Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (made with honey)

I loooove the combo of Strawberries and Rhubarb. Especially in a pie. Or a crisp...YUM!

But I'll be honest here...I'm slacking in the pie-making department lately. I'm no supermom, you know! When I graciously received some stalks of rhubarb from a family friend (unfortunately I don't have it growing in my yard), I wanted to make sure I used it up though...even if I didn't want to "go all out" and make a pie.

Hey, cut me some slack here... 5 goats, 4 chickens, 2 bunnies, 2 cats, 2 dogs, and most of all, 3 kids, make me very exhausted at times. I'll take my shortcuts, thank you!

When I saw THIS recipe for rhubarb refrigerator jam, made with honey (instead of the usual 500 cups of sugar), I thought, "this is perfect!"

I LOVE homemade jellies and jams. Especially refrigerator jam, because we all know I'm going to eat it all up within a week or two anyway, right? And this recipe uses Pomona's Pectin, which doesn't require any specific amount of sugar to make it set, so you can use less sugar, or natural sweeteners such as honey!

This was my first time using it- all you have to do to make it work is make calcium water, which is easy, because the package comes with a little packet of powdered calcium, and the handy instructions on how to make it (just mix with water and then store in your fridge).

But Wait-

I didn't have that much gifted rhubarb, so how could I make rhubarb jam? Said recipe called for 3 cups, and I only had about 1.5 cups. The answer was really quite obvious, being that I had a bag of frozen strawberries calling to me from my freezer.

It was fate, really. The strawberries that were in my freezer happened to measure out to 1.5 cups, as well. And this is how my new Strawberry Rhubarb jam (made with honey) was born!

Of course I can't take much credit for this recipe... I followed the GNOWFGLINS recipe to a tee, but subbed in 1.5 cups of strawberries, and it came out delicious. Enjoy!

Strawberry Rhubarb Refrigerator Jam (sweetened with honey)

  • 1.5 cups peeled, diced rhubarb
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1.5 cups strawberries (I used frozen)
  • 2tsp Pomona's Pectin calcium water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2tsp Pomona's Pectin

Put water, strawberries and rhubarb into a saucepan, covered. Bring to a boil, and let steam at least 5 minutes, or until fruit is soft and falling apart. If you use frozen strawberries, it will take longer. I chose to mash my fruit up, but it's up to you how "chunky" you want it.

Turn off the heat, and add calcium water. In a separate bowl, mix pectin and honey together. Turn on heat again, mix in honey/pectin mixture and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and put in a jar. Can be stored in the freezer,  or refrigerator.

Easy. Simple. Sweet-but-not-too-sweet. If you eat it with a spoon, I won't tell!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Backyard Foraging: Japanese Knotweed Jelly, and Dandelion Jelly

Some backyard foraging has been happening here...

I know you recognize this one... the ubiquitous weed that is loved by some, despised by many... the Dandelion of course!

You probably know that the leaves are edible, and the roots are used medicinally...but did you know that the flower petals can be used to make delicious tasting jelly? The flavor is reminiscent of honey- it's so good!

Basically, what you do, is collect the dandelion heads (this is the easy part, and a good time to enlist the help of your mini-laborers AKA kids), then you remove the petals (this is the extremely tedious part- but well worth it), then you boil said petals to make an infusion that, after being strained, will be the liquid for your jelly.

I won't post the recipe here, but I'll let you in on the recipe that I use, from Linn Acres Farm- you can find it HERE

I told you about the Dandelion jelly already...I'm also harvesting some freshly emerged Japanese Knotweed shoots for making jelly (unfortunately I didn't get enough this time, but not to worry- the stuff is highly invasive and i can get more in about a minute lol).

Also known as False Bamboo, Japanese Knotweed has been the bane of our backyard's existence since we moved to this house (remember how I mentioned it was invasive). There used to be a HUGE patch of it. It grows up to be about 6-7 feet tall, dies back annually, and grows back in the spring without fail (at the expense of all other vegetation).

We've hacked it down, moved it, and planted grass over it for years. Now it's at a manageable level to where I can just...make jelly out of it!

To get the liquid for the Jelly, you remove all leaves, wash, and chop up the shoots. You then cover with water, bring to a boil and let simmer for awhile...

After straining, you'll get a shockingly pink "juice" to work with!

HERE is the recipe I used last year, and am planning on using again this year after I collect some more shoots as they inevitably spring up in my backyard.

I love much...*sign* I've waited all Winter for this, and I'm going to try to take full advantage of these early spring gifts.

Well... as much as my toddler will allow. My foraging efforts are often thwarted by a certain two year old who will remain nameless *cough cough* Gavin *cough*.

Happy foraging, my peeps! Feel free to comment on what's growing in your backyard! I'm off to make myself a peanut butter and Dandelion jelly sandwich...

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Story of Lonely Goldie

This Spring, I bought a few new pullets to replenish my flock...

The three baby chicks are growing fast... I think they're a couple months now...I lost track....

Goldie continues to keep watch over the chick run, and can usually be seen lingering right outside of it (enjoying their company, yet ready to peck them at a moment's notice lol).

A little back info. on "Goldie": She didn't start out as my chicken; she actually belonged to my neighbor, across the road, and free-ranged on many acres of land with a flock of hens just like her. Eventually Goldie and her flock began migrating to our humble speck of property, spending more and more time here, until they had completely adopted us. For awhile, the hens were only returning home to lay their eggs. Then they started laying their eggs here... it was awkward...

Why did they cross the road? I think they chose our tiny flake of earth over the hundred acres they had access to because of all the exciting biodiversity here lol... i.e., goats, chickens (who are sadly no longer with us due to crossing the road themselves), bunnies, etc. Anyway, they chose to sleep here and spend most of their time, whilst still crossing the road whenever they pleased, which is why only Lonely Goldie remains.

She's always been a free ranger, and she's likely at least a few years old... I'm not sure I'll be able to confine her to the bigger run we're setting up for the chicks and have her still be happy. I'll just have to wait and see I suppose.

There you have it. The story of Lonely Goldie wink emoticon

Sunday, March 8, 2015

How I'm Controlling Goat Lice Naturally (with essential oils)

You all know by now, that I'm a crazy goat lady. Well, you're about to discover that I'm also a crazy oil lady.

I like to do things as naturally and synthetic chemical-free as possible. That's just a part of who I am. If there's a natural cure, I will seek it out. Herbs, essential oils, nutrition... they're all a part of how I choose to raise my farm animals, as well as my own children.

I'm not implying that I'm an extremist, by any means. If one feels they have to use synthetic chemicals in order to look out for the best interest of their farm animals, I'm not one to judge.

I do feel like natural prevention and cures are an integral part of my own animal husbandry philosophy, and I'm always learning more, and looking to the animals for cues on what they need, and how they feel.

I feel like goats are receptive to essential oils... *ahem*... some more than others.

Yes, they definitely have their scent preferences! They seem to like me better when I wear "Stress Away" essential oil blend (Is it the Lime? The Vanilla? The Ocotea or the Copaiba? The Lavender? I may never know). Cedarwood is another approved scent.

They do have good taste! "Purification," a blend that includes some naturally insect repellent oils like citronella, lemongrass, rosemary, lavandin, tea tree, and myrtle, is a different story. I admit, it's a strong smell... and the goats don't think it's strong in a good way. See the reaction? It's a bit different than the other two.

What Do Essential Oils Have to Do With Goats?

Okay, so you're probably wondering why this crazy oil/goat lady is bringing bottles of oil outside for her goats to sniff. Is it for her own entertainment? Aromatherapy for goats? Is she just easily amused?

Yes, yes, and yes. Oh, and I'm also interested in using essential oils for external parasite control.

By external parasites, I specifically mean LICE. I know... sounds gross... makes you itch just thinking about it. But don't worry- goat lice are species specific, meaning they don't transfer to humans. They don't want to infest you, they only want to infest the goats.

How Do Goats Get Lice, and How Can I Tell if They Have Them?

How/why do goats get these creepy critters? What I've learned since having goats, and the pattern of lice problems I've noticed seems to agree with this, is that goats tend to get lice in the winter. A reason why goats are more succeptable in winter, is that the conditions are just more favorable for the lice. The goats have nice thick coats for them to hide in, the goats are more cooped up together, and less likely to be standing out in the sunlight- which kills the lice.

Now, if it was summer and I noticed lice, I could simply shave the goat to help get rid of them naturally, but since I live in Maine, and it's March (still freezing), I can't just take off their warm winter coats!

Last winter, when I noticed that my goats seemed itchy, and upon closer observation had rough coats and dry flaky skin (along with tiny creepy crawly bugs that I could barely see close to their skin), I used diatomateous Earth, which sort of worked, but dried out their skin even more. I then opted to use Neem oil, which worked quite well.

This year, I started to notice similar symptoms, although not as severe. I wasn't surprised, as we've had SO much snow this winter that the goats have been even more cooped up than usual. Where did the lice come from? I don't know for sure, but I've heard that they can come from the bedding that is put down for them. Anyway, I noticed scratching and rougher coats, and lice upon closer observation.

At least Snowdrop has useful horns for back scratching!

Onto the Treatment...

After a moment of panic, I came to my senses and realized that I had been through this before, and although I did not have Neem oil, I did have some other oils that could help. My first instinct was to use "Purification." It's potent stuff! If I were a louse, I would certainly run away from it!

I wanted to start with a diluted application first, to make sure they weren't too sensitive to it, although I wanted it to be strong enough to actually work.  I started with about 10 drops in 1/2 cup of olive oil.

I'm not gonna lie... the goats ran from the smell... except Snowdrop. Snowdrop is down for a massage anytime, any oil. But the other two? They ran and hid, but I slathered them anyway. Tough love.

I reapplied a few times after that first day, until the pre-mixed oil was all gone. Since then, I've hit 'em with some straight Purification (neat) as well as some Cedarwood oil, every few days. I do think that mixing in a carrier oil is possibly more effective, because with their thick winter coats, the carrier oil will help with penetration, and less quick evaporation. It's so darn cold out, though!

The goats have had some nice sunny days lately, which will help kill any living lice that remain. When I inspect them now, I only see lice that are not moving. Dead lice. Still gross, but less gross. They could use a good brush and a haircut... but that will come with the warmer weather.

I'm sharing this information with you, not to give you my expert advice, because I am not an expert. I am a learner. I've had my goats for a year and 3 months, and I've learned so much in that time both from interacting with them, and learning from people who have more experience with raising goats naturally. I'm confident that these essential oils are safe and effective for goats, and I will hopefully post an update soon that my goats are itch free, with shiny coats and healthy skin!

If you'd like to know how to get some essential oils that are high quality, potent, and pure, click HERE