Thursday, November 17, 2011

Visiting a Cranberry Farm

Our county 4H extension arranged a tour of a local cranberry farm. The farm grows cranberries for Ocean Spray, and some of the fields have been growing continuously since 1921. The farm was harvesting the day we visited, and we were invited to dive in and help out.

Cranberries are harvested by flooding the field with water from a nearby creek. The ripe berries float to the surface and are scooped up by a conveyor and piled into a truck. Our job was to round up the floating berries and push them toward the farmer and conveyor. Luckily for us, it was a really warm day and although the water was cold, it wasn't bad. I found berries in my boots after!

The best part was the farmer let us have a small bag of the cranberries to take home. I made them into cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving, and maybe some jelly tarts. I found the cranberry recipe at the Ball canning site.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Up-Cycling: Goat Tote Bags

My five dairy goats eat grain that comes in woven polypropylene bags. The bags are great for getting feed to us from the factory without torn bags or water damage. But, after looking at some articles online, I found out that these woven polypropylene bags are not biodegradable and are not recyclable. I buy two bags of grain per week, which stack up after a while because the material seems too durable to throw away.

I saw some shopping bags made of woven polypropylene, and found directions for how to sew them myself online. Roughly, you cut off the lower quarter of the bag to center the cute label and sew the bottom together with the sewing machine. Cut the leftover piece into strips for handles. The material is difficult to sew, and the thread breaks a lot. I think if I used a fancy commercial sewing machine, I could get through my stack faster!

I made two goat chow tote bags, to test them out. I can fit eight of the half gallon glass canning jars I use to hold goat milk in one bag. This makes taking clean jars out to the barn much easier! I also use them take things to Sunday Market and bring home things I buy there. The material is waterproof, which is nice on rainy days. So far, the bags have lasted with heavy use for six months.

While at Sunday Market, a vendor who buys sugar in woven polypropylene bags saw them and asked me to sew her bags too. She is planning to use them for Christmas gifts. I have the goat chow bags for sale at my Sunday Market space, and am thinking up other items I can make with the bags.

Goat tested and approved!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lavender Jelly

Every so often at the Market, the vendors are shuffled from their usual spaces. Last week a lavender farm showed up in the place where the Young Entrepreneurs tables usually are. While she had some very nice soap with lavender bits in it, she also had big bunches of fresh cut flowers.

I looked all over the internet for what to do with the flowers. Since they were culinary instead of ornamental, I though I should cook something with them. I found a recipe for jelly that used dry flowers, but since I didn't want to wait for them to dry, I used a bit more of the fresh flowers.

I think it turned out very nice! I doubled this recipe to get 24 of the cute 4 ounce jars.

Lavender Jelly

3 1/2 cups water
2 cups fresh lavender flowers
juice of 1 lemon (1/4 cup)
1 (1 3/4-ounces) box powdered pectin or 1 pouch (3-ounces) liquid pectin
4 cups sugar

Prepare a waterbath canner, and 5 half pint jars and lids, as directed in the pectin instructions.
In a large saucepan over high heat bring water just to a boil. Remove from heat, stir in lavender flowers, and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain mixture through a wire mesh strainer into a deep pot. Discard the flowers. Stir in lemon juice and pectin, and continue stirring until the pectin is dissolved.
On high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, and add sugar. When the mixture returns to a hard rolling boil, continue boiling for 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and transfer the jelly into hot sterilized jars. Filling them to within 1/4 inch of the top, wiping any spills off the top. Put on lids and rings. Process in the waterbath canner for 10-15 minutes.
Makes five 1/2 pints.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wild Berries Arrive First

It seems like it's forever from when you first see flowers on your vines and trees until there is ripe fruit. This year it seems like it's taking even longer with a wet spring. Luckily, I got an early taste from the wild plants in the yard.
We usually try to keep the wild blackberries and salmonberries trimmed back because they grow exactly where you don't want them. But we were slow to trim this year, and they showed off small ripe fruit while the cultivated blackberries were still flowering. Even though they are small, they are sweeter and have more flavor than the giant cultivated ones.

After a good afternoon hunting, I scored a pint of wild blackberries and a handful of juicy salmonberries. It was just enough to get in some practice canning preserves.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Crop Report

My 4H garden has a really great start this year. Even though it was cold and rainy this May, there has been enough sun to make a difference. I finally saw some bees too! They've been arriving too late in the year to pollinate the fruit trees.
My strawberries are leading the charge with one berry ripe already. The blueberries are close behind, working on some pale white berries. The blackberries and raspberries are yet to bloom.

I bought fruit trees at a sale last fall, Honey Crisp and Liberty apples, Italian plums, and a Montmorency cherry. Thanks to the bees showing up in time, they all have small fruits starting. New this year is a black Mission fig tree I found at Sunday Market. It already had large green figs on it. I hope I can find a spot in the yard it will like.

The compost pile is again sprouting some wheat and oats from spilled goat chow. Those naughty things! Rather than waiting for the oats to produce grain and dry, I usually pick the long deep green leaves and feed them to the goats. I have some corn seeds, but haven't found the best spot for them. I should hurry, though as it's nearly July!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Betty Babies, Finally!

We had pretty much given up on the idea that Betty would ever have babies. We drove her all around, even as far off as three hours away, to see various boys, but nothing worked. She taught us that babies weren't exactly necessary last year, by producing over 1000 pounds of milk, without having babies first.

Last fall, things seemed a bit different with Betty, so we took her in to see yet another boy, a young but very well pedigreed Toggenburg from a fancy show herd. We weren't exactly sure if she was pregnant, as she didn't look as amazingly huge as Flopsy.

This was Betty's lucky year! She had the cutest two baby Toggenburgs ever, a boy and a girl. Now that she is producing milk in the normal order, babies first then milk, she is giving an amazing amount, nearly equaling her sister, Jelly, well over a gallon and a half per day.

They went to the same farm as Flopsy's babies, who are getting in on the little Toggs' picture. We think the Toggs look like they are ready for business right off with their substantial Swiss snow boots, versus the dainty Nubian designer heels.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Flopsy's Big Surprise!

After a false alarm a month early, Flopsy finally had her babies. Surprise! She had three!

They are all girls. One looks just like Flopsy, one looks just like their dad, and one is black and white. How did that one get in there? It's been a challenge so make sure they all get milk, because there are only two places to drink at Flopsy's Cafe!

Luckily, a very nice family that loves dairy goats took all three sisters, so they can grow up together. Two red velvet cupcakes and an oreo surprise.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Planting Strawberries

Last year in my 4-h garden, I planted strawberries, blackberries, and tomatoes. The weather was cool and rainy all last summer, so the tomatoes didn't do very well, but the berries did great. I even won blue ribbons at the county fair for my blackberries and strawberries.
I've been having fun building boxes to display my soap, so I thought it would be fun to build planter boxes for my strawberries. I would have built planter boxes for the blackberries, but in Oregon you really can't tell blackberries what to do! I decided to make hanging planters to discourage bugs.

The planters were fast to make, using two 1x6 boards attached at a right angle with wood screws. The end is just a square with a hole drilled near the top to hang. I painted the ends like strawberries for a fun look.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Making Goat's Milk Soap

My goats give a lot of milk, so I am always looking for new ways to make good use of all their hard work. I recently found out how to make goat milk soap. It was fun and came out really nice

The only ingredients I used were my goat's milk, olive oil, and lye. I had to start with the goat milk frozen, so it wouldn't be damaged by the heat the lye produces. I had to buy the lye online. There are lots of different oils to use, but many make my skin itch, so I stayed with olive oil.
I started by putting the frozen goat milk into a large bowl and added the lye crystals. I stirred very carefully so it wouldn't splash. Once the lye had dissolved, I added the olive oil and started mixing with an immersion blender. After about five minutes the oil and lye saponify, which means it chemically changes into soap, and thickens into what looks like thin pudding. This is called a medium trace. It was then I could add fun ingredients. In the picture, I'm stirring in coffee grinds for a scrubby soap.

I carefully poured the soap into a mold. I use a PVC pipe lined with freezer paper. It will set up overnight, and I can slice it into fun round shapes. Since this is called the cold process method, the soap will need to cure for at least four weeks or more. It becomes more gentle the longer it ages. I'm excited to be selling my soap now in these cute little bags at a local farmer's market.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Waiting Game

First, a goatie haiku:

Flopsy is pretty,
but she's as big as a house!
Kids are coming soon.

We are playing the usual early spring waiting game. Some of the goats have stopped giving milk, and some are still giving a little. Goats can give milk for 10 months of the year, but stop the last two months before they have babies again.

We had trouble this year getting everyone bred for spring babies. While some breeding sessions looked convincing, and all the best conditions were met, it seemed like nothing was working. We could have ordered expensive tests to know for sure, or just wait and see. So, we're waiting.

Coco Puff bit her date on the tail, so we're pretty sure there will be no babies from her. Jelly went to see a nice Toggenburg buck twice, but since she's giving more milk, not less, she's probably not bred either.

Ol' Mimzy waited until the last minute of breeding season to show any interest, and saw both a Nubian buck and a Boer buck. She's giving less milk, so that's a good sign, but we won't know more for another month.

Flopsy is simply huge! And, huge early. She went to visit a Nubian buck in October, then insisted she needed to go again in late November. She stopped giving milk as if the earlier session was a success. Maybe she just wanted to say "Hi" on the second visit. When Flopsy is this huge, she is resistant to getting up for anything, and sits under the feeder. The other goats know this and use her as a step stool or pillow.

Betty was our surprise this year. After two years of a cystic condition and no success with bucks, she seems to have gotten better, and had a successful breeding with a very nice Toggenburg buck. She stopped giving her mystery milk, and her sides are starting to show signs of life.

We think Flopsy's babies should arrive in March, followed by Betty's in April, and Mimzy in May. All this waiting and rubbing round tummies.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

We had some leftover chicken, so my mom taught me how to make a chicken pot pie. We used bread dough as the crust. It takes a little effort, but the result is awesome!

Bread Crust
3 cups flour
1 package quick-rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups hot water (about 120 degrees)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey

2 cups cooked chicken, cut in half-inch cubes
2 cups frozen peas and carrots mix
2 cup frozen potatoes O'Brien

2 cups cold water
2 chicken-flavored bouillon cubes
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 tablespoon onion salt

Prepare crust by mixing all ingredients together in a big bowl. Once well mixed, kneed with your hands 5 minutes, adding flour as necessary until you have a smooth ball of dough. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let it rise 45 minutes in a warm place.

Meanwhile, assemble filling ingredients and set aside. Prepare the gravy by placing all the gravy ingredients in a small pot. Heat on medium high stirring briskly with a whisk until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Once gravy has thickened, remove from heat and pour over filling ingredients. Stir to mix well and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.Once the crust has roughly doubled in size turn out on a well-floured bread board or counter. Divide into two parts, one about 2/3 of the dough and the other 1/3. set the smaller piece aside. Using a rolling pin, roll the larger piece out to a 12 inch circle and place in an un-greased, 10-inch glass pie dish. One inch of excess dough will hang over the edge. Add the filling. Roll out the smaller piece of dough to an approximate 10 inch circle and place over filling. Roll the excess dough back over the edge, twisting slightly to form a decorative edge. If desired, brush the top with a mixture of 1 tablespoon honey and 1 tablespoon hot water for a crisp brown top and bake for 30 minutes, until heated through. Allow to sit 15 minutes before serving. Serves 4 to 8 people.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ideas Sprouting!

We had a great first meeting for this years 4H Young Entrepreneurs' club. I had to think of a new idea. Last year, I had do-it-yourself kits to make bubble gum, hand-milled soap, and artisan cheese. I like do-it-yourself kits, so I'm working on a d-i-y sprout kit and possibly sprouts already grown.

I found out that you can get as much nutrition in one ounce of sprouts as you would in three pounds of the full grown vegetable. I like that I would only have to eat an ounce of broccoli sprouts, instead of three pounds! I ordered some packages of seeds meant just for sprouting. I got alfalfa, and a salad mix of alfalfa, broccoli, and radish. My goats eat alfalfa because it's high in protein, and it helps them make tons of milk. Some sprouts like radish are spicy, and sprouts like broccoli have anti-cancer properties.

I followed some instructions on the internet of how to grow sprouts. They said to soak them in a jar overnight, drain out the water, and just wait. It mostly worked. After six days, my sprouts looked like their sprouts. but definitely not like the ones I see in the store. I found out from another site that they were overcrowded, and probably too cold.

I'm trying another batch now with just half the amount of seeds, and placing them where they will be warmer. I'm also looking for an edible fertilizer that I can add to the soaking water. Hopefully that would help the sprouts look tall and green! I will report back with my results!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Looking Forward to Fun in 4H in 2011

Even though it's just January, thing are starting to get going in 4H. It always seems like a lot of work to plan out a speech for Presentations, and new recipe for the Home Economics contest, and something new to sell for the Young Entrepreneurs table at Sunday Market.

I did try to do a bit of everything last year, which 4H seemed to like, and gave me an award for being an 'Outstanding First Year Member'. Wow! I got a medal for having fun! I like 4H!