Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Goatses with the Mostest

Dairy time is about done for us here. The does have all been dried off, and have very likely already been  re-bred by our escape-artist of a buck, Buckley. So we'll be buying milk until February at least, but not having to milk in the cold and wet makes the trade off quite fair.

On a day like this, when I'm missing my goat milk in my coffee, I come across a post from a fellow farm chick, Matron at Throwback at Trapper Creek. She has a gorgeous Guernsey, Jane, who gives her four gallons of milk per day. I have a mild case of cow envy.

Sure, we'd drown in 4 gallons per day, but the stuff is golden and just...amazing. I could make a whole different assortment of cheeses, and enough butter that I wouldn't have to hit up Costco whenever a baking jag hits. And we could feed the extra to the pigs that we plan to get this Spring. Oh, the things I could do with all that milk...


But, we only have 3 1/2 acres.

A full acre of that land (the bog) is under water 9 months out of the year.

We have well water and a septic system, which means that we basically recycle the same water constantly. I try really hard to maintain balance in those systems by not overwhelming the septic with chemicals, phosphates or tons of cow poo. Goat poop is in "jellybean" form, and can be cleaned up/moved easily, and breaks down slowly. A giant cow pat in the rain will end up running off into our bog, and eventually our septic/well system. Simply put, it would just be too much for our little foothold to handle.

We've already committed to pigs this coming late Winter/early Spring. And their care and "output" will be plenty for this little farm to take on. The reason that we green-lit the pig idea, rather than the cow, was primarily because there is an end date to it. The pigs will be with us for no longer than 9 months, at which point we can evaluate whether the cost/work/impact was worth the trouble.

So, for the foreseeable future, goats will be where our dairy begins and ends. And really, these little gals do a pretty bang-up job of providing us with milk for our coffee, little batches of snowy white butter, some really intense aged parmesan, and the secret ingredient for our lovely homemade soaps.

These are the gals who make it happen. Thanks again, girls.

Friday, December 7, 2012

How to: Paper Snowflakes

Now, I know that making paper snowflakes isn't rocket surgery, but some of us learn better with a visual aid, which is why I'm posting this here How to.

Paper snowflakes in the front windows during the Winter months are a long-standing tradition in my family. My sister and I grew up with a single Mom and a tight budget, so we learned to make our own fun when we could. Mom's office had a ginormous dot-matrix printer that used 15 inch(?) wide green and white striped, accordion-folded reams of paper. For some reason, the printer would always spit out two blank pages after every print job. My Mom's boss gave her the green light to bring the wasted sheets home for us kids to use as coloring paper. I still have some of that pretty epic artwork scratched on those place mat-sized pieces of paper. I could draw ducks like nobody's business back in the day.

Those awkwardly shaped, oddly-striped pieces of waste paper ended up being our first snowflakes too.

Nowadays, the girls and I just rob the printer in my husband's home office blind. But we're doing it in the spirit of the SPREADING JOY, dang it!

Monkeys against a backdrop of snowflakes, Christmas morning.

What you'll need-

*standard printer paper (or re-purposed wrapping paper scraps, sales flyers, etc.)
*scotch tape for hanging them

Step 1: Squaring up your paper -

Fold bottom edge of page up to touch a side. You will have made a large triangle. See that extra bit that wasn't folded? Trim that piece off.

Now you have a perfect square!

Step 2: Fold the square in half along the same crease you made when making the initial fold to square it up. It is now folded in half.

Step 3: Fold it in half again. Now it's in 4ths.

Step 4: Fold it in half one last time. It is now folded into 8ths. You should have one side of your triangle which is a single, solid folded edge (side one), a side that has two folded edges (side two) and a side that has all cut ends of the paper (side 3).

Each of the facets of the "flake" need to be treated differently. This is where a small mistake can lead to a giant pile of pretty scraps instead of a gorgeous finished snowflake.

Side One - This is the side of the folded paper that holds things together. If you go to bananas with the scissors, your snowflake will either be very fragile or will fall apart completely. I try not to cut away too much more than 50% of that edge.

Side Two - This side also contains folds that hold things together, but isn't as critical as the connections on side one. I'd probably cut a maximum of 75% of this edge.

Side Three - This edge is all cut ends (what will be the outer edge of the snowflake), so there are no folds to preserve. Go crazy and cut 100% of it if you want.

First cut on side one. I want this snowflake to be kinda-sorta frilly, rather than strictly geometric, so I'm going with bends and curves.

Finished cutting. I cut maybe 30% out of side one, 75% out of side two, and 80% or so of side three (a very subtle dish shape). Now the unveiling begins!

Open slowly! You don't want to tear your lovely creation.

Et viola! A lovely, festive, one-of-a-kind paper snowflake.

This is a great craft for those long, cold days of Winter break at home with the kids. Be creative and have fun!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Coming Out Party for Beth

Our Bethie, a lovely black-laced red Wyandotte hen who we have long suspected of actually being a rooster, made it official today. Beth crowed!

"Beth" surrounded by a portion of his harem

Crowed might be a generous description. If I had to convey the sound in terms that a non-farm-exposed individual could understand, I'd describe it as...the sound of someone gargling mud? If I didn't know it was Bethie, I'd be sure that there was someone out there murdering a set of bagpipes with a sledgehammer.

Beth has been a strapping chickie from the get go, and a notorious food hog/nibbler of exposed digits (he is why flip flops are a no-no in the Chicken Yard), setting himself apart from his slightly more timid peers. His robust physique and assertiveness lead us to suspect she was a fella, but hey - we don't judge. It was up to him to let us know where he stood.

There's plenty of room for all on this little farm. :)

The kiddos want to give him a new name, but so far, nothing. Any suggestions?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

GGG Holiday Giveaway!

Finally! The giveaway I've been promising is here at last!

This humble little box of goodies contains a combination of stuff that I, myself, have made, and foodie delights that I'm crazy in love with.

This box includes-

*1 bar Orange Cream goats milk soap
*1 jar Sweet Orange bath fizz
*3 knit cotton washcloths
*1 adult size pair wool bike helmet earmuffs
*1 jar each of tomatillo salsa, raspberry peach jam and spiced peach jam
*1 Theo chai chocolate bar
*2 whole organic vanilla beans
*1 package smoked sea salt

Approximately $70 worth of stuff. And you never know, I might pop a little something else in there too.  :)

Enter by simply leaving a comment on this post. Make sure that you provide me with a way to contact you in the event that you win.

Please feel free to share this giveaway with others. The more views/followers that these giveaways generate for this lil' ole blog, the more likely I am to do them! I'll accept entries until 12/9/12 at midnight, my time. A random winner will be chosen and announced here on GGG on 12/10/12.

Thanks again for stopping by and Good Luck!

Bazaar Season Breakdown

I learned a lot with last year's bazaar season - affordable, useful objects sell, and spendy-ish, upscale items don't, at least for me. I tried to learn something from that and to focus my time, energy and money on making more of the items that seemed to be in demand last year - washcloths and bike helmet earmuffs, while eliminating the high-end (and high overhead!) apparel items that didn't sell - scarves, mostly.

So this year, I made roughly triple the number of washcloths as last year, 35. We sold all but 7 of them. We sold roughly the same number of bike helmet earmuffs as last year, but, same as last year, the "feminine" colors (pink and purple) didn't move. Lesson learned - people like their noggin warmers in gender-neutral brights and earth tones.

Our Booth at Lincoln Winter Market

I did not offer any jars of jam for sale this year, as I'm not sure that a) With new cottage food laws in place, and me not yet certified, that my selling any sort of prepared foodstuff would be be entirely legal, and b) $3 for a half pint jar might sound like a reasonable price to the buyer, but the maker/sellers breaks even at best.

This was our first year making and selling our soaps and accompanying frou-frou. The soaps, especially the Homegrown Lavender, sold like hotcakes, even at $5 per bar, and with a LOT of competing soapmakers at both bazaars. Ours was the only goat milk soap that I saw for sale though, so between that and what I think of as our handcrafted, cute, genuine factor (imperfectly cut bars, hand wrapped packaging), I think we did pretty darn well and recouped our initial investment in soapmaking supplies and materials.

Our very first batch of soap - Orange Cream

The accompanying products (scrubs, fizzes) weren't super sellers, but the profit margin per sale makes them worth keeping. I'll make a few next year, but focus more on the soaps and washcloths, as they are they main attraction.

Another note with regard to the goats milk soap - we made a few potentially valuable contacts with some fellow crafters and soapmakers who expressed interest in buying/trading for some of our goats milk to include in their products (NOT to consume!). Imagine this goat thing actually paying for itself someday - crazy! Maybe I can use this to justify my longing for alpaca/fiber goat/sheep ownership to the spousal unit? One critter at a time...

These numbers are rough, as I'm admittedly a shoddy record keeper. Just to give you an idea of how a tiny, homegrown hobby can maybe(?), someday(?) grow into a small business...

Last years sales - $185
This years sales - $326.75 (Plus another $50 incoming for custom orders)

So, we doubled our sales from last year to this. With any luck, next year we double this years numbers at least.

We hope to get our farmstand up and running sometime between now and next Summer at the latest. Hopefully the products, business cards and relationships that we made and exchanged at these bazaars will be something of a springboard for our little stand. I think we've discovered a niche, now to expand on that, explore further ventures and make a little money while doing what we love. The future is bright. :)