So You Have a Spaghetti Squash...
Spaghetti squash - that thing you cook when you're "Paleo, Gluten Free, etc." and real noodles are forbidden. Yeah, there's no way to sugar coat it - it does NOT taste like noodles, at least not to me. But yeah, it makes a decent carrier for sauce and you get to sneak veggies on the kids, too. After all it is "spaghetti" squash! But cooking it - oh my! You'd think you were making a special treat like a cake or something the way you have to cook these things to get them to the stringy "noodle-y" stage. "Cut them crossways into circles precisely X-inches thick (and keep them uniform), put them on a pan with water (they never fit), but not too much water, then cook them for 10 billion hours, but not too long or they're burnt." Bla, bla, bla, spaghetti squash. Can you make a cake with these things?? Hmmm...
No More Drama
So, there has to be a better, easier, faster way to cook these veggie-noodle things! And there is! Here it is, really short and sweet because I detest blogs that ramble about nothing.
- 1c water in the bottom of your IP.
- Set the trivet in the bottom.
- Cut the SS lengthwise.
- Arrange those suckers in there however you can, it doesn't matter. I just stuffed 4 halves into my 6qt and it worked great!
- 8 minutes on High pressure.
- 10 minutes natural steam release.
- Scrape them with a fork into a dish.
You're welcome! Now you can quickly and easily prepare these sauce carriers in a hurry, without a degree. :)
I Cooked It; Now What?
Well, as I mentioned, they're basically sauce carriers. I will not go as far as to say they're a noodle alternative, because I like to keep things real, and the texture or taste just isn't noodle-y. Edible, maybe even bordering on good, but not a noodle. However, who cares when you put grilled chicken and goat milk alfredo sauce on top! MMMMM! So, here's a rough guide on how to make that sauce. I don't measure things often, and I certainly don't when making sauces, unless you count taste testing as measurement, but that's a bit hard to convey in a printed recipe. So, follow your taste buds and use a bit of common sense when using the following guide and you'll get there.
- Heat a chunk of butter and a glug of olive oil in a kinda large skillet.
- Add flour of your choice (yes, you can make this GF if you want) like you're making a gravy.
- Whisk the flour and fat mixture until bubbly but don't burn it. Remember, alfredo is white, not brown.
- Pour in *enough* goat milk to make your "gravy" water-y.
- Add chopped garlic or even garlic powder until your heart is content.
- Add a dash or three of Parsley (fresh or dried is fine).
- Add about a handful or so of grated Parmesan cheese. Stir until well combined and saucy!
- Salt & Pepper to taste.
Now you're ready to put it all together however you like. I personally mix in my grilled chicken into the sauce and then pour that over the spaghetti squash that I've arranged into a casserole dish.
Colostrum is PACKED with awesome goodness, like immune factors, including immunoglobulins IgA, IgD and IgE that act as natural antivirals, Leptin and IgF-1, two key components that work to regulate metabolism, control appetite and convert fat into usable energy, growth factors to build and regenerate bone, tendon, muscle and other vital tissue and so much more. Due to it's ability to increase absorption of nutrients, regulate metabolism and improve immunity, it also tends to increase overall energy and vitality. Colostrum has been shown to interrupt H. pylori, a bacteria known to cause gastric ulcers, intestinal inflammation and gastritis. It has also been shown in human studies to protect the stomach and intestinal wall from NSAID induced gut injury and from conditions like irritable bowel syndrome. Amino acids called proline-rich polypeptides have been shown in studies to be an effective preventative measure against Alzheimer’s and other age-related cognitive decline. PRP’s help the body prevent the buildup of beta amyloid, a protein fragment that accumulates and forms hard plaques in the brain of those with Alzheimer’s. And the list goes on with the potential of colostrum!
Even Better From Goats
What makes colostrum from goats better than colostrum from cows? Glad you asked!
Just like goat milk, goat colostrum is closer to human colostrum and more easily digested, absorbed, and utilized by the human body. Pretty awesome, right?! There are many colostrum supplements on the market and most of them are from cows (bovine). Although we do plan to milk our Highlands, I'm happy to have our goats for their superior (health wise) milk (and obviously, colostrum).
Stay Tuned For The Colostrum Supplement Making Process In An Upcoming Blog Post!
Check Out These Sources and Feel Free to Geek Out With Me!
Book: Prescription for Nutritional Healing an A to Z Guide to Supplements by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC
Looking for Black Friday deals for the Homestead? I've put together a no-frills (sorry, no pics, just click the links) list of some of the things I use or some of the things on my wish list. Enjoy!
Around the Homestead
Why Natural Cure?
Every time I mention natural cure in a Facebook group for bacon/sausage making (beef, of course) I always get berated and talked to like I'm a complete idiot or a baby inquiring about my first bite of food. If you're wondering; no, they never answer my freaking questions! Isn't that so annoying, to ask a question and people just go off about your question being "wrong" to begin with?! Anyway, their favorite thing to say is "Nitrates are nitrates." Ummm, heck no they aren't! First of all, if I wanted a lab-made ingredient in my food I'd go that route, but I don't, hence my questions regarding NATURAL cure. Second, aside from "nitrates being nitrates," what about the red dye they put in commercial curing powder? I specifically keep myself and my family away from synthetic food dyes in absolutely everything else we eat. I'm not caving in for meat. And third, I like to be self sufficient. I can grow my own celery and I suppose I could evaporate off my own salt from the ocean if I wanted to. I like to know that if there's ever a reason I can't buy things from the store, I'm not going to go lacking. So, THAT is why I want NATURAL cure. And THAT is why I just made my own! As the name should imply, it is DIFFERENT than lab-made curing powder. Hello!
I Googled (scratch that - I don't use Google; I use duckduckgo.com because they don't keep tabs on my ever action and filter my results based ) my brains out looking for "natural cure recipes" and "natural curing powder for sale" and "celery powder cure." Guess what! I came up pretty empty. I did find a company selling cultured celery powder, so I ordered some. First off, they didn't list ALL the ingredients on their website so when I got it in the mail, it had extra "anti-caking" agents that I didn't want. AND guess what... it was all clumped together. That anti-caking crap worked so well, huh? Aside from that, it was brown and it didn't smell fresh at all. I put it in a jar with the label that came on the plastic bag it was sent to me in (so I'd know it had those extra, junk ingredients before I used it) and forgot about it for a few months. Same song and dance.
Then I found it hiding among my spices and seasonings one day and picked it up to scoff at it once more, when it hit me - "CULTURED CELERY POWDER!" Well, duh! Cultured - Fermented! I can do that! And it makes sense as to why you would. So, the experiment was on!
Fermenting is fun! Sometimes you can run into mold issues, which is a real bummer, but for the most part, it's pretty fool-proof. I bought 4 bunches of organic celery stalks from the grocery store, brought them home, rinsed and chopped them, then layered them in a big crock with Himalayan salt. I really don't even remember measuring the salt. It was just toss in a handful of chopped celery and a sprinkling of salt, and repeat until the celery was all in the crock. Pretty easy! I topped it off with distilled water, weighted the celery down below the brine level and let it go about 2 weeks. Voila! Fermented celery! FYI, after I get used to making things I rarely measure after that point, BUT you certainly can (and should) until you get used to making these sorts of things. So, you're going for about a 5% brine solution with this ferment, so that means you want about 3TBS per quart of distilled water. Yes, you can dissolve the salt in the water before pouring it over if you like. Do NOT use iodized salt! Sea salt, Himalayan salt and Redmond salt are all great choices.
For more on fermenting, I highly suggest getting the book, Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz.
After fermenting, I rinsed the celery in a colander and placed it on silicon mats before placing those on my dehydrator racks. I didn't want to completely mutilate the awesome microbes (the CULTURE part), so I dehydrated at 115 degrees F for... well, forever it seemed, but basically until completely dried. It had to be at least 12 hours. If you're looking for a reliable dehydrator, I definitely recommend a LEM! It's just as good as an Excalibur, but they tend to run a little less expensive.
After I thought the celery was dehydrated I proceeded to grind it up. It wasn't completely dehydrated after all, so I stuck it back in to finish dehydrating. I mention this just so you know that if it happens to you, you can just pop it back in. It isn't ruined. Having been ground a bit, it actually has the opportunity to dehydrate completely so you won't have to worry a single bit about mold.
A Vitamix or Blendtec blender would be excellent for grinding a fine powder for this as well as herbs (yes, even those hard, pesky roots and barks). After grinding into a powder, you can store it in a jar in the pantry for a good while.
Now... How in the world do you use this newly crafted natural cure?? Surprisingly, it only takes a little bit (maybe I shouldn't have made so much at once). There are "cure calculators" out there, but for the sake of simplicity, I'll sum up what I've found for you and say that they basically suggest the following: 1tsp per 5lbs of meat for dry cure, 4tsp per 5lbs of meat (whole muscle) for dry cure, or 6TBS for each gallon of water in a brine solution. I recently made Set-Apart Beef Bacon with my natural, fermented celery powder and it worked very well when combined with my homemade seasoning blend! You can find the Set-Apart Beef Bacon process coming up soon on the blog!
I hope you found this blog post helpful and inspiring. Thanks for following us on our homesteading journey!
The 2020 Egg Season is just about to get wound up! Are you ready for farm freshness AND easy to peel eggs??
Those two things never seemed to go together until I started steaming the eggs instead of boiling, in the days before the Instant Pot, and now with the IP it’s even easier and quicker!
I like my eggs kinda creamy in the middle (not runny), so after adding a cup of cool water to the bottom of the pot and placing the eggs, I set my IP for 4 minutes on low pressure and do an instant steam release.
Next, I put them straight into an ice bath for about 5 minutes, or until I get back to them (since my multitasking game is fierce).
The egg trivet is great for holding the eggs off the bottom and sides so they cook evenly. Mine is the double stacking kind and it has held up well for many, many uses over several years.
After I make a batch of these easy eggs, storage is also easy, clean and compact in these spiffy washable, reusable cartons.
Holistic animal husbandry refers to the art, if you will, of considering the whole animal, every body system, and every environmental/external factor instead of reducing them down to one disease state, one organ system, one treatment, etc. This starts with nutrition, environment and health at the very core, but can be as involved as a person is willing to go with it, depending on their level of knowledge of the workings of the body and the effects of environmental factors.
Corn and soy are the most genetically modified crops out there, and sadly those GMO crops have contaminated even organically grown crops of corn and soy. Aside from that, corn and soy change the fatty acid ratio with more Omega 6 (inflammatory) and less Omega 3 (heart/brain healthy) than is healthy. Soy can also throw estrogen levels off kilter in both females and males. Those are the reason we do not feed corn and soy. What we do feed is primarily pasture grasses and "weeds" like yellow dock, chickweed, clover, dandelion, vetch, etc. We'll also be planting more beets soon! In addition to their forage based diet, we supplement with Non-GMO, soy/corn free pellets from Tucker Milling, called Nature Crest. I've been happy with it, but I'm not so stuck in a rut that I'm not willing to consider that there's something better. We will be incorporating more fermented whole grains and seeds with a bit of added kelp and blackstrap molasses into the diets of the animals soon, as we feel that the closer to the natural (not heavily processed) state of food we can get, the better.
The most common animal husbandry practices rely on many synthetic drugs, not only given to animals in the form of injections and oral medications, but also in their environment. Examples would be formulas used for disenfecting areas, formulas for ridding areas of bugs, etc. These common practices have effects on soil health and populations of beneficial insects, which eventually effects the pasture which is grazed by the animals. It also starts a cycle of "treat it, your problem doesn't go away, treat it more, it gets worse," and on and on. I'll use fly control as an example. If you treat an area for flies, yes, it gets rid of those flies, however it may also disrupt other insect populations. If you're wise and have chickens to help with fly control, those chickens lose a food source, so they go elsewhere and the cycle continues. These treatments also have an impact on the animals directly, by potentially weakening their immune systems. The immune system is essentially found throughout the body - the gut, liver, lymph nodes, everywhere. If one thing is thrown off, things tend to get "out of whack," setting the animal up for disease, that may not be a direct side effect of the chemical concoctions used, but a result of that cocktail weakening one organ system that leads to another.
Holistic animal husbandry goes well beyond nutrition and environmental applications, though. We obviously aim to avoid sickness all together and focus on genetically hardy animals and giving them the things they need to live well. Next, and even more important, in my opinion, is NOT giving them things that would compromise an intact immune system, like vaccinations and medications. So, many people freak out at this point and say "What if an animal gets sick, do you just let it die?" No! That's when my favorite part comes in. Not my favorite because I need to use my skills, but because I'm ABLE to use my skills to treat these special creatures with plant medicine, which at it's core helps the body to help itself instead of destroying or suppressing body systems. A genetically hardy animal combined with herbal treatment when needed is a winning combination! And here again, most people would balk at this point and say, "You need something strong - a pharmaceutical drug!" Nope again. Have you ever heard of poisonous plants, plants to avoid letting animals eat, plants to avoid letting your children eat or touch? Yeah, of course! Well, if plants have the power to do harm, you also have to acknowledge that they have the potential to do good, when used properly, as they can't be both powerful and powerless. That doesn't make sense.
To Be Continued
There are so many connections that I could make and so many more details to cover, especially in the realm of vaccinations and medications, but I'm going to let this introduction sink in for a bit and pick up with another post covering those things later. I hope I've mentioned some things that get you all thinking, questioning, and wondering what we could do differently to raise healthier animals not dependent on both harmful and expensive treatments. Thank you for your interest in holistic animal husbandry!
It was late October and I had been watching Amber, our beautiful Highland cow, with eager anticipation for the arrival of her new calf, which I would name Ember (I was sure it would be a girl). I was so excited that I wrote a poem, which I don't believe I've ever done in my entire life, aside from some assignment in school years ago.
Autumn Embers fall
Weightless in the wind
Dancing flames of Amber & Red.
Rebels Yell; hear their call
From Higher Ground it will begin
A new reign of Truth is ahead.
What a happy coincidence
October 29 rolled around and today was the day. Amber had milk and had been showing other signs that were right on track with impending birth for a few days now. I kept a close watch out the window and was sure I'd see when the action started. I was working on the last blog post as a notification popped up on Facebook from Elm Hollow Highlands that their lovely cow, Nadia, had given birth to TWIN girls, which was a beautiful blessing and a farm first for them as well.
Sadness of loss
At some point between glances out the window, Amber had given birth to a sleeping baby girl calf. I found her that evening when I went out for evening checks at the barn. She was a perfectly formed, reddish colored, curly beauty, albeit a bit on the small side, I believe now that I've seen another newborn Highland calf. There was no sign that this sweet girl had ever opened her eyes. It was a soggy, rainy mess that day and Amber was in obvious distress, licking the baby, mooing (which she hadn't done since we got her several months ago), and circling. She had to be wondering why her baby didn't move and what she was supposed to do as a mama cow at this point.
This was my first experience with anything to do with the birth and death of a calf, but I assumed I should remove the calf to ensure predators wouldn't bother Amber or the other animals in the night. I tried to drag the calf away but Amber told me straight away that wasn't happening. She has big horns and weighs about half a ton, so I listen! However, I don't give up. I decided to get a scent blocker bag and maneuver the baby into it while keeping a close eye on a now wild-eyed mama cow. It worked and I ran, dragging this poor calf, crying to the barn. All I could manage to squeak out between hideous sobbing was "She's dead! Amber's baby is dead." The rest of the family was just as devastated. Soon my disappointment turned to concern for Amber. She was a baby-less mother. Her sole purpose in life had just been stripped from her, and I knew she didn't understand. She had already lost a young calf last year (pic below) due to unmanageable calf scours and dehydration, and I could feel her confusion and pain. I sent Elm Hollow Highlands (Nancy is the best!) a message and told her what happened. I asked if I should try to find an orphan calf to try to bond with and nurse, and that's when coincidence turned into something more.
Two lost souls
Nancy immediately said "I have one!" I was shocked. Beyond shocked, really. I hadn't seen her post anything about having an orphan calf. I knew Nadia had given birth to twins, but I thought all was well. That wasn't the case, however. Nadia had lost that loving feeling for one of her girls - Lucille. She had officially rejected the calf we now call Lucy and she was having to be put in a head catch to let the baby nurse. Obviously, this was tiring and stressful for everyone involved, and a bottle baby was quickly in the making. Without much more thought, we both agreed that everyone's best option was to act quickly to try to graft orphaned baby Lucy onto a grieving mama Amber. It was risky, and we knew there were no guarantees the graft would work, but we also knew the timing was perfect and everyone involved in this process had big hearts and lots of determination. We also knew that Amber was a good mother and very gentle, and if any cow would accept a baby not her own, it would be Amber.
The journey begins
The next morning it was a mad dash to get things ready for the attempted grafting of these two lost souls. I was obviously not prepared for this, but we worked quickly to throw together a safe space for introducing them and a safe and warm space for baby Lucy in case Amber also rejected her. I also milked Amber, in icy rain, not knowing we were under a tornado warning, for the first time (for me) to be able to carry her colostrum to baby Lucy when I picked her up. That would give us a head start on getting her to smell like Amber's calf, and of course, Lucy would be one hungry baby coo after her journey! Then the journey began. I started driving the almost 10-hour round trip drive to get Lucy and come back. Not far into my journey, I ran into downed trees from the storm that were blocking the road. I messaged Nancy at Elm Hollow and she said storms had come their way as well and they were without power. In a split decision, they decided to just drive in my direction and I'd drive in their direction and we'd meet somewhere in the middle, given all the obstacles being thrown in our way and the time element to get cow and calf together ASAP. And that's what we did! We met pretty much exactly in the middle, in a Burger King parking lot [insert uncomfortable laughter here], where baby Lucy was eager to get her bottle of Amber milk. I can't thank Nancy and Schuyler enough for their quick actions to make the grafting possibility an option. Baby Lucy rode, diaper clad, in the cab of the truck all the way back to Higher Ground and arrived around 8:30pm.
Upon arriving, I carried Lucy into the house (wasn't sure what else to do with her) to show her to hubby and have him help me in introducing two unrelated cows that we were determined would form a mother/baby bond. Just typing that sounds insane now at this point, but I suppose I'd been running on hopeful adrenaline for about 24hrs at that point. haha
I had previously rubbed a towel over Amber's lost calf to get her scent. I then rubbed that towel all over Lucy and also put a bit of the remaining colostrum in her bottle on her head, back and tail so hopefully she'd smell like Amber's calf. Here we go! I hauled Lucy in my arms to the barn where her cozy spot was ready for her and where I'd bring Amber in to meet Lucy for the first time.
Amber was in the big pasture so we had to go get her with a bucket of alfalfa. However, she was more interested in the smells on our hands, and again that wild look in her eye came on like a light switch had been flipped. Game on! The goal: make a bond and don't get hurt in the process. Challenge accepted! Amber was going nuts for the smell on us and we, although scared we trip in the dark pasture and get trampled, were super hopeful that she would immediately take to Lucy since she had the same smells on her now.
When inside the barn, Amber saw Lucy, sniffed her and looked at us like we were traitors. She was not amused. If I was to interpret what she was likely thinking, I'd say she went from hopeful disbelief that her calf could be where we were taking her to purely pissed off that we tricked her. However, a bucket of feed was at least some form of comfort for her wasted trip to the barn. She began eating and I slipped her halter on and tied her to a post so she couldn't swing her head around a make us humans on a stick. I decided Lucy was hungry and instead of trying to force anything at that moment that I'd just milk Amber again and feed it immediately to Lucy. That made the most sense given that Amber wasn't going to be fooled tonight. Lucy ate, Amber ate, we brought Lucy close and she sniffed Amber right before Amber kicked at her, and then we separated them - Lucy in the barn and Amber in the small barnyard area outside the barn - for the night.
Before getting Amber out, she did try to check out the feed bins and hubby and I were both in not-so-great positions between her, the wall and the feed, and I took a swipe to the face from one of her massive horns that knocked me silly for a few minutes. That was a first, kinda scary, and something that could've gone really bad. It was totally handler error, though, and Amber never did anything out of meanness.
They moo'ed back and fourth a bit that night and were at it again the next morning. Again, I decided to milk Amber first and feed hungry Lucy before attempting to get her to nurse. Again, Amber kicked at Lucy to stop her from trying to nurse, but she did pay more attention to her and was seemingly starting to be interested in her smell. We separated them the same way as the night before and they continue to moo back and fourth until I went out just after lunch time to do what I'd planned would be the same routine.
As I reached the barn I felt a change was in order. I felt like I had to stop trying to MAKE this happen and just LET it happen. I knew in order to do this (or NOT DO this), I'd need to pray for guidance, wisdom, peace, intuition, and for no animal or human to get hurt in the process of me letting go. I slipped into the barn and got Amber's alfalfa, barley, oat and sunflower mix together and put it in her spot, said a heart felt, tearful (yeah, ok, it was more like an ugly cry) prayer, and then opened the door. No halter, no tying, no guarding baby Lucy like a hawk. I just let them be. Amber ate, Lucy came over for a smell, then inched her way back to the dairy bar, and Amber stood there and let her nurse. She turned back to sniff Lucy as she nursed and gave a half-hearted, wimpy kick. I started talking to Amber and petting her like usual, rubbing her sides, and rubbing down her leg on the side Lucy was on. At any sign of a kick, I'd apply more pressure and tell her "No, this is your baby. It's ok." We did this until Amber finished her huge bucket of feed, and then Amber really started checking Lucy out. Smelling her all over, and skeptically allowing her to remain near. Then I decided a little fresh air could do everyone good, as Lucy hadn't been in the Alabama sunshine yet! I got Amber to come out of the barn and Lucy ran right behind her. As I shut the barn door, Lucy started running and playing and Amber started mooing to get her to settle down, I suppose. lol Then it was almost like Amber realized she was "mothering" this calf, but...why? Amber visibly took steps back and had a look of confusion again, disbelief, but HOPE, all at the same time. She watched as Lucy played. This went on for several minutes and then Amber changed. She starts running after Lucy and breathing her in deeply. She started licking her and nudging her to nurse. She was ecstatic! She was MOM to baby Lucy! That was HER BABY! And that moment was the start of Lucy and Amber's second chance together. They bonded in less than 24 hours and are still going strong today. Amber is back to her calm, yet protective self, and Lucy is the happiest little calf around.
Enjoy this picture gallery of all the fabulous Highlands mentioned above. Special thanks to
Just your average ex-medical scientist turned herb loving, natural living, homeschooling mom, wife, and homesteader who values common sense, real food, real people, primal instincts, and self-sufficiency.
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