Monday, December 3, 2018

Goats on the Homestead: What to Consider!

If your are considering the addition of small animals or livestock to your homestead or farm, consider the dairy goat.  Goats are hardy and thrive with attentive simple care.  Their size makes them easier to handle than other livestock.  Because of their size, the space and feed needed to maintain goats is more practical and less costly.  

The milk is delicious and nutritious!  Milking can be done easily by anyone willing to learn including your children. The milk can also be used to make soap, yogurt, and cheese.  Goat milk is more easily digested and does not cause allergies like cows milk.

Goats are good for the family.  Your children learn to be responsible in caring for a living animal.  If that goat is properly cared for then it provides food for your family.  Many life lessons are learned from raising animals.

Goats have personality!  They are curious and easily bond with people.  The kids are so fun and delightful!  Never a dull moment.

Important Things To Consider

There are some important time and commitment issues to consider before you step into this new adventure.  This is just an overview.  Future posts will focus on more detailed care, but perhaps this will help you determine if goats are a good fit for you and your homestead,

1.  Be sure you don't have an allergy to goats. Find someone with the breed of goats you are interested in and spend time with them and in their barn.  This will also help you determine if goats are an animal you would enjoy.

2.  A goat needs to be milked twice a day for 6- 8 months of the year.  There are ways to milk only once a day,  but for highest yields milking twice a day is the best option.

3.  Goats live 10-15 years.  They have relatively few health and kidding issues, but you need a basic knowledge of goat illnesses and disease.  They require immunizations and testing for CAE and CL to have a clean herd.

4.  If grazing, you need to manage the pastures to prevent overgrazing. 

5.  If you do not have grazing options a good source of alfalfa is a must.  Goats also need grain and supplements and clean water.

6.  Goats need a good shelter from the elements

7.  Good fencing is required they are adventurous, climbers, and chewers. 

8.  Goats can produce every year.  You need a plan to sell and manage the offspring

9.  A buck must be kept on site or be available close by for breeding.  Bucks are smelly and obnoxious  but access to a good buck is extremely important for good breeding and milk production.

10.  In some areas, it is hard to find a vet with experience with goats.

11.  Babies need to be dis-budded for easier management and hooves need to be trimmed.  You can learn to do both these chores.

12.  Goats usually have 2 or 3 three kids.  They are social animals and need at least one companion.

13.  Goats have a strong hierarchy social order.  You need adequate space and feed areas so that the dominant animals do not guard feed and keep others from eating.

14.  Mature bucks have a very strong musky order and unpleasant habits during breeding season that make handling them an unwelcome task  They also should be kept separate from the does and milking area.

I have been raising Nubian goats for 21 years and love my goats! I have had Alpines and meat goats but Nubians are my favorite.  I love the ears and their personalities.  I look forward every spring to new babies and fresh milk.  If you are committed and able to provide the necessary care, goats are a wonderful and rewarding addition to your homestead.  My next post will focus on housing goats.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

How Well Do You Implement Organic Gardening Practices?

When my local country radio station introduces a new song it allows its audience to rate it. They call it smash or trash. So how did the garden do this year was it a smash or trash?

No matter how many years you garden, there are always successes and failures.  Perhaps after looking at a disaster you've said,  "Well, I am not doing that again!" (Hopefully you don't say that about gardening as a whole.)  Yet when the planting season rolls around, we usually forget both our successes and failures.

Perhaps before you forget you should write down successes and failures you experienced in the growing season. Keeping a garden journal is a great way to document the happenings in your garden. Not only recoding successes and failure but dates when certain pests arrive, unusual weather patterns,  and a map of your garden are all extremely beneficial and will be helpful for the next growing season.

Sometimes our failures are due to our own cultural practices or maybe lack of good organic gardening practices.  Here's a short checklist to evaluate how you are doing. 

Checklist of Organic Gardening Practices:

____ I incorporate organic matter into the garden as a soil amendment.  Best Organic Gardening Tip to Build Healthy Soil

____ I limit any tilling to only new areas or poorly producing areas  Choosing a Site, Building Raised Beds, & Preparing Your Soil

____ I do not walk on my soil causing compaction

____ My plants had protection from harsh winds.  I have some kind of wind break.  Hedgerows, Shelterbelts, and Windbreaks

____ My garden's watering system provides even moisture and I monitor it to be sure all areas are sufficiently covered.  Organic Principles: The Living Soil

____ I know what type of soil I have and water accordingly.  Sandy soils require short frequent waterings and clay soils need water applied at a slow rate and less frequently.

____ I apply fertilizers at the proper time.  Preparing the Soil & Fertilizing

____ I mulched after seedlings were up

____ I know what pests are a problem in my area and monitor for them.  Summer Garden Pests  Tips for Controlling Slugs  Controlling Squash Bugs

____ I have an integrated pest management program IPM to deal with common pests in my garden

____ I use good quality, disease free seed.  Sow Many Seeds

____ I know how deep to plant a seed.

____ I weeded regularly

____ I trellised plants that need to climb or provided cages for crops such as tomatoes

____ I harvested regularly

____ I spend time in and enjoy my garden.  I monitor the condition of my plants.

____ I use organic pest control and avoid broad spectrum pesticides that kill native pollinators.  Native Pollinators

____ Which crops were high producers?

____ Which crops gave a disappointing harvest?

____ Which crops had the best taste?  D0 you think it was the variety or due to your cultural practices?

____Which crops did not taste good?

____ Which crops were both high producers and good tasting healthy crops?

 ____ I planted crops in the proper season.  Cool season crops in early spring, warm season crops in summer, and another round of cool season crops for fall and winter.  Seed Planting Schedule

____ I have ways to protect spring crops from a late frost.  Row Covers  Low Tunnels

____ I do some companion planting

____ I do staggered plantings of the same crop to have a continual harvest.  How To Have Continual Harvests

____ I cleaned out my garden for the winter and destroyed diseased plants.  Preparing the Homestead for Winter

____  I use cover crops or add a layer of mulch to avoid leaving the soil bare through the winter.

____ I rotate the planting location of my crops.   Rotate, Rotate For Healthy Soil

So how did you do?  We all have room for improvement.  I find that most people neglect their soil and water inconsistently.  Both of those practices stress plants effecting not only the size of your harvest but the quality.

So that you do NOT get discouraged remember mistakes are proof that you are trying.  So congratulations!  

"Garden" is a verb as well as a noun. It does require consistent dedicated effort.  Enjoy the experience and opportunity you have to garden.  Make the best use of the time and resources available to you.  You have the winter to forget about your failures and the promise of a new growing season and a new opportunity to reap what you sow.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Amazing Turkey Brine! Smoking' Turkey!

Fantastic Savory Turkey Brine & Smoked Turkey

Simmer and then cool the brine. You can leave it covered at room temperature in a sauce pan while you roast the turkey.  You will be injecting the brine every 2 hours.

2 cups apple juice
2 cups water
1/2 cup salt
3-4 fresh garlic cloves
1 cube butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp ginger
20 whole cloves
2-3 Tbs Lowery's Seasoned Salt

Inject into the breast, thighs, and legs

Rub with olive oil, paprika, seasoned salt, minced garlic, or favorite seasonings

Strain the garlic and whole cloves out and put inside turkey

Loosely cover with foil.

Inject the turkey every 2 hours while roasting

Cook until temperature reaches 180 degrees.

If smoking cook 15 1/2 lb turkey for 10-11 hours at 250 degrees.  Inject every couple hours when adding wood.  This can also be roasted in your oven.  We usually do this one in the oven and use the recipe below for smoking a turkey.

Smoked Turkey

For a 10-12 lb turkey

4 cloves of minced garlic
2 Tbs seasoned salt
1/2 cup butter
1 can of coke
1 apple quartered
1 onion quartered
1 Tbs garlic powder
1 Tbs salt
1 Tbs ground black pepper

Preheat smoker to 225-250 degrees
Use Hickory Pecan wood mix
Rinse turkey and pat dry.
Rub with crushed garlic and sprinkle with seasoned salt
Place in disposable roasting pan
Fill turkey cavity with butter, cola, apple, onion, garlic powder salt and pepper
Cover loosely with foil

Smoke at 250 for 10 hours or until temperature reaches 180 in thickest part of the breast and thigh.  Bast the bird every 1 -2 hours with juices.  You can also inject this with the above brine.

Fresh frozen veggies from the garden!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

How to Make Pumpkin Puree

It's that time of year! With fall harvests, it is time to enjoy pumpkin desserts and treat.  Using your own pumpkin puree from pumpkins you harvested makes everything pumpkin even better.  Making pumpkin puree is simple but a little messy.

Jarrahdaleis a beautiful blue gray heirloom from New Zealand.  Wonderful used in winter squash recipes and pumpkin recipes.

Kogigu  a Japanese squash with deep ribs and a waxy brownish orange color.

Kogigu Squash

Pie or sugar pumpkins or winter squash  grown specifically for eating are sweeter, less stringy, and contain less water than a pumpkin grown for carving.  They are beautiful coming in many shapes, sizes, and colors.  They can be used to make puree or roasted using your favorite winter squash recipe.

Winter Luxury is a 1893 heirloom that makes smooth velvety puree.  One of the best!  Unique nettled skin 5-7 lb pumpkins.
Long Island Cheese Wheel


1. Select your pumpkin.  Use any that do not have stems or appear to be seeping first.

2.  Wash outer skin

3.  Cut in half and use a ice cream scoop to remove seeds.  Save seeds for roasting.

4.  Place face down in a cookie sheet with sides or a shallow pan.

5.  Add water to the bottom of the pan

6.  Roast at 350 for 45-60 minutes until it can be easily pierced with a fork.  The roasting time will depend on the size of the pumpkin.

7.  Allow it to cool slightly.  Scoop out pulp with an ice cream scooper. 

8.  You can puree pulp in a blender or use a stick blender.  You will probably have to add a little water.

9.  Store in pint canning jars or freezer bags in the freezer if you are not using it immediately.

Use in your favorite pumpkin recipes for desserts or soups.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

"Happiness is Homemade,"  
especially if it is 

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread.

Combine the following dry ingredients in a bowl:

3 cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt

Mix wet ingredients:

4 eggs 
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups avocado or grape seed oil
2 cups homemade pumpkin puree

Combine dry ingredients and wet until just moist.  Add 1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips

Pour into your favorite greased loaf pans.  You can use any size just adjust the cooking time. Bake at 350 for 60-70 minutes.  Insert a knife in the center if it comes out clean they are done.  Allow to cool before cutting.  But be sure to enjoy a few warm pieces.
Making your own pumpkin puree is easy.  Pie pumpkins are make the best puree and are easy to grow.

The pumpkins above are Winter Luxury, a heirloom sugar pumpkin.

Duck eggs are great for baking. The pumpkins puree on the left can be frozen.

Pumpkin puree

Saturday, November 10, 2018

How To Store Potatoes

Fall is my favorite season.  It means harvesting, canning, and holidays. Many of the crops harvested in fall can be stored and enjoyed for months to come.  Apples, winter squash, pumpkins, roots crops, cabbage, and potatoes can all be stored and eaten "fresh" when the garden is long gone and winter has set in.


  I love the smell of the fresh turned soil as you harvest potatoes.   Your potato harvest can be enjoyed well into the winter with careful planning, planting the right varieties, and correct storage.


Not all potatoes are storage potatoes.  Late season potatoes have the best storage potential. Early harvested potatoes will last 4-6 weeks, but under proper conditions late season potatoes can store from 4-6 months.  Darkness, cold, and humidity are the keys.

Good options for storage potatoes:  Kennebec, Katahdin, Carola, Red La Soda, Sebago,and Yukon Gold

Red and purple potatoes which have thin skins are not very good storage options.

La Soda


Potatoes can be planted early spring as soon as the soil can be worked; however, a late spring planting which is harvested in early fall is ideal for potatoes you plan on storing.  Make 2 plantings and enjoy potatoes longer.  Be sure to use certified disease free seed potatoes.



I like to harvest as late as possible which for me is late October early November.  You can harvest whenever the tops die back and dry up.  Provided you do not have an extremely wet season, you can leave the tubers in the ground up to six weeks.  If the potatoes are partially exposed cover them with soil to prevent greening.

Potatoes should be cured before storing this toughens up the skins and allows small nicks to heal.  Dig the potatoes and lightly brush the dirt off.  Do NOT wash.  Spread them out under a porch where temperatures are around 60 to 75 F.  Protect from sun and wind while curing.

After 2 weeks they are ready for storage.  

Purple Viking, my favorite potato


Ideal conditions are cold and damp.  The perfect temperature is 35-45 F with high humidity around 80-90%.  

If potatoes are stored below 35F some of the starch begins turning to sugar.  To remedy this, bring small batches of potatoes into a 70F room and in a couple weeks the sugar will revert to starch.  (Root Cellaring, Mike and Nancy Bubel)

If temperatures are too warm sprouting and shriveling will occur.

Sort and remove any diseased or damaged potatoes. Those can be used first. Choose only the best to store long term.  Find a container that allows for good ventilation such as root cellar bins, cardboard boxes with slits cut in them, or bushel baskets.

Cover with burlap to prevent light from turning the potatoes green. The burlap allows for ventilation.


The ideal spot would be a root cellar.  Other options will depend on the climate where you live.  A basement, window well, garage, or extra refrigerator may all be options.

A hygrometer measures humidity.  Too increase humidity in a refrigerator soak a sponge, wring it out, and put it in the fridge.  In a root cellar the gravel floor is sprinkled with water.  Other storage areas such as a garage or basement will be difficult to control humidity.

Periodically check the potatoes and remove any rotting ones.

Don't forget to get your potato orders in early.  Many of the varieties I mentioned sell out soon.