It’s nice to get back to a more normal life. Homestead-wise the neglect and decay were getting to be a bit much. Progress is always slow around here, but I like to see a little movement in the right direction here and there.
It is SO time for goat decisions. The pasture is barely deserving of the name, hay is a little less expensive than a year ago but still far from cheap, and we have six goats! I finally castrated Bud yesterday. He was (gulp) 12 weeks old—he should have been closer to 5. I just hope it took. He’s been acting bucky already. SO, do we sell him or eat him? I am thinking that we don’t want to have more than 3 does in milk at any time. Penny’s getting up there (I think perhaps we’ve got just another 2 freshenings out of her), so Margo will replace her, Ella’s still young and then one of her girls will be breed-able next Fall (which one to keep??), so there are our three. But do we breed or milk Ella through? We separated the doelings from Ella for the first time last night and got about 3x the milk we were getting the rest of the week (Bud got to have one more night after his ordeal), and whatever was causing her pink milk has resolved (amazing what a few cloves of garlic will do), so milking through is now a possibility. Running the potential numbers for three pregnant goats next year gets a little dizzying—with Ella and Penny both throwing triplets and assuming twins for Margo, we’d be looking at twelve goats for a time next year! I think that may be more than I’m up for…especially with eight disbuddings and potentially eight castrations…ugh. My husband’s been working nearly non-stop this week and all decision-making has been pushed out. We can’t do that anymore.
The chickens have also become eating machines—this week they ate about 100 lbs of feed! I wonder if they weigh 2lbs each yet. At some point I’ll track inputs and outputs and face the numbers (music?), for right now I buy feed, pray for quick growth and enjoy our homegrown meat that has very little fat and such good flavor that you don’t even need to salt it!
I read another article this week about building a DIY maggot breeder/dispenser for chicken feeding—at some point I’d really like to do this. It was a good tutorial, but, unfortunately, they kept apologizing for feeding bug larvae to their chickens, even after noting that this is what chickens are looking for and eating whenever they are scratching in the ground. I have read that the overwhelming bulk of a chicken’s natural diet (based on observations of wild jungle fowl—their nearest non-domesticated relative) is insects in various stages of development, also that old-time pasture management included bringing chickens through to clear the pasture of insects and parasites after the ruminants had come, eaten and “fertilized”. Don’t apologize for feeding them what they are supposed to eat! Vegetarian hens are crazy-unnatural. I know you wanted my two cents on that…
Wow, am I ever loving having 8 fewer chickens running about! Buying new animals is fun, but the relief delivered by selling an animal problem is an equal joy.
I finally oven-dried some chicken bones this week. They are still sitting on the counter waiting to be turned into bone meal…and doing so very patiently…good little oven-dried bones…
I also finally tackled sugar beet processing. I used these directions. It was as much work as it sounds like from the tutorial and significantly more time as the dehydration took twice as long as he suggested and I never got any crystallization (apparently, that typically takes 3-7 days, how could he do it in as few as 8 hours?). I started with 3 lbs of beets and ended up with 1 cup of very dark syrup. Apparently, I didn’t microwave them for long enough before food processing as they went almost immediately to black. It all looked pretty unpromising along the way, but tasted reasonably good—strong, but not as strong as blackstrap molasses. I like my sweeteners to add some flavor, so I think it would be a good fit for us. The big thing is the work/time factor. For next time: grow larger beets (sugar beets can weigh 1-2 lbs each—mine didn’t and this meant more surface area to prep) skip the peeling and just scrub well and trim, use my electric slicer to speed the slicing, microwave for longer (cook those enzymes!), reduce the water a bit–a 3x water:beet ratio seemed excessively watery, and then figure out some way to use the sun to dehydrate the stuff! We’ve used our homemade solar cooker now on potatoes, yams and beets (food magic on par with cheesemaking)—time to figure out a solar dehydrator. Why have a blistering hot, black, SW-facing deck if you can’t do a chunk of your summer food preservation on it?
I’m looking at all the Fall gardening starts that we haven’t started, the irrigation issues we are still having and the vole-infested melon bed and I am thinking that two beds will be more than enough this year. It/we will be better next year, right?
Elijah harvested our first raspberry this week. It will be just a handful this year.
This week is nectarine canning week. I usually try to spread it out more, but I am afraid we are getting to the end already, so I’m just going after it tomorrow. I got my feet wet this last week with a batch of seven. I have about four dozen ahead of me. I’ve also got 10 lbs of cucumbers to pickle and 12 lbs of tomatoes to sauce. I hope Joseph is feeling cooperative.