Monday, April 30, 2007
Meet with herbalist Alicia North of Northstar Botanicals at the UCC-Cornwall Parish House to explore the backyards of Cornwall Village for wild edibles and medicinal herbs. Learn about herbal tonics. Gather greens for a luncheon salad. Bring a dish to share for a potluck lunch. We'll contribute wild nettle spanikopita, fresh bread, and garlic mustard cheese spread.
rain or shine
To register, send $25 to Motherhouse, c/o D. Tyler, 22 Popple Swamp Road, Cornwall Bridge, CT 06754. Please write on the check which workshop it is for and how many family members will be attending AND include your current mailing address. The remaining $10 can be paid at the workshop. (If the class is full, we'll return your check.)
To view photos from last winter's herbal workshop with Amy Jean Smith of Earth Remedies, Torrington, open the attachment. For more information about Motherhouse, visit [ http://www.motherhouse.us/ ]www.motherhouse.us.
Future events include:
May 16 - "Mother's Moon" women's gathering to share stories of birthing and adopting. Call Rachel for details (860) 672-6328.
May 18 - Family Round Sing - 7:30-9:30 at the Local Farm Barn. For info call Nan 672-6013.
June 2 - Keeping A Family Cow Workshop
June 9 - OSLSS Workshop, "Eggs-perience Chickens"
June15 - New Moon Gathering
June 23 - Mother-Daughter Retreat
Thanks! I hope to hear from you soon!
Thursday, April 26, 2007
I jotted down notes about the workshop and answers to some of your questions.
We gathered and carried items to the goat pen. What were they? Hay, grain and two blue containers. One container had grooming items and also a bunch of assorted tools like my milking bucket, bungee cords and hoof clippers. The other container, which we did not get a chance to look at, has a goat first aid kit and various herbal remedies that I use, as well as clean blanket and towels in case I need them for kidding.
Feed and Breeds
We met the goats – 2 pregnant does, another doe, and a whether. Ajax, the mother of the other three (the short brown one) is a mix of Alpine and Oberhasli (a kind of Alpine). I bred her with a Saanen buck and she had the two girls, Ivory and Dove, who had their sire’s (father’s) white coloring. A different Saanen buck gave her the boy, C-jax, who, go figure, had his mom’s coloring. This time around I bred the two pregnant does to a South African Bohr buck, a kind of meat goat. Like with dogs there are many breeds and cross-breeds to explore.
We brought out Ivory who resisted going up on the stanchion. The second goat, Dove, was more accommodating. We fed her some treats that you might commonly have as scraps – carrots, apples, banana peels, garlic and onion skins. We also compared hay from two different bales. The hay in the buckets was papery and brown from being rained on before baling, while the hay that Jordon has carried out for us was green and more nutritious. Goats like stems, seeds and variety in their hay. Hay can range from $2 – 6 a bale, depending on quality and availability. Lots to learn about hay. We looked at my hay feeder, which is set up so that I can throw hay in from outside the fence. We also noticed that I sometimes feed hay on the ground all around the pen – I should mention that it is preferable to feed from a feeder, but sometimes if I didn’t have to time to clean out the feeder or when the goats had broken it, I throw the hay on the ground for them.
We brushed Dove and you watched me trim her hooves. As you saw, she kicked her feet in protest. This job does take some strength and determination. Emily, and later Debra, made a good point that having an assistant to hold the goat leg while another person trims would ease the process. In fact, Debra has helped a friend of ours in just this way with much success. Having a third person to feed the goat at the same time would be even better! I have seen people with very docile, well-trained goats who lift their legs almost like horses are trained to do – I’ve not been able to do that with mine. Brushing your goat is a nice way to say “thank you”. Also, people often quickly brush or swipe under the goat before milking to minimize the chance of hair and dirt dropping in the milk.
We proceeded to muck out their goat house with pitchforks and a wheelbarrow. Cedar shavings make a luxurious and odor-absorbing bedding. Goat manure doesn’t have the health hazards and unpleasant odor associated with cat/dog manure. We dumped the wheelbarrow out in a different place in the pasture with the intent of letting that pile slowly compost and ooze down into the field, increasing the fertility of the pasture. Somehow spreading your manure back around the pasture is good pasture management. The mix of wasted hay, bedding and manure is great for garden beds, too. On days that I don’t have a goat workshop, I make the effort to keep the barn boots/shoes from walking through the house and if you have a goat you will probably want to have barn boots/shoes and a place to put them right by your door. People concerned with worms infestations (there are a variety of different kinds that can bog down your goat) are more fastidious about cleaning up manure and cleaning off barn boots. Fortunately, I haven’t had problems with worms, probably thanks to the summer pasture rotation and the fact that my goats are not in the same spot all year.
Thoughts of Goat Stuff like the Feeder, Stanchion and Vehicles
I hope that my goat stuff gave you the idea that you do not need much space or money to have a goat – though of course having more pasture is nice. A barn would be great, but I use my porch for hay, garbage cans for grain, and plastic bins for storage. Believe it or not, I have even used my car for goat transportation (strategically placed tarps and plywood just in case) and I can put three bales of hay in the truck with a bungee cord holding down the trunk roof. Borrowing a pick-up or paying someone to transport goats and hay is also possible. My hay feeder and stanchion are home-made with hand saws and a drill gun. The design ideas came from a Dairy Goat Association magazine. You can buy these items. If you have any carpenter skills at all you will probably be able to make your own better looking, inexpensive versions. If, like me, you have no carpenter skills, the goats don’t care how it looks.
The goat house is my third portable house and this one seems to be working out. This one was a group effort and is on a home-made trailer made from a car axle. I love the portable aspect to their house and I move it sometimes every two weeks in the summer as I rotate them around the pastures. I would say that more commonly, people have a shed or small barn (you can buy a shed) and bring their goats into it at night. We talked about being aware of the predator pressure in your neck of the woods. When my goats kid, I do bring the kids and the mamas in at night to a corner of Jay’s mom’s barn for about the first week, as brand new kids are pretty easy targets. There are many creative ways to make your particular situation work.
Goat Milk Crepes (the Blintz recipe from the recent Joy of Cooking, p. 651)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup milk
3 large eggs
2 Tbsp melted butter
2 tsp sugar (I put in maple syrup)
pinch of salt
Blend it all – I used a Cuisinart. You can store the batter in the fridge for a couple days or not. The blended batter works best at room-temperature. I used a greased cast-iron pan, any non-stick pan that you can get hot will work. If you use butter to grease the pan, the temperature of the pan is right when the butter starts to color but not smoke. Lift the pan off the heat and pour in enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan – if you pour in too much just pour some out (or you’ll end up with a still-tasy, thicker, more pan-cake-like result). After only a 1-1 _ minutes the crepe begins to brown slightly, the edges are dry and start to peel up. Gently peel the crepe out of the pan, either with you fingers or a utensil, and place it on a plate. You can fill them with whatever sweet or savory food you want, you can wrap them into neat little bundles and reheat them on the stove top – very versatile. The Joy of Cookbook says that they freeze well, too.
And yes, that was a goat-skin rug by my sink in my house. It is from one of the 5 meat-goats that I’ve had and I used salt and a purchased tanning mixture to tan it.
After a terrific lunch, we reviewed things to keep your goats from eating – wilted cherry leaves, black plastic and baling twine, frosted roots, moldy oats and metal (though this is more of a problem with cows than goats). I’ve heard that mountain laurel should be added to the list. After the fall frost, when plants composition and smell changes and goats are storing up fat for winter, your goats are more likely to eat a poisonous nightshade or another plant that they would normally instinctively avoid. Have Activated Charcoal on hand, milk of magnesia is also helpful, for cases of poisoning. Like with people, goats can sometimes get nausea and diarrhea and then recover fine.
Finally, we looked at different types of fencing. Wooden boards nailed to wooden posts (a sturdy and attractive fence), wire fence on wooden posts or metal posts and electric fence. There are tons of options and prices for fencing and it’s a good idea to study up on the options as fencing is a long-term investment. It costs about $150 for 330 ft of the wire fence that you saw (called 6”x9” cattle fence because of the size of the rectangles in the fence – there are many more options and you may want smaller rectangles for horned goats). That is just for the roll of fence – you still have to get posts and a way to attach the wire to the post. The electric netting fence that we took down and put back up at the end of the workshop costs around a dollar a foot, though it is a bit cheaper for longer rolls of it. The fence charger and various accessories, like a voltage tester and extra posts will add up to $200. Barbed wire will not keep a goat in, but properly placed it can discourage them from rubbing on (and thus degrading) fencing.
I know a farm family who milk about 40 Saanens and they use a single strand of electric fence wire (not netting) to contain their herd. They are able to get away with this because 1. Saanens are a docile breed. 2. In a herd the animals are likely to stick together 3. The family sells or otherwise gets rid of any kids that show signs of being “fence testers” or jumpers, and 4. They train the young kids to respect the single strand boundary line by having multiple strands around the kids’ pen. But, of course, they do have a non-electic, well-fenced area where they can put the herd if necessary. I highly recommend that you have such a pen for your own peace of mind.
I enjoyed spending time with all of you. When I first became a goat herder I had no experience or knowledge at all. A woman showed up at the farmer’s market where I was selling vegetables and said she needed a home for her goat, and I said “sure”. Comet was a beautiful, tall, black Alpine who had lived with a horse for her first two years. I had to learn about fencing and feeding on the fly and throw together a goat house lickety-split. Fortunately. for folks less impulsive than I there are lots of resources available to prepare you for having a goat.
A few of my favorites are: Barnyard in your Backyard by Gail Damerow (as the name implies and very use-friendly, small-scale approach to domesticated animal care) Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats (a great all-around introduction to breeds, care, feed. Includes conventional and organic/natural approaches) Raising Goats for Milk and Meat by Rosalee Sinn for the Heifer International Project (interesting perspective as it is designed for the recipients of Heifer International goats who are working on a tight to non-existent budget in remote locations) Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette de Bairacli-Levy (a classic in herbal animal care) Small Farmer’s Journal (an unlike any other quarterly publication specializing in small horse farming, but containing hard to find information about all types of small farming situations as well as inspiring stories of independent-minded do-it-your-selfer types.) The Dairy Goat Journal 1-800-551-5691 $21 for a year subscription (I occasionally pick this up at Agway and Tractor Supply Company) Caprine Supply and Hoeggers Supply (google them) are sources of milking, cheesemaking, care, feed supplies, including a goat-specific milking pail with a “half-moon top”.
Get Your Goat
I did not pay for Comet and she fortunately turned out to be quite a good deal as far as quality. I met the woman who owned a small milking herd in Hyde Park, NY where Comet was born. Comet was purebred Alpine, raised on organic grain, hay and milk until she was 6 months old. She did have a hard time with her third kidding (two large males born late – did I feed too much grain?) and later died in middle age. But overall to get a purebred, healthy goat for free is lucky. I went to the auction and bought a companion for $50 for Comet soon after I got Comet and the companion literally promptly dropped dead when I got her home. Fortunately Comet had two healthy kids soon after I got her so she then had companions. I sold the male and kept the female, Gaia (the bear victim). Comet and Gaia’s offspring, besides the ones who were put in the freezer, are who I have now (hopefully they will not succomb to Comet and Gaia’s fates). Comet’s breeder emphasized the importance of choosing healthy well-bred bucks for breeding, which is really true. I am not keeping a pure breed, but I am picky about choosing bucks and researching cross-breeds results.
There are many ways to get your goat, ranging from paying lots of money for a sure thing, to taking your chances at the auction. Better than both of those options is to keep talking to people, including Goat Dairy Farmers, 4-H participants and individual goat owners. For example, a friend of a friend of mine, recently divorced, is currently looking for a home for her two pure-bred Toggenburgs. Dairy Farmers are not going to get rid of their best animals, but they may have an older nanny who doesn’t produce as much milk anymore or maybe just doesn’t need to keep all of her does. 4-H goats are often pampered and people-friendly, which can be great for a back-yard goat. I bought a 4-H Saanen, Maria, for $150 who was extremely friendly and robust, though a glutton for grain. I sold her when I went back to school for my teaching certificate, because she produced more than her kids could drink and needed to be regularly milked.
I do recommend initiating a relationship with a Vet in your area. Don’t wait for an emergency. You are not likely to find a goat expert, but you can find someone you like. Examples of when I have been glad to have a Vet are 1. Castrating male kids (you can do it yourself, but some of us are, ahem, wimps about it), who are fertile and will breed their mothers and sisters at about 3 months of age 2. Giving goats rabies shots (you must legally have a Vet do this once a year, and it is VERY sensible and important) 3. Giving goat kids injections of Vitamin B (helped two of my kids with apparent muscle weakness) You can learn to give your own injections, too (I’ve given Vitamin E and Selenium on my own to ensure that a pregnant doe is not deficient in those vital micronutrients) 4. For identification of lice and advice on how to cure it. 5. I gave Comet Antibiotics when she was at the end. I’m not sure that it helped or that I would do it again (antibiotics wreak havoc on a goat’s bowels worse than with humans, and compromise their naturally strong immune-systems, besides being disallowed in organic practices), but it was great to have a Vet available when I made that decision. 6. When Ivory ate something poisonous and the Vet brought giant doses of Milk of Magnesia and showed me how to administer it with a turkey baster.
There are tons more examples of when I have been happy to have contacts with goat experience willing to help, like when Comet’s two boys had to be realigned and pulled during her kidding; or when Maria’s udder was huge and hard in the beginnings of mastitis and I was told “boil cabbage leaves in hot water and massage her udder with hot soaked washcloths over and over”. It worked. Then there are all those times I call to say “is it normal when . . .”
So feel free to keep in touch with me and each other. And let me know if you are interested in those Toggenburgs!
Sincerely, Rachel Gall
P.S. Ajax had two boys on Monday night! Dody found the kids and put them in the goat house, where Ajax was resting. Ajax dried them off well and makes sure that they nurse often. They have the Bohr goat coloring of their sire (father).
Sunday, April 8, 2007
Our April 14, Old Style Life Skills Series workshop, " Get Your Goat" is almost full!
Visit Rachel Gall and her backyard goats in
Please contact Debra@motherhouse.us or 860-672-0229 for directions
To register, send $25 to Motherhouse, c/o D. Tyler,
To view photos from last year's goat workshop in
Future events include:
April 21 - Family Traditional Dances at 7:00 at the
April 28 - Keeping A Family Cow at Local Farm 10:00-1:00 $35/person, $50/family of up to 4. (scheduled by request because our May 5 workshop is already full.)
May 5 - Keeping a Family Cow at Local Farm (FULL)
May 14 - OSLSS Workshop; "Weed Walk" with herbalist Alicia North.
Thanks! I hope to hear from you soon!
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Amy Jean Smith of Earth Remedies in Torrington introduced a group of lotion lovers to the simple art of making herbal ointments. And salves. And tinctures. And linements.
Bathed in the light of a sunny winter day, participants took over the kitchen at the UCC parish house in Cornwall, mixing olive oil, beeswax and extracts from common plants to create luscious-smelling and luxurious-feeling concoctions. But how did they stand up to the plethora of options available at the nearest big box drugstore?
I had the opportunity to test the St John's Wort and Arnica ointment the very next day, after I strategically plunged my hand into hot oil. Although my first thought was that I would be needing skin grafts, my eye caught the cute jars that Amy sent folks home with. I slapped on a healthy dollop - and the pain subsided. What's more, my skin sucked it up and smelled wonderful. I kept applying every time the throbbing began and, miraculously, I was saved the otherwise obligatory blistering and oozy wound.
I'm a convert. Now I just need to start stockpiling olive oil and beeswax in preparation for weed season.
I can't thank you enough for a wonderful day - and I think everyone would echo that sentiment!
It would be lovely to do another workshop (soup or other cooking skills) because I think world peace would ensue if we all sat down to break bread together.
Put that idea on the front burner!
Last Saturday, a distinguished group of locals gathered to learn the fine points of food preservation using lacto-fermentation. Thea Harvey, an accomplished practician of same, led the class, explaining that though lacto-fermentation may seem esoteric, it was once the mainstay of rural households looking to preserve their produce and their health through the rigors of a New England winter.
A journalist from the Republican American covered the event - though no one managed to get a copy of the story or I'd simply post it here. I'm guessing it went something like this: "Dateline Southbury. Here on the rocky hillside that goat farmer Liz Tapester, her husband, two children, and thirty odd goats call home, a quiet revolution is taking place. " And then it probably went into detail about the appeal of small farming to people of widely varied backgrounds and how compact, humane operations like the Mountain Brook Dairy offer healthy alternatives to the mindless, wasteful corporate treadmill that most of us are on. Something like that.
Last Saturday, prospective chicken and duck farmers winged their way to Cornwall's Local Farm for the latest Old-Style Life Skill seminar. The hardy participants braved unseasonable weather to learn the basics of raising grass-fed foul to produce eggs and meat, and went home with their Saturday supper ready for the oven.
Folks will need all the nourishment they can get to prepare for this weekend's porch-raising - eat up, increasingly self-sufficient students of old-time life skills!
Last Saturday's organic vegetable growing workshop attracted a hardy crew who enjoyed hands-on learning at Local Farm, then were treated to a tour of some of Cornwall's most impressive organic vegetable gardening operations.
For those of you who think all this "old-style lifeskill" stuff is purely theoretical (aside from the hands-on craft portion of each workshop, like the beeswax candle making at left), Debra Tyler sends the following report from graduates of this month's Bee-ginning with Bees workshop:
The dancers, ranging in age from pre-toddler to great-grandparent, formed line after line to the gentle promptings of caller Paul Rosenberg, as the Homegrown Band gamely reeled off tunes from every corner of the Earth.
The good feeling was enhanced by a groaning board of cakes and cookies, which only momentarily distracted the younger dancers from the toe-tapping proceedings.
The next COWntra Dance will be April 8, from 7 - 10 at the Town Hall. Anyone interested in being added to the COWntra dance mailing list, or participating in any aspect of the proceedings, contact Debra Tyler by email or call 860 672 0229.
Meanwhile, many thanks to all who contributed time and talent to this wonderful evening!
Just in case you missed them, here are a few choice quotes from Motherhouse's most recent press clips:
From Laurel Tuohy's article, "In Cornwall, Workshops Highlight Vintage Skills," which ran in the Litchfield County Times 3/3/2006: "'So many things we buy are mass produced and are really oppressive to the people who work producing them, so everything we can buy from a local craftsperson takes a little energy away from these impersonal beings and puts a little more energy into a better world," [Debra Tyler] said of the ideas behind the series and Motherhouse.'"
From Peggy O'Brien's article, "Taking the Time to Make Your Own Bread at Home: Learning Some Old-Time Skills," from The Lakeville Journal 2/16/2006: "In the time that [making bread from scratch] took, we got to know each other a bit. And we experienced each of our senses as we smelled the sesame oil and fresh butter; saw the cool dust of flour float through the sunlight as we sprinkled it during the kneading process; and felt and smelled the fragrant, heated air around the oven door."If I were writing a piece on last weekend's wool gathering, the headline would be, "Middle-aged Woman Seen Knitting Slightly Irregular Scarf of Gorgeous Undyed Wool in Presence of Goat."
On hand for March's Old-Style Life Skilsl workshop were two master spinners, one lifelong knitter and Margaret Hopkins, button felter extraordinaire. Complete amateurs made their own knitting needles, sanding them, sharpening them, and polishing them on a block of aromatic beexwax. Then, stitch by stitch, scarves were begun using balls of undyed wool - fresh from spinning wheels just feet away. It was exhilirating, I'm telling you!
April's Old-Style Life Skills workshop, Beeginining with Bees, will be held, as always, on the second Saturday of the month. The buzz is that this event, featuring Brian Lorch, will be as sweet as March's workshop though perhaps less knotty.
Hope to see you all at a future workshop!
I have been enjoying the kimchee I made at the workshop. While there, I glanced through Thea's "Wild Fermentation" book to find what more to add to the saurkraut to make it into kimchee. I then took my jar home and added some carrots, leeks, garlic, ginger and hot peppers (Thea also added some of her gingerale to my jar before I left the farm) . I mixed all this with what was in the jar, packed it all down again and took a gallon plastic zip lock bag partially filled with water and placed this in the jar, on top, to hold the veggies below the surface of the juice. I found that as the fermentation progressed into the second week, the smell of the garlic and leeks got pretty strong . (This too is true when I go to the jar in the fridge to take more from it.) The smell is not altogether unpleasant, but it is strong. The veggies are still crisp and the flavor is hot and spicey. This is definately saurkraut with an attitude and will likely put any faint-hearted relationship to the test. If you like garlic and don't mind it's strong smell, you might like to try this.
The workshop was inspiring and all of you new people were a delight to meet. I do hope that as you all progress down this new path of discovery, you will be generous and consider sharing some of your discoveries with the rest of us. I'll try and continue doing the same. Thanks again Thea and Debra. Blessings.
I add my thanks to those of Dave. The sauerkraut is indeed a pungent addition to our menage. I added garlic, and more veggies to it. It is I guess close to kimshi, and certainly is a test of friendship!! Its looks so beautiful in its colored layers on the cool porch.
Thanks, Julia Scott
Was glad to see from Thea's recent note that we can add water to make the kraut less salty. The only real improvement from my end i think would be to arrive on time so not to miss half the workshop. I really valued the comraderie - especially since even though i've had experience
cooking with others, at the meditation center for example, i've seldom had the chance to work
with foods that are not so mainstream, and to be creative. Actually it used to be that one had
tons of freedom to do as one liked, which for me was often sea weed, for example, cooking at IMS but that has all changed in recent years. I like your approach very much.
Thank you for such a wonderful time. Ruth and I expected to learn how to make bread from scratch. We certainly did learn that, but we came away with so much more. I don't ever remember being with a nicer and friendlier group of people.What fun. Thanks for the pictures. I will send you that recipe for French bread as soon as I can, but today I have to dig out. It looks to be about two feet of snow. Thank You, Bruce & Ruth Bertram
Three cups of wheat berries are a perfect amount. Thank you so much! Brian and I are very much enjoying our loaf! It is perfectly baked even in the middle. I plan to bake two loaves on Tues. and pass one on to our son when we visit. My ingredients won't be an exact duplicate of yours, but I'll follow the recipe and hope for the best. It was great fun to be a part of your breadbaking workshop. I learned a lot and met some new friends, as well. Please thank Margaret for the photos. Regards and stay warm! Janet
Thanks to you and Margaret for a great day on Saturday.
And in an attempt to resolve once and for all the "paper or plastic?" dilemma, Motherhouse, with the help of Eco-Bags, has created these organic cotton, fair-trade, hand silk-screened market bags featuring a gorgeous pumpkin woodcut by Debra Tyler. Wear your convictions on your shoulder, letting the world know that you buy LOCAL and bring your own bag (BYOB). Each bag is $15, while supplies last.
To order Field Guides or LOCAL bags, write to email@example.com.