Sunday, February 1, 2015

Homestead Health

What a rough month January was!
   It began on New Year's Eve - my husband worked half a day and came home sick, sick, sick!  Shame on me, but I was so mad that he chose this time to catch something (as if he had a choice!)- when we had a full 5 days off in a row! I was anticipating how much we could get done around the farm working together for five days!  Well, it was a case of the flu that put him out of commission for almost the entire month!  He swears that we don't need biological weaponry - just a "sure 'nuff" case of the flu spread en mass throughout a country and any invading army could walk right in and take over.
Thankfully, he's better now.

In January we lost three goats: 2 full grown does, one of which was due to kid within weeks, and one beautiful bottle fed baby girl. It's a common thing with goats - typically there's no forewarning if they get sick and they can go down in just one day.  I should have trusted my gut with the baby.  We had noticed she was the slightest bit off, not eating greedily one morning, but by the next feeding she seemed fine so I just attributed it to the cold weather. Two mornings later she was down and that was it. 
We worm our herd twice a year, in the spring and in the fall, but now we'll start worming every 4 months beginning in January.

  Fortunately, I did notice my Percheron horse, Lucy, acting a bit odd one cold day this month. I noticed her lying down in the sun, which isn't unusual, but much later in the day, when she was on the ground again, I kept a close eye on her.

  The following morning, at 4 am, when she wasn't waiting for me at the gate for her grain, I knew something was up. I ended up walking her for the next 5 hours in the drizzly, cold rain, waiting for the mineral oil to take effect and her bowels to begin functioning properly again. I'll be writing more about Colic now that I've experienced it, but from this, I've learned that oftentimes, during cold weather, horses don't drink enough water, which can exacerbate digestive blockage, so to remedy this, I now refill their water trough each morning with warm water to ensure they drink greedily after they eat their grain.

The most difficult thing that happened this month was that we had to put Abby down. If you read my last article: The Year in Review: 2014, you know that my 5 year old Rotweiller was bitten by a snake and had become blind.  Unfortunately, the infection continued to affect her, and last weekend her breathing became more and more labored. We were having to leave the house for long periods of time to celebrate my son's Eagle Scout Ceremony and all that went with it: shopping, food preparation, rehersals etc, and my husband did not want Abbey to be left unatttended with breathing problems.  He knew she was only getting worse, and I did too, though it was harder for me to come to terms with it, so Bob make the (right) decision to end her discomfort.  She will be missed.

The beginning of the new year was not all bad - The trials caused us to rethink some things and to change habits. For example, while Bob was so sick we both stopped drinking coffee - and if you know me, you know that that was about as unlikely to happen as my winning the lottery! Now we drink hot tea with honey.   We're changing our eating habits as well. The rule of thumb we now use is: If we can't pronounce or recognize the ingredients on the package, we don't buy/eat it.

 I believe that there is an awakening happening within the US as far as our diet, nutrition and health is concerned.  A growing awareness and participation in healthier lifestyles: clean eating, exercise, gardening, whole foods and informed health care decisions. 
Because of the flu, I decided this month,  to take more control and to have available in our home natural alternatives for treating illness.  As a beekeeper we have fresh, raw local honey on hand. Besides being a healthier alternative to granulated sugar, it helps with allergies. Honey and cinnamon are reported to be a great combination for relief of many ailments, and using garlic, coconut oil, sea salt or apple cider vinegar certainly does not pose the negative side effects that many over the counter and prescribed medications do.
Another positive outcome of Bob's flu is that it caused me to research and get involved as an independent distributor of Young Living Essential Oils - the purest, most high quality essential oils available in the world. I'm very excited to begin using and learning more about these oils, and as I discover new uses and recipes I'll be sharing them with you. Once I've had time to do more research, I hope to begin using  Essential Oils with my farm animals as well for their more natural curative properties.
I considered starting a Facebook page called Homestead Health, but instead I'll be expanding Homestead Life Facebook page to include recipes, nutritional information and healthy alternatives.

So now I'm off  to pick up a new LaMancha billy goat and to order seeds for our spring gardens.  More stories to come


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Year in Review : 2014

Season's Greeting from Homestead Life!  As the year comes to a close and we begin to anticipate a new beginning full of great expectations and high hopes (of blogging more regularly again), I remind my guilt-ridden self that, although I put pen to paper, so to speak, only 5 times in the past  year, we had many adventures, successes, learning experiences, disappointments and failures throughout the past year: that's what Homesteading - nay - LIFE, is all about.
  I'd like to recap the year for you, if you don't mind, with the full intention of wrapping up 2014 and beginning anew, (hopefully) more conscientious about writing more consistently of our doings.

January began with the birth of triplets - as diverse in color as they could be. One tan and grey spotted, another black and white spotted, and the third brown with white ears and a black stripe down her back. One of my husband's most endearing qualities is his tender heart - his commitment to and pure enjoyment of caring for animals. Neither the freezing cold nor the pouring rain during the every 3 hour bottle feedings has ever caused him to complain. 

Throughout the year we had a total of 23 baby goats born on the farm. Unfortunately we lost 5 youngsters to Coccidiosis, an intestinal parasitic disease that I had not been aware of. I now know what to look for and how to treat it, but the loss was heartbreaking.  We are ending the year with  4 recently weaned sale goats and four that we are keeping. Only two babies are still bottle feeding.

Last winter was exceptionally long and cold. Not just to me, but also to our fish. Though our tank is inside a greenhouse, the water temperature dropped below what they can tolerate and we lost 90% of our fish.  Fortunately, they are begin to  repopulate and we'll keep a better eye on the temp this winter and exchange water more often.

2014 was the year of "the turkey-ducks": a name we lovingly refer to the flock of  7 turkeys, 7 geese and two white ducks who think they're all related. The turkeys and geese we hatched in the incubator and the ducks were given to us, but they all share the same coop at night and roam the farm together during the day. They make quite a rukus but they are very entertaining and some of my favorite fowl on the farm! 

Chickens are another story altogether! My LEAST favorite fowl!!  We had trouble this spring with foxes - they're so bold! They come right up and run along the fence-line, just waiting for a roosting bird to come down out of the trees in the morning. To help combat the diminishing numbers we hatched out many chicks and moved the coop to a more secure location - in the driveway, accessible to the dogs. Our 60+ chickens roam the farm freely during the day and are cooped at night for safety.

We spent a good amount of time - never enough -  messing with our hives.  During the months of April and May, God brought  7  swarms to our Homestead - all in the same location. I've never seen anything like it - a swarm would come, settle into a box, we'd move the box and replace it with an empty, and within a day or two ANOTHER swarm would arrive.  It was magnificent!  Thank-You Lord!

                                           FYI - Bees don 't sting when they're swarming.

Another cool thing we did with the bees this year was to try something I saw on Pinterest: honeycomb built inside the jar.  There's a learning curve to this craft but it was fascinating and worth the effort - if only for one season.  I'm leaving that decision up to Bob.  Here's what it looked like:

My summer garden didn't do worth a darn. I've decided that I much prefer a fall - winter garden! I just don't like dealing with the heat and squash bugs!  I grew kale for the first time and it was the most prolific, highest yield crop I'd ever had!  Right now I have spinach, 5 or 6 types of lettuces, broccoli, cabbage, kale, collards, mustard, onions, garlic, arugula, swiss chard and kohlrabi growing beautifully!  It all survived the couple of nights that we had temperatures in the teens and twenties!  My citrus trees? Not happy at all!

I also love picking (and eating!) blueberries!  We have a friend who lets us pick anytime and I spent a good many early mornings and evenings doing just that!

This motivated us to plant 34 blueberry bushes on our property last spring.  It'll be years before they'll produce quantity, but it will be worth the wait!

I did manage to make and can a few jars of blueberry jam - though they're much better fresh.  I also canned spaghetti sauce, fig jam (our newly planted tree produced quite a bit it's first year!), pear sauce and beef tips.  I had hoped to give a demonstration of canning goat meat at one of the shows we did this year, but it never quite happened.  We did butcher a goat and made a delicious stew for samples at the annual "Goat Day" held here locally.  It's the only time we ever eat goat meat, even though we have almost 40 goats here on the farm!

This summer we inherited 4 rabbits. They are predominately meat breeds, but due to our Biblical dietary food choices we won't be eating them.   Perhaps one day we will breed them for a protein source for others, for now they're just pets.

This was also the year we began making small changes in our eating habits.  With all the information out there about the detrimental effect of processed foods, GMOs, aspartame, fluoride and on and on, one of the changes we've made is to learn to make and to drink Kefir everyday. This is so easy and so nutritious I believe everyone should do it; so much so that 2 of the 5 blog posts I wrote this year were about Kefir.  You can read about it HERE and HERE.
The other change we made was to stop buying store bought bread. I now make all our bread (and boy, do we LOVE bread!) using fresh ground wheat, water, honey, olive oil, yeast, flaxseed and a little salt. I use my breadmaker, dump the ingredients in, press a button, and voila! 4 hours later a fresh, hot loaf of very delicious bread. I like the fact that I can pronounce all the ingredients in our food.  I only wish I had fresh, homemade butter to slather  on it!

About that.... Many of you may be familiar with the stories of Buttercup, our soon to be 5 year old Jersey cow.  If not, there are some great blog posts about her and our failed attempts to have a calf on the farm.  In March of this year she spent the month with a handsome Brahama bull, and we felt confident that finally, the deed had been done. Once again, 9 months later.... NOTHING!
So here's what we've decided. We're going to give her ONE MORE CHANCE (against the advice of a trusted, dear friend and cattleman who probably thinks I'm too soft).  During one of the shows we did this summer we met a new friend who has a small dairy nearby.  She has most graciously invited Buttercup to come meet her registered Jersey bull and stay for three months sometime in the near future.  Stay tuned as the saga of Buttercup continues.

                                                    Maybe she just didn't like him.

In the greenhouse we continue to strive to grow everything from Heirloom seed. Our goal is to one day fill the place with food grown aquaponically.
I continue to milk goats twice a day and make cheese and soap as often as I can find time.
Even with all this going on, Bob continues to work 40+ hours at the church with a two hour car ride every day, and I work twice a week at the church as well.  Unfortunately the farm does not pay for itself!

2014 was a year of huge milestones in our personal life as well.
Our youngest son graduated from high school and shortly thereafter left with his brother and a small inheritance from their grandmother to backpack Europe for 6 weeks. Much of my time was spent planning their itinerary and documenting their travels.  Upon their return our youngest gathered together the required documents and applied for a Congressional nomination to the U.S. Air Force Academy, which he did receive.  Now to wait and see if he is accepted into the Academy.
We also celebrated my daughter's graduation from the first ever bachelors program at our local college. Her degree and occupation is in nursing.  We couldn't be more proud.
Not to be outdone, her twin  and husband bought a second restaurant on the water in Cornwall, England.  When I get to missing them I love to read the raving reviews on Trip Advisor.  If you're ever traveling in England, look them up at The Sharksfin or at their newest Pub, The Golden Lion.
And finally, our daughter, Samantha, who came from Arizona over a year ago to live with us recently moved into her own plae.  She had been a huge help at the farm getting up with me at 4 am everyday to help with the chores and doing lots of work around the Homestead like pulling fence and running electrical wire, just to name a few.  To our great joy her boyfriend, Chris, proposed last week and she said, "YES!"

Finally, on a more somber note... In this life we all face heartaches and disappointments and we each have our own struggles.  We're not exempt from them here at Homestead Life.  the stories I write sometimes  seem as though all is wonderful and rosy and everything successful and beautiful all the time but that is certainly not the case. I just choose not to share all the yuk. This I will share with you because I believe it will one day be a story of hope, courage, perseverance and ultimately triumph.  Right now all it is is heart breaking.

 As you may know, we have three Rottweilers. This spring they will be 6 years old. Abbey is the smallest, maybe 60 pounds and a little more neurotic that the other two.  From the time she came home  at 6 weeks she has barked at every strange noise she hears.  Gus, our male, weighs in at around 80 pounds and is our "Bubbie". The sweetest, gentlest, most licking dog you've ever met. And then there's "the Max". She's about 120 pounds (surprisingly, all three are fed the same amount each day - and not much at that!) and looks like a black bear.  They are all quite intimidating when they come running up to greet visitors!

About 6 weeks ago we noticed that Abbey looked a little off.  On closer inspection we saw that her throat was puffy - fluid filled and assumed that she had been bitten by a snake.  We've had dogs bitten by Rattlesnakes before and have been counseled by vets to give them Benedryl - that there was no anti-venom necessary and that they would most likely be fine.  A few days later the right side of her face showed signs of paralysis. We waited to see if it would right itself.  Another week or so later, we went out together early in the morning before dawn and Abbey bumped into me, I stepped on her foot and she tumbled down the porch stairs. Fortunately there are only four of them. I wasn't paying attention until  we went back inside after farm chores and she began walking into things. Bob figured out that she was blind.  Her sight returned the next day and we were so thankful, but now, 2 weeks later, the blindness has returned. It's been about 4 days now and she doesn't seem to be able to see a thing. She's eager to go wherever I go - all my dogs are.  They'll follow me - noone else - everywhere I go.  My husband says that to find me on the farm, just look for the dogs. For the first day or so i wondered if it would be more humane to put her down if her sight does not return, but as the days go by I believe that she will learn to adapt to her lack of vision.  She can't get down the steps so we carry her down. We have a leash rope that we slip over her head to guide her gently as she walks the farm.  She somehow got outside one afternoon and couldn't find her way back, so we're very careful now to keep a close eye on her. All the dogs are afraid of the turkeys and geese and go out of their way to skirt the flock. I have to guide Abbey safely by them because, with all the clatter they make honking and gobbling, not only is it deafening, it also makes it sound like they're everywhere.  Yes, it takes much more time to care for her and I can sense her frustration at not being able to run the woods with the other two dogs, chasing various critters, but I do see a small glimmer of hope. I believe her hearing will intensify - that she'll begin to listen more to my voice for direction and that she will hopefully begin to memorize her steps around the farm.  I try to keep her with me each time I go out and not leave her inside, knowing that her whole world has just been changed and that any sense of normalcy would be welcome.  I know, I think as a human and not a dog, but that's my perception. My reality.  As each day goes by I'm feeling more confident that we can live with this - that this challenge is not insurmountable.  We love our animals.  Every one of them. Our animals are a lifetime commitment that we take very seriously.  We covet your prayers and we thank you for your support  and encouragement.  I pray that 2015 will find each of you following your dreams and doing what you can to make this world a better place.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Prepping 101

Recently Netflix released several seasons of Doomsday Preppers.  Have you seen the show? This is a reality show that depicts people's applied and planned actions for several calamities that would end the world as we know it: natural disasters, terrorist attacks and other calamities that might cause a breakdown in our society. It depicts their plans of preparedness - stored food and water, defense measures, housing shelters and possible escapes from the conditions that they perceive will happen. I must say, they sure know how to pick some kooks!  In it's defense, the show has shaken me out of my recent state of complacency.

   Years ago Bob and I read a book called The Coming Economic Earthquake, written by Larry Burkette, a highly respected and very insightful, well grounded financial advisor. This book put into words the unrest and premonition of an upcoming disturbance that we had been feeling. It was almost as though an invisible shroud had been dropped enveloping us with an overwhelming sense that things were not right with the world and that there was "something" on the horizon that would change circumstances we've grown accustomed to. So, with that in mind, we began to prep.  Fast forward 10 years. We're in a better place than we were, but due to economic restrictions we, like many of you, live financially from one week to the next.  We have no savings and we earn only enough to make it until the next paycheck - oftentimes holding our breath.

One thing we've gained from watching Doomsday Preppers, besides the entertainment is the realization that we, ourselves, are not prepared. Preparing is a preemptive action to life circumstances. It is the Boy Scout motto, and not necessarily focusing on the negatives that the future holds, but being aware of them and taking action to lessen their effects - not exclusively for extremes like a polar shift or a meteor impact,  but for more  common occurrences such as illness or temporary job loss.  Ben Franklin said, "By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail."

As we've been talking with people lately, we're seeing more and more friends and acquaintances beginning to become conscious of their lack of preparedness, but at a loss as to how and where to begin. I understand. There are a myriad of sources and suggestions out there and it can become quite overwhelming - and expensive, so my hope is to break information down and to give you the benefit of our thoughts, ideas and experiences to help you prepare if you choose.

The military teaches that there are three requirements before a military operation can be initiated:
* Food and Water
* Shelter
* Security

Currently most of us have these three things in place right now.  We have our jobs to earn money to purchase food and water, we have our homes, whether owned or rented,  and we have law enforcement to rely on for security.  When one or more of these basic necessities disappears or is forcibly removed, panic soon ensues.  Being prepared helps prevent you from becoming part of the problem.

Because of mobility in our society, we are not always in a safe place should a circmstance occur.  Even with advanced warning, such as extreme weather, many people have been caught in transit, away from their basic necessities. Our suggestion for the first step is to put together a BOB.

BOB - Bug Out Bag.
A Bug Out Bag is a small bag / backpack with up to three days' supply of food, water, medical, and shelter that weighs less than 10% of your body weight.  The possibilities for its' contents are innumerable but here are some suggestions: Keep in mind that this bag is just to get you from Point A to Point B - from where you are in your day to day travels: grocery store, work, bowling alley etc, to your safety area, be it home, farm or family.  Its small size is to ensure you can carry it on foot if need be. It's not your life belongings - it's just the bare minimum. We suggest it be stored in the trunk of your car or carried in to your place of work for quick access.

 * If you have individual medical needs, they should take priority: insulin, atomizer, epi pen etc.
 * 2 16oz bottles of water / a way to purify water - we'll discuss this in a future article
 * food should consist of  high calorie low weight items. things like energy bars, trail mix, dried fruit, beef jerky...
 * shelter: something as simple as a large plastic bag which can serve as a tent - lean to or a raincoat
 * paracord
 * light windbreaker
 * socks
 * comfortable walking shoes
 * extra clothing suitable for the weather
 * rain poncho
 * ziplock bag with 10 paper towels and coffee filters. These can be used to strain water, for t.p., as a firestarter, to clean eyeglasses/body...etc
 * a hat
 * mylar thermal blanket - very compact and lightweight
 * small tube of sunscreen
 * insect repellent
 * flashlight - LED headlamp which frees your hands
 * multitool
 * firestarter (matches/lighter) and a sealed firestarter kit: containing tinder, matches, striker and fat lighter kindling
 * Whistle
 * anti bacterial wipes - triple antibiotic cream - bandaids
 * tylenol
 * charged cell phone and phone numbers
 * cash - $25.00 in small bills and change
 * ID

this is what we would recommend for each adult to have on hand. Children are another consideration. My suggestion would be to have a backpack for each of your children as well. Even very young children can carry small, lightweight items that would be of help. Having one at school might not be a bad idea. Here are some ideas for what to pack in a child's Go Bag:

 * favorite snacks
 * water or  juice
 * a fleece blanket
 * a favorite toy (stuffed animal)
 *rain poncho
 * extra clothes
 * socks
 * extra shoes
 * space blanket
 *emergency contact information
 * prepaid cell phone

You want to pack familiar comfort things as well as necessary items.
Needless to say, any situation which causes the Go bags to become necessary is not the time to try new things.Be sure the shoes you've brought are broken in and comfortable.   Become familiar with everything in your pack. The more at ease you are with your prep items and the more you discuss possibilities, scenarios and solutions, the less you will stress and panic in time of need.  Thinking clearly and being prepared in a time of emergency will help you to act in a prudent manner - ie Respond instead of React.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How To Make Kefir

In my last article, Kefir - What Is It? - I wrote about the the properties of Kefir and its health benefits.  Today I'll share with you how to make Kefir.

Let me begin by saying that I got the majority of my information from  They have a great teaching website with lots of interesting, easy to read information.

There are two types of culture you can use to make Kefir:
*  Kefir "grains" - either dehydrated or propagated/divided from another growing batch. These can be reused again and again indefinitely to have a continual supply of Kefir. Kefir grains contain more probiotics than
* powdered starter culture which can be used several times but eventually stops culturing and you have to purchase more.

Kefir "grains" are not really grains at all but white, gelatinous particles containing a bacteria-yeast mixture that stick together with  protiens and complex sugars found in milk. They look similar to small cauliflower heads

The first batch I made was with dehydrated Kefir grains. You can order grains online. I bought mine from the website above.

First you'll have to rehydrate your powdered grains.

Materials needed:
* Glass jar (pint or quart)
* plastic or wooden spoon
* plastic or stainless steel strainer
* coffee filter
* rubber band
* one packet dehydrated Kefir grains
* fresh cow or goat milk - store bought milk is fine - Do NOT use Ultra pasturized (UP) milk

Before beginning note:
* it is important not to introduce competing bacteria to the kefir process - keep your work area well away from live yeasts and bacterial contaminents such as bread making yeast, sourdough, compost bins, yogurt etc.
* wash and rinse hands and utensils well before beginning.
* Kefir grows best in temperatures between 70 - 80 degrees
* keep out of direct sunlight

Step 1:
Place dehydrated Kefir grains into a small glass container. Pour 1 cup fresh milk into container and mix gently. (note - I poured the grains into the milk and stirred.)

Step 2:
Secure a coffee filter over the top with a rubber band.
The fermenting process can attract fruit flies. This will keep them out and allow the Kefir to breathe.

Step 3:
Each day, pour the kefir through a fine plastic or stainless steel strainer. Discard the milk and gently stir the grains into fresh milk.  Cover.

From 4-7 days you should begin to notice the milk becoming thicker. The smell will change from fresh and sour to a clean, yeast-like scent as the bacteria balances. Colder temperatures will prolong the process and it can take as many as 2-4 weeks to stabilize.
When the milk is reliably thickening, smelling clean and tasting wonderful within 24-48 hours, the grains have fully rehydrated and you can begin making regular batches of Kefir.

To Make Milk Kefir:

The process is pretty much the same as the rehydration technique.
You will need:
* a glass jar (pint, quart, 1/2/ gallon)
* plastic or wooden spoon (if metal it must be stainless steel)
* plastic or stainless steel fine mesh strainer
* coffee filter
* rubber band
* 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Kefir grains
* 1 to 4 cups milk

Any type of milk can be used except Ultra Pasturized: cow, goat, coconut, soy...

Step 1:
Strain your Kefir culture . By now you are not discarding the milk (kefir), you are drinking it! (or using it in smoothies or making cheese...)

Step 2:
Add 1/2 to 1 tsp Kefir grains to a fresh jar of milk. Stir gently.

Step 3:
Cover jar with a coffee filter and secure with rubber band.
Check every 6-12 hours. Your milk should coagulate (Kefir) within 24-48 hours.
Repeat. Again. And again....

This is what it looks like just before I strain the grains from the Kefir milk.

What's happening during the fermentation process is that colonies of good bacteria dominate the milk and begin feasting on the sugar (lactose) in the milk, which nourishes the grains causing them to reproduce. This causes the good bacteria to thrive and grow.  When all the sugar is consumed the grains begin to starve and need a fresh supply of lactose.
This is what happens when the kefir grains are left too long and the milk sugar has been consumed:

 The kefir begins to separate into curds and whey. This is how your kefir will look if it goes beyond the optimum point. Ideally you want to strain your kefir and add your grains to fresh milk once the initial batch has coagulated and not separated. Kefir is forgiving though, and you can still use the grains in fresh milk if the batch has separated, but you might want to use this batch for cooking in place of milk. I fed mine to our animals.
To decide when the Kefir is ready and needs to be strained I look for the slightest separation. When it looks like this - I pour it through my strainer.

See the small dots on the bottom? I'm pretty sure the milk sugar is consumed and it's ready. (Although, thinking about it, those may just be sunken grains. HHmmm. - Oh well, that's when I think it's done, and it seems to be working!)

Personal Notes:
* I am by no means an expert. I have about as much knowledge as you when it comes to making Kefir (I just started a week earlier)
* the directions say to use 1/2 -1 tsp grains... I use alot more! The picture above of the grains in the strainer came from one quart of milk! I have since divided them and am now making 2 batches (1 quart of milk each) with it.
* because our kitchen is very small and I'm making fresh bread and yogurt regularly and there's a compost bowl on the counter, I set the Kefir to culture in the bathroom. (It's also easier to moderate the temperature in there)
* this stuff is like Friendship Bread (see recipe HERE ) - it just keeps growing and growing! Soon I plan to learn how to save Kefir starter for future use either by dehydrating or by causing the grains to become dormant.
* Milk "Kefirs" more quickly in warmer temperatures. When I add my grains to fresh, warm goat milk (86 degrees) it takes 24 hours, whereas the process takes closer to 48 hours when the grains are immersed in refrigerated milk.
* Kefir has a very different taste, so it may take a little getting used to. I wasn't sure I liked it at first, but the health benefits outweighed my skepticism. Within a few days though I was enjoying the flavor.  If it doesn't appeal to you at first, use it to make fruit smoothies or sweeten it with a little honey.

Remember that I said I was making two different batches? One I bought and started from dehydrated grains and another was given to me? Well, about the time I started writing this article, my store bought batch puked.  I went to strain my grains and they poured through the strainer like water - nothing left. I poured the whole thing down the drain. The good news is, that while on the Kefir website researching info for this blog, a big CHAT NOW icon popped up so I asked what I had done wrong. It seems that dehydrated grains do not do well in raw milk - there are too many other live bacteria to contend with as it is beginning to grow. I needed to use pasteurized milk for rehydration and later introduce the grown grains to raw milk.
As soon as she diagnosed my problem, Eve, at Cultures For Health offered to send me a replacement packet to try it again. I hadn't even asked.
 I have nothing but good things to say about this company and their very informative website!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

KEFIR - What Is It and What's All the Big Fuss?

I hadn't heard much about Kefir before, but, a common thread in my life has always been "feast or famine" - one day I'd never heard of it and the next I'm completely bombarded, and so it was with Kefir. I had heard the word Kefir in passing but never paid it any mind, until one day someone asked if I made Kefir.  MADE Kefir? It's something I can MAKE? Challenge accepted.

Before I begin any new venture I tend to ponder it for awhile. It's almost an intimidation factor - beginning something new.  When I first learned about scrapbooking I was completely intrigued and immediately spend hundreds of dollars on supplies. I thought about it for 6 months before I ever touched a photo and created my first page.  As I considered getting started with Kefir, another friend approached me, excited about this new "wonder food product" he had heard great things about, and the day after I ordered Kefir "grains" on line to begin this venture, my friend Ehab, who owns our local health food store, called to offer me a Kefir culture since he had an abundance. Feast.

Here's what I've learned about Kefir:

Kefir, pronounced Key-fur, comes from the Turkish word, Keif, which is translated "Good Feeling".
At present, it is considered one of the most potent probiotic foods available.
Ok, what exactly is "Probiotic"?

Probiotics (from pro and biota - meaning "for life" ) are consumed, live organisms that are similar to the beneficial microorganisms found in your digestive tract, gastrointestinal tract, GI, or "gut". Your gut is made up of seven key organs: the gall bladder, large intestine, liver, pancreas, esophagus, small intestine and stomach.  
This "good bacteria" improves intestinal function and builds and maintains a strong immune system. Recent studies of Probiotics are indicating effective results for treating a myriad of illnesses such as: ulcerative colitis, childhood diarrhea, immune system dysfunctions, and the treatment of Crohn's Disease, to name a few.

Yogurt, a more recognized probiotic, has long been known to help restore the balance of "friendly bacteria" to your system, but now Kefir is on the scene and is reported to be a much more potent source.  According to, whereas yogurt contains bacteria to keep the digestive system clean and feed the "friendly bacteria" that live there, Kefir creates ideal conditions to colonize 'friendly bacteria" in the digestive tract.

Kefir is a creamy, tart, slightly carbonated, fermented milk product that is loaded  with easily digestible   vitamins, minerals and complete proteins. It contains essential amino acids that help the body with healing and maintenance functions.  It is rich in vitamin B12, thiamine, calcium and vitamin K.  It also has high levels of biotin, a B vitamin that helps the body assimilate all other B vitamins, which regulate the kidneys, liver and nervous system.

Some of the reported health benefits I found for Kefir include:

* Eliminates constipation
* Heals ulcers
* Aids digestion
* Reduces or eliminates cold and flu illnesses
* Calms nerves
* Helps sleep disorders
* Builds a healthy immune system
* Boosts energy
* Heals skin disorders
* Reduces or eliminates allergies
* Lowers cholesterol
* Treats respiratory diseases such as asthma

Kefir is also being studied for it's healing properties in people suffering with AIDS, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, ADHD, herpes and cancer.

Kefir can be made from any type of milk: cow, goat, sheep, coconut rice or soy and is quite easy to make.

I have to admit, this new flavor was a bit unusual for me but by day two I was enjoying my daily glass of Kefir immensely, especially in light of all it's healing, soothing qualities.  Another edible option for consumption is smoothies. Given it's smooth, creamy texture, Kefir would be delicious blended with fruit. It can also be made into cheese!

Next blog - How To Make Kefir. Stay tuned

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Chick Days and Babies

I had a feeling that morning that Petunia was about to kid. Generally she is anxious to get into the milking stall for her morning grain, but today she only poked at her food briefly before wanting to be let out of the gate. I snapped this picture "before", anticipating that I would be taking "after" photos shortly.

And, sure enough, within 4 hours I found these:

Two perfect, little girls!

When kids are born here on the farm, we take them from their mothers immediately. We then milk the nannie and bottle feed her colostrum to the babies. This is a controversial subject to some, but we've found that kids that stay with their moms are much more skiddish and afraid of people than bottle raised babies. This makes it much more difficult for doctoring, hoof trimming and eventually selling.  If a baby is removed immediately after birth, rather than waiting several days for them to nurse free choice on colostrum, there is little bonding between mother and child therefore less trauma and separation anxiety. The kids are kept at a great enough distance, sometimes in the house depending on the weather, that the mom can't hear if a baby cries, and within a short time she has forgotten about her babies.

  Newborn goats use a different technique to suckle from their mother than drinking milk from a bottle so we try to have their first nursing experience to be on a bottle. If we succeed, learning to bottle feed is almost instant, but if we've delayed and they have already latched on to their mama's teat, then it takes a bit more time for them to figure out how to drink from a bottle. Their tongue placement is different and it is quite humorous to watch them sticking their tongue out the side of their mouth trying to learn the baby bottle technique. Once they have it though, they don't forget and their little tail wags a mile a minute as they guzzle first mom's colostrum and several days later, her milk.

  We NEVER feed replacement milk! I can't convey how strongly I feel about the use of  substandard, inferior, powdered product to feed baby goats so that the breeder can use the fresh goat milk for other uses.
We understand that it takes about $300. worth of actual goat milk @ $2.00/quart, to bring one goat to the 12-16 week weaning stage of its development; a chance for most goats to achieve health, vigor and the beginning of the reumening process of digestion of grasses and leaves, and unfortunately many growers are swayed by the bottom line profit aspect of raising and milking goats.  Our concern is to raise the healthiest goats possible so our babies receive their mom's colostrum and later milk, fed at three to four hour intervals for 12-16 weeks.

So, here they are, three days later, twin girls yet unnamed, arriving at Chick Days at Mid South Lumber in Youngstown.

This is the second year we've been invited to Chick Days. This year, set-up day, the day before, brought 6 inches of rain all day which dampened our ability to pre-prepare.  Saturday dawned with ground level clouds spitting moisture everywhere!  We sat in the truck on site contemplating whether or not we'd stay.  Die hards that we are, we stayed.

Our booth consisted of three pens of goats: milkers, sale goats and babies, tables of heirloom vegetable plants, a goat milk soap and farm fresh egg table, a milking game for the kids, our milking stand for demonstrations and a spot to pass out samples of fresh milk and cheese and to demopnstrate the art of making and hanging Chevre (goat) cheese.

What a show we had.  My husband, Bob is the ultimate showman, calling in spectators and game players with his booming, circus style, "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.... STEP RIGHT UP FOR THE WORLD FAMOUS, AMAZING...." be it milking goat, or milking game startups and countdowns all day long.  I was busy at the milking stand helping children feed babies or milking mamas, while Samantha and Nan gave out and sold product, answered questions and visited with spectators.  Joel helped with set up and breakdown.  Here are some pictures of our day's adventures:

By the end of this fun filled day we were bushed, and happy to head home.

So were our new babies!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

When the High is Only 29 Degrees

I've lived in Florida for 13 years, and I can'tremember a day in which the weather never rose above freezing!  Each winter we generally have temperatures drop into the teens for a night or two, but never an all day freeze.Yesterday was the exception to the rule, and this morning, as I write this, it is only 16 degrees outside. BBBRR. I don't look forward to going out to milk shortly.
  Due to the unusual cold we took extra precautions to prepare our farm for the weather. Here are some of the things that needed to be done before and during the hard freeze here on the Homestead:
  I'm sure you're familiar with the freeze warning slogan -  Pets, Pipes and Plants...

We picked the garden knowing that we would probably lose it all if we had several nights of temperatures in the teens - and we did.

I'll be starting seeds again as soon as this cold front passes - there's still time to grow winter vegetables such as lettuces and spinach from seed, and fortunately I still have broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage transplants in the greenhouse.  It's also time to begin sowing pepper seeds for spring transplants. I'll begin heirloom tomatoes in another week or so.

We picked the tangerine tree

and covered our citrus trees with tarps, placing lamps underneath for warmth.

We left the outside water hoses spraying all night to keep the well pump cycling and the hoses from freezing.

We built a mini man cave for the young billies to protect them from the wind and to help retain heat. 

We brought the ducklings and the milking machine inside for the night.

Plenty of wood was brought in for the woodstove since we don't run heat and periodically, throughout the night I'll throw another log on the fire so it doesn't go out.  The water troughs are filled with a minimal amount of warm water so they can be easily dumped and refilled in the morning with warm water once again. For proper digestion, especially with horses, it's important that they drink plenty of water and I don't want them to avoid drinking because the water is too cold.

For Florida, this is some seriously thick ice to have formed overnight!

The Homestead is prepped and ready for a hard freeze. 
I just hope that Sasha will wait a day or two and not kid on the coldest night of the year!