Art of Proprietation

Sunday, April 24, 2011

And I Will Call Her Bunny

Easter Sunday morning, at about 1:30 AM, we took delivery on two brand spanking new baby doelings, delivered by our doe goat, Sparky. In these first couple of days, saanen kids are reminiscent of rabbits, hence this one will be our Easter Bunny. The other is Bender. In Dairy goat naming convention, it's a 'B' year and the rest of the reference is too obscure for most folks.

We had been waiting for Sparky to deliver for a couple of days. It was a nice sunny day on her due date Friday. But she didn't deliver. Friday night was a windstorm with some rain. Saturday it snowed enough to stick. Saturday night was cold and wet. Sunday morning, early, more so.

Here is sparky with a pretty glazed look getting close to labor.

She kept licking us in the face and hands, like she was washing off the after birth. Getting practice for the real event.

In spite of the weather and late delivery, every seems to have turned out OK. Two Doelings, nursing, peeing and pooping. All good sings.

While all this goat delivery was going on, he was tangling with a Skunk. He'll be sleeping outside for the near future even if I wasn't out there sleeping with the kids and new mom.

On of the benefits of sleeping out with the goats, my wife brings me out coffee in the morning..

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Thursday, April 07, 2011

8 pints

I am sure there are plenty of people who are fine doing animal slaughter. I don't like it much. But it is necessary part of the cycle. For me, it's like going over a waterfall. I dread it coming up to it, consider any excuse not to do it, but once I commit, the rest just happens. Once past that point of no return, the rest just happens like gravity. And I know something about falling over waterfalls.

On the way up to the field I came up with a lot of excuses not to shoot Little goat in the head. He was big and strapping, friendly and human centric. He would have made a great cart goat or companion animal. But in the end, it turned out he had a lot organ fat that I rendered into 8 pints of goat lard. I think Lard more correctly describes rendered pig fat, but Little Goat's is papery white, anyway. We'll see how it tastes. Probably not as good as pork lard. But still usable. And if it doesn't work well with eggs, maybe we'll make soap instead.

The rendered goat fat has a different texture than pork lard, though. It congeals and even hardens at a much higher temperature. More like wax than pork lard. one reference I ran across said that goat fat makes very hard soap. I could see that for sure.

In addition to eight pints of goat lard, Little was about 80 pounds of meat for the freezer plus another 20 pounds of bone for stock and then Baloo dog. Little had a large hide, he was a good sized three year old goat. His liver goes to a friend who is anemic. Apparently goat liver is a good source of iron. What we won't eat has gone into our mortality compost pile and will nourish our soil. Little was born on our soil, was fed from our soil and he will return to it.

I did look into finding another home for Little. I put him on Craig's list with a high enough price that he wouldn't be bought for slaughter. If he was going to slaughter, I would do it myself. The one woman who responded asked if he came from a 'milky' line of goats. I explained that he did, but given as I had advertised him as friendly whether, he was castrated and he couldn't pass on those milky traits. She didn't get back to me.

Little made it as far as he did because he had a purpose. Little's purpose was he was expendable. If we had a goat we needed to segregate, Little was the goat who would keep that lonely goat company. Unfortunately for Little, we have enough does now that we don't need to keep a companion goat anymore.

Little was a good goat. We will miss him. I didn't enjoy killing him or harvesting his parts. But he will feed us and the line he came from lives on in our does.

RIP, Little Goat.

Friday, March 04, 2011

170 Million Americans

Public Radio has an ongoing campaign called something like \170 Million Americans\ to protest the US House cutting funding for public radio.

I have been a dues paying member of public radio my entire adult life. I am a frequent public radio listener. I listen to public radio when I am in the car, in my home office when I am working, in the milking shed, under my ear muffs on the tractor. I don't listen to any other radio stations. I find it to be an excellent source of varied news programming.

I think that my public radio station and NPR should give up any government funding.

National public radio gets something like 2% of it's funding from the Fed. My public radio station gets something like 10% from the fed and nothing from the state. But it is time to give up that funding.

My public radio station has the highest penetration of any public radio station. More people in my state listen to PR than any other state (by %). If public radio can stand on it's own two feet in any state, it should be here. And they can. 10% is not make or break for them. It would take belt tightening, but they could do it. And I strongly believe if they publicized that they were giving up federal funding, the membership would stand behind them and make up the difference, probably more.

NPR is in a similar position. When NPR was created, it struggled for funding and government support was crucial in providing radio programming in under served areas. But they are a mature organization now. It is time for NPR to stand on it's own two feet. And it is important for NPR's integrity to do so. Money from the fed comes with strings attached. To be a truly an independant organization, NPR should no longer accept federal money.

Part of my reasoning is the need for journalistic independence. But it is also based on principle. Public radio prides itself on being member supported and not compelling listeners to pay for broadcasts. By accepting money from the government, they are accepting money that has been collected by compulsion through taxes. Unfortunately, there are tax payers who don't wish to make a contribution to public radio. Accepting contributions that are not willingly given is not the right thing to do.

If 170 million Americans believe that public radio deserves support, then let them support it. It wouldn't take much of a contribution from each of those Americans to fully fund public radio. It's time for NPR and my public radio station to stop treating federal funding like an entitlement and look at past funding as seed money.

This year, when I made my contribution to public radio, I wrote a short note expressing my belief that they should give up governement funding. And I doubled my annual contribution. I am encouraging other public radio listeners to increase their contribution and tell public radio to keep their integrity and give up federal funding.

I am being careful not to say that all public radio stations need to give up government funding. There may be under served areas of the country that still need government support to remain viable. Areas that just don't have the population density to fully support their own public radio station alone. But I am encouraging the listeners across the country to increase their contribution and consider if they really need federal funding. I have considered it here, and believe federal funding for my station is not worth the strings that come with it.

Let's find 170 million Americans who are willing to support public radio. Lets show the politians that we can support public radio without them.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

64 x 80 = 5120 / 144 = 35.6 square feet

64 x 80 = 5120 / 144 = 35.6 square feet

Those are the approximate dimensions of the bathroom in the Elle, our private space.

It's not very big. And it has a stair that leans over about third of it. When I re-did the bathroom, I spent a long time figuring out how to fit a bathtub/shower, toilet and sink in that space. And have enough room leftover to stand up straight. It's obvious now, but it wasn't obvious to the previous designer. A man by the name of Barrel, or maybe Barrow. It was a long time ago, anyway.

I was thinking about this, because I was brushing my teeth while my wife was finishing her shower. I had to squeeze over so she could exit the room while I finished. It's a little bigger than a closet, but not a lot bigger.

For a variety of reasons, I needed to do a lot of work in this bathroom when I bought the house. I ended up tearing down all the interior plaster and lath, pulling up the rotten hardwood floor and sub-floor, putting in a new carrying wall in the basement under it rewiring it and re-plumbing it. I saved the toilet and the sink, but everything else went. One of the niceties I put in was a radiant floor in a suspended slab, which I like very much. And I changed the entry door from the kitchen to the trap room. It took the kitchen from having four doors on three walls to three which made the kitchen less of a traffic zone.

I think it has turned out well. We have a full bathroom for our private space in the Elle. And it is a vast improvement over the original pantry closet that was converted into a bathroom. We don't have a lot space in the Elle, so having a small bathroom gives us more room to do other things. And making use of what we have is what makes what we have work.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I like having a cook stove in the kitchen. We have an antique glenwood, maybe an A model. It's pretty basic, fire box on the left, draft goes over the oven, down the right side, under the oven and up the back of the stove to the damper. With decent wood, it's easy to get 500 degrees F in the oven. The surface of the stove is hot enough that we use firebricks with an 2" air gap to have a warming area. I usually keep a baking stone in the oven. It's convenient, with that kind of heat sitting around in the kitchen it's easy to warm up leftovers in a skillet, make a toasted sandwich on the baking stone, etc. All that hot cast iron holds a lot of energy at the ready.

The Glennwood keeps our part of the house warm all winter. We do have a radiant floor in the bathroom, but that comes off the trap room, so it has no air flow from the kitchen. The stove doesn't run for much more than an hour untended, so things cool off by morning. But the house is comfortable for us.

It takes some doing to orchestrate it, though. Last spring, I was collecting trees and cutting wood. The tree crew for the power lines came through. Because I was available, they were more aggressive about the size trees they cut. One of the guys said he dropped his largest diameter tree yet that day. Me being there with the tractor meant they only had to get the tree down and they could drop it in the road. They would normally have to cut up the down wood. For me, they left it in the largest pieces I could take away. That made it easier for me, less handwork than picking up a lot of small pieces. It also means it's cut up the way I like it for my stove. One of my neighbors also had several trees come down. It's their second home, so they don't have much want or need for the wood and were happy to have it disappear. Between those two sources, I have at least two years worth of wood.

I like to minimally split my wood for seasoning and wait until later to split it down to kitchen wood. I am will have to handle it a couple of times to get it into the house wood shed, so keeping it in large pieces means I don't have to handle so many. In the fall I brought down this years wood to the house and stacked it in a stock panel wood shed. Now, I go out to woodshed daily and split a bunch of big chunks into kitchen wood.

We use five gallon buckets to manage wood from the shed into the kitchen. There is a rack near the stove for four buckets. The buckets catch the falling wood detritus and melting snow, etc. They are also a handy measure. Depending on the wood quality and how it's split, five to eight buckets of wood feed the stove all day.

The Glenwood has a satisfying number of controls. It loads through the eyes on top. There are two draft controls on the fire box, a lever for the diverter to send the flu gasses around the oven, a slider damper on the back of the stove and a damper in the round stovepipe above the stove. Each has it's own particular metal clank, thud, scrape or squeal. They are often uncomfortably hot to touch and I use the stove iron to hook or push them. There is an oven door temperature indicator and a flu thermometer. I can hear the draft and the tone of the fire. Standing near the stove I can feel if the fire is ebbing and the stove is cooling off. It is not unlike running an old engine that is adjusted with nudges, done by feel and confirmed by listening.

I have a routine in the morning. Up and start the fire while I make the boy something to eat. Bring in the milk cooler that skimmed over with ice overnight. Fill water buckets for the animals while the coffee steeps. Keep an eye on the stove. As the kindling warms to flu, watch for the flu to come up to temp and shift the diverter around the oven when it is drawing sufficient. Put in some small square wood that will catch easialy edge the fire up. Take empty wood buckets out to the shed on the way to the animals. Feed and water the goats. Loose the chickens and put out their grain. Bring the water buckets back to the trap room and check the fire. Put in some larger wood and set the draft for heat. Out to the woodshed, split and fill the buckets until the rack in the kitchen is full. Wash up and head out to milk. Don't forget a black coffee to make a goat latte with milk straight from the teat. Measure out the grain. Bring out Sparque who is always in a rush. Milk Heddar. Drink coffee. Relax a minute, watch the goats. Deal with any animal issues that show themselves. Put out more hay. The milk has been air chilling at these temps just hanging in the milking shed any way. Back in with the milk. Check the fire. Filter the milk into quart bottles and on into the ice bath to chill. Refill the kitchen wood buckets that got used and cut kindling for tomorrow's fire. Stop lallygagging and get to the days work.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Cold, Cold, Cold

I waited for things to warm up this morning before I went out to milk. It was twenty one degrees below zero Fahrenheit when I did milk.

Milk pails have a have a habit of reminding me of the temperature while I am out there.
At about ten degrees, stainless steel on bare hands gets cold quick.
At about five degrees, there's a momentary adhesion as any surface moisture flash freezes to the pail's handle.
At negative twenty, there's a little epidermis left behind stuck to the handle when the hand is pulled off.

This morning, there was hoar frost in the hair of the goats when they came into the milking parlor. The milk parlor is just an unheated shed off the back of the barn, so it is not like it is warm, though.

The upside of cold weather like this, it's real dry. I can walk around outside in wool socks and my crocks as long as I stick to the packed paths. I think the crocks are just as warm as my rubber boots in this situation. In March, it will warm up and be much too wet and cold for crocks.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Barbecue Turkey

Not really on the Barbi, but cooked in a barbecue sauce, anyway.

When my wife said she was marinading a turkey leg in barbecue sauce, I was a little skeptical. I have to admit, it came out well, though. It was juicy, flavorful and the texture was good.

This summer we raised turkeys again. We did more this year because last year's turned out well and we sold them easily. Again, they sold easily this year. My wife says she couldn't do any more than we did this year. I don't blame her doing all the slaughter and butcher ourselves was a lot of work.

We have eaten four turkeys for various holiday gatherings, one went to my brother, two went into our freezer as parts and the rest we sold. The turkey along with the goat from bucklings, roosters and the occasional pig we buy are most of our meat. We don't look a gift piece of beef in the mouth, but we don't by beef because we have enough of our own meat. It makes it that much more special to get it on rare occasions.

It's just an interesting juxtaposition for me. I can remember how long it's been since I bought a 29 cents a pound loss leader turkey or dollar ninety nine manager's special pork loin. Contrary to a lot of assumptions, raising our own food isn't so much about saving money. It's about knowing what food our food eats.

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