Friday, April 24, 2015

The Bacon you don't even know you're missing

I love bacon.  My husband loves bacon.  My daughter loves bacon.  And honestly, if you don't love bacon, I'd probably be apprehensive about being your friend.

I even got a Bacon calendar from my friend Gloria:

Whenever we have a hog butchered, bacon, of course, is the first thing gone from the freezer even though I meticulously ration it.  Well, I ration it after the first week; because after a month or three of bacon-free breakfasts when we've run out, I go into a bacon-frenzy mode and we eat bacon round-the-clock, arteries be damned.

So when I finally became culinarily acquainted with this strange thing called "jowl", my mind was blown.

WHY wasn't I told about this heavenly product before?  In all my city life, I don't think I've ever been offered, nor attempted to purchase that peculiar pork product.  I'm not quite sure if they even had jowl out in the meat case in the store.  And if they had, I probably would have used it for fishing bait or something.

Then my eyes were opened.  Or more accurately, my taste buds were awakened.

Jowl is basically BACON!
Bacon?  Not quite. But just as yummy!
I'm even tempted to say that I like smoked hog jowl even better than bacon.  Waaaaaaaa?????  Did I just say that?  But seriously, it's at least a toss up.  Bacon is still most heavenly, but jowl is quite Divine.

I'm convinced that it is a huge conspiracy.  People in the know purposely put smoked jowl in the meat section next other "strange" items like chicken gizzards and tripe and hog casings, hoping that nobody will buy the stuff and that they can take it home for themselves at a reduced rate when the package expiration date comes close.

But that's fine with me now.  I don't have to go to the refrigerator cases at the grocery store and toss a package of overpriced (honestly I don't know what it costs, I may go see though) smoked pig cheek into my buggy, because I've got it in my freezer already!  Because since we've been butchering our own hogs we've been pretty much flush with bacon and jowl.  And the fact that we have have very, VERY nice friends who bring us extra jowl that their family doesn't want from their hog (the fools!!!) makes it even more fantastic.

Have you indulged on any smoked, sliced pig cheeks lately?  If not, you should.  You don't know what you're missing!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

2015 Kidding Season Totals

Yes, I said "Totals".  Which means that kidding season at Krazo Acres is FINALLY over!

Lily, our final hold-out, decided to go into labor this morning around 10:20 am.  Which would normally be hunky dory with me because she didn't do it in the middle of the night, nor during last night's rain storm.  But I DID have an appointment in town that morning.  At 11:15.

So, yeah.  I went to my appointment with dried afterbirth on my sleeves and smelling of barn'ish stuff.  Which in any other normal universe would probably be frowned upon, but the meeting was only with my tax lady and she's quite the outdoors woman / hillbilly herself.  So yeah, she understood.  And I even walked in two minutes before my scheduled appointment.

Anyways.  Lily picked the new go-to spot for laboring; underneath the new lean-to.  When I got there she had already had one kid on the ground and the second was coming.  Not sure about the first, but the second kids was presented correctly and I didn't help at all.  Once she got back up, I did assist in cleaning them up (mainly because it grosses me out when the mothers eat all that birthing goo) and put them both GIRLS into the kidding pen.  Whoo hoo!  And they were both very stout.  Lily followed right behind me and I filled up a water and grain bucket, made sure both kids were up and headed to town.
Lily's doeling, Maypop.
Lily's second doeling, Dandelion.
So here's the 2015 Kidding Totals

Dilly: 2 bucklings (both died from apparent WMD)
Clover: 1 doeling
Pyewacket: 1 doeling, 1 buckling
MamaGoat: 1 buckling
Annette: 1 doeling, 1 buckling
Lira: 1 doeling, 1 buckling
Lilly: 2 doelings

So all in all we had twelve kids with a 50/50 female/male split.  Even though we lost two of the bucklings, it was a very easy birthing season.  I didn't have to "go in" to rearrange, flip over or otherwise do anything out of the ordinary for a single doe, and three of them were basically unattended and unassisted.  Sure beats the snot of of last year's horrendous kiddings.

The dairy kids are already up on the local FB sale block and I have two people interested in three of the bucks (well, we'll see when I get some greenbacks in my paw) already.  I'll just have to find someone to buy the two remaining dariy doelings and we'll be set.  The others are Boers and we'll be keeping them for breeding stock.

Since we lost both of Dilly's bucklings, we won't be butchering any of "our" Boers, so I guess I'm lucky that I went and picked up those two buckling bottle babies otherwise we wouldn't have any goat in the freezer this fall.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Eating the Weeds - Henbit & Black Eyed Peas

I made ham steaks for supper a few days ago and there are just certain things that must be served with ham.  Namely cornbread, beans and cold pasta salad.  Well, not so much the cold pasta salad, but my Mom had made me a bunch and I figured it wouldn't kill us to have it then.

Anyways.

I had a few cans of black eyed peas that I was going to toss on the plate, but figured since we were having guests over I'd try to make it a little more fancy than just opening a can of beans, warming them up and slopping them onto their plates.

So I had Rhiannon and Paul go outside and pick us some fresh greens.  Unfortunately the Poke isn't as prolific nor large enough yet so that was out of the question.  I don't grow kale or turnip greens (not yet anyways) so there isn't much to choose from around here....especially since I've not even planted a single thing here yet.

So that left me with only two good options: Henbit or Purple Dead Nettle.  The Henbit is much more abundant so I asked for a plastic bag full.  Which took a little bit of time, buck heck, it's free and I didn't have to drive anywhere to get it.

You can just rip up the whole Henbit plant, but most of it is stemmy.  I will normally just pinch off the first three or four leaf sections and leave the rest of the plant in the ground.  Not only will the plant grow again, but the leaves past the third or fourth section are tougher and there's more stem than leaves.

After everything was picked through and washed, I put two cans of black eyed peas in a cast iron skilled with a hefty spoon full of bacon grease, then added the entire colander of Henbit to it (like most greens, it cooks down a lot).

I seasoned it with garlic salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and called it good.  Which it was.  And a great accompaniment to the ham steaks and cornbread.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Milk for everyone (but me)

I'm still bottle feeding the two bucklings (soon to be wethers) that I picked up for a song a few weeks back.  They are eight weeks old today.  For some people, eight weeks is the magic number for weaning kids.  Personally, I think it's a bit early and unless the kid is exceptionally well-fed and fleshed out, I won't wean or let any of the for-sale kids go to a new home that early.

So even though I've already got forty bucks into milk replacer for the bottle babies, I'm going to continue feeding them milk for another two weeks, maybe three.  But I don't think I'm going to drop another twenty bucks on a bag of milk replacer because I'll just use what milk I can get out of MamaGoat to feed them.  And when that's not enough, well then it's time to wean 'em.

I've only been milking MamaGoat on occasion.  She's only got the single buckling on her and she has plenty of extra milk in that beautiful bag of hers.  It's not like I'm not using that extra milk to my personal advantage though.  Although I haven't milked her more than twice for human use, I've been letting Lira's tiny doeling, Moo-latte, drink from both MamaGoat and Annette.  Without their permission, of course.
Moo-latte about to sneak a snack from Annette.
They won't let Moo-latte drink from them....unless they're in the stanchion with their feed-crazed maws chowing down on grain in the bucket.  When they've got their heads in that grain bucket, I could get a wild, rabid cougar to nurse from them and they wouldn't care less.

So Moo-lattte is getting some extra milk and Rhiannon can indulge in the occasional glass.
Gott'a have a glass of milk to wash down
that big ol' PB&J sandwich.
I, on the other hand, have had to do without.  Which is just about killing me.  But I'll survive.  And as soon as everyone is weaned, sold or otherwise not drinking milk, I'll be indulging in it and eventually complaining that I have to make cheese to get rid of the surplus.
Still life with milk & petunia (and nosey cat).
Until then, I will look longingly on as everyone, it seems, is drinking milk but me.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Excuses, excuses, excuses.

During one of Rhiannon's many "breaks" from her school day, she wanted to go outside for a bit to get a breath of fresh air.  This was after the break to change out of her jeans because the left leg was itching her, after the break to go to the bathroom, and after the break to check on the baby goats, but before the break she needed because her toenail was too long.

I've gotta put a stop to this.  It's amazing how many, and how varied the excuses are for her to get a break from whatever subject she isn't interested in at that moment.  Actually, she's just a fount of excuses, most of them downright pathetic.

One day she asked to have soup for lunch.  So even though soup was not on the lunch menu, I obliged and made her a bowl of soup.  When she lost interest it in mere seconds after spooning it into her mouth, she said she didn't want anymore.  Her reason?

Her soup was too wet.

I'm not sure where she gets it.

Well that was a bold faced lie.  I know exactly where she gets it from.

Because now I've been making excuses for my goats.  Pickles and Dilly, both of whom popped out kids with problems, most likely White Muscle Disease, were supposed to be headed for the sale barn.  Or the freezer.  I hadn't made up my mind yet.  Part of me has a problem with taking animals to the sale barn because really, I don't think they should be allowed to continue breeding and there's no way for the new owner (i.e. sucker) to know about their history.  And although I would probably get over shooting Pickles and putting her in the freezer (oh, the wonderful, peaceful silence!!), I don't think I could shoot Dilly because she turned out to be a nice goat and a great mother.

So now I'm thinking I may give them both another chance.  Because the White Muscle Disease is supposed to be from a lack of Selenium and / or Vitamin E, I'm going to give them both a shot of Bo-Se right before breeding and a few weeks before kidding.  If I can get them bred for a November or early December kidding, I'll keep them.  It will be interesting (but depressing if they pop out reject kids again) to see if the Bo-Se will prevent their kids from having these problems.

Then there's Lira, whom I also vowed to get rid of once she popped her kids out.  But darnit, her kids are just too stinking cute.  And now, even though I vowed to not keep another buck on the homestead, her buckling is something I think I may want to keep in the herd to pass on the black headed genes.  Then there's her teeny-tiny doeling, who is, well, just teeny-tiny.  And cute.  Unbelievably stinking cute.  So I think I may keep her and breed her, but wait until next year to do so if she can make weight, because again, I'd like to keep that black headed gene in our herd.
Moo-latte, doeling
Moe-lasses, buckling
Lira (the mother of the two black headed boers) is still probably on the way out though, regardless of her ability to pop out black headed Boers, which may have been a fluke anyhow.  She is just as loud and just as annoying as Pickles.  Not to mention the fact that she is beyond a wimp.  You can be low goat on the totem pole and survive, but not if you're low goat AND a total wimp.  She gets chased around and runs for the hills.....without concern for her kids.  Not a mothering skill I want around here.  So after she weans her kids, I'll put her on the local FB page and be honest about why I'm getting rid of her.  Total Wimp.  Which may be fine for another herd with less dominate, or smaller goats.

But there is NO way I'm keeping any of the dairy kids this year.  No matter how cute.

No excuses.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Salad Bar is OPEN

Our goats are dry lotted.  We don't have the pasture fencing up yet so the majority of their roughage comes from hay.  When I'm ambitious, once the grass starts growing in the spring I'll tie one or two of the goats up to a long lead and stake them out in whichever area is overgrown and could use some munching down.  It is, however, usually a pain in the rear because no matter how careful I am in selecting a stump, stick, large weed or other obstacle-free area, in fifteen and a half seconds, the goat will have managed to wrap the lead, and itself, around whatever branch may be sticking up from the ground and almost strangling itself or cutting the circulation off to a foot or something.

The next best way to get 'dem goats some fresh greenery is for me to get my sloth of a self out in the overgrown area and cut it down and feed it to them in their pen.  I used to use a pair of kitchen shears to do this, but it tends to not only be slow-going, but I end up with a blister on my finger.  So last year I tried using a small, antique hand scythe I had hanging up on the wall as a decoration.  Paul sharpened it up for me and it worked rather nicely.

So today I took the hand scythe down from it's winter hanging spot and scythe'd myself two laundry baskets full of "Fresh Mixed Greens" for the Caprine Crew.

They were most appreciative:

Well, at least I'll pretend that they were.  They did seem to be enjoying themselves.  Well, at least in between the pushing and shoving and head butting in order to get to the better greenery....even though it was all pretty much the same thing.  Are all livestock so freaking crazy about foodstuffs?  

I bet I could tie up all my goats and come out of the barn with a bucket of cat shit.  I would walk around with the bucket and let one goat come near the bucket.  As soon as the other goats saw that the selected goat was even remotely interested in the bucket, regardless of what was in it, every stinking goat would pulverize, stampede or otherwise do whatever it was in their power to get to, and even possibly eat, everything in the catshit filled bucket just BECAUSE some other goat was looking at it.

Anyways.  Back to the scythe.  

So I was thinking, maybe I could invest in a full sized scythe.  It would make cutting all that goat food a ton easier.  Well, at least after I figured how to use it.  Apparently there is an art to using one.  And given my not-so-good hand-eye coordination (remember the whacking of the rabbit?  There is STILL a gash in my shin from it.), I'm a bit concerned that I may lop off my leg or at least slice into it far enough that I'd sever an artery and end up bleeding to death out in the middle of the back yard before anybody noticed that I hadn't been seen for a while.

Do any of my readers have a scythe?  Do any of you actually know how to use one?  Have you ended up in the E.R. because of it?  Have you ended up in the slammer because of it?  Never mind, I don't want to know.  Well, at least not about the slammer incident.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Non-Approved Cat Toy

My cats have different tastes when it comes to playthings.  Evil Kitty has an old, beaten up, fuzzy red heart with a bell on it that she occasionally batts around the house.  Susan prefers a simple length of yarn to chase or the occasional strand of dental floss that Paul teases her with.  Outside Kitty has a more varied selection of cat toys.  He has a large furry rat that rattles and he will carry that around in his maw for a while before sitting on it and doing the crazy-claw-attack with his back paws.  He also adores chasing around a ratty catnip mouse tied to a length of ribbon and dragged behind my daughter, around the kitchen table, up and over the couch and into the bedroom.   And of course, everybody loves the laser pointer.

Outside Kitty not only has a basket filled with cat toys, but he also has a annoying cute habit of wanting you to play with him and his toys in the middle of the night.  He'll select a toy from the basket, do the midnight-crazies thing with it throughout the bedroom, then bring the toy up on the bed wanting you to throw it to him.  If the toy is placed within two inches of my still sleeping hand or near my foot,  I'll toss it / kick it off the bed and hope he goes away and leaves me alone.
This pathetic collection of toys does not amuse me, human slave.
A few days ago, I noticed that Outside Kitty came inside through the "cat door" (i.e. a flap of sliding door screen that has torn at the bottom and is now the official cat door.  Convenient, yet hillbilly all at the same time.)  After a while, I also noticed that he was doing the midnight-crazies thing, but in the middle of the afternoon.  I went to find out what the ruckus was and found that he had a new cat toy; a live mouse.

He has obviously learned that if he has one of these "moving meat" cat toys, I will come and take it away from him.  He wouldn't let me get close enough to him so that I could grab the still very much alive mouse out of his mouth.  Every time I got down on the floor and reached for him, he'd give a little muffled growl through his furry-rodent-filled maw.  So finally I just sat down with him in the kitchen hoping that he would drop the mouse and give me the opportunity to smash it with my boot.  Well, he did drop it.  And walked away, letting the mouse run under the dishwasher or the refrigerator, I lost track of it after frantically trying to chase it on all fours and hurling a boot at it.

Later that night, I was awakened by his "Play with MEEE" meowing and a crazed shuffling around the bedroom floor, under the bed, into the bathroom and then out into the kitchen....then back into the bedroom for more crazed-cat-toenails-on-the-laminate flooring before I realized that, shit, he probably had the mouse.  I rolled my sluggish and still-melatonin-medicated self out of bed and found him in the living room with the moving meat toy (i.e. half-paralyzed but still very much alive mouse).  Again, he was not going to give up his plaything so I sat on the floor with Susan and Evil Kitty and the three of us watched him play with the poor, half-dead rodent and hoped that he would eventually bore of it and walk away.  Which he did not.
OMG, Outside Kitty looks immense in this pic.  
So I eventually feigned non-interest and turned the computer on and watched funny cat videos.  I finally heard silence and turned around to see that the mouse had finally expired.  Thinking that he was tired of the thing I went to pick the soggy gray mass of fur, but he snatched it away before I could grab it.  I went back to the computer and then heard the soft, moist gnashing of a cat's jaws and watched him finish a midnight snack.  Yuck.

I went back to bed, but couldn't fall asleep because I was waiting for the sound of the cat yacking up the chewed and slobbery remains of the mouse on the rug.  Which, luckily, did not happen.  Or at least I'm saying that it did not happen as I have yet to stumble upon any chunky-mouse-bits cat vomit.  I may still find it in the corner of the laundry room or flip it out of the pile of blankets on the bench or have my mother stumble upon it while cleaning underneath the bed.

I'll let you know when it turns up.