Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Miss Broody

Well, we have a broody hen. This means that the hen has decided it's time to hatch some eggs. So, she keeps trying to sit on the eggs that the other hens have laid each day. There are a couple of problems with this. First, the eggs are not fertile (since we have no rooster) so they will never hatch. Second, because she sits more than she roams, eats, and drinks, she probably isn't laying very many eggs herself. Third, she's taking up one of the next boxes, and the other hens get annoyed because they can't get in to lay their eggs.

I looked on line for some remedies. I've tried most of them. First, keep taking her off of the nest. Then, put ice cubes under her. Put her in a separate cage so she can't get on the nest. With this one you are suppose to put the cage up in the air so that the wind blows under her. The last one I saw was dunk her bottom in ice water. I've tried all of these except for the separate cage, because that makes more work for me, providing separate food and water for her. Yes, I even dunked her bottom in ice water, twice. She did not like it at all, but shortly thereafter she was back on the nest.

I'm ready to have her for dinner. I'm open to suggestions, though.

Today's Menu:

Breakfast: Eggs Scrambled with Spring Onions and Grated Cheese, Uncured Bacon, Gogurt with Blueberries
Main Meal: "Spinach" Salad with Onions, Carrots, Chopped Pecans, and Homemade Honey Mustard Dressing; Grilled Pork Chops seasoned with Homemade Seasoned Salt; Peas and Minced Garlic Sauteed in Butter and Olive Oil; Apple with Peanut Butter
Evening Snack: Salami, Cheeses, Grapes, Wine, and Dark Chocolate

It's "Spinach" Salad because it's made with a spinach imposter. Spinach does not grow well in the Summer, in fact, all of mine has bolted. But this year I tried something new, called New Zealand Spinach. It's suppose to grow all Summer without bolting, and taste like Spinach. So far we like it. It has a little greener taste than Spinach, but the plants are growing well, and it's tender and nice. I like it very much with this Honey Mustard Dressing.

Honey Mustard Salad Dressing
1 1/2 cups Mayonnaise
1/2 cup Honey
1/4 cup Dijon Mustard

Mix all ingredients together. Chill.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Why Raw Goat Milk?

One of the things that I have become convinced of over the last several years is the over processing of our food. Virtually everything Americans eat comes from a box, can, or package. I believe that the additives and preservatives added to the food, genetically modified ingredients, pesticide and herbicide residues, among a host of other things, take most of the goodness out of our foods. This applies to milk as well. Milk that you purchase at the store has been heated quickly (pasteurization) and pushed by strong force through a tiny screen (homogenization). This creates a liquid that is dead, and that needs to have vitamins added back because they are destroyed by the processing. Many experts believe that the pasteurization and homogenization of our milk is contributing to the high rates of heart disease, cancer, allergies and other illnesses. I'm sure no expert, but I've researched this and am convinced. Here's more: http://www.raw-milk-facts.com/Raw_Milk_FAQ.html.

The problem with all of this is that raw milk is illegal to buy or sell in Maryland. So, I bought my own goats. I can have raw milk, raw milk yogurt, raw milk ice cream and raw milk cheeses, both fresh cheeses and aged. Also, because I control how the goats are fed and handled, I know the milk is as good as it can be. And it is. It tastes like melted ice cream, especially early in the girls' lactation, when the fat is extra high. Nigerian Dwarf goats are prized for their especially sweet milk with high butterfat. My girls sure live up to their reputation.

I chose goats over a cow because I would have needed a lot more pasture for a cow, and I would have had way too much milk. Also, I didn't like the idea of having to handle a large animal. I chose miniature dairy goats because I have a very small pasture for them (only 1/5 of an acre) and I wanted them to have plenty of room. They do. I really love my little goats that only come up to my knee and weigh about 60-70 pounds. When one of them accidentally steps on my toe, it's no big deal. And that does happen. It would be a very big deal if a full grown cow stepped on my toe!!

The next event on our goat calendar is rebreeding in late October for Spring kids. Every year the does have to be bred in order to "freshen" the milk for another year. I'll give them two months off when they are "dry" (no milk), the last two months of their pregnancy. Then they'll give birth in the Spring, and I'll be off again for another year of delicious milk!

Today's Menu:

Breakfast: Uncured Bacon, Over-easy Eggs fried in butter, Gogurt with Fresh Blueberries
Main Meal: Green and Red Leaf Lettuce Salad with Crumbled Pecans, Sliced Spring Onions, and Sweet Oil and Vinegar Dressing (see June 8, 2009 post for recipe); Grilled Chicken Thighs with Homemade Seasoned Salt; Swiss Chard Bake
Evening Snack: Leftover Grass-fed Pot Roast (see June 9, 2009 post for recipe), Fresh Garden Carrots and Celery dipped in Sour Cream Ranch Dip, Wine, Goat Ice Milk with Chocolate Syrup

Swiss Chard Bake

1 1/2 lbs. Swiss Chard - cleaned, ribs removed, cut into small pieces
1/2 onion, minced
2 T butter
1 cup eggs, well beaten
1 cup whole milk
1/2 t. salt
few drops of pepper sauce
2 cups (4 oz) shredded cheese, or 8 oz. soft goat cheese

Melt butter in large skillet, add Swiss Chard slowly until all is in the pan and it has wilted. Cook for a few minutes until just tender. Butter a 2 quart casserole dish. Place the cooked Swiss Chard in the dish, sprinkle the onion over, and cover with the cheese.

Mix together the beaten egg, milk, salt, and pepper sauce and pour on top of the Swiss Chard, onions and cheese. Bake about an hour or so at 350 degrees until lightly browned and set.

Note: I like this recipe because I can use the abundant Swiss Chard from my garden along with my own onions, eggs, milk, and cheese!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Barnyard View

Tigger and Una spend most of their time on their spools. They love being up in the air. Eddie collected these spools for me from different construction sites he has visited. I actually have one more, but we're keeping that one in reserve for when these rot. They aren't made of pressure treated wood, so they won't last long.

My dad built the ladder last year when I first got the goats, and that worked fine for awhile. But when they each got a few months pregnant in the winter they had a hard time getting up on the spools, so I asked him to build the steps. They learned very quickly that even with their very big tummies they could get up on the spools easily with the steps.

The girls are extremely friendly. They usually run to the gate to greet me when I go out to check on them. When visitors stop by they are always amazed at how tame my goats are.

I milk twice a day. This time of year it's usually around 6:15am and 6:15pm each day. I don't like milking in the dark, so when the days get shorter I'll milk later in the morning and earlier in the evening.

The goats get all the hay they can eat, loose vitamins and minerals, baking soda, and water. They get a measured portion of grain when they are milked.

They are happy, playful, and affectionate animals who give the most delicious milk I've ever tasted.

Friday, June 12, 2009


The brown chicken is a Partridge Plymouth Rock, the white chicken is a Delaware, the light brown and white is called Salmon Favorelle, and the black is an Australorp.

We have two of each except for the Salmon Favorelles. We have four of those.

Here are our ten chickens. They are "multi-purpose breeds" meaning that they are suppose to be good layers and good to eat too. We have found, at least so far, that they are fine layers, but that they aren't very good to eat unless you cook them exactly right.

We originally purchased sixteen chickens; we've eaten six of them, ranging from pretty tough to yummy. The last two were yummy after my eighty-nine year old mom told me how her mom use to cook the live chickens they use to get. She said to boil them first until tender, let them drain, then roll in flour, salt, and pepper, and brown in oil. That worked nicely.

And the eggs are great!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Menu and a Recipe

Today's Menu:

Breakfast: Goat Cheese Quiche, Uncured Pork Kielbasa, Gogurt with Raspberries
Main Meal: Caesar Salad with Shredded Ricotta Salata, Grass Fed Crock Pot Roast with Carrots and Leeks, Apple with Peanut Butter
Evening Snack: Salami and Assorted Cheeses, Grapes, Wine, Soft Goat Cheese with Strawberries

Grass Fed Crock Pot Roast with Carrots and Leeks
Bacon drippings
1 1/2 to 2 lb. Grass Fed Chuck Roast, sliced into two steaks
3-4 carrots, cut into chunks
1 large or 2 small leeks, trimmed and sliced
1/2 medium onion, chopped or sliced
2 T white flour
1 t. Herbs de Provence
1 c. beef broth (I use "Better than Boullion") - hot
Salt and Pepper to taste (be sure and taste first, as the bacon is salty so you might not need any salt)

Melt about 2 T of the bacon drippings in a large stainless steel skillet until hot. Brown the chuck steaks on each side and then put in a 3 or 3 1/2 quart crockpot. Put more bacon fat in the pan and brown the onions, leeks, and carrots, and then put in crockpot with chuck steaks. Melt another 2 T of bacon fat in skillet until hot and slowly stir in the 2 T flour until bubbly and smooth. Very slowly stir in the 1 c. of hot beef broth. You should have a nice thick gravy. Add about a teaspoon of Herbs de Provence and pour the gravy over the meat and vegetables in the crockpot. Using a spatula, pull the two steaks up so that the vegetables are at the bottom of the crockpot with the steaks on top. Cook on "high" for about three hours or until a fork goes easily into the meat. If you are using a chuck roast that is not grass fed it will probably take a little longer. Check your seasonings. Serve the steaks with the vegetables on the side. One or two small potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters could be added with the vegetables. Enjoy! Makes 2-4 servings, depending on your appetite!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Summer Hairdo's

Tigger and Una got their summer haircuts yesterday. They were shaved down to 1/16th inch most everywhere, a little shorter on their feet and udder.

(That black thing above Tigger's back is part of a chicken.) We brought the milkstand out of the barn and set it up in the garage. Tigger was an angel, standing most all the time patiently while Eddie and I both worked on her. Una was a bit more of a challenge. She really does not like having her back legs or her udder shaved!

The goats are shaved so they can be cooler in the summer and so that we can check their skin for any problems. With their hair nice and short the sun can get to it and dry up any sores they might have. It also helps if they have acquired any lice over the winter, but we didn't see any evidence of any bugs.

We had planned to give them baths also, but decided it just wasn't necessary. They don't smell at all, and aren't dirty. Funny, we have to give our dogs baths every several weeks during the Summer or they really stink, but the goats just don't... I guess that's a good thing. Regardless, here they are with their new hairdo's.

Today's Menu:
Breakfast: Uncured Thick Slice Bacon, Over-Easy Fried Eggs, Gogurt with Blueberries
Main Meal: Spinach Salad with shredded Ricotta Salata and Sweet Oil and Vinegar Dressing, Grilled Chicken Thighs with Homemade Season Salt, Sliced Apple and Peanut Butter
Evening Snack: Blackberry Wine Coolers, Shrimp Cocktail, Goat Milk Ice Cream with Chocolate Syrup

Sweet Oil and Vinegar Dressing
1 T raw sugar
1 T red wine vinegar
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T water
salt and pepper to taste
Measure all ingredients in the bottom of a large salad bowl. Wisk thoroughly with a fork. Add salad greens on top and toss. Will dress two large plate size salads. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sights Around the Farm

Finally the rain has stopped and I can enjoy some of the sights around Sweet Garden Farm: the freshly harvested garlic, drying by the rear of the house, the Vegetable Garden Gate with the view of the neighbor's barns and fields beyond, and the Portulaca I have growing in a pot on the picnic table on the back patio. In the distance behind the Portulaca you can see Eddie's sister's house.

The Stella d'Oro Daylilies are doing well this year.

The Hosta Garden, above, turned out really pretty. It's a shady area we could never seem to decide how to plant. And at left my garden angel sign, welcoming one and all to the vegetable garden.
Right now I'm harvesting Leaf Lettuce, Romaine, Spinach (although that is about done), Sugar Snap Peas, Swiss Chard, Kohlrabi, Cabbage, Spring Onions, and Carrots. The beets are almost ready. There will be a time delay before the regular Summer crops start producing.

Today's Menu:
Breakfast: Homemade Sage Sausage, Pumpkin Breakfast Bake, Gogurt with Cherries
Main Meal: Caesar Salad with Shredded Ricotta Salata, Chili and Sugar Crusted Salmon, Snap Peas and Carrots sauteed with Garlic and Spring Onions
Evening Snack: Blackberry Wine Coolers, Assorted Cheeses and Salami, Dark Chocolate

Chili and Sugar Crusted Salmon
2 6oz portions of skinless wild caught Salmon Fillets
2 T butter
2 T olive oil
Salt to taste
2 T chili powder
2 T raw sugar
Mix together the 2 T chili powder and 2 T raw sugar. Set aside. Melt the butter and olive oil in a small stainless steel saute pan until hot over medium heat. Add the salted salmon, smooth side down. Cook for three minutes. Turn Salmon over. Sprinkle Chili and Sugar mixture over top of Salmon to form a 1/4 inch thick crust. Cook for three minutes. While cooking, spoon some of the melted butter and olive oil in the pan over the top of the salmon. Pour any remaining butter and olive oil over the salmon in the serving dish. Makes 2 servings.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

This and That

My dad was over this morning, working to finish the small hayrack he built in the barn for when it rains. Usually the goats go to the large free-standing hayrack he built which is out in the barnyard, but when it rains or snows they've been stuck in the barn with no food. So, I asked my dad to build a small hay rack under cover. It's working out great.

I picked more peas, some leeks that overwintered, leaf lettuce, and spring onions today. The garden is looking really nice, just a few bugs on the pole beans and cabbage; quite a few bugs on the eggplants.

I sent my dad home with a head of cabbage, a couple of salads worth of Romaine, some spring onions, and a dozen eggs.

Today's Menu:
Breakfast: Homemade Pork Sage Sausage, Pumpkin Breakfast Bake, Gogurt with Cherries
Lunch: Leaf lettuce salad with spring onions, strawberries, crumbled goat cheese and oil and vinegar dressing; Cod sauteed in butter with leeks and garlic and finished with a simple white sauce; Peas and Leeks sauteed in olive oil and butter
Evening Snack: Crudites with a ranch goat cheese dip, General Tso's Chicken (from Whole Foods), Wine, Dark Chocolate

This afternoon I trimmed the goat's hooves. They DO NOT LIKE TO HAVE THIS DONE! They try to pull their hooves away, but I hold on until they stop. (I can't let them think they are in control.) I trim their hooves every 4-6 weeks. They get up on the milkstand and I feed them, but it's just not enough to keep them happy. It's a real workout for me, holding on!

I collected eight eggs today, so far. Sometimes I'll get one late in the day, but most of the eggs are usually laid by early afternoon. I have ten chickens, but only two nest boxes. They usually all try to get in the same one. Sometimes there are three chickens in the one box at the same time. It's really comical.

Pumpkin Breakfast Bake:
1 regular size can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
8 oz. soft goat cheese (or cream cheese)
1 cup of eggs
1 t. liquid Stevia (or 2/3 c. Splenda Measure)
1/4 c. raw sugar (if using the Stevia)
1/4 t. nutmeg
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt

Combine all ingredients using a mixer. Pour batter into a buttered glass pie pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until center is done.

I cut this into eight servings, then freeze meal-size packages. I take it out the evening before I need it and then microwave it in the morning so that it's warm. YUM.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Way We Eat

Eddie and I eat, as much as is reasonable a whole foods diet of no grain or starches, limited sugar, organic, free range, and grassfed. Most people would say it's too expensive to eat this way, we contend that it is too expensive not to eat this way. Both of us are much, much, healthier now since we changed our diet. Both of us have eliminated long term prescription drug use, neither of us has had a cold or the flu in years, and we both feel great. We eat lots of eggs, full fat dairy, meats, vegetables, some fruit (especially berries, apples, and melons in season), dark chocolate and wine. Eddie drinks coffee and water, I drink hot and iced teas, no sodas for either of us.

For the summer, while Eddie is working on the house remodeling, we've been having our main meal in the early afternoon, with just snacks and wine in the evening. Here's today's menu, a pretty typical day:

Breakfast: Thick sliced uncured bacon, Goat Cheese Quiche, Gogurt with Blueberries
Main Meal: Caesar Salad, No Noodle Lasagna, Sauteed Swiss Chard
Evening Snack: Assorted Cheeses and Salami, Grapes, Wine, Strawberries with Goat Milk Ice Cream

We usually share an apple at the main meal too, dipped in peanut butter, but were too full today to have that.

Many of the things we eat were produced/grown right here: the eggs, cheese, and milk in the quiche; the yogurt; the Romaine and the Ricotta Salata cheese in the Caesar Salad; the Ricotta and Mozzarella in the Lasagna; the Swiss Chard; some of the cheeses in the evening snack; the strawberries; and most of the ingredients for the Goat Milk Ice Cream.

Needless to say, I spend an absolutely enormous amount of time in the kitchen. That's OK, because I really enjoy it. I spent several hours this morning picking and preparing produce for today's menus and making the lasagna. This afternoon I made a one gallon batch of Ricotta Cheese which I will press overnight to turn into Ricotta Salata, a hard cheese which can be sliced or grated like Parmesan, but takes way, way, less time.

We're trying to reach the place where virtually everything (within reason) that we eat is produced or grown right here. Obviously we'll always need to purchase some spices, oils, salt and pepper, etc. We have a long way to go, but half the fun is the journey!

Monday, June 1, 2009

First Post

I decided to start a blog to document the comings and goings here at Sweet Garden Farm. We just decided on the name a few weeks ago. Right now we have a large vegetable garden, two Nigerian Dwarf milking does and ten chickens. I gather between six and ten eggs each day, usually seven or eight. We eat a lot of eggs! And right now my two goats are providing about a half a gallon of milk each day. That is low, actually. I'm working with their feed trying to figure out how to increase production. I purchased the goats and chickens last fall, so I'm new to this. So far it's going pretty well...

We have a rabbit trying to set up house in the vegetable garden. She's dug three holes so far, in the leaf lettuce, under the beets, and under the Romaine. We put some fencing over the gate so that she can't get in. Hopefully this will discourage her from nesting in the produce...

This morning I made Crustless Goat Cheese Quiche. Turned out great. It's made with my farm fresh eggs, homemade soft goat cheese, goat milk, minced garlic, chives, salt, pepper, and butter for the pan.

I was pleased today at lunch. We had a delicious salad made with lettuce, spring onions, and strawberries, all from the garden, with crumbled goat cheese on top. We also had the first snap peas of the year, sauteed in butter, olive oil, and garlic. Yum.

I spent some time today cleaning up the yard, weeding and trimming trees. I also tied up the peas again, they are about five feet tall so far.

I plan to chronicle what I'm planting, cooking, etc. Hopefully someone will find my musings interesting!