serve several additional purposes to the community. I'm really impressed at Walworth's success at joining locally grown food and green initiatives with educational and employment programs. And I would love to see more programs like it in the US.

Sound off in the comments. Do you have anything similar in your area? Would you like to see an organization like this in your town? Or, on the other hand, do you think initiatives like this wouldn't work in your area and why not?



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, January 15, 2014

Recipe: Creamy Heirloom Tomato Soup


Yes, the headline says "tomato soup," and yes, that is a picture of tomato soup! We used "great white" tomatoes to make it, and it was heavenly. Once you've had heirloom tomato soup, you can't go back to the plain ol' red tomato soup ... unless it's made with some type of tasty red heirloom tomato like Amish paste. If you play around with various heirloom tomatoes, you'll find that each one gives your soup a unique taste. Amana orange is one of my favorite tomatoes for soup. Maybe it's the orange color tricking my mind, but it really tastes cheesy to me. Green zebra tomatoes give the soup a really citrus tang. And Cherokee purples ... oh, well, they are just amazing in soup!

So, hopefully you have at least a couple pounds of your favorite heirloom tomatoes hiding in your freezer from last summer's bountiful harvest. If not, you can use canned tomatoes. I really don't recommend fresh tomatoes this time of year unless you are living in a climate where they are growing at the moment, as the tomatoes in the produce sections of stores have all been picked green and then "ripened" with ethylene gas to look red, which is why they are so devoid of flavor.

2 pounds of tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 t. garlic salt
1 t. paprika
1 t. cayenne or a chopped up dried jalapeno
2 t. oregano
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk

Toss tomatoes and spices into a pot to simmer. Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan and whisk in flour. After it bubbles, add it to the simmering tomatoes, increase heat to medium, and stir until it starts to bubble and thicken. Add milk. Use a stick blender to make creamy.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Did you know...?



Chickens are omnivores! In many classic TV westerns, chickens are shown eating grain and corn thrown by a ranch-hand or child. Because this is primarily their food source on farms, it has led some people to assume that chickens are vegetarians. Chickens are actually omnivores who enjoy many insects, and in some case, small frogs, mice, snakes, and bugs! They do also enjoy fresh plants and corn, but that is not their only source of nutrition. Free-range chickens enjoy snapping up pieces of grass, a couple bugs, and perhaps even a small mouse while out on the range.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Review: Unstuff Your Life

If one of your goals for 2014 is to declutter, then you might want to pick up a copy of Unstuff Your Life!: Kick the Clutter Habit and Completely Organize Your Life For Good by Andrew J. Mellen.

Like many people, I have had a lifelong battle with clutter. Every now and then, I'll win a battle, but ultimately, it seems like I'm losing the war. Through the years, I've read lots of books to help me in my quest for a clutter-free life, and I've even been a Flylady follower off and on. If you've read a lot of books in this area, you might not find much new in Mellen's book, but that does not mean that it can't be helpful. For me, the book worked like a booster vaccine. Several times I'd hear Mellen say something, and my brain would talk back, "I know that! So, why am I not doing it?"

I purchased the audio version of the book from Audible, and the book actually worked really well that way. The book was read by the author, and I laughed out loud a few times when he said, "Don't argue with me," because it felt like he really was talking to me.

If you are new to the idea of decluttering, you might find the printed book or ebook versions more helpful so that you can see his lists and rules in writing. However, he does have PDFs that can be downloaded from his website for audio book listeners.

In addition to the usual clutter -- our closets, basements, kitchens, etc -- Mellen also has chapters on electronic clutter, including email and digital photographs. He also talks about how to break free from email addiction.

Regardless of whether you'll be decluttering for the first or fifth time, Mellen's book can be really helpful.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Recipe: Buttermilk Biscuits


Biscuits for breakfast not only warm up the kitchen, but it also sticks to your ribs. Because I hate heating up the oven during the summer, this is biscuit season! And you can use up some of that homemade jam that you canned last summer and fall.

If you don't have access to fresh milk to make your own buttermilk, you can buy powdered buttermilk at the health food store, so you can stay away from those multi-syllabic, unpronounceable ingredients that are in the mainstream so-called "buttermilk" found in most grocery stores. And if you don't use buttermilk often, the powdered buttermilk lasts a long time.

2 cups unbleached flour
2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 stick butter
3/4 c buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until the mixture "crumbles." Add buttermilk and mix, either by spoon or by hand. Roll out dough and cut it into your preferred biscuit shapes. I used to use a biscuit cutter so we'd have pretty little round biscuits, but then you have to keep reworking the dough, and ultimately it creates "tough" biscuits. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Did you know...?



Chickens come in all sizes! When most people think about chickens, the image in their mind is usually of a large, heavy looking bird, which are the standard breed varieties of chickens. But there are also miniature or bantam varieties. Bantam isn’t a specific breed, but rather a smaller variety of poultry. These birds can be as small as 1/5 the size of a standard breed.

Some bantams are simply the smaller version of a standard breed – for instance the Rhode Island Red has both a standard and bantam variety. But other breeds, like the Japanese or Sebright, are only found in the bantam variety.

There is nothing genetically wrong with the birds of this variety – they are simply the miniature version of chickens, as also seen in dogs and horses. Their eggs are considerably smaller as well, but it usually takes two to equal a standard egg (¼ a cup = standard egg) when cooking. Many people enjoy the smaller eggs as a hard-boiled snack, and others just enjoy raising a smaller breed on their farm.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Review: The Willpower Instinct

The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More Of It by Kelly McGonigal seems like a great book to review this time of year because many of us have made New Year's resolutions that we are statistically doomed to break. The book is based on a class that McGonigal teaches at Stanford University, where she is a health psychologist and educator. I especially liked her sense of humor, which is immediately evident when you see chapter titles such as "The Willpower Instinct: Your Body Was Born To Resist Cheesecake."

The author talks about the science behind willpower and explains that it is an instinct very much like the "fight or flight" instinct that keeps us alive when spotting a tiger. But, like a muscle, we can increase the strength of our willpower with practice. Unfortunately, there are corporations out there who stand to profit by our lack of willpower!

McGonigal cites studies that show how retailers use their knowledge of psychology to get us to buy more. For example, people buy more things in stores where Christmas music is playing. One retailer got people to come to his ice cream shop in the basement of a building by cranking out the artificial aroma of waffle cones so people could smell it upstairs. Simply knowing things like this can help us to resist impulse buys.

She also talks about things that don't work -- feeling guilty and beating ourselves up actually makes people do more of whatever they feel guilty about. For example, there is evidence that health warnings on products, such as cigarettes, actually cause people to use them more.

McGonigal has found an ideal blend of sharing scientific research with practical tips on how to increase your willpower, whether you want to lose weight, stop smoking, or spend less money. I highly recommend this book for anyone who has a goal for the new year.

I purchased this as an audiobook from Audible, so I could listen to it on my smartphone, although it is also available as a hardcover book, paperback, and ebook, so you can read or listen in whatever form works for you.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Chapter 2014 Page 1 of 365


If 2013 was not exactly your idea of a great year, I hear ya! I will probably forever remember 2013 as the single worst year of my life. But the good news is that today is the beginning of a whole new chapter.

Want to lose weight? Me, too!

Want to get healthier? Me, too!

Want to spend more time with loved ones? Me, too!

Do you have career and personal goals? Does it feel like you'll never reach them? I hear ya!

I really need to lose about 15 pounds. A few months ago I moved into the "overweight" category, and although it's tempting to just blame it on aging, I'm not planning to take the easy way out. I know that I'll feel better if I can give my back and knees the gift of not having to carry around an extra 15 pounds.

As you read this, I'm already hard at work on that third goal. My daughters and I are on a "girls only" vacation while my husband and son are taking care of the farm.

Years ago I heard someone say, "The biggest enemy of a great life is the good life." And it is so true. Most of us have a good life, and sometimes we use that as an excuse not to try so hard to achieve our goals. If you have ever said, "Oh, I don't really need that. I have a good life," ask yourself why your life can't be great.

Remember, you are the author (and producer, publisher, and director) of your life. If you haven't already thought about how you want to make 2014 bigger and better than ever ... then take a moment to write down a few of the things that you really want to do this year.

One of my career goals for 2014 is to continue working on this blog to make it a reliable source of information for you on living a cheaper, greener, happier, healthier life. We'll continue with the regular Monday, Wednesday, Friday posting, and we've decided to continue the "Did you know ..." columns, but we're going to expand them beyond goats to talk about chickens and other livestock and even healthy living tips. If there is anything you'd like to hear more about, don't hesitate to let us know in the comment section below.

Here's to a magnificent 2014!
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