It has come to my attention lately that not all people realize their value. You may be wondering what this has to do with homesteading, herbs, or anything remotely related. Isn't this more of a "self-help" topic? Well, not in this context. Stick with me!
We like to barter here on the homestead. By definition, barter is a system of trade in which one party exchanges products, goods and services in order to obtain required products, goods and services possessed by another. In a barter system, no money exchanges hands between the two parties. The main difference between barter and trade is that while barter does not involve money, trade occurs with currency used as a medium of exchange. Are you getting there with me, or am I still speaking crazy talk? Stick with me!
A common thing that we like to barter on the homestead is our fresh goat milk. Due to the laws in our state, one is supposed to have a government permission slip of sorts, that simply shows you have paid your fee to "big brother" and they've blessed your sale with a pretty little label (that you must make yourself, and are required to place on all bottles) that tells people what they are and are not to do with said milk (not for human consumption, of course), and everyone goes on their merry little way with a false sense of security that your goat milk with the pretty little label is now somehow superior to other goat milk because of such a blessing from our wardens. Well, that just sounds silly, doesn't it? See why we like to barter? Because bartering is not the same as selling, and we DO NOT SELL our goat milk. We also are not in the business of controlling what you do with the goat milk after you obtain it. You can feed it to your animals, disperse it throughout your garden, or *gasp* drink it, make cheese, kefir, etc. with it. Still with me?
Great! Now let's look at how the value of a person, bartering and goat milk all come together in a nice little package with this scenario:
A person wants goat milk (for their pet monkeys, of course).
I have goat milk, but I DO NOT SELL goat milk.
However, I do not NEED all this goat milk! What a conundrum.
Enter the barter!
Except there's one thing.
The person wanting the goat milk doesn't realize their value.
People!! We, as humans, are worth far more than the green stuff in our wallets! It saddens me to come to the realization that most people have no idea what they're worth, or more importantly, what they're capable of. If you took away all their money and all their things, they would essentially be completely worthless in their own eyes. That, my friends, is beyond sad. I could go into the correlation with this and "big brother" keeping us all right where they want us, but we'll keep politics to a minimum for now.
Let's open our minds, find things we're good at, our hidden talents and untapped abilities. Better yet, LEARN a new skill! You don't have to be a fellow homesteader to barter. Can you bake, sew, knit, crochet, make paper mache, paint, do calligraphy, wood work, iron work, vinyl decals, grow herbs in containers, dry those herbs, forage, cut hair, haul rocks, pick up acorns? Then you can barter! Do you have things you can't use but may be of use to a homesteader - old cardboard boxes for their Back To Eden garden, old Halloween pumpkins for their pigs, an old Christmas tree for their goats... The list is endless! You can barter! My point is, don't sell yourself short. Be creative. Know that you have value beyond what is in your wallet and beyond my short list of suggestions as well.
Obviously a person is more than their money or things, but the skills one has or is able to develop is a great indication of who a person is or even who they can be - their character, if I may go so far.
Now, who wants some goat milk?! ;) You'll have to wait until March for that, but we're always open to a good, out-of-the-box barter here on the homestead.
Always Open For Barter!
Why pigs at all? That's simple - MEAT! In the journey to self sufficiency, we desperately want to be able to provide food to our family that we know has been grown/raised free of chemicals and "junk food" like GMO corn and soy. When considering adding pigs to our homestead, there were some things I had questions about. First of all, I had always heard my Dad, and pretty much everyone else that had ever been around a pig of any sort, say that they stink, they root up everything, they're mean and will "eat you alive," the boars will make the sows abort just to be able to breed them again, and they also eat too much (expensive to feed). All of that sounded horrible, but I couldn't believe there weren't solutions to all of that. After all, how did pigs survive for sooooo long if they were such horrible, needy animals? I started asking around in a few pig groups I found online and people suggested putting rings in their noses to keep them from rooting. They also suggested iron clad fences and separation of boars and sows. I was still not going to accept that those were the only options, but again, that's what everyone was claiming.
The Kunekune Revelation
After much searching and reading and question asking, by some miracle, I heard about Kunekune pigs - a smaller (300lb max) "lard" type pig that doesn't root, is extremely docile, "spits out babies like butter," and are herd animals so the boar is part of the family unit and doesn't purposely try to make the sow abort just so he can breed again. Their meat is also excellent - gourmet even. We have a winner!
As I'm typing this we are going on almost one year of owning this awesome breed of pigs. Guess what? I have no complaints! They are everything and more than I expected them to be. We actually had to dig them a mud hole (pigs need to get muddy, especially in hot weather) because they don't root! We've also had one litter of piglets from our first sow and are expecting 3 more litters, due any day now. They really do act as a family unit! What have we fed them? Grass and fruit/veggie scraps when available Spring - Fall, hay and sweet potatoes in Winter, and a small amount of Non-GMO feed (about a handful per pig each day).
Rare Breed Conservation
As an added bonus to owning this breed for meat, in doing so we are helping to conserve a rare breed of farm animal, which is pretty awesome. Our children take great pride in telling people about our efforts in rare breed conservation of both our Guernsey goats and our Kunekune pigs. The American KuneKune Pig Society gives a concise look into the start of breed conservation for this amazing animal:
"In the late 1970's the breed was 'rediscovered' and at that time it was estimated that there were only about 50 purebred KuneKunes left in New Zealand. From purebred base stock of only 6 sows and 3 boars in 1978, the KuneKune conservation program was created by wildlife park owners Michael Willis and John Simister. These two gentlemen single handedly saved the breed from extinction. Once more herds were established in New Zealand, it became clear that exporting of the breed was important. They were afraid that if disease or other natural disasters struck in New Zealand this would wipe the breed out completely. In 1992 the first KuneKunes left New Zealand to go to the UK. Additional stock was sent to the UK in 1993 & 1996.
All KuneKunes in the United States go back to either direct New Zealand or UK imported stock. There have been five importations of KuneKune pigs into the USA occurring in 1996, 2005, 2010, and 2012."
How can you be "conserving" a breed if you kill them for meat? Good question! It doesn't really make sense upon first thought, but think a little harder...
Basically, since our primary goal was to have meat for our family and we chose to purchase Kunekunes for breeding (creating meat), that means that there will be A LOT of piglets born. KKs have 6-8ish piglets in each litter, and they are able to have a litter 3 times each year. We have 3 sows. You do the math! Ok, I did it for you - it works out to be about 72+/- piglets a year. First of all, we don't have that much freezer space. Secondly, this is where breed conservation comes in. Part of conserving and preserving a breed is in breeding animals that are of the best quality and most similar to the original Kunekunes. Breeding animals that carry characteristics not shared by the originals is getting away from conservation, not toward it. So, pigs that do not "conform" to these original standards that make the Kunekunes special are harvested for meat or sold as pets or "feeder pigs," meaning that the person buying it intends to feed it until it is old enough to harvest for meat for their own use.
Own Your Own Kunekune Pigs
As mentioned above, we have a lot of piglets born each year. If you are interested in making Kunekune pigs part of your farm or homestead, we'd love to share our experiences and our amazing animals with you. There are 3 options for purchasing piglets:
1. Purchase a "Breeder" - An animal of the best quality that will carry on attributes of the original Kunekune
2. Purchase a "Feeder" - An animal that may or may not carry the original attributes of Kunekunes and is sold for the sole purpose of living long enough to be big enough to harvest for meat.
3. Purchase a Pet - An animal that may or may not carry the original attributes of Kunekunes and is sold for the enjoyment of its new family. This is tricky, and an option that I'm not a fan of offering. First of all, "pets" are often purchased because they're cute and kids love them. Then they grow up, kids don't like them anymore, and they are often neglected or unwanted and at that point are serving no purpose at all.
For more information and options to purchase your own Kunekune from our beloved drift (the snazzy word for 'herd of pigs'), please contact us by phone at 256.333.0504 (leave a message, please) or via the form located under the Contact tab at the top of this page.
We've been eagerly awaiting the birth of all our little goat babies for what seems like forever. Lulu (a first freshener Toggenburg) was due to kid first. Her estimated due date was June 1, but she gave birth to beautiful boy/girl twins on May 30th. She was nice enough to hold out until I went out to feed. She ate her feed and we all went through our morning routine as usual. As had been the case for the past couple of days, I checked to see how Lulu's tail ligaments felt, not because it benefited her any, but I was curious to know if I could possibly tell when she might kid. I checked and I could feel NO ligaments. They were all soft and ready to go, so I though, "Yay, she shouldn't be too much longer, maybe tonight or tomorrow." Then, as I was walking around, taking in the scenery and checking this and that, Lulu comes up to me and just had a different demeanor. She wanted me to pet her and be near her, which she typically doesn't care one way or the other. Then she practically led me to the hay filled stall of the barn, where she started breathing heavily. The other goats couldn't resist seeing what we were doing, so they joined in as well, but I could tell that she wasn't keen on having them around. Then I saw her backside open up to the size of a baseball and I knew this was the real deal. I know I don't want an audience when I'm giving birth, so I removed all the animals to the back pasture so she could have her peace. When I returned she pushed and the amniotic sac bulged out. I was beyond excited that she let me (and even seemed to want me to) be part of this experience, as I missed our first goat kidding last year so this was a first for me, although not my first birth by any means. I've been a doula for birthing mothers and I've had two children of my own, with the last being unassisted (yes, on purpose). Even so, birth never gets old and is always exciting!
I'm in the goat groups on Facebook and I see everyone posting about how they "saved" the day (and their goats) by shoving their hands where they don't belong and pulling out babies like prizes in a grab bag. No thanks! Not because I'm squeamish or I think I "couldn't" do it, but because BIRTH IS NATURAL - human, goat, pig, etc. We did not get here by being afraid of birth or by not instinctively knowing how to do it. Just as women don't need interference during birth, neither do animals 99.99% of the time. This just seems stupid to have to say, but I suppose mainstream thinking has effectively brainwashed everyone into freaking out about birth. Maybe Lulu knew I would be her moral support but wouldn't interfere needlessly so she trusted me, who knows. Lulu progressed quickly and the increasingly harder pushes brought her to her knees. She looked to me for support and I just squatted beside her and rubbed my hand down her side between contractions. She relaxed as I did this and then tackled the next contraction. Soon enough she decided that standing would be a better position for her, so up she came. At this point I decided to get a video of the birth. I could see what looked like a foot and a mouth with baby's tongue out. I admit that the tongue out scared me for a moment, but I looked (no hands) a little closer and clearly the baby was moving. I also noticed there were two feet that looked to be pointed in a favorable and easy birthing position. I knew she had this, even though she was only at the beginning. The first baby (a boy we named Tumbleweed) came tumbling out after several hard pushes. He hit the ground, but not as hard as I expected, really. I knew this wasn't a bad thing and that he was fine. I did help get his head unfolded after he was out just because it didn't look that comfortable.
The pause between babies is necessary and important. Mom gets a little break from contractions and is able to lick and bond with the first baby. Doing so stimulates more Oxytocin to flow through her body so she is ready to push out the next baby. I'm assuming they may feel a "birth high" similar to that felt by natural birthing human mamas when they have accomplished such an amazing feat all on their own and have all those wonderful birthy hormones flowing. Lulu definitely looked energized and ready for the next baby as she felt the first of her second set of contractions return. She lifted her head and paused for what looked like a moment to regroup and focus, then she began pushing again.
And Then There Were Two
The birth of the second baby was much faster than the first and seemed easier for Lulu. Although, the second baby, a little girl, was much smaller than her BIG brother. Lulu probably only pushed three times before baby Annie was out except for her back legs. If you look closely, you can see that little Annie was alert yet still between two worlds, with her back legs still inside her mother. Lulu needed a little rest before Annie came out completely, but that was fine. No need to interfere. After several minutes of being stuck between two worlds, Lulu stood up and Annie was completely earthside. And then there were two - Higher Ground Queen Anne's Lace (Annie) & Higher Ground Tumbleweed.
Give Birth a Chance
Lulu is a Toggenburg (Swiss breed) first freshener (FF for short), meaning that this is her first time to kid, or give birth. She rocked it! She did not need me, but fortunately for me she let me be a part of her special day and even seemed to appreciate my quiet, hands-off presence. Thank you, Lulu!
From experience as a birthing mammal, myself, and my experience helping other birthing women, I knew that a hands-off approach was best. Rupturing the sac would've made labor hurt worse as there would be no cushion between baby's hard, bony parts and mom. Pulling at any point could've caused more harm and stress than good. Stress in labor/birth sends nasty chemicals soaring through the bloodstream that work as an antagonist to naturally occurring Oxytocin. Overall, birth is natural, so just let it be, give it a chance to work out, and only interfere if it is blatantly obvious it is needed. Otherwise you just may cause the issues you're so afraid of to begin with.
I recently bought an Instant Pot (thank you, Black Friday sale!) and have been experimenting like crazy. So far, I have only mastered one meal in the Instant Pot, but it's great for doing "unusual" things like boiling (ok, they're really steamed, not boiled) fresh eggs and this - CAJUN BOILED PEANUTS! Yum! Let's cut the nonsense and just get right to the recipe, shall we?
Cajun Boiled Peanuts (2 pounds)
2lbs raw peanuts, in the shell
6+ Jalepeno Peppers (green or wait until they turn red, as I did)
6+ Cayenne Peppers (I used the ones I dried from the garden this past Summer)
2TBS Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2c Pink Himalayan Salt (or other salt of your choice)
2 Bay Leaves
1TBS Minced Garlic
Add all ingredients to the Instant Pot and secure the lid. Move the steam release to the "steaming" setting. Use the MANUAL setting for HIGH pressure and set the time for 60 minutes. When time is up, let the steam release naturally. Voila!
You may want to add more peppers if you're looking for a super hot version. This was surprisingly pretty mild, even with 12 hot peppers.
The cold temps are here and keeping the animals warm and the water in liquid state is top priority. Here are 3 simple ingredients that can be added to your water tanks to help keep them warm in icy Winter weather.
It was by acident that I discovered this little gem to help keep the water in liquid, or at least slushie, form. While nursing a sick pig and trying to get him to drink more water while providing him with a bit of iron at the same time, I put a decent amount of molasses in his water bucket. The next morning, which was the first freeze for the season, the main water tank for the goats had an inch thick sheet of ice on top, but the pig water was still perfectly drinkable, and only a little slushie. Ding, ding, ding! This became the first and most important ingredient in what evolved into the Keep Them Warm forumla.
The next time I was mixing my molasses mixture, I caught myself thinking about different things I could add that would be beneficial to the animals in the cold weather and I automatically thought of Cayenne. People had mentioned giving Cayenne to their chickens in winter to keep them warm and help keep egg production up, so I thought it made sense to add it here. Cayenne also has the benefits of being a vermifuge against intestinal parasites, a tonic herb that boosts the immune system, and a catalyst herb that boosts the efficacy of other herbs and supplements. This one is a definite winner!
Apple Cider Vinegar
To round out the formula, I naturally turned to apple cider vinegar (ACV), as it is not only known for being a great probiotic, but it has many more benefits as well. It provides energy for working dogs while repelling fleas and ticks and conditioning their coats. ACV may also improve digestion, provide relief from arthritis and inflammation, help adapt to colder temperatures, and help prevent urinary tract infections and urinary calculi. It also disrupts the development of bacterial and viral infections. Every animal can benefit from these attributes!
Order ingredients by clicking on each individual ingredient below (aff. links):
1/2 to 1 cup Molasses
1 tsp Cayenne
2 TBS Raw, Unfiltered ACV
Very warm water (not hot or you risk destroying the live part of the ACV)
Add first 3 ingredients to a quart-size Mason jar. Top with very warm water and secure the lid. Shake until the molasses is completely mixed. Pour this mixture into a 2.5 gallon chicken waterer and top with water as usual, or adjust quantity of ingredients and add to the size water tank of your choice. I give this formula to all my animals - chickens, guineas, goats, pigs, dogs, and cats.
Keep them warm! :)
Move over Scentsy! These all natural wax melts have ingredients I'm proud to share. More importantly, they lack ingredients that make people sick, harm the environment, and endanger animals. Actually, they're so simple and work so well that it really makes me wonder why in the world people would make these things with all the junk they like to put in them. It makes NO SENSE!
So, here it is - a short blog post for a really easy wax melt that's also pretty awesome.
Recipe (Yields about 1 ice cube tray with 1/2oz wells):
5oz coconut oil
3oz beeswax (those little pellets melt faster and are easier to weigh out)
A glug, drip, shake, or tap of the essential oils of your choice (really, just put what you want to put, it's not rocket science)
Tiny crockpot (I use this one - affiliate link)
Glass measuring cup (Like this one - affiliate link)
Something to stir with - butter knife or spreader works well
Silicon candy mold or ice cube tray (mine holds approximately 1/2oz in each well)
I start by putting about half an inch or so of water in my tiny little crockpot (below) and turn it on. I use a glass measuring cup to hold my ingredients, but I don't use the measuring cup for measuring in this recipe, so don't worry with that. I use my kitchen scale and weigh my ingredients. Now, weigh out your coconut oil and beeswax into the measuring cup and place the measuring cup into the crockpot. Cover everything with a towel and let it heat up. When the beeswax is completely liquid, give it a good stir, unplug the crockpot, then add the essential oils. Finally, pour the mixture into your ice cube tray/candy mold and let harden. You may want to speed the process in the freezer. They pop out very easily after a stint in the freezer. Store in an air tight container. I use small plastic bags.
These wax melts have a higher beeswax content than many other recipes I found online because I wanted them to melt nicely, but I didn't want them to melt when I didn't want them to melt. They're firm, but melt nicely and quickly enough. You can also use them for solid perfume or lip balm, so get creative with your essential oils. You could also infuse the coconut oil with herbs before starting this recipe for a custom wax melt with added benefits.
A lot to celebrate
This year was a very special year, as we had a lot to celebrate. Mr. Higher Ground was turning 40, the kids were turning 6 and 3, the ages where so many new adventures begin, and we had been here on the farm for 8 months. It wasn't just a birthday party, by any means. We wanted to share what we'd been working toward for the past 8 months with our family and some of our new friends.
The theme of our birthday bash was, appropriately, "Down on the Farm," and was almost like a miniature Fall Festival. We rented a moon walk and slide and tried to incorporate a bit of the farm throughout the evening - from the food to the activities. We even had a feeding time for the goats, chickens and pigs where the children got to feed pumpkin "innards" to the animals. That seemed to really thrill everyone and made them feel a part of farm life, if just for a brief time. All in all, I think it was a really fun time for everyone and the children were all smiles.
Pulling off Paleo
When most people think of birthday parties, the first thing they think of is cake and ice cream, right? Well, we do things a bit differently around here, so there would be no brightly colored, sugary icing, and no store-bought ice cream with God knows what in it (beaver butt). Instead, we threw one heck of a Paleo friendly birthday bash, complete with layers of Butter-Rum-Pear and Vanilla cake, frosted with Maple Vanilla Cream Cheese frosting, and topped with butter toasted pecans. The ice cream? Goat Milk Maple & Banana with milk from our very own goat! The rest was simple - BURGERS! Nothing fancy here, just grass-fed hamburger meat from one of our new farmer friends with the option of lettuce wrapped or on a bun (*cringe*).
You may be wondering how our non-Paleo (and even non-remotely-healthy-eating) friends and family responded to our "different" menu. One of the kids actually said "I can't believe healthy food can taste so good." That was enough thanks for me! Mission accomplished!
Now everyone has gone home, the bouncy houses are returned, the tables are down, and the cake looks like an attempted murder. All must return to normal but it is a bit hard to believe everything is over. No more planning. No more stressing. Just the sweet memories made. I couldn't have pulled any of this off without the tremendous efforts put fourth by my dear husband, my mom, my aunt, and my in-laws. They really made this happen and made it all so special while I was a bundle of nerves. Thanks a million times over for your unwavering love, support, and help! Until next year...
Against the Grain
Before I begin to tell you about my first experience rendering lard, let me just say that, contrary to popular belief instigated by commercial farmers via the USDA, the medical & pharmaceutical industries, and mainstream media, lard is NOT an unhealthy food. Lard from foraging, humanely and organically raised pigs is rich in Omega 3's as opposed to the Omega 6's produced from your average corn, soy, and other GMO-crop-fed hog. So, enjoy! Food is fuel.
Choosing a Method
I surveyed all my farming friends to see which practices they preferred for rendering lard and came up with two factors that seemed to be the same among everyone - 1. cut the pork fat into really small pieces or grind it, preferably 2. render slow and low to avoid a "piggy" taste. So, with that in mind, I decided to chop my 10lbs of pork fat into about 1" cubes and throw it all in a roasting pan and render in the oven at 200 degrees.
The rendering process was supposed to be complete after an over-night stint in the oven at 200 degrees, according to everything I read and the friends I asked. However, I think either my chunks were too large or I put too much fat in at once. Next time I will definitely be grinding the pork fat! Lesson learned!
So, since I wasn't happy with how things looked after 12ish hours in the oven, I just decided to let it go longer. That helped! I didn't keep close tabs on the hours spent in the oven, but I'd say at least 18hrs. At that point, I decided I would pour off all the lard so far. I strained it in a metal strainer first and then poured through a reusable coffee filter as it was going into pint jars. I still thought those chunks had more to give, so I put them back in for another few hours. Yep, that helped more! I poured lard off again, and this time I gave the remaining chunks a good squishing and then put them back in again for what would be the third and last time. I didn't get much more out of them, but it made me happy to know I hadn't wasted anything.
After only God knows how many hours in the oven (more than 24hrs), I finally came out with about 10 pints of lard from the 10lbs of pork fat I started with. Not bad!
Now, some of you may be wondering if all that cooking time burned the lard or made it off tasting or more golden than the snowy white everyone looks for in good lard. Well, let's just say that the proof is in the pudding - errrrr...lard (see pic below). Yes, I'm fluffing my feathers and strutting like a rooster right now. :) Look for my follow-up post called CRACKLINS WITH GRANNY to see what I did with the left overs from rendering lard.
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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