Sunday, August 29, 2010

Goat's Milk - Courtesy of a Phantom

Regular visitors to A Smallholder's Diary will know that we have two pygmy goats, Poppy and Lilly. However, these are purely pets and do not really contribute to our self-sufficiency efforts (apart from some manure I suppose). When we first got them we thought vaguely about producing milk, but this would mean introducing a boy goat to make baby goats in order to encourage the production of milk. This felt like just too much hassle.

When we came back from holiday we noticed that Poppy seemed to have a swelling around her teats. Fearing the worst we had the vet out a couple of days ago. We were expecting her to have diagnosed an infection at least, at worst some malignant lump that would require surgery. In fact the vet informed us that Poppy was having a phantom pregnancy and that the swelling was a result of milk collecting. So now we have to milk her every day! Poppy is really not impressed with the whole thing which means that it is most definitely a two person job - one to hold on to her and the other to do the milking. The first batch we had to throw away as she struggled a lot and put her muddy foot in the jug. The second batch was more successful, although we did not get that much.

While we are milking Poppy, Lilly looks on clearly rather bemused, occasionally nibbling at our clothes, which is quite off putting. We haven't decided what we are going to do with it yet - not exactly enough to get into cheese production. We have seen some soap recipes that involve goats milk, so that's a possibility.

The vet was not able to say how long this will continue - it could be a few weeks, or months, or perhaps even indefinitely! If this does continue we have not quite decided whether this would be a blessing or a curse - what would we do about holidays? We have concluded that pygmy goats are definitely not well designed for milking though - they are much too close to the ground.

The vet also told us that this phenomenon is known as a "cloudburst", which we think is rather poetic.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Freezing Courgettes: One Way to Deal With the Annual Glut

One of the problems with growing courgettes (or zucchini if you prefer) is that at this stage of the late summer you find that you have more courgettes than you know what to do with. The usual view is that you cannot freeze them successfully, however in my experience this is only partially true. First of all freezing works best with smaller courgettes as the larger ones contain too much water. Secondly, you may find that for some cooking uses the flavour and texture of your previously frozen courgette is, frankly, a little bit weird. However, for roasting in a little olive oil (cooked from frozen) the taste and texture is indistinguishable from fresh ones.

What you need to do is slice your courgettes (about 1/2 cm to 1 cm thickness) and spread the slices out over a metal baking tray and put in the freezer. Once your courgette slices are frozen then remove from the baking tray and put in a freezer bag. They keep for about six months.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rescuing the Veggies After Being Away

You may have noticed a distinct lack of activity at A Smallholder's Diary the last couple of weeks. This is due to us having been away and I just wasn't organised enough to write some scheduled posts before we left. We have someone who comes and looks after the animals for us, and we did ask her to water the plants in the greenhouse as well. However, on our return while the animals had clearly been well fed and watered, the plants were not. I think they had been watered to some extent, but not nearly as regularly as they should be.

As a result, I was greeted with slightly crusty tomato plants, yellowing cucumber plants, limp pepper plants and mostly brown herbs. With lots of watering the tomatoes have pretty much recovered, as have the peppers. The tomatoes had also sprouted loads of side shoots that needed chopping off and tidying up. The cucumber plants look better, but still a bit on the yellow side. With the exception of the basil, the herbs look they have pretty much had it.

Outside, things are better. I am still digging up potatoes, although some of these later ones have been had by the dreaded wireworm.

Inevitably, I have some courgettes that are the size of marrows and the weeds are running rampant. I am now wondering why on earth I planted all my various squash plants (courgettes, pumpkin and butternut squash) all together - they have all spread into each other and I now have no idea which is which. So some plants are bearing fruits that I have no idea whether they are immature butternut squashes or rather overgrown and deformed courgettes! I should have learned from last year's experience, but apparently not.

I like to go away, but inevitably that means coming back to a long list of jobs at home and an overflowing in tray at work!