Above all, try something. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Preparing for the Buck

 It's goat breeding season around the Coyle house! To breed our three does this year, we decided to rent a buck from a local breeder. We postponed our breeding season this year by about a month so as not to run into any 'birth' conflicts...if you know what I mean. With that in mind, we should see some baby goat kids running around the ranch sometime in May or June! How many cute babies can we handle in just a few short months, you may ask yourself! Uh....we may be asking ourselves the same question?....With the possibility of three does kidding this year, it is SURE to be an adventure.
Since we cannot expose our two nine-month-old doelings born last spring to the buck, we had to build a separate area for them to live while he joins the herd. This is their first time away from their mother doe, Janet, which will mean they will finally be officially weaned this week. It should prove to be a loud week around the Coyle homestead. Nubian goats are known for their, ahem, vocal skills...
 Once we had a new area fenced in, and Pfeiffer approved it, we taught the doelings how to enter the shed through the small poultry door and find their food and water. 
 Look how fat these two babies are! Janet obviously had no shortage of milk this fall but with their new diet of strictly hay, they should start to take on svelter figures soon enough.
 Flo. What a ham she is...Just like her mother Janet.
Tomorrow we drive to Bozeman to pick out our buck of choice and bring him home for a month. Stay tuned for photos and news of buck happenings. 
And brace yourself for a month of buck jokes....I've been saving up.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Consumer-Free Baby Thoughts, Elk Processing, and a New Mouser

"Are you going to have a baby shower?"
The question has been asked of me at least a dozen times. I consciously have to tell myself not to cringe.
Don't get me wrong, I love parties, but what I DON'T love, often associated with said showers (whether it's a bridal, wedding, or baby shower) is the consumerism usually involved.
Yes, we are adding to population of humans. But do we really need to add to the population of baby crap on this earth? An avid reader of Craigslist, I often find myself perusing the 'Baby' section in complete amazement. Ad after ad selling 'necessary' baby items "New With Tags" or "Never Used"...
I have to wonder, how many of these items people paid for full-price at the store to "not use"?
Plus, have you ever gone to the thrift store, or dump? They are chock FULL of baby gear, much of which is in near perfect, if not new, condition. Not only is this stuff purchased for almost EVERY baby but then discarded of after infancy passes, sometimes in as little as two months?! ACK! So much waste.
Now I'm getting all worked up.
I guess my point with all this ranting is this: if a baby shower has to include a bunch of new baby items (in a bunch of packaging, grrrrr....) that most of us already owned once and discarded, then NO, I am not interested in a baby shower.
After explaining this theory as gently as I can (which sometimes isn't very gently) in response to proposed baby shower question, I am often met with either a confused, glazed-over look, or the beloved response "Well...we probably have some things for you from when so-and-so was little....".
And...our journey towards a sustainable family progresses.

 Although we have gotten a 'few' new items (as gifts) thus far, I can count them on one hand, the outpouring of support from friends with gently used baby gear to donate to our cause has been fantastic. Each week I take a quick tour through a thrift store, scoring a handful of items, or get an email from a friend or relative with something to 'give' the up and coming Coyle baby.
Pictured above is just a portion of the infant clothing we have already acquired, spending only about $50.
The added challenge, is we are looking for gender-neutral items!
 With reusable diapers in the plan (I don't feel the need to explain this at all) we have had the GREAT fortune to be blessed with a huge lot of both prefolds and covers, ranging in size from new born to toddler from a few close friends. These washable cloth diapers are worth their weight in gold, being able to withstand hundreds of washings without wearing out, costing no money for several years. outside of the cost of the energy used to wash them, and creating almost no waste, besides grey water. And I haven't even touched on the health benefits cloth diapering has to offer... 
Best. Recycled. Gifts. Ever!
Money spent: $0
High Five.
 Ed brought home half an Elk last week, and we had our work cut out for us at home for about three nights!
Here's some photos from the processing...
Doing it ourselves saved us about $300 compared to the (not very good) butcher trip last fall.
 Ed's parents gave us a meat grinder attachment for our Kitchen Aid that we finally were able to put to work.
It worked great and was very easy to use! We also employed a used Food Saver my dad gave us last year....which we liked, for the vaccuum sealing purposes, but disliked, for the plastic used. You win some, you lose some. It ain't easy bein' green...
 Elk burgers, anyone?
 A pre-Thanksgiving cocktail party this weekend gave me the excuse to experiment with some hor derv's. Above are Almond Crusted Chevre Grape Truffles. They were so easy to make and so yummy!
With the upcoming usage of the "West Wing" of the cabin this spring, we decided it was time to get serious about the mice in our home. Welcome home, Martha Washington, our latest addition to the Coyle Clan, our first feline! Rescued from the barn of a local hay salesman, she is a three-month old Calico, and seems to be adjusting just fine to the move.
The dogs.....are still unsure.
Well, that's all the news for now from our neck of the woods.
We hope this entry finds you well.
Hugs and Kitten Bites, The Jack Creek Coyles

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Redneck Weekends Happen

 This weekend's happenings.
The does have recently decided to throw out some serious milk my way, so I made some cream cheese, pictured above. On the left is blueberry strawberry, and on the right is vegetable garlic (our favorite).
These cheeses are the best, and a great excuse to splurge on bagels!
 With the leftover whey drained from the goat cheeses, I am experimenting with Lacto-fermentation?
Apparently this makes super healthy goodies, quickly fermenting veggies, breaking down thier carbohydrates into lactic acid, which is ultra restorative to the digestive tract. Above are some half gallon jars of cabbage and carrot sauerkraut fermenting, both veggies harvested from the Coyle garden. I hope it turns out well and will keep you 'posted'.
 We brought home a splitter on Friday to work through our dozen or so cords of wood that ed harvested this summer and fall, and what do you know? A SNOW STORM. What a start to a long day we had. Our friend Kyle is helping me with the splitter in the photo above.
 Still have a long way to go!
By the end of the day, and with the help of our neighbor from Diamond J Ranch next door who brought a second splitter, we had gotten through all but two of the cords. Boy was I sore!
On Sunday morning, Ed and Kyle (who spent the weekend at the ranch to help us with the wood) went out on an elk hunt and found success! Since we don't have much room in the freezer this year, as we are still eating our elk from last fall, Ed and Kyle are splitting the meat.
We plan to try out our new meat grinder and food saver machines this week, processing our elk at the house this year for the first time.
Pictures to come!
Hugs and snow on your boots,
The Coyles

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Sustainable Pregnancy Diet?

Last weekend marked our halfway point through my first pregnancy. (20 weeks of 40, for those of you unfamiliar with human gestation, don't worry, sometimes I still count to five months like the goats...sigh)
It has been a pretty uneventful and easy period of time so far for me and my body, compared to the horror we both expected, and we are GRATEFUL. No real sickness, no roller coaster hormones, no bizarre side-effects. The most notable attribute being the round ligament pain I experience in the evenings after, say, running four miles, take an 8 hr off-trail horse back ride, and mucking out the chicken coops. Who doesn't get sore from those things normally anyways, right?
Although my physical and emotional well being has been pretty smooth sailing so far, I have had a few spiritual 'Green Guilt' battles along the way. What is Green Guilt, anyways? A newly coined term I learned from my ecological engineering professor, it is the feeling you have when you know something you are choosing to do isn't the best choice for the environment. The more you get into sustainable lifestyle choices, the worse they weigh on your conscience. And I have definitely had a few issues.
First off, during my first 12 weeks of pregnancy, known as the first trimester, my eating habits took a harsh U-turn for the WORST! Normally a wild game and vegetable girl, I could not tolerate either. With a freezer full of freshly harvested elk, venison, and our farm raised chicken, this was quite dismaying. Not to mention the garden was really kicking out loads of fresh goodies during those months, July through September...I couldn't even bring myself to weed, let alone harvest. My grief was palpable.
Not only had I spent countless hours nurturing these plants from seed to maturity, time seemingly WASTED, but what type of example was I setting for this new life trying desperately to grow inside of me?
What happened to the self-reliant healthy diet I loved?
Pounds of fresh peas, spinach, lettuce, and scallions stared at me in through the kitchen window.
Alot of the goodies went to waste, as Ed could only eat so much and the food preservation girl was lying face-down in the couch cushions.
The word WASTE was big on my mind those months, and I did not enjoy it.
Adding to the frustration of the garden and freezer, I was left with nothing at home that I wanted to eat. Unfortunately this was not an option, so I headed out to the grocery store and was met with my second WASTE challenge: packaging.
OK, so we put behind us that I was not going to eat meat or vegetables, so what WAS I going to eat then?
I cruised the aisles. Macaroni and Cheese, from a bag inside a box. Boxed Ice Cream, with hydrogenated oils, and boxes. Spaghettios, with food coloring, from a can. Cereal, with loads of sugar, more boxes. Fruit roll-ups, with loads of food coloring, and MORE packaging. Plastic, foil, AND cardboard, in fact. GREAT. I wanted to cry as I loaded my cart.
At least I brought my own bags. (Annoyed snort.)
It was a rough go for a month or so. With no energy to bake or cook actual, from scratch, meals, and even less of an appetite to eat I did create, I made do with horrible processed foods, and felt the climate warming up as I chewed each strawberry fruit roll-up.
Have I even mentioned the amount of money I spent on these groceries during that time period? AWFUL.
Packaging and processing equals money, so essentially you're paying alot more to F up the environment at a faster rate? UGH, maybe I just wouldn't eat anymore....
And this too, shall pass.
It did.
Around week 11, I had the urge to eat some tomatoes. I started to sneak spinach into my sandwiches. I nibbled a banana. Some cooked broccoli? Smother it with cheese and hand it over! Chicken? You should try Ed's butter fried chicken fingers! I'm pretty sure in his last life he was a southerner! Things were certainly looking up.
By fall, I had hit month 4, my first trimester was in the distant past, and I stepped into the untamed rain forest that was once my organized, impeccably garden. I harvested a ton of cabbage, onions, carrots, spinach, brussel sprouts, and tomatoes. It felt good. Maybe if I hadn't have been pregnant these crops would have already been picked during summer and we would not have benefited from a fall harvest, right?
There was a good side to everything, I supposed.
I eventually stopped with the packaged, processed food buying, and got back into the swing of whole foods. Our bank account thanked us, as did the environment.
It should, however, be noted that I have not been able to yet stomach elk or venison still, but thankfully it's safely frozen away, for when the moment returns!
Here's to the arrival of winter at Jack Creek.
Have a great week everyone.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

New, Improved, Jack Creek Coyles~ Version 2.5

Yep. We been on a hiatus, I'll tell you WHAT!

It's been five solid months since our last post.

We got a little overwhelmed with it all, is the thing.

Spring picks up speed and before you know it, SUMMER!!!

Let's give this entry a bit of a summer photo blog feel, shall we?

Above, a mama elk, caught off-guard soon after birth.

The first week of June.

First few weeks of June bring many baby animals down to the flats...Elk, deer, and Antelope.

It's a total cute-fest.

After putting my seeds in March first, babying them, hardening them, I eventually was able to put the hardy seedlings into the garden the first week of June! EARLY this year....but it was well worth it. They loved every minute of a our cool spring and flourished.

Saw alot of bear this summer! Even lost a 200 pound pig to one....was it this guy?


Well, hey, our road's washed out, eh?

Spring run-off was brutal around Jack Creek this year!

My first batch of Feta Goat Cheese this spring. Many more batches ensued.


Although my forte, I found, is definitely cream cheese....MMMmmm....

With all those fragile tomato plants flourishing, we had to build ourselves a first-ever Coyle Hoop House.

What an awesome job that thing did keeping our tomatoes, basil, and cucumber plants happy and warm.

Hurray for 7 quarts of canned tomatoes this fall!!!

Um....apparently we had a moose visitor one evening in the garden. Luckily the dogs were ON IT and he didn't have time for seedling snacks.

Ed and I spent our three year anniversary at Bear Camp Cabin, and had a much needed wilderness weekend, with no bear sightings but PLENTY of moose. (which are my favorite)

Visitors for summer! We were lucky to have SEVERAL (you know who you are) summer visitors this year, in particular my dad and step mom Denise, pictured above made a cross country trek in their Volkswagon, which included a nice stay at the Double F Ranch! We took them out on a wilderness trail (mostly off-trail) ride with the horses and had a great week in general.

Goat Farmhouse Cheddar! I learned SO MUCH about cheese making this summer with two does in milk. I made Feta, Ricotta, cream cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, monteray jack and above I am hanging my first batch of cheddar. We have yet to cut into this baby, aging makes it better, right?

Summer in all it's glory. Don't blink or it'll all pass you by...

My new-found riding partner this summer, Navajo the paint horse. Love him, and all his fat guy goodness. We spent many a good days in the company of Ed and Irish out in the mountains. By the end of the summer, Mr. Navajo was confident enough for some equestrian hopping of logs and such...I'm not too fond of that new-found skill, personally.

Above, with the Ennis Institute of the Arts in full swing all summer, we spy a life-sized horse built by a small group of my third, fourth, and fifth graders. We studied local (and largely world renown) artist Deborah Butterfield with this project. Huge success. Huge.

The baby doelings, Pinky and Flo, out at pasture. They were NOT the best at staying INSIDE of the electric fenced pasture this summer, I might add. Resulting in many a headache of the goatkeeper!

Taking advantage of the summer weather, we squeezed in several outdoor art lessons, with nature as our classroom.

Coyote pup, resting near the roadside, on our way to Big Sky one morning.

Targhee Bluegrass Festival weekend. Our favorite bluegrass festival ever.

One Big Bear print!

Alas, what do we have here? The premier tomatoes of the season, mid August.

Fall is coming...our first dusting of snow.

Ed's brother Frank arrives for a visit after working this past summer in Alaska. The boys get out in the hills for some elk hunting.

We found out in late July that we are expecting a third Coyle! Due date is around March 28, when winter will still be in full swing, BBRRRRRRrrrrr!!! Dusting off my sewing machine, I experiment with some warmly insulated baby blankets at home...

We ring in the school year with a bang at the Ennis Institute of the Arts. Full classes, returning students, and a newly added ceramics medium. The kids are full of excitement, bringing me full-speed out of my first trimester energy slump. And away we go!

Four months along in-utero, baby Coyle is beginning to make an appearance to the innocent bystander.

September 2nd marks the first day of our integrated Music Program at Ennis Institute of the Arts. With a music teacher giving private lessons on Tuesdays at the school, I am able to fill his schedule with children learning Piano, Fiddle, and Guitar. Feeling lucky to have found a wonderful teacher and to have parents in our small Ennis community who fully support the ARTS!

We have had a colorful and warm fall, rare for us! Very much enjoyed by all.

Pfeiffer the dog plays King of the Log Pile. Winter is on it's way which means firewood season for Ed. Lots of work to heat our home for nine months of the year. Plus, with the addition of a tiny Coyle this upcoming winter, our house will need to be a bit warmer than usual...resulting in more wood and power consumption getting thrown in that direction. Where can we cut back?

A first grader is inspired by Edward Munch's painting The Scream....just in time for Halloween!

Ed has an eventful Elk bow hunting season, and we eagerly await our taxidermist treasure!

Plaster masks for Dia de los Muertos at EIA.

Feeling good enough to run still at 18 weeks along. Although I love to run, I look forward to gliding along over the snow this upcoming snow season. Enough of this bouncing exercise, let's do something a little more smooth for this baby! Ed and I both count the days down to the opening ski season at Big Sky Resort.

Our garden produced alot this summer, but due to my lack of interest in either eating or harvesting much, we didn't celebrate our bounties to their worth. My first trimester of pregnancy unfortunately led my stomach on a very picky journey of needs and wants, none of which included the fresh veggies we were surrounded by.

Luckily, as my taste buds recovered this fall, the neglected patch of plants out front decided to throw out a great fall crop.

Meatbirds! We raised and butchered 31 Freedom Ranger Chickens this summer and fall. I'm not sure I can go back to the fat behemoths we experienced last summer, with only ONE Freedom Ranger loss out of the bunch this season. These birds were hardy, healthy, and happy, right up to 18 weeks. A great crop.

Well, there you have the short version!
Our summer.
The thing about Sustainability, which was the founding principal behind this blog, is that it takes TIME and ENERGY to succeed. With both of these aspects of life waxing and waning, in a constant battle for more of the other, sometimes you can lose sight of why you are even doing it all.
Wouldn't it just be easier to NOT do all this?
Maybe. Maybe it wouldn't be easy at all.
Maybe it would wreak havoc on our lives, in fact.
Wasn't that the problem in the first place?
We have been over the moon the last four and a half months, expecting our first child.
Then, the other night, I sat idly on the couch, watching a PBS new program about the horrifyingly fast population growth.
Tomorrow, Halloween 2011, marks the day the world population will reach 7 billion.
The baby kicked.
What are we doing? Are we part of the problem? Should we have done this?
I panicked. I felt sick. I instantly worried about our baby's future on this overcrowded planet.
Trying to clear my mind of the invasive thoughts, I went down to take care of our livestock for the evening.
Somewhere between milking the goats, counting the hens, and turning off my flashlight to listen to night birds, I remembered; It is the future that counts.
Though we cannot change the choices of others, we can strongly influence them through knowledge and teaching.
The problem with population growth is SUSTAINABILITY. How long can the earth sustain without action?
If we can instill our ideas, our values, our choices in this child, who is to say he or she wont make a difference in the sustainable choices of others ?
What if we could shift ourselves from being 'part of the problem' to 'part of the solution'?
A teaching challenge? For a teacher?
(cue: shit-eating grin)

A quote I read from Jon Edwards that recently overwhelmed me:
Surely there is something in the unruffled calm of nature that overawes our little anxieties and doubts: the sight of the deep-blue sky, and the clustering stars above, seems to impart a quiet to the mind.

As our lives become even more multi-faceted, sustainability takes on more of a focus and meaning than ever before.
Come with us.
(bring some ice cream if you think of it)