Friday, March 21, 2014

Kefir Blueberry Muffins

You can bake with kefir just like you would bake with buttermilk.  Even though we're trying to cut back on our consumption of grains here, it's hard when the kids are always requesting braided semolina bread or kefir pancakes.  It takes the edge off the guilt when I can bake without refined sugar and using cultured foods like kefir!  If you're into soaking your grains you can soak the flour in the kefir overnight before adding the rest of the ingredients and baking.  I always soak my grains and flours if I have the time. :)

Here's our most recent kefired creation, Kefir and Raw Honey Blueberry Muffins:

1.5 cups organic flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup raw honey
1/3 cup grapeseed oil (or melted butter)
1/3 cup kefir
1 egg
1 cup wild blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl and mix well.  Add wet to dry in the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment and mix until just combined.  Fold in blueberries.  Scoop by the heaping spoonful into your greased or lined muffin tin. Note:  I use FSC certified unbleached and chlorine free baking cups (yes, these exist!) to line my muffin pan, it makes for easy clean up!  Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 25 minutes (less if blueberries are not frozen).


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring Equinox & Planting with the Moon Cycle, Part 1: Cultivating the Soil

I would like to write a series of posts this season about planting according to the moon cycle and moon signs. This is a centuries old practice followed by farmers and those living close to the land and it extends to much more than just planting.  In reference to the moon's potent sway over bodies of water, Pliny the Elder, a first century Roman naturalist, said that the moon "replenishes the earth when she approaches it, she fills all bodies, while, when she recedes, she empties them" (The Old Farmers Almanac).  This gives us a guide for when to plant certain types of vegetables and fruit.  Just as the moon's gravitational pull determines the tides it also has an impact on moisture in the soil.  Tests have actually proven that seeds absorb the most moisture on a full moon ( Generally, plants that bear their fruit below the ground (root vegetables) should be planted when the moon is waning and those that bear fruit above ground when the moon is waxing.  There are much more detailed guides than this and some break the monthly cycle down into quarters to be even more exact.  I am going to start this series of posts with the cultivation of the soil that is necessary before beginning to plant for the season.  Today is the vernal equinox (or Spring Equinox).  The day and night are of equal length and this day marks the beginning of longer days and shorter nights.  It's a perfect time to begin preparing our garden for the onset of spring.  We have already seen Mother Earth starting to wake from winter slumber and come alive on our homestead. Chickens are laying eggs, goats are kidding, the ground is greening, fruit trees have started to bloom, and I even saw the first bluebird yesterday!  Today we are celebrating these signs of fertility and re-birth and hoping to be blessed with a fruitful garden this season!  This weekend we will be very close to the 4th quarter of the moon cycle, the moon is waning (heading from full to new) and the moon will be in Sagittarius.  The waning or receding moon is considered a dry time, especially the 4th quarter.  The "semi-barren" sign of sagittarius also makes this time particularly suited to preparing the bare earth for planting.  This is the time to kill any weeds, do any pruning, prepare your soil, and perform any other general management.  If you live somewhere warm and have already done this, the 3rd quarter of the moon cycle, which we are still in this week, is when it is best to plant crops that bear their fruit below the ground; carrots, radishes, and so forth.  It is also best to plant fruit trees during the 3rd quarter even though they bear their fruit above ground.  We will be planting some carrot seedlings in pots to celebrate the spring equinox today, which happens to fall into the 3rd quarter of the moon phase.  Every year I use this activity to have the children draw a parallel between preparing the physical soil and planting the actual seed and preparing their spiritual soil and planting a "seed" for some kind of personal growth inside themselves that they can nurture for the rest of the year.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Feeding Urban Goats: Mixing and Growing Your Own Grains and Herbs for Optimal Nutrition

This post is more for my own records than anything else!  I am constantly tweaking what we are doing around here with feeds because I want to give all our animals the best of the best!  I like to hand-mix grains and herbs so I can have full control of the diet, ensure quality, and learn about what they need for a balanced diet.  So, ideally, our goats would have access to acres and acres of pasture and browse and would get to forage among varied species of plants, bushes, trees, herbs, etc.  Unfortunately, due to our space constraints (we are on half an acre and only a quarter acre is available for our farming endeavors), we cannot provide our goats with their ideal meal.  I have had to research the best way to keep them in top physical condition and producing the highest quality milk for us in an unconventional environment. That means in addition to hay they need to be supplemented with grains, herbs, and fresh greens/veg.  This is my current plan for the goats, with notations about which vitamins and minerals they will be getting from each ingredient:


We are switching to Chaffhaye or "pasture in a bag."  Chaffhaye is made from alfalfa that is harvested in its prime, sprayed with a kiss of molasses, vacuum sealed and fermented for optimal nutrients and digestion.  More information can be found here:

We will continue to provide pesticide-free coastal grass hay to supplement this and as an activity for the goats.  The chaffhaye is fed by weight, whereas the bale of coastal is free choice and is more for their enjoyment since goats like to reach up and pull out the long-stemmed hay and munch on it.  They feel like they are browsing and the long stems are good for their digestion.


Whole Oats 
Rolled Barley
Field Peas
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

Top Dressing for goat food: 

This is sprinkled on top of their chaffhaye and grains to provide them with extra vitamins, minerals, and variety in their diet as well as for different health benefits and increased milk production.

Carrot Powder - vit. A, calcium, C, iron, sodium

Sesame Seeds - B1, B2, B6, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, calcium, iron, sodium

Sunflower Seeds - B1, B5, B6, E, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, calcium, C, iron

Parsley - A, B2, B9, C, E, K, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium, zinc

Basil - A, B6, B9, C, E, K, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, zinc

Nutritional Yeast - B2, B3, B9, iron, sodium

Wheat Bran - B2, B3, B5, B6, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus

Flax Seeds - B9, magnesium, omega-3's, calcium, Iron, vitamin C, sodium

B12 - need cobalt to synthesize - green leafy veg OR mineral supp.

Organic Citrus Rinds - C

Rose Hips - C, *birth prep

Fennel - calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, iron, *birth prep *milk production

Red Raspberry Leaf - calcium, iron, magnesium, B vitamins, *birth prep

Thorvin kelp - iodine

Fenugreek - iron, selenium, phosphorus, calcium, *milk production

Nettles - A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, calcium, sodium, *milk production

Additional Supplements:

Molasses - B vitamins, etc.  (they get this from the chaffhaye now)

Vitamin E capsules for does about to kid or just after kidding - to help speed healing

Raw ACV (with mother) - probiotics, digestion, coat, overall health

Himalayan Sea Salt - free choice, trace minerals

Baking Soda - free choice, digestion

Things we are growing in the garden this year for our goats

(and bunnies, separate post on bunny diet later!):

Carrots/Carrot Tops
Sweet Potatoes
Dandelion Greens/Roots
Sage (not for preggos)
Red Raspberry Leaf
Grape Leaves