Thursday, March 28, 2013

Update on my "Milk Jar Help" post

Although we have only started milking last weekend I have been using the colored circles and the "y's" and "k's".  The "y" stands for yogurt and the "k" stands for kefir.  I feel that it's been long enough to give an update to see how they are working for our family. 

So far I've only had one problem with this system....I don't have enough of them!!!  Ha!  I have plenty of the plain colored circles, probably too many, though they will come in handy should we loose any.  I did not have enough of the y's and k's.  Being that I had a large batch of yogurt in my dehydrator, and not enough y's to go around I took action.  As I thought more on it I realized how much easier things are to label, and that I should have more of these labels handy for some of my other milk type products.  I was trying to stick with one color per day for the milk and one color for the other milk products (yogurt, kefir, etc).  I did not have any more brown paint chip cards so I decided to make due with what I had.

It didn't take too long to make the circles, cut them out and write what was needed on them.  I then laminated them, and after cutting out the magnets from the magnet sheet, Jonah attached the magnets to the back of them.  I was a little bummed that some of the marker smudged.  I really wasn't up to using a permanent marker, like I did the last time, as I don't like their smell.  So I went with regular kiddo markers.  Oh, well, they will still work! 

So here is a shot of my current stash of labels:

 Lots of y's!  I made some for coconut kefir, animal kefir, villii (a room temp culturing yogurt), whey, coconut milk, coconut/nut  milk, and one for starters.  There's nothing quite like opening your fridge to see a bunch of glass jars with white stuff in them and not exactly knowing what is in each!  Problem solved.  Although masking tape works great, I would have to actually find said tape and find a pen...every. single. time. Not fun.  This is working like a dream for us!

 Ok, so there is the problem of them all staying in their proper place.  But, still better than hunting down tape and pen.  The girls did not know I had made new labels.  One of them went into the fridge for some yogurt and proclaimed we were out of it.  I told her there was no way we were out of yogurt as I had just made up a large batch.  I told her to look for the jars with the y's on them.  She was thrown off because she was looking for a brown circle.  As you can see I have them in purplish colors now.

 This picture and the ones that follow have nothing to do with my labels :-)  Just some pictures I took before I put my camera away after taking the label pictures.  Flannery and Saoirse have set up a drawing station at the desk.  They sit on the opposite side that you are supposed to.  We have wide window sills, and they use those for seats.

 Saoirse at work.

 Flannery has been very much into tracing pictures and coloring them in.

 Isabella was sitting on the couch across from the desk working on her math...until her little brothers convinced her to draw them some pictures of helicopters, dinos, cars and such.

Flannery's notebook that she insisted I take a picture of.  Oh, look!  A pencil sharpener!  We only have five pencil sharpeners in our house.  They either don't work, the batteries are dead, or they are lost.  This does not bode well with 7 kiddos using pencils and no pencil sharpener. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A long awaited dream, coming true

It is funny when I think back to pre-family days, and the dreams I had for my future.  Although those dreams did include being married and having a large family, not much else is the same.  When I first became interested in gardening, some 13 or so years ago, one of my desires was to have fruit trees.  As we've had more children that desire increased :-)  Fruit can be expensive.  I'm still wondering if it is possible to have our own banana plantation!  Ha, ha.  I'm only joking...sort of. 

Each house we've lived at I wanted to get some fruit trees.  But alas, it wasn't so.  When we were in the midst of building this house and I was serious that we were never moving again under any circumstance, I wanted to plant fruit trees before we even moved in.  At the time Jed was a newborn, and well, we were in the midst of moving.  And so the dream remained, in my thoughts. 

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of getting online and choosing our first trees!  With a budget to work with I chose 5 apple trees, and one each of peach, cherry, plum and almond.  Last week a very large box arrived, the delivery man stating that it was a box of trees.  I tore into it.  Well, I suppose I would have torn into it if it hadn't been for the many gazzilion of monster staples that I had to pry off first.  And yesterday, in the very cold and windy weather, Jeremiah and I planted those dream trees.  I suppose it was mostly Jeremiah doing the planting, now come to think of it :-)  My job was to help find where we would plant them, and then after the holes were dug, I was to hold the tree in place as Jeremiah filled in the hole.  Of course I had the very important job of taking pictures.  At least that is what I tell myself. 

Before we get to the pictures I must share what happened immediately before we went out to plant the trees. Over a year ago I was in Walmart when a gentleman approached me.  He asked me why I had so many canning jars in my cart when the canning season was over.  We started a discussion which ended with him giving me his card and an invitation to come to his home to pick apples this past summer.  He told me that if I could keep track of his card, to call him and we could come and pick as many apples as we wanted.  The summer came, and I had kept his card safe for those 9 months.  I called, but never got a response back.  All eventually was forgotten...until last night!  This gentleman called and apologized for never calling me back!  He said he had been out of town, and when he returned the apples had all dropped.  He explained that he and his wife's health has been poor and that he plans on giving up the apple trees.  He said that we could come by and take a look at them and pick out any ones we wanted.  I think the plan is that if we care for the trees then we can have their fruit!  I told him that we were just about to go out and plant our baby fruit trees and what a wonderful opportunity it would be if we could come by and learn how we should be tending them.  In the meantime, as we wait for our trees to mature, we will have this opportunity to still have fruit!  He also mentioned he had peach trees, but I'm not sure if we will be doing anything with those, he wasn't clear on that.  I am just excited to learn about orchard care from someone who has been doing it for years, and excited at the prospect of a source of fruit! 

Here are the pictures I was able to take yesterday:

All nine trees in a bundle.  I had just untied the small ropes that held them all together, and opened up the plastic bag surrounding the roots.

 The digging part :-)  I stood faithfully by taking pictures.   Except for the times I needed to run into the house to look up information (can tree roots grow around rock, do fruit trees have tap roots, and such).  Or take the baby inside, or get my boots on, or...ok, so I stood by some of the time.

 Jonah insisted on me taking a picture of him.  He and Aubrey we very interested in the tree planting process.  At one point they needed to be brought in as they were getting a little too close to the action.

 Flannery trying her hand at digging. I think she found it easier to use the pick ax.

 Hard work, I tell ya.

 There were only so many pictures to take of holes, so I found other subjects :-)

 More action shots. 

 Of course using my new camera for the first time had nothing to do with taking pictures of everything else!  I will have to tell that camera story some other time.  Let's just say that it will take some getting used to a new camera set up and getting used to using an SLR after being without one for a year.

 Total cuteness, even when blurry.

 Who can resist cute little booted feet?  Too large pants all scrunched up, wearing his older brother's sweater. 

 Our plum tree!  It's funny because when I woke up this morning I looked outside my window first thing to see my trees...except that from that distance they look like large sticks!  Ha, ha.  If it weren't for their tags still being in place I would have had to really look for them!

 We bought our trees from a site called "Trees of Antiquity".  They have a selection of about 150 trees!  Many were already sold out when I was ordering, which helped to narrow my selection.   It is pretty difficult to pick out apples based on a written description of their taste.  I went with a couple that we already eat, and a few that I've never heard of, like this Holstein above.

One last picture before I took the baby back in.  He was getting chilled.  You can see he is no longer wearing the sweater that he was in the above pictures.  He had already gone inside, gotten wet while trying to wash his hands, and re-dressed.  Here he is saying, "Cold, inside".  So in we went.

It was a great time working together on a project.  Many times Jeremiah or I are working on something independently.  But it is neat when we are able to work together to get things done here on the homestead! 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Our first full milking day

Yesterday, was a test run for our first milking day.  It was cut short by Aubrey needing to be taken to the urgent care for stitches.  Today was our first real milking.  Yesterday was a test run due to having dewormed the goats a few days ago.  I like to give at least a three day waiting/holding period if I have to use a chemical dewormer.  I would have just waited until today for our first milking, but I noticed that Lily was lying down constantly, in an effort to keep her kids off of her.  She was one of our two goats that had triplets.  Having only 2 teats, but three babies...well lets just say she's already "done" with the nursing thing :-)  Not entirely mind you, but I was afraid that we could see a huge drop in her milk production if I didn't hop right to it the very next day. 

So today was the day.  I had anticipated that there would be two of us helping out on the milking for the first few days until everyone was used to the routine.  But I had forgotten that the older two girls were to be at the horse barn early this morning.  So it was just me.  Things went smoothly.  Thankfully!

I will be making a video of our milking routine soon.  I want to make sure we have it down before I do.  There are some tweaks that will be made I am sure.  I had been debating whether to bring out a cooler with me to put the milk right into since we have 5 goats needing to be milked.  But yesterday when we got to the first Nigerian, it was a 'duh' moment as we realized that our regular sized milking pail is too big to fit under a Nigerian dwarf goat!  I was better prepared today.  I decided against the cooler idea.  I may change my mind in the future but I really don't want to try to get a cooler across our dirt yard, and through a gate.  Plus when I have to pour out the water I would have to pull the cooler to a place that can handle the water....not in the back!  Instead I decided to take out the large milking pail.  I milked our first two Alpines, brought their milk in, strained it and put it in an ice bath (in my kitchen sink).  I then brought out a small metal mixing bowl.  I milked Pippi, our smaller Alpine, into the bowl and dumped her milk into a quart jar.  She had just a little over a quart so I gave the leftovers to the cat.  I separated her milk because last year it tasted horrid and I wanted to check it before I combined it with any other milk.

Next I milked the Nigerians.  That was like learning to milk a goat all over again!  They have very, very small teats.  With our Alpines I need to use my whole hand to express the milk, but with the dwarfs I only needed a thumb and first finger!  This will take some getting used to.

I am not sure how long it took me to milk all five.  I suppose I will time myself after I feel that I can remember all that needs to be done without thinking too hard :-) 

After the milk had cooled for a few hours it was time to taste it!  I was nervous.  I wasn't concerned with Lily and Honey's milk.  This is their fourth year milking, so I was pretty sure it would taste as good as ever.  I had forgotten to mark the quart jars, one had Pippi's milk, the other contained the combined dwarf milkings.  The girls asked how would we know which is which.  Well, unfortunately we found out :-(  Pippi's milk is HORRID.  Yuck, ick, bleh.  I was really bummed.  The dwarf milk tasted sweeter (supposedly due to their higher fat content), but also more watery in texture, which I wasn't expecting since the higher fat is supposed to make it creamier than other breeds of goat milk.  But, it wasn't bad, just not what I was expecting.  The good thing, it tasted good, and this is their first milking, so there is the potential that next year will be even better. 

I am SOOOO excited to start making raw milk yogurt with their milk.  I think I will start a batch tonight.  Since we are doing GAPS and have to let it incubate 24 hours, and then let it cool for another 8 or so hours it won't be done for a day and a half.  I was bummed about Pippi's milk.  What are we going to do with it?  Then I remembered that after seeing the hefty price for the powdered probiotic made for goats, that I was going to just give them kefir instead.  So I will use her milk to make kefir for all of our animals (goats, chickens, dogs and cats).  When we milk twice a day I will get a half gallon of milk for the animal kefir, plenty to go around.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Another first

Around here "firsts" are usually celebrated.  You know, the first time your child walks, says a word, learns to tie shoes, etc.  A couple of years ago we had a first that wasn't welcomed...the first of our children to break a bone.  Today we had another first, another unwelcome one....the first of our children to get stitches. 

Aubrey was attempting to jump on Jeremiah, who was on the couch, but he lost his balance and banged his head against the corner of our end table.  Ouch.  Remarkably, he wasn't screaming or crying.  Not sure if that is good or bad.  (I was outside helping to get our first day of milking off to a good start.)  Jeremiah picked him up and saw the gash on his forehead.  Flannery called out the window to me that Aubrey got hurt really bad and that Daddy thought he needed to go to the ER.  WHA?? Not words I wanted to hear.  I asked her what was wrong with him, as I was half jogging to get inside.  She said he hit his head against the end table.  Oh boy.  I was preparing myself to see blood everywhere, BUT it wasn't bleeding!  Weird.  Although it wasn't bleeding, it was deep. 

After some time with the ice pack, we headed out to the urgent care.  He was calm and acting normal.  Though, I would be expecting him to be crying, so maybe he wasn't acting normal?  We got there and no one else was in the waiting room.  The doctor took one look at him and was like, Yup, he definitely needs stitches.  By then the wound was open even further, maybe from some swelling.  Needless to say he got the pleasure of getting stitches.  He handled it as well as any 2 year old who has to be strapped down could handle it.  Poor little guy.  But really after the numbing injection, which clearly hurt, he was only crying because he was afraid.  Jeremiah and I were both there talking softly to him and reassuring him that everything was ok.  Thankfully it went pretty quickly.  The doctor made sure to get everything ready before we brought him into the room.

He has a headache now.  He seems to be ok with Motrin or Tyenol in him.  I've been keeping an eye on him and he's been acting fine, playing, eating, etc. 

Now for the kicker.  I took the boys outside to play.  Jeremiah was working on the new barn construction.  I helped him for a bit, but realized it was getting close to the time the older two girls needed to be picked up. Jeremiah was going to go get them, but figured he should stick to working on the barn.  When we got home and I was trying to get Aubrey to go inside, I heard Jeremiah yell out.  Oh.  No.  He had been using the hand saw when I had passed by.  Sure enough he got cut, but not by the saw.  He was sawing off some wood that was next to the metal roofing and as the wood was cut through it made his hand jerk to the side, getting sliced by the metal roof.  Now Jeremiah is sporting stitches!!!!  Can you believe it?! 

Let's just say I'm a wee bit stressed out.  At this point I'm about to duct tape everyone down.  Just yesterday Aubrey climbed up on top of a desk and fell off, head first.  And I mean, Head First, with his whole body above him.  I was so scared he had injured his neck!!  He was fine, though clearly in pain.  So now, after today, I will be trying to keep everyone from using sharp objects, or from running around too much, or from sneezing too hard (I'm JOKING!).  I am worn out. 

Please pray that they both heal quickly and without any fanfare.  Thank you!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Long days in the kitchen

Last time I shared my grocery shopping list.  Today I am going to show you what I did with some of that food!  I made sure to put myself in the corner, with the only way out being to cook all the meat that needed cooking :-)  I purchased six packages of chicken roasters.  Each package contains two chickens.  That meant I had to roast 12 birds!  We only had room in the fridge for two, 5# packages of ground beef, so that was all I cooked on Monday as well.  Since I now have a lot more room in my fridge I pulled more ground beef from the freezer to cook up once it thaws.  The past two days have been spent cooking or prepping foods to be cooked.  Yesterday I did some food prep, made sure to stay on top of the dishes, and started putting some soups together.  After spending all day preparing to put soups together I was bummed that I only got two done!  It seemed that nothing was going right yesterday, so I just settled for the two and plan on making a day of it today to get the other soups done. 

I made a new to us soup, the recipe coming from the cookbook that came with my Vitamix.  It's called Thai Pumpkin soup.  I couldn't find the green chilies that I bought for the soup, so it had to be made up without them. But it was a very nice change of taste after eating the same soups for months.  I had my Charlotte Mason study group meeting last night, after the meeting I ran into the store to buy more chilies!  I plan on adding them in today.

I took some pictures of my kitchen day yesterday.  It seems like I should have a lot more pictures :-)  I am not kidding when I say I've spent all the past two days in the kitchen!  I am hoping that today will be the last of the "all days" for a least until next pay day.

 Some almonds and sunflower seeds soaking.  These were put into the dehydrator yesterday afternoon.  I will be shutting off the dehydrators, letting the seeds cool, and put them in their proper containers today.  I forgot to start soaking the pumpkin seeds yesterday.  Oh well, I will get to it today, and they will be ready for the dehydrator tomorrow.

 Not exactly food prep :-)  Although these eggs had to be washed.  Doesn't everyone keep their eggs in pink sand castle buckets?  When I came home from my CM meeting these eggs were all gone.  ALL gone....making pumpkin pancakes.  Ugh. That's ok, since they are not supposed to be eating eggs on stage one, I suppose stage one starts this morning.  And now they won't have any eggs to try to sneak and eat!  I really couldn't think of a better way to stick with the stages then to make sure no other foods are available.

 I used two boxes of pastured butter to make ghee.  I really want to give this intro a hardy try.  I am hoping that my Vitacost order will be in today as it has some of the supplements I wanted to start us on.

 Two of the three pots of broth simmering.  I have more bones in the fridge awaiting their turn. Since I need to be making soups, and lots of them, I needed to save some of my pots for the actual soups.  The two crocks and another large pot are being used for broth making, leaving me with another 3 pots to make soup in.

 Homemade coconut milk being made into kefir.  I plan on having everyone be dairy free in the beginning stages.  The kefir grains will take a dip in regular milk to be refreshed before making more coconut kefir.  Speaking of milk, we were supposed to start milking today.  But, it appears our goats had other plans.  I have my doubts as to how 'white' one of the goats eyelids were, BUT that being said I didn't want to mess around with the possibility that she had worms.  I did deworm all my does right after their birthings, but I know last year we had a major worm problem, so it's possible we might see higher activity again this year.  Not sure as we had such a cold winter (for us).  Anyways, I decided to deworm all the goats at once with a chemical dewormer, and then start them on the herbal dewormer right away.  I just got a fresh package of herbal dewormer yesterday.  I am hoping to keep on top of the herbal variety to stay away from the chemical one as we have to with hold the milk for a few days when using the chemical version.  So we should be starting our milking season this weekend!  Now to get that cheese making kit.....

 I found out that my last batch of sauerkraut was probably fine.  It had a thin white film on top.  It didn't appear to be mold, but I didn't want to take any chances.  Then a handful of days later I found this little chart of sauerkraut anomalies and what is safe to eat and what is not.  White film on top is safe.  So I waited the 28 daysfor it to ferment and threw it all out because I was afraid of the white film!!!  Cry.  Now we start again.  Above I have three cabbages shredded and packed into 5 mason jars.  I will start drinking the juice in a couple of days, even though it won't be ready, but I know the last time I still saw benefits for the kraut juice even though it wasn't fully fermented.  I will let the rest of the jars sit for the 28 days.  You may make out the mesh dehydrator tray I cut to fit into the jar above.  I bought some glass candle holders, but they were just a smidge to large to fit in my jars.  I read of someone cutting up a dehydrator tray and it seems to be doing its intended job of holding the cabbage below the liquid.  This will help to prevent mold.

 Here are four of the nine trays that held my greens.  Starting from the top left and going clockwise: collards, kale, rainbow Swiss chard, and spinach.  I put these through my blender and got:

...this green powder to add to our smoothies.  All nine trays worth are in that mason jar!  I can't wait to try it out!  But it will be a while until we get to that stage :-)  I think next shopping trip I will buy some more greens and do the same with them.  I am bummed though, it appears that the dry greens scratched my blender container.  At least it appears that way.  Anyone have that problem?  They are so crumbly that it seems odd they could actually scratch it! 

Well that is some of what I've been up to these past two days.  I know there's been a lot more things I just didn't take pictures of.  For example the mason jars that I steam sterilized in my oven (for the kraut), or the two pans of squash I roasted (with more to do today), or the other various small steps to food prep like hanging yogurt to drain off the whey, or, or, or :-) 

Off to heat up some soup!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Whole foods for our whole *big* family

Being on GAPS lends to eating whole foods :-)  Actually we've been eating a whole foods diet for some time now, but it had been a slow transition from SAD to whole foods.  I thought I would give you a glimpse of my grocery list.  I would have pictures, except that we had company over when I brought the groceries home and they were ever so kind to help bring it all in.  It was record speed!!  Needless to say I didn't whip out the camera...maybe next shopping trip.

Everyone does their shopping differently.  Some do a weekly shopping, or a once a month shopping (what we used to do), or something in between.  We do two big shopping trips a month.  In between shopping trips there are usually store stops for Jeremiah on his way home from work to pick up something we ran out of, forgot, or to pick up some more fresh veggies/fruit (fresh foods do not last two weeks!). 

The shopping is generally done all in one day.  Sometimes it's broken up between Jeremiah and myself, and sometimes a store needs to be done another day because we ran out of steam :-)  But generally it's done all in one day.  This saves on gas since we don't exactly live close by to any stores.  This also means that shopping takes about 5 to 6 hours to do!  Yes, it makes for some long days.

Here are my lists, in the store order that I shopped.  I tried to group like items together (all meats, veggies, non-food items, etc.).  Our grocery budget has to handle the animal feed as well, so you will see that here.  This month was a bit different as we just got done making a large bulk food order.  Because of this I used some of the money that would have been spent on some food preps to get some bulk herbs and a few add ins for our animals, which I will explain below.

This week I hit the feed stores first, actually the day before we did our food shopping.

Feed store #1
2  80# bags cow feed (used for our goats)
1 50# bag if chicken feed

Feed store #2
1 50# bag of goat feed pellets
1 50# bag of alfalfa cubes
1 50 # bag of black oil sunflower seeds
1 15# of clover seeds
1 pkg vet wrap
1 cat collar
1 cat bowl

I am going to try my hand at sprouting some seeds for our animals to boost their nutrition intake, hence the sunflower seeds and clover seeds.  I checked the prices for Probios, an animal probiotic.  Although the container was large, so was the price...$50!!!  No thank you, I think I will just give them some of our kefir!

Shopping day, our first stop:

Whole Foods
6X 1/2 oz blue glass bottles (for my homeopathy remedies)
children's sinus remedy
3 green cabbages
rainbow swiss chard
in the bulk section:
4# coconut flakes
0.62 # chia seeds
0.42 # green lentils
1# raw pumpkin seeds
0.67# mung beans
0.70# adzuki beans
0.72# mango slices
1/2# dates
hemp seeds
3 bags of beef marrow bones
small container of chicken livers
2 gallons of whole milk
1 quart plain yogurt
3 1# tubs of local pastured/cultured butter
1 bottle strawberry kombucha
2 fruit leather snacks

I was very excited to see the local pastured butter at the store!  And it didn't cost an arm and a leg :-)  The beans are for sprouting, as we can not eat the beans themselves on GAPS.  I was looking over the packages of sprouting seeds they were selling.  Each bag was only 8oz.  The cheapest price was $7.99!  I was able to get the same seeds (organic) for only $1.99-$2.99 a pound!  On top of that they had some sprouting jar tops that cost $5 a piece.  I went to Michaels and got a sheet of cross stitch mesh for $1 and will probably get at least 8 mesh covers from it!  With the greens I purchased here, and at the following stores I plan on lightly cooking, then dehydrating them.  Afterwards they will take a whirl through my blender and be made into our own homemade green powders to be added to our smoothies.  Raw spinach and kale are high in oxalates, which can actually pull out nutrients from our bodies, and cooking them is supposed to lessen those.

I made a quick trip to Micheals for the mesh and then we hit:

5 2# bags of cubed butternut squash
large bag collard greens
large bag spinach
5ct bag zucchini
8ct mini cucumbers
3# bag onions
5# bag carrots
6 bags of chicken fryers (2 chickens per bag)
4 pkg of ground beef (about 5# each pkg)
1 pkg beef bones
bacon (comes with 3 packages)
1 3# jar honey
3 2ct jars of peanut butter
2 3# bags almonds
water (for the van, as we drive around)

This was a bit atypical as I would normally be buying stew meat, strawberries (to the tune of 3 6# bags), blueberries and usually cans of tomatoes and some cocoa powder.  Oh, and honey...lots of honey.  But in order for us to do GAPS intro correctly I needed these things to be out of the house!  Too many cheats when we did intro a few weeks ago.  So we are going back and doing things right.  Oh, my, how could I forget the 15-20 bunches of bananas!!!!  Yes, I didn't get those either this time around.  If it's not in the house the kids can't eat it :-)  The money I saved on those items went to some other items I bought online, which I list at the end of my shopping trips.

Our last stop of the day was to:

1 pkg adult toothbrushes
2 pkgs kids toothbrushes
2X children's Advil (liquid)
wart remover (of fun!)
4X 5 gallon buckets, with lids
colored pens
6X glass candle holders (I was going to use these as ferment weights, and they didn't fit my jars!)
wire brush (to clean our milking stand with)
tin foil
2 bags tortilla chips
salsa (can we say....last hurrah until we start GAPS intro?)
dijon mustard
8 cans 100% pumpkin
2 cans green chilies
4 bags frozen lima beans
2 large bags frozen peas
4 bags frozen green beans
5 bags frozen broccoli
2 bags frozen spinach
1 bag kale

Online I bought:
Molly's herbal dewormer (for our animals)

from Herbalcom:
1 # each of:
(these will be used to make a health powder for the goats)

from Vitacost:
probiotic 15-35 (vitacost's brand)
oil of oregano
vitamin C powder
liquid vitamin D
colloidal silver

I made a quick stop to Aldi's another day, and bought 7 avocados. I was going to get apples as well, but they didn't have the ones I was looking for.

Phew!  That's all folks :-)  I will have a post up about my big cooking day I had today.  I wished I had taken pictures, but it was just cooking, cooking, cooking...oh and washing dishes, dishes, dishes!  I should be able to take all that I made and put it together to make a bunch of different soups for the next two weeks.  I have to cook up a bunch of onions, squash and bacon to make it all work out, but I should be able to get that done in the morning, leaving me the afternoon to find as many pots as I can to put together about 5 or 6 different soups.  Tomorrow evening, should I still be awake, I plan on going to my Charlotte Mason homeschool meeting.  That means I had better get to bed already!  Goodnight.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Just some conversations I want to remember

Aubrey has been our little conversationalist lately.  He's been having the SAME conversation with me daily for a couple months now.  It started multiple times a day (think every 10 minutes!) and now it's about every other day.  It is always the same.  Here it is (A=Aubrey, M=Me)

A:  Mouse?
M: Yes, there was  mouse in our house.
A:  Obin? (oven?)
M: Yes, the mouse was under the oven.
A: Dahdee? (daddy?)
M:  Yes, Daddy got the mouse.
A:  Trash?
M:  Yes, Daddy threw the mouse in the trash.
A:  Ah Gon!!! (all gone!!!)

Every. Day. :-)  Apparently the mouse situation had a huge impact on his little life that he feels he needs to talk about it everyday.  Ha, ha.  It is pretty cute. Throw on top of that Jeremiah brought home a dead owl and bird for the kids to look at....and now he tacks on, "Owa? (owl)", M: Yes, daddy got an owl.  A: trash?  M:  Yes, the owl is in the trash.

The other day he really surprised me. We were all sitting around the table during breakfast.  Now, many conversations between the children start with..."Remember?....."  They are typically about to converse about a movie or show they have seen.  Every once in a while it is about a book, or a real life situation.  You know that little kiddos are *really* listening and watching when they repeat you :-)  So the kids are talking amongst themselves and Aubrey pipes up, "Mommy!  Remember?"  I just about dropped what I was eating. Did he just say what I thought he said?  Yup, he did, because he repeated himself :-)  "Mommy!  Remember?"  and he went on to do this funky noise, and hand motions.  I didn't want to burst his bubble by not 'remembering'!  So I just started laughing and telling him that I remembered.  He has decided to bring up this same remembering a few more times these past few days.  Really cute!

I was in the living room reading to Aubrey, and Jed came up to me, showing me a piece of paper. On the paper he had written in large red crayon, "330".  The threes were written backwards, and the zero was more of a square.  He tells me, "This is the number on the scale, three, three, zero."  What?  He had taken a piece of paper into the bathroom and weighed himself, writing the numbers down that he saw!!  I told him that I was pretty sure the scale read, "33.0"  He looks at his paper, and I point to where the decimal is supposed to go.  Then he asks me, "Is it 0.33 or 33.0?"  I told him which it was.  He walks off. About ten minutes later he comes back, looking a bit upset.  He says, "Mommy, the numbers are the same!  Why are the numbers the same?  It's still 33.0."  Ha, ha, ha!!!!  He went back to weigh himself again, thinking the numbers were going to change!  I told him, "I'm sorry buddy, but it takes longer than 10 minutes to gain weight!"

Jedidiah has been doing very well developmentally.  Growth wise, not so much.  But he's writing numbers, all on his own, will scribble lines above drawings and tell me what it says :-).  He has been getting so much better at drawing lately.  He even copied his sisters by making plans for his birthday!  Granted his birthday isn't until the summer, but this kiddo will be prepared.  He drew out what he wanted his cake to look, he even drew bowls of frosting, and which colors they should be.  He drew decorations and even presents!  He had everything in separate boxes on the paper, with the cake in the middle.  Pretty amazing.  For Jed! 

We have a busy weekend ahead. We've ordered some fruit trees and we will need to read up on how to care for them! I'm a bit nervous as it's one thing to kill a small plant that you paid pennies for, compared to the cost of a sapling!  Yikes.  I'll have a more in depth post about what we have going on here. Not a lot, but we are trying to expand here and there.  I should be taking more pictures soon as my camera is in the shop being fixed as I type!!!  Yay!  It will be a year since I've last used it.  I am afraid I will be all thumbs again. I can't wait to start using it again. I suppose I should save my 'happenings post' for when I can put pictures to it :-) 

Friday, March 08, 2013

Some blender love

My new blender arrived right in the middle of a goat giving birth :-)  The UPS driver was quite astounded to be able to pet a newborn goat!  Ha!  This blender was long awaited for.  I've read on my other sites how great the Vitamix performs, and have seen it during demos at Whole Foods.  Talk about blender envy!!!  I kind of wished I took pictures of my old blender, but as soon as I walked in with my new one I threw the old one away ASAP!!  I was done with our blender contents leaking all over the place and the unit constantly shorting out.  We have been using the Vitamix multiple times a day and I am still amazed at how well it works.  My nut milks are now divine!  I have been able to sneak in carrots, avocado and kale into smoothies and not one child has noticed.  Granted they thought the color was off.  I made a strawberry smoothie and they took it for chocolate :-)  But there are no little bits of green or orange like my other blender would have left, giving me away before they even took one sip!

 Oooh, a thrilling red!  Ha, ha.

 The first time I used this machine Aubrey *freaked* out!  It is loud when put into high speed. But now he's getting used to it.  See, he even knows where the tamper goes.

Going to make some nut milk.  In the past when I tried making nut milk and using it in a hot chocolate my whole family would pass it up!!  Last night I made myself some nut milk hot chocolate and everyone wanted a sip.  No biggie I thought, even with 6 sips, I should have enough left...think again!  They all wanted some!!  It really makes a difference in blending with nut milks.

Here I put a large handful of almonds and a large handful of coconut flakes in the blender.

 I add about 4 cups of water.

 This is what it looks like after blending.

 I prefer to use a bowl when I strain the nut milk, but I only had this 1/2 gallon jar on hand.  Funny thing...the white dish cloth you see there are the flour sack ones I get at Walmart.  Almost everytime I use them I am reminded of my grandparents (my Dad's parents).  Years ago they gave me some to take home ( I was on a trip up North visiting). I had ALWAYS used a thicker, smaller towel for dish drying.  I took them home, thinking they were of ill fit use for dishes.  Ha!  How wrong I was!!!  These are hands down the towel we turn to first!  Not only are they great for dish drying, but they make a great cloth to strain nut milks, or to strain yogurt.

 In goes the milk.  I wrap up the towel and twist it slowly to get everything out.

Ta-da!  Nut milk that my kids go goo-goo gaga over :-)

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The last of the kids has arrived!

Finally!  The last of the kids has been born!  There is such relief in knowing they've all made it through the kidding.  I feel bad about this last mama though.  I keep asking myself if I interfered too much.  She is a first time goat mama.  She seemed to really be handling the labor very well. She took to licking Moira between contractions, which was pretty funny.  It is so odd to see a hands off goat get all lovey and maternal on you!  When it came time for pushing I was a bit concerned as she seemed to be having weak contractions.  I figured they were kind of like the lull that happens between transition and the actual pushing stage.  That lasted quite some time.  She finally got serious about the pushing.  So far, all of our other goats had pushed only 4 to 6 times before the water sack would bulge out.  From reading I know that you should not worry until the goat has been pushing hard for an hour.  Well, we were going on 45 minutes and there was a dime sized whole at best.  I was getting concerned that there was a malpresentation.  But I waited.  Finally there was a bit of sack.  I felt around (from the outside) to see if I could feel anything that would indicate a body on the other side of her flesh :-)  Nope.  Then the bag popped.  Her back to back contractions stopped for a bit.  A break she really needed.  This was one tired laboring goat.  We gave her some Nutri-Drench.  A minute or so after that the contractions started back up.  She just kept pushing and yelling, with NO body parts presenting.  Was something stuck?  Why oh why is she yelling when there is nothing coming?  We were approaching the one hour mark and nothing was happening. 

I still held off, as I knew with a human birth that the baby has to twist, turn, tuck, whatever to get themselves into the narrow pelvis opening.  Finally we saw the hooves.  We saw them for quite some time, they would move out a bit with a contraction and then go back in.  Repeat said scenario many, many times!  This goat was in pain and letting us all know about it.  I felt just around the opening to see if the head was right there.  I have to say I was a bit nervous about this goat because her, um.....hardware? just seemed a little off.  Even Isabella noticed and asked about it.  So it wasn't my imagination.  At this point, since the head was right there on the other side of the opening, I decided to every so gently stretch the skin.  She did NOT like that.  I was really concerned about that because I was being very gentle, just trying to massage the skin to help it loosen up.  Everything seemed too tight and small.  More and more contractions came and went and the baby's legs are still in the same spot.  By this time we were all getting concerned as Twilight (the mama goat) was really seemingly going down hill, energy wise, fast.  Now, I've had to help quite a few of our first time mamas with just a little massaging, or helping the opening slip over the head.  I did the same thing for her.  Still nothing!  All the girls were getting scared because this really was taking a while and Twilight was not looking good. They were all starting to have those raised/scared voices, asking me a million questions that I didn't have answers to. 

My next level of intervention was to gently pull on one hoof at a time, as per the info on Fias Co. Farm's site.  This baby goat was NOT moving.  Like at all!  I told the girls to be prepared for a still birth because at this point I was just having a really bad feeling about all of this.  I prayed that the Lord would give me direction.  I had been calm up until this point, but now I was starting to freak a bit.  It didn't help that I was starting to get sick, and with that sometimes my emotions get out of whack.  Next, I decide to gently pull on a hoof and at the same time try to massage the opening to go over the head.  Still. Not. Happening.  At this point I had mentally declared that we would never again breed goats ever!  We were going to sell off our herd.  Yes, it was getting pretty hair raising.  I try to tell myself that it is "just" a goat.  But that doesn't work.  She may be a goat, but she is a living creature that was in pain and she was very much visibly afraid.  Moira had been holding her head in her lap this whole time telling her what a good job she was doing, and that she would see her baby soon.  I had visions of having to do some emergency c-section to save the kid.  Ok, so things were not THAT bad....yet.  But in the back of my head I kept thinking through what we would do if this kid really was stuck.  Because this babe was NOT moving, it was stuck in the same spot now for goodness knows how long and for how many contractions, way too many to count.

I supposed it was time to get more aggressive.  So I pulled downwards on the hooves when she pushed.  And I tried pushing the opening over the head.  It is not a good feeling when you are torturing a living creature :-(  She most certainly saw it as torture I can assure you.  Finally there was some movement.  Some.  It was small.  A few more contractions yielded a small nose/ mouth was a wee tongue sticking out!  I thought, ok, let's see what she can do from here.  Nope.  I realized that the head is turned, coming more from the side than from the top, where it is supposed to.  That baby's head would not budge.  Even now, just typing this I can feel the stress wash over me.  I guess you would have had to see her backside to understand that something just wasn't adding up.  So I decided to pull harder.  And FINALLY the head came out.  Oh the relief!!!!!!  I just left her alone to rest a bit.  I could have pulled the whole baby out, but decided she needed a break.  She still had to get the shoulder area, but that would be nothing compared to the head/leg area that had already passed.  There was a small lull in the contractions, but in another three or so the whole baby came out.  I could see there were some small red lines (indicating tearing) on Twilight's opening.  That poor goat could hardly reach over to lick her baby.  We helped her with that.  She was just a good mama.  And that little babe was STRONG.  He was up on his legs in 5 minutes!!!  And walking a minute or two after that!  Wobbly legs, yes, but still, walking!  We had to help Twilight up so that the baby could nurse (we let her rest for quite some time, 30 minutes or so).  When she stood it appeared that it may be possible that she has a deeper tear than just superficial.  I know with a human that there is controversy as to whether you should use stitches or not, I am assuming that some of that could be used for goats?  I'm not sure, but she wasn't bleeding or anything that would make stitches mandatory.  That is why I am still kicking around in my head if I did the right thing to pull hard on the baby.  I certainly can't go back and re-do it. 

It's been quite a few hours since the birth and I know that mama and baby are doing fine.  I suppose that is what matters.  To ward off infection I had squirted some betadine on the area, and Jeremiah has gone out to give her an antibiotic.  I didn't have to 'go in' which would most certainly necessitate an antibiotic, but with the tear/s I didn't want to take a risk.  Jeremiah has checked on her and hasn't reported anything amiss, so I will wait till tomorrow to check her myself. 

Right now I am in bed with a hot water bottle on my tummy, and covered in a couple of blankets.  Getting sleepy.  Plus there's a wee (or not so wee!) sick boy who will want to nurse to sleep.  So if she seems fine I will hold off until tomorrow.  And in the meantime try to allow that sigh of relief that this very busy kidding season is over!  Now on to debudding!!!! Not fun, not fun.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Kefir issues

What is up with my kefir?  Actually, the kefir itself has been amazing.  My current grains were producing an amazing amount of kefir for their wee size.  There wasn't anything wrong with the grains themselves, but something is totally up with each batch of kefir grains meeting an untimely death.  I wrote a wee bit on my last batch of grains.  One was knocked over by Aubrey, another mistaken as spoiled milk (and promptly poured down the drain).  I have a friend who had some extras, and so I was pretty confident that I could keep these guys safe.  Apparently NOT. 

I suppose I need to use those magnetic 'milk helpers' for more than just my *finished* kefir.  Today I was making dinner for a family as they recently had a new baby added to the family.  As is usual....for me....I was running behind.  Not that things like handles coming off pots, or a certain little boy who was trying to *paint* with chocolate and the like had anything to do with running behind. This family has a dairy free daughter. I was making mashed potatoes for them so I made up a small batch of coconut/almond milk to use instead of regular milk.  I pulled out the 'milk' and set it next to the stove.  When I was ready for it, I grabbed 'the' jar and to my surprise I saw a few lumps drop into the potatoes, along with the milk.  What?  Is my new blender not working properly?  Why would there be lumps in my coconut/almond milk?  I saw a lump and grabbed it.  It was soft and squishy, just like...just like?? kefir grains?  OY.  A total 'smack head' moment!!!  I was keeping my kefir jar next to the stove on the left side.  I had some chicken stock simmering and the heat helps the kefir to produce more quickly.  I had put the coco/almond milk on the *right* side of the stove.  In my haste I grabbed the wrong jar.  Boo hoo.  Now I have to find someone with more grains. 

This is such a bummer since we've really been enjoying our kefir smoothies over here.  (I will have to write about my blender soon.)  I suppose I shall use this kefir-less time to try out some amazing sounding avocado recipes.  A couple of years ago, during Aubrey's pregnancy, I became a lover of avocados.  I LOVE them in salads.  I was just drooling over a blog post that has some 25 avocado recipes on it.  Oh yumminess.  I can not wait to try some of them. 

In the meantime I need to come up with some way to keep my kefir grains safe. Any ideas?
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