Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Getting started with homestead dairy - Gavin from the Greening of Gavin

Over the past few weeks I've interviewed small farmers who milk cows, goats and even a sheep, and now, in the last interview of the series, I have an interview with urban-farmer Gavin from the blogs The Greening of Gavin and of course, The Little Green Cheese, in which he documents his cheese-making tips and successes.  Gavin may not keep his own milking animal, but he certainly knows what to do with the milk and has plenty of good advice for those wanting to get started with homestead dairy.

Gavin: Thanks Liz for the opportunity once again to be part of one of your interview series. They are always great fun to write.  (Gavin also participated in getting started with growing your own and getting started with keeping chickens)

Gavin ready to teach cheese-making
Farmer Liz: Tell us about how you started making cheese.

Gavin: There is a long story to this. I grew up on a small dairy farm in South Australia. There was an abundance of milk, but we never made cheese. My parents made butter and cream but didn’t take the next step. The reason was that they didn’t have the knowledge passed down to them, and even if they did, ingredients were not readily available during the 1970’s.

Mind you, I often visited a Greek friends houses for lunch and was served delicious yoghurt and Feta. It was amazing cheese, and I didn’t taste that flavour again until I made my own for the first time in February 2009.

I attended a cheese making workshop at our local community house and with 10 other eager students learnt the art of cheese making. My very first cheese was Feta, because I wanted to experience the taste and texture of the Greek cheeses that I remembered from so long ago. My Feta did not disappoint. It was amazing.

FL: What cheese is a good place to start for those who haven’t made cheese before?

G: May I suggest that beginners start with either a Ricotta or a 30 minute Mozzarella. These two soft cheeses are easy to make, and are usually a quick success. I call them the “gateway cheeses” to a whole wider world of cheese making.

From there you can then try semi-hard cheeses and perfect the art, before trying something harder like a mould ripened Camembert or Blue cheese.

FL: How did you learn to make cheese? How do you suggest new cheese makers learn the craft?
G: As mentioned before, I took a cheese making class to understand the basics. I knew that was right for me, even though it was only 5 hours long and I gained limited understanding. It was all too fast. Quickly soon after, I purchased some cheese making books and studied further. I didn’t want to become a master cheese makers, just a successful home cheese maker that could make a decent wheel of cheese in my own kitchen.

However, I did find that the books that I bought and borrowed went into far too much detail, and has so much fluff padding them that they really were not for beginners. So guess what? After a few years of experience, I wrote my own cheese making book! It is called “Keep Calm & Make Cheese – The Beginners Guide to Cheese Making at Home”. I kept it simple and straight to the point so that anyone can make delicious cheese in their own home. It is quite a popular seller.
Gavin's excellent ebook
I also started a home cheese maker’s blog called Little Green Cheese, because there was limited information on the Internet for people like me. I put up modified recipes and tips, and even started a podcast where I interviewed home cheese makers just like myself. I learn so much when I conduct these interviews and it has helped me become a better cheese maker.

I suggest that anyone interested in the craft, pop on over and have a look at the blog. There is lots of free information posted within it.

FL: Have you tried using different milks? How does goat and cow milk compare?

I have found that not all milk is equal. The milk that you can buy in the supermarket has been tortured and only makes an average cheese. You need to add Calcium Chloride to the milk at the beginning of the cheese making process to revive the milk so that it will set a curd.

I prefer non-homogenised cow’s milk when I can get it because it sets a fantastic curd, and the final product is exceptional. I have only used raw cow’s milk twice, and must say that if you can get it, this is the best sort of milk to use. Because I share my cheese with friends, I also pasteurise any raw milk I use, which is a pretty simple process.

As for goats milk, I have used it twice to make Feta, because it gives the cheese a superior flavour than if just using cow’s milk. I can only get it from the supermarket, however that may change soon, because I have a friend who now owns a goat!

not all milk is equal...
FL: What is currently you biggest cheese making challenge?

G: My biggest challenge is sourcing good quality milk. I find that if you start with a great milk, you end up with great cheese. Not average cheese. Great cheese. Living in a suburban environment does not help, so I usually have to make do with second best which is non-homogenised milk.

FL: What is your advice to those considering making cheese?

G: Just do it. Cheese making is not difficult. If you can follow a recipe, buy a good cheese making book, and start with basic soft cheeses. You will have successful, delicious, homemade cheeses straight away which will give you the courage to make semi-hard cheeses. If struggle to learn from a book and are a visual sort of person, I made it easy for you! I recorded over 14 cheese making video tutorials that are available with my cheese making book, or free on YouTube at the Greening of Gavin channel.

FL:  Thanks Gavin, for sharing your experience with cheese-making!  Its so interesting to find out how you go started.  If you have any questions or comments for Gavin, please head over to his blog to join the discussion.

Interview with myself
Interview with Mark and Kate from Purple Pear Permaculture
Interview with Kim from the Little Black Cow
Interview with Rose Petal
Interview with Marie from Go Milk the Cow
Interview with Ohio Farmgirl

If you want to know more about house cows, my eBook is available for purchase on Scribd.  Its only $4.99, and it includes lots of information about keeping a house cow in Australia.  There's more details about the eBook on my house cow eBook blog.  If you don't want to go through all the Scribd/paypal effort, just send me an email on eight.acres.liz at and I can arrange to email it to you instead.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Water for small farms

If you are interested in growing anything on your small farm, whether its just a vegetable garden, an orchard, or you want to keep some animals, you’re going to need to organise a source of water.  I've written an article on this topic for Farm Style, so pop over there to read the rest and leave any questions or comments here.

Cheryl swimming and Chime not swimming in one of our dams for stock water

Friday, October 25, 2013

So many eggs.....

After the winter egg draught, its weird to have so many eggs again!  We have 16 hens, and get about -9 eggs/day, which isn't too bad considering half of them are 2 years old and 3 of them are currently clucky.  We also get the occasional egg from the guinea fowl and I can't decide if we should hatch some of them.... they have been a little bit crazy!

I thought you might be interested in the different eggs.  In the photo below, all the eggs on the right are chicken eggs.  The little one at the top is a "fairy egg", we've never had one before, and I'm not sure who laid it.  We get quite a size range, but not usually quite that small!  The egg on the top left is the guinea fowl egg, they have a pointy top and a very hard shell, they are slightly smaller than the typical chicken egg.  The one of the bottom left is a duck egg from a friend, for comparison.

eggs from various poultry
When cracked open, the duck egg is the top one, as its from someone else, I'm not sure if the colour difference is just the different feed, but the white is also whiter.  The one in the middle is the chicken egg and the guinea fowl is at the bottom.  I was surprised that the yolk size wasn't much different between the three eggs.  I put all three of these in a cake :)

When we have lots of eggs, I usually try to sell them, but it seems that most people don't eat as many eggs as we do, and it can be hard to get rid of them all!  We have 2 each for breakfast nearly everyday (and by the way they are not actually bad for you - any more!), but even then, it doesn't take long to build up an excess.  My main solution is to make a simple quiche, mainly just eggs and kale, with onion, mushroom, bacon, leek or anything else from the garden that goes with eggs.  I also make cakes and icecream (when we also have the cream and milk to spare).  I have read about freezing eggs and even drying eggs to make powder, but I have never tried this.

How do you use up excess eggs?  

By the way, my chicken eBook is now available if you want to know more about backyard chickens and using chicken tractors.  More information over at the chicken tractor ebook blog.  Or you can get it directly from my shop on Etsy (.pdf format), or Amazon Kindle or just send me an email eight.acres.liz {at}

What's the eBook about?
Chickens in a confined coop can end up living in an unpleasant dust-bowl, but allowing chickens to free-range can result in chickens getting into gardens and expose them to predators.

 A movable cage or “chicken tractor” is the best of both options – the chickens are safe, have access to clean grass, fresh air and bugs. Feed costs are reduced, chickens are happier, and egg production increases. 

 But how do you build a chicken tractor? What aspects should be considered in designing and using a chicken tractor effectively? In this eBook I aim to explain how to make a chicken tractor work for you in your environment to meet your goals for keeping chickens. 

I also list what I have learnt over 10 years of keeping chickens in tractors of various designs and sizes, from hatching chicks, through to butchering roosters.

Reviews of the Design and Use a Chicken Tractor

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Its our wedding anniversary!

Today is our third wedding anniversary.

I did a series of posts about our wedding, and I'm glad I did, because the memory is fading. I consider that we had a simple wedding, it was certainly cheap and not very flash. We enjoyed the day and spending time with family and friends. I wrote these posts to help people realise that they don't have to follow the normal commercial wedding, and its easy to do something different and simple if you want to and you don't have to spend a fortune (save it for the honeymoon).

A simple wedding in several parts - location, guest list and invitations, accommodation

A simple wedding part 2 - the dress and flowers

A simple wedding part 3 - the ceremony

A simple wedding part 4 - the reception

We are continuing the tradition of not going on a honeymoon or doing much for our anniversary because we have too many animals :) This year we are just having a simple dinner at home together on the veranda, looking out over all those animals (and eating the good things that they give us that totally makes it worth keeping them :) )

Tell me about your simple wedding ideas.....

Monday, October 21, 2013

Worm farm maintenance

Worm farm kits from Biome

I have had the worm farm for over a year now, and I have to say it’s the easiest and most convenient way I have found to make compost and to dispose of vege scraps and other organic waste. I have not had much success with putting everything in a compost bin, I find that the food scraps go all sloppy and don’t really compost properly. I have found that my current system works much better, all food scraps go to the worms and the compost bin is for weeds and manure. The worms are able to eat all our food scraps and convert it to compost and worm tea, and there is still plenty for the compost bin, but now its not full of sloppy food scraps. People often ask if its necessary or possible to have both a worm farm and a compost bin, and I think it actually works better for us.

The worm farm really requires very little maintenance.  All I have to do is tip in more food scraps every few days, drain the tea once a week or so, check that the top tray is damp (if not, tip in half a bucket of water) and clean out the compost about twice a year. My worm farm consists of two trays, so the top tray is where we put the fresh food scraps and bottom tray is being converted to compost. When I want to remove the compost (which I wrote about in more detail previously) I sort most of the worms out of the bottom tray and put them into the top tray, then I swap the empty tray to the top. The worms tend to burrow down into the compost, so the easiest way to sort them out is to keep heaping up the compost and skimming a layer off the top. I don’t worry too much if some worms end up in the compost though, there seem to be plenty of worms. I also keep some worms to feed to the chickens, they love that as a treat.

this is the compost, I use it with seed raising mix to start seeds

this is all the food scraps in the top layer

Here's the outside of the worm farm

the wonderful products of worm farming - compost, tea and worms!
Do you keep a worm farm?  Do you find it low-maintenance?  Any worm-farming questions?

Worm farm kits are available from Biome, click the banner below:

Worm farm kits from Biome

Friday, October 18, 2013

Handchurn real food icecream

Earlier this year when Molly was producing lots of cream, I experimented with making real food ice cream in a borrowed ice cream machine.  I tried a few difference recipes and I had a lot of fun figuring out how to make ice cream from simple ingredients.  I enjoyed it so much I decided to buy my own ice cream machine.  When I was looking on ebay I came across a hand-churn machine and I really liked the idea of turning it by hand, the machine was relatively cheap, so I decided to give it a try.

The ice cream machines all use a similar design.  They have a metal bowl filled with a fluid that freezes at lower than 0degC, so that when you put it in the freezer, it gets down to freezer temperature (about -7degC).  You then put that bowl in the machine, pour in your ingredients and a blade scrapes the frozen mixture off the side of the bowl.  In the electric machine, a motor turns the bowl, and the blade is stationary.  In the hand-turn machine, the bowl remains still and the blade is turned by hand.

The two things I didn't like about the electric ice cream machine was the noise (you couldn't hear the TV over it) and the lack of control over the speed.  It only turned at one speed (surprisingly slow) and in one direction.  The hand-turn machine is virtually silent and the turning speed can be varied.  At first you can turn the handle slowly, and only every couple of minutes, you can also turn it back the other way if the mixture is accumulating on the sides of the bowl.  As the mixtures starts to thicken, you can turn the blade faster and I think this incorporates more air into the mixture and gives a better texture.

When you finish churning the ice cream, its not quite ready to eat (although I don't mind it runny), you need to pour it out into a bread tin and put it in the freezer for a few hours to solidify, but it will keep the softer crystals as turning the ice cream has broken up the ice crystals.

You can buy a new hand churn machine of the same model I have, or the electric machine that I borrowed, but do check out ebay because plenty of people seem to buy ice cream machines and then get sick of them!

Do you make ice cream?  Have you tried a hand-churn machine?  Any tips?

You might also be interested in my series on getting started with homestead dairy

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Getting started with homestead dairy - Ohio Farmgirl

Here's another interview in my series about homestead dairy.  This time another (reluctant) goat lady, Ohio Farmgirl, shares her experience with milking goats.  OFG also joined me for the getting started with growing your own and getting started with chickens series, but in case you missed those interviews, she lives in Ohio (obviously) on a few acres and is very passionate about growing her own food, and German Shepherds.  She has a great blog called Adventures in the Good Land with lots of wise words about gardening, poultry, dogs, pigs and of course, goats.

FL: Tell us about how you came to own a milking goat.

OFG: Ah... goats. The 'poor man's cow.' Some people love goats. I do not. I'm more of a 'goat liker' and not a goat lover. We usually have between three and “a small herd” of dairy goats. To be sure the only reasons I have diary goats are because:

1. I can't afford a cow (no pasture for them to graze)

2. Poison ivy.

When we arrived at this new property it was late fall and we had no idea the entire place was infested with poison ivy. The first summer we were on this property I had a poison ivy rash every stinkin' day. So one afternoon I literally threw down my garden tools, got in my truck, and drove up to meet a woman who advertised "mini manchas" on craigslist. I didn't know what a "mini mancha" was and at the time the only thing I knew about goats was that they eat poison ivy. That was good enough for me. So I handed over all my foldin' money and drove home with two ridiculous looking, bleating goaties. The first thing they did was run over to the poison ivy and ate it. I loved them.

Then the shine kinda wore off. But we'll talk about that later. Oh, and no goats will ever be in this house. Nada. Never. No way.

I wish I could build a cow sized platform...
FL: Do you use hand-milking of machine milking? Why?

OFG: I old-school it all the way and only hand milk. The milking machines are pretty expensive and honestly by the time I'd have to drag it out, hook it up, use it, and clean it I could just milk those darn goats myself. We prize “easy milkers” in goats and any goat who is too difficult to milk is given a bus ticket, $20, and sent on their way.

The most important tool in our milking regime is the milking stand. This makes it easy for me to reach the important parts and it allows the goat to focus on her feed. We only give bagged food on the stand. No milk, no feed. That's the way of it. Using this 'feed on the stand only' ensures that the goats are excited to run right up and stand there quietly. Kicky milker, bad attitude, stomp in the bucket? Guess what, Goatie, I'll take your food and I'll still milk you anyway – this hard nosed approach guarantees they will stand there quietly.

FL: What is your milking routine?

OFG: For peak milking greatness we milk twice a day, about an hour after sunrise and about an hour before sunset. This is in line with our other barnyard chore schedule so it makes sense to us. In a normal year we sell all the goat babies as soon as we can and take advantage of every precious drop of milk.

This year has been a bit different. For the first time we don't have pigs to eat all that delicious extra milk so I am only milking in the morning. The babies that we kept this time (two doelings who are sure to be prized milkers when they are ready) are separated from the mommas at nite, I milk the ladies in the morning, and then the babies can have the milk for the rest of the day.

The lady and her goat :)
FL: Do you use a bull or AI to get your goat back in kid?

OFG: Generally we take our goat ladies on “dates” to be bred. We have a great working relationship with some professional goat breeders and this has worked really well for us. We've also, unfortunately, had to bring a several goat bucks onto the property. I can't stand bucks. They are stinky and aggressive and mean. Too Short, ThunderNuts, and SnaggleHorn all did their “chores” and were shipped off as fast as possible. There is no way I'd keep a buck on the property full time. You can read here about our misadventures with keeping a buck.

We haven't explored using AI mostly because finding a good goat vet around here is pretty tough. Also, I'm not mature enough for some things. AI for goats is one of them.

FL: How much pasture land do you have for your cow and how much supplement feed does she need?

OFG: Goats are actually pretty thrifty. Our goatyard is good sized but not enough for them the graze as their sole source of food. We've been experimenting with fencing off different areas of our wooded and brambled lot. This has been working really well. We have a ton of blackberry and wild rose which is perfect for the goats. We've also been really successful with our home made alfalfa hay project.

With our two full sized and one mini goat we usually go thru one 50lbs bag of food per week to 10 days. When we bought hay last year we were probably using a bale per week. But this year with the expanded grazing areas and home made hay we have not purchased one bale of hay the entire summer. Since we aren't milking for peak performance we can afford to use these methods. This has made for some terrific savings and we are getting a lot of land cleared. If we were milking for maximum milk we would be buying more alfalfa hay.

FL: What do you do with all the milk?

OFG: We use all of it! What we don't use for the house for cheesemaking and our own use we pour on the barnyard. All of our critters love the milk – it's perfect for the chickens and the ducks even love it. But the goat milk's value really shines when we have pigs. We save a tremendous amount of money on pig food by supplementing their food with goat milk and also eggs (always cooked) from our chickens.

Having dairy animals completes the perfect barnyard circle.... the goats provide the milk for the chickens who provide eggs for us and the pigs, and the pigs provide us with meat. The pigs clear the worst of the brambles and treed areas to open it up for grazing areas for the goats. When we butcher the pigs, and especially when we render the lard, we get leavings for the chickens. It all works out perfectly and all parts of the barnyard benefit from each other.

FL: What do you enjoy most about having your own milking goat?

OFG: The incredible savings in barnyard feed costs. It's really a great system and we can't believe how well it works. We focus our feed dollars on the bagged goat feed and it “trickles down” to benefit the rest of the barnyard.

FL: What is currently you biggest milking goat challenge?

OFG: The foolishness. I know that many people love goats for their charming personalities but frankly they just rub me the wrong way with their shenanigans. My requirements for goats are for them to produce a lot of milk and to stand there quietly while I milk them. I could go without all the drama, theatrics, and standing there screaming their fool head off. We have had a variety of ridiculous situations including coming home to find one of the goats hanging upside down by her back leg, one goat getting her head stuck in a feeder, and don't even get me started on the most dreaded time of year – goat birthing season.

Fortunately for me I have an excellent and hard working farm dog who helps me keep the goats in line. Also we favor the La Mancha goat breed – they tend to be quieter and more well behaved. There is no goat smooching on our farm.

A common challenge some people face is that their goats are “escape artists.” We don't have that problem. We have the biggest, nastiest electric fence charger that money can buy and ran hotwire on the inside of field fence. The goats respect the fence – the goats also know that there are huge, burly dogs on the outside of their goat yard. They learned quickly that any escape attempts are met with the full force of my Dog Horde. So our goats don't escape anywhere.

FL: What is your advice to those considering getting a milking goat?

OFG: Two things:

1. Get really, really good fencing. One of the biggest mistakes folks make is underestimating the ability of a goat to get out of their pen. Don't waste your time with anything but electric hotwire on the inside of field fence. Ideally you'd want 2 or 3 strands about nose high to keep the goats inside the fence. Remember that fencing is there to keep your goats IN and also to keep predators OUT. So even if you think your goaties won't try to get out remember that is only half the problem. If you haven't had problems with predators before, once you get goats you will.

2. Never bring a goat to a dog fight.  I am continually stunned at folks who think it's OK to let their dogs “play” with their goats. Friend, that's just an unhappy accident just waiting to happen. Goats smell like poop and run when chased – they are the perfect prey. No goat – not even that big buck of yours – is any match for one big, determined dog or two medium dogs working together. Make sure your fencing is secure and your dogs are supervised around your goats.

And lastly... don't over think it. We wish we would have gotten full sized dairy goats sooner. However we were intimidated by having dairy animals so we started out with the mini goats. We quickly learned, however, that goats of all sizes are easy to handle and the more milk the better. We can't tell if we are lucky or what but our goats are our biggest farming success.

FL: thanks so much for taking the time to participate in this interview OFG, once again you have provided us with plenty of advice.  I don't have any goat experience, so I find it fascinating to read about them.  I love your little milking stand, I wish we could get Bella up on something like that, but goats are so much more nibble that big clumsy cows.  If you want to comment or ask any more questions, head over to OFG's blog and join in the discussion.

Check out the other interviews in this series on Homestead Dairy:
Interview with myself
Interview with Mark and Kate from Purple Pear Permaculture
Interview with Kim from the Little Black Cow
Interview with Rose Petal
Interview with Marie from Go Milk the Cow
Interview with Ohio Farmgirl

If you want to know more about house cows, my eBook is available for purchase on Scribd.  Its only $4.99, and it includes lots of information about keeping a house cow in Australia.  There's more details about the eBook on my house cow eBook blog.  If you don't want to go through all the Scribd/paypal effort, just send me an email on eight.acres.liz at and I can arrange to email it to you instead.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Permaculture - Use and Value Diversity

This month we are up to the tenth principle from David Holmgren's Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability, Use and Value Diversity.

The other principles that I've reviewed have been:
Observe and Interact
Catch and Store Energy
Obtain a Yield
Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
Use and Value Renewable Resources
Produce no Waste
Design from Patterns to Details
Integrate, Rather than Segregate
Use Small and Slow Solutions

I was also very excited this month to find another blogger who is currently reviewing the permaculture principles from their own perspective, see more here.  If you know of any other good permaculture blogs, please do let me know :)

Diversity is a really important principle to consider from a farming perspective because so much of agriculture is anti-diversity.  The ideal conventional agriculture concept is to use herbicide to kill everything in a paddock and then plant one crop, the plants will all grow to similar height and ripen at the same time, so that they can be easily harvesting mechnically.  Then paddock is sprayed again.  With livestock, again the ideal is to produce animals that all look the same, and most farmers stick to one type of animal only.

Last summer we planted cow pea with our forage sorghum and the guys at the produce store thought we were mad, I would have liked to plant even more diversity, but we are experimenting gradually.  What it comes down to is recognising that we can obtain a better yield overall by encouraging diversity.  Sure we might not have grown quite as much sorghum or as much cow pea as we would have done if we planted them separately, but together they both seemed to thrive and the cattle ate the whole lot.  Generally if you have a diverse range of plants growing, any pest or diseases can't get established and wipe out the whole lot, the way they can in a monoculture crop.  For that reason, we don't worry to much if we end up with some weeds or other grasses in the paddock, its all part of the diversity, as long as they don't take over. 

There is of course a fine line between competition and synergy, as discussed in Integrate, Rather than Segregate, you can have too much of a good thing and end up choking out a weaker species that does need its own space, or some extra nutrients.

I found it interesting also that David discussed diversity within a breed and damage done by stud and show breeding.  Where animals have been breed for particular physical attributes and not for practicality, for example show chickens that no longer lay well, we have lost an entire breed and virtually have to start again to create a breed that has the atributes that we as permaculture farmers need (this was also discussed in my favourite chicken book).  The ideal chicken lays well, has a large body suitable for eating, is able to forage, avoid predators, and survive in our climate, I don't care what it looks like!  Braford cattle were originally bred for their hardiness, but after our bull got eye cancer recently we realised that some studs seem to be breeding for aesthetics and using too much Hereford, so that the animals are not as resistent to eye cancer as the original Braford breed.  We need to value the diversity in animals so that we can establish breeds with desirable attributes in our own climate. 

In my garden, I like to use diversity by planting both edible plants and few flower plants and by also letting most plants go to seed.  This encourages beneficial insects, both pollinators and predatory insects that feed on nectar, and reduces pest problems in the garden. 

How do you use and value diversity at your place?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Soaked flour pizza bases

Occasionally we feel like pizza, be we don't like takeaway pizza because we don't really know what's in it or on it and we usually end up feeling ill after eating it.  Homemade pizza is a bit of work, its very messy when we make it (because we usually make a few at a time because when you're cutting up all those toppings you may as well make more than one), there always seems to be flour all around the kitchen when we've finished, but its worth it for all that delicious pizza.

I've experimented with a few different bases.  I used to use a simple homemade pastry, which was a nice thin base, but then I started baking my own bread, and now we use the same recipe to make the pizza bases.  I shared my bread recipe recently on Wholefood Mama's blog, for the pizza bases I leave out the sunflower and chia seeds, but I do use some wholemeal flour, as we like the flavour.  One batch of dough makes four pizzas, so we can have pizza for lunch for a few days.  We bake the pizza in our Weber BBQ on a pizza stone.

For pizza toppings, we use the opportunity to use up whatever is in the fridge or freezer.  Usually we pile on far to much, even when we are trying not to!  Some suggestions:
  • Tomato paste for the sauce (I know people make fancy sauces, homemade chutney is delicious, I would use that if I had it!)
  • Garlic, onoin and herbs (especially basil and oregano)
  • Ham or bacon
  • Salami or wurst or sausage or any other leftover meat
  • Tomato slices or cherry tomatoes
  • Capsicum
  • Mushroom
  • Olives
  • Homemade cheese
  • Pineapple (fresh or canned)
Do you make pizza?  Any tips?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Getting started with homestead dairy - Marie from Go Milk the Cow

Over the past few weeks I have been interviewing other bloggers who keep dairy cows and goats.  This week I have an interview with Marie from Go Milk the Cow, who has experience with both milking goats and cows (she wrote a great comparison post here), which is a great perspective for those who are trying to choose between the two.  Marie lives with her family in South Mayo, Ireland, on the other side of the world from me and in a very different climate!  This is what I love about blogging, meeting like-minded people from all over the world.

Marie says "After an illness in our family, we decided to strip life back to the bare minimum to see what was left. What we found was a value for family life, time generously shared with family and friends, laughter to fill our small cottage...Happiness at the hearth!  We strongly believe in building social capital and that this is a true measure of wealth.  We are raising our three young children to be resilient in an increasingly changing world. I have a keen interest in economics and sociology with a background in accounting". 

Marie with MamaMoo
Marie has also very kindly written the hand-milking section of my house cow ebook (coming soon!).
Here is what Marie had to say about milking goats and cows:

Farmer Liz: Tell us about how you came to own a milking goat and a cow. 
Marie: I grew up on a small mixed farm that included a dozen dairy cows that my dad milked for the creamery. He got out of milking in the early nineties due to changes in the milk quota system. My husband and I considered purchasing a milking animal five years ago, during this time our son as an infant was having great difficultly due to milk allergies. Shortly afterwards my husband was diagnosed with cancer. This caused us to become concerned with our family's diet and nutrition. We began purchasing goat milk for our son and immediately his condition improved. The supply of the goat milk was irregular and it was very expensive. So we decided to purchase two milking goats.

That was five years ago and since then we have learnt a great deal. We sold the goats two years ago and have been milking a cow for about three years now.

We changed from goats to cows for several reasons. We had planted an orchard and a vegetable garden that they regularly destroyed. It was very difficult to fence or tether them. While the children enjoyed the goats milk, myself and my husband did not enjoy the taste. I wanted to be able to have cream to use in the kitchen. Kid goats are problematic to find a home for.

We have our current cow one year. She is a Dutch jersey called MamaMoo. She is an older cow at 11 yrs and was sold as a cull cow. She is our third jersey and she came from a 250 sized jersey herd a few hours away from us. She is the second cow we purchased from this farm. The previous cow we give to family to milk when we moved house. She is still with them and much loved.

FL: Do you use hand-milking of machine milking? Why?
M: I have always hand milked the goats and the cows. We have a bucket machine milker so that hubby can be the relief milker for me.

I have only used the machine a few times but it makes a lot of noise and fumes which can upset the cow. I do not find it quicker or easier than hand milking when you consider the effort and time needed to clean the machine afterwards.

FL: What is your milking routine?
M: Our routine at the moment is once a day in the evening. The cow is in her second year of lactation and drying off. MamaMoo comes to the gate when I am doing the evening jobs of feeding the pigs and chickens. When I open the gate, she walks into the yard and on into the milking shed. I put feed in her bucket and she stands still for milking without being tied. Once I am finished, she walks herself back to the field and I close the gate afterwards. It is very simple and easy. I usually have children with me helping.

I would usually milk twice a day earlier in the lactation unless we sharemilk with a calf. During the winter, she is keep in a concrete yard next to the milking shed.

I have share milked with two cows and one goat and I am now convinced that I will not try it again. It upsets the animals to be milked when nursing you g and they always hold up the milk and are generally unpleasant. In the future I will separate earlier and train any calves to a bucket.

FL: Do you use a bull or AI to get your goat back in kid?
M: We use AI here and never bulls. We only have one cow and to make a cup of tea for the AI man is less hassle than any bull.

FL: How much pasture land do you have for your cow and how much supplement feed does she need?
M: We have one acre of pasture divided up into three paddocks. We also have the use of ten acres next to us thanks to wonderful neighbours. We produce about two thirds of the grazing for the cow. We have wonderful rich and fertile soil and a jersey cow has a gentle appetite.

Her additional feeding depends on milk production. She gets fed during milking and for the duration of milking. That can vary from 8kgs a day at peak to 1.5kgs a day currently. She usually gets a mixture of high protein dairy nuts and rolled oats.

FL: What do you do with all the milk?
M: I have come to realise that there is no such thing as excess milk. It feeds the pigs, calf, chickens, cats and dogs after we have taken our generous share for the kitchen. I turn it into yogurt, cheese and ice cream. We use about 5 litres a day of milk and cream for drinking and cooking with also.

FL: What do you enjoy most about having your own milking goat?
M: I enjoy going out in the evening with my bucket to milk the cow. It is a peaceful timeout for me. An escape from the busy day. I sit down into the cow and reflect or sing while listening to the sound of the milk jets hitting the side of the stainless steal bucket. All the while, watching the bucket fill and listening to the pigs squeal as they hear 'their' milk fill too. The dogs and cat sit in close to us, hoping that this bucket is theirs also. The milk is in great demand.

FL: What is currently you biggest milking goat challenge?
M: Our biggest challenge is our need to replace our current cow. She is empty and quickly drying up. She will need to be sent to the factory and a replace bought. She is such a sweet cow, it will be hard to replace her.

FL: What is your advice to those considering getting a milking goat?

M: Any milking animals take a large commitment. But they do ensure health. Health of your family, animals and soil.

FL: Wonderful information Marie, thanks so much for sharing this.  One thing that I found interesting was your trouble with cows holding up the milk when they have a calf with them.  We found that Molly is very passive and will give us all her milk, but Bella likes to keep some for her calf.  We came to a compromise where we only milk three quarters and then she doesn't mind giving us all the milk from those quarters and keeping the other one for her calf.  This seems to be a good compromise and we don't have to bottle feed a calf.  Everyone seems to do this differently and it just depends on finding a balance that works for both the family and the cow.  If you have any questions for Marie, please head over to her blog and join in the discussion.

You might also be interested in my series on getting started with homestead dairy

Monday, October 7, 2013

Garden Update - October 2013

September, being the first month of Spring has been a huge month in the garden.  We finally got 35 mm of rain, so everything is green and growing (until it dries out again).  We are still harvesting plenty of kale and mini broccoli, and the peas have finally got started, still waiting for the broad beans though.  The surprise harvest was the purple potatoes I planted back in winter and had to protect from the frost.  They were started to die back, so I dug some of them up, only to find handfulls of purple potatoes, my best potato harvest ever (although still not very many) and planted at completely the wrong time!

purple potatoes
and cooked they are still purple! but taste just like normal potato
 This month I've been busy planting and mulching and clearing the old plants ready to start planting more for summer.

Bella has been helping to trim the grass around the garden (although sometimes she also helps herself to some beans, so I'll have to set up the electric fence when the beans get bigger)
a view down the garden, I've been mulcing!  Its looks like a jungle with all the tall brassica and dill flowers popping their heads up
 My garden is full of flowers at the moment, so I wanted to share some of them with you....

nasturtium (we eat the leaves regularly in salads or cooked)

dill flowers (I use the dill in pickles and mayonnaise)

chinese broccoli - white rather than yellow like the normal broccoli

borage flowers, some are blue, some are pink, I add them to herbal tea and bees love them

a sunflower that came out of the chicken grain, I'll feed the seeds to the chickens if the parrots don't get them first

calendula - add the petals to herbal tea or steep in olive oil to make a salv

spring onion flower, will spread the seeds around when they are ready

parsley, the whole lots has gone to seed, so the parsley patch will regrow next year!

broad beans (again) smell so good and turn into beans, although not one per flower

here's some baby beans, seems to be one per cluster

lemon flowers, looking forward to picking my own lemons!

bush beans I planted this month next to the broad beans and peas

climbing beans next to the fence

a new fence around the outside to keep out the chickens

the berry patch, and maybe the sweet potato will grow back too

raspberry canes, I can taste the raspberries now...

the other end of the garden, lavender, one paw paw and some choko, will plant the rosellas there too

my little greenhouse full of seedlings, lots of tomatoes, various curcubits and a couple of rosellas and some beans
By next month I hope to have planted out most of these seedlings and started a few more seeds and then I hope to just keep watering the garden and it will mostly look after itself with a bit of weeding and harvesting.

How's your garden growing?  What's your plans for next month?

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