Friday, September 23, 2016

Lasagna by Guest Author; Emma Okell

"The weather for Lasagna Day was pleasant and sunny, perfect for a day making lasagna. We started by milking Betsy. Everyone had a turn milking her or sponging away the flies that pestered her as Betsy chewed on her breakfast.

Afterward, we harvested fresh vegetables from the garden to put into our sauce. Along the way we looked at the bees, which make the honey we needed for our pasta sauce. We had to be careful around them because the drought has made it difficult for them to find enough nectar. At the same time, they have to protect their nests from robber bees that will steal the nectar they've collected. Because there was so little nectar, they are producing little honey, so we did not collect any. It is humbling to think how climate and weather changes impact cycles we take for granted.

After collecting vegetables, we chopped them up to boil into sauce; collected eggs, ground wheat into flour, and made pasta; crunched bread crumbs from stale bread to mix into our cheese layer. Other people shook jars of heavy cream until it turned into butter. The butter was used to saute veggies for our sauce and in making the garlic bread we had with our lasagna and pot luck lunch.
Adding vinegar to curdle hot milk    

After lunch, we mixed parsley with curds of vinegar cheese made from the milk we had collected that morning.
And finally, it was time for us to make our lasagnas. There was enough for each family to make lasagnas to bring home with them.

There were a few things we did not manage to fit into our lasagna day. We enjoyed making lasagna so much that we ran out of time to make mozzarella cheese! Debra sent us home with the printed recipe from New England Cheese Making Supply, rennet, and citric acid so we could try it on our own.
 Even without it, though, the lasagnas were delicious."

Friday, March 4, 2016

Backyard Dairy Tips and Tricks

Here are some of the tools, tips, and tricks of backyard dairying shared by our panelists at Saturday's Family Cow and Goat Forum:
         Cowshare and herdshare agreements are legal in CT since June of 2015. The bill as shown at the foot of this post, enables small farmers an affordable way to share their animals' milk with members of their community. is a great on-line resource for both cows and goats. It has a 911 section where you can post emergency or panic questions any time of day and get immediate responses. The moderator strongly enforces helpful, congenial posting.
        ...started by Joanne Grohman, author of one of our favorite manuals on  Keeping a Family Cow.

Mary's used Hoegger
We saw and heard the amazingly quiet motor of an Ultimate Udderly EZ milking machine. More information about it can be found at They also sell a hand-pumped machine. Other sources for portable milking machines are Hoegger Goat Supply Company and Bobwhite Systems. Bobwhite sells mini cooling tanks, too, coming in 14, 33, and 64 gallon sizes.

 Jeffers Livestock Supply sells cow magnets and calving (OB) chains (left). Magnets help prevent hardware disease in cattle by holding any bits of wire or nails in their rumen away from puncturing their stomach or heart sac.

Heavy canvas movers' straps help in lifting downer cows.
       After the dry period rest before calving, a cow's udder can heal remarkably. Often dry quarters will come back into milk. 

       If a cow is prone to milk fever, you can help avoid its recurrence by stressing her just before she calves with poor quality feed or by milking her a little throughout the normal dry period.

Milk comes from the animal at the perfect temperature for making yogurt. Just add a tablespoon yogurt/quart of warm milk and set in a warm place to incubate over night. Some set their jars on an electric seed starting mat and wrap them in towels. Others set their jars in an "ice chest" filled with warm water.

We sampled a delicious, fine-textured queso fresco made by following a recipe in Ricki Carroll's book on cheese-making. Her company, New England Cheese Making Supply is a good source of recipes and cheese-making products.

The Western Mass Goat Alliance is a great on-line source of support and inspiration for goat owners. 
       We talked about the therapeutic value of farm animals, and VT Chevon's efforts to provide goat meat and work to refugees. 
       Note this kid's Velcro collar.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

SEW Crafty!

SO, today at Taghhannuck Grange,
...we sorted and picked,
 ...pinned and ironed,

 ...trimmed and sewed

Monday, October 12, 2015


Home-grown hazelnuts and strawflowers adorn a twine-braid wreath made from bailing twine removed from bales of hay used to feed the Local Farm cows...
... at Motherhouse's annual Columbus Day FREE wreath-making workshop!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

We LACTO Pickle!

Thanks to Tal Hadani-Pease for teaching us the WHEY of pickling with lactic acid bacteria!  These mighty microbes are found everywhere in our environment and when given the right conditions, they will convert the sugars in fruits and vegetables to acid. This creates the sour taste of sauerkraut, kimchee, beet kavaas and other pickled delights. Not only does this process make food taste good, and become easier to digest, but it also preserves the food by making it inhospitable to disease causing organisms.
For sauerkraut, we chopped cabbage and used hand-made pounding sticks to bruise the cabbage and get its juices flowing.
We added mineral-rich Celtic Sea Salt and packed it tightly into jars, layer by layer.

Tal recommended using our shoulder and leaning into the pounding stick in order to press out every last bit of air.
Lactic-acid bacteria thrive in an anaerobic environment, whereas mold and undesirable microbes will grow in the air pockets. We packed the jars full leaving as little head space as possible.
Tal showed us how to fold a cabbage leaf to cover the new-kraut and keep it submerged under the salty juice*. We screwed the lids on tight to transport them home. At home, we'll leave them in a bowl to catch the overflowing juices as the mix ferments and cover them with a cloth to keep light from destroying the vitamins. As it ferments it will off gas so we need to either loosen the lid once a day to "burp" it or leave it loosened full-time. It can be left on the counter for about a week until it tastes like kraut then refrigerated indefinitely where it will slowly continue to ripen and the flavors deepen.
Next we started brined carrot pickles with dill and/or garlic. Tal uses a 5% brine or 3TBSP salt to 1 quart of water for all brined pickles. We cut carrot sticks of the same length, packed them into jars, covered them with brine and will let the microbes do the rest.
When pickling cucumbers, Tal suggests discarding the blossom end, as it contains enzymes that digest the fruit and make it mushy... also adding grape and oak leaves will also help keep their crunch.
IF they do turn mushy, strain off the juice, blend til smooth, spread on dehydrator trays and run at less than 115 degrees until crunchy and blend again for a tasty seasoning salt.

Tal recommends following the Wild Fermentation Facebook Page and her Pinterest Feed: New Twist Tal Hadani: Feed Me - Ferment. Contact her through her website: to purchase hand-made pounders or to arrange a private or party lesson.

*Other ways to keep your ferment below the brine include a 4 oz jar set inside a wide-mouthed quart with the lid screwed down, a slab of onion or a bamboo skewer fit inside the mouth and spanning the jar's shoulders, or a flat round river stone.
For hot sauce: pack any mix of chopped hot and sweet peppers in a jar with 5% brine to cover, let set on counter for 3 months, then pulverize in a blender.

Any of these lacto-fermented pickles can be kick-started by adding microbe-rich whey from straining yogurt... We'll teach you how to make your own at our next Family Cow Workshop!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Canning Chili Today for a Chilly Tomorrow

Kelli Peet taught us how to use a pressure canner today as we "put-by" several pints of scrumptious chili using venison harvested by Kelli's husband and fresh veggies from Ridgway Family Farm. Using a pressure canner is absolutely necessary for canning low acid foods including meat, beans, and most vegetables. We tripled the recipe from using the following:
*only 6 cups dried pinto beans - soaked over night then boiled 30 minutes in 11 cups of water.
PLUS *3# red onions plus *2# green and red peppers chopped and browned in a skillet with 3 Tbsp olive oil. After they were browned we added *10 pounds of Ron's ground venison and continued to brown it with the peppers and onions.
Using rubber gloves for handling the chili powder, we added *1 Tbsp black pepper, *1/2 cup chili powder, *4 Tbsp paprika, *1/3 cup ground cumin, and 2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano.
Instead of using canned tomatoes, we used *10# fresh tomatoes that we chopped after peeling by dunking in boiling water to loosen the skins. And we added*1/3 cup apple cider vinegar instead of lemon or lime juice.
 We set our clean, chip-free jars on a towel to fill.
 Kelli's 1-cup measure ladle with pour spout made filling the jars easy.
 She also had a canners' measuring stick so we could leave exactly 1 inch of head space in each jar.
 Then we stacked the jars in the preheated canners...
secured the lids, brought them up to temperature, and let them steam for 70 minutes while we ate lunch.
Once they cooled enough to open safely, we used jar grabbers to unload the canners and set our jars to cool and seal. Summertime stored in a jar! Thank-you Kelli!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Jammin' with Little Green Apples

 Today we met at Taghhannuck Grange #100 in Sharon, CT for a Jam Session! For making all-natural pectin, Brent Prindle let us use his basket pole to pick green apples.
 We took off their stems, cut them into quarters, and...
 dumped them into a saucepan with just enough water to cover. While they cooked until soft on the stove...
 Tal Hadani-Pease showed us how to make mixed-berry jam with honey and Pomona Universal Pectin.
 We used Brent's magnetic tool rod to dunk the jar lids in hot water for 10 seconds....
... and then, tighten in place with the metal jar ring. 
Once the apples were well cooked, Brent spooned them into a jellybag so the gelling pectin from the stems and peels would drain away from the mash. This is his natural pectin for adding to the fruit with lemon juice and mashed fruit to make jam.

 Brent made a jam using rosehips, quince, and sugar. For six cups of berries and juice, he added 5 cups of sugar, saving out another cup to stir in, to speed it's cooking.
 Using a large plastic measuring cup, Brent showed us how to fill the jars to 1/4 inch from the top...
...then we took turns putting a lid on it!