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A recipe for whole wheat crackers ... and questions about cows.

Countryside: I've been an "addicted" subscriber for a few years... one of those people who can't wait for Countryside to arrive, then read it cover to cover over and over, and wait endlessly for the next issue!

The request for cracker recipes prompted me to write. Enclosed is one my family enjoys. I quadruple the recipe when I make them, and use small cookie cutters to make shapes of chickens, fish, hearts, etc., though one could simply cut them into squares.

I am a frustrated potential homesteader. I suppose in spirit I am one, but am by no means one physically. Living in an affluent suburb, our children go to an outstanding public school. The school is partly what keeps us here. They're receiving an education I feel couldn't be matched elsewhere. In the midst of a rapidly growing population where we see lovely prime farmland turned to developments and condos, we try to maintain a certain set of values. We have our large garden and small orchard, but no barn, chickens, sheep and dairy cow that I wish we could have. Our only animal is a precious old golden retriever we got at the animal shelter. We recycle and compost our trash. Our children do not have many of the material things their classmates do, which at times is difficult for them. (We're not part of the affluent.) But I feel as adults they'll be greatly advantaged in knowledge and character.

What frustrates me is I know we could be practicing homesteaders. My husband is a skilled tradesman and mechanic. I can cook, preserve, sew, and am a nurse. We like gardening. What we greatly lack is a knowledge of farm animal care. How does one learn about diseases and nutrition for the animals? How is raw milk handled to keep it safe for drinking? Must the cow's udder be washed before milking it? If a large animal such as a cow dies, what is done with its body? Does a cow have to have a calf to begin producing milk? And for how long does it keep producing milk? These are a few of the hundreds of questions I have!

I am worried that tough economic times are ahead, and would feel much more secure if we had our homestead. My husband is ready to make the move now, despite the school. He tries to convince me to move by saying, "Go read your Countryside magazine, Honey, " because he knows how it makes me feel! But in order to have the place we'd like, it would mean going quite a distance away. Our extended family is all in this area and we're used to the support from them, too. We also have aging parents who will need our assistance in coming years. So a choice must be made between responsibility and the status quo, or a dream and risky adventure.

Wheat Germ Crackers

5 tablespoons oil 1/3 cup water 1 tablespoon brown sugar 3/4 cup whole wheat flour 1/2 cup oats 3/4 cup wheat germ 1/2 teaspoon salt

Blend oil, water, sugar. Stir in flour, oats, wheat germ and salt, mixing well. Shape into ball. Roll out to 1/8 inch thickness on an unfloured board. Cut into shapes and transfer to baking sheet. Bake at 3S0 [degrees] F for 15 minutes until golden brown. Cool on racks. -- Marilyn Gibble, Lititz, Pennsylvania

A person can only learn one thing at a time: it would be impossible to tell anyone in a few words how to be a farmer, or a homesteader, or even just an animal raiser. So even though it won't satisfy those who demand "Tell me everything there is to know, and now!"--or even those who would prefer "in-depth" articles to snippets such as this one--let's examine some of your I questions. If we answer these, we'll go on to some others, and then some others... and eventually we'll be educated.

How does one learn about diseases and nutrition for animals?

For one who wasn't born and raised around animals, there are two choices: A: you could go to veterinary college; or B, you can learn the way people learn about many other things without going to school... using a computer, gardening, even being a parent. They learn by experience, and that means by doing something.

It really doesn't make much sense to worry too much about such things. You could spend years of studying animal health, and then never encounter anything you studied. Conversely, even veterinarians--who have spent years studying such things (while you studied and practiced nursing or mechanics)--are sometimes stumped.

Health is the normal state, by definition and statistics. Don't read an article about a disease and assume every animal is going to get it.

While you will want to read books and articles and talk to experienced people before you take on a livestock project, that's only to get a general idea of what to expect. You won't really start learning until you start doing something.

And then--do what the vet does. If he (or she) has spent all his time learning about veterinary medicine (through study and experience), he probably knows little about nursing or mechanics. But he doesn't waste time worrying about it. When he needs those skills, he'll call upon you or you

You can do the same when you have an animal health problem. Call the vet. This is how you'll learn what might have been avoided, and how; what is serious and what isn't; what you might do yourself in the future if it recurs, and how. It's much more rational to tackle problems one at a time than it is to be prepared for everything in advance, which is impossible anyway.

Nutrition is even easier. It would take years to become a nutritionist, but you can buy more knowledge and experience than any single individual could acquire in a lifetime. It's right there in a bag, at your feed dealer's.

How is raw milk handled to keep it safe for drinking?

First and foremost, you milk a clean and healthy animal in a clean place using scrupulously sanitary equipment. Most basic books on cows and goats cover this, and you might learn more from the person you buy your animal from, as well as from the dealer (probably the feed store) where you buy dairy cleaning supplies.

Next comes rapid cooling, in a freezer or ice water. Milk should be cooled to below 40' as quickly as possible. (Refrigerators aren't that cold.) Aeration--or at least cooling the milk uncovered--will help the flavor.

After that it's a matter of treating the milk as you treat store-bought milk: don't leave it sitting on the counter or table from breakfast to lunch, etc.

Oh, one other thing: many people will tell you there is no such thing as "safe" raw milk, but that's a whole 'nuther can of worms to worry about. You can pasteurize it by heating it to 165 [degrees] and holding it at that temperature for 15 seconds. Home pasteurizers are available.

Must the cow's udder be washed before milking it?

Yes.

If a large animal such as a cow dies, what is done with its body?

Most areas where livestock is common have disposal services. Some of these will even pay you, or at least give you a pair of leather gloves. More than a few animals are left for the eagles, vultures and coyotes (an illegal practice in some places). If all else fails, there is burial (hopefully you'll have access to a backhoe) or cremation.

Does a cow have to have a calf to begin producing milk?

Yes. Milk is produced for the offspring, not for you.

And for how long does it keep producing milk?

The general target lactation period is 305 days. Most cows (and goats) will be drying off by this time--the baby the milk was produced for in the first place no longer needs it--and if the cow was rebred on schedule this allows for a two-month dry period for rest and recuperation before she calves again.

And finally, how do you get the answers to hundreds of other questions?

By getting a cow! You probably know more about it already than you think you do. You'll learn more, fast, and even more with the passing of time, as new situations arise.

Most importantly, you'll learn that most of the things you worried about weren't worth the effort. The real challenges will be things you never imagined, and therefore never would have prepared for!
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes recipe
Author:Gibble, Marilyn
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jul 1, 1993
Words:1432
Previous Article:Starting with pigs.
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