Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Delicious homemade egg noodles

The third best reason to keep chickens besides the wonderful eggs and homegrown meat, is homemade egg noodles!  Every once in a while I will find myself with an abundance of eggs, and when that happens I break out my Atlas 180 pasta machine and whip up some noodle dough. 

There are many fresh pasta recipes out there, but the one I use was found in the book Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery.  It uses lots of eggs and the dough freezes well.   Before I will pack the noodles in freezer bags for storage, I do let them dry a bit.  They don't have to dry completely, but the end result is better when they are dry enough to the touch that they don't stick to your hands.  Since we live in the desert, there is generally plenty of dust in the air.  And besides the dust, fly season is in full swing right now.  So, I lay out a few flat, unbleached cloth diapers for the noodles to rest on as well as another flat diaper to cover them up, protecting the noodles from flies and from getting coated with dust as they dry.  I have purchased my flat diapers from Little Lions, but there are other online diaper stores to find them.  Just stay away from the Gerber ones, they really are worthless.  In my opinion, the old-fashioned, flat, unbleached cloth diapers are among the best accessories to use in the kitchen.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Wise words

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.  
-C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The kidding watch has begun!

"And there will be ample goat's milk to supply you, to supply your household, and maintenance for your maidens."  Proverbs 27:27

We've kept Nubian dairy goats on our homestead since last summer.  Nubians are full-size dairy goats with elegant long ears and Roman noses.  Their milk is especially wonderful because it is notably rich in butterfat.  Nubians also tolerate extreme climates well, so they are perfectly happy here in the low Sonoran desert.   As mammals, goats must be bred and give birth to offspring in order to lactate.  I realize to many this may seem self evident...but you would be surprised how many highly educated people don't realize this simple biological fact.

We are now on our first kidding watch.  My doe, Black Spot, (named by Grace) is due on May 16th.  She also has a tentative due date in June, but we are thinking May 16th is the due date.  She is absolutely huge, and miserable.  Goat herdsmen and herdswomen know their girls are getting close by keeping close tabs on a few pelvic ligaments that soften up when the doe is going to kid soon, also by noting the color of the discharge that the doe is passing.  Yesterday, Black Spot started separating herself away from the rest of the goats.  This is another sign that kidding will take place soon.  It's a primal instinct to give birth away from the rest of the herd.  She only stands up when I come outside if she knows that she will be getting some grain or a treat out of the deal.  Her ligaments are softening, and she's having some clear discharge off and on.  I don't know when we'll have kids on the ground, but it will be soon! 

Black Spot resting in her favorite spot between her barn and the wall

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Today's harvest

There's plenty more where that came from!
I'm really impressed by Swiss chard.  We've already had a few days that have been almost 100 degrees and it hasn't even blinked.  I cannot believe how much chard I've harvested from five plants since they've been in the ground.  Seriously...if you've got Swiss chard growing in your garden, don't worry about going hungry!  The goats have eaten way more chard then we have, we just can't keep up with it.  Don't worry about them, those big pregnant ladies don't mind a bit.  I don't know how much longer my peas are going to be able to hold on though, those vines are starting to look unhappy.  Mine get full sun, and it's just getting too hot for them.  I planted the Progress #9 variety this year, an heirloom, and the peas are just huge!  Not as sweet as I was hoping for, but not too bad.  I'll likely plant it again.  My carrots are delicious and sweet, but not getting very big.  Little Ralph helped me plant the carrot seeds this time, and he thought they could be planted a little more closely together than the seed packet suggested.  So, I think I'll blame the cramped conditions instead of the variety.  That leaves the onions that I harvested today.  They are Spanish sweet onions, and are the first onions I've planted!  It's easy to miss "windows of opportunity" when it comes to our growing seasons here.  We've got four growing seasons, you literally can be planting something new and harvesting something new every month of the year.  It's so cool.  However, that means the seasons are short...and if you want to get in a crop, you have to be on the ball with your timing.  Finally I was on the ball with onions and leeks!  Tomorrow I need to space out some watermelon seedlings, and move some unhappy blueberries closer to the happy blueberries.  This desert gardening stuff is quite an adventure. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

R.I.P. Zoe

We lost a dear friend yesterday, our cat Zoe.  She had to be euthanized after tragically getting caught in the garage door.  Her back was broken; it was the most humane thing to do.  I had Zoe for 10 years.  She was my first "out on my own" pet.  Zoe was quirky, she loved to take showers with you...yes, I mean in the shower.  She's get sopping wet, but didn't care.  In fact, if you dared shut her out of the bathroom she would scratch at the door tirelessly and cry.  If you turned on the faucet at the bathroom sink she'd come running to get a drink, purring loudly.  She caught flies.  She loved to roll around in the dirt.  She didn't put up with the polar bear dog, Blue.  She thought ice cream was the most wonderful substance on Earth.  She loved my husband...very much.  I know she loved me too, but he held a special place in her heart.  During the few times that he would have to travel for work, she wouldn't sleep on our bed.  However, every night that he was home...she'd crawl right up on his chest, purr at him with her comfy-kitty bedroom eyes, and nip at him if he stopped petting her.  She wouldn't leave you alone at the computer.  To her, the most comfortable place to lay was right on top of your hands that were trying to type on the keyboard.  And she loved being out in the garden.

She'd hang out with me while I tended to the plants.  She and her pal, Frank, did a great job of keeping the local feral cats away from our yard.

One of my favorite memories of Zoe is back before my oldest child, Grace, was born.  Back when Ralph and I still lived in Michigan, in an apartment.  Every month, I'd walk the rent check to the office...and Zoe would follow me.  I'd go inside and she'd wait outside on the steps.  Then, we'd walk back home together.  The maintenance guys thought it was very strange that I took my cat for walks...I think they just secretly wished they had a cat as cool as mine. 

Zoe is now buried next to "her" garden bed.  Ralph dug a big hole, all of us gave her a kiss, thanked for her being such a good kitty, and we laid her down carefully.  The kids helped with their little hands to bury our friend, in the true Appalachia style...taking care of our own until the very end. 

There will never be a cat as cool as you, Zoe.  Take care of Maizie up there for me.  We will always remember you, and always love you.