29 December 2008
27 December 2008
For this blossom wine I altered a Daisy wine recipe from "Edible Garden Weeds of Canada". This is my recipe:
3 Liters or Quarts Daisy Blossoms* (Ox-Eye Daisy Chrysanthemum leucanthemum grows in my area, but English Daisy Bellis perennis can also be used)
Cake showing flakes of bran
Baking my first batches of bread from our flour, I followed a familiar basic whole wheat recipe, but struggled with the texture. I have found that working with a flour so high in bran changes the ratio of liquid to flour in any given recipe. Where a recipe calls for one cup of whole wheat flour, I use 1 1/2 cups: the extra 1/2 cup being similar to a recipe that lists an optional amount of wheat germ, for example, that can be omitted without changing the desired texture.
3 cups warm water (I use potato water most times, or even vegetable water from canned beans)2 tsp sugar
23 December 2008
Every cold morning we wake to a new ice painting on the kitchen window.
Wishing you all a happy holiday.
15 December 2008
I soaked equal parts of Jacob's Cattle beans, Provider beans and Chickpeas overnight, and made a chili the following day. It turned out to be a cold snowy day, perfect for chili. And it tasted great.
11 December 2008
We have been threshing our wheat with this meat grinder with great success. The design of the latest harvesters use the same principle of a turning screw to thresh the grain. We have made one improvement to the hand-cranked grinder, by attaching the drill to drive the auger. It makes the job a bit smoother. Why not a motor? A motor uses more power, and it is running the entire time, like brushing your teeth with the water running. With the drill (which by the way is also the way we "motorized" my hand crank butter churn), Mr. Fritillary has more control. We will be building a removable hopper as another improvement.
So here you can see the oats in their hulls, the groats threshed and winnowed, and finally, the rolled oats.
The sun is now completely over the horizon.
It is full light now, about 9am, but the sun has not burned off the night chill yet.
By about 10am the ice began to melt. It reminded me of Tibetan butter sculptures which they carefully carve out of colored butter, then put out under the sun. As the sun melts the sculptures they are reminded of the transience and preciousness of life.
It remained about -8C all day, so by 3pm, an hour and a bit before sunset, the ice fans began to form again. It was hard to capture them on camera because of the white background of the snow and sky. But they showed up against the wood of the front porch.
They look like feathers with a quill along the middle.
They were forming fast enough to watch the progress. It was quite beautiful. And quite distracting as well, I couldn't help but watch my window most of the day. Between chores and meals, canning meat, rendering tallow and winnowing wheat. It was like having the art museum come to my kitchen. Life is what you make of it out here. It's the details, things you might easily miss, that make it a life worth living.
08 December 2008
Boy, you can't beat homemade kraut! I have this revelation every time I try something homemade for the first time, that I had never really tasted it until then. I was an ambivalent eater of sauerkraut until this week. Now I'm a convert.
We came home from the internet access center, late one afternoon, both of us particularly hungry, for it was a cold evening and we work up an appetite on our bikes. But it had been a busy morning, and untypically, I did not have a hot meal waiting for us in the oven. But we had boiled some of our brisket cuts in salted water, from the two year old bull-calf we recently butchered. This makes a kind of pseudo corned-beef that will keep in the cold room for a week, as a cold cut. And there was bread in the cabinet, and the sauerkraut was due for it's first tasting. So into the frying pan went olive oil, a few cups of kraut and some dill seed and caraway seed. I could have chopped a few onions in there too. And next some sliced beef soaking up the remaining oils and flavor. A little gravy on the side and toast in the oven. With a sprig of fresh parsley from a plant I transplanted into a pot for winter nibbling. And within 10 minutes we had a delicious nutritious entirely homegrown and homemade meal that not only satisfied our appetite and nourished our bodies, but put a smile of satisfaction on our faces, just looking down at the plate in front of us. What a blessing.
The cured vetch and red clover add food value to the bundles of grain we feed to the chickens, they eat the greens as readily as the grain, and the mixture of greens helps to balance the calcium/phosphorous content of their feed and provides much needed Vitamin A, which can be seen by the deep yellow of their egg yolks. The chickens make quick work of the grain, served in bundles with a box underneath to catch fallen grains and heads. When they have cleaned off all of the heads, the remaining straw is put down as bedding or nesting material, and turned into compost for the garden. The wheat we grew this year is of a higher quality than I can buy from the local bulk store, or the local organic grain mill, which means that it is above 14% protein, perhaps up to 16% protein. Typical feed wheat is between 10-12%. Our high-quality grains mean that we do not need any protein supplements like soya meal (which causes thyroid problems) or linseed meal (which usually contains rancid oil residue).
These are our young pullets, hatched out this summer, from our Isa Brown hens (a common industrial laying hen from a Rhode Island Red crossed with Rhode Island White) and a Plymouth Barred Rock rooster. There are four distinct colorings: black barred, white with grey bars, white with red wing coloring, and red with white feather tips.
The oats are fed mostly to the horse, who eats them straw, chaff and all, and the goats who nibble off the grain heads, leaving the coarse straw behind. Feeding the oats with the chaff or hulls pretty much eliminates the chances of colic in either the horse or the goats. These oats are about 12% protein, but they also contain more sugars and oils than the wheat, which are necessary for the goats who are producing kids as well as keeping warm.
The winter rye was ready to harvest in early August. We planted only 1/4 acre of rye, so we harvested it with a hand sickle, and stuffed it into feed bags, stacked in the barn. The straw of rye is a high quality bedding, it was used to thatch roofs and make horse collars, etc. meaning that it does not readily break down or absorb moisture. We use the straw to bed down the goats, a foot of this underneath them makes for incredible insulation, and they can nest down into it on cold nights.
The goats also make quick work of picking off the rye heads, their nimble mouths find each and every one, leaving behind the valuable straw. Rye is similar to wheat in protein content.
Another feed crop we grew this summer: mangles or fodder beets. They grow just like beets, but much bigger, and higher in sugars and fiber. The green tops were greedily gobbled down by the goats after harvesting the roots. And the roots are stored in our cold room with the carrots and other root crops. The mangles contain some protein, but are primarily a source of energy or sugars, as well as a treat that definitely gets their appetite and digestion working.
We feed the two of them 3-4 lbs a day, chopped and lightly cooked with a tablespoon of molasses. Served warm this way, around 10 am, it provides energy in the morning after a cold night. We do not serve them the mangles first thing in the morning because the goat's ability to produce body heat comes from the digestion of fibers (ie. hay), not sugars. Goats can easily get a chill by eating concentrates (ie. grain or fodder/roots) on an empty stomach. So we give them a chance to get a good belly full of fresh leafy hay in the morning before the mangles and molasses. Pilgrim likes a bite of this too. The molasses also works as a preventive for Ketosis, a metabolic disorder of pregnant or recently kidded goats in which they do not have enough metabolized energy to cover the demands placed on their body. This is just a general definition, for more specific information about ketosis, please read about it from a credible book or website.
Here they are nose-first in the mangles, notice how Penelope's tail (the one in the front) is held straight up, showing her pleasure and appetite. You can also see in the picture the bulges they are growing, late in their pregnancy. Juniper, the little one, is growing well. She especially needs a high-quality diet since she is not only producing a kid or two, but is still growing to full maturity. She is coming along well, both of them have put on thick downy coats, are bright-eyed and have a ready appetite, and have laid down some condition, which they will need to draw upon in the first month of lactation.
Molasses mouth, licking off every last drop.
05 December 2008
03 December 2008
When we moved off-grid, we came with a small fridge and small chest freezer. We had a small generator, battery bank and a solar panel. We could run the darn things, but it was ridiculously expensive to produce enough power to keep our food stored this way. I didn't keep much beyond dairy products in the fridge at the time, without a cream separator, the fridge was pretty full with pots of whole milk, bottles of cream and yogurt. Once it was skimmed, the milk was turned into cheese or fed out. I kept some leftovers in there, where space allowed, but mostly my fridge was an integral part of our dairy processing. The freezer was full of our year's supply of meat, some frozen vegetables and fruit, and extra butter and frozen milk to last through a two month dry period, before the cow calved again.
When we realized we had to make some changes, figuring out how to do without refrigeration was a huge challenge to the milk maid in me. I could do without the freezer, canning the meat, vegetables, fruit, and even the milk for the dry spell. What to do with the extra butter, stumped me until Mr. Fritillary enlightened me about ghee, a traditional Indian or Hindu way of processing butter into pure butterfat, which stores at room temperature like oil. So that took care of storing butter, when fresh butter is not in season. The freezer was soon empty.
I was hesitant to ditch the fridge, but with winter coming on, I was able to cool my twice-daily pot of filtered milk, in a basin of cold water, and let the cream rise in an unheated room that kept at refrigerator temperatures. I could also keep my cream and yogurt in the cold room, as long as winter lasted. But I knew I would need a cream separator by spring. We found one in time for warmer weather. Now I only had our daily table milk, a few liters of cream, a few liters of yogurt, and a pound of fresh butter to keep cold at one time. We do not have a spring or any running water on our property, but the water from the well stays quite cold, even in the heat of summer. We took an old camp cooler, and filled it with cold well water, and submerged everything into the water. Even the butter went into pint jars, same as leftovers or opened bottles of applesauce, etc.
The cooler is on an outside porch, where no direct sun falls on it at any time. In the heat of summer the water must be changed two or three times daily. I put the fresh milk, and separated cream into cold water, morning and night. And change it if need be again in the middle of the day. Come spring and fall, the water only needs to be changed in the evening, the cool night air keeps it cold, and does not start to warm up until late afternoon. In the winter, I change it every few days to keep the water from going stale, and even have to bring the cooler into an unheated room to keep it from freezing out on the porch.
Refrigeration can be done many ways. A small pump from the well can run to a cooling basin, with an overflow, to simulate a spring. Water is a more stable cooling element than air, so it works well. But air can be cooled by a small fan pushing air past a mist or trickle of cool water. In hotter climates, the ground temperature a few feet down can be cool enough to store food.
But designing a way to cool and store your food is only part of the challenge. You may also have to change the way you cook, and even the types of food you eat, to ditch the fridge. Take a look at the contents of your fridge. Eggs and many cheeses can be stored in a cool cabinet. Eggs store quite well at 60-70F for at least two weeks. The only reason they are refrigerated at the grocery store is so they can be kept for 3-6 months. Homemade preserves, pickles and jams will keep in a cool cabinet or submerged in the cooler, for a week, so preserve your food in one week sized portions. With a backyard garden, produce is eaten straight from the garden, and with the exception of lettuce, will keep in a cool cabinet for a few days. Vegetables like shelled peas or broccoli heads can be put into a jar or water-proof container, and submerged in the cooler and will keep fresh for a day or two. For the most part, the refrigerator only prolongs the distance food takes to get to your table. The fresher your food is, the less you will need your refrigerator.
The challenge I have set for myself next year is to expand my range of fermented vegetables. Many people prefer to freeze vegetables over canning them for the nutritional value that is maintained in frozen vegetables. More than just cabbage can be fermented, including beans, cauliflower, roots, and cucumbers. Even a medley of vegetables, onions, peppers, garlic and herbs can be fermented together. Fermentation preserves the nutritional content, since vitamins are never destroyed by heat, and pathogens are kept from spoiling the food with friendly-bacteria that also add their own health benefits to the foods. And fermented foods can be kept for months, or even a year, in a cool room at 50-60F.
Ditching the fridge is not only environmentally progressive, it can wean you off of a dependence on consistently available cheap power, and give you the opportunity to change your relationship to the food you eat.