Sunday, March 22, 2015

Goat triplets! Why it is a good idea to have seven midwifes attend a goat birth...

The other day, we visited our friend Loren, who bought my goat Quasar last year.  We stopped by because we wanted to fawn over the babies that were born to a different goat a few days earlier.  Our friend Auburn was there with her two daughters.  As we bottle fed and played with the babies, Quasar shifted into active labor, so we got to be midwifes.  There were seven of us crowded into the little birthing pen - four adults and three daughters ranging from five to eleven years.  Even will all these people, the energy felt beautiful, calm and sacred.  Quasar wanted to rest on someone's lap the whole time, so we took turns comforting her.  Once her water burst, the three babies came fast and furious, and it was a good thing all of us were there to help towel the babies off, clear their breathing passages, dip umbilical cords, milk the mama to fill bottles, and feed the babies.
I don't have any close-up pictures of the newborns because I was too busy helping.  Besides, my hands were covered in slimy amniotic fluid, and I didn't want to touch my camera.  Ahem.

Here are some of the babies a couple of days later, thriving and well, with a very attentive mother.  Oh, how I love this goat!

Other news on the homestead: We are trying to capture bees.  Yep, that's right: we are thinking of adding more animals to the farm.  Here are some beehives a friend brought over, filled with honeycomb and baited with lemongrass essential oil, hopefully attracting and wooing a swarm of bees in search of a new home.  All it takes is one scouting bee who deems our place a worthwhile domicile.  Maybe it will work. Maybe not.

The pigs?  They're happy.  They are doing what pigs are supposed to do: eat, root up (and hopefully eat some) pasture, and wiggle their curly tails in ecstasy when they see us coming with a slop bucket.  They have quickly learned that humans are their friends.

We are currently incubating seven duck eggs in our friend's incubator.  We'll see what happens with that...

With all the work that has to get done in spring, we try to find balance by goofing off by the river, or to lounge on the sofa to read.
What are you doing to keep balance in spring?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

I'm getting goats again! And piglets!

A few months ago, I sold my goats, after having raised and milked them for over a decade, because I thought I needed a break from milking, breeding, birthing, feeding and worrying about them. Besides, our family was leaving on a five week road trip, which would leave the rest of our farm and critters attended by a house sitter. Caring for goats would be a lot to ask of a house sitter, so the timing of selling my goats worked out perfectly.  It broke my heart.

However. It is now spring, and all of my friends' goats are having babies. I am getting baby goat fever. I think I'm annoying my goat-owning friends by pushily volunteering my help when a doe goes into labor. “Call me anytime!” I tell them. “I'll keep my phone by the bed side in case there's a goat birthing emergency.” Or I drop by their barns and inspect the does' tails to see if the babies have dropped and labor has started. I just want to be there, immersed in the messy miracle of birth, amniotic fluid, and cute goat babies.  Two of my friends just called me a couple of hours ago AS THEIR GOAT GAVE BIRTH, and I got to "witness" the whole thing over the phone.  I love my friends! 

So I decided to get goats again. This time, I will not push for maximum milk production so I don't have to make hard cheese from ten gallons of milk every four or five days. This time I will attempt to milk once a day (and leave the babies on the mamas), and then just make easy stuff like yogurt, kefir, chevre and the occasional Gouda, Tomme, Cheddar or Manchego. I think it's doable. What do you think?

I've been working frantically to get the goat barn ready.  Steve built it over a decade ago out of recycled and salvaged materials and poured concrete on half of the floor for easy cleaning.  Last week, I cleaned up the messes that have accumulated in it over time.  I washed the milking stand, and mucked out the bedding I didn't remove after I sold my goats because I was too depressed about them being gone. I also shoveled a bunch of compost made with their manure to spread on the garden. 

It might not look pretty to you, but it is so much better than before.  The milk stand will be on the left.

Steve helped with the scraping.  Notice the bare upper bodies?  In March?  Crazy, right?

I'm pretending to milk a goat.  Soon.  Soon.
Oh yeah!  The garden is gonna like this!

Now let me show you the piglets.  We got four this year, and they like to curl up in their food dish to take a nap.  Ahhh, pigs!  We have a great system with our moveable pig pen and electric fence.  They get moved to fresh pasture regularly, doing a good job of eating grass and rooting in it.  Since we only have five acres, all this happens on our neighbor's pasture.

With all this cleaning, mucking, shoveling and digging, we managed to get some bike rides in as well.  You gotta take advantage of this weather.  So one day, I got on the bike with my ten year old son for a little ride, and we accidentally biked 22 miles, to be met by the rest of the family at the bakery in town.  And the day after, we tried out the tag-along ride-behind bike that was given to us.  Eva rode 8 miles on it on her maiden voyage!  As a reward, we biked to the river.  What a life!  What are you feeling blessed by this week?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Part two of my onion movie, and a little pep talk for all my snowbound readers

Hey ya'll, I don't know if you watched my first onion movie yet.  It's getting rave reviews in my Facebook community!  People are learning new tricks from me and are inspired.  Yeah!  My first movie was about how to plant onions from seed, the second one is about what to do once they are germinated.  Here it is:

I am loving all the green shoots that are coming up everywhere - cultivated and wild.  Things are happening here in the Pacific Northwest, and I am ever so sorry for you Midwesteners and East Coasters.  I really am.  All that snow!  All that cold, while we sun ourselves in T-Shirts.  Just hang in there!  Spring will come!  You will probably feel sorry for us in two months, when all our little baby seedlings are getting their butts kicked in a late frost.

We are busy on our homestead.  My energizer-bunny husband Steve cut five huge Alders out of the goat enclosure, because some of those trees were quite dead and posed a risk to the goat barn in a storm.  We now have three years worth of fire wood cut and split, thanks to all the man-and-boy-power we have around here (...and woman-power, thank you very much).  Our ten and twelve year old sons spit wood like nobody's business.  You can see their muscles growing beefier every day (and their appetites as well).

The bed of coals and almost full moon.
We are loving our moveable greenhouse, because it harbors kale and collard plants that would have frozen in the winter if it wasn't for its sheltered protection.  The plants have been kicking in after being dormant for a few months, and we've been eating plenty of fresh greens.
To supplement our diet with other green stuff, I am sprouting different seeds like alfalfa, clover, and lentils.  These crunchy sprouts are great on sandwiches and salads.
I also got a batch of Sauerkraut going, quietly fermenting and bubbling on the kitchen counter, emitting its distinctive scent.

I leave you with an image of Lukas, who - after splitting wood all day - somehow finds the energy to do backflips on the trampoline. I wish we could bottle up all this energy, so I could take swigs of it during the day!

What are you up to these days? 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

How to Grow Killer Onions - Part One - I made a short movie on revolutionizing your method

Are you happy with the way your onions turn out in your garden?
Or do you even have a garden?  You know, you can grow onions in a pot on your patio!
I have grown onions for many years, but not until I grew them this way did they turn out gorgeous, big, and easy to grow.
I made a tutorial for ya'll to show you how I do it very successfully, year after year.  This is the first part, and I will add more as we get further along in the growing season.
My friend and neighbor watched my video and got totally inspired to start hers.  Get inspired, too!  NOW is the time to start them!

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My life will never be the same - a recipe for raw chocolate truffles

My life will never be the same.  The reason: After over two years of not eating any sugar, I found a recipe for raw chocolate truffles. I am in love.  I quit eating sugar because I wanted to see what it did for my health - and although I confess to being the biggest sugar junkie this side of the Cascade Mountains, and although I NEVER thought I could survive without the addictive white stuff, these two years without sugar have proven to be very healing for me.
Healing, but boring because I love the taste of chocolate.
Enter my friend Erin: She brought me home made chocolate hearts for Valentine's day, and my life has not been the same since.  I now make one batch a week.  I have declared these truffles my special medicine, and therefore I don't share them with my family (let them eat Snicker Bars).  They are divine, healthy, and consist entirely of superfoods.

I'll post the recipe below. (Hint: They are super easy to make).

Apart from making and eating chocolate truffles (ahem), I've been highly productive with many other things.  Come to think of it, maybe it's BECAUSE of these truffles that I AM so highly productive.  Chocolate-powered Corina - watch out, world!

Since there's been so much going on, I'll make a list and show you that way:

- I planted onions and made a movie about it.  We are putting together some tutorials for my online class, and since we have such an awesome, fool proof system for growing killer onions, we thought sharing it in a short movie would be fun. (More about that in another post).  For now, the onion seeds are slumbering in front of the wood stove, soon to germinate.

- Eva and I planted peas this week.  I know, I know, it's only February... But the weather has been so nice and warm, why not pop in a few seeds to see if they germinate?  I usually start peas in the greenhouse, and I will soon, but in the meantime, I just had to experiment with early direct planting.

- We smoked almost 20 pounds of salmon that ten-year old Luke and my hubby caught in our wild rivers in the past months.  There is nothing like smoked salmon, and considering that it costs $20 per pound to buy in the store, we made $400.  We don't make money with it, of course, but it feels like currency - or gold.

Before smoking...
After smoking...
- We pruned our orchard.  With "we", I mean my hubby and our friend Andris, who is a master at grafting.  He grafts new varieties on our old fruit trees, so that they are healthier and more productive.  We now have one cherry tree that has five different types of cherries on it.  I can't wait for the different colors to emerge!  The whole family helped pick up branches to throw on a burn pile.

- Steve is cutting fire wood.  There are five dead trees in the area where the goats were fenced in for ten years.  They like to gnaw on tree bark, and that's how they killed some of the trees.  So Steve is cutting them down and getting lots of fire wood out of it.  The boys help.  Don't ask me why Luke is wearing a bike helmet doing this.

- I have been sprouting seeds for snacking on.  Crunchy, yummy.  It ain't chocolate truffles, but it's healthy, too.  And talking of healthy: I've been going on excursions with my friends to pick nettles.  We love making nettle pesto, and we love drying them for tea.

- I'm reading "The Nourishing Homestead" by Ben Hewitt.  A lovely book by a lovely writer.

- And what kept me busiest of all was my writing.  I just wrote an e-book with three of my tutorials for homesteading skills.  It's for hard-core homesteaders and urbanites alike.  You can download it here for free.

What's going on in your life?  What are you working on?


6 Tbsp raw cacao powder
4 Tbsp melted coconut oil
2 Tbsp sweetener (I use 1 Tbsp honey, and 1 Tbsp coconut nectar)
1 tsp vanilla, non-alcohol
¼ cup cashews, ground
¼ cup brazil nuts, ground
¼ cup ground goji berries or raisins 
1 pinch sea salt

Put nuts and berries in cuisinart and chop them finely.
Place coconut oil in 16 oz measuring cup. Place cup into a larger bowl and add boiling water to bowl, just enough to reach the bottom 2 inches of measuring cup. Stir coconut oil until melted. Add cacao powder, sweetener, vanilla, ground nuts, goji berries, and salt. Mix well. Slowly pour into silicone ice cube trays. Pat the top of each heart to release air bubbles. Place in freezer for 30 minutes. Store in the fridge.  Good luck trying to store them.  You will wanna eat them all.  Now.