Saturday, March 9, 2013

Seasons and Times and Goat's Milk and A Little Understanding.

The writer of Ecclesiastes said it only too well...."to everything there is a season"....and many of us Westerners mindset is foreign to that reality.

Until you grow food, becoming a goat farmer or live in Europe it's difficult to experience that truth.

Food - good food is seasonal. For example - those wonderful sweet onions we've been providing from Crooked Sky Farms are just about done. They are finished growing here. The season is over.

Tomatoes - good - real tomatoes that most love - just don't grow in the cold weather season - unless you have the right climate and growing situations. Carl Seacat of Seacat Gardens has figured out a way to do so.

Another thing that is seasonal are the cycles of livestock. Remember, recently, how our hens sorta - just about quit producing (so did everyone else's) - well - hens produce seasonally - the little hen bodies need a break - they need to release old feathers that don't protect as much and make new ones - so they molt. When they grow new feathers - it takes all the calcium they have to grow them....THUS they don't lay eggs. It's seasonal. It's a cycle.

Goat's milk and cow's milk too (is seasonal - unless you pump your animal up with all sorts of hormone stuff to get production going - YUCK - think about drinking that or worse yet....feeding it to your babies!).

Dairy goats have a season. They have a cycle. They also have a lactation cycle. (More about that on another post.)

When dairy goats kid - they produce a good amount of milk and initially - most of us goat farmers use that good milk for those needy/growing babies. You'd want us to do that, right? As those kids get older - they start eating alfalfa and a bit of oat grain - but they still need milk. So, that makes milk not so freely available for the goat milk drinking consumer.  It's one of the reasons why Crow's Dairy Goat Milk does NOT always fill every shelf at our market and the others.  It's seasonal and it has a cycle.

Come time about August - another cycle happens. That cycle depends on weather and it's the weather that triggers this seasonal cycle - called breeding.

So, breeding takes place and that doe begins to produce less and less milk until two months before she kids (delivers her babies) she dries up (good goat farmers want her to have all that energy to go to those developing kids).

The doe dries up - and once again - the delicious Crow's Dairy Goats milk does NOT fill all the shelves.  Now granted - most goat farmers stagger breeding - to try to provide milk as much as possible - but it doesn't always work out.

What's needed from us Westerners who want what we want when we want it --- is a new mindset. . . an attitude of understanding.

I DO recognize that many of our farm members FEED their children and babies goat's milk and we, like Wendell and Rhonda at Crow's Dairy wish the supply would accommodate the need/want - but in reality - it's the tension we live in . . .  because it's seasonal and it has a cycle.

I know not everyone can own two goats - I know many of our moms work outside the home - but those that can - find a way to altar the lifestyle - slow down a bit - refocus and think about the "what if we..."

....and build a raised bed - start growing herbs then grow other in season vegetables.

....get involved and change your HOA R&R and allow for backyard hens - build a small hen house (check city code too) and start with 4 hens.  We here some HOA's are starting to get with the program. two dairy goats. Rebecca Kidwell of Farmyard - got hooked and started out with two Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats - in her BACKYARD. She and Troy have joined the ranks of MANY who are doing this. She's already experienced two breeding seasons and if you talk to'll hear all about her little herd.  I have other friends who share a goat.  Each of the families in this group take turns having the doe (she's in milk) go to each others home for a stint of time. It might not be the greatest for the doe - but she acclimates to all three homes. I think it's a great idea.  FYI - you need two - to have a happy goat - she needs a friend....they're HERD animals. Like chickens are in a FLOCK.

....think about partnering with your neighbors in growing food FOR each other.  A few years ago, I was profoundly influenced by this vendor at the Santa Barbara Farmer's Market. His neighborhood joined together and each family grows different things and then they simply share with the other ones their herbs, avocados, lettuces, root vegetables, etc.  Just think what would happen if we in the PHOENIX valley became a much more deeper caring community - got to know each other and started little growing groups and began to give and share to each other.

...if all this seems overwhelming - be assured many who grow food, are dairy goat farmers - don't mind at all encouraging people to jump in and just DO IT.

It was November, 2009 that we started growing food and becoming goat dairy farmers and now we wear the hat of confectioners - Michael was 57 - now almost 61 and I'm 2 years behind him . . . if WE can do IT - YOU can too!

Your thoughts and ideas mean the world to us - feel free to leave comments here on the blog.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Betty and Sam

Two years ago (during weed season - like now) I met Betty.  I saw Betty walking across my field headed for something. Engaging in a curious conversation, I asked if I could help her. She pointed to the east wall and in her Palestinian accent said she wanted the "greens."  I felt confused as the "greens" I saw were the fledgling summer vegetables just starting to pop up.  Moving closer to Betty and giving her a proper greeting, I asked for a bit of clarification.  She pointed to the east wall and the "greens."

Betty was pointing to the 2-3' high weeds along the east wall. The weeds that overtook us. The weeds that are a bit invasive.  That day my weed education changed. Betty walked me over to the "chopaza"...the greens.

Being a bit of a researching geek - I started to look up the word (as best as I could phonetically spell it) "chopaza"and nothing seemed to come up.

Betty told me that she gathers this green and makes a wonderful dish and promised to bring a bowl over the next day.

That all happened on a Monday and the next day - Tuesday -at that time was a market morning.  Around 9 am Betty (the American name I gave her because I just couldn't get the correct pronunciation down) with a big bowl of the greens.  The morning took on a fun weed twist as we passed out plastic forks to the groups of moms - tasting "chopaza."  Interested moms were given some scissors to indulge in cutting some of these deliciously prepared greens to serve up at their evening meal.

Later that day, I learned this green is actually called mallow. Mallow is higher in iron than spinach and it grows free.

Last week I met Sam. Walking toward new people - as I normally do - to give a proper farm greeting - I kinda figured that Sam was Palestinian as well - you see, Sam was gathering mallow to make "chopaza" for her family meal table.

Yesterday, as Sam promised, brought a big bowl of her "chopaza" for us to try. I have to tell you, it's really delicious. Chopped mallow, cooked in sauteed onions sprinkled with salt and pepper is amazing!

Sam, however, has expanded my edible weed experience. I have learned of a few other very nutritious weeds on our property. . . and I will learn how to prepare them. For example this weed -

you rub and serve with yogurt. I still have no clue what it's called (if you do leave a comment to share its name) and I still have no details on its preparation - but I'm delighted to learn about free food.

A month ago, I shared about two books that intrigue me {here}.  

Michael and I are not only enjoying but being challenged by reading Stalking the Wild Asparagus to discover all sorts of wild food growing all around us. Sam and Betty have taught me about what's right in my own yard.  What's in yours?  Have you gone foraging yet? Do share your foraging tips!