Shedding and shelving and sprouting and stuff

I spent yesterday afternoon building a new shed for our, hopefully soon to have permission from my husband to get, goats. 😀

I did a little rough maths the other day. We go through a LOT of milk in our house. I drink a glass a day, the kids and I all have a hot chocolate “coffee” in the morning and that alone uses 700ml of milk. I usually make us yoghurt and we have custard at least once a week. Orik is also only 18 months old and although I continue to breastfeed him we supplement with milk so he too drinks a lot. I also make milk kefir although this doesn’t use that much really. Still and all on a heavy milk day we can use 3 litres a day – up to 21 litre a week! We don’t buy Coles milk at $1/L so we conservatively worked out at between $4 and $5 for our 3 litre bottle. So if we say 20 litres a week at $4 per 3 litre that is about $28 a week. Per year? Around $1500! Add onto that any cheese, sour cream, cream, butter and any other dairy we may purchase and that is a LOT of money. This is a VERY rough cost analysis and I haven’t done a further one (I’m too scared at just how much we could well be spending on dairy) and it’s a lot of money to give to an industry that has some questionable practices to say the least. It’s also worked out on non-organic milk. I hate to think how much the organic milk costs per litre. 😦

Dairy cows, like all lactating mammals (humans included) do not just make milk. Milk is created to feed an infant and the hormones during pregnancy begin preparing the mammary glands to create firstly colostrum, a thick nutrient dense pre-milk that in small quantities packs a mega nutritional punch to allow the infant to feed until the milk production begins. Once the milk comes in it is initially a result of the hormones produced when the infant is born. Over time the hormones begin to drop but by this stage lactation should be established to then have a supply and demand situation. The continuation of an infant feeding alerts the mammary glands that the milk is being used and hence more must be created. Once demand drops, so does the supply. So, when a calf begins to wean onto grass (a quick glance shows that to be from 4 weeks of age by people) or 8 – 10 months naturally, the milk will then dry up. Naturally, the dairy industry will wish to access and keep as much of that milk as possible and keep demand as high as possible too. So, when a cow gives birth, her calf is most likely removed from her and fed a milk substitute such as formula so that the milk can be kept for sale. Girl calves or heifers may be of value to the farmer as she will grow up, can be mated and then in her turn produce more milk but the boy or bull calves and excess heifers pose a problem. Bobby calves, calves that are less than 2 weeks old and considered surplus to requirement are either raised as veal (baby beef), to join the herd (as I mentioned before) or sent to slaughter. I found this article by the RSPCA outlining the rules for this and even if they are met it is a sad fate for any baby.

Milk bath anyone?

Other things that I dislike about the dairy industry is that all milk by law, when sold for human consumption, MUST be pasteurised. Pasteurisation is where the milk or cream are heated to 70 °C (158 °F) and then cooled immediately and it was named after the bloke who discovered that heat kills bacteria, Louis Pasteur. Yes, you CAN buy raw or unpasteurised milk but it is sold for cosmetic or pet use only and if you choose to drink it then it is at your own risk. The reason for pasteurisation is to kill any potentially harmful bacteria that may get into the milk. I can understand and respect that however, I prefer the idea of keeping sanitary conditions for cows, rather than having to kill the good bacteria along with the bad.

The milk, unless from organically kept cows, may well contain antibiotics (to help kill those same bacteria) and who knows what else. What the residual drugs that pass through the cow, into the milk and then into our bodies are doing to us I don’t pretend to know, but it does worry me. I don’t know much, if anything about it though.

Another part of the dairy industry that I dislike is the carbon miles of our milk. I’m not sure where the milk that I drink comes from. I presume it’s relatively local as we buy a local milk but even so there could be 100’s of kilometres still of carbon miles from dairy, to pasteurisation and bottling plant then to the shop where we purchase it and take it home.

I also don’t know how commercial cheese is produced but I would love the chance to make it at home from raw milk too. Being able to make it ourselves will open up so many more varieties to us that may not be readily available if at all. I hang on every word of Little Green Cheese, the cheese blog by self-confessed curd nerd (great term 😀 ) Gavin Webber from The Greening of Gavin fame. He talks about cheeses I’ve never heard of like Wensleydale.  I can’t wait to try to make my own. 🙂

We have insufficient room and grass to keep cows and I am still disappointed about that. I was desperately hoping for a Dexter breed house cow but it’s not to be. However, goats aren’t big grass eaters, preferring to eat plants including roses, blackberries and hawthorn (I do question the sanity of any animal that wants to eat some seriously thorny plants like those but hey, we have hawthorns galore so they’re welcome to the nasty plants) and the leaves and small branches of poplars and other trees. They’re going to be great at helping us clean up the weeds from our garden! 😀 Goats also produce less milk than a standard cow which sounds bad until you realise that a cow might produce 10 litres a day for you (Dexters produce a lot less)! I don’t fancy the idea of milk baths, no matter how wonderful Cleopatra found them. And goats are also smaller than a normal cow so the kids won’t be as overwhelmed by their size. Nor will I when I milk them!

So, anyway, I spent yesterday afternoon digging 2 post holes by hand and putting up some corrugated iron on a wall and today I had planned to get the posts and some rapid set and get the posts in (I need to dig another hole yet sadly 😦 ) and then I can get the iron up and hey presto, a goat shed! 😀 Sadly, the best laid plans and all that jazz… Today has not been a write off though. In fact it’s been very successful. 🙂

Allegra and her Honey. And it's one contented (resigned?) hen too.

Allegra and her Honey. And it’s one contented (resigned?) hen too.

I had organised to meet a friend at the Ballarat Produce Swap and swap some of our hens and a rooster for some of her roosters. She is another Silver-Grey Dorking owner and fan but her young hens got excited and interested in a fox attack last year and poked their heads out of the wire to take a look. It’s the last thing they did. Whoops. We have 4 mature hens we will be keeping and the 5 hens from the 2nd generation of chicks we purchased were surplus to our egg needs and had been earmarked for the table. My friend has many hen varieties and raises them naturally like we do and was desperate for some Dorking hens so the swap worked well. I now have 4 very noisy and large roosters of mixed breed (bred for rapid growth and for taste 🙂 ) in exchange for 5 hens and one of our older roosters to add to her blood-lines. I separated out the hens and rooster last night and popped them in our cat carrier this morning just before I left. They’re now settling in to their new home and loving it from all accounts. 🙂 We, on the other hand have 4 large table birds currently on death row and given the noise they’re making it can’t be soon enough. Black Boy, our Black Dorking rooster rarely crows, He doesn’t need to as he knows how superior he is but these other 4 haven’t shut up since they were released from the cat carrier. If we don’t cull tomorrow our neighbours will shoot us instead!

This mornings plans however were to involve me having the morning off to run into Ballarat, swap the chooks and home but things had to change with a sick husband (really sick, not man flu) and a vomiting daughter who puked on the couch, then her daddy, then the blankets, then her pyjamas and finally our bed so she had me running around washing and cleaning up all morning. Thankfully she’s much better now but Martin has been laying low trying to shake off his cold. He had planned a big clean up around here to make the front of the house look presentable and maybe to chop up some more wood for the fireplace but it wasn’t meant to be. Orik went down for his nap at 10, I loaded chooks and Jasper into the car whilst my sickies slept on the couch and we went and swapped our hens and roosters, made plans for further bartering of eggs in the future and had a lovely natter.

This afternoon I had 2 boys to look after, swapping a wide awake and cheeky Orik for an asleep on the couch then transferred to bed Allegra. With my boys in the garden I hung out 1/3 of the wet washing (about 3 loads there alone I think) and then built a shelving unit for sprouting grain. Friends at Living on a One Dollar Dream have been sprouting their oats and barley for their chooks and goats and I fancied giving it a try too. Using only scrap lumber – off cuts from our new stairs and the rails from the old stairs, a box of hex screws (all new bar 1), a saw and my favourite tool, Martin’s impact driver, I knocked up a shelving unit that holds sprouting trays sourced from a local nursery. I can then soak my grain for a day, load it into the shelves and leave it there for the time it needs to sprout, loading up a new tray each day and when the shelves are full, feeding the sprouted and growing grain to the chooks, and later, goats. It ain’t pretty, it’s a bit wobbly, my measurements suck and I’ve split the wood more than once (pre-drilling is a pain!) but I have a shelf that should be adequate for the job. I’m happy. 🙂

My sprouting shelves with their sprouting trays.

My sprouting shelves with their sprouting trays.

Tomorrow is earmarked for shed completion. I am itching to get back in the chook pen and getting it finished. I may even set in the posts tonight so I can get working tomorrow. 🙂


29 thoughts on “Shedding and shelving and sprouting and stuff

  1. narf77 says:

    You haven’t heard of Wensleydale?! Did you not watch Wallis and Grommit?!!! (The girl has been under a rock for the last few years…). I have been following Gavin for a while now as well and get enthused by the chance to make cheese but the enthusiasm wanes whenever I tally up what I am going to have to buy just to make a simple cheddar. Goat’s of your own would certainly reduce the cost of cheese making and would bring it into the realms of “everyday” rather than special treats. We are following a very similar path to you on Monday. We will be giving away 4 – 6 (depending on how many of them we can catch) hens to a friend whose hens are too old to lay and we have 2 roosters “Stock” and “Pot”, that are starting to make WAY too much noise and will soon live up to their name sakes. I have been sprouting our chook wheat as well…great minds think alike…but my idea came from our eccentric Californian friend who does it for his ducks. Make sure to deal with the wheat before it forms long roots that totally mat the entire bottom of your trays…just a warning there ;). Have a great day tomorrow and fingers crossed that you get your goat shed finished soon 🙂

    • No, I have NEVER seem Wallace and Grommet. I know that Wensleydale is mentioned in it as my search for Wensleydale from Rastamouse (pictured) brought up their picture. 🙂
      We are a big dairy family, parmesan and tasty cheeses and I love camembert and bocconcini when I feel like an indulge.
      My friends have mega sprouted grains but the roots seem to come out with a good pull. Her goats had no trouble at all. 🙂
      I concreted in the posts just now (do NOT ask how level they are 😉 ) and the first sheet of iron is up. I am stoked! Pictures to come I promise. 🙂

    • Ingrid says:

      That photo of Allegra and Honey is so gorgeous!

  2. You have been so busy and I can’t believe how much Allegra has grown. When I started on my hippy journey, we started drinking Mungalli Creek Milk which is a certified biodynamic dairy farm on the Atherton Tablelands about 4 hours drive north of us here in Townsville. Their milk is absolutely beautiful and you can see the cream sitting on top when it’s left to sit. It is pasturised but is non-homoginised. We pay $5 for a 2 litre bottle, but it’s worth every cent.

  3. We kept a goat for nearly a year in our backyard. They will be a great option for you, but I really recommend you get to study the goats you buy first. They can be VERY rough and bossy, and will not hesitate to push you and the kids around. They are also amazing at escaping, and will eat everything except the weeds you want them to. The right goats will be an amazing addition to your dream, but do find nice quiet ones. I adore your blog, it’s so inspiring 🙂

    • We’re going for Toggenbergs. Friends have the same breed and my reading has led me independently to Toggies. I love Saanens but they’re a bigger goat and British Alpines are known for jumping which I don’t want. I adore the French Alpines but they’re not available here in Australia and the sable Saanens are too rare. I need a common breed. The research continues. 🙂

      • Linne says:

        I love Nubians (long droopy ears and Roman noses!), but I had a Toggenberg and she was awesome. I didn’t fully appreciate what a treasure I had (got her in trade for some work), but later learned that nearly a gallon of milk a day was fantastic production. Her name was Annabelle and I still think of her.
        Good luck finding your perfect goats! ~ Linne

        • Nubians are beautiful and I agree, I love those long silky-looking ears but they seem to be a more highly strung breed whereas Toggies seem to be the grit and bones of the goat world, the hard working masses, the workers that keep the world grinding. Maybe I’m just being poetic. 🙂 Annabelle sounds impressive too.

          • Linne says:

            What you say about Nubians is true. And Toggies are great, very down to earth (except when jumping, the brats!). You’ll do well with them. I don’t know what it is about me, but I’m 95% rural/bush hippie/rebel/worker and all that, but 5% into certain types of sophisticated: I love the look of an Afghan dog, for instance, but I know they have a reputation for not being too smart. I’ve often wondered what would happen if I could breed a smart sheep-herding collie dog to an Afghan; maybe the pups would have good traits from both sides? I loved my Percheron mare because she had the look of an Arab, just much bigger. Toggenbergs are good milkers, too. Seems to me the Nubians are like Jersey cows; less milk, but much richer. ~ Linne

            • Well I would like to see our Toggies jump the chook pen fence! It’s about 7ft high. lol I am planning some good fencing across the creek though. I’m wondering if a row of electric wire might be advisable although it’s just a thought at this time, this being the first time I’ve even vocalised it.

  4. LyndaD says:

    If you are going to get a goat then I hope you are prepared to wrap all trees, wooden walls, gardens, in fact everything in site in protective wire or something impenetrable. They will eat everything not covered and then climb something to get at what isn’t. I love the idea of goat milk on tap and no doubt with your multiskilling you will have turned it into soap and numerous other really useful products beside using it as a cow milk substitute. I was raised with a big brown eyed honey colored jersey house cow so im kind of nostalgic for a cow. Not that I can squeeze one onto our suburban block. I live vicariously through my blogging friends that have made tree changes.

    • All of our trees ARE weeds. Lol. My fruit trees can be easily blocked off and our chook pen is spacious so we can keep them in there short term and take them food. I need to get some fencing done and build a bridge over the creek so they can access those weeds over there too.

  5. Jenny says:

    I’m excited to hear about your goats! We’re still trying to decide what to do. We loved the idea of the mini cow but wondered if we should start small and work up to that. Anything we get will most likely be next fall though so we still have some time to think about it.

    • I am no expert on the matter but I would think that the workload wouldn’t be awfully different. A cow will eat more but both require milking. Both require spending time. A cow will provide more milk too. Maybe work out how much milk you may get and how you could use it and the get friendly with someone with goats and cows and try milking them yourself. Comparison might help.
      I had my first milking lesson the other day and to my delight I was able to milk! I wasn’t sure I could. If we got goats this second I am comfortable that I could milk her although I want a lot more practice yet if I can get it. I still want a couple of Dexters but this property isn’t yet (if ever) suitable so the idea of cows has been popped on the dream shelf for now.

  6. The Life of Clare says:

    What an incredible post. I’ve recently been paying way more attention to where our milk is from, if its organic and un-homogenised. We’re currently buying biodynamic milk. It’s such a crazy process isn’t it, and I didn’t use milk for so many different things we wouldn’t even bother.

    Your seed sprouting tray looks great! It’s a wonderful idea.

    I love how much you manage to fit into the day!

    • It’s just insane what we now call food and the real foods we have survived on for millennia are shunned as incomplete or unnecessary or even dangerous. Most times these foods have only become dangerous since our industrialized food system stepped in. Keeping ones own cow or goat for milk, one assumes responsibility for the cleanliness of the milk but when it’s shipped for miles it’s got time to breed any nasties and in such bulk it would be almost impossible to source the farmer (probably) let alone the actual cow who’s carrying he infection.
      I just want to be able to trust my food and know that it’s the best that I can give my family. 🙂
      As for fitting t in, I tend to ditch housework in favour of other more exciting jobs. 😉

  7. Linne says:

    Love the sprouting rack!
    A couple of thoughts on goats (since I’ve had ’em myself!):
    If you let them eat weeds and bark, the milk may taste odd; flavour goes right into the milk. If that happens, you can try supplementing with alfalfa hay; it makes for sweet, delicious milk. Brush n such are goats’ natural forage, though, and I suspect they are healthiest when eating at least some of that.
    If being tied down time-wise may be a problem, there is an easy solution: separate the nanny from her kid/s in the evening. Milk her in the morning, then turn the kids in with her. They will nurse throughout the day and you won’t need to milk in the evening. This means that you need only be home in the morning for milking and the separating and evening feeding can be somewhat tailored to your schedule.

    Another solution is to have friends who are equally skilled with animals and familiar with yours; the two families can trade off animal chores when one wants a weekend away or such. We did this for some years with my sons’ dad, step-mum and siblings. Worked great for us!

    I did limited cheesemaking, but did make a form of cottage cheese often; it’s easy and delicious. I wanted to try the harder cheeses, but we were never in a suitable situation for that. I still hope to do that one day and your earlier post on Dexters got me daydreaming again . . .

    When my parents were young, their families had cows; excess milk was used to fatten pigs, fed to chickens (even sour milk in both cases) and given to dogs and cats as well. When you have seven cows, you have enough milk for your ten kids and lots left over!

    Do remember that the kids love to jump! Our nanny was a bit older and fairly sedate. but the kids!! Ours (we lived in a tipi the first year I had them and had no goat-shed) would jump on the hood of any vehicle that was parked at our place; visiting friends all left with souvenir ‘dings’ in their hoods! The little brats also loved to run and jump high on the tipi sides and their sharp little hooves made slits in the canvas, which I then had to mend. I was fairly sentimental about the cute little ‘babies’ at first; after a while of this, and various other trials with them (see below), we did end up eating them. Very tasty meat, by the way, unless you are not a meat-eater, of course. I simmered the meat in stock, then made it into stew. Very, very delicious! And there’s no other real use for male goats, especially when your nanny produces a set of twin males every year! Her only fault, I might add . . .

    And if you are thinking of keeping your own male for breeding, I suggest you go see one at a farm somewhere. They REEK!! and your clothes, skin and hair will, too. We were in the post-office once in Oliver, standing in line and I could tell the man who we took our nanny to for breeding was in the lineup. I didn’t have to turn around and he was not standing near us. He was very clean in his habits, but male goats are the rankest thing I have ever smelt! Just check it out first, is all I’m sayin’ . . .

    The worst thing one set of the kids ever did was this: We were camped on top of a fair-sized mountain in the Okanagan above Oliver (if you care to google that), so in winter there was lots of snow and a fair bit of very cold weather. The pond we used for watering the horses and goats would freeze over and my boys’ dad, T, would have to go out with an axe and chop holes in the ice so they could get to the water. Once day we were returning home from visiting neighbours farther down the road. We could hear poor Annabelle bleating in a way that said she was in trouble. T ran on ahead and found that the kids had butted their mother, knocking her into the waterhole. Unable to get out, she did manage to get her front feet up onto the ice, where they froze onto it. Her nose was turning bluish, just like a person’s. T got her loose and carried her into the tiny one-roomed round cabin (we moved out of the tipi once the weather got really cold and our young son developed a bad chest cough). We opened the woodstove oven door, put a quilt on it to warm, then wrapped her in it. We repeated this through the first night. We kept her inside for a few days, ’til we were sure she was recovered enough to go back outside. She never quit giving us milk and as we took her outside to do her business, never messed inside, either.

    All this reminiscing reminds me of the old joke:
    Q: How do you get good judgement?
    A: From experience.
    Q: How do you get experience?
    A: From bad judgement!

    Most of what I know I learned from experience, sometimes from bad judgement. Worth it, though.

    • I am not taking any credit for the rack, it’s directly and badly plagiarised from a very clever friend from and they are very close to us and also have Toggies (it was their lovely goat on whom I had my first lesson at milking).
      Your kids (the goat ones) sound like right little buggers! Poor Annabelle and I am so glad she survived her dunking and freezing. Yes, I’m a carnivore and male goats are earmarked for the dining table. I’ve not eaten goat before but there is a great butcher about 30 minutes away in Daylesford where I can buy goat meat to try. If they smell as much as you say they won’t be reaching puberty around this place. Bleuch!
      As for your joke, brilliant. Wryly funny and oh so true. So very true!

  8. Linne says:

    Nearly forgot: I asked my Mum about recipes for tomatoes, etc. She no longer has her old ones, but told me she mostly used the ones in her old Women’s Institute cookbook, which is here, along with her handwritten notes on what adjustments she made.

    Let me know if you still want recipes for canning; pickles, sauce, ketchup, whatever . . . I will make time to either scan or re-type the recipes you want. I can post them on my blog, post them here on yours or email them to you. It’s the least I can do after leaving such HUGE posts on your site . . . 🙂 ~ Linne

  9. Linne says:

    BTW, did you know that names such as Wensleydale came about because cheeses were named after the dale in which they were produced? I was thinking you might want to name your property (if you haven’t; sorry, I don’t remember) something that would look good on any cheese, wine, or other product label; whether for your own use or (eventually) sale. Just a thought . . . I have tonnes of ’em, as you may have noticed 🙂 ~ Linne

    • And our property is called Carvae – it’s Latin for The Hollow as we are in a little hollow. 🙂 Should call it Frosty Hollow from what we hear of the weather in this little part of Ballan. 🙂

      • Linne says:

        Cheese from Carvae! has a lovely ring to it, doesn’t it? I love Latin; took two years of it back in the Dark Ages. I wasn’t raised in any religion, but was allowed to go wherever I chose, so often went to mass with my Catholic friends from next door; in those days, the mass was in Latin, but I was in love with the language long before that . . . ~ Linne

        • I’ve never learned it, rather 7 years of Italian in Primary school (I speak very little but speak it with a good accent or so I believe) and some intensive German.
          Carvae Caseus – Hollow Cheese. 🙂 I like it too.:) It’s pronounced more like Carz-ee-ous though, not cass-ee-us.

  10. I would love your ketchup (we Aussies call it sauce) recipe please. And as for the long replies, I love them! Means I’ve either got something right or something wrong or written something to start a discussion.. 🙂

    • Linne says:

      Too late tonight to post the recipes, but I’ll get on it in the next couple of days. Glad you don’t mind the long posts; this time of night, I just start rambling away and never know where I’ll end up. Just left a couple of those rambles over on lovely young Narf’s blog, too. 🙂 ‘Aging Hippies”, indeed!! While there, I recommended two books on natural feeding and treatment for dogs, etc. You may be interested, too. They are: “Herbal Handbook for the Dog” and “Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable”, both by Juliette de Bairacli-Levy. Incredible woman and one of my heroines. I wrote about one of my experiences using her book (with my wonderful big collie) over at Narf’s. Not gonna re-write it here, too, sorry; you’ll have to go for a visit if you are interested. It’s in a comment on her “|Two Aging Hippies” page. Juliette also raised her children naturally, in several countries, and wrote about it in her book “Nature’s Children” (now re-printed as “Natural Rearing of Children”. You would likely love that one, too. Well, I’ll be back. With recipes.
      Have a wonderful day! ~ Linne

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