Earth Day and Sustainability

Today my attentions have been shifted towards….tie dyeing. And kindness to the earth. This year I have been fortunate to use some plastic bags that might have otherwise gone to a landfill and gave them an extra use curing out tie dye garments. There are many other repurposed things that are used in my tie dye operation, including used garments verses newly manufactured ones.

So…back to Earth Day. This is a big key to sustainability: buying things isn’t bad. When you buy, select things that can be fixed. If or when something breaks or stops working, try to fix it. If you can’t fix it, try to sell or give it to someone who can. If that isn’t an option, try to recycle it. If that isn’t an option, try to repurpose it. If that isn’t an option, try to repurpose some part(s) of it. Yes, some things simply are disposable. But, many things can be reused and given a new life and help save the planet.

It’ll make you feel good.

Snow Day on the Farm

Again, another blog without a good photo. My apologies! Wanted to take a few minutes to discuss what to do when it is going to snow or have freezing weather or low temps. Here are some ideas to keep all your critters on the farm snuggly warm and safe:

Plenty of hay and fresh water! For your horses, cows, sheep, goats, mules, llamas, etc. make sure that “everybody” has plenty of hay and fresh water to drink. Hoses may freeze. Water trough float valves may freeze. Water troughs may be miniature ice skating rinks. Here’s my take: Leave SOME room to add water on top vs fill every trough as full as you possibly can – you may later struggle to find containers to put water in as you can’t add anything over the ice block that is your trough. If you can, break the ice one top before it’s frozen solid. A heavy stick, shovel, or straight hoe may be a good tool to attempt to use. Be careful not to damage your water trough!

If your animals have an area to bed down, they would be grateful for extra (warm, dry, clean) bedding. If they need an area to bed down, they would be grateful for some warm, dry, clean bedding. Makeshift shelters can be provided with tarps, or canopies (and can be put up by just one person if need be).

Heat lamps could be run if power is available to help in extreme cold, or for very young or old animals. This could be helpful to keep waterers from freezing up if they are in a shed or barn shelter.

Protect your water lines from freezing! Detach any hoses and “walk them out” to get water out of them so it can’t “freeze up” later. Take any spray nozzles off. Open any splitters or “Y” valves (with the spiggot off) so that they won’t freeze with water in them. Make sure water lines have insulation, heat wrap, or other protection from freezing. Outdoor spiggots can be insulated with a simple styrofoam cover that is available at home improvement stores, hardware stores, etc. for a few bucks a piece.

Keep your own self warm, dry, hydrated and comfortable! If you are overwhelmed with a lot of “extra” that needs to be done, ask for help if you can. A kid out of school on a snow day might be willing to come earn some extra bucks carrying water to your goats. You might trade a few dozen eggs for some help holding gates while you run the tractor to get hay to your cattle. You get the idea. Friends, neighbors, fellow farmers…..

If caring for chickens in the cold, gather eggs at least two times per day to prevent them from freezing, if your birds are laying. Provide your birds with shelter, adequate roosts so they stay dry, and they might just enjoy a heat lamp if it is extremely cold for your particular climate.

And finally, this blog would not be complete without saying….I greatly appreciate the concern behind reminding folks to bring in household pets during severe winter weather. My farm utilizes the aid of Livestock Guardian Dogs, who were bred to stay with their charges day or night, year round, 24-7, many of whom originated from colder climates than we have in the US. If they are accustomed to being outdoors with their stock – LEAVE THEM THERE. Could you imagine sitting inside the house wearing every warm winter thing you own, all at the same time, in 70-75 degree heat?! Then, being tossed out into 20 degree temps? That’s not good, folks. It’s cruel. Same goes for shaving your Great Pyrenees in the summer. That coat insulates against cold AND heat, you will surely do more harm than good. And shame on any groomer or vet clinic who will shave them on the owner’s request “to stay cool”. I realize that sometimes for health reasons an area should be shaved…that is different entirely. LGDs (or other double-coated working dogs) who live outdoors should NOT be brought inside in the winter. Provide them with a warm, dry place to get out of the elements IF they so choose. Usually, ours won’t choose this. They have a strong instinct to be able to see and hear their surroundings and will not usually use an enclosed dog house. A lean-to offering some protection might be used, a stock or flatbed trailer beneath which to bed down might be appreciated. Access to the garage or barn might be used in severe instances, but locking them inside is NOT recommended. Let them do the job you “hired” them to do.

Likewise, if your horse stays outside all of the time, and has a lush winter coat, he/she is likely to be just fine out in the cold (unless the animal is very young or very old, or in poor weight) without a blanket. If the horse is stabled in warm, cushy stall and turned out to pasture for a few hours only each day….a blanket is a very good idea. If your horse has been clipped for show or to work, a blanket is necessary. I’m amazed at the number of horses I’ve seen wearing blankets in weather that is not especially cold, when they are out in the elements all the time.

Baby kids, lambs, calves or foals WILL appreciate a blanket if it is cold – but care must be taken to ensure that the blanket is DRY, else the poor little dear will chill very quickly as a wet blanket will not insulate, but rather hold the cold to the animal. Imagine going outside in a wet t-shirt….no fun. Take care of your furry, feathered, or hooved babies.

Lambing or Kidding Jugs or Pens…on a budget

I do not yet have any good photographs to share of this project….you will have to bear with me. My animals never have babies when it’s convenient to me. We lost our first goat kids of the season due to their birth during a horrid rainstorm at the same time in which our vehicle was in emergency need of some unplanned maintenance. It left us on the side of the road, and as I walked home….I noticed one of the LGDs (that’s Livestock Guardian Dogs), licking a tiny, adorable kid. It was three pm and over six hours went by before we were able to turn our attention to caring for the wee beasts, who had chilled. We tried our best to save them, but they only made it for a few days.

“If only I had pens for expectant Mamas,” I thought. I researched. I looked at all sorts of sheds, stalls, etc. and nothing struck a chord. My favorite chicken coop I had made was my hoop coop – an 8×8′ wooden frame built with 2x4s with two cattle panels carefully secured in place over them. (Stationary versions are best served with T-posts to support the cattle panels, portable tractor versions need a frame at the bottom and ends). Add a tarp and you have a quick and easy shelter.

Well….I need fencing for my sheep and goat friends. So, here is my design. A total of seven T-posts and four cattle (or better yet, livestock) panels – the fence like flexible ones, are the meat of this project. Add some tie wire, buckets for water and feed, possible fence or panel scraps to make hay feeders, tarp or canopy to cover (if not under a shed or barn….) and you have three small holding pens. Let me explain more!

Drive two t-posts just under 16′ apart, say about 15′, 9″ apart. Space two t-posts as evenly as possible between the first two. You may need a helper to very carefully bend a panel into a U-shape with each of its open ends resting between two of the t-posts. A third post will be added at the bottom of the U-shaped panel for extra support, and the remaining two posts will make up the likewise middle supports. Wire each of the panels firmly in place to the t-posts. Now is the time to add and fill water buckets (attach the bail of the bucket to the bottom-middle support t-post lest it get kicked over), make hay feeders, hang or attach feed buckets if you so desire, and add bedding. I use pine shavings and about two packages of compressed shavings should adequately cover the three pens.

If you are putting a shade canopy or “easy up” type shelter over the jugs, this is a good time to do so before you have critters in there who are, inevitably, horrified at the process and flipping out.

Now, attach ONLY ONE END of the last cattle panel to one end of an end pen – the goal is to lead or herd the animal into the pen nearest the connected “gate” panel that you just attached, then wire the panel to the next available T-post, leaving the panel curved to funnel in the next animal to the middle pen, where you can attach the gate then to the next available t-post and curve the rest of the panel to leave an opening for the third animal to get in to the pen, then wire the end of the panel to the remaining t-post. Huzzah! Some victory here.

If using a tarp over the jugs, it could be very carefully installed now. There is no “working” gate, if you need to attend to your animals you will need to carefully climb over the fencing. It seems to be the recommendation to keep lambs or kids penned up together for just a few days for monitoring, we have left ours in the “jugs” a little while longer. We have also used this system to hold a goat for veterinary care (your vet, however patient, does NOT want to troop all over your 10 acre pasture to find “Lucky” for whatever vetting is needed).

WARNING: Baby kids or lambs may very well be equipped to walk right through a cattle panel “jug” construction. If this is the only thing enclosing your little darlings, you may wish to use livestock panels with 2×4 spacing instead. You could wrap the whole thing with snow fencing, too, if you so desired to keep “everyone” in or out. This is a deterrent from most predators, a raptor would not be slowed down in the least by this unless you have a tarp or canopy over the top.

Mother Nature’s Best Raw Dog Food

This article is copyright 2016 by Cinda Brent

This is not a brand name. This is what I call my recipe/technique of making a fresh-raw dog food ration for my own dogs. Let me start out by saying this, I am not a veterinarian. I have done a lot of research on how best to feed my dogs when three (out of about a dozen dogs) had issues with several brands of commercially available dog foods, and I was at a point where dog food was the most expensive variable expense in my monthly budget. I would have to buy as many as five different brands or formulas of dog food to best care for twelve dogs.

For those who do not know, I am striving for self-sustainability — being able to produce what I need for myself, my household, and the animals that I keep with as little sourcing from the outside world as possible. That said, my animals have animals. About eight years ago, we bought our first dairy cow. She is a wonderful cow, and has served our family well. The real “reason” why I think we were led to buy that cow from that farmer is that we had an opportunity to watch his Livestock Guardian Dogs in action, defending the free-roaming chickens from a would-be attacker: a red-tailed hawk. We realized that we need one of these dogs!

With a little experience and some research later, we realized that we needed several of these dogs. Add in some herding dogs (Austrailian Cattle Dogs are our choice) and we are dog-heavy. We have NEVER had a predator problem that resulted in death or injury to our livestock in an area that was patrolled by these gentle giants. They are truly the heart of the farm.

Each dog food batch makes about 20-30 lbs of dog food, and lasts us about one day. It is, as follows:

15-17 lbs meat/animal protein (more description on each item to follow)
5-10 lbs vegetables or fruits safe for dogs
1/2 lb organ meat
6-24 eggs, with shells (not for dogs under 20 lbs)
1/2 c. ground eggshell
4 cups or 5 ounces fresh dandelion greens (or 1 cup dried)
1 white potato to clean the grinder (OR grind vegetables, or some vegetables, last)

Other add-ins that may be given as available or that are optional, IMHO:
Ground flax seed – 1/2 lb per batch
1-4 cups gelatin per batch
1-2 cups blackstrap molasses
Cow’s or goat’s milk, whey, or cottage cheese (in limited amounts)

NOT OPTIONAL: Weekly Raw Meaty Bones, approximately the same weight as the dog’s food ration

Meat: One fish per dog per week is a standard rule of thumb. The whole fish is fine. What size fish? Obviously, not a huge one….but “what you catch” is good. Some dogs like fish more than others, four of ours enjoy dog food with fish only as the meat source, others totally reject it. Best to stick with a limited fish intake unless you know.

You can mix and match the types of meat included in the food based on what you have, what is on sale, what you found or hunted, etc. I strongly encourage everyone who wishes to embark on a similar adventure (pun intended) to research many different opinions and make your own decision on how to best feed your dog from the information you have available to you. There may be many reasons for the recipe and source of the foods that you choose. I do not worry about the percentage of fat to the percentage of lean meat, per say, but I also typically use all of one animal to make dog food and feel that unless you are feeding a dog who is very thin or very overweight, it is not a huge concern. That said, I would not buy “scraps” that are mostly all fat without supplementing that with lean meat. We have fed fresh diet to our canines for over 15 years and have found that some meat sources are better than others, and more palatable to your dog. Most any meat you would eat (if your diet is omnivorous), the dogs will enjoy. Beef, pork, chicken, turkey, rabbit, duck, quail, pheasant, fish, lamb, venison, elk, moose, and furbearers such as beaver, muskrat, nutria are all excellent choices. Some dogs may object to raccoon, oppossum, otter, bobcat, coyote, fox. I would not feed armadillo. Although dogs can handle meat that is “off”, it is oftentimes not the best base for homemade diet and you will certainly loathe it if it stinks, and thusly, so does your dog. Fur, skin and feathers for the most part is something that I avoid feeding, poultry/game birds that have been plucked are okay with skins on.

That said, dogs ARE NOT vegetarians. Please, don’t try that.

Vegetables: I will list some basics, but again, please do your own research as to what vegetables are best for your dogs. Get many opinions. Think for yourself, and do what you feel is best for your dog within your capability.

This is how I categorize vegetables: Safe for Dogs, Do NOT Feed, and “Eh”. The first two are relatively self-explanatory, the “Eh” means that it might be okay in small amounts, cooked but not raw, only occasionally but not as a staple in the dog diet, etc. Foods that I feel are safe for dogs and preferred in their dog food include: squash or pumpkins (limit the seeds), melons, green beans, sweet potatoes, carrots (although they might be in an “eh” category for high sugar content), dandelion greens, lettuces, spinach (might be an “eh”), blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, apples (but not their seeds).

Green leafy veggies, for the most part, can be very good for your dog and provide vitamins (as does organ meats such as liver, kidneys, and hearts) and should be included in nearly every batch of food, and up to 50% of the overall fruit/vegetable content of the dog food. Some are better choices than others, Swiss Chard is an “eh” as too much is just, well, too much. Dandelion greens can be wildcrafted from your yard IF they have not been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. If you live in the city and/or rent your home, be cautious.

Other great ways to provide for your pet on a budget include the sale bin at the grocery story for less than perfect produce, “waste” produce from produce stands, truck farmers, neighbors who garden, etc. We raise the majority of meats for our animals but will pick up a fresh roadkill, if you know hunters who don’t want the meat or have filled their freezers, hunting, fishing or trapping if you aren’t opposed to it is are other good ways to provide for your canine companion.

Now, for the DO NOT FEEDS: RAISINS. Grapes. Both cause kidney failure, and it is variable dog to dog how much is “too much”, but I know of a dog who died after eating TWO raisins. Eat raisins in something, or not with your dog under the table. Use hydrogen peroxide to encourage your dog to throw up ASAP if you discover that he has eaten raisins. Within two hours is good. Seek veterinary care.

Other Do NOT feed items include: onions, leeks, garlic (in my opinion, others add it to their food – research, make the best decision you can.) I don’t feed grains to my dogs, with the exception of ground flax seed. Dogs and humans alike need flax seed to be ground in order to digest it, otherwise it passes through with very little benefit.

Avacados, chocolate, wine or other alcohol should not be given to dogs.

My personal opinion: if you are allergic to something, like my husband is allergic to watermelon – don’t feed (and handle more than you have to) something that you are allergic to.

My “eh” list: tomatoes (do your own research here, my notes have gone missing), spinach (I think it has issues with too much and too often and oxalates), white potatoes (better to be cooked than raw, if given in any substantial quantities), legumes, including shelled peanuts, could be given to dogs but beans such as pintos or black-eyed peas should be cooked first. In my opinon, soybeans are totally out. I don’t eat them, either. Again, make your own decision. You found this blog, you obviously care about your dog or you wouldn’t be reading this. I admire your love for your animal(s). I respect your decision as long as it is an informed one.

Organ meat:
I have this theory. I’ll base this on a 100 lb pig, for simplicity. I think that if you take every bit that can be ground and used from your 100 lb pig, minus entrails (I’d not feed digestive tract or contents thereof), skin (unless you can grind it, we can’t!) and RMBs (unless you could grind them up) and combine that with the right ratio of veggies and other add-ins and have all of what your dog needs in his/her diet. I have not been able to experiment with this, but we do have “leftover” organ meat when butchering a whole hog to use as dog food. We have, however, used as much as 2 1/2 lbs of organ meat in one 25 lb “batch” of dog food and also added extra vegetables to balance that out. The dogs tolerated it fine. I will get to how to know how well your dog food and your dog are doing together later on. 1/2 lb per batch of dog food, from our experience, is fine. A little more or a little less is okay, too. Every batch of dog food does not have to be exact, especially if you know that you can balance it out in future batches. Look at the dog’s overall diet for 1-3 months and see how it balances out. Take notes, use a calendar if you need to.

Did I mention that my animals have animals? Having a flock of chickens for making dog food can be beneficial if you are making a lot of dog food. If you have, or wish to raise, other poultry to use eggs for the dog food, more power to you! You may, however, need to change the quantity if feeding eggs that are sized differently. For example, if you are using quail eggs, you should use 4 eggs to equal one chicken egg, or only 5 duck eggs in leu of 6 chicken eggs.

Eggs can be too rich for dogs under 20 lbs and could be problematic. As a general rule, the number of eggs to use can be determined by the number of meals per batch of dog food. If feeding multiple dogs, an average is close enough. The shells are good for calcium.

Also, if you save eggshells when you eat eggs (all but hard boiled eggs), you can dry them and add to the dog food. I do not boil, bake or otherwise prep them other than air-drying and aging them to add to dog food. If for human use, I do boil and bake them.

Dandelion Greens:
Dandelion Greens are the vitamin powerhouse of your dog food, high in Vitamin K and Vitamin A. It also offers Vitamin C, E, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate and Choline as well as Calcium, Iron, Manganese, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper, Phosphorous, Sodium and Zinc.

Cleaning the grinder at the end of the batch:
Although potatoes are on my “eh” list, we use a potato (or a couple chunks of pumpkin) at the end of the dog food batch to naturally flush out the grinder…which brings me to the next important point.

Dogs need some vegetable/plant matter in their diet, but typically need to have those vegetables run through a food processor or food grinder in order to get the most out of it in digestion, and, like a toddler, you need to “hide” the veggies in other foods. (Just kidding.) If you are feeding one or two very small dogs, you might manage making smaller batches (even daily ones) in your food processor, meat and all.

Equipment we use:
We use a 3/4 HP meat grinder with plans to upgrade a size or two to better meet our needs. Other equipment that we use includes a sausage mixer (if I had it to do again, I’d buy one that tilts) and a vacuum sealer (we love our “Sinbo” DZ280 A over “home use” vacuum sealers). For dehydrating, we use and recommend the Excalibur Dehydrator. We can store an entire batch of dog food in a 15 qt storage tote and freeze it (thaw overnight about 24 hours before you need it). Freezer space is a very good thing. A dedicated freezer (and fridge) is also great. A digital scale is a great help, too. I have found that a salmon can (15 ounce or so) makes a great measure scoop for big dogs, and holds two pounds of dog food or so. To handle the food and measure it, I use a neoprene glove that is watertight and insulated so that my hand doesn’t freeze off, fall on the floor, and shatter into a million pieces. I hate to have cold hands! I also wash dog bowls often.

If the dog food mixes dry, try adding some water to it. Alternatively, you could add extra homemade bone broth, milk, or whey. If it is very, very wet, you could add gelatin to it. Blackstrap molasses can add quick energy (great for old, young or ailing dogs or extreme hot or cold temperatures) and vitamins. I make electrolytes for most any animal (including humans) based on a switchel recipe (no ginger for dogs, please!) and that or bone broth is an excellent addition to the food, or fed seperately in a water pail.

If you have a diary cow or goat, cheese that didn’t make right, whey, and/or cottage cheese when milk is plentiful, are all good additions to the dog food. When in doubt, start with small quantities and see how your dogs do on it.

You will need to monitor your dog(s)’ poop! No need to get too close, usually, but be mindful. It helps to either walk your dog on leash or pick up his/her poop from the yard so you look at it. If it is too runny, you have too much meat, egg, milk, or organ meats. Balance this by adding more vegetables. If it is too dry, give your dog more water, broth, or electrolytes. (It is costly to buy electrolytes mixed up or in powder form, make your own. Trust me on that one.) Expect the poop to be chalky and/or disentigrate into powder very rapidly after feeding Raw Meaty Bones. Your dog will poop less. That is okay. There will not be as much quantity of stool. That is okay. Some vegetables, like beets, will make your dog poop blood-red. That is why I don’t feed beets. Your dog will also most likely drink significantly less when eating fresh-raw. Make sure that clean, fresh water is available to your dog at all times and relax, but be aware of what the “normal” might be for your dog. Dogs are different, if you have multiple dogs, they might handle the diet differently. Ours are all very similar, excepting the fish thing. Some like it, others hate it.

What about treats?
I’m glad you asked. That question was there, just begging for an answer. Dehydrate bits of prepared food, or slices of carrot, pumpkin, etc. to give to your dog. I will NOT give, or allow my dogs to be given, commercially produced dog treats. There is too much unsafe out there.

Food Aggression
Feeding fresh raw has not increased any tendency in my dogs to be food aggressive. I have one dog who is food aggressive. He always has been. If you have issues with this and your dog, and are unable to train past it, please consult with a trainer and/or veterinarian for professional advice. I do not mind my dogs being food aggressive towards other dogs or animals, so long as they do not involve me in a fight or cause damage to one another. Squabbling is okay to an extent. I do tie up and supervise my LGDs who are pastured with livestock as goats and my horse are all too interested in the dog food, and bad things could happen.

We raised a litter of LGDs that we bred on this food. Their first taste of this was at three weeks, we hand-fed each pup, and the response was amazing! They anxiously fed and wagged their tails, begging for more. We taught them that we are food-givers and to eat with one another. At six months of age, two males who are in a pasture together will eat from the same bowl with only occasional growling and never serious fights.

I feed RMBs after a meal with mutliple dogs such that no one is hungry and “needs” the bones, everybody goes their own direction and squabbles are minimal. The dogs happily devour their entire bones, usually. Raw bones, even pork and chicken, are relatively safe for dogs to eat. I remove small bits and pieces, and anything that sits around long enough to “smell dead”.

Do it! We give Ivermectin for heartworms once a month and Pyrantel as needed and occasionally in between. Safeguard is another relatively safe choice for dewormers and is used from time to time. Ivermectin may be unsafe if not dosed properly, and some dogs have issues with it. When in doubt, please consult with your veterinarian. Breed-specific groups can also help if you have a breed that is known to be sensitive to Ivermectin.

How much food?
Each animal may vary, but for the most part, feeding 2-3% of your dog’s body weight* (or goal weight if the dog is underweight or overweight or use best judgement with growing puppies, I found 4-5% about right.) I prefer my animals a little heavy than a little thin, especially going into winter. Most of my dogs are outdoor dogs, LGDs do not come in the house when it gets very cold outside. They have shelter if they choose to use it (usually, they do not) and Arkansas winters are not typically that cold. You can shock a dog’s system by bringing it in when it is freezing cold outside to a 65-75 degree environment, then back out into the cold again.

Raw Meaty Bones
Raw bones are fine to feed to your dogs. It is COOKED bones that you may have trouble with. Dogs will consume these bones nearly in their entirety — in most cases, it is okay. We feed raw 6 days per week, and have a “skip day”. Monday is Bone Day, after a dog’s evening meal is finished, they are given a RMB, and the followig day is a skip day. We do not give RMB’s on a day that they have no other food. The end result is chalky poop and their body doesn’t seem to process it well. I have found that if they have a full belly when you give RMBs, they are less likely to fight over them, will happily take them “to their own corner” and gnaw until the bone is finished, and their system is not upset by this. If their poop gets too liquidy after feeding RMBs, or too chalky, try adding more vegetable matter to their dog food just before feeding RMBs. (Ground vegetables, stirred in well so they eat it.) If you have a dog who is food aggressive, you may wish to place the RMB in the back of the crate and crate him/her while the bone is consumed. They don’t particularly like to be watched while they eat these, so keep your distance for their comfort. You could separate into a separate pasture, stall, or pen as well. Our other-dog food aggressor has been fine with his other two paddock-mates, a spayed female and 7 month old trainee pup, as long as he is fed first. Then, the dogs aren’t competing for food when hungry.

Spoiled Food
“When in doubt, throw it out.” They can handle some taint, but clearly spoiled food, be it milk, meat, eggs or vegetables, is NOT good for your dog. We feed things past the point of human consumption, but if you cannot stand the smell of it, don’t give it to your dog. If you are unsure how much they will eat, give just a little – not a huge bowl with a lot of food that will sit and go bad. If you think dog bowls are nasty – they are. The dishwasher is your friend! If I had no dishwasher, I’d at least set up a “wash” and “rinse” basin and dip and swish bowls a little in each. You may find that the majority of the “yuck” factor is their slobber from cleaning up the meat in the bowl. Ewwwww. Our male Great Pyranees has the nastiest bowls ever. Seriously. Pick them up with gloves on. Yuck.

Watch your dog’s poop!
Yes, I just said that. Be intimately familiar with what is “normal” for your dog’s poop. On raw diet, they will poop significantly less and less often. Think coyote poops. Small piles. Maybe once a day or less, depending on the dog. Colors may vary with the vegetable you are feeding. Beet pulp is great for dogs but it leaves horror-film scary red poops – I’d be afraid I wouldn’t know if my dog were hemorraging. Really. Scary. And, most of my dogs don’t really enjoy beet pulp. If the poop is too liquid, add more vegetable content to that dog’s diet, and/or less organ meat. If it is too hard, add more meat and make sure your dog drinks plenty of water.

Raw Diet Eaters Drink Less Water
Oh yes, they do. Shockingly so. My cattle dogs go from drinking about half a gallon a day, each, to maybe two cups of water a day, four on a hot day. Make fresh water available to them. If they need it, they WILL drink it. Think of making jerky in the dehydrator. Remember how much it shrinks up as it dries? That’s liquid loss. So, if your dog is eating steak instead of jerky, they are getting a lot more water in their food.


Disclaimer: I had stopped writing on this and it may be incomplete so if I’ve forgotten something or you have any questions, feel free to contact me for more information. I plan on continuing to update/tweak/share this “article” and recipe with anyone who is interested. This food works for my dogs. Commercial dog food has…left them dry.

I may come back and edit to add photos, and/or repost a version with photos.

This article is copyright 2016 by Cinda Brent

Daisy-chain recipes: Ketchup, Barbecue Sauce and Baked Beans, oh my!

bakedbeansThis is when/how making your own from scratch can be made quicker, when you use the same ingredients/pans/measuring equipment to make multiple recipes! Tonight we are smoking some ribs, pork roast and a venison roast.

For the roast, I used some leftover garlic seasoning rub. For the ribs, I used this recipe for Blackened Seasoning: 4 t salt, 3 t paprika, 1 1/2 t cayenne pepper, 1/2 t white pepper, 1/2 t chili powder, 1/2 t onion powder, 1/2 t garlic powder.

Then, I revamped my Homemade Ketchup recipe a bit. I originally posted this at my site, but things have changed since that post. Everyone’s journey into cooking, eating better, and/or sustainability is a little different. I’m “here”, now, with the ketchup:

2 (15 ounce) cans plain tomato sauce

1 small (6 ounce) can tomato paste

1/4 cup liquid sweetener of your choice (honey, maple syrup, molasses….or a combination!)*

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 t salt

1/2 t onion powder

1/2 t garlic powder

I mixed all of this together, carefully, and heated it in a saucepan to let the flavors meld a bit. I did not make a real attempt at cooking it down. I cool this before storing it.

So, I have this yummy ketchup, but that just isn’t barbecue sauce. I poured about three cups of it off, leaving about one cup left in my pan. On to the barbecue sauce! I added:

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup molasses (again, other sweetener could be used)*

2 T butter

2 T prepared mustard

1 T + 1 t Italian seasoning

1 T Worcestershire sauce

1 T Paprika

1 T Chili powder

2 t onion powder

1 t garlic powder

1 t black pepper

1/2 t cayenne

I mixed this all together very well, cooked over low heat and DID cook this one down. I don’t like to let it go to far, but I don’t like it to be too runny. (Note: if you want to keep someone from using too much, keep it a little runny verses thick.) Again, cool this thoroughly before storing in a glass jar in the fridge (if it lasts that long!)

I have not had any problems storing the ketchup or barbecue sauce in the fridge for a fair amount of time, maybe even a month or two…but if it smells off or looks like a science experiment, please do not eat it. My mother always used to say, “When in doubt, throw it out!”

So, since I was on such a good roll, I had some leftover “beans of the week” (soaked/cooked Anasazi beans) to which I added some ketchup, barbecue sauce to taste, and about half of a chopped up onion. I might have added different spices, a hot pepper, garlic, etc. But, for today, just the sauces and onion. I put that in a greased cast iron skillet…and it will go on the smoker with the meat!

Happy Creating!

Soup of the Day: Cream of Chicken and Veggies, Cinda-Style


Soup. I just love soup. We often have it at least once a day. Even keeping in mind how much I hate “wordy” blogs that involve recipes, wherein the recipe sounds great but I have to scroll through screen after screen of ramblings and 542 photographs before I can get to want I really wanted in the first place – the ingredients list…..I have to take a few detours. Please forgive me.

For the love of soup, save yourself money and make your own broth! Meat-eaters, your chicken carcasses after serving a whole bird OR a package of pork neck bones, some chicken quarters, or any other meat still on the bones….throw it in a big old stock pot with some water, let it simmer on low for all day, overnight, then cool, debone, leave the meat in or separate it as a “meal starter”, but for goodness’ sake, keep the gelatinous fat on top! Many times you can return the bones to the pan after the first batch and make a second for “light broth”. Well, that’s great for us carniverous folk, but what about our vegan friends? Do you steam vegetables in a pan? Great! Save that water and freeze it. Instant vegetable broth! Viola! It’s free, no wasting money or good vitamins. Save it for making soup…like this one! (You can also use it to boil pasta or cook rice, make gravies or bread, etc.)

So….onto Soup of the Day!

Here’s what you’ll need:
3-4 T butter (don’t be afraid of butter, it’s better for you than margarine)
1-2 onions, chopped however your heart desires
2 cloves of garlic, chopped, or to taste
4 cups of broth of your choice
2-3 chicken breast strips
2-4 potatoes, diced
1 package frozen green peas (early peas are the best)
1-2 cups heavy sweet cream
2 T Dried or fresh mint, chopped
1 t ginger
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
pepper to taste

Add salt at the table instead of during cooking

Melt your butter in the bottom of your soup pan. I prefer my cast iron dutch oven. While that’s getting started, chop your onion(s) and garlic. Brown your onions and garlic in the butter, over low-medium heat. This may take awhile, your patience will reward you. While browning the onions and garlic, chop your potatoes.
When those onions are brown and smell wonderful, add your broth (cook frozen broth until it is liquid, if frozen broth is used) and then add your chicken breast, potatoes, and spices. Cook until the chicken is done thoroughly, and pull the chicken out to cut into small pieces before returning to the pan. While you are cutting up the chicken, add the peas to the soup. After you return the chicken to the pan, add your cream.

That’s all there is to it, you should have a very wonderful, tasty soup of the day.


How’s it Hanging?


So how IS it hanging? In this case, by a piece of artificial sinew and underneath my kitchen counter. Ha! Why does my kitchen look like a scientists lab? Because, cheese. That is probably the worst semblance of a sentence I have ever put on the web. The grammar nazi in me is very angry.

Cheese that is happening right now: Russian Tvorog Farmer’s Cheese, Farmhouse Cheddar Cheese, and Cottage Cheese. Also dreaming of what I could do with the whey from that farmer’s cheese. Whey, it’s a wonderful thing.

I used to think that all whey was wonderful. I’m now learning that I only really prefer the whey from soft cheeses. The whey produced from my Monterrey Jack and Cheddar cheese making does not smell the same. I don’t think that it is bad or unsafe, I just don’t like the smell of it. I do, however, have dogs and pigs and poultry (oh my) who would enjoy that whey. The no-waste factor has been happily satisfied. Soft cheese whey is for us, hard cheese way is for the birds. Ha! There I go again…

New and exciting in my cheese making adventures is using my Excalibur dehydrator. I love my dehydrator. I have had several brands/models….this is THE BEST, well worth the investment. I had come to a road block in making cheese: when heating the curd, it would burn and stick to the bottom of the pan. I lost one pan to this, as it was not worth trying to scrub it. I actually did work on it for several weeks before deciding to throw in the towel. My first brainstorm was to heat the milk/curd in a double-boiler. It worked, but not for high-temperature cheeses. Yeah, you *could* do that. It’s a HUGE hassle. The good thing that it did for me was strengthen my faith in my ability to make cheese without all the scrubbing and fuss, and wasted yucky burnt stuff.

I hope to put together some basic cheese recipes specifically for use with the Excalibur dehydrator, as well as yogurt and sour cream. For now, I’m working on different recipes and methods to make the process as simple as possible. My theory is simply this: people have been making cheese for thousands of years. Cheese and bread have been the first “processed foods” and many people in a lot of less-than-ideal situations with equipment, temperature and sanitation have successfully made cheese. I’m sure that not every batch worked out, just as my every batch does not work quite as well as I may have hoped or planned. Usually, it is edible or at least good for the animals. Although I appreciate some of the fancy, exotic cheeses (and even some basic ones that are more difficult to make), I really enjoy simplifying things to the KISS factor. That is, Keep It Sweet and Simple. I also like it make cheese with sustainability in mind. “What on earth does she mean by that?” Well, again, picture our ancestors a while back, making cheese. Did they go to Amazon to buy cheese cultures? No. They either got lucky and cultured it with a slower method, or learned to add some of a successful culture to a new batch of cheese. This is what I do! When I make cottage cheese (which happens about once or twice a week), I save out about two 1/3 cup starter cultures so that I can continue making cheese without buying more commercially prepared starter culture packets. There are other ways to make other cultures, and that is for another post….but when I can do this myself, I will. When I can do it quickly and easily and teach others to do the same, I will. As for rennet, I’d like to learn how to work on using both vegan-friendly and animal-based rennet.

My husband and I were just joking, and for anyone who’d like to start making their own cheese, think of this: Go out and buy about four extra stock pots, strainers, 5 yards of cheesecloth, two cases of quart jars and four cases of half gallon jars. Now do some spring cleaning. Take every washable dish, plate, bowl, utensil, pan, etc. from your kitchen cabinets and wash them. Now, wash every scrap of clothing, towels, curtains, bedspreads, etc. Make sure all of those items are dried, and put away appropriately. Next, go to the grocery store and buy a pound of cheese. Freeze it for six months. Wasn’t that fun?

I am being somewhat sarcastic and somewhat realistic – yes, cheesemaking is a pain in the backside. It dirties up the kitchen and clutters up your workspace. It involves extra loads of dishes and laundry. Your family will think you are nuts at times. Then, you wait to enjoy the hard work you’ve put in. But then…you go to your favorite festival with some of your favorite people and have a martini and pass around cheese, homemade bread and homemade butter…..and wow, it’s worth it.

Old Fashioned, Farm Fresh, Raw Cow’s Milk

Milk-FlyerHere is a *sample* of our milk/dairy prices. Again, prices are subject to change, and most likely those would go down. Being as we are a small farm and not a factory, and we do many things and not solely milk cows, make dairy products, and post blogs…all items are subject to availability.

This is a great place in which to ask questions, I have noticed that a lot of raw milk producers supply an overwhelming amount of information to their would-be customers, making things very confusing. So, if you want to know, ask. That can be privately or publicly, and we will always try to answer just as honestly as we can.

Wanted: Virtual Community Members


Look for us on Facebook, our page is Cindasareyousustainable

Have you ever wished that the like-minded of the world could all go and build a treehouse community in the woods somewhere and hang out, build an old-fashioned community where everyone pitches in, takes care of each other, learns, teaches, and grows as a People? Yeah, me too.

So, let’s do that as a Virtual Community on Facebook! As I’m getting a little more settled into my blog, I can share more the life of a blogger: 90% gathering ideas, photos, recipes, etc. for future blogs, 1% checking online for comments/posts to accept and the slews of ones that are obvious spam and should be deleted, 1% actually working on posting new material, and 8% checking on the dog, who barks incessantly.

I am fairly computer literate. I have used a blog before (, which was also WordPress based. I am a Mac user. I am an iPhone user. I am also happily accepting advice, technical support and ideas from those who are better versed at this end of technology. Although I have done all the work for two websites previously, blogging is completely new to me. I’m going to need some help there!

Aaah, asking for help. That is both the best and sometimes most frustrating part of any sustainability effort. Some of us are stubborn. It’s hard to admit that we don’t know it all. Sure, I can make corn meal from dried corn and make it into bread or other food. Yes, I can milk a cow and make yogurt, cheese and butter. I can grow a SCOBY on my kitchen counter along with the best….but technology sometimes kicks my butt.

Another important note: I love to share information. I love to share what I’m doing at the farm. My goal is to share what I am doing, when or just after we are working on a project or specific farm/sustainability concept. However….reality is this. I am a busy person. I’m NOT complaining about that! My priorities: Taking care of MYSELF so that I can continue my work, taking care of my SPOUSE, FAMILY and FARM so that we can propagate the blessings we have, improving time efficiency so that we can do more for ourselves, THEN sharing blogs. Sometimes, I may have different ideas of what to post, when and why. Maybe you aren’t seeing what you want or expect….please, let me know! Connect with the blog on Facebook! Again, you can find us at

If you don’t use Facebook, but use another social media, let me know where to branch out. You can also comment on my blog! I love it, nice to know that a real someone is reading this.

Basic Ingredients

Bulk basic ingredient spices
Bulk basic ingredient spices

What is a basic ingredient?
I like cooking with basic ingredients: ingredients that are often found as-is in nature, that have not been shaped for cosmetic appearances, have additives or preservatives, be “fortified” with anything for any reason, or with as little processing as possible.
Let’s take spices, for example. I make my own spice blends, and lean towards buying spices as a basic ingredient that cannot be broken down any further – garlic powder instead of garlic salt or garlic seasoning, buying paprika, oregano and cayenne powder instead of “chili powder”, etc. The one exception for me, with spices, is “italian seasoning”. Most recipes tend to call for all of the basic ingredients in Italian seasoning so instead of measuring each one individually, I buy a good, organic, bulk version and save myself a wee bit of time. Or Thyme. Well, you get the idea.
Later, I promise I will blog with my spice blend recipes for anyone willing to give them a try.
For now, I want to focus a little more on basic ingredients. I want to create a menagerie of recipes that use 5 or fewer basic ingredients (whenever possible) and also, whenever possible, create a one-dish meal.
I’d hoped for that tonight, but I have two dishes that might qualify, and I’m working on simplifying at least one of those into an even better recipe with more basic ingredients and less processed foods.
The meat dish: Pork Roast, Onions, Whole Organic Cranberry Sauce (without High Fructose Corn Syrup). The salad: Organic Kale, Grapefruit, mayonnaise. Aaah, the mayo! You caught me. NOT a basic ingredient. But, it is homemade and I know exactly what is in it. (Homemade mayo will be a future blog as well. I never succeeded in making it with consistently awesome results until I used a stick blender.)
For spices, I definitely prefer basic ingredients. No hidden fillers, preservatives, sugars, calories, chemicals……the label and the ingredients are one in the same.
Fruits and Vegetables: Definitely, basics are best. We love fresh first, frozen second. Our family likes to grow our own whenever possible, buy what we can’t produces ourselves, but always check the “overripe” bins for bargains to freeze, dry, or use quickly.
Meats (for those who eat meat, like we do): Basic, basic, basic… can make your own breaded filets, nuggets, strips, sauces, marinades, “convenience frozen dinners” and more.
Desserts: Homemade and basic. Here’s a quick recipe: Use 1 fresh or frozen banana per serving, lay it in a baking tray. Add a dollop of (basic ingredient) peanut butter, homemade jam, jelly or preserves, and your favorite chocolate/nut spread (or another nut butter, or marshmallows if you prefer). Bake at 350 until the smell is amazing and you can no longer stand to wait, let cool while you go and walk the dog. (That way, you don’t feel guilty about the dessert.)