January excitement

a confession

There’s something I must admit. I’ve been eating organic produce for free, all year long, for the past 12 years. And I’m not talking about stuff from the garden. I’ve been eating “garbage.”

I don’t want to let anyone in on my little secret, for fear of losing my source, or having to compete for it. But…….working in co-ops, one major perk is getting to rifle through the cull bin in the produce department. It’s their garbage, and it would go to compost, or go to the trash, or it may go to feed animals, but first the scroungers sort through it for salvageable, edible goodness. Citrus fruits in winter, peppers, tomatoes, herbs, lettuce, pears, root vegetables……whatever you see on display in the store was prepped before it went out there, and will eventually need to cleaned up, trimmed or tossed when a new batch comes in. It’s a cost of doing business and always having the freshest vegetables and fruits on display. I hate waste, I love eating organic, but I’ve always been frugal, thanks to my Mom’s teachings. Eating garbage seems weird, but the rewards are plenty.

When I ended my co-op career about a year ago, my consistent source of free produce was gone. Now that we live on the farm fulltime, and can’t afford superfluous trips to town, we’ve had to grow more root cellar type veggies and store them for winter use. However, whenever we go to town, you can be sure we’ll be calling the co-op to ask for their cull that day. The ducks and goats LOVE all the trimmings, and I LOVE having out of season lettuce, etc when our stocks are running low. Salads in winter are on the 2012 season list for things to figure out how to grow through our worst, cold months. Meanwhile, these “garbage” lettuce leaves are the outer ones peeled off the heads, yes they are gritty, tougher-textured, tattered….but they are free, organic, and I’m pulling something from the waste stream and into the food stream.

You never know what you’ll find in those boxes!

Winter often brings a glut of lemons or limes with bruises or discolored skin. The last time I found a cache, I made my own canned lemon juice. Easy! And organic lemon juice in bottles on the shelf is EXPENSIVE! Now were set for the next year’s worth of the tart sunshine juice.

Lat summer there was an entire box of local raspberries. Imagine, each berry has to be picked by hand and carefully packaged into plastic clamshell containers. The packages were beginning to show a spot of mold in the middle of each carton. A total waste……until I found them! I dumped them all into a big gallon glass jar and made raspberry vinegar by adding water and bit of sugar, letting the fermentation process and the fruitflies do the rest.

A half box of onions, having a soft core, get cleaned up, diced and frozen into recipe-appropriate quantities. Sprouting garlic is loved by the goats. Squash with a rotten spot goes to the ducks, who enjoy the day’s worth of work nibbling it down to nothing. And anything else that’s not edible goes to our compost pile. Back to the earth. I’d encourage anyone who’s adventurous to try this. Call as soon in the AM as possible on the day you’d like to pick up some cull. Talk to the produce department, ask nicely if they have any boxes of compost that day. Don’t say ANYTHING about wanting to eat it! And do not say you read that I said to do this! Make sure you pick it up, don’t flake, or you’ll give us all a bad name. You can ask them what is a good time to pick up. Be prepared for some gross things, and some days nothing good at all. Compost it and try again, maybe on a different day of the week. Friday AM usually yields alot, as the store is gearing up for weekend sales.

This is basically dumpster diving, without having to get into a dumpster. Salvage work is often addictive, and soon you might even be hitting up multiple stores. Be smart and safe with your eating choices, line the backseat or trunk of your vehicle with something to contain any juices flowing out of the boxes. Good luck!

1/27/12

My way-to-early seeded peppers, onion and leeks are sprouting. What’s life but an experiment? I’m gonna try the cold treatment on the pepper seedlings once they get their third true leaf, it’s something the Johnny’s catalog talks about to boost pepper plants flowering and developing more fruits. I learned last summer, when we had no cool nights, that peppers need that cool pm, like in the desert, to produce fruits.

It’s once again 5am, Andrew’s getting ready for work. I fill up some water buckets, pull on my boots and bundle up. 42 eggs, I am elated, and collecting them is just like an Easter Egg hunt each day. As the basket fills, I get more and more greedy for eggs to fill it to over flowing. Oh the day when I need two baskets will be priceless!

Went to check on Honey, and she was up eating hay. All the other mommas come to get the stuff I pull down for her to eat, and in the pitch black of the goat shed, suddenly there is a little cry. A baby cry. I can’t see anything…. but I know there are BABIES IN HERE!!!

Leaping over the cattle panel fence, I rush over to the rabbit side of the shed, where there is a flashlight. I was not totally ready for this! Usually you get to see the momma in labour, not kids at 5:30am without any warning the night before. I open the side door, and the beam lights up two tiny wet kids in the hay piled along the wall.

I’d decided to bottle feed this season, due to a very sad death of one of our kids last year. After a vet necropsy and tests, all they could tell us was that his death was due to the presence of a certain bacteria, which adults can handle, but kids, with their immature immune systems can’t. The vet said it is likely one of the goat mommas is shedding this bacteria, and I suspect Desti, my most strange, unthrifty goat. I didn’t want to risk losing kids again this season, so with a tweaky feeling in my heart, I gathered the kids into my coat and brought them into the house. Honey called out as I left the scene, but she’ll be ok. This is how most dairies operate, and the kids safety is most important to me. Bottlefed babies are much more friendly and instantly love everyone, so they’ll will be easier to handle as meat bucklings, the girls to sell as future dairy goats.

 

I’m not planning to keep any of the kids this year, so having saleable babies is top priority. I only want to keep 5-6 of the best milkers. Best as in the most naturally robust and able to handle a natural goat care regimen, and best milkers. This means I’ll be weeding out any of the goats who aren’t pregnant or aren’t thriving. Desti is the only one who is on the list so far, but every year she surprises me with a spring health rebound & abundant milk.

Inside the house, the kids are toddling around instantly, after a good brisk towel rub down. I grab a bag of colostrum from the freezer, which I saved from last spring, just in case. It’s time to milk out Honey’s colostrum now, and clean her up from kidding. A warm bucket of soapy water with a soft towel for cleaning, and a hot bucket of electrolyte/molasses water for her to drink, are brought out to the goat shed. It’s cold and she’s confused with me. I hitch her to the cattle panel and wash her backside up, then begin to massage her udder. They say that udder stimulation aids with delivery of the placenta, as well as helping let the milk “down” out of the milk ducts. After a bit of gentle cooing, she assumes the typical dairy goat stance of back legs slightly spread apart, and crouching down a bit. I milk her into a pint jar, and not much is there. Her udder feels a bit congested, so I massage it with the warm soapy towel. Honey also has very small teats, and it’s hard to milk them. Oh, yeah, and we’re still getting to know each other, since I just brought her home 1 week ago!

Over the course of the day, Honey and I go through the routine of milking along the fence, so I can give the little colostrum she’s got to her kids. Thank goodness for the frozen stuff. The kids don’t understand the bottle right away, but our puppy Belle is happy to help clean off their sticky faces as they learn. At the last milking of the night, I bring Honey out to the milkstand for the first time. She hops right up and eats ravenously. I am relieved to feel her udder loosening up and more milk coming out. January kids, what a crazy idea.

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