Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Doggie Stew

I mentioned doggie stew in my post about bear stew. Just to be clear- we don't eat doggies. We cook stew for the dogs. We currently have a female black lab, about 5 years old, Ebony. Her daughter, Cindy, is a yellow lab/collie cross. And Waldo, our 4 month old pup, is another black lab cross.

We've always fed table scraps to our dogs, but this winter I decided to try doggie stew. An online friend told me how she makes hers. 1/3 protein, 1/3 vegetables, and 1/3 starch- rice or noodles.

Our stew isn't measured that well. It probably works out to about 2/3 starch, and 1/3 protein & vegetables. It works for us. Cindy does get a little thin through the winter, she's an outside dog, so she still gets some crappy commercial dog food. Waldo & Ebony are both doing well on straight stew. Before you try our blend though, keep in mind in our northern climate the dogs burn a lot more fat just to keep warm.

It's been 4 months now since I started serving doggie stew. Through the winter I kept the pot on the woodstove. Once the weather started warming up, I moved it to our stove. That was a pain. I was considering buying a large crockpot just for doggie stew, when I found a counter top stove burner on sale for $15. It works great, although I do seem to be constantly lowering the heat. It gets a little too warm. But it allows me to make a huge batch, using a huge stew pot.

I'm making a fresh batch today. I start by taking the old pot off, scooping out the remains into the dog dish, and then letting the dogs preclean the pot. Then I wash and scrub. There's usually a bit burned on the bottom after a week or so of cooking. Then I fill it about half full of water. I chop celery- the trimmings that I save from all the celery we eat. Usually three or four large carrots. Three or four egg shells crumbled into the mix. The calcium does them good. I'm hoping to get enough eggs from the chickens this summer to be able to add the whole egg for extra protein. For now, I check the fridge for leftovers. Any food that I'm sure my family will not be finishing off goes into the stew pot. Usually there's a couple varieties of meat. Today they get the remnants of a pork cottage roll, and a beef & chicken hash. That includes about three potatoes. There was a small dish of leftover beans, so in it went. It still looked a little light on the veggies, so I threw in a handful of frozen turnip.

It's still light on the protein as well. Sometimes I'll buy meat on sale- often chicken livers or pork steaks. I cut them up and freeze them in doggie stew portions. Just to give it a good base of protein to start the week. I also save parts of meat that we butcher ourselves to add into the mix. At the moment though, I'm out of both.

Finally, I'll add either 8 cups of rice, or a bag of rotini noodles, depending on what was on sale most recently & I have plenty of in the pantry. Today is a noodle day. I use rotini, because we eat rotini more than any other noodles ourselves, and also because it seems to get bulkier when cooked than other noodles. I also tend to forget to check how much I have at home when it goes on sale, so I buy another six bags and wonder where I'm going to store them afterward.

Throughout the week, we keep adding water. It dries out as it continues cooking. We add potato peels, veggie trimmings, and bits of leftovers that won't go into another meal or lunch. Crusts of bread that have gone stale. I drain the water off of noodles, rice and veggies into the doggie stew. The starches help to thicken it, and the water is full of nutrients. I add the fats and grease from meats, all the trimmings, bones, skins. All of the scraps that they used to get go into the doggie stew. A potful usually lasts 7-9 days.

They get two servings a day, of about 4 cups each.

Bear Stew

No, I am not kidding. Bear Stew.

Last year we had a bit of trouble with a black bear. It's not normally something we hunt. We do hunt- partridge, rabbit, moose, dear... Not usually bear.

You read the title, right? Little house in the big wood. We live on 120 acres of mostly bush, with a couple hundred thousand acres of crown land and pure Canadian wilderness behind us. Bears live here. There's a big old boar (male) who lives on the back edge of our property. Like most bears, he minds his business, lives his life, and stays as far away from us as possible. There's also a mama bear who makes her den on the side of our land. You know it's really spring when you see mama lead her cubs up the edge of the property and across the road into the woods there. That's where they feed in early spring. She also minds her business, and stays away from us. There are probably others who cross our paths without ever being seen.

And then there was this little guy who was being overly friendly. Dangerously friendly. Four feet away from the house friendly. We tried to scare him off, but he kept coming back. Although he wasn't causing any damage, his mere presence was a threat to our safety and well being. So we bought a license and put him in the freezer.

I'd never eaten bear before, and we'd been warned that it would be tough, greasy, smelly & gross. But I can't waste food. I can't take a life and just throw it away. I figured, worst case scenario, I'd end up making lots of nutritious doggie stew. As it turned out, bear tastes good. Very good. Much more beef like than moose.

Now, since it's 40 below out today... Ok, not really, it's -1°C outside, and 19°C in the house, but it feels cold. A perfect day to run the oven. A perfect day for bear stew.

Bear Stew

1 package (about 2lbs) bear stew meat
1/2 cup flour
good squirt beef gravy mix
1 small onion, peeled & chopped
4 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 cups green beans
3 cups of corn
2 large carrots, peeled & chopped
a couple pieces of celery (save the trimmings to cook with whenever you buy celery)
frozen from last year's garden:
handful of tender young turnip
handful of cabbage leaves
handful of brussel sprouts
handful of dandelion buds (very nutritious, and great in any mixed veggie dish)
garlic, salt & pepper to taste
Water to cover all

Bake @ 350°F all day long. The secret to stew is the longer it cooks, the better it tastes. I try to make enough to last three days, although I do sometimes add more veggies on day three. One pot meal, three days without cooking. Yum!

Nelly, getting bigger

The yogurt seems to be working. We're mixing 2 tsp of yogurt into her milk replacer. Nelly is feeling much better.

She's growing well, much more active, stays outside most of the day, and follows us around. She's always hungry. We're feeding her 2L every 2 hours now, until 11pm. Then she gets her first feed in the morning at 7am. It seems to be working.

Saturday we worked on the chicken run, alongside of the pasture.

She was following us around, when Mindy and Maddy, our heifer calves came over to see what was going on.

After pausing for a picture, Dorrie came over to investigate as well.

She seemed to approve of our Nelly, licking her through the fence.

New Arrival

I have been to the auction nearly every week this year, since it appeared that we would have an early spring. Two years ago we bought four piglets at auction. They lived in the garden and dug up the soil. We butchered two in the fall and two the following spring. With plenty of pork in the freezer, we didn't raise pigs last year. The garden suffered for it.

The garden is always my first priority in the spring. It's pretty big. A couple of acres, I think. I should measure it someday. It's very over run with weeds. I am a lazy gardener. The soil is not particularly good either. We add manure to it in spots as we clean out the barn. Pigs are awesome rototillers. They root through the soil and eat all the weeds. They dig out huge rocks. They fertilize as they poop. I need piglets.

So far this year, the few pigs that have gone through the sale barn have all been nearly butchering size. I want piglets. Piglets are easier to handle, and less likely to break out. And then there's the added bonus of fresh pork in the fall.

Yesterday was no different. Big pigs. But I didn't come home alone. I rarely do. Yesterday I bought Oscar. A billy goat. He reminded me of Spot. Climbing up on the edge of the pen, sucking my fingers, and even giving me a kiss. We think he's probably a yearling. Not too old. The girls seemed happy to meet him.

Friday, April 23, 2010

How we got into Goats

About 4 years ago we bought a billy kid at an auction. He was only a day or two old, solid white and helpless. We rushed him home and bottle fed him human baby formula. After talking with a friend who raises goats, we got him some lamb milk replacer and continued bottle feeding him. We named him Spot the Dog. "But Mom- he doesn't have any spots!" lol. "He's not a dog either!"

We let him eat as much as he wanted, feeding him every couple of hours. Gave him a kitten for company in the barn. Through the day he wandered around our property, following us wherever he went, trying to come in the house. If I sat in a lawnchair outside, he tried to jump in my lap. He really was more dog than goat.

He loved car rides, and would jump in the car at any opportunity. It didn't matter who's car either. Other people would stop by, and if they left their doors open, he would jump into their cars!

When he was about 6 months old, he developed some nasty behaviors. He peed all over himself. He would lay on the lawn and lick and suck his private parts. He would climb on the children. Our goat raising friends told us this was all mating behavior, and he would settle down if we got him a girl friend.

The search for a girl friend led us to Nanner. She was a black pygmy goat, also raised as a pet. She was 8 years old, and had never had kids, even after being sent to live on a farm after the pet cuteness had worn off. She was kind of nasty with her long horns. Being the smallest in her farmyard had taught her to stick up for herself. It was a long time of butting heads, and slamming into his side, before Nanner accepted Spot as her companion.

The following spring Nanner attempted to deliver two kids. Spot was a lot larger than her though, and the kids got stuck. I had to reach in and help pull them out. We saved her, but both kids were still born.

When we bought our farm up north, the cost of moving the animals was very high, so we had to let a lot of the critters go. We sold the rabbits, butchered the chickens, and, sadly, took Spot off to auction. I cried my eyes out saying goodbye. He was my baby, my buddy, my Spot. He went to a farm where he would have the pleasure of mating his heart out, and with his friendly personality, would be easier for the farmer to work with. We took Nanner with us, simply because we thought she might be pregnant, and I didn't want her to go to someone who might not be prepared for the consequences if the kids got stuck again.

For two and a half years, Nanner has been the only goat here. She wasn't pregnant after all. We call her the alpha mare, as she still uses those horns to keep the bigger critters out of her food dish- or their own feed dishes. She eats first. She has her corner of the barn, and the horses don't mess with it.

Goats in this area are a lot more expensive than they were down south. My oldest boy, John, 14, has been asking to get into raising goats for profit. This spring we bought a young nanny and a bred doe at auction. He named them Mama and Lucy. It took a few days for Nanner to accept their presence on her turf, but now she leads her herd with pride. She's also braver and more independent, leading them off into the bush without the horses. We gave up trying to fence Spot in, there didn't seem to be any fence that would hold him, and Nanner had never wandered off too far without the horses, except to come to us or up to the house. On the one hand, wandering off into the bush is good, because we want the goats to keep the brush down around the house to help with the fire brake. On the other, they have wandered onto the road a couple of times, so we will need to do something about fencing them in.

Chance, Choice, and Mama
Mama delivered the kids, all on her own, like a pro, on April 12th. Twins, a boy and a girl, cute as can be. They're doing great, growing in leaps and bounds, and climbing on every thing.

The first time Mama left them sleeping in the old turkey shack and went to feed with Nanner and Lucy was very funny. I was watering my plants in front of the window when I saw the three of them walk by. I assumed the kids were too short to see from the window, so I went outside to see them. They weren't there. "Where are your children?" I asked Mama. She just stood there watching me. John looked a little panic stricken, and ran off to the turkey shack to see if they were there. Mama ran off after him. They weren't there. More panicked, he headed for the chicken coop. She stood there for a bit, calling the kids. Then took off after John looking for her kids. I stood watching from the doorway. John and Mama came out of the chicken coop, Mama calling away. The kids weren't there either. And then, out from under a tarp used to cover winter hay, popped the kids. Too funny. Mama ran over, and I swear she was scolding them for frightening her, but they seemed to be laughing as they ran around.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Nelly, one week old

Last year we bought Dorie, a pregnant beef cow, at auction. One of the horses kicked her and sent her into premature labour. The calf was breached and still born. We learned to milk her, and enjoyed fresh milk, butter and yogurt for several months. We also tried raising bottle calves, unfortunately without success.

Earlier this spring we bought 3 cows at auction, another pregnant cow, and two yearling heifers. Last week Susie delivered some time through the night/early morning. We found her dead in the pasture in the morning. She had a beautiful heifer calf, up, active and clean at her side. She was delivering a second calf, breached, when she passed.

I left the boys to take care of getting the calf up to the chicken coop/rabbitry/milk barn... A little shack at the side of our pasture with many uses. It was already housing Mama and her two kids, Chance & Choice, born the week before. I headed off to town for milk replacer. The boys got her inside and rubbed her down to make sure she was dry.

Mama and the kids accepted their new room mate with no qualms. They even slept cuddled together the first couple of days. We started bottle feeding Nelly the milk replacer. At first she refused the bottle. She needed time to adjust to the loss of her mother. We aren't sure whether she had the chance to nurse before Susie passed, so she might not have gotten any colostrum. It was several hours and attempts before she finally started eating. From then we fed her 1L every three hours. Gotta love those 3am feedings!

The first few days seemed to be going pretty well. She ate voraciously. She got up and walked around every time we went to feed or check on her. She even ventured outside one sunny afternoon. On day 3 I noticed that she seemed to be getting bonier. Her spine and hips were showing more than they had at birth. We increased her feed to 2L every three hours. The next morning, I increased her feed again, to 2.5L every three hours. She finally seemed to be satisfied. And then she refused her third feeding that day. I wasn't too concerned about it. I thought sleep was a good thing. She ate again at the 4th feeding time, missed the 5th. She wasn't getting up much. The kids slept on the other side of the barn. It concerned me that Mama didn't want her kids near the calf.

The next morning I noticed a spot of blood on her tail, and some diarrhea on her side. Bottle fed calves are at high risk for scours, leading to diarrhea and death. Scours can be caused by bacteria, parasites and viruses. It must be managed quickly, or the calf will die. I had been searching the net for all the info I could find on raising calves for days, hoping for better results with Nelly than in our previous attempts at bottle calves. The first calf had died from scours and diarrhea at about 3 weeks. The second was a combination of scours, diarrhea and starvation at 2 months. This time I was better prepared. There is a fine line between over and underfeeding a calf. Too much feed causes scours. Their stomachs are not developed enough to handle it. Too little causes starvation. When the second calf had become too thin, I increased it's feed and again caused scours.

My internet search had led me to an article about probiotics rather than antibiotics. I mixed a tablespoon of yogurt into her formula. She continued to eat every 6 hours, but only got up on her feet twice that day. I increased the yogurt to 2 tablespoons per bottle. Cut her feed back to 2L. No more signs of diarrhea, but she remained listless. In the morning, I was happy to see her curled up again with the kids. I took it as a sign that she was on the mend. She continued eating every six hours, with yogurt, no signs of diarrhea, and slept with the kids again. Today she is one week old, and once again a hungry, energetic calf, who doesn't seem to be presenting any health risks
obvious to Mama.