The LONG overdue post…

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Sunday, November 28, 2010 2:57 PM

My apologies for not posting anything for the past two months, but it's been a rather hectic season here at the homestead. Let's see if I can catch you up on the happenings around here. Hrm... My last post was on September 30th. Let's see what's been happening around here this fall.

I bought a small utility trailer which I subsequently converted into a small livestock trailer for transporting my goats. It will also come in handy for such tasks as hauling hay. I've added two wall vents to each side and a fan on top which pulls the air out to keep it cool. I have a temperature / humidity sensor inside so I can monitor and insure the goats comfort. I'm giving serious thought into purchasing a remote baby monitor so I can see what they are up to when we take a trip.

Let's see... What else... Lots and LOTS of canning to begin with. I took a few of those peppers and combined them with the tomatillos I harvested to make some tasty salsa. It turned out sweet and delicious! I ended up with ten 8 oz jars.

Next, the kids and I took part in the Funny Farm petting zoo at the Northern California Renaissance Faire. I'm the Guild mistress for the Guild of Saint Blaise, the Town Criers and have been participating at faire for years. But my recent back surgery made it impossible for me to march in the parades. So I had to find something else to do that would be easy on the back. I got lucky when I found out they were having a petting zoo this year. Not only did it save me the hassle of paying someone to care for my goats while I was away for the weekends, but it was a great training ground for the kids. I'm working to get them registered as therapy animals with the Delta Society. Going to faire with them for 6 weekends proved to be an excellent idea. They got used to travelling in the the trailer, lots of loud unexpected noises, and tons of kids (young and old) petting, poking, and prodding them all day. I was so proud of them! They were absolutely wonderful with all the little kids.

We also visited the vet during this time and I'm proud to say that everything turned out perfect. The ideal weight for a full grown Nigerian Dwarf is 75 lbs. Nali came in at 76.1 lbs, Snow at 76.0 lbs. Sammy was 50.0 lbs, and Lulu weighed in at a whopping 51.2 lbs. Nali got a BOSE shot to help with her arthritis, and Lulu got one to help with her fertility. :-)

A few weeks later, we all went up to visit Sarah at Castle Rock Farm in Vacaville. She was very pleased with the condition of all four goats which made me really proud. She's been a great mentor when I've needed advice, and having her compliment me on the kids really made me feel good. While we were there, Lulu had a little tryst with a handsome young lad named Harvey. He's only a little older than her, and he has blue eyes! I'm happy to note that with goats there is at least a little bit of foreplay involved in the mating. He whispered sweet nothings in her ear and kissed her neck before mating with her (3 times!). She didn't seem to freaked out by the experience at all. Now I have my hopes up that she'll have several beautiful little babies in the spring. She's due on the Ides of March, March 15th.

On October 7th, I found out that Havenscourt Homestead was chosen to participate in the 2011 Bay Friendly Garden Tour next May. This is an annual self-guided tour of private residential gardens that demonstrate gardening techniques appropriate for local conditions. From my drought tolerant front landscaping designed to invite birds, bees, and butterflies into the yard to my vegetable garden, orchard, permeable landscaped patio, and all the way to the barnyard and bee hives, I'm proud to say that I have incorporated just about everything I learned from the Bay Friendly Gardening class series. If you haven't heard of them, check them out via the following link. They are free and full of wonderful information.

The potato harvest was smaller than anticipated. But I learned a thing or two about how they grow. I probably have enough to last through about half the winter. But next year I plan to modify my method in order to improve my harvest. I also plan on growing several more varieties.
I started selling eggs in the middle of October. I now have several regular customers that come to visit the homestead, play with the animals, and leave with the freshest eggs they can buy. It's been fun to visit with them.
Also in mid-October, I was contacted by a local professional photographer, Lori Eanes, who is working on a project called "Bay Area Backyards". To quote her website: "Food is big in the bay area. There's organic, sustainable, slow, foraged, and local food. Well, what's more local than growing it, making it, raising it in your own backyard?" I'm excited to be included in her project along with numerous other wonderful people in our community. She's been out here a couple of times already, and we're scheduled for another visit next week. To check it out on her website, click on portfolio and then projects. It's pretty cool that Snow is right there front and center on the opening page!
The goats and I took a trip to a local elementary to see 38 first graders and their 2 teachers. They have been studying the difference between species in the animal kingdom - reptiles, insects, mammals. It's a dual immersion school, so it was interesting because I was speaking to the kids in English while the teachers were speaking to them in Spanish. It was a lot of fun and they had a bunch of interesting questions. I hope that we'll be able to continue doing this kind of thing. It's great training for their therapy animal registration.
I was excited to be invited to participate in the Pop Up Urban Farmers Market hosted by Novella Carpenter at Ghost Town Farm. Unfortunately, I am unable to legally sell any of my cheese for human consumption so it must be labelled as pet food. I made special labels including a disclaimer for the back stating that Havenscourt Homestead was not a licensed dairy and that the cheese was sold as pet food and not for human consumption. The first market I participated went well. I sold a little over 6 lbs of cheese, 6 jars of pickled quail eggs, and 3 dozen lemon ricotta muffins. For the second market, I was rather busy so I only had time to make about 6 lbs of chevre and 2 lbs of ricotta. No time for baking, and with winter here the quails are no longer laying eggs. But I had several repeat customers flock to my table. I was sold out in just over an hour. It was a lot of fun, and I met a lot of new people in the process. With any luck, when the market starts back up again in the spring I'll be able to participate again.
On November 9th, I welcomed 3 little ducklings to the Homestead. I was having troubles trying to name them, but once I put in a tray of water and they hit the high seas I had no problem. They are named after 3 notorious pirates, Mary Reid, Anne Bonnie, and Calico Jack Rackham. At about the same time my friend Kate asked if I would raise a few meat chickens for her in exchange for her help culling a few birds from my flock. No problem! We added 3 birds for her and 2 for me. All will be harvested around the same time that Lulu is due in mid-March. It looks like that's going to be a busy month!
On November 13th, I picked up two free range, organically fed live Narragansett turkeys, Jen and Jules (aka Gin and Juice). They've been a lot of fun to have here on the Homestead. They are gentle giants. Jules seems to be especially attached to me and enjoys following me around the yard to see what I'm doing. The plan was to cull Jen, the larger of the two, for Thanksgiving and hang onto Jules until Christmas or New Years when she would be fattened up a bit. But after meeting Ellyn at S&B Farms and providing her with a sample of my chevre, the opportunity arose to barter for a 3rd turkey. It was just too good of a deal to pass up.

So I drove back up to Petaluma with 60 oz. of cheese (4 kinds of chevre and some ricotta) and picked up Brandy. It was actually Kate who named her. We had decided to follow a tip mentioned by Martha Stewart when she appeared on the Colbert Report and get our Thanksgiving turkey drunk before culling her. I broke down and purchased an Auspit (battery operated rotisserie) so that I could cook her over the fire pit. When the time came, Kate and I gave Brandy 3 ml of a locally distilled apple brandy, and then toasted her with a drink ourselves. She dressed out to 6-3/4 lbs (9 servings). Not bad for a bunch of cheese, eh? I roasted her over the fire as planned and she came out delicious! Special thanks to Gail, Kate, Garret, Freya, and Colin for coming to dinner and preparing all the delicious sides.
Honestly, I was very proud of this Thanksgiving dinner. A large portion of the meal came directly or indirectly from my back yard. Here was our menu:

  • Various bottles of wine including a wonderful Syrah provided by Colin.
  • Orange Ginger roasted pumpkin seeds - from my home grown sugar pumpkins
  • Aged White Cheddar - homemade using Snow and Nali's milk and aged for 3 months
  • Kate's hot mulled cider with Jack Daniels.
  • Fire roasted turkey (dry brined with lemon and rosemary) - bartered for with my cheese
  • Gail's Dressing - made with some of my homemade rich chicken stock and featuring apples, raisins, and Italian sausage
  • Kate's Gravy - made with some of my homemade light chicken stock and chanterelle mushrooms foraged by Kate in northern California
  • Fire roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts with bacon - featuring some of my home grown potatoes
  • Freya's family recipe cranberry sauce - nummy!
  • Creamed Chard with Leeks
  • Sweet Potatoes Au Graten
  • Ginger Cake with Pumpkin Ice Cream and Carmel sauce - featuring homemade ice cream using my home grown sugar pumpkins and Snow and Nali's milk. I also used their milk to make the Carmel sauce
  • Homemade Lemoncello - made with foraged lemons. A year and a half in the making and well worth the wait. Smooth and luscious!
Mary, Bonnie, and Jack got to go out foraging for the first time today. I'm glad I decided to let the grass grow on the little strip between my raised bed and the fence. It's a good place for them to stretch their legs.
They seemed to enjoy it a lot. It was definitely a heck of a lot easier to clean their indoor brooding box when they weren't in it. They will be 3 weeks old tomorrow and are growing at an amazing rate. But they won't be feathered out until about 7 weeks. That means I have about another month that they will be brooding in the house. I need to come up with a bigger box! Right now they have 2 wardrobe boxes linked together with a litter box pond in the center. But as long as the suns out, and especially if the weather warms up, they'll be able to go out for little foraging field trips into the yard.
So what's next on the horizon? Well, it looks like I'm finally going to get a release to return to work in early December. I'm excited and nervous. But I really need to get back to work. I'm broke!
As for the homestead, the next additions will be rabbits. I'm bartering for 2 American Blues, and I'll be purchasing 2 American Chinchilla rabbits in December or early January. The cages are already here. I just need to finish putting them together and build the rabbitry. After that I think I'll deserve a good rest before I start working to get the place ready for the garden tour.
Again, I apologize for the long delay in posting, and the long post. It's just been crazy busy. With winter here, things will slow down and I'll have more time to spend writing.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I'm looking forward to a beautiful Christmas and a Happy New Year!