Friday, May 28, 2021

Toe-may-toe, Toe-mah-toe...

Poe-tay-toe, Poe-tah-toe. Same difference, huh? Well. Sometimes.

Even though we sold 99.99998% of the goats here on Krazo Acres Compound a few months ago, we kept three of them because.......well, because of some reason that I can't recall. Anyways.

One of them, Cactus, was pregnant and was about to pop. Thankfully she chose one of the few hours of somewhat-dry time between the days and weeks of rain to do so. Paul went to check on her and she had just successfully birthed two bucklings, although one of them still had the fluid-filled sack around him even though he was completely out. Luckily he found them in time otherwise I fear that he may have sufficated / drown before Cactus got around to cleaning him off (as she was still busy cleaning off the first one. I've never seen a kid born still inside the embronic sack, but apparently that happened yesterday. The kid can still receive oxygen if they are in the sack and the umbilical cord is still attached to the mother, but once the cord is broken, the only way to receive oxygen is for it to actually breathe that oxygen in. Paul and Rhiannon broke the sack, swung him a bit (to remove fluid from lungs/nose/mouth) and got him to take his first breath of air.

Mom and kids are doing well, but now we are moving upwards in the number of goats here instead of decreasing the numbers. The only "good" thing is that they are males. Normally I would be bummed, but since we do not want any more goats, I'm releived that they will be going into the freezer this fall and providing our family with several nourishing meals.

The above accounting on what exactly transpired yesterday during the goat birthing is brought to you second-hand (or is it third-hand??) as I was not there for the event. I was first notified by my daughter when I got the call at work. She told me the story, said she was glad that Cactus finally popped, mentioned that she is goat-grandmother, and rounded out the mostly-one-sided conversation by telling me that she had to take a shower because she had, "polenta all over my shirt" and had to clean herself up.

I suppose a normal person would have immediately chuckled and responded to her saying, "I think you mean placenta, right?"

But I had to pause for a moment. Because this is what was going through my head in the half-second before I respoded.....

For those who do not know, this is Merrian-Webster's definition of polenta:

po·​len·​ta | \ pō-ˈlen-tə , pə-, -ˌtä \ Definition of polenta : mush made of chestnut meal, cornmeal, semolina, or farina

Rhinannon and I enjoy polenta. It is easy to make and very adaptable to many dishes. I highly suggest you try it. Yummy.

Rhiannon is schooled in cooking polenta.

Rhiannon is also schooled in goat birthing.

Rhiannon likes to treat mother goats, after giving birth, to a treat. Sometimes Nilla wafers, sometimes fresh greens, sometimes fresh fruit.

So, my mind, in that half-second before I answered her, I had to decide if she:

A) Meant to say "Placenta" instead of "Polenta" or

B) Fixed the mother goat a fresh batch of POLENTA as her after-birthing treat

Neither of which were really out of the ordinary.
The correct answer is A)

But B) would have been just as believable.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Fowl Ball!

The above title is a play on words. I'll give you a few seconds to think about it before you scroll down.

Figured it out yet?

It's not about baseball, y'all.

Last chance to click off this blog and go somewhere else.

We have chickens. We hatch our own chicks. We always, ALWAYS end up with more roosters than necessary. I recall that we had thirteen roosters last year. It was noisy. So very, very noisy. Roosters crowing at 1 am (yes, in the coop), roosters crowing at the butt-crack of dawn, roosters crowing at 8 am, 9 am, Noon, 3 pm. Thirteen roosters crowing at all times of the day, and each one trying to out crow the other. It was maddening. Eleven of the thirteen ended up nourishing our family in the guise of enchiladas, soup, stew, BBQ sandwiches and atop dumplings and gravy. Butchering day is never really fun, but I look forward to it because it means that there are chicken livers to be eaten. Rhiannon and I are avid liver connoisseurs, be it goat, deer, pig or chicken; but chicken livers are our favorite.

I'm not sure exactly when I acquired my taste for livers, but I'm pretty sure that I never ate them before moving to the homestead and growing our own chickens. I've been told that my grandmother's favorite dish was calf liver and onions, but that was the extent of my liver foray prior to Krazo Acres. Back in the Chicago burbs of the subs, we had plenty of grocery stores, most of them being the "American" type (i.e. Butternut bread, Jiff peanut butter and nothing more exotic than "Hot" salsa made in New York). But if you knew where to look, there were plenty of ethnic neighborhoods with their own grocery stores, most of them being of the Mexican or Polish variety. Oh how I loved wandering the aisles, staring at the bountiful shelves filled with exotic canned goods, fruits & vegetables, fish, meats and other "unusual" animal products. Chicken feet. Duck heads. Bovine stomach lining. Brains, hearts, livers, kidneys. It still amazes me that the typical American diet does not include these tasty, and often nutritionally superior, animal food products.

So, back to the livers (and beyond). Once I had started to butcher our own birds, I noticed that we were not utilizing a lot of the animal. So instead of just tossing all the innards into the compost heap, the gizzard and heart became the official Butchering Day dog treats, while the livers were the official human treat. Necks were saved for chicken stock, and if the feet weren't too icky, they went into the soup pot as well. But there were still two not-so-little items that were not being utilized by us humans.....

I got the final push from watching too many Asian Street Food documentaries. No matter what episode or producer of documentary I was watching, chicken gonads inevitably appeared in the dish, either as a side, an ingredient or the main production. Down the rabbit hole I went.

I admit, I am not one for being very squeamish when it comes to eating strange foods. Rhiannon and I even fried up a dozen or so wood beetle larva in bacon grease a few years back and it wasn't too shabby. But for many, there is the totally understandable "Ewwww" factor when the consumption of animal testes is mentioned. There are many areas in the US that make a big To-Do about eating fried cattle or lamb testicles, just do a search for "Testicle Festival" and see how many there are!! I tend to be a textural kind'a person; I like chewy, I like stale, I like crunchy. Give me a bag of Cheeto's Cheese Puffs that have been left open for three days in the summer humidity and I'm in heaven, but anything that is "Oozie", not so much.

In order to avoid this texture, I opted to give my new culinary experiment a thorough cooking in a pot of boiling water. I cleaned off one of them (the other was smooshed in the process of extracting it) and plunked it into boiling water for about ten minutes. It seemed to firm up a bit, so I took it out and cooled it off enough so that I could remove the membrane. In the videos I've seen for cooking them, they appeared to have the membrane intact, but I didn't want it to "pop" when I took a bite so I stripped it off first. I also refrained from adding any salt or seasonings as I wanted to taste the unadulterated flavor.

It. Was. Good. And I didn't gag, although I didn't expect I would. It has the texture and coloring of a soft tofu with the flavor of a mild chicken liver. And as you already know, I do love me some livers! The next time we butchered roosters, I made them all and Rhiannon and I ate them for lunch. She said it was ok, but I think she was a little put off by the fact it was a chicken testicle. Or maybe she just wasn't very hungry. We will find out next butchering day. I may even try to cook them like little sausages, fry them up with the membrane still on, pan fry and crisp the exterior up a bit and add some seasoning.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The Ending of an Era (or Error???)

I haven't been the offical "Keeper of Goats" at the homestead for almost six years now. After re-establishing myself in the weekday 9-5 grind, the daily Care of the Caprines was no longer my responsibility. I don't recall how many goats we had when the Goat Baton was passed to Paul, but I swear it was no where near what we had last week. Specifically, thirty-nine goats. As in just one less than forty. As in, "Holy Crappers! Where in the hell did all these goats come from??" Well, when a mommy goat and a daddy goat love each other.......

But I regress

We've been talking about thinning the herd for a few years now but it just never seemed to happen. Until last week:

Two separate buyers releived us of twenty-seven goats. Not only do we not have to feed these goats any longer, but we ended up with a few extra dollars in our pockets. Not to say we actually MADE any money on them because as anyone who raises small-scale livestock painfully understands that you never, EVER make money, but we did not send the goats off without getting a little bit of green for the trouble.

Hopefully we will be visited by an additional buyer this week who will take a few more off our hands, leaving us with only MamaGoat, Cactus, Sunflower and the two bottle buckliings. MamaGoat is past her kidding years so she will live out her life here. Rhiannon was unwilling to give up Cactus and Sunflower as they were her bottle babies from last year and Cactus is pregnant; she wants to be with her for her first kidding. Sunflower is a little bit gangly and not really fit for breeding, so she's become a pet; she may eventually be sold if it's to another family as a pampered pet goat. And the two bottle bucklings will hopefully be sold as soon as possible.

Going out into the goat yard yesterday was still a bit eerie. Not being mobbed by them nor hearing the screams of "starving" goats whenever you make eye contact with them is taking a little getting used to. Wait, what's that racket now?? Oh yeah. We still have seven roosters. Five more than we need. Time for rooster stew.

And I've got a rooster story for you as well. Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Finally Defrosted

The entire Universe seemed to have a particulary cold spell last week (or was it the week before? I don't recall, I think my brain is still defrosting) and caused havoc for lots of people. It hit especially hard for those in areas where we are not used to sub-sub-sub-zero temperatures. For those of my readers who live, and even enjoy, the Arctic weather, I tip my hat to you. You truly are survivors (and possibly a bit cray-cray).

Our temperatures dipped to the negative two or three days during the night and didn't venture above single digits during the day. So when do you expect our goats decided to give birth? Yep. Twelve kids popped out during this time. Our older does had enough sense in their little noggins to go into the lean-to, but two others just plopped out their kids in the middle of the field. In the freezing cold snow.

We've dealt with hypothermic goats before, so (un)fortunately we pretty much know what to do. If the kids are somewhat coherent, we just bring them into the house and warm them up with a dryer. When their internal body temp is back up (around 101 degrees) they can be fed warm milk. It is imparative that their body temperature is normal before they are fed; it they have milk introduced into their stomach before this, they are unable to digest and end up dying. We found this out with our first hypothermic kid several years ago.

These years of (in)experience have given us the proper protocol for dealing with frozen goat kids. The two this year were found unresponsive and immediately brought in to warm up. The first doeling was able to warm up with just the hair dryer treatment, but the second buckling was well beyond that and he had to be submerged into a bucket of warm water for about an hour. It took almost all day to get his temperature up to even think of getting some warm milk into him. He was still kind'a out of it, but he needed nourishment as soon as possible so we tube-fed him until he was able to take the bottle.

Both hypothermic goats are now being pampered by my daughter, along with a third buckling who we pulled from the dam as she doesn't seem interested in him (she's on the "sell" list, btw). So we have goats in the kitchen. I wish I could say that this is an unusual occurance; alas, it is not.

The other goats and Ms. Melman seemed to get through the cold spell without any harm. The chickens did not care for the snow at all and would not come out of their coop until Paul shoveled a path for them. The ducks didn't seem to mind the snow and would just bulldoze (duckdoze??) through the soft snowdrifts looking for a snack or a pail of warm water to muck up. Kai wasn't bothered much by the cold, but he did come in at night. The cats would venture outside for like fifteen seconds then loudly request to be let back inside, cursing me for being such a horrible cat-mom and demanding that I change the weather to the 80's. Penelope stayed tucked away in her little polar fleece lined burror for two days straight, but is already back to her at-dusk feeding schedule.

The wild birds flocked to our suet feeders and trays of warm water. There was quite a menagerie of feathered friends; bluebirds, tit mice (mouses??), juncos, cardinals, wrens, sparrows, downy woodpeckers, sapsuckers and nuthatches! I've never seen such a variety of birds at the feeders at one time!

Our weather outlook for the next ten days looks to be in the mid-50's and nothing lower than 32 at night so I think we're back to normal. I'm hoping to get out in the gardens this weekend and play in the dirt a little. I've already started some herbs inside and have to stick some tomato and pepper seeds into pots. Spring is coming in just twenty-three days! I just hope that Winter is done being a pissy-bitch and leaves quietly.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Little of This, Some of That

One thing always leads to another. This particular "one thing" started about three years ago.

During one of my "I can make that into jam / jelly" fits, I had started saving apple cores and some skins from the copious amounts of apples consumed by my daughter. (BTW, I cored them BEFORE she started chewing on them) They were saved in large zippy bags in the freezer until I had enough to make apple cider jelly. Unfortunately, several of the jars didn't jell up properly so we had a half dozen Apple Cider "Syrups" sitting in the pantry for the last two canning seasons. My daughter has been watching a lot of baking shows lately and loves to come up with new desserts. Her favorite concoction has been Apple Tacos, which are basically little fried pies, but baked. We had apples, and we had apple cider syrup, so away she went to making her dessert. It started with the apple cider syrup, fresh apple chunks and some oatmeal thrown in for good measure. That goo was then used for the Apple Taco filling. And filling, they were. But the filling-to-pie crust ratio was off and there was over a cup of the filling goo left. Not being one to let anything go to waste, I saved it from the chicken bucket and put in aside for "something" later. Yes, the frugal person of Polish heritage strikes again.

As I was drinking my second (or thriteenth, don't judge me) cup of hot tea, it occured to me that a scone would go wonderfully with my beverage. Hmmmm....what flavor scones could I make? Enter the extra apple filling.

I took the filling and added a duck egg, a bit of vegetable oil, milk, whole wheat and white flour and a big pinch of baking soda. Mixed it up until it looked good then slapped the scone'ish mass onto a greased baking sheet, scored it and popped it into the oven.

Please dont's ask me for the recipe, as I have no idea what I did. I have found out that after years of cooking (and burning, and ruining, and giving mistakes to the critters), that I have become "that woman" who just bakes and cooks without a recipe. In my younger years, it drove me totally bonkers when people would say "a pinch of this" or "until it looks good" or "season to taste". I would have seethed at me if I knew the older me when I was the younger me.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

"Butt" it was on SALE!

I tend to go overboard when it comes to stocking our larder. To me, there's nothing more satisfying than to see a pantry or freezer full of food for my family. I don't know where I got this habbit; I didn't live during The Depression, I didn't have a horrible childhood, nor was I ever deprived of food.

I guess I just have a "problem", albeit not too horrible of a problem when compared to the multitude of real-life problems many are having now. I just have no more room in the freezer.

Pork shoulders / butts were on sale last week. So I bought some. Like 100 lbs. "some". And as I've just mentioned, I did this knowing that there is like zero freezer space.....but it was on SALE!!! Gawd, I'm so weak willed.

But I did have a CAN!

We've canned plenty of venison, goat, and even chicken legs (ick, don't let me do that again), but I've never canned a "prepared" meat like sausage. I just thought it seemed strange to have a jar of canned sausage on the shelf; but why not?? We do adore breakfast sausage patties, and Italian sausage links, but I also use sausage crumbles in other dishes like lasagna, spaghetti sauce, pizza topping, etc. And when I make my breakfast, I occasionally crumble up the sausage to put in omelettes and mix up with my egg burritos so what's the difference if it comes from a jar or if I cook it into crumbles from fresh stuff?

This weekend was filled with boning, chunking, slicing, grinding, mixing, browning and canning. Lots and lots of it. My hands hurt when I gripped the steering wheel of the car this morning to drive to work. But at least I was at the office and not cutting up meat.
Out of the 100 or so pounds of pork, we've made 25 pounds of breakfast sausage and 50 pounds of Italian sausage. There was juuuuuuust enough room in the freezer to put most of the breakfast sausage in there. Twelve quart jars of Italian Sausage are now lining the pantry shelves and several quart bags were stuffed into my Dad's freezer. The only things left to do are to stuff the remaining twenty pounds of Italian Sausage into casings and to cure about 20 pounds of buckboard bacon. I WILL find room in the freezer for bacon, even if I have to remove some items (like, say, the peaches I never canned last year. Ugh) to make it fit.

What is buckboard bacon, you ask? Well, it's basically BACON, but not from the pork belly; it's from the shoulder. And this is what my buckboard bacon looks like.....

Technically, I could have just taken the bone out of the shoulders and made the entire thing into buckboard bacon, but I still wanted sausage. So I just took the fatty top and some meat underneath off the shoulders and that was closer to what "normal" bacon is like (i.e. more fatty). Those slabs of buckboard will be rubbed with a curing salt / seasoning then left to age in the refrigerator for about two weeks, massaging them every day (sexy, huh??). Once the curing process is over, they can be sliced and put into the freezer or smoked (for more flavor) THEN sliced and put into the freezer. It's a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Emulsified Groundnuts

I'm one of those people who will see something and immediately say, "I bet I can do / make / try that!"

This thought applies to food, clothing, art, carpentry, animal care, medicinal items, cleaning products, etc. Just about anyting with the exception of things that have to do with electricity. It's not that I'm afraid of electricity (well, I really should be), but because I do not understand it. At all. But that's another story.

I like to think that my "I can do that!" attitude comes from my inate thirst for knowledge and empowerment, but mostly it comes from being a tightwad Polok.

Rhiannon and I went to the local health food store in town and treated ourselves to some fresh ground peanut butter. $5.98 a pound peanut butter. Which wasn't even really "FRESHLY" ground as the bulk bin section where the peanut butter machine is located is on "lockdown" because of COVID. So basically there are a bunch of little plastic tubs filled with already-ground peanut butter in stacks on shelves right next to the taped-off peanut butter making machine. Boooooo.

Not only did we have to use their tubs (we bring our own tub), but we didn't get to see the magic of the peanut butter machine in action. Bought a single tub anyways. Because, well, peanut butter.

Said peanut butter was finished rather quickly. With homemade jam and fresh bread, slathered on apples, dolloped on top of banana slices, mixed in with breakfast oat groats / wheat berries, eaten right off the spoon (did I say that aloud?).

So. I am out of peanut butter. Well, not really. We do have a stash of store-bought peanut butter in the pantry. And it is good. But you really can't compare store-bought to fresh ground. It's like comparing Little Caesar's pizza to a deep dish Chicago pizza; they are both pizza, they are both good in their own right, but they are not the same animal.

Out comes the aforementioned frugal person of polish decent.

I pillage our pantry and bring up a pound of dry roasted, unsalted peanuts. Do a quick internet search for "homemade peanut butter" and find out that yes, it is as easy as it seems; IF you have a food processor. Which I technically do not OWN, but I HAVE one that I have yet to return to my Dad's house. I'm thinking that my crappy blender would not have been ideal for this project, nor was I THAT stubborn to shun the use of electric chopping devices in favor of somehow smashing peanuts with some sort of mallet (which I did, indeed, entertain the idea of....for like two seconds).

After hefting the behemoth food processor out of the bottom cabinet, snapping on the metal blade and securing all safety contraptions to it, I was ready to make my own darned peanut butter! I dumped the entire 16 ounce can of roasted, unsalted peanuts, closed the top and pushed the button. The peanuts rattled around for a few seconds, then went from chopped to minced to a crumbly mass. Not wanting to be hard on the motor, I gave Ol' Bessie a minute off, then proceeded with the peanut processing.

After it looked like, well peanut butter, I plopped a couple of tablespoons of honey in there and zipped it again for about 20 seconds. Scooped it all out and put it in my hand-me-down glass container thingy.

I can now add "Maker of Peanut Butter" to my Curriculum Vitae!

Yes....growing peanuts is now on the list.